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Category: adventcalendar2012

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 24

day24

A SANTA CLAUS AS INTRUDER ALERT SYSTEM
By Thomas Cane

“A children’s Christmas Stocking device useful for visually signalling the arrival of Santa Claus by illuminating an externally visable light source having a power source located within said device.”

santaintruder02

santaintruder01

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 23

Day23

NERDY DIRTY CHRISTMAS
By Nicole Martinez

holmiumchristmas

FFFFFFxmas

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 22

day22

CHRISTMASY BIODIVERSITY TRADING CARDS
From the Phylo Project (Click on the card to go to webpage)

01robinamer

02snowgoose

03reindeer

04holly

05polarbear

06cardinal

07muskox

08redfox

09cedar

10arcticfox

11europeanrobin

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 21

day21

CHRISTMAS TREES MADE FROM RECYCLED PLASTIC BOTTLES
By Designpack Gallery

sapins_malraux_03

sapins_malraux_01

recycledtree

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 20

day20

PRETTIEST CHRISTMAS LIGHTS EVER
Animated gifs of epithelial cells doing the mitosis

                    mit04 mit03

                    mit02 mit01

From Infinity Imagined, via Fresh Photons. (Source:MICROSCOPYU.COM)

Just staring at this makes me think about the brilliance of nature. Just consider the complexity of what’s going on during mitosis – you have a genome, compartmentalized with chromosomes, doubling. Then, you have a perfect splitting of the two copies into two separate cells!

That’s like having a group of people in a room, then somehow making copies of all of them, and then getting them to split perfectly into two groups, so that one set of them can move (in an orderly fashion) to another room entirely. But now imagine doing that blindfolded, and without being able to utter a sound to each other, and essentially getting this done solely on the basis of touch. Wondrous…

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 19

day19

DARWIN AS SANTA (A.K.A. ONE WAY DARWIN COULD JUMP THE SHARK)
See other Ways Darwin Could Jump the Shark

santa_darwin

“Sporting his full white beard, Darwin is hired to impersonate Santa Claus at the local mall. He initially does well in this job, looking the part, being punctual, amicable, and knowledgeable about reindeer. However, he soon begins to insist on teaching children words like “invertebrate.” He also starts giving out stylish feces beads instead of candy canes. Later, he gets in an argument with another Santa Claus in another mall over biologically sound explanations for Rudolph’s glowing nose. The “Darwin vs. Santa Claus” fistfight goes viral on YouTube.”

By David Ng via McSweeney’s. Image: Source Unknown.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 18

day18

IMAGES IN CHRISTMAS BALLS: A.K.A. CRAZY OPTICS CALCULATIONS
By Eef van Beveren, Frieder Kleefeld, George Rupp | pdf

ABSTRACT: We describe light-reflection properties of spherically curved mirrors, like balls in the Christmas tree. In particular, we study the position of the image which is formed somewhere beyond the surface of a spherical mirror, when an eye observes the image of a pointlike light source. The considered problem, originally posed by Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham — alias Alhazen — more than a millennium ago, turned out to have the now well known analytic solution of a biquadratic equation, being still of great relevance, e.g. for the aberration-free construction of telescopes. We do not attempt to perform an exhaustive survey of the rich historical and engineering literature on the subject, but develop a simple pedagogical approach to the issue, which we believe to be of continuing interest in view of its maltreating in many high-school textbooks.

christmasballs01

Figure 6: The locations of the various images as seen by each of the five observers introduced in Fig. 1. We also indicate the angles of incidence and reflection, in order to make sure that they are equal.

christmasballs02

Figure 7: Images of an extended object, as seen in a Christmas ball from different angles.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 17

day17

AWESOME MICROBIAL CHRISTMAS ART!
 Fungal plates by Stephanie MounaudBacterial plates by Niall Hamilton.

fungal-christmas-tree

Fungal Christmas tree. Top: Talaromyces stipitatus; Tree: Aspergillus nidulans; Ornaments: Penicillium marneffei; Trunk: Aspergillus terreus.

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microbiallsnowman

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microbialtree

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fungal-snowman

Fungal snowman. Hat, Eyes, Mouth, Buttons: Aspergillus niger; Arms: Aspergillus nidulans; Nose: Aspergillus terreus with Penicillium marneffei; Body: Neosartorya

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 16

day16

GEEKY LABORATORY CHRISTMAS PLAYS
Collected works by Vince Li-Cata

- – -

IT’S A DEBATABLE CHRISTMAS

Hello, Hello Everyone, and welcome to the Special Christmas Edition of The Sean Connery Show.  I’m your host.  You know, of course, me as the star of Zardoz and Dragonheart, but my friends just call me Sir Sean Connery.  Thank you, thank you – please hold your applause.

