Monthly Archives: September 2013

Successful Tracheostomy!

Well, successful in that they were able to inflate the lungs. I doubt the patient will do well post-op missing most of their other organs. This procedure was done by two of my students in tonight’s surgery lab. Also, check out the awesome stitch work by the students who removed a brain tumor!


On atoms and seconds.

There are more atoms of gold in your body than seconds that have passed since the beginning of the universe. (6.11 * 1017  vs. 4.354 * 1017 (that’s 611,000,000,000,000,000 vs. 435,400,000,000,000,000)). And what does this mean?

Well, nothing really.

I’m just trying to convey the awesome scale of the universe, both space and time, with some familiar terms. Warning: the links in the last sentence are pretty mind-blowing.

I’ll post soon on the scaling of space and time within the realm of biology, and how the space an organism takes up in space plays a role in the space an organism takes up in time (or, Lifetime vs. Body Size)

p.s. to calculate the atoms of gold from the wiki article: (2e-7 kg) * (1000 g / 1 kg) * (1 mol Au / 196.96 g) * (6.0223 atoms Au / mol Au)     (who said we would never need high school chemistry again?)

The Saddleback Caterpillar and Lepidoptera memory


I met this fellow in O’leno State Park  (along with a bunch of awesome Orb-weavers that I’ll probably post at some point). It’s a Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea.) You can barely notice the ‘saddle’ on its back here, but I’m sure you have no problem noticing the venomous spines (known as Urticating hair) and mock-face (a startle display) on its backside. This larvae will eventually metamorphose into a limacodid moth:

Like many of the caterpillar –> butterfly/moth transformations, the adult bears little resemblance to the larvae in both body and behavior. It’s difficult to believe that the two life stages even belong to the same organism. In fact, what does the adult share with the larvae? Once in the cocoon does the body completely melt down and reform, leading to a rebirth and a fresh life? Or, does the adult have some memory of its youth?

Well, research suggests that the adults do share memories with their earlier selves. The scientists trained caterpillars to associate a specific odor with an electrical shock and found that, after metamorphosis, the adult moth avoided the odor that was associated with the shock earlier in life.

This shocking finding (sorry, I had to) may help scientists understand how Lepidoptera select habitat and, who knows, may have implications with human memory retention as well.


Spiny Orb Weaver


We saw some interesting wildlife while hiking through O’leno State Park yesterday.