Human Produced Alcohol Would Be The Yeast Of Your Worries

, , , , , , | Learning | September 11, 2019

(I am taking Biology 12. Biology 11 was focused on basic principles — plant, animal, fungal biology, principles of evolution, cells — and Bio 12 is Human Anatomy. We are reviewing basic principles when the teacher asks the class:)

Teacher: “Think back to last year; when cells use sugar, they make ATP and…?”

Student: *cautiously answers* “Alcohol?”

Teacher: *without missing a beat* “No, no, sweetie. No, you’re not a yeast.”

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Minecrafting Some Good Questions

, , , | Learning | September 4, 2019

(I’m giving a guided tour to a group of kids, ranging in age from six to eight.)

Me: “The paintings on the walls were really impressive for the people back then, since they didn’t have TV or newspaper or even paintings of their own. This helped them picture the biblical stories they heard in the church.”

Kid: *raises hand* “Sooo… It’s like if you were playing Minecraft… or if you could play Minecraft… and then if you were really bad at it… then you would come to the church and like, watch and be better at it?”

Me: “Yes. I guess it’s like that.”

(I love that the kid managed to relate my explanation to something more familiar to him, but I was really curious where we would be going when we started from Minecraft. The kids were very inquisitive and asked many questions I had never had to answer. Other highlights were the kids debating why the church was made of wood if even their apartment blocks were made of stone — they were very sceptical of my explanation that wood was more affordable and easier to work with back in 1750s — one kid asking me how the windows were made, and yet another kid confessing to me that he was afraid that a wooden statue in the church would come to life and attack him.)

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Attack Of The Flying Cat

, , , , , | Learning | September 3, 2019

I was in seventh grade. My middle school had kindergarten through eighth grade, and I, being a bit of a know-it-all, had never done anything to mar my perfect record. It’s important to note that my school was… special. We were one of the best schools in the state. To put it plainly, we were all a bunch of nerds. 

Every year towards summer, we would have academic performances. We would spend months preparing to present what we learned that year to our parents.

Fast forward to the end of the day. The parents of our classmates had all just left. They had just left us in the science classroom with absolutely no supervision until the sixth graders were finished presenting in our classroom. 

Being rowdy seventh graders, we were quickly bored. We’d spent our entire day on our best behavior and we were worn out. We had just come from the English classroom and had finished presenting our stage plays. My group had needed a stuffed cat as a prop. By the time we made it to science, I was still carrying the toy around. My friend and I started to slowly toss the cat back and forth. I know; this was a terrible idea in a science lab. 

At one point another, one of my friends stood between us and was trying to catch it, forcing us to throw longer and longer, until suddenly, the first friend missed the cat. It flew right over her head and smashed straight into a sixth grader’s popsicle bridge project, knocking it off the table. 

It just so happened that the moment it flew off the desk was also the moment the teacher walked into the classroom. It turns out, that bridge was from the only sixth-grade class that hadn’t tested the strength of their bridges yet. We had knocked over the only untested bridge on the table. Great. 

Our head of discipline actually laughed when he found out what we had done. The only thing on my permanent record was vandalism. I had knocked over a popsicle bridge with a flying cat.

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The Atmosphere Suddenly Got Acidic

, , , , | Learning | September 2, 2019

(I work in a cancer research facility. For some background to the story, we are not a learning center, but a fully-functioning research building. We do have students, but they are at least in the third or fourth year of college, and some are even working on their thesis. We have a rule: if you have to use the equipment and do not know how, DO NOT touch it and ask for help. This rule is in place to protect the insanely expensive equipment, such as high-resolution microscopes, centrifuges, and cytometers, because if something happens to them, the hourly fee for a qualified technician runs in the hundreds of dollars. This rule applies to every machine, not only the expensive ones.)

Student: “Hi. I need to measure the pH of this solution.”

Me: “No problem. Here is the pH meter to do that. Do you know how to use it?”

Student: “This one is different than the model I know.”

(All pH meters work the same. You know how to use one, you know them all. pH meters have a crystal electrode that you introduce in the solution, and the machine gives you the pH measure automatically. However, you have to clean the electrode before using it to wash away the conservation solution — KCl — and to not contaminate your own solution with it.  I take her answer as she doesn’t know where the Off/On button is, so I turn it on for her and resume my work. The student takes the electrode, pulls it out of the conservation solution, and plunges it into her solution, which is the same color and texture of blue ink.)

Me: “Did you wash the electrode?”

Student: *confused* “Was I supposed to do that?”

Me: “Well… yes. Because if not, you just cross-contaminated your solution. Unless you know for a fact that your solution contains potassium chloride.”

Student: *alarmed* “Oh, no!”

(She proceeds to take the electrode out of her blue solution and plunge it again into the conservation solution, which turns blue immediately and now will have to be disposed of and replaced. I look at her, speechless. Suddenly realizing what she just did, she says:)

Student: “Oh, oh, what a mess I have made! Oh, my! I will have to do the solution again! I will be back to measure the pH later!”

(And without another word, she ran out of the door. Obviously, I had to clean up the pH meter and the counter and replace the conservation solution for a new one. She has not come back yet to measure the pH of her solution.)

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Destroying The Scientific Method

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 30, 2019

(I’m visiting my sister and we’re picking her kid up from school. While we’re there, I learn that the students are learning about biology. I’m a microbiology PhD student, and the teacher excitedly tells the students that I’m a scientist. When considering their questions — and my answers — please bear in mind that I’ve studied two classes of bacterial genes for the past three years and just about nothing else.)

Child #1: “Ms. [My Name], if lily pads were blue, would frogs be blue?”

Me: “I, uh, maybe, but frogs spend time with other plants, too, so–”

Child #2: “Ms. [Almost My Name], if I fed a tadpole a little bit of salt every day, could I make a frog that lives in the ocean?”

Me: “Not right away, but if you kept feeding lots of tadpoles a little bit of salt over hundreds of years, maybe!”

Child #3: “Ms. [Definitely Not My Name], what’s ‘serviette’ mean?” 

Me: “Oh, that’s just a fancy word for a napkin.”

Child #1: “Ms. [My Name], when there were dinosaurs, were the frogs really big?”

Me: “Well, they wouldn’t be frogs, but they might be ancestors of frogs that–”

Child #3: “So, why did they used call Russia the serviette union?”

Me: “–ancestors of frogs… that… They used to call it the Soviet Union. ‘Soviet’ is a Russian word for… farmer, I think.”

(It’s not. But I couldn’t remember what it did mean, because…)

Child #2: “Only I have a bucket of tadpoles, and I gave then a little salt, and they’re all okay, except the ones Henry ate.”

Me: “Henry… ate..?”

Child #2: “Like this!” *baring her teeth* “Raar raar raar!”

Children #1 and #3: “Raar raar!”

(A bell rings, and they disappear. I go talk to the teacher.)

Me: “So… biology. Lot about frogs, I guess?”

Teacher: “Oh, no. We’ve been talking about trees. But I brought a frog to class and it jumped onto a student’s head, and they still haven’t stopped trying to make it happen again.”

Me: “Also, this might be important. Who’s Henry?”

(The teacher points to a small boy who’s hitting a pencil with another pencil.)

Teacher: “Oh, also, that’s the name of the principals’ cat. Why do you ask?”

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