Lucky Ten Thousand (TIL)

Things that don't belong anywhere else. (Check first).

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freezeblade
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby freezeblade » Mon Oct 03, 2016 3:23 pm UTC

addams wrote:Citrus trees grown from seed have wicked thorns.
Mine do.


Yes. Yes they do. It's interesting actually, the thorns are characteristics of young citrus trees, the further the branches grow from the initial seeding, the less likely they are to have thorns (most varieties). When you graft a seeding with older budwood, it instead takes that constant from the older tree that the scion comes from, and over-rides the seedling's thorn factor. This is why a lemon tree that is grown from seed will be thorny, and one which is grown from a cutting, or grafted, will not be thorny, even if they have the same genetics! (which can happen plenty, because of lemon's high propensity for poly-embryonic seedlings, which are essentially clones of the parent tree)

The more you knowwwwww
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby New User » Tue Oct 04, 2016 3:13 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:TIL what really matters about a fighter pilot:

F-16 pilot Heather 'Lucky' Penney was ready to give her life on Sept. 11

Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather "Lucky" Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. ...

For years, Penney, one of the first generation of female combat pilots in the country, gave no interviews about her experiences on Sept. 11 (which included, eventually, escorting Air Force One back into Washington's suddenly highly restricted airspace).

But 10 years later, she is reflecting on one of the lesser-told tales of that endlessly examined morning: how the first counterpunch the U.S. military prepared to throw at the attackers was effectively a suicide mission.

...

Penney, now a major but still a petite blonde with a Colgate grin, is no longer a combat flier.


Her teeth, her hair colour, her willingness to die for her country and her ability to experience time at two thirds the rate the rest of us do.

I'm really late on this one, but it looks like I can say I learned that the USA didn't have armed aircraft ready to defend the nation's capitol on a moment's notice. I was in the Army, not the Air Force, and I know things changed after that day, but I have always heard that jet fighters and pilots were ready to fly on a moment's notice on air bases. I always imagined that meant the jets are armed. After all, how useful is it to fly an unarmed jet in an emergency? Why have the planes and pilots ready to fly if it's not for an emergency? So why not have armed planes? Maybe it cooled down as the Cold War cooled down. Maybe they figured the hazard of having live explosives on or near the runway outweighed the benefit (this possibility raises more questions than answers). Maybe it's all been a myth. So much about the armed forces is portrayed totally incorrectly by Hollywood, after all, and even I have trouble separating what's real from what I saw in the movies.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby addams » Tue Oct 04, 2016 3:38 pm UTC

freezeblade wrote:
addams wrote:Citrus trees grown from seed have wicked thorns.
Mine do.


Yes. Yes they do. It's interesting actually, the thorns are characteristics of young citrus trees, the further the branches grow from the initial seeding, the less likely they are to have thorns (most varieties). When you graft a seeding with older budwood, it instead takes that constant from the older tree that the scion comes from, and over-rides the seedling's thorn factor. This is why a lemon tree that is grown from seed will be thorny, and one which is grown from a cutting, or grafted, will not be thorny, even if they have the same genetics! (which can happen plenty, because of lemon's high propensity for poly-embryonic seedlings, which are essentially clones of the parent tree)

The more you knowwwwww

...oh....Thank you.
That makes sense.
The little guys need thorns for protection.

My little citrus are cute.
They protect themselves with two inch thorns.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby flicky1991 » Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:44 pm UTC

TIL Shitterton "is not the only place-name in Britain that starts with Shit- – Shittlehope and Shitlington Crags also exist, located in County Durham and Northumberland respectively – but it appears to be the only one to actually be named after excrement".
any pronouns (mainly she/he)
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:55 pm UTC

TIL that small text size doesn't affect line height on this forum.
Size 100 spaces like this.
See?
This is size 80.
This is size 80.
This is size 80.
This is size 60.
This is size 60.
This is size 60.
This is size 40.
This is size 40.
This is size 40.
This is size 20.
This is size 20.
This is size 20.
This is size 4.
This is size 4.
This is size 4.
This means that the use of small text sizes to minimise the screen-space I take up and make it easy for people to scroll right past me is only a valid technique if I take the time to replace all linefeeds with an alternate form like a double-stroke. I must bear this in mind. I'd also have to manually mark the starts and ends of quotes rather than using quote boxes, because those things take up vertical space as well.

Large Text Baron outta nowhere!
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Zohar » Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:00 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:This means that the use of small text sizes to minimise the screen-space I take up and make it easy for people to scroll right past me is only a valid technique if I take the time to replace all linefeeds with an alternate form like a double-stroke. I must bear this in mind. I'd also have to manually mark the starts and ends of quotes rather than using quote boxes, because those things take up vertical space as well.

Or, you know, don't post a wall of text and if you absolutely have to post something long use a spoiler tag. What's the use of writing something invisible if no one will know it's there or read it? Other than trying (and failing) to make yourself look smarter than other people?
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Fri Oct 07, 2016 8:25 pm UTC

Well, if nobody read it it couldn't make me look smart to anyone, could it? Could it? Eh, either way, I don't do looking smart. Heck, I don't even know what my own posts mean half the time.

