Temperature’s Effect on Toad Speed

This little gem caught my eye on G+ thanks to Carl Zimmer.

Remember yesterday’s movie of the toad eating in slow motion? Now watch this one. It’s still a toad eating a cricket, but this time it’s filmed at two different temperatures. Keep two things in mind – first, the toad’s body temperature is the same as the air around it, and second, muscle works faster when it’s warm. That’s why it takes a lot longer for the toad to pull its tongue into its mouth and close its mouth at 17°C than at 24°C. But there’s no real difference in the time it takes to for the toad to fling its tongue out of its mouth. That’s because tongue extension is powered by elastic recoil. Slow muscle contractions pull elastic tissues inside the tongue tight while the toad’s mouth is still closed. When it opens, the tongue flies forward like an arrow from a bow. So whether it’s hot or cold, the toad’s always ready to go hunting. (see Deban and Lappin 2010:http://tinyurl.com/3ktz4ah)

Diane Kelly

Here’s the video:

In as little as twelve degrees Fahrenheit  difference, you can clearly see how much slower the muscles in the toad work.

Next time you’re trying to evade a predator in winter, be thankful you’re an endotherm. ;)

DIY smart phone or iPhone microscope for under $10

Thanks to Crabfu, you can turn your iPhone–or other smart phone–into a hand-held microscope for a few bucks.

Just pick up a cheapo microscope. (Like this: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.22831)
Glue it to a cheapo case. (For example: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.41250)

Think of all the great things you’ll be able to explore!!!

Watch the video and then go to Crabfu’s post to see his sample images!

Hat tip to the super intelligent and always beautiful sciencegeekgirl

The Pluto Files

While in Dallas for a few days over 4th of July at the National Federation for the Blind’s 2010 national conference, I read a short book that I think you’ll really like.  Written by my favorite living scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet (find this book) is the story of America’s love for Pluto which reigned as most beloved planet in our night skies for 76 years.  Of course, Pluto is still the most beloved celestial object, but 4 years ago it was stripped of its planetary status.  The Pluto Files follows Pluto from discovery through demotion.

Neil with Pluto

Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory.  Before it was discovered, it was predicted to exist based on Neptune’s orbit and was known as Planet X, which may be familiar to you if you are a fan of old-school Merrie Melodies cartoons.  About a year after it’s discovery and naming, the name Pluto was also given to a relatively new character in the world of Disney.

As technology advanced, scientists learned that there were other objects in our solar system that were even bigger than Pluto!  All of a sudden, a decision needed to be made: introduce these objects as full-fledged planets or give them their own class and put Pluto in there with them.

As a very public figurehead of the first mainstream exhibit to not put Pluto next to Neptune, deGrasse Tyson was soon hated by the American public who didn’t want to give up what they held as constant in their life, i.e. that there are 9 planets.  The IAU, which is in charge of naming celestial objects, eventually debated and voted on the fate of Pluto, as well as Eris (which is larger than Pluto), Ceres (which was at one time considered a planet), a few others that have been found and probably more yet-to-be-found.  The IAU came up with a definition for a planet, and Pluto didn’t fit the bill.  Instead of promoting Eris and Ceres, both, along with Pluto, were given dwarf planet status.

People protested, sent hate-mail, and refused to follow the new rule.  The Pluto Files is a great account of atmosphere at the time.  PBS aired a good companion piece, which you should watch too.  It can be viewed on PBS’s website or instantly from Netflix.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Supplementary materials for this post are as follows:
@ScienceGoddess swoons over #sciencehottie Neil deGrasse Tyson with her video review.
Short, humorous clips from The Pluto Files.
Live action/animation of an explanation for Pluto’s demotion.
A song by popular folk-indie artist, Lisa Loeb, about 11 planets.
Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter and Facebook.

Summer Science-Reading Contest!

What’s even better than reading science books?  Getting a prize to do it!  The beautiful @ScienceGoddess, known as Joanne Manaster in the real world, is teaming up with the not-as-beautiful-but-still-an-alright-guy @Scienticity, known as Jeff Shaumeyer, to put on 2 summer reading contests!  One for kids ages 8 through 12, called KidsReadScience, and one for teens ages 13 through 18, called (you guessed it) TeensReadScience.  To enter, all you have to do is read a nonfiction science book and create a video review!

*Insert old man’s voice* And when I was your age, we had to write an essay to win reading contests!

Watch the video below for an overview of the details:

Now, as far as I know prizes haven’t been announced yet, but I know what they’ve been working on and you’re seriously going to want these prizes.

Visit the sites I linked above to read the fine print and other useful info.

If you have questions, or would like to be a sponsor, please go to the above sites and click “Contact Us”.

…You know… I don’t remember amoeba being excluded from this contest…

Messing Up the Clean – Why Can’t BP Get It Right?

It’s been almost a month since an oil rig about 50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and resulted in what has since promised to become one of the greatest ecological disasters of all time.  Within 2 days of the explosion, an oil slick approximately 5 square miles appeared in the Gulf.  At the time, it wasn’t known if that was residual oil from the fire on the rig or if there was a leak.  Within a few days, it’s confirmed that there is an active leak with initial guesstimates by the Coast Guard put the oil gushing out at about 1000 barrels a day; it was then upped to 5000 per day.  That number has since been revised to upwards of 70,000, but BP won’t allow scientists to use special equipment in an effort to better estimate that number.

By the end of April, over 100,000 gallons of chemical dispersant are used to prevent the oil from reaching shore.  This in itself is a problem.  In most circles, chemical dispersant is seen as a necessary evil: something that keeps lots of oil from reaching shores, yet something that’s chemical makeup is unknown to the public.  Because dispersant is not known to the public, it’s safety is a question.  In fact,  one such dispersant being used, Corexit, is banned in Britain.   Corexit was used in the ’89 clean up of the Exxon Valdez and has been linked to health problems in humans and development problems in wildlife.

Dispersants, as the name implies, Continue reading

Musical Learning – The Roundup

In your youth was Sesame Street.  If you were lucky when you got older there was Bill Nye.  Now it would seem you’re too old for education set to music.  But if that’s what you think, you’re wrong.  Check out these tunes:

Thanks to ProfDodd for the tip – They Might Be Giants sings all things science on their album (that’s a CD for you young’ns) rightfully titled Here Comes Science.  Listen to track previews on Amazon.

The folks over at The Biomimicry Institute have produced an excellent piece of work which you can also preview on Amazon.

Rapping is taken to a new level by a couple of guys from Stanford.  This video is timely for what we’ve been talking about–ATP, energy, glycolysis–but check out his YouTube page for lots of great videos.

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