You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘scientists’ tag.

Nightjar (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil and ink)

Nightjar (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil and ink)

It is 11:00 PM on Friday night after a long week and I have no blog post written.  You know what that means! It’s time to take out my little book and post some of the frivolous sketches which I do on the train or at lunch.  Since it is October and we are approaching the scary Halloween feature week, I have been doing some creepy otherworldly little drawings.  Above is a nighttime laboratory with two mad scientists hard at work doing some transgenic modifications to various organisms.  Ethereal spirit people drift by outside beneath the cold stars and various beasts and plants inhabit the spaces of the Gothic room not taken up by weird lab apparati.   The seated scientist bears a striking resemblance to a particular Abrahamic deity, but perhaps he is just playing god (not that there is anything wrong with that).  Only when I was done with the picture did I realize that the second scientist bears a striking resemblance to Rick from Rick and Morty (do you watch The Adventures of Rick and Morty? You should!).

Little Glowing Man in Pod (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, colored pencil and ink)

Little Glowing Man in Pod (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, colored pencil and ink)

In the second drawing, a little glowing man in a hyperbaric pod lands on a strange world as a many limbed beast cavorts atop his craft.  The fronds of the creature’s vegetative back are a refuge for tiny green elf-like beings.  A pulpy red sphere with a green top in the foreground may be a tomato…or a larval version of the creature.  There is really nothing more to say about this image.

7400317

This week’s big science news is that researchers have finally sequenced the gene for a cephalopod– the California two-spot octopus, Octopus bimaculoides. Geneticists and molecular biologists from the University of Chicago and Berkley worked together to unravel the entire gene—which turned out to be nearly as large as the human genome and did not contain any mass data duplication (which some vertebrate-centric scientists had thought might account for the size and complexity). To quote Business Insider, “The work will allow scientists to study the genetic factors that give way to the octopus’ odd physical traits, and may reveal novel insights not only about the unique biology of cephalopods, but also about the evolution of traits that give rise to a complex nervous system and adaptive camouflage.”

An octopus solving a puzzle

An octopus solving a puzzle

There are already some fascinating initial discoveries from the octopus gene sequence data. Not surprisingly, the scientists discovered completely unique genomic sequences for reflectins (which allow the octopus to change color instantly). Even more intriguingly, the researchers discovered a huge suffusion of protocadherins—which facilitate the interaction between neurons. Octopus seem to have many more of these neural development genes than expected–and indeed the eight legged sea creatures have twice as many protocadherins as more familiar mammalian creatures like humans. However the majority of the data requires additional study. Scientists also hope to contextualize the somewhat abstract genes by sequencing other cephalopods (particularly cuttlefish—which a different team is working on).

Why is this octopus wearing a hat? I don't get it.

Why is this octopus wearing a hat? I don’t get it.

Unfortunately I am not a geneticist and the niceties of jumping genes are somewhat lost on me. I am however greatly interested in finding out more about the biology and evolutionary history of cephalopods. This class of organisms has attained a shockingly high degree of intelligence through a very different evolutionary path than the most intelligent vertebrates (like primates, proboscideans, cetaceans, and parrots). The clever mollusks are capable of solving difficult puzzles in unexpected ways and their donut shaped brains have long perplexed and intrigued neurologists. Perhaps further details of their genetic makeup will yield the seed for tomorrow’s transgenically created superbrains! Barring that, it would be good to understand the mechanisms of diverse neural systems and grasp more about the development of these beautiful yet unfamiliar creatures.

Sallei-magic-font-b-octopus-b-font-music-font-b-intelligent-b-font-sensor-educational-toys

I am always frustrated when the “who we lost in 2011” obituary lists come out and they are filled with actors and popular entertainers (although I am rather pleased that this year’s list contained so many despots, terrorists, and mass murderers).

Good riddance!

Although I enjoyed M*A*S*H and Columbo, televised entertainments are not foremost in my list of human accomplishments.  Therefore here is my (not at all comprehensive) overview of various important people who died in 2011.  I have tried to concentrate on scientists, doctors, and heroes (as I tend to hold them in the highest respect) but some painters, toymakers, and fantasy illustrators crept into my list thanks to my own professional background.  We will miss these notable people who passed on in 2011:

John “Jack” Ertle Oliver (September 26, 1923 – January 5, 2011) was a geologist who provided scientific data supporting the (then controversial) place tectonic model of continental drift.

