Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tangled Bank #51: the Seattle Tour!

I've been racking my brain about what to do when Tangled Bank #51 came to Seattle.

And it hit me.

What do I normally do with visiting nobility (like my in-laws or my parents)?

We go sightseeing.

So come along, get your reading glasses and your walking shoes, we've got places to go and lots of scientific treats to sample along the way.

We're going to do a circle around the center of the city, starting in a bus ride to the zoo and ending up at our local cultural hotspot, Archie McPhee's.

Since I'm a biologist, we'll start our tour at Woodland Park Zoo. Before we're allowed in, we have to answer this riddle.

"Who's bald head makes it easier to dive head first into dead meat?" I think we'll let 10,000 birds answer that question and explain to us why Black is Back.

No visit to the zoo would be complete without a trip to the Tropical Rain Forest display. If we can be quiet, we might even learn from our docent, GrrlScientist, about the new species of parrot and mouse that were recently described from the small Philippine Island of Camiguin. Her enchanting display, New Parrot and Mouse Species Discovered in Phillipines, includes lovely photos and maps. It's right around the corner at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted). Woodland Park has lovely landscaping as well. Could they have saved some $$ if they bought their plants on eBay? Check out It came from eBay from the Invasive Species Weblog to learn some surprising facts about those bargain basement plants.

The petting zoo is always a popular stop. But be sure to wash your hands when you're finished. Tara Smith, of Aetiology, has an entire series on Emerging Disease and Zoonoses that explains why this is a good idea.

After we leave the zoo, we'll take a short stroll through Woodland Park and do some rabbit watching. The city plans to round-up most of the rabbits, sterilize them, and send them off to retire at a bunny farm (after Easter?) but I think the city should consider another solution. After reading Another Bobcat Story from the Dharma Bums, I wonder if we shouldn't look into getting a Mayan Jaguar carving and let Nature take its course.

Our next stop will be the Burke Museum of Natural History, but on the way we'll hike through Wallingford and check out one of my favorite landmarks, the Word of the Week. This week we'll fortunate to have two new words. From Bora Zivkovic at Cicadiana, we have a word to describe that feeling when in you've been in one place too long, Ah, Zugunruhe!, and from Wandering Visitor we have a photograph that might have been the model for "The Scream" and we have Pandiculation, a word guaranteed to make you very, very, sleepy.

Before we get to the Burke, we'll also make a quick trip inside the University Book Store to check out a new book that we read about at Living the Scientific Life on Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life.

The Burke has lots of bones and interesting displays. We might even see some displays getting set up or moved around like the you can see in the Ice Age Migration web cam that Zygote Games shared.

Naturally, there are wonderful diplays on evolution. Science and sensibility wants to know why there's so much hoopla over a funny-looking fish. He invites you to read about the real winners of the first land race in When animals first conquered the land.

What's that PZ? You found some interesting fossils, too? Wow! Those are incredible. Take a look at the Taphonomy of fossilized embryos for some wonderful photos and interesting experiments.

As we leave the Burke, we'll walk through the University of Washington campus and pass by the old nuclear reactor. I wonder if there any Deinnococcus living close by. These radiation-resistant bacteria have been found living on the Hanford Nuclear Site in eastern Washington and seem to be ready for any type of environmental insult. But Hanford's too far away for us to visit today. We'll have to be content with reading Karmen Lee Franklin's wonderful story and looking at electron micrographs at Chaotic Utopia's Conan the Bacterium: The Ancient Microscopic Hero.

It's time now, to stop at the UW Health Sciences complex. Construction never stops in this part of campus. We can ask the Seattle SNP group about the study on aging that Jeremy Cherfas described in Why Die? at Another Blasted Weblog. A single nucleotide change in the APOC3 gene is correlated with a longer lifespan.

Glyn Moody writes about other interesting studies in genomics in Coughing Genomic Ink. I was fortunate to hear the subject of this piece, David Haussler, give a wonderful seminar at the UW and Moody does a fine job describing Haussler's work to reconstruct ancestral genomes.

Before we go on, and as long as we're talking about seminars, I have to add a story from Uncertain Principles on writing letters to famous figures in science (Origin Story). He would have been very impressed the night that Jack Horner talked at the UW. Kids were lined up in the aisles waiting for autographs!!!

We might also drop by the teaching labs in the biology department and ask if they have anything informative to say about The Three Types of Experiments that are described at The Daily Transcript.

No discussion about genomics is complete without considering the ethical implications of this line of work. I wrote about how these discussions differ a bit between classrooms and companies. Kate Were tackles a harder problem in a three part series (I, II, and III) on sperm donors and sexuality. Since Google has opened an office in the region, Hsien Hsien Lei at Genetics and Health wants us to ponder this idea: Google: A Threat to Genetic Privacy? What if Google were to become a gigantic version of BLAST?

Our next stop will be biotech companies and institutes near Lake Union. First, let's go to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. I'm sure the researchers there would enjoy Charles Daney's article, from Science and Reason, Cancer Genes Tender Their Secrets. And they would certainly agree with Orac, from Respectful Insolence on Linus Pauling and clinical studies of vitamin C. (By Seed prodded, or there's less to these studies than meets the eye). I have to share a funny Linus Pauling story that was told to me by a former boss. He said that he once asked Linus Pauling how he detemined the appropriate dose of vitamin C to take. He (my boss) claimed that Linus said that he upped the dose until he got diarrhea and then backed off.