On today’s Special Christmas Edition of The Sean Connery Show we have a real treat for you Yanks…it’s the First Ever U.S. Public Debate Among Candidates for the Next Director of the National Institutes of Health.  Please hold your applause.

Now many of you might be thinking: Hey, wait a minute Sean, the NIH Director is an appointed position, not an elected one.  But that’s what makes our field of candidates so special: these driven and committed men and women don’t let little facts like this get in their way, no, they drive around them – and that’s what makes America the great nation that it is – and that’s why I love America.  Now, without any further ado, let’s meet your candidates for the next Director of the NIH.

- – -

EPISODE 5.5: A JEDI WINTER SESSION

Leia: Governor, I thought it was you, I recognized your stench.

Darth Governor: It is a pleasure to see you again, too, Professor Leia. You’re looking particularly fetching today. Perhaps you’d care to join me for a drink after I finish destroying the Foreign Languages programs.

Leia: In your dreams, Governor.

Darth Governor: Perhaps a candy cane, then? (he holds out a candy cane). Oh, I forgot your hands are tied! Too bad, maybe next time.

Leia: Release me Governor. You have no conflict with the Biological Sciences department.

Darth Governor: On the contrary, Professor Leia, you and your colleagues continue to annoy me with your incessant support for the theory of evolution.

- – -

HOW THE PINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!

NARRATOR: Every Who
Down in U-ville
Liked their research a lot…

But the Pinch
Who lived just North of U-ville
Most certainly, did not.

The Pinch hated Research, the whole Academic season
Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could have been the investment firms
Or maybe the banks
Perhaps the subprime loan terms
That made fools of Goldman Sachs,
But whatever the reason, or perhaps due to them all,
The result was his budget was two sizes too small.

- – -

LITTLE ASSISTANT PROFESSOR ANNIE

Dr. Farrell: I used to sing a song in lab. A very special song. To cheer me up. I think have a copy of it with me. (She reaches in her pocket and pulls out a piece of paper and gives it to Annie). I had it published in the Journal of Biological Kinetics. You can use it whenever you feel sad or blue, just don’t forget to reference it properly. Why don’t you go ahead and try it now?

Annie: Should I?

Dr. Farrell: Sure, Annie, sure. Sing the bloody song, I could use the citations.

Annie: (sings, with music)
I’m gonna get grants
Tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar
That Tomorrow
There’ll be funds…

- – -

MIRACLE ON THE 34TH REPLICATE

(She sings to the tune of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas)
It WAS …. beginning to look eukaryotic!
Instead of slimy goo.
The bacteria soon will grow, into a Jane or Joe
And all my Christmas dreams will soon come true.

It’s beginning to look eukaryotic!
Mutant DNA.
But the prettiest sight to see, is the human that she’ll be
At the end of the day.

- – -

IT’S A WONDERFUL LAB

GEORGINA: (enters her lab, there is no one there) Hello? Hello? Is there anybody here? Well, isn’t this a wonderful lab? Where is everybody? (shouting) Hello? Hello? (she walks around) Look at this, a bunsen burner just left on, spewing gas without a flame! (She turns off the bunsen burner) And the pH probe just hanging in the air, drying out! (She puts away the pH probe). Hello? If you’re not going to be here could you all at least turn off the bunsen burner and put away the pH probe?

(Jethro and ZuZu enter. They are Georgina’s graduate students. Jethro is a good ole boy, wears his hat backwards, talks about football most of the time, etc. ZuZu is a child of the cosmos)

- – -

A BIO-CHRISTMAS CAROL

PAST: I have taken the form of a Developmental Biologist, so as not to frighten you. I have come to show you your Past, Dr. Scrooge. (Explaining) You know, to show you your “Development”. Get it?

SCROOGE: Get out of my house before I call the police.

