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Friday, March 2, 2012

Science....It kind of smells bad

Science ain't no CSI.

On CSI the labs are sleek and sexy, the technology is state of that art, and everyone is attractive. While I am indeed attractive, I am afraid I hardly work in an environment as beautiful as myself. As a matter of fact, I would bet there are more organized meth labs in existence than labs in academia.
Hoarders: Science Edition 

If you have a notion that scientists at public universities are probably overpaid and living in the lap of luxury, then clearly you haven't explored the roach poop-filled, mold festering, black lung inducing labs/basements that many of even the most prestigious 'elite class' scientists work in.
No this is not the set for the next Saw 12 movie...this is where scientists work!
Another misconception about science is that you work with fancy doodads that well paid engineers built. Nope, we are too poor to hire them so we are forced to make crude contraptions that ought to make true engineers vomit and cry in fetal positions.
I am almost positive this setup isn't feng shui
Here is a personal example of how crude my own research is. While I do have my worms in a fancy temperature controlled room, they are housed in $2 bins I got from Home Depo, filled with some $4 topsoil I also got from Home Depot. I feed my worms dry baby food I buy from Food Lion. I always get confused stares due to my lack of baby (On an unrelated note, I got really bored and wondered what mango baby food puree would taste like mixed in with plain greek yogurt and it's not half bad for all of you fellow six pack dieters out there).

My worms are the 1% as evident by the plastic storage bin mansions and their indulgent diet of dried baby food
My point is this...the next time congress is debating whether or not to cut science funding, I simply wish to point out that we scientists already live humbly... as evident by the strange smells I am blessed with on a daily basis.

Your favorite poor grad student,

The 'Dirty' Scientist

Friday, February 3, 2012

I chop up babies...Worm babies that is!

These past few months have given me many stress because my cocoons just weren't hatching. I basically walked around lab all day with this face...

Actually I was really bored at the eye doctor, not stressing about baby worms. I am sexy, I know.

The only babies I saw around were these guys...
I have a holy crusade against cockroaches...NONE SHALL PASS

Which I also murdered...and NOT in the name of science...But because they are a blight upon this earth that must be destroyed! If I could create a roach genocide...I would totally do it.

In addition to earthworms, I am also a roach serial killer.

And then, as I was down in the basement getting random science crap out of the stockroom, I decided to check on my worms which are now housed in a sweet temperature controlled unit and not a refrigerator. And low and behold...BABIES! And not the weird premature babies I got before, but fully formed and functioning earthworm babies!

Since my babies are hermaphrodites I picked unisex names...Meet Jamie and Jesse

Sufficed to say I quickly did a dance of joy...then preceded to butcher them into small pieces so I could put them in plastic and slice 'em up. I now will have data from the largest and smallest worms, which is kind of needed when you are trying to see how size affects how worms function. Anyhoo I am now a happy Jess. This New Year may suck less after all :)

My sporting my ultra sexy Happy New Year hat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Look Ma...I am a Scientist!

So I was recently at a science conference in January...which is pretty much like other professional conferences from what I can tell in that it is awkward, in a large convention center with bad coffee, and you have to wear name tags like when you were on a field trip in first grade. You basically go around listening to talks (there was an awesome talk on Alligator penises...they don't have to worry about inflating their penises with blood because they have a lot of dense connective tissue which lets them have eternal boners... here is the link to the talk abstract), going to workshops, and attempting (poorly, in my case) to network and get 'connections' in the science community.

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Alligators don't need viagra

I also gave a talk, but unfortunately not on my worm stuff because my sample size of 8 worms kind of sucks... Cutting up worms takes time...I went to a talk where the girl said it took her 2 YEARS to do a study where she saw which females the males of a species preferred to seduce. Balls.

Anyway this is probably too long and boring for you to actually sit through and watch, but here are vids of *my* talk where I am talking about how squid have collagen in their mantle. This collagen acts like rubber bands to store and release energy when stretched to help squid quickly move...which they do by jet propulsion which is pretty sweet.
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The arrow shows the mantle
 Basically squid expand and contract their hollow muscular mantle (which are the calamari rings you get in a seafood restaurant) to bring water in to its hollow mantle cavity and then shoot in a tight jet stream to push the squid. 

