Today: Fossilized Squid Ink!

Check out this fossilized-ink-sac. Researchers confirmed that the pigment in it is chemically similar to the sort used by modern squids, chock full of eumelanin. The head researcher said:

The ‘aha moment’ for me was when we looked at the techniques for chemical bonding and we couldn’t find anything that distinguished the pigment in the fossil from the pigment in a modern-day cuttlefish, which suggests the pigment hasn’t changed in 160 million years. When I think about other evolutionary transitions that just amazes me.


Sorry for the unplanned hiatus, everyone! I’m back now, though, and I look forward to shoving plates of deliciously deep-fried science at you once more, though.  I have a few questions in the askbox to tackle, so I will handle those tomorrow.

*waves to new followers* Hi.


Myth #8: Scientists are not sexy beasts.

Truth: Scientists are indeed sexy beasts. Not only do our lab coats make us look dapper and charming, those same coats look even better strewn unceremoniously over a standing lamp while we make passionate love to you.


— Adam Reuben, Experimental Error Dispels 8 Myths About Scientists (via snakewife)

Einstein, for the record, had numerous extramarital affairs, including at least six long-term girlfriends.

Einstein, for the record, had numerous extramarital affairs, including at least six long-term girlfriends.


love zoidberg

We interrupt the smooching for this graphic, which is pretty much every person in every journal club I’ve been in ever.


love zoidberg

We interrupt the smooching for this graphic, which is pretty much every person in every journal club I’ve been in ever.

(Source: hello-jessica)

The Bad Kiss, or, “Nooo I wanted the opposite of this.”

We’ve all been there. They’re smart, funny, and pretty cute to boot. Here it comes, the big moment, that first kiss, and— Oh.

No, no, I’ll call you.

The University of Albany published research saying that over half of men and 2/3s of women have cut off a relationship because someone was a bad kisser. DST is one of these individuals, because DST demands kisses from people who know what the hell they’re doing. But is it really all in technique?

Where do our preferences come from? Our molecules end up being at least partly responsible for whether or not we like a kiss. The scent of your partner actually plays a pretty big part in whether or not you like kissing someone, even if you aren’t aware of any difference or meaning behind the scent. Remember when I talked a bit about pheromones, scent glands, and body hair? Those pheromones are still in production, and though we may not be able to put into words what they tell us, our hindbrain is still able to read their messages. And what does our partner’s scent tell us?”

"Hi, potential kissee. This is what my immune system looks like."

Yes. An experiment required women to rate the pleasantness of a man’s scent / their attraction to him, and researchers found that the women almost always preferred the scent of a man with differing major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs).

[I needed a graphic. Good enough.]

The MHC is a group of genes that determines what cell surface antigens you’ll have, which determines how your cells react with the rest of your immune system. Previous research has shown that fish and mice both prefer mates with different MHCs, and interestingly, it seems the same is true for humans.

In plain English, you are more interested in kissing a partner who smells like they can provide your offspring with more genetic diversity and a better immune system. Yeah, even if you don’t want to have kids. Your lizard brain doesn’t know that.

[Personally, I’d be very interested in seeing if experiments with non-heterosexual couples would yield the same preference for partners with differing MHCs. I tentatively predict that they would, honestly, but wouldn’t feel comfortable making a statement like that unless I had some real research on my side. Still, I have hypotheses. ]

Kissing triggers a biochemical cascade.

Isn’t that amazing? We’ve evolved so that the simple act of pressing our lips to someone else’s lips causes this rush of chemicals through our system.

Kissing triggers a biochemical cascade in your body, resulting in neurotransmitters flooding your brain. Specifically, we have the big three:

Dopamine, which makes you want more kisses because they feel awesome.

Serotonin, which makes you want more kisses from this person and omg this person this person this person.

Oxytocin, the bonding hormone that makes you want to cuddle them afterwards and maybe keep them.

Tattooed on someone’s foot, which I felt was a more interesting way of showing you the structure.

When you are getting kissed but good, then these chemicals are just being poured into you and your brain is going crazy with it. I personally do not feel that knowing what’s going on takes the romance out – we just know why we’re feeling this way. You can still enjoy it, and please do! :)

But what if you’re not really into the kiss? We’ll talk about that in the next entry.

I declare today “science of kissing” day.

Who wants to know why we get our smooch on?

Meet Évariste Galois.

Who is this dashing son of a bitch? He’s a budding mathematician, born in 1811 in France. Smart as hell, he greatly contributed to the branches of abstract algebra in what are now called Galois theory and group theory. All of this before age 20!