Nope. - LTB
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Fri Oct 07, 2016 9:40 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:Today I learned that my nearly-two-year-old "Iran pictures" thread on a forum that's been "mostly dead" for years has hit 1,001 views.
1,112 views. The site's had maybe five posts this year, and that thread still comes up in search results people are doing, or something.
Today, briefly, there were 34 threads on xkcd with me as the last poster. I'm not sure how to feel about that. An ability to /thread without meaning to is probably a bad thing, right?
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:26 pm UTC

TIL that girls aren't people! "An eyewitness said three people and a young girl herded the swan away from the road and passing cars."
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby SecondTalon » Sat Oct 08, 2016 3:13 pm UTC

TSableagleL to stop double and in this case triple posting.
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby mathfreak » Thu Oct 20, 2016 8:44 am UTC

Today I learned that being good to some people won't guarantee that they'll be good to you too.
It's a bad day so far.
Math is awesome! Almost as much as I am!
Here is my website that's dedicated to math help.
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:51 pm UTC

mathfreak wrote:Today I learned that being good to some people won't guarantee that they'll be good to you too.
It's a bad day so far.

You must be *young*!
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby jobriath » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:04 pm UTC

mathfreak wrote:Today I learned that being good to some people won't guarantee that they'll be good to you too.
It's a bad day so far.

Sorry to hear it :\ Comradely shoulder-pats on offer.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Zohar » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:28 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:
mathfreak wrote:Today I learned that being good to some people won't guarantee that they'll be good to you too.
It's a bad day so far.

You must be *young*!

Way to be empathetic. You can be a bit more supportive instead of ridiculing and sarcastic. Or, if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Weeks » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:56 pm UTC

There's a time and place for sarcasm.
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Zohar » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:59 pm UTC

Humor should punch up, as they say, not punch down. Same with sarcasm. If you want to be sarcastic about a situation you're dealing with - sure. But it's a dick move to reply to someone who's describing hardship with a "Ha-ha! Sucks to be you!" message.
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby addams » Sun Nov 13, 2016 6:18 am UTC

Have I got a Spoiler for you!
Spoiler:
The Violinist's Thumb
1

Genes, Freaks, DNA

How Do Living Things Pass Down Traits to Their Children?

Chills and flames, frost and inferno, fire and ice. The two scientists who made the first great discoveries in genetics had a lot in common — not least the fact that both died obscure, mostly unmourned and happily forgotten by many. But whereas one's legacy perished in fire, the other's succumbed to ice.

The blaze came during the winter of 1884, at a monastery in what's now the Czech Republic. The friars spent a January day emptying out the office of their deceased abbot, Gregor Mendel, ruthlessly purging his files, consigning everything to a bonfire in the courtyard. Though a warm and capable man, late in life Mendel had become something of an embarrassment to the monastery, the cause for government inquiries, newspaper gossip, even a showdown with a local sheriff. (Mendel won.) No relatives came by to pick up Mendel's things, and the monks burned his papers for the same reason you'd cauterize a wound — to sterilize, and stanch embarrassment. No record survives of what they looked like, but among those documents were sheaves of papers, or perhaps a lab notebook with a plain cover, probably coated in dust from disuse. The yellowed pages would have been full of sketches of pea plants and tables of numbers (Mendel adored numbers), and they probably didn't kick up any more smoke and ash than other papers when incinerated. But the burning of those papers — burned on the exact spot where Mendel had kept his greenhouse years before — destroyed the only original record of the discovery of the gene.

The chills came during that same winter of 1884 — as they had for many winters before, and would for too few winters after. Johannes Friedrich Miescher, a middling professor of physiology in Switzerland, was studying salmon, and among his other projects he was indulging a long-standing obsession with a substance — a cottony gray paste — he'd extracted from salmon sperm years before. To keep the delicate sperm from perishing in the open air, Miescher had to throw the windows open to the cold and refrigerate his lab the old-fashioned way, exposing himself day in and day out to the Swiss winter. Getting any work done required superhuman focus, and that was the one asset even people who thought little of Miescher would admit he had. (Earlier in his career, friends had to drag him from his lab bench one afternoon to attend his wedding; the ceremony had slipped his mind.) Despite being so driven, Miescher had pathetically little to show for it — his lifetime scientific output was meager. Still, he kept the windows open and kept shivering year after year, though he knew it was slowly killing him. And he still never got to the bottom of that milky gray substance, DNA.

DNA and genes, genes and DNA. Nowadays the words have become synonymous. The mind rushes to link them, like Gilbert and Sullivan or Watson and Crick. So it seems fitting that

Miescher and Mendel discovered DNA and genes almost simultaneously in the 1860s, two monastic men just four hundred miles apart in the German-speaking span of middle Europe. It seems more than fitting; it seems fated.

But to understand what DNA and genes really are, we have to decouple the two words. They're not identical and never have been. DNA is a thing — a chemical that sticks to your fingers. Genes have a physical nature, too; in fact, they're made of long stretches of DNA. But in some ways genes are better viewed as conceptual, not material. A gene is really information

— more like a story, with DNA as the language the story is written in. DNA and genes combine to form larger structures called chromosomes, DNA- rich volumes that house most of the genes in living things. Chromosomes in turn reside in the cell nucleus, a library with instructions that run our entire bodies.

All these structures play important roles in genetics and heredity, but despite the near-simultaneous discovery of each in the 1800s, no one connected DNA and genes for almost a century, and both discoverers died uncelebrated. How biologists finally yoked genes and DNA together is the first epic story in the science of inheritance, and even today, efforts to refine the

relationship between genes and DNA drive genetics forward.

Mendel and Miescher began their work at a time when folk theories — some uproarious or bizarre, some quite ingenious, in their way — dominated most people's thinking about heredity, and for centuries these folk theories had colored their views about why we inherit different traits.

Everyone knew on some level of course that children resemble parents. Red hair, baldness, lunacy, receding chins, even extra thumbs, could all be traced up and down a genealogical tree. And fairy tales — those codifiers of the collective unconscious — often turned on some wretch being a "true" prince(ss) with a royal bloodline, a biological core that neither rags nor an amphibian frame could sully.