Let's go on. Close by the Hutch is the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. Perhaps we can see some trypanosomes if their outreach scientists are on duty. I have a soft spot for Tryps since I studied them as a post-doc at the aforementioned Fred Hutch. Orac tells us Tryps are also a wonderful model that illustrates how evolutionary understanding furthers our understanding of biology, overall. (Medicine and evolution, Part 3: A trypanosome shows the way). It's a great article with wonderful pictures.

Time for a lunch break. Lab Cat has an enjoyable read, What is Food Science?, that's a perfect lunch time treat. Who would have guessed that there is a Research Chefs Association? or a trademarked field, with a somewhat erotic sounding name called Culinology®?

What better place to head after lunch than down south to the Museum of Flight? If the Museum of Flight had animal exhibits, I would suggest that they include these. From the Hairy Museum of Natural History, we have Sharov's Wondrous Wing. In the art section we could include the interesting paintings from Rigor Vitae and the story: Gliders and the evolution of flight. And we can't forget the incredible Gliding Ants from Science and Politics.

Time to head back north again. On to the Seattle Aquarium where we can see people embrace their inner fish. And the Pike Place Market where we can see the fish get embraced and then tossed around. I would like to see the guys at the Market toss Tiktaalik, the fish that Hitched to Everything writes about in We hit the jackpot. But I shudder to think what would happen if they only tossed the fish halfway there, as Whirled View explains in Tiktaalik and Zeno. If the fish paid more attention, maybe they could crawl on over to the tourists, we could spend our time musing about more general issues in tetrapod evolution like IndianCowboy (New Transitional Fish/Tetrapod Fossil And Other Thoughts).

Only two more stops left. No trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit the Specific appliance center, no wait, the magnificent defiance penter, oh right, the Pacific Science Center! And my home base, Geospiza is only two blocks away.

Pacific Science Center has one of the most wonderful collections of physics toys in the entire city. I think Scientia est Potentia would enjoy this place and it would be perfect for looking at Physics, Sex, and People in a Box-shaped Room. Well, maybe not the sex, actually. There are quite a few kids running around. But if any creatures behave just like random particles, it's a group of kids at the science center.

I think Stein from Dynamics of Cats would enjoy it too. Although it's pretty unlikely that the PSC could help fund the Terrrestrial Planet Finder, they're badly in need of funding themselves. If there is anywhere in Seattle where people might really enjoy Mark Chu-Carroll's discussions on Dimensions from Good Math, Bad Math, it would be at the PSC.

Now, we have to wait for the bus to Ballard and our last stop. Time goes so fast when we're having fun. Bora wonders if time moves faster at night because you're cold or because you're hungry? He'd like to have a group of undergraduates test this out (Chossat's Effect in humans and other animals), so if you teach a class, and want to do some relatively harmless human experimentation, let him know.

If you're worried that we won't see the bus coming, check out Cognitive Daily, where we learn about Seeing and awareness, or how fear can bypass the visual system.

At last, the bus comes to take us to Ballard. Ballard is the Scandanavian enclave of Seattle. This part of the city boasts the largest Syttende Mai parade outside of Norway. We better not let Ballard know about the discovery of the ancient Swedes between the ice (thanks Salto Sobrius for this story on the First People!) or we'll be finding settlements of Neanderthal Swedes down on Market Street for sure. You betcha!

Since we're in Ballard, and it's the end of the trip, we have to visit Archie McPhee's. After all, it's a cultural highlight of the city. Not only does Archie's have useful items like bacon strip bandages and the every popular Einstein and Librarian action figures, Archie's would be the type of place that would carry Professor Quippy's invention - the Cliffy Siren (from Mark Rayner). And if Archie's had pets, you could probably get an interview with a nude mouse, just as described in the Science Creative Quarterly.

Luckily, they don't sell chemicals like Bis(Chloroethyl) NitrosoUrea, otherwise known as:


Because our tour is over, and it is time for me to be BCNU.

If you speak English, be sure to say it out loud

and I'll BCNU, too!


technorati tags: ,


Blogger coturnix said...

Wow! I love the Seattle sightseeing tour! Lovely carnival!

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Science and Seattle...very nice!

4:29 AM  
Blogger Mark A. Rayner said...

Wow, what a great job! Thanks for including Prof. Quippy. m

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Lab said...

Great tour through both science and Seattle.

What a treat.


6:37 AM  
Blogger wolf21m said...

Excellent and creative. Thanks for the hard work of creationa nd hosting.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

Thank you so much for including us in this wonderful edition of Tangled Bank. Since our post didn't mention it, I'll write it here, that bobcat is actually close to your neck of the woods. We're over on the Olympic Peninsula just outside of Port Townsend. We see bobcats fairly often (even without the jaguar charm!).

10:26 AM  
Blogger Sandra Porter said...

Thank you for all the nice comments! This was lots of fun to put together.

I really apreciated the guidance from GrrrlScientist and Bora.

The hardest thing was explaining to everyone else why I was spending so much time doing this and not spending time on my next textbook. So today, I need to get back to writing about having fun with molecular structures and get ready for the class that I'm guest teaching next week at UW.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Lynn said...

This tour was lovely and nostalgic for this Seattle expatriot.

Dare I suggest future trips might include the Arboretum? Always assuming that lovely institution is still in existence.

**sigh** It's been way too many years since I moved East...

11:21 AM  
Blogger Sandra Porter said...

I love the Arboretum too! And I would have included it but I only had one submission related to plants.

Hint, hint!

Maybe we'll visit there next time or do some bird watching on Foster Island.

11:25 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home