Steph's Friend

Saturday, March 26, 2005

"Dr Joe & What You Didn't Know" by Dr Joe Schwarcz

Recently, I have been reading "Dr Joe & What You Didn't Know" by Dr Joe Schwarcz. I learnt a lot of weird things from it. I will share some of the things I learnt here.

01. Did you know that you can actually die by drinking too much water? If there is too much water in your body, water moves from your blood to your cells by osmosis. This may cause your brain to swell as too much water enters your brain cells (I know that having a "big brain" is associated with smartness...but this is something you won't want to have). This leads to lethargy, loss of consciousness, or even death!

02. In the 1960s, James McConnell of the University of Michigan showed that flatworms could be conditioned in a very interesting way. He claimed that if you expose a worm to light followed by an electric shock, the worm would change it's movement path. The worms associate the light with the shock. Next time, if given a light stimulus, the worms would avoid the path that has the shock. Interestingly, if you cut the flatworm and divide it to two, both parts would regenerate to full flatworms and still retain the memory!! Weird huh!! But there's more. He continued his investigation by grinding the conditioned worms and fed the it to worms that were not conditioned. Guess what............the unconditioned worms began to show the same behaviour!! Wow...I didnt'w knew such weird stuff exists. James concluded that the "memory" of the worms are stored in molecules throughout their body.

03. How to make "Brain Sludge". Using an eyedropper filled with milk, slowly squeeze the milk ou into the bottom of a test tube half-filled with vinegar. Lo and behold..."brain sludge" will form. If you add salt to the product, you will get cottage cheese...weird huh? The product is formed as proteins in milk are precipitated by the acid in vinegar.

04. SPF on sunscreens just means Sun Protection Number. It is an indicator of the extent your skin will be protected from UV rays if applied. The higher the number, the higher the protection. I didn't knew this too as I seldom go out for a tan.

05. Snails, spiders and octopuses have blue blood! This is so as they do not have haemoglobin in their blood as we humans do. Instead they have a related compound known as hemocyanin. It has a copper atom in its middle which is analogous to iron in haemoglobin. Hemocyanin reflects blue, which explains its blue colour.

06. There's even a poem for DDT, also known as paradichlorodiphenyltricholoethane (long name huh?). The poem goes like this:

A mosquito was heard to complain
"A chemist has poisoned my brain."
The cause of his sorrow
Was paradichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.

(Poem taken from "Dr Joe & What You Didn't Know" by Dr Joe Schwarcