Invertebrate Study Update

I discovered there is a Catch-22 in reading a book and taking notes from it.

On one instance, when I read a book, I may hope to sell it, and keep my notes as a remnant.  On the other hand, I may want to keep the book, as a reference, which may have some details that weren’t recorded in the notes, for they may have not been important at the time.  But sooner or later, from a reference standpoint, those very facts may gain relevance.

So the best resolution to this dilemma, fortunately, is simple.  My invertebrate textbook works equally well as a reference as well as an actual college “textbook.”

As a result, I therefore will keep it indefinitely, and always available right on the shelf.  Since the first 4 chapters, pun intended, are the backbone of the rest of the book, they are the only chapters needed to be read in order.  The rest can be read whenever wanted or needed.  Best of all, as discrete units depending universally (for the most part) on the first four “master” chapters, the other chapters can be read individually, without regard to sequence!

There are a number of other textbooks on the subject, which indeed may be better suited to actual semester college courses (which may, or may not, be in my future; I might as well take it if offered and ace it!).  But this one is quite a leader in the subject.

So, from sea to shining sea, and everywhere in between, invertebrates are “in!”

My Summer 2017 “Invertebrate Investigation”

Invertebrates may not have a backbone, but this self-study (using this textbook) will need one from me!

A few months ago I obtained the above textbook from Amazon.  As someone who enjoys biology, especially as one of the natural sciences that explains (to the best degree possible) God’s wonderful creation, I think this will be a great summer to explore it.

This will probably the last text I will buy; in the future, I will use Amazon’s rental function.  You can read it, and summarize the information in a note-taking program (whether it’s the old-school Windows Notepad, or slicker ones like MS Office OneNote or the Mac Notes).  By the end of the period, you can return a textbook to its source, and move on to the next!  And do the same over and over again with future rentals.

Since not many people read true collegiate textbooks (due to their “heavy” nature and thus demanding deep concentration), my job is to summarize the info and trim out such details such as the actual jargon (often mere Greek compound words which may be well, Greek to many people), taxonomic boundaries.  Also, I will burn a CD-R (or DVD-R) whenever I finish covering a text, so you have the main notes just in case you need them.  And it is a good way to share facts with people whenever appropriate.  Using a banking metaphor, the notes allow you to deposit and withdraw information when needed or wanted.  I might also be able to add some other details from more sources, e.g., Britannica.

Rentals generally span the fall and spring semesters and summers.  While this follows the rule that college students primarily use them, me as well as some other heavy readers, are a key exception.

Maybe I can even market them someday.  I may need a lawyer’s advice on that, though, concerning copyrights, but I’ll worry about that then.  If I ever learn to code, that is also a way of making an “encyclopedia” of sorts.  Again, a lawyer may be helpful.

Well, when this study is over, hopefully around Labor Day, there will be another book to choose.  Something to pray about, as well as previewing the next book (in Amazon) for the fall.  Whether I go to college or not, this can be beneficial.  In the former case, you’ll have an ahead-of-the-pack edge in a relevant class (if, the is, your school offers it).  Otherwise, often with the help of preparatory materials, you can learn it on your own.  If I do compile notes, of course, you would even need the original text (LOL).

A relevant Biblical relationship is Philippians 2:3, 4, where it is written that we should be humble and prioritize the needs of other above ourselves.  Making summaries from complicated sources can potentially help the world, little by little, appreciate the wonder and awe they are missing due to the knowledge they miss out on, for it may be too technical for them.  Therefore, I would be a “middleman” of sorts in this transmission of knowledge.

Anyway, wish me luck on my taxonomic travels!

An Amazing (Yet Simple) Substance

You think you know this planet has an amazing substance that we can’t live without.  But you might think you can’t imagine what it is.  Well, I’ll give you 10 clues.

10)  It needs a lot of incoming heat to substantially change its temperature.  (Especially in the oceans)

9) It easily holds its own surface, can hold to molecules of the same substance, and can even hold to certain walls.

8) It is neither an acid nor a base

7)  Your kidneys control the balance of this in your blood in relation to the cells of throughout the body.

6)  It falls, rises, makes clouds, and does this in a constant cycle.

5)  It is quick to dissolve substances, making it a (somewhat) universal solvent

4)  It can be a solid, liquid, or gas.

3)  In ice (solid) form, we put it in our drinks and store it in cubes or in a crushed form.

2)  When it is frozen and transitions from a liquid to solid, it will expand (not contract), protecting life under a thin layer of such.

1) We are supposed to drink 8 glasses of it per day.

So, what is it? You guessed it:  it’s water!  Good old H2O!  Sure was a no brainer!


The Tastiness of Taste

Outside the human race, the primary function of taste is to acknowledge the nutritive value and/or danger of food an animal eats, depending on the concentration of the constituent substances.  For humans, though, God gave us a bonus – to value the food to enjoy it.

