November 30, 2011

Grow Your Own Mushrooms

Did you know that you can buy a kit to grow your own little mushroom garden on your counter? This recycled cardboard package is full of spent Peet's coffee grounds (that would otherwise be thrown out) and mushroom spawn. You open up the perforated pane, mist with the provided misty bottle, and in 10 days, you have a crop of mushrooms that you can sauté with some butter and subsequently devour. 

Get yours at Back to the Yeah, I know that mushrooms don't really have roots. But life goes on.

Get one if you want a fun 10-day project and like watching things grow. They also make good presents for people who are otherwise impossible to shop for. 

And now, I will amaze you with the pictures I took of mine while it grew from nothingness to fungal insanity.
Day 0: What a lovely cardboard box.

Day 1: I've got my misty mister. Let's do this.

Day 4: Look--a tiny blurb!

Day 5: Growing blurb.

Day 6: Blurb, look at you go.

Day 7: I am so proud of blurb.

Day 8: Blurbs grow up so fast.

Day 9: Blurb in my face.

Day 10: Bluuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrb.

SIDE VIEWS, so you can appreciate the blurb growth.

November 18, 2011

Human Diffusion

-The passive movement of molecules or particles along a concentration gradient, or from regions of higher to regions of lower concentration.
Human example:

November 09, 2011

Grey Hair Go Away Come Again Another Day

Despite my paltry 27 years in existence, I have a few grey hairs. There, I've said it. It feels so good to get that off my chest... or my head, as it were.

On Monday morning I spotted one of these hairs while I was blowdrying my unwieldy locks. Although I've heard many a myth about the dangers of plucking grey hairs and the resulting funerals hairs throw,

I threw caution to the wind and pulled it, not so much because it was white, but rather because it was a 3-inch floater amidst my head of 2-foot hair, and it was annoying me.

But when I inspected the plucked hair, I noticed something odd.

My hair was grey at the end, but closest to the root, it was brown. It seems this hair follicle can't make up its mind. I didn't think this was possible.

And before you start accusing me of getting a bad dye job at the salon, listen up: I have never dyed my hair. Not once.

I thought perhaps the grey stint was due to stress. I also considered the possibility that I was some kind of wizard or chosen one. So I searched the interwebs for someone who researches the metabolic processes that lead to grey hair. I found Dr. Desmond Tobin, a professor of Cell Biology and the Director of the Centre for Skin Sciences at the University of Bradforth in Great Britain (hence the fancy "re" at the end of what I would write as center).

He verified that hair follicles can resume producing hair with pigment after a stint of grey, but that this happens in the early stages of a hair follicle going grey. So in other words, this particular hair follicle is trying really hard to not be old, but it's soon going to succumb to its grey-ness. 

As for blaming stress, there is no evidence that stress causes grey-ness. It is almost entirely genetically determined, with a small amount of environmental/dietary influence possible. So I'm not mad at you, hair follice, I'm mad at someone else.

You know who you are.

November 02, 2011

Continuum of Human Compassion

I see just about everything through a biology lens. When I listen to the news about politics or international conflicts, I can't help but think about how the brain works. I think about past evolutionary pressures that rewarded ancient peoples who cooperated with each other and cared about their fellow humans. And yet, we continue to draw lines and pick sides in arguments that would be hard to explain to an objective third party, such as hypothetical aliens: "I hate an entire group of people because of something that may or may not have happened thousands of years ago."

So while I definitely don't want to turn Beatrice into a platform for my political ramblings, I did think about how our predisposition to care about each other may have crossed over into strange territory, and I made a helpful chart to show it. (Click to enlarge if you're having trouble reading it.)