That's mostly common sense. But the mechanism of heredity — how exactly traits got passed from generation to generation — baffled even the most intelligent thinkers, and the vagaries of this process led to many of the wilder theories that circulated before and even during the 1800s. One ubiquitous folk theory, "maternal impressions," held that if a pregnant woman saw something ghoulish or suffered intense emotions, the experience would scar her child. One woman who never satisfied an intense prenatal craving for strawberries gave birth to a baby covered with red, strawberry-shaped splotches. The same could happen with bacon. Another woman bashed her head on a sack of coal, and her child had half, but only half, a head of black

hair. More direly, doctors in the 1600s reported that a woman in Naples, after being startled by sea monsters, bore a son covered in scales, who ate fish exclusively and gave off fishy odors.

Bishops told cautionary tales of a woman who seduced her actor husband backstage in full costume. He was playing Mephistopheles; they had a child with hooves and horns. A beggar with one arm spooked a woman into having a one-armed child. Pregnant women who pulled off crowded streets to pee in churchyards invariably produced bed wetters. Carrying fireplace logs about in your apron, next to the bulging tummy, would produce a grotesquely well-hung lad. About the only recorded happy case of maternal impressions involved a patriotic woman in Paris in the 1790s whose son had a birthmark on his chest shaped like a Phrygian cap— those elfish hats with a flop of material on top. Phrygian caps were symbols of freedom to the new French republic, and the delighted government awarded her a lifetime pension.

Much of this folklore intersected with religious belief, and people naturally interpreted serious birth defects — cyclopean eyes, external hearts, full coats of body hair — as back‑of‑the-Bible warnings about sin, wrath, and divine justice. One example from the 1680s involved a cruel bailiff in Scotland named Bell, who arrested two female religious dissenters, lashed them to poles near the shore, and let the tide swallow them. Bell added insult by taunting the women, then drowned the younger, more stubborn one with his own hands. Later, when asked about the murders, Bell always laughed, joking that the women must be having a high time now, scuttling around among the crabs. The joke was on Bell: after he married, his children were born with a severe defect that twisted their forearms into two awful pincers. These crab claws proved highly heritable to their children and grandchildren, too. It didn't take a biblical scholar to see that the iniquity of the father had been visited upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations. (And beyond: cases popped up in Scotland as late as 1900.)

If maternal impressions stressed environmental influences, other theories of inheritance had strong congenital flavors. One, preformationism, grew out of the medieval alchemists' quest to create a homunculus, a miniature, even microscopic, human being. Homunculi were the biological philosopher's stone, and creating one showed that an alchemist possessed the power of

gods. (The process of creation was somewhat less dignified. One recipe called for fermenting sperm, horse dung, and urine in a pumpkin for six weeks.) By the late 1600s, some protoscientists had stolen the idea of the homunculus and were arguing that one must live inside each female egg cell. This neatly did away with the question of how living embryos arose from seemingly dead blobs of matter. Under preformationist theory, such spontaneous generation wasn't necessary: homuncular babies were indeed preformed and merely needed a trigger, like sperm, to grow. This idea had only one problem: as critics pointed out, it introduced an infinite regress, since a woman necessarily had to have all her future children, as well as their children, and their children, stuffed inside her, like Russian matryoshka nesting dolls. Indeed, adherents of "ovism" could only deduce that God had crammed the entire human race into Eve's ovaries on day one. (Or rather, day six of Genesis.) "Spermists" had it even worse — Adam must have had humanity entire sardined into his even tinier sperms. Yet after the first microscopes appeared, a few spermists tricked themselves into seeing tiny humans bobbing around in puddles of semen. Both ovism and spermism gained credence in part because they explained original sin: we all resided inside Adam or Eve during their banishment from Eden and therefore all share the taint. But spermism also introduced theological quandaries — for what happened to the endless number of unbaptized souls that perished every time a man ejaculated?

However poetic or deliciously bawdy these theories were, biologists in Miescher's day scoffed at them as old wives' tales. These men wanted to banish wild anecdotes and vague "life forces" from science and ground all heredity and development in chemistry instead.

Miescher hadn't originally planned to join this movement to demystify life. As a young man he had trained to practice the family trade, medicine, in his native Switzerland. But a boyhood typhoid infection had left him hard of hearing and unable to use a stethoscope or hear an invalid's bedside bellyaching. Miescher's father, a prominent gynecologist, suggested a career in research instead. So in 1868 the young Miescher moved into a lab run by the biochemist Felix Hoppe- Seyler, in Tübingen, Germany. Though headquartered in an impressive medieval castle, Hoppe-Seyler's lab occupied the royal laundry room in the basement; he found Miescher space next door, in the old kitchen.

Hoppe- Seyler wanted to catalog the chemicals present in human blood cells. He had already investigated red blood cells, so he assigned white ones to Miescher — a fortuitous decision for his new assistant, since white blood cells (unlike red ones) contain a tiny internal capsule called a nucleus. At the time, most scientists ignored the nucleus — it had no known function — and quite reasonably concentrated on the cytoplasm instead, the slurry that makes up most of a cell's volume. But the chance to analyze something unknown appealed to Miescher.

To study the nucleus, Miescher needed a steady supply of white blood cells, so he approached a local hospital. According to legend, the hospital catered to veterans who'd endured gruesome battlefield amputations and other mishaps. Regardless, the clinic did house many chronic patients, and each day a hospital orderly collected pus-soaked bandages and delivered the yellowed rags to Miescher. The pus often degraded into slime in the open air, and Miescher had to smell each suppurated‑on cloth and throw out the putrid ones (most of them). But the remaining "fresh" pus was swimming with white blood cells.