Galois was hard into politics. This was a period of heavily turmoil in France, as history buffs will tell you, and Galois was a firebrand since his early days, getting suspended from school. When he was 18, his father committed suicide after a heated argument with a priest. Over the years, Galois was accused of threatening the King, protested and was arrested, and this whole time, he kept working on his maths.

At age 20, Galois offered to duel for a woman he had some affection for. At some point prior to the duel, he realized this was all a terrible idea, but unwilling to back out, he spent his last night on earth polishing up his theorems and sending them to friends. He was predictably shot (possibly as a result of too little sleep?) and died shortly after, refusing the priest’s last rites.

Now you know that he existed.

Science is not your enemy; let us be friends.


First off, I hope that my post comes across as respectfully as I would like. If at any time it does not, then the error is in my phrasing, and not in my intent.

(cwnerd12, thank you for your thoughtful post. I don’t know if you will personally read my response here, but several people on my dash have been discussing this matter, and your well-written post brings up a few things I should like to address. That is why I chose to use it.)


In regards to the original article, “The 13 Most Useless College Majors (According to Science),” having studies Sociology, my inner sociologist will tell you to consider the source.  According to Science.
Actually, according to The Daily Beast / Newsweek article (which has, I feel, a bit of a cruel and inflammatory title, as is clear from the response it has provoked). If one goes to the original source, it is a slide show that presents a series of numbers regarding unemployment rates and amount of money made, that sort of thing. Do these stats make for a ‘useless’ major? Of course not! Certainly it’s not scientific to refer to something as useless; that would cast a value judgment, which would be very unscientific. And what defines ‘useless,’ at any rate? It is a subjective term, and like many people who read this article, I do not agree with the journalist’s use of the word ‘useless’ in conjunction with these majors.
What I am saying here is: the word ‘useless’ was a journalistic choice, not a scientific one.
 The world of science is a black and white one where a+b=c and there are no possible variants on the truth.  
I would argue that this is a bit of an oversimplification. In science, data is examined from many angles, reinterpreted constantly and prodded and questioned constantly. Science may be black and white, but it’s a shifting black and white, changing constantly as we learn more and more.

 by pushing math and science as the only things that matter, we’re forgetting the creative spark, the ability to go outside of logic and create the next big thing, find the life-saving cure, or solve the mysteries of the universe.  

With all due respect — this is what scientists do every day! Creativity and science are not separate things at all. This is what goes on in the lab. We do not just follow a given set of instructions (that would be a factory setup, and although they do exist, they are different from an investigative lab). We are pushed to be creative, to look at our problems from different angles and try to puzzle out how we can find that next big thing or that cure. How else would we be able to combat pathogens that adapt to antibiotics within a few generations, or viruses that have developed absolutely tricky ways of getting past our immune system? Thinking creatively is how you get grants!

Science is not the regurgitation of facts the way it is portrayed in high school courses or even in some undergrad level courses. As a scientist, you are pushing your creativity to different places. A favorite story of mine relates how Friedrich Kekulé discovered that benzene was ring-shaped rather than a straight line by daydreaming (yes, scientists definitely daydream, too) and imagining a serpent eating its own tail. There is a story about flow cytometry being pioneered after a researcher remembered crawling from car to car through the car windows in his youth and thought about molecules doing the same thing. 

As much as I hate to admit it, no matter how many remedial math courses I may have failed, math and science aren’t the enemy here. It’s the automatic assumption that math and science are superior.

Thank you for including this portion, and I will add that I agree wholeheartedly. Likewise, if I am responding, it is because I am passionate about science. Though it is frowned upon in internet discussions to admit to such things, seeing so many people on my dash say such awful things about science - some from a lack of information, some from negative experiences - hits me very close to home. I am just desperate to clarify a few things.

I write, too, and I draw, and I think if I could not draw I would die. I cannot describe myself as someone who has art as a ‘hobby’ - but I find that I do, when I am in the presence of someone who wouldn’t understand that it is a passion, the sort of person who probably would use the term ‘useless.’  Society’s tendency to sneer at the arts as “useless” is cruel and short-sighted; I agree with you there. However…

 Science makes you live, but the arts make life worth living.

I would like to think that they both can make life worth living. :)

Confession: my dream job would involve a lot less of being a science advvisor to companies and a lot more of being a science advvocate to the public, and it’s precisely because of incidents like these, when that very dangerous Us vs Them mentality starts to rear its ugly head and you realize that a lot of people are unaware of what scientists are actually doing.

Science definitely would not qualify these majors as ‘useless.’ Remember what I said about evolution before? It’s not about evolving to be “better.” It’s about evolving to best fit your niche. It’s all about what you want to do and where you want to live, whether as a species of fish adjusting to a higher salinity or as a young person trying to make it in this crazy world and fill your own definition of what you want your life to be.