Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Weirdness Around Us, Volume I

It should come as no surprise (given my title line thingy up there ^^^) that biology is a big part of my life. I've always been fascinated by how stuff works, from simple things like staplers to complex genetics stuff. The latter is keeping me quite busy and will hopefully some day soon land me a job (#please).

Anyways, with a fairly serious emphasis toward those pesky gene thingys, I'm set to finish up my M.S. in Biology this semester. IF I can pass my oral examination and thesis defense in, oh, a terrifyingly looming 6 weeks.

Grad school has caused me to develop some serious test anxiety, probably due to me overloading my schedules in order to get done quicker. It goes without saying I've been doing A LOT of studying here lately. Especially because I jokingly asked my main advisor what I needed to know, and he unjokingly replied 'everything'.

Cue fits of panic. Often before I go to sleep at night. It's lovely.

Deciding to devour a few textbooks in only a few short weeks has had its challenges. Namely, if I've got to know it all, where the eff do I start?!? (Imagine a panic attack here--Go.)

Given that my first ever college biology class was plant-oriented (snore), and it met MWF at 8am, and I kind of thought socializing was important (ehmm)...yeah. You can imagine how well that worked out. So I have begun my quest to modestly know 'everything' in the next six weeks starting with a lovely, wonderful, freshman-level general biology book. Most of the big picture things I already know. But now, wised up by the years and perspective (and panic), I've started to re-realize why I freaking love this discipline so much in the first place: it's awesome*.

It's fascinating. And frustrating. And it tells me how cool, real life stuff works.

I am Lee, and I'm a biology nerd.

As I was reading this general biology book, I came across a term that I've heard often enough, but never really thought about. It's called cryptobiosis.

Basically, cryptobiosis is when an organism under stress (from drying out, freezing, running out of oxygen, etc) enters an ametabolic state that it can stay in (without change) almost indefinitely. There's several other flavors of stimuli, like chemical changes, solute concentration changes, that can also cause an organism to enter cryptobiosis. Once the environmental conditions get back to ideal, the organism can essentially reanimate itself back to a fully functioning, metabolizing state.

How sweet is that?

Tardigrades, or water bears, whatever you want to call them, are able to enter cryptobiosis. It's been reported that water bears can remain suspended for up to 60 years. Here's a picture of one:

While they are microscopic and not exactly as cuddly looking as other bears, they're still pretty amazing. (Tell me that doesn't look like a monster straight out of a sci-fi flick?)

And they say science fiction's cool**.

Currently Listening to: Hans Zimmer everything, FTW.

*Com'on, you know it is.
**For what it's worth, this is not a dig at Sci-Fi writers. At all. I love science fiction. I just also happen to love science fact :).

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