Saturday, October 28, 2006

Do you drink vine in foggy veather as the vaves come in?

Great Jumping Jalapeno peppers! I've missed a couple days on this blog. Reality intruded. The short story is, the long fuse on my future is shortening day by day and I anticipate some fireworks to start after Halloween.

Tonight, I visited the house of a rather pale beauty with long black hair. She asked me if I liked wine, but due to her accent and a few missing fingers, I thought she asked me if I liked vegetables, which, yeah I do. So somehow I wound up with Vampire Merlot from Transylvania.
Vampire merlot is the perennial favorite among the nocturnal elite. It features an intense dark plum bouquet, distinctive lively, dark purple color, with soft fruit flavor that intergrate well within the powerful structure of this wine... Sip the blood of the Vine and enjoy!  Contains sulfites.  Government warning
Large black bottle of wine with a grey label saying Vampire, with a drop of blood dripping from the V, and a red trident symbol of some sort lower down
Alas, I do not drink... wine. Even this. Especially this. I may offer it as a prize for something, such as the first one to volunteer to help me move. This can be used for Halloween or just a game of spin the bottle, goth-style.

Joking aside, the juxtaposition of sulfites and the dark, foggy mists of vampire movies reminds me of something that's rarely talked about: why ocean waves smell so strong and tangy and where clouds and fog come from.

The answer is dimethylsulfide, a compound created by algae,the one-celled plants of the ocean and the mainstay of the marine food web. Dimethylsulfide is then released from the ocean into the air and then reacts with oxygen and sunlight to form sulfur aerosol compounds.

Water vapor in the air condenses around those sulfur aerosol compounds to form clouds.

Sunset photograph copyright 2006 by Charmaine Lydon; shows a panoramic cloudy sunset over the ocean.

(Sunset photograph copyright 2006 by Charmaine Lydon)

As clouds form and spread, sunlight levels decrease, cooling the earth. The lower sunlight levels reduces plants' ability to photosynthesize and remove carbon dioxide from the air. This causes carbon dioxide levels to rise, thus triggering further warming, if not necessarily clearer skies.

So to model global warming and climate change, we need to understand exactly how dimethylsulfide levels depend on marine life.

Until this week in Science magazine, scientists were not sure if dimethylsulfide was digested along with the algae or not. It turns out that well over 1/3 of the marine bacteria species may digest dimethylsulfide just fine, keeping the sulfur inside the food web of the oceans, rather than vaporizing into air. This partial mop-up of dimethylsulfide allows the algae to munch on sunlight without releasing too much dimethylsulfide and blocking their sun sources. This keeps tropical oceans nice and blue-green.

This is big news. Bacteria in the ocean can curb the formation of clouds? Those busy tiny one-celled bugs could potentially influence the formation of hurricanes?

Now that's fodder for a horror movie.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is Texan Chili truly Texan?

Anybody who has ever eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant will find a chili-type recipe served over pasta.

In other news: Vegetables keep your brain young.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Staying in the Zone

A solitary figure stalks a herd of grazing Thompson's gazelles. The wary animals suddenly wheel and gallop faster than quarter horses. Most predators would give up on seeing their prey turn into a billowing cloud of dust. Not this one. He becomes a spotted streak and overtakes one of the herd and brings it down within a few seconds.
In a few seconds, the cheetah has not only accelerated beyond the capacities of other mammals, it also took its metabolism and body temperature to the outermost limits of what it can survive-- 105 degrees Farenheit. This cheetah will remain very still for a while, recovering. Its kill is now easily stolen by other predators. In fact, kings once captured many cheetahs from the wild and used them to hunt, knowing that they could seize the prey from the normally savage and untameable cheetah while immobile.

Yet, 105 degrees farenheit is not the hottest that life can get.

Many organisms thrive at near-boiling temperatures at underseas vents, at geysers at Yellowstone, and in other places. What makes the difference? Why does the cheetah sizzle, while the archeobacteria or tubeworm does not?

In short, biochemistry. Proteins not only serve as structure, but also catalyst chemical reactions key for life. The hotter it gets, the less stable the protein is. Proteins can be destroyed by excess heat, as anybody who's ever cooked a steak knows. The protein structure is warped, the protein broken apart, and the amino acids reacted with other substances. The cheetah can take his metabolism to the maximum due to heat shock proteins, which are produced when temperatures shoot up, allowing the cell to help manage and repair itself and offset the impact of overheating.

Protein damage also can be achieved with acid or bases, of course, since proteins tend to rely on weak ionic attractions between their parts to hold their shape, and they work best in a very narrow pH zone.

Heat-loving archea have proteins very similar to ours, but reinforced with extra sulfur-bearing amino acids that bind to each other, lacing up the protein stiffly with disulfide bridges. Such straitlaced proteins are so stable they can withstand the energy of hotter fluids, but at "our" temperature zone, they might as well as be frozen for all the unbending they can perform to catalyze reactions.

However, these proteins are not necessarily damaged by cold. Neither are ours, unless we get down to freezing point, since ice expands in relation to water and can burst cells and rupture cell structure. However, life can be disrupted by cold since different proteins have different suspectibilities to cold, and it's possible for a cell to fall out of sync.

Most organisms, from plants to animals also have what are called cold-shock proteins (akin to heat shock proteins) that are released in response to temperature changes to help stablize the cell in response to cold, so the metabolism doesn't trip over suddenly inert enzymes.

This kind of explains why cells cannot be revived once dead. All cells have been descended from quadrillions of cell divisions since the first proto-cell managed to divide itself. The cells have changed, swapped substances, replaced their parts, but never once stopped and restarted again.
There is no "off switch" that does not lead to death, and there's also no "reboot button" to get things moving once again in the perfect synchrony of life.

Once you fall out of the zone of life, don't expect to get back in again.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

MSN Messenger/ Hotmail Emoticons

I no longer use MSN messenger anymore, but I developed some emoticons since MSN permits the user to import their own emoticon files. I found them challenging due to the very small file size allowed. If it was up to me, I'd make them bigger, more AIM emoticon-size, but ah well.

They are also usable directly in MSN and Hotmail e-mails last time I checked.

Those emoticons are exempt from the usual copyright because I decided so. Feel free to use them if you like them.

When you're feeling blue, use this bear face
Whether from cold, like this polar bear
Or because somebody's an angel in heaven
Or merely shocked into tears
Don't be green with jealousy
It never hurts to hand out a message of love
Or stick out a bearish tongue of humor
Or blush pink with pleasure
Or stick your tongue right out again to wash yourself
As you tell others to "go get them tiger!"

--Wilbrod the Gnome.