Eager to impress — and, in truth, doubtful of his own talents — Miescher threw himself into studying the nucleus, as if sheer labor would make up for any shortcomings. A colleague later described him as "driven by a demon," and Miescher exposed himself daily to all manner of chemicals in his work. But without this focus, he probably wouldn't have discovered what he did, since the key substance inside the nucleus proved elusive. Miescher first washed his pus in warm alcohol, then acid extract from a pig's stomach, to dissolve away the cell membranes. This

allowed him to isolate a gray paste. Assuming it was protein, he ran tests to identify it. But the paste resisted protein digestion and, unlike any known protein, wouldn't dissolve in salt water,

boiling vinegar, or dilute hydrochloric acid. So he tried elementary analysis, charring it until it decomposed. He got the expected elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, but also discovered 3 percent phosphorus, an element proteins lack. Convinced he'd found something unique, he named the substance "nuclein" — what later scientists called deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.

Miescher polished off the work in a year, and in autumn 1869 stopped by the royal laundry to show Hoppe-Seyler. Far from rejoicing, the older scientist screwed up his brow and expressed his doubts that the nucleus contained any sort of special, nonproteinaceous substance. Miescher had made a mistake, surely. Miescher protested, but Hoppe- Seyler insisted on repeating the young man's experiments — step by step, bandage by bandage — before allowing him to publish. Hoppe- Seyler's condescension couldn't have helped Miescher's confidence (he never worked so quickly again). And even after two years of labor vindicated Miescher, Hoppe- Seyler insisted on writing a patronizing editorial to accompany Miescher's paper, in which he backhandedly praised Miescher for "enhanc[ing] our understanding . . . of pus." Nevertheless Miescher did get credit, in 1871, for discovering DNA.

Some parallel discoveries quickly illuminated more about Miescher's molecule. Most important, a German protégé of Hoppe-Seyler's determined that nuclein contained multiple types of smaller constituent molecules. These included phosphates and sugars (the eponymous "deoxyribose" sugars), as well as four ringed chemicals now called nucleic "bases" — adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. Still, no one knew how these parts fit together, and this jumble made DNA seem strangely heterogeneous and incomprehensible.

(Scientists now know how all these parts contribute to DNA. The molecule forms a double helix, which looks like a ladder twisted into a corkscrew. The supports of the ladder are strands made of alternating phosphates and sugars. The ladder's rungs — the most important part

— are each made of two nucleic bases, and these bases pair up in specific ways: adenine, A, always bonds with thymine, T; cytosine, C, always bonds with guanine, G. [To remember this, notice that the curvaceous letters C and G pair-bond, as do angular A and T.])

Meanwhile DNA's reputation was bolstered by other discoveries. Scientists in the later 1800s determined that whenever cells divide in two, they carefully divvy up their chromosomes.

This hinted that chromosomes were important for something, because otherwise cells wouldn't bother. Another group of scientists determined that chromosomes are passed whole and intact from parent to child. Yet another German chemist then discovered that chromosomes were mostly made up of none other than DNA. From this constellation of findings — it took a little imagination to sketch in the lines and see a bigger picture — a small number of scientists realized that DNA might play a direct role in heredity. Nuclein was intriguing people.

Miescher lucked out, frankly, when nuclein became a respectable object of inquiry; his career had stalled otherwise. After his stint in Tübingen, he moved home to Basel, but his new institute refused him his own lab — he got one corner in a common room and had to carry out chemical analyses in an old hallway. (The castle kitchen was looking pretty good suddenly.) His new job also required teaching. Miescher had an aloof, even frosty demeanor — he was someone never at ease around people — and although he labored over lectures, he proved a pedagogical disaster: students remember him as "insecure, restless . . . myopic . . . difficult to understand, [and] fidgety." We like to think of scientific heroes as electric personalities, but Miescher lacked even rudimentary charisma.

Given his atrocious teaching, which further eroded his self-esteem, Miescher rededicated himself to research. Upholding what one observer called his "fetish of examining objectionable

fluids," Miescher transferred his DNA allegiance from pus to semen. The sperm in semen were basically nuclein-tipped missiles and provided loads of DNA without much extraneous cytoplasm. Miescher also had a convenient source of sperm in the hordes of salmon that clogged the river Rhine near his university every autumn and winter. During spawning season, salmon

testes grow like tumors, swelling twenty times larger than normal and often topping a pound each. To collect salmon, Miescher could practically dangle a fishing line from his office

window, and by squeezing their "ripe" testes through cheesecloth, he isolated millions of bewildered little swimmers. The downside was that salmon sperm deteriorates at anything close to comfortable temperatures. So Miescher had to arrive at his bench in the chilly early hours before dawn, prop the windows open, and drop the temperature to around 35°F before working.

And because of a stingy budget, when his laboratory glassware broke, he sometimes had to pilfer his ever-loving wife's fine china to finish experiments.

From this work, as well as his colleagues' work with other cells, Miescher concluded that all cell nuclei contain DNA. In fact he proposed redefining cell nuclei — which come in a variety of sizes and shapes — strictly as containers for DNA. Though he wasn't greedy about his reputation, this might have been a last stab at glory for Miescher. DNA might still have turned out to be relatively unimportant, and in that case, he would have at least figured out what the mysterious nucleus did. But it wasn't to be. Though we now know Miescher was largely right in defining the nucleus, other scientists balked at his admittedly premature suggestion; there just wasn't enough proof. And even if they bought that, they wouldn't grant Miescher's next, more self-serving claim: that DNA influenced heredity. It didn't help that Miescher had no idea how DNA did so. Like many scientists then, he doubted that sperm injected anything into eggs, partly because he assumed (echoes of the homunculus here) that eggs already contained the full complement of parts needed for life. Rather, he imagined that sperm nuclein acted as a sort of chemical defibrillator and jump-started eggs. Unfortunately Miescher had little time to explore or defend such ideas. He still had to lecture, and the Swiss government piled "thankless and tedious" tasks onto him, like preparing reports on nutrition in prisons and elementary schools. The years of working through Swiss winters with the windows open also did a number on his health, and he contracted tuberculosis. He ended up giving up DNA work altogether.