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(Sorry for being a day late with this advent calendar addition. see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 15

day15

ANIMATED GIF OF A GROWING SNOWFLAKE
By Kenneth G. Libbrecht, via Snowcrystals.com

snowflake
(Worth the loading wait…)

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 14

day14

O CHEMISTRY GLASSWARE CHRISTMAS TREE, O CHEMISTRY GLASSWARE CHRISTMAS TREE

sciencetree01

sciencetree02

Via ReSyn Biosciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 13

day13

HEIGHT OF CHRISTMAS TREE DRAWINGS AS A FUNCTION OF TIME: THE STUDY
link to pdf

heightofxmastrees

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 12

day12

FROST FLOWERS: CHRISTMAS-LIKE CAPSULES OF BIODIVERSITY
Photos by Jeff Bowman and Jody Deming

frost-3

“In a study combining oceanography, microbiology, and planetary sciences, NSF-funded researchers at the University of Washington have discovered fascinating new aspects of so-called “frost flowers” that grow on Arctic ice fields. These delicate ice structures turn out to host microbes that survive to extremely cold temperatures, informing us about the limits of life when we search on other ice-covered planets and moons for possible extraterrestrial life. They also produce chemicals such as formaldehyde that may give clues about the origin of life on the early Earth.”

frost-1

University of Washington, IGERT. Via Colossal.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 11

day11

IN WHICH WE ARE TOLD WHY RUDOLPH’S NOSE IS RED
“Epidemiology of reindeer parasites.”
Halvorsen O. Parasitol Today. 1986 Dec;2(12):334-9.

ABSTRACT: Every Christmas we sing about Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer, but do we give much thought to why his nose is red? The general consensus is that Rudolf has caught a cold, but as far as I know no proper diagnosis has been made of his abnormal condition. I think that, rather than having a cold, Rudolf is suffering from a parasitic infection of his respiratory system. To some this may seem a bit far-fetched as one would not expect an animal living with Santa Claus at the North Pole to be plagued by parasites, but I shall show otherwise.

epidemiologyofreindeerparasites

Link to pdf of paper.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 10

day10

SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS
You can watch the movie in its entirety at Youtube.

SantaClausConquers

Here is the plot as described on Wikipedia. Note that there is no mention of Curiosity or of NASA generally. Presumably, the sequel will rectify this…

“The story involves the people of Mars, including Momar (“Mom Martian”) and Kimar (“King Martian”). They’re worried that their children Girmar (“Girl Martian”) and Bomar (“Boy Martian”) are watching too much Earth television, most notably station KID-TV’s interview with Santa Claus in his workshop at the North Pole. Consulting the ancient 800-year-old Martian sage Chochem (a Yiddish word meaning “genius”), they are advised that the children of Mars are growing distracted due to the society’s overly rigid structure; from infancy, all their education is fed into their brains through machines and they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.

Chochem notes that he had seen this coming “for centuries”, and says the only way to help the children is to allow them their freedom and be allowed to have fun. To do this, they need a Santa Claus figure, like on Earth. Leaving the Chochem’s cave, the Martian leaders decide to abduct Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to Mars. As the Martians could not distinguish between all the fakes Santas, they kidnapped two children to find the real one. Once this is accomplished, one Martian, Voldar, who strongly disagrees with the idea, repeatedly tries to kill Santa Claus along with two kidnapped Earth children. He believes that Santa is corrupting the children of Mars and turning them away from the race’s original glory.

When they arrive on Mars, Santa and the children build a factory to make toys for the children. However, Voldar and his assistants, Stobo and Shim, sabotage the factory and change the programming so that it makes the toys incorrectly. Meanwhile, Dropo, Kimar’s assistant, has taken a great liking to Santa Claus and Christmas, puts on one of Santa’s spare suits and starts acting like Santa Claus. He goes to the toy factory to make toys, but Voldar mistakes him for Santa and kidnaps him.

When Santa and the children come back to the factory to make more toys, they discover the machines have been tampered with. Voldar and Stobo come back to the factory to make a deal with Kimar, but when they see the real Santa Claus they realize that their plan has been foiled. Dropo, held hostage in a cave, tricks his guard Shim and escapes. Kimar then arrests Voldar, Stobo and Shim. Santa notices Dropo acts like him, and says that Dropo would make a good Martian Santa. Kimar agrees to let Dropo be the Martian Santa Claus and sends Santa and the children back to Earth.”

