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Every now and then, I get a glorious reminder of just how much the Internet has enriched my life. Fifteen years ago, if I had arrived at a conference center—as I did yesterday for my stint in the Marine Biological Laboratory Science Journalism Fellowship program—and seen a sign in the lobby announcing the presence of a "Xenopus Workshop" I could have, eventually, found out that a Xenopus was a frog frequently used as a model animal in medical research.
Thanks to the Internet, though, I was able to learn the following things in a remarkably short period of time:
Xenopus Fact: Xenopuses (Xenopodes? Xenopi? Freshman Latin was a really long time ago, you guys) were used in one of the earliest reliable pregnancy tests. That's because exposure even a tiny amount of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin will cause a female Xenopus to lay eggs. Inject a female Xenopus with urine from a human female and, if the Xenopus lays eggs, it means the female human is knocked up.
Xenopus Fact: You know how some lizards can grow a new tail if you cut the old one off? Xenopuses can do that with the lenses of their eyes.
Xenopus Fact: Because Xenopuses are so widely used in laboratories, there's a whole industry of suppliers of Xenopuses and Xenopus accessories. Case in point, the "Xenopus enrichment tube" in the photo above—apparently, they like to have something to hide out in. Also, you can buy synthetic slime to replace your Xenopus' natural protective coating that is often lost through frequent handling.
Last week, Maggie went to the largest science conference in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Every day, she learned amazing things, watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!
One of my favorite parts of the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference happens at the end of each day, after the panel discussions are over and the convention floor has been locked down. That's when the parties start.
Now, obviously, everybody likes parties. But these are better than most. The AAAS parties are where a delightful mixture of scientists, journalists, academic journal editors, and university public relations officers gather to compare notes, talk shop, and tell each other about the awesome science they learned during the day.
I already mentioned how hard it is to decide which panels to see and which lectures to attend. At any given time there will be three-to-five different things you'd like to watch, all happening simultaneously. During the day, you're forced to choose. But at night, the parties are where you get the chance to learn about all the things you didn't get to see for yourself. You arrive, are handed a glass of wine, and all your friends run up to find out what you learned that day. It is a wonderful, nerd-tastic experience, and I want to share it with you.
On Sunday, February 19th, I took a small video recorder to a AAAS wine and cheese party. I found some people with neat stories to tell and convinced them to share those stories on camera. Together, these 11 short videos—none longer than 4 minutes or so—will give you a taste of what a AAAS party is like. It'll also give you an idea of just how many subjects AAAS covers. This video collection contains cool facts on every topic from dolphin rights, to GM crops, to international political intrigue. Just kick back, pour yourself a glass of wine, and ask, "So what did you see today?"
First up: Freelance journalist Neil Savage, who learned some fascinating stuff about the plethora of ways technology helps us gather information about ourselves—and how we might protect that information in the future.
Read the rest
"My Favorite Museum Exhibit" is a series of posts aimed at giving BoingBoing readers a chance to show off their favorite exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. I'll be featuring posts in this series all week. Want to see them all? Check out the archive post. I'll update the full list there every morning.
Tom Ruginis took this photo in a men's restroom at the Science Museum Oklahoma. I spent an inordinate amount of time at this museum as a preteen, back when it was called the Omniplex (it shares a complex with an air and space museum, botanical gardens, a photography museum, and for some reason I was never able to fully understand ... a gymnastics hall of fame).
In case you can't read the sign, it says, "During your lifetime, you will make approximately 10,000 gallons of urine."
At Bloomberg Business Week, Vali Chandrasekaran makes me incredibly happy by creating a series of six infographics demonstrating the ridiculous connections you can make when you start confusing correlation and causation. Did a conspiracy of baby Avas cause the U.S. housing market to implode? Was Michele Bachmann's candidacy doomed by the end of Staten Island Cakes? Are scientists raising the global average temperature in order to increase their own research funding? Find out here!