Meanwhile other scientists' doubts about DNA began to solidify, in their minds, into hard opposition. Most damning, scientists discovered that there was more to chromosomes than

phosphate-sugar backbones and A‑ C‑G‑T bases. Chromosomes also contained protein nuggets, which seemed more likely candidates to explain chemical heredity. That's because proteins were composed of twenty different subunits (called amino acids). Each of these subunits could serve as one "letter" for writing chemical instructions, and there seemed to be enough variety among these letters to explain the dazzling diversity of life itself. The A, C, G, and T of DNA seemed dull and simplistic in comparison, a four-letter pidgin alphabet with limited expressive power. As a result, most scientists decided that DNA stored phosphorus for cells, nothing more.

Sadly, even Miescher came to doubt that DNA contained enough alphabetical variety. He too began tinkering with protein inheritance, and developed a theory where proteins encoded

information by sticking out molecular arms and branches at different angles — a kind of chemical semaphore. It still wasn't clear how sperm passed this information to eggs, though, and Miescher's confusion deepened. He turned back to DNA late in life and argued that it might assist with heredity still. But progress proved slow, partly because he had to spend more and more time in tuberculosis sanitariums in the Alps. Before he got to the bottom of anything, he contracted pneumonia in 1895, and succumbed soon after.

Later work continued to undermine Miescher by reinforcing the belief that even if chromosomes control inheritance, the proteins in chromosomes, not the DNA, contained the actual information. After Miescher's death, his uncle, a fellow scientist, gathered Miescher's correspondence and papers into a "collected works," like some belle-lettrist. The uncle prefaced the book by claiming that "Miescher and his work will not diminish; on the contrary, it will grow and his discoveries and thoughts will be seeds for a fruitful future." Kind words, but it must have seemed a fond hope: Miescher's obituaries barely mentioned his work on nuclein; and DNA, like Miescher himself, seemed decidedly minor.

At least Miescher died known, where he was known, for science. Gregor Mendel made a name for himself during his lifetime only through scandal.

By his own admission, Mendel became an Augustinian friar not because of any pious impulse but because his order would pay his bills, including college tuition. The son of peasants, Mendel had been able to afford his elementary school only because his uncle had founded it; he attended high school only after his sister sacrificed part of her dowry. But with the church footing the bill, Mendel attended the University of Vienna and studied science, learning experimental design from Christian Doppler himself, of the eponymous effect. (Though only after Doppler rejected Mendel's initial application, perhaps because of Mendel's habit of having nervous breakdowns during tests.)

The abbot at St. Thomas, Mendel's monastery, encouraged Mendel's interest in science and statistics, partly for mercenary reasons: the abbot thought scientific farming could produce better sheep, fruit trees, and grapevines and help the monastery crawl out of debt. But Mendel had time to explore other interests, too, and over the years he charted sunspots, tracked tornadoes, kept an apiary buzzing with bees (although one strain he bred was so nasty-tempered and vindictive it had to be destroyed), and cofounded the Austrian Meteorological Society.

In the early 1860s, just before Miescher moved from medical school into research, Mendel began some deceptively simple experiments on pea plants in the St. Thomas nursery. Beyond enjoying their taste and wanting a ready supply, he chose peas because they simplified experiments. Neither bees nor wind could pollinate his pea blossoms, so he could control which

plants mated with which. He appreciated the binary, either/or nature of pea plants, too: plants had tall or short stalks, green or yellow pods, wrinkled or smooth peas, nothing in between. In fact, Mendel's first important conclusion from his work was that some binary traits "dominated" others. For example, crossing purebred green-pead plants with purebred yellow-pead plants produced only yellow-pead offspring: yellow dominated. Importantly, however, the green trait hadn't disappeared. When Mendel mated those second-generation yellow-pead plants with each other, a few furtive green peas popped up — one latent, "recessive" green for every three dominant yellows. The 3:1 ratio* held for other traits, too.

Equally important, Mendel concluded that having one dominant or recessive trait didn't affect whether another, separate trait was dominant or recessive — each trait was independent.

For example, even though tall dominated short, a recessive-short plant could still have dominant-

yellow peas. Or a tall plant could have recessive-green peas. In fact, every one of the seven traits

he studied — like smooth peas (dominant) versus wrinkled peas (recessive), or purple blossoms (dominant) versus white blossoms (recessive) — was inherited independently of the other traits.

This focus on separate, independent traits allowed Mendel to succeed where other heredity-minded horticulturists had failed. Had Mendel tried to describe, all at once, the overall resemblance of a plant to its parents, he would have had too many traits to consider. The plants would have seemed a confusing collage of Mom and Dad. (Charles Darwin, who also grew and experimented with pea plants, failed to understand their heredity partly for this reason.) But by narrowing his scope to one trait at a time, Mendel could see that each trait must be controlled by a separate factor. Mendel never used the word, but he identified the discrete, inheritable factors we call genes today. Mendel's peas were the Newton's apple of biology. Beyond his qualitative discoveries, Mendel put genetics on solid quantitative footing. He adored the statistical manipulations of meteorology, the translating of daily barometer and thermometer readings into aggregate climate data. He approached breeding the same way, abstracting from individual plants into general laws of inheritance. In fact, rumors have persisted for almost a century now that Mendel got carried away here, letting his love of perfect data tempt him into fraud.

