A place of mostly science, art, writing and occasionally Chewbacca, all lovingly archived by Dave Ng. For recent highlights just scroll down, but also note the handy tag system (for finding that piece of media for your next science talk) just below. Enjoy!


anatomy, astronomy, biochemistry, biodiversity, biology, botany, cell biology, chemistry, chewbacca, climate change, data, dinosaurs, energy, entomology, environment, evolution, food, fossil fuels, genetics, geography, geology, graphs, laboratory, marine life, math, medicine, microbiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, ornithology, paleontology, physics, planetary science, quantum physics, science careers, science history, science literacy, scientific method, scientist, solar system, space, strange paper, sustainability, technology, zoology

“Science is awesome, that is all”.

Calling all artists with a soft spot for science geekery! Trading card game art commissions: Leave your portfolio link below.

These cards at the Phylogame website rock! And in case, you’re new to the Phylomon idea, it’s basically a crowdsourced art, science and gaming project that initially revolved around the reality of children knowing WAY more about Pokemon than they do about the flora and fauna around them; and has since sprawled into this multi faceted STEM based card game project here).

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Examples of Phylo Cards.

This is also a post to say that I’m on the lookout for artists to contribute to upcoming Phylo “decks.” In particular, we’ve got funding to seek out art contributions at about CAN$200 per image (currently roughly equivalent to US$150 per image), with a preference of hiring each artist to contribute at least 5 or so images at a time. Image copyright would remain with the artist, but we ask that the phylo project is allowed to showcase them online in card format in a non-derivative, attribution, non-commercial manner; as well as allow non-profits, museums, educational institutions to use the image (but only in the form of phylo cards) in physical decks that may be sold only for agreed upon outreach project fund raising purposes.

An example of a work in progress from the Voyage of the Beagle deck commission. Here Robert Ball decided to have a little fun with his task, and linked his commissions into one giant image.

There’s two decks that currently need illustrating. One is the Genetics Society of America deck – in particular, the cards representing the model organisms need images. And the other is a deck that will focus on awesome women in science and engineering (looking for folks good at portraiture here).

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For the GSA (Genetics Society of America) deck, there are a number of key model organisms that will need cards. These include some new imagery for the above.

Anyway, if you’re a freelance artist and the project (and the pay) sounds interesting to you, then please do leave your portfolio website in the comments below (we’re also going to contact a few artists who have already so nicely allowed us to use existing art). As well, just so you know, we’re looking for a wide variety of different art styles. Oh… And if you want to see more of our existing catalog of cards, then just go to http://phylogame.org/cards.

Game on!
Dave Ng
db at mail dot ubc dot ca
@ng_dave (twitter also works)

Beautiful video by Wylie Overstreet and @GoGoGorosh on the scale of the solar system. Definitely worth checking out.

By Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh.

Mind blown. On Australia and two specific mammals



(Can’t find original source – earliest hat tip I can find is at knowyourmeme)

Here is a quick version of the scientific method: aside from the problematic diction, does it still work?

I just banged this out. I know it’s not the clearest (it’s not necessarily meant to be), but does it still more or less fit?

1. seeing stuff,

2. thinking (hard) about the stuff you’ve seen (see 1),

3. testing the thinking you’ve done about stuff you’ve seen (see 2),

4. seeing new stuff that your test shows, remembering that this is the test that tests the thinking you’ve done about old stuff you’ve seen (see 3),

5. asking your smart friends what they think about the new stuff from the test (see 4)

6. does this new stuff change how you think about the old stuff you’ve seen (if yes, go back to 2 but think harder; if no then go back to 3 and test harder).

Cute (although slightly flawed) animated gif of visible light wavelengths.


(Not sure who the original creator is – let me know if anyone finds out). Via Reddit.

In a way, this comic nicely encapsulates some of the challenges with science communication (via @beatonna)



By Kate Beaton.

Holy crap! This life sized triceratops is made out of straw!


From the Wara Arts Festival, via My Modern Met. Photo cred to yuko_vitzksp90

Hypothesis concerning nuts, sanity, and eating the buried heads and brains of dead squirrels.

On point and so very funny.


By Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

This animated gif of biodiversity in a bottle by Rafael Varona is simply stunning.

And definitely worth the wait (for it to upload).


By Rafael B. Varona.

Are these Donald Trump visuals anatomically valid?

Unfortunately, the most appropriate answer is something along the lines of “I wouldn’t be surprised.”




By Sideshow Sign Co. (Via Not Cot)

Lovely song “Sally Ride” by Janielle Monáe

“Sally Ride” was inspired by Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 — July 23, 2012). Sally Kristen Ride joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American women to travel to space, at just 32 years of age. It should also be noted that she was in a same sex relationship for 27 years prior to her death and tried to keep her personal life as private as possible. (via genius.com)

These whale inspired high carbon steel utility knives look pretty adorable.






By Toru Yamashito via Laughing Squid

H.G. Wells and his tally of successes in 1888. Sort of presents the writing life perfectly.

I love this. A self composed tally of his writing as of 1888, roughly when he began working on “The Chronic Argonauts” (a time traveling short story that predated his more famous work by about 7 years).


Via Futility Closet.

These space themed paintings by @mrmichaelkagan are very cool.




By Michael Kagan, via Colossal.

Jupiter in high resolution equals “Death Star.”


From reddit user quadcem, Boing Boing.

This paper cut bacterium (an e.coli and salmonella hybrid) is pretty amazing.


By Rogan Brown, via Colossal

The (incredibly fast) evolution of your desk.

Via YouTube.

