Archive for ‘Trivial Trivia’

March 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Frankie

by Janie Jones

Or perhaps we should say happy re-animation day.

Happy B Day Frankie

You’re 197?  Wow.  You don’t look a day over dead!

Well, I don’t know if this is true, but Holidays for Today claims it’s true.  And, it’s just weird enough for a random Wednesday post.  Apparently March 11, 1818 is credited as being the date Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was written.  You know, I bought a copy once many years ago but found it so dull I never got very far into it.  Perhaps I should try again.  Anything sounds like a worthwhile endeavor compared to studying.

What’s more, it seems to me I remember watching a black and white Frankenstein movie when I was a kid.  Mostly I remember it being sad for some reason.  Sad, but also boring.  And I remember watching the Mel Brooks/Gene Wilder Young Frankenstein more recently.  And when I say more recently I mean that as in I last watched it about 25 years ago.  That version I found sad too, but in the sense that someone actually wasted film on it.  I can’t say I found it any more riveting than the classic flick or the book.  I had some friends who adored the flick, but all I can remember is the Teri Garr roll-in-the-hay bit, “Would you like to have a roll in ze hay?  It’s fun!  Roll, roll, roll in ze hay!”

Sorry folks.  That’s all I’ve got today.  Microbiology midterm at three pm today.  Need I say more?

March 7, 2015

Random fact and a mini science lecture

by Janie Jones

Two hours.

That’s how long it takes to count 5,500,000 Borrelia burgdorferi, which are the microscopic bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

Being microscopic, you need to view them under a magnification of at least 400 times and even still they look like wispy, kinky fine hairs.  For the super curious, they are only about 0.2-0.3 micrometers in diameter and can be up to 20 micrometers long.

They look sort of like this:

borrelia edit

I don’t know the magnification of this image I stole from Google images, but they look bigger in this photo than they do on the scope I use in the lab, so I’m guessing this is in excess of 400 x magnification.

Now, if you’ve never worked with microscopic stuff before, you might wonder how do you count 5 and a half million of some uber-tiny critter?

Well, you don’t actually count them one by one.  That would be crazy and nigh impossible.  You use science math.  And, a special slide called a Petroff-Hausser Counting Chamber.  It was actually made for counting sperm, but works for any super tiny microscopic thing.  It looks vaguely like this this photo I also stole from Google images:

petroff hauser

You place 5 microliters of your sample (sometimes you even dilute that, because a lot of microscopic critters can be suspended in even just 5 microliters), on the slide.  It has microscopic grid lines on it.  Then you count all the Borrelia in the grid.  Using science math you can then calculate how many of these guys you would have in a milliliter.  It actually is pretty easy.

What took so long is that I had to count nine different samples.  Which means not only did I have to count the little buggers nine different times, but I had to prepare 9 dilutions, and clean the slide between each sample.

I’ll be doing this a lot.  Maybe I’ll get faster.

Or maybe I’ll go cross-eyed.

March 6, 2015

That’s what I call working overtime

by Janie Jones

According to Strange, your body is creating and killing 15 million red blood cells per second.  And, in case that tidbit leads to you wonder, as it did me, Wikipedia says adults have about 20-30 trillion red blood cells at any given moment.



February 4, 2015

Fun epidemiological fact

by Janie Jones

Apparently DNA of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria responsible for causing Borreliosis, or Lyme disease) was identified in the 2010 autopsy completed on the 5000+ year old Otzi the Iceman, making him the oldest suspected case of Lyme disease.

I’ve heard of people with incurable illnesses cryogenic freezing themselves until a cure could be found in the future, perhaps Otzi had a similar plan?

January 22, 2015


by Janie Jones

Did you know that you have way more microbial cells living on you and in you than you have of your own cells?  In fact, if microbes were visible to the naked eye, you would have so many living on your body that they would totally obscure you and you would appear as a massive slime ball.

And, in case you were wondering, only about 0.4% of all microbes are pathogenic, the remaining 99.6% are necessary and beneficial to life as we know it.

November 13, 2014

Random fact: Now hear this

by Janie Jones

So we are studying waves now in physics.  Which conceptually is pretty cool.

Sound is actually caused by the wave motion of atoms through a medium, such as air, water, or even wood.  Sound waves are measured in Hertz (Hz) which is the number of cycles the wave makes in a second.  The human ear can hear sound waves in the 20-20,000 Hz range.

The wave motion enters our ear canal and vibrates the tympanic membrane (ear drum), triggering a chain reaction involving the passage of the vibration through the bones in the ear to the fluids in the cochlea.  There the waves come in contact with sensory cells that transfer the sound waves to electrical impulses which then travel to our brain and are interpreted as the sounds we “hear.”

“Sound” (bad pun intended) kinda complicated?  Well, no one ever said that biology wasn’t an amazing feat of engineering.

Many folks have perhaps heard of ultrasonic sound, which is above the upper limit of human detection.  Ultrasound waves are used in the ultrasound machines that allow doctors to see inside a patient’s body, most notably in ultrasound images of the developing fetus, but also are used to shatter kidney stones so that they can be passed “naturally,” and avoid surgery.  Some people have heard of “dog whistles” which emit sounds humans can’t hear in the ultrasonic range.

What is less likely known, is that there are many animals that hear sounds in the infrasonic range, or the sounds below the threshold of human hearing.  Whales, elephants, some birds, some fish, and octopi and squid all can hear infrasonic sounds.  What’s more, elephants and whales are known to communicate with each other using infrasonic sound.

Well, now, that was random and interesting, wasn’t it?

Try listening to a physics lecture on the subject, it just might make your ears “hertz.”


November 12, 2014

Spammers are curious critters

by Janie Jones

So I was emptying the ol’ spam queue and noticed something strange, besides the Mad-Libs-esque grammar and senseless sentences (like anyone would think that they were legitimate comments!).  Apparently a post from June of 2011 was very popular with the spammers over the last two weeks.  I got 11 spam comments on my post Typhoon Rupert* or Janie slowly succumbing to cabin fever.

Is it the fudge masquerading as dog poop?  What drew not one, not two, but 11 spammers to this old post?

I will never understand spammers.