If you flip a dime a thousand times, you'll get approximately five hundred FDRs and five hundred torches; but you're unlikely to get exactly five hundred of either, because each flip is independent and random. Similarly, because of random deviations, experimental data always stray a tad higher or lower than theory predicts. Mendel should therefore have gotten only approximately a 3:1 ratio of tall to short plants (or whatever other trait he measured). Mendel, however, claimed some almost platonically perfect 3:1s among his thousands of pea plants, a claim that has raised suspicions among modern geneticists. One latter-day fact checker calculated the odds at less than one in ten thousand that Mendel — otherwise a pedant for numerical accuracy in ledgers and meteorological experiments — came by his results honestly. Many historians have defended Mendel over the years or argued that he manipulated his data only unconsciously, since standards for recording data differed back then. (One sympathizer even invented, based on no evidence, an overzealous gardening assistant who knew what numbers Mendel wanted and furtively discarded plants to please his master.) Mendel's original

lab notes were burned after his death, so we can't check if he cooked the books. Honestly, though, if Mendel did cheat, it's almost more remarkable: it means he intuited the correct answer

— the golden 3:1 ratio of genetics — before having any real proof. The purportedly fraudulent data may simply have been the monk's way of tidying up the vagaries of real-world experiments, to make his data more convincing, so that others could see what he somehow knew by revelation.

Regardless, no one in Mendel's lifetime suspected he'd pulled a fast one — partly because no one was paying attention. He read a paper on pea heredity at a conference in 1865, and as one historian noted, "his audience dealt with him in the way that all audiences do when presented with more mathematics than they have a taste for: there was no discussion, and no questions were asked." He almost shouldn't have bothered, but Mendel published his results in 1866. Again, silence.

Mendel kept working for a few years, but his chance to burnish his scientific reputation largely evaporated in 1868, when his monastery elected him abbot. Never having governed anything before, Mendel had a lot to learn, and the day‑to‑day headaches of running St. Thomas cut into his free time for horticulture. Moreover, the perks of being in charge, like rich foods and cigars (Mendel smoked up to twenty cigars per day and grew so stout that his resting pulse sometimes topped 120), slowed him down, limiting his enjoyment of the gardens and greenhouses. One later visitor did remember Abbot Mendel taking him on a stroll through the gardens and pointing out with delight the blossoms and ripe pears; but at the first mention of his own experiments in the garden, Mendel changed the subject, almost embarrassed. (Asked how he managed to grow nothing but tall pea plants, Mendel demurred: "It is just a little trick, but there is a long story connected with it, which would take too long to tell.")

Mendel's scientific career also atrophied because he wasted an increasing number of hours squabbling about political issues, especially separation of church and state. (Although it's not obvious from his scientific work, Mendel could be fiery — a contrast to the chill of Miescher.) Almost alone among his fellow Catholic abbots, Mendel supported liberal politics, but the liberals ruling Austria in 1874 double-crossed him and revoked the tax-exempt status of monasteries. The government demanded seventy-three hundred gulden per year from St. Thomas in payment, 10 percent of the monastery's assessed value, and although Mendel, outraged and betrayed, paid some of the sum, he refused to pony up the rest. In response, the government seized property from St. Thomas's farms. It even dispatched a sheriff to seize assets from inside St. Thomas itself. Mendel met his adversary in full clerical habit outside the front gate, where he stared him down and dared him to extract the key from his pocket. The sheriff left empty-handed.

Overall, though, Mendel made little headway getting the new law repealed. He even turned into something of a crank, demanding interest for lost income and writing long letters to

legislators on arcane points of ecclesiastical taxation. One lawyer sighed that Mendel was "full of suspicion, [seeing] himself surrounded by nothing but enemies, traitors, and intriguers."

The "Mendel affair" did make the erstwhile scientist famous, or notorious, in Vienna. It also convinced his successor at St. Thomas that Mendel's papers should be burned when he died, to end the dispute and save face for the monastery. The notes describing the pea experiments would become collateral casualties.

Mendel died in 1884, not long after the church-state imbroglio; his nurse found him stiff and upright on his sofa, his heart and kidneys having failed. We know this because Mendel feared being buried alive and had demanded a precautionary autopsy. But in one sense, Mendel's fretting over a premature burial proved prophetic. Just eleven scientists cited his now-classic paper on inheritance in the thirty-five years after his death. And those that did (mostly agricultural scientists) saw his experiments as mildly interesting lessons for breeding peas, not universal statements on heredity. Scientists had indeed buried Mendel's theories too soon.

But all the while, biologists were discovering things about cells that, if they'd only known, supported Mendel's ideas. Most important, they found distinct ratios of traits among offspring, and determined that chromosomes passed hereditary information around in discrete chunks, like the discrete traits Mendel identified. So when three biologists hunting through footnotes around 1900 all came across the pea paper independently and realized how closely it mirrored their own work, they grew determined to resurrect the monk.

Mendel allegedly once vowed to a colleague, "My time will come," and boy, did it. After 1900 "Mendelism" expanded so quickly, with so much ideological fervor pumping it up, that it began to rival Charles Darwin's natural selection as the preeminent theory in biology. Many geneticists in fact saw Darwinism and Mendelism as flatly incompatible — and a few even relished the prospect of banishing Darwin to the same historical obscurity that Friedrich Miescher knew so well.

Excerpted from The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean. Copyright 2012 by Sam Kean. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
It is an excerpt from a book titled The Violinist's Thumb.
It is about genetics. I found it following xkcd links.