Humans get to taste five “classes” of tastes (and yes, you probably noticed there is a newly contrived one!)  We all know sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, but you perhaps never heard of a recently discovered one – “umami,” a “meaty” taste.  Let’s discuss how this works and what is represented:

-First of all, taste is principally a quality, not a quantity.  Salty foods are salty, sweet ones are sweet, etc.  Yes, there are degrees of taste, especially due to the chemical nature of what is tasted.  But the fact that one sweet taste is sweeter than another does not make either one cease to be sweet.
-Nutrients may or may not be tasted.  Proteins and lipids, are often derived from carbohydrates.  Proteins themselves cannot be tasted, though their constituents (namely, amino acids) can allow for tastes, e.g., sweet or sour.  Yet, one such amino acid, glutamic acid, and a derivative of such (namely, MSG, a commonly-used seasoning), elicits the umami taste.  Furthermore, reception of umami taste can be differentiated for different foods eliciting that sensation.
-Foods with multiple substances or quantities thereof can construct a unique taste to a certain food, say, an apple.
-“Mineral” nutrients, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and chlorine, can be consumed in the diet, but of course, in smaller quantities.  Because they are nutritionally borne as salts, they can be tasted as such, to avoid excesses.  There is also an apparent craving in deficient conditions, but the sensory component is still murky.  And in everyday human society, potassium and calcium get much honor, but sodium is a four-letter word (due to its blood pressure increase factors)
-Vitamins generally bear no taste, since most food has all the vitamin content they need.  Yet, it may be a different story for those who take vitamin supplements, LOL.
-All substances, except those that are bitter, typically dissolve in water.
-Different people have different numbers of taste buds

Moreover, with our power of reason and understanding of the science behind nutrition, we humans actually can understand nutrition much more thoroughly, especially with the help and advice of professionals like doctors and dieticians.

Finally, I leave you with this:  while olfaction (detecting odors) is less important in humans than certain other animals, it is a key complement to taste.  In fact, when odor and taste team up, the phenomenon is called flavor.  If you have a cold, for example, food will have the same taste per se, but less flavor.  So now you break the subtle confusion of “taste” and “flavor.”  Humans have a modest, if substantial, potential for odor detection.

This is yet again a feature that makes us unique, namely, in the image and likeness of God.  We are stewards of God’s world, both for our good and everything else in it.


Some Ways To Power Your Learning Potential

Here are some interesting ways that you can learn things quicker, and sharper.  Indeed, it attests to the modern theory of “neuroplasticity,” which is very comforting, for even as brain cells die (at least from what I’ve heard) they can re-route easily.  Moreover, in the real world, people young and old alike can learn by awesome tricks.

One method is known as the mnemonic.  For example, “HOMES” represents the Great Lakes of North America (i.e., Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).  Another is “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” namely, the order of math operations, comprising parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.  Mnemonics are everywhere, and can even be cleverly invented.

Moreover, an even more powerful memory trick is to associate concepts using a “bridge.”  This is known as associative learning, and the method is known as conditioning.  In fact, this can be used just as appropriately (and perhaps more so) on behavioral research.  You may have heard of Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov’s immortal experiment on the dog that connected a two-step process into one (i.e., the dog no longer needs the powdered meat for a salivation response, as it has been overridden by a bell, which was earlier rung almost simultaneously, and now the bell is sufficient).

To place this concept in the human race, I will give you a few facts I know by using this method (and perhaps any close kin):

-Muhammad, the top Islamic prophet, was born in AD 570.  I know this thanks to a Pennsylvania telephone area code.  See?  That’s the power of associationfor Muhammad had nothing to do with phones or Pennsylvania.
-The very date (May 18th) of writing this post in 1980 was when the first “true” eruption of Washington State’s Mt. St. Helens.  Its dress rehearsal, a steam eruption, was actually on my birthday (March 27th) that same year.  (I was not born until 1988, not to mention I live on the US East Coast).
-When dialing phone numbers (and to help memorize them), I dissect them into the three parts:  area code, exchange (the first three digits of the phone number proper), and the last four digits, a number of ways can be useful (no pun intended).  Among them are the geometric pattern your finger traverses on the keypad, or comparing actual numeric details such as digit order, etc.  Of course, this is the case only in the US, Canada, and most Caribbean islands.
-Same thing with any scholastic procedure, whether through the grades, in college, grad school, whatever, one level is preparing you for the next, often known as a prerequisite.

There are also many reverse cases, wherein knowledge learned elsewhere may have a golden opportunity for application.  Especially in fiction.

-A few years ago, on the long-running American TV crime drama “CSI:  Crime Scene Investigation” (2000-2015)  In one scene of an episode I noticed the mention of an opening in the rear eye socket.  This right there, shows you that you’ll never know when an application of a previous fact may sneak out at you.
The Genesis Code, a novel I am trying to read but have been displaced from (as it is with many books) involves a Roman Catholic office in the Vatican, which is a remnant of the atrocious Inquisition many centuries ago.
Eaters of the Dead, by the late, great Michael Crichton concerns Arab encounters with the Swedish Vikings.  (Crichton’s overall style is quite compatible with the scientifically-conscious, including me.)