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 9

day9

DELUXE LED MENORAH KIT
DIY kit available from Evil Mad Scientist.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 8

day8

IS THERE A SANTA?
By Paul Clarkson, via The Science Creative Quarterly.

santa

Being a scientific investigation of a cultural conundrum

Soon it will be Christmas Eve, and once more children will be divided into distinct factions. Here, Cyr [1] described younger children (12 years) who have ditched this ‘childish’ belief. But he fails, by excluding from his questionnaire, to describe a third group who aren’t really sure – the undecided voters if you like. And as the eldest child, I have spent a large part of my life in this group. Moreover, being scientifically minded even at the age 7, I of course approached this problem according to well-established techniques of investigation.

My first stop was to consult the authorities. My parents (beneficiaries of a liberal arts education and a liberal dosing of 1960’s psychotropic compounds) reassured their young child by explaining that Santa, like all beliefs, was a social construction and as such was true to all who believed in him. When I asked how I would prove that, Mum told me that all truth was relative and that the concept of proof was no more than a projection of hegemony by the dominant culture. Which I thought was a load of old bollocks.

Disappointed but not discouraged I proceeded to a literature search (It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realised this was only ever done after at least 9 months of laborious investigation, although I was naive then, so give me a break). My little red bookshelf contained several volumes referring to Santa Claus. Most were personal accounts [2], and as such counted as no more than Level V evidence (expert opinion). Other styled themselves as authorities [3,4], but lacked references to definitive investigations.

Modern children of course have Pubmed, and conducting a search today for “Santa Claus Existence” gave 5 results, of which one was relevant. In 2002 Cyr surveyed whether paediatric inpatients still believed in Santa Claus. While a good and noteworthy study, this would still have not fit my purposes. I didn’t care if other children believed in Santa, and besides this was still only Level IV evidence (case-series). The author also declared his bias as a continuing believer, throwing all his conclusions under a cloud.

I realised I would have to abandon epidemiological techniques in favour of direct experimentation. I proceeded with the null hypothesis “Santa Claus does not exist”. I designed a trap to snare him in my bedroom, but after two failed years I realised the fault in my experimental design. The only way to reject the null hypothesis was to catch him, but not catching him left me unable to either accept or reject the null hypothesis. Unfortunately we hadn’t studied Karl Popper in reading room at that stage.

I decided to approach things in a more indirect manner. His ability to tell if children have been naughty or nice has been well-described [5]. More specifically, I decided to adjust my behaviour, the independent variable A, and observe the number of presents, the dependent variable B. If he did exist, then B would vary with A, but if my parents were bringing the loot then A should not cause B to vary, as I was an overindulged and spoilt child. Furthermore, being nice and still getting presents regardless would prove little, and besides naughty was much more fun.

So I was as naughty as possible on Christmas Eve. I threw tantrums, messed my room, pulled my sister’s hair and hid my brother’s toys. I interrupted my father and refused to eat my dinner. The next morning I awoke with eager anticipation of my results. I got pretty much the same presents as usual. I then realised with horror that I had no reference standard! What if I was going to get more and had been reduced? How would I know? My brother and sister served as case-controls, but this was wholly unsatisfactory. Was a Barbie doll worth one or two toy cars? Had they been naughty or nice, thus confounding the results?

In any event, I am sorry to report that despite having now reached adulthood, I have still been unable to establish a satisfactory experimental design for this problem. The levels of evidence in this field continue to be amongst the poorest in the literature, and anecdotal evidence abounds. However, there will be a bear-trap at the bottom of my chimney again this year. While Popper may maintain that it is impossible to prove that something does not exist, the truth is that I’ve only got to catch the bastard once to get my answer.

References

1. Cyr C. Do reindeer and children know something that we don’t? Paediatric inpatients’ beliefs in Santa Claus. CMAJ 2002 Dec 10; 167(12): 1325-1327

2. Moore CC. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. The Sentinel 1823. Heirloom edition available from Running Press Book Publishers.

3. Apple M, Baum LF, Riley, MO. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Signet Classics

4. Perkes A. The Santa Claus Book. Lyle Stuart Publishing.

5. Coots JF, Kellogg S. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. HarperCollins

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 7

day7

POLYGON WREATH
By Matthew Parker. Hand painted paper polygons with glitter detail.

polygonwreath

Available for purchase.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 6

day6

AMAZING MACRO PHOTOGRAPHS OF SNOW CRYSTALS (GIANT SNOWFLAKES!)
By Andrew Osokin, via Colossal

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picturecontent-pid-1d864

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(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 5

day5

SNOWMAN SCIENCE
Courtesy of Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

Evolution

Paleosnowman
Sharks
anatomicallycorrect

snowflake

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

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