I enjoyed it; Good old Mendel and his peas.
At University, explanations of his work thrilled me.

I remember the day I 'GOT' it.
Spoiler:
God grew close.
Angels read over my shoulder.
I could almost smell the warm, pea flower scented air.

So many bright minds have suffered so much to unlock the secrets of nature for us.
If there are after worlds, Mendel will be in The Garden; Chubby and Happy.

I can understand not wanting to handle puss.
I'm grateful everyday for latex gloves.

Yet; I'm still in a snit about our Western Culture's shift away from intellectualism.
They did the work in the cold, with little to no recognition, so we can live like Gods.

All we are expected to do is understand it!
So many of us are just too lazy.(frowny face)
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Mon Nov 14, 2016 5:47 pm UTC

This weekend Sableagle learned that the first snow of the winter having already come and settled and taken over 24 hours to melt does not preclude ice-cream vans from attempting to do business in this town on Remembrance Sunday.

Remembrance Sundae, maybe?
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Quercus » Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:48 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:This weekend Sableagle learned that the first snow of the winter having already come and settled and taken over 24 hours to melt does not preclude ice-cream vans from attempting to do business in this town on Remembrance Sunday.

Remembrance Sundae, maybe?


I'd buy some - I'm one of those weirdos who eats ice cream outdoors in the middle of winter.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:07 pm UTC

There's another way?
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Flumble » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:09 am UTC

Today I learned that Germany has a(t least one) huge brown coal (lignite) mine. I thought large surface mines were an american and chinese thing. :mrgreen:

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby addams » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:31 am UTC

freezeblade wrote:
addams wrote:Citrus trees grown from seed have wicked thorns.
Mine do.


Yes. Yes they do. It's interesting actually, the thorns are characteristics of young citrus trees, the further the branches grow from the initial seeding, the less likely they are to have thorns (most varieties). When you graft a seeding with older budwood, it instead takes that constant from the older tree that the scion comes from, and over-rides the seedling's thorn factor. This is why a lemon tree that is grown from seed will be thorny, and one which is grown from a cutting, or grafted, will not be thorny, even if they have the same genetics! (which can happen plenty, because of lemon's high propensity for poly-embryonic seedlings, which are essentially clones of the parent tree)

The more you knowwwwww
For several days I considered consulting you on pruning practices for my little citrus trees.
You knowwwwww a lot about such things.

I took it upon myself to do a little light pruning.
Those thorns are sharp. They Hurt! I pruned.

What else should I know about growing a stunted citrus forest?
Don't turn your back on them and bend over. That I know.

OUCH! My Eyes!
Flumble wrote:Today I learned that Germany has a(t least one) huge brown coal (lignite) mine. I thought large surface mines were an american and chinese thing. :mrgreen:

Oh! Good Grief!
That is not pretty.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby New User » Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:16 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:Today I learned that Germany has a(t least one) huge brown coal (lignite) mine. I thought large surface mines were an american and chinese thing. :mrgreen:

I remember reading somewhere that some of the largest land vehicles in various categories were mining machines at German mines.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby addams » Tue Nov 15, 2016 3:31 pm UTC

New User wrote:
Flumble wrote:Today I learned that Germany has a(t least one) huge brown coal (lignite) mine. I thought large surface mines were an american and chinese thing. :mrgreen:

I remember reading somewhere that some of the largest land vehicles in various categories were mining machines at German mines.

Canada.
I read that about Canada.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athabasca_oil_sands
http://www.oilsandsmagazine.com/technic ... ace-mining

Nope. German.
You are correct.
http://www.mining.com/oil-sands-mining- ... ilt-tough/
“It’s one of the toughest applications in the world for a mining truck,” says Tim Denehy, Canadian mining sales manager for Liebherr, one of a handful of heavy equipment companies that manufacture the largest class of haul trucks used in the oil sands.

The German company has a fleet of 26 trucks operating at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake oil sands mine. Liebherr’s T282C mining truck moves 400 tons of material with a 4,023-hp diesel engine and an AC drive.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby freezeblade » Tue Nov 15, 2016 3:51 pm UTC

addams wrote:For several days I considered consulting you on pruning practices for my little citrus trees.
You knowwwwww a lot about such things.

I took it upon myself to do a little light pruning.
Those thorns are sharp. They Hurt! I pruned.

What else should I know about growing a stunted citrus forest?
Don't turn your back on them and bend over. That I know.


citrus trees need little maintenance as far as pruning goes, they are very forgiving. However I like mine to have an open structure, so I treat them like apple trees or peach trees when trimming, keeping branches growing away from the center, and keeping them from crossing each other. The main goal is to keep the fruit from touching the ground when growing, and to keep them from growing too tall (this typically means trimming the big sprouts that reach much taller than the tree itself, lemons are particularly known for doing this).

Any other specifics, message me, and I'll be happy to help.

Today I learned that my friend Catherine loves to hang out in the shower after I'm out of it, lapping the water from all the puddles :shock:

edit: wow. there's a forum filter for "c at" that says "my friend Catherine"
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Flumble » Tue Nov 15, 2016 6:09 pm UTC

addams wrote:Nope. German.
You are correct.
http://www.mining.com/oil-sands-mining- ... ilt-tough/
“It’s one of the toughest applications in the world for a mining truck,” says Tim Denehy, Canadian mining sales manager for Liebherr, one of a handful of heavy equipment companies that manufacture the largest class of haul trucks used in the oil sands.

The German company has a fleet of 26 trucks operating at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake oil sands mine. Liebherr’s T282C mining truck moves 400 tons of material with a 4,023-hp diesel engine and an AC drive.