Milton Levine (November 3rd, 1913 – January 16th, 2011) was a toy inventor who created Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm—one of the ultimate fad toys. More than 20 million units were sold during Levine’s lifetime. In 1956, while at a Fourth of July picnic, he became entranced by a mound of ants.  His fascination with the teeming colony of hymenopterans led him to found Uncle Milton’s Toys.

Uncle Milton's Ant Farm (one of 20,000,000)

Frank Buckles (February 1st, 1901 – February 27th, 2011)was the last living American veteran of World War I.  He drove ambulances in the mud of France and was still driving the tractor on his West Virginia farm until he was 103. He was one of the last survivors of the so-called “Lost Generation” passing away of natural causes at the age of 110.

Frank Buckles in his World War I Uniform

Simon van der Meer (November 24th, 1925 – March 4th, 2011) was a particle physicist from the Netherlands who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the W and Z particles, two of the most fundamental constituents of matter.

Paul Baran (1926- March 26th, 2011) was a Polish-American engineer who invented packet switching techniques critical to the internet.  He additionally helped develop many other technologies including cable modems, interactive TV, and airport metal detectors.

Baruch Samuel “Barry” Blumberg (July 28th, 1925 – April 5th, 2011) Blumberg received a Nobel Prize in Medicine for identifying the Hepatitis B virus, for which he subsequently developed a diagnostic test and a vaccine. He patented his vaccine and then distributed it for free to international pharmaceutical companies (thereby saving millions of people from a life of disease, serious liver complications, and early death).

Baruch Samuel “Barry” Blumberg

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (July 19th, 1921 – May 30th, 2011) was the second woman to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of her work developing the Radioimmunoassay, an in vitro immune assay technique which revolutionized the field of endocrinology.

Lucian Freud (December 8th, 1922 – July 20th, 2011) was a figurative painter who crafted impasto portraits of normal people in anguished poses. His fleshy nudes were so un-erotic and anti-beautiful that they took on their own strange heroic dimension.

Reflection, self portrait (Lucian Freud, 1985, oil on canvas)

Elliot Handler (April 9, 1916 – July 21, 2011) was a toy-maker and businessperson who co-founded Mattel (the “el” stood for Elliot).  He designed or popularized famous toys including Barbie, Burp Gun, Chatty Cathy, and Hot Wheels.

The first Barbie doll shown at New York Toy Fair in 1959.

Gen. John M. Shalikashvili (June 27th, 1936 – July 23rd, 2011) was the first foreign born soldier to rise up through the American army to become the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.  His father, Prince Dimitri Shalikashvili (1896–1978), was a Geogian nobleman who served the army of Imperial Russia before fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution to Poland.

Wilson Greatbatch (September 6th, 1919 – September 27th, 2011) invented the implantable cardiac pacemaker now worn constantly by countless survivors of heart disease.

John McCarthy (September 4th, 1927 – October 24th, 2011) was a cognitive scientist and computer pioneer who coined the phrase “Artificial Intelligence” in 1956.  He created the LISP programming language.

Lynn Margulis (March 5th, 1938 – November 22nd, 2011) was a cell biologist and philosopher best known for her theory on the symbiotic origin of eukaryotic organelles. Her contributions were critical to the endosymbiotic theory—the accepted scientific consensus concerning the manner certain organelles were formed. She also helped to formulate thee Gaia hypothesis, which posits that all life is linked together as a super-organism.

Darrell K. Sweet (August 15th, 1934 – December 5th, 2011) was a fantasy illustrator famous for providing cover art for novels such as the Wheel of Time series and the Xanth series.

Robot Adept (Darell K. Sweet, mixed media)

Václav Havel (October 5th, 1936 – December 18th, 2011) was a Czech playwright, essayist, and political dissident who ended up becoming the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic as the iron curtain crashed down around Europe.  I have a special fondness for Havel since he wrote “The Memorandum”, the first play I acted in during high school.  I played the officious pedant “Lear”, mouthpiece of the latest inane concept sweeping through a hidebound bureaucracy.  I enjoyed the role intellectually but didn’t really get Havel till I grew up and went to work in an office.

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031