Here is a sweet video of my advisor torturing a squid, making it jet several times:

These collagen rubber bands stretch when the mantle expands which stores energy that is released when the squid contracts its mantle and jets, this helps make the jets even more powerful. 
The red lines represent collagen fibers that stretch and store energy when the mantle expands, so when the mantle contracts water can be powerfully expelled in a jet.

The talk is kind of dry but if you are super bored and perhaps slightly drunk you might find it vaguely interesting. Plus you get to see me in some sweet tight pants that make my butt and legs look awesome. Thank you stairmaster and weighted squats!

Here are the links to my talk:

Hopefully next year I will have some sweet worm data to present!

Your favorite science nerd,

The 'Dirty' Scientist

Monday, January 2, 2012

The BIGGER the BETTER ... why size matters!

So in my last post we saw evidence that being a small/fetal earthworm is apparently much different than being a big worm. While I still have no idea WTF I am looking at, I am hoping that this weirdness translates into interesting differences between the way  small and large worms work.
Meet biggest worm to-date

But even if the babies just looked like mini clones of the adults, being small still just isn't the same as being big...Is bigger better? I think so, but I guess I ought to just accept my shortness and A-cup bra size...

So how does size affect how you work? Let's pretend you are HUGE. (I mean in body size!) How do you physically compare to a small, delicate little creature such as myself? Here are 2 examples of how life for you is different as a giant, lumbering oaf...I mean tall person.

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This guy is like the little man who lives in my head and tells me to do naughty things.


Well, for starters....If you are giant, you really can use the excuse that you aren't fat but big boned.When you get larger you are increasing in body mass faster than your bones are increasing in area to support that mass (you fatty) because body mass is proportional to volume  (length^3) while the structural support from  bones is proportional to its cross-sectional area (length^2). So what does your body to to make sure your immense weight doesn't cause you to crush your feeble bones? Your bones' area get disproportionately thicker to support you. See... you really are big boned if you are tall!  
Here is an example of  different sized bones I found while shopping for pudding and bologna at the grocery store. No, I don't have any idea why you would buy the big bone unless you have a pet yeti to feed.

#2 METABOLIC RATE (Don't we all wish this 

were higher)

There is some good news if you are small... you can eat relatively more food per unit body weight and not get fat! Which is good because I loves me some gingerbread men...


Small animals have relatively higher metabolisms per unit body weight than large animals, so smaller animals burn relatively more calories. I don't think we entirely know why this is, but it explains why my 10 pound dog is so ADD.


Generally, larger animals live longer than smaller animals, but humans are a weird exception in that we live pretty long for our body size. There is also some controversial  evidence that short people live longer than large people. I don't think anyone knows exactly why, so I will say its because of divine favor.

So while I may never have the small hips, slinky legs, sex appeal, and wealthy life of a supermodel, chances are I will live longer. SO SUCK IT VICTORIAS SECRET

Your favorite mini scientist,

The 'Dirty' Scientist 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ever wonder what a worm fetus looks like? (Im SO going to worm hell..)

So in my neverending quest to figure out why my baby worms look weird, I have come to the hypothesis that they may have hatched 'prematurely' since most worm babies emerge better developed. I'm guessing that if this is true it could be because the fridge was too cold for the babies and they didn't grow enough...Or they are alien babies...who knows.

How did I test this hypothesis? By performing a worm abortion (the politically correct term in science is SACRIFICED... like to a hethen god or something...hey Zeus want some worms?) on a cocoon... I know I am a terrible person.
Eenie meenie minie moe...

I wonder if my personal spot in hell will be something like I have to eat worm casts for eternity or try to escape a giant worm like the ones in Dune... Well apparently I have a guilty conscience because I dreamt I had crazy lab bred mutant worms that ended up parasitizing me... I need to get out more.