You're right though, that German-built truck is in use (at Mildred Lake) in Canada according to your source.
It's second only to the Belarussian-built BelAZ 75710 truck. I totally forgot to list Russia, who's also big on open pit mining.

Still, haul trucks are tiny in comparison to these bucket-wheel excavators and the F60, all, like New User vaguely remembered correctly, built and used in Germany.
That F60 is mind-bogglingly huge! Just look at it! That encased part on the left could double as a convention center. At 500m length, it's even slightly larger than the hughest oil tanker. And when fully in operation it draws about the same amount of power as 13000 households. :shock:

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:30 pm UTC

F60 from space! Still visible after zooming out to "66km up" now that I know where to look ... and the damage done is visible from 4.24Mm up. Yes, megametres. Is there a better name for that? I know a megagram is a tonne.
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Mon Nov 28, 2016 4:30 pm UTC

Today I learned that it is possible to accidentally hit the toilet roll dispenser hard enough to:
a) bend it
b) open it and
c) bleed.

I also learned that the robin waiting for me to come home and open the shed was indeed hungry enough to take live mealworms directly from my fingertips.
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby JudeMorrigan » Mon Dec 05, 2016 6:09 pm UTC

This weekend I learned that C3PO had a silver leg in the original trilogy. I've been watching those freaking movies for thirty-four+ freaking years, how did I never notice that?

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby HES » Mon Dec 05, 2016 6:14 pm UTC

To be fair, shiny silver reflecting desert sand is gold.
He/Him/His Image

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:21 am UTC

JudeMorrigan wrote:This weekend I learned that C3PO had a silver leg in the original trilogy. I've been watching those freaking movies for thirty-four+ freaking years, how did I never notice that?

Just the first one. The end showed that someone had replace it with another gold one. It was gold after that.

No, I'm wrong apparently. Did he put it back on?
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Antimon » Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:42 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:Today I learned that it is possible to accidentally hit the toilet roll dispenser hard enough to:
a) bend it
b) open it and
c) bleed.


I managed to break a toe once, when I failed to step safely over an empty plastic 1.5 liter bottle that was standing on the floor.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:59 am UTC

Sableagle wrote:Today I learned that it is possible to accidentally hit the toilet roll dispenser hard enough to:
a) bend it
b) open it and
c) bleed..

Worst game of Bopit ever
heuristically_alone wrote:I want to write a DnD campaign and play it by myself and DM it myself.
heuristically_alone wrote:I have been informed that this is called writing a book.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby flicky1991 » Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:17 am UTC

The only game that demands an offering of blood. Except some of the more extreme house rules for Monopoly.
any pronouns (mainly she/he)
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Avatar from ArguablyDerek
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Discord for Forum Games posters
(Please let me know if the link doesn't work)
Spoiler:
Weeks wrote:
flicky1991 wrote:Maybe I am a female Justin Bieber!
Justine Bieber. Alternatively, Miley Cyrus.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sableagle » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:24 am UTC

flicky1991 wrote:The only game that demands an offering of blood. Except some of the more extreme house rules for Monopoly.


No. There is another Skywalker bloodsucker.
Blood Sport was a Kickstarter project that was trying to attract the funding to create a system that would drain your blood while you played games, taking away your red stuff whenever you went and got yourself hurt in the game. In practice, Blood Sport was a peripheral for your peripheral, in that it was basically a blood collection machine attached to a regular controller.
All we're doing is taking the electrical signal from the controller every time it rumbles and using it to turn on the blood collection system.
So when a temple collapses in Tomb Raider it's going to suck down all of my blood and most of my bone marrow?
Oh, Willie McBride, it was all done in vain.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Internetmeme » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:35 pm UTC

Antimon wrote:
Sableagle wrote:Today I learned that it is possible to accidentally hit the toilet roll dispenser hard enough to:
a) bend it
b) open it and
c) bleed.


I managed to break a toe once, when I failed to step safely over an empty plastic 1.5 liter bottle that was standing on the floor.


This one while capping an NMR tube, the glass decided then and there would be a perfect time to crumble.

On the plus side, I managed to save the sample and I'm up to date on my tetanus shot. And I learned that getting deuterated chloroform on an open cut won't do anything bad.

flicky1991 wrote:The only game that demands an offering of blood. Except some of the more extreme house rules for Monopoly.


It turned out that after the above offering of blood, the chemistry worked
Spoiler:

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby tms » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:18 pm UTC

TIL this here display makes noise only with some settings. That is, I heard it before, when the room is quiet enough. I first put the brightness to minimum and no change. Then I put it higher than before, to max, and the noise stopped (ninety-something would do, too). At least temporarily, and subjectively.
- No, son. I said 'duck'.
- Duck duck duck duck! Duck duck duck duck!

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby WibblyWobbly » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:56 pm UTC

Internetmeme wrote:It turned out that after the above offering of blood, the chemistry worked


This is why I suggest to the department head that we sacrifice a grad student to the GPC every semester. Plus, you get an idea of how polydisperse grad students are.

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Re: Today I Learned

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Thu Dec 22, 2016 6:39 pm UTC

tms wrote:TIL this here display makes noise only with some settings. That is, I heard it before, when the room is quiet enough. I first put the brightness to minimum and no change. Then I put it higher than before, to max, and the noise stopped (ninety-something would do, too). At least temporarily, and subjectively.

I'd guess you're hearing something related to PWM of the backlight, then. No idea what, though.
"Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work." -Elon Musk
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Re: Today I Learned

Postby Sieneskil » Fri Dec 23, 2016 9:57 am UTC

I like to “LAF” at the end of the day. I reflect on the past day on what I have Learned, Accomplished, and what was my Favorite moment of the day.


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