Beautiful biodiversity pictures made from fern leaves. #whoa





By Helen Ahpornsiri/, via Colossal.

Registration open for next molecular biology workshop. June 15th to 19th, 2015

Via my lab’s website (bioteach.ubc.ca). Note that all revenue from this workshop goes towards our outreach programming.



Registration is open

To inquire about registration, please contact Dr. David Ng at db@mail.ubc.ca

Dates: June 15th to 19th, 2015 (5 days: Monday to Friday)
Price: CAN$1400 (does not include room or board)

Reviews and testimonies from our last workshop

“Excellent workshop!! Great balance between lecture and lab, and I was very impressed on the volume of content squeezed into the five days. Dave’s delivery was very good, nice amount of light hearted humour mixed in. Highly recommended!”
David Dunn, Head, Chemistry Services Laboratory, Pacific Forestry Centre, NRC

“Great bootcamp format! I enjoyed the vast range of topics and the balance of lecture and practical hands-on techniques”
Robert Kowbel, Scientific Support Technician, Pacific Forestry Centre, NRC

More can be found here.


DESCRIPTION: This intense 5 day workshop will focus on a myriad of different techniques used in the molecular manipulation of DNA (general cloning, transformation, silica kits, pI kits, PCR, qPCR), RNA (isolation, reverse transcription) and protein (SDS-PAGE, 2D gels), as well as lectures that will describe some high throughput technologies such as SNP analysis, and next generation sequencing. Primarily aimed at researchers who are new to the area, familiar but require a quick updating, or theoretically familiar but lacking in practical bench training.

PHILOSOPHY: Whilst molecular techniques have evolved at a blindingly fast rate over the last few decades, the underlying biochemical principles behind the vast majority of them have actually changed little. This workshop therefore combines opportunities to perform the latest, as well as commonly used older techniques, with particular attention to the chemical nuts and bolts behind them. In all, this allows the researcher to not only gain needed practical hands-on familiarity with the techniques, but also achieve a comfortable theoretical level to allow for both (1) that all important skill of troubleshooting, and (2) the often undervalued skill of judging the utility of “tricks” that aim to speed up, or lower costs of a given methodology.

NOTE: You can also see our Feb 2015 editions of our lecture notes, and lab manual for a frame of reference.

Located in the heart of the UBC campus, the Michael Smith Laboratories is a testament to the vision of its founding Director, Dr. Michael Smith. Under his leadership, a gifted team of young scientists were recruited. These scientists have gone on to develop internationally renowned programs of research and training. The second and third floors of the new building are dedicated to the research facilities of the former Biotechnology Laboratory. The Stewart and Marilyn Blusson Education Forum is located on the ground floor and is open to the public. The molecular techniques workshops are held in the teaching lab, room 105 of this forum.
(click here for detailed directions)

Registration is essentially through first: an email inquiry for space (contact Dr. David Ng at db@mail.ubc.ca), second: a verbal/email commitment and then third via an invoiced payment. Your place is essentially secured with payment, which more or less equates to a first come first serve mechanism. This payment would be a CAN$1400 cheque (or equivalent) payable to “The University of British Columbia” and sent to

Dr. David Ng
Michael Smith Laboratories
301-2185 East Mall,
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, CANADA V6T 1Z3

Note that we can accommodate a maximum of 16 clients, but on occasion up to half of these spaces are already reserved for predetermined group clients. Therefore, it’s best to put your name down as soon as possible if you are interested in the workshop.

Your spot in the workshop is secured when we receive your payment. The deadline for receipt of payments is 30 days after the invoice date unless otherwise arranged. Note that refunds are made available until 2 weeks prior to the workshop start date – we are unable to issue any refunds after this deadline has passed.

Workshop will begin each day at 9am sharp and usually end between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. A detailed final schedule and syllabus will be released to clients as the date draws nearer.

All paper materials will be provided on the first day of the workshop. Downloadable versions will be available about 3 weeks before the workshop begins. Whilst we do not require the clients to “study” these documents, we do ask that clients take a moment to peruse the first day practical materials. All safety gear (including lab coats) is provided at the workshop.

Here are some accommodation options that are basically on campus. Costs involved would vary (I think the most budget option would be the Vancouver Youth Hostel which is about a 15minute bus ride away). The closest would be those of Gage through UBC conferences. The others (except for point grey house) are all a relatively short walk away.

International Youth Hostel at Jericho Beach
UBC accomodations (on campus – note there are only 47 available)
St. John’s College (on campus)
Green College (on campus)
St. Andrew’s Hall (summer only)
Point Grey House (off campus, but only 10 minute bus ride away)

Alternatively, Downtown Vancouver offers a variety of accommodation options, but would entail about a 30-40minute bus ride each way. Depends on your preference since the Campus is pretty quiet at night time, whereas other areas would be more interesting. Go to www.expedia.ca, and select:

hotel > near an attraction/vancouver > type in “University of British Columbia”

Usually the out of town clients make use of a little extra time after or before the workshop in visiting some of the sights Vancouver has to offer. I often strongly recommend this since the city and surrounding locale are really quite spectacular. In particular Whistler-Blackcomb is a world famous ski/outdoor resort, and is only a 2 hour drive away. Ski season usually opens in mid November (click here for more info)

Also known as “Phylogenetic Analysis of Magical Creatures.” A Harry Potter themed phylogenomics paper.

Attention to detail is pretty cool. One of my favourite parts (apart from the phylogenetic tree itself) is the post note that says: “Genetic sequences for all genes will be provided upon request. Due to magical laws, we are unable to publish them on GenBank.”

APCMvol2paper01_HarryPotter_Wesley_Ammar copy


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