Anyways here is a pic of an earthworm embryo that I found when I cut open the cocoon. It actually was moving but it was really hard to take these pics with my iPhone through a microscope let alone a video.
No, its not an alien...or is it...? AM I AN ASTROBIOLOGIST??
This is my scientific proof that invertebrates look cool 

It does kind of look like the hatchlings I got in that its a short, tubby, not well segmented or pigmented thingy. You be the judge! Peer review me! 

Pic of my weird underdeveloped hatchling.
Your favorite worm torturer,

The 'Dirty' Scientist

Sunday, December 4, 2011

You wish penises could do that...worm locomotion 101

So I've mentioned that earthworms are kind of like a penis...but have I mentioned that they are, in fact, COOLER than a penis? Sure, sure, penises are great for getting stiff and inseminating some fine females, but they just aren't as dynamic as earthworms. Yes, they can engorge with blood and get inflated and all...but can they crawl and burrow using wave-like muscular contraction and specialized segments? If you know a penis that does, I might go see a doctor...

File:Earthworm on stone.jpg
It's ok if you are jealous of their sexy design

Earthworms are surprisingly sophisticated and fancy for animals famed for being great fish bait and having nutrient rich poop. Burrowing on land isn't easy, and it's kind of weird that such squishy critter can live meters below the ground and actually move around down there. I mean, when it comes to gardening, I usually give up digging after about 6 inches... I ain't breaking my back for no petunias.

Here is a vid I took of an earthworm burrowing for your viewing pleasure

As you can see, worms are segmented animals. And each segment is isolated into discrete compartments by muscular barriers called septa. This allows earthworms to be able to make really high local pressure in one area, without affecting the other areas of the body. It's kind of like the way a submarine is arranged into compartments with bulkheads so if one part of the sub leaks or has a Cthulu attack, the sailors can close off the bulkeads in that compartment and prevent the water or Cthulu from spreading to other parts of the sub.

Earthworms...they are kinda like if a penis and a submarine were hermaphrodites and had a dirt-eating, cocoon hatching baby that breathed through its skin

This kind of pressure isolation is kind of nice since it means the worm probably won't explode if one area of its body is under high pressure. Also, if a worm has part of its body in an awkward position, the segments that aren't twisted or bent will still function A-OK because they are not affected by the other segments.

So how do worms move anyway? Well basically they have two types of muscle, circular muscle that wraps around their circumference and longitudinal muscles which stretches down the length of their body. When they contract their circular muscles, their body thins and elongates. When their longitudinal muscles contracts, the opposite happens and they get shorter and fatter. An earthworm moves using alternating waves of  circular muscle contraction/elongation and longitudinal muscle contraction/fattening. When part of the body is  elongated it pushes the worm forward, and when it is fat it anchors the worm against the ground or burrow. Observe their magical alternating sets of waves:

I'm sorry that your penis can't crawl or burrow or thin or fatten. Natural selection can be a real bitch, and there will always be losers. Just ask the dinosaurs :( RIP.

Gone but not forgotten

Sincerely, the girl who makes you feel inadequate about your genitals,

The 'Dirty' Scientist

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baby worms... WTF. Plus David Attenborough and the giant Australian earthworm!

Hi all,

So I just finished some histology on baby worms and all I have to say is...WTF. Their innards don't look like the adults at all! See my previous post for the comparison!
Here is the cross-section of a baby worm, I think the dark green patches are bundles of muscle

Here is a sagittal earthworm section (a worm cut in 2 along its long axis).. The bristly end is where its mouth is. Weird, huh?

 I think the little bundles I am seeing are muscle, but there is this weird green goo inside them as well. I now have to scour through old Russian and German tomes from the 1700s to see if anyone did baby earthworm histology. No luck so far. Why do you have to make my life so complicated baby worms? Now I will murder you all...seriously.

On a lighter note, I found a video of David Attenborough showing the giant Australian earthworm! The gurgle sounds remind me of a bad bowel movement...