One more comment I should make is that even if you are encountering the same facts you have before, with knowledge input between then and now, it can truly enrich the original knowledge.  Yet, more than anything else, this dynamic concerns Christians and the Bible, especially because its intent is more than information, but transformation.  In other words, not just knowledge, but wisdom.

I could go on and on, but, long story short, using your existing knowledge, you can easily enrich and compound on it.  And as everyone’s situation is different (e.g., intelligence, age, areas of expertise), be kind to help others depending on their needs.  This includes controlling breadth and depth to keep them interested.

“Long live MacGyver”

Glorifying God in All Fields of Work

Before I discuss this question, I must admit at a church I attended in the summer of 2015 had an incredible (and indelible) sermon series.  It was right on target for my career situation, both then and now.

Overall, it discussed the truth of work and keeping away from having too ambitious of an attitude toward it.  In other words, if someone wishes to “change the world,” a hope for such a breakthrough is totally in God’s hands.  Thus, the likelihood of such a change tends to be slim.  So, we must think in terms of “baby steps,” no matter what our careers entail.

The bottom line is whatever you do, you should do it to God’s glory, and with the spirit of Christian love.  This applies to all careers, from truck drivers to doctors.  (This does not mean you should deal strictly with Christians, because, likewise, their salvation is personal.)

Fast forward 2 years for the meat and potatoes.  While I am (and have been) a Biology major hopeful, I recently thought there was no jobs that fit the bill.  Well, things have changed, and things are looking brighter.

That radical change of heart concerned the various positions of cell and molecular biology, the dominant field today.  Previously, I was cynical toward that, since I thought such research was an excuse to prolong life as well as to eradicate certain diseases, and hence make the world more “worldly.”  (Of course, on earth, just because we cure everything that exists doesn’t make death any less inevitable.)

But the good side of such scientific progress is that 1) extension of the average life expectancy gives time more for better Gospel reception 2) it won’t make anything more “sacred” to target the “worldliness” mentioned above; of course, this earth is worldly by definition, and people may or may not receive the Gospel (this depends on God’s will) 3)  Over the past few centuries we have made great strides, so why stop them now?  Such serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are apparently far more formidable than such ailments like polio, measles, etc., which can be addressed by certain vaccines and similar barriers.  Not to mention, all this is done for the good of people like me and you, as Phil 2:3, 4 advocates, whether as a true biologist, a biology technician, or similar occupation.

So, should I pursue such a career?  Well, in any case, the Bible is the central source of wisdom for Christians, and that is my guide.  Prayer is welcome as well, from wherever your neck of the woods may be.

No matter what your job is, as long as it is done to God’s glory, renders work as worship.  AMEN

Improving Inner-Cities: What You Can Do and What You Can’t

Ok, we shall take this title in reverse.

We will first discuss what must be accepted in inner-city neighborhoods.  One person said that trees keep neighborhoods out of “the ghetto.”  But trees are not an absolute concern to the quality of a urban block, and I will prove this with some botany.

Remember, the diameter of tree trunk depends on its age.  Wood, properly, is solely the xylem of the plant, the central structure which is dead at maturity. Xylem is responsible for transpiration, the gravity-defying, gradient-based water transport from the roots and into the air. The rest of the trunk, that is, its peripheral structure, is collectively called the bark, which includes the phloem (which carries sugars, etc.) and the dead external cork.

In a tree trunk, a tissue called the cambium divides cells both ways, phloem to the outside and xylem towards the center. This is secondary growth, a horizontal process which generates tree trunks, as opposed to primary growth, which is vertical.

Much more xylem is produced than phloem.  Now here it gets interesting. In spring and early summer, secondary xylem cells have a wide diameter, thanks to water from the recent snow melt and the minerals it contains. However, as it continues to absorb minerals and water, they are depleted, and much water is lost throughout the summer. Also, come fall, the days progressively shorten and temperatures drop. Therefore, cells are much narrower in the radial (i.e., toward the center) dimension when generated later in the season.  No growth occurs in winter, and thus the tree acquires a new growth ring.

Tree cross-section.  (Koning)

Since some older houses were built in a environment without trees, it is not always a matter of the presence or absence of such, but the actual condition of the homes play a role as well.  Of course, I am not saying that trees are not a beautiful addition to a block.  They sure are!  But it would not be practical to add trees when non-existent.  In fact, another beauty can fill in:  an open and sunny look that trees would intercept.

If houses are run-down, unless they are totally uninhabitable (thus doomed to demolition), they should be repaired, both inside and out.  This includes things such as painting chipped structures, pointing bricks, and other tasks.

So whether choosing houses or fixing them up, as for the trees on the block, just take it or leave it.

Koning, Ross E. 1994. Secondary Growth. Plant Physiology Information Website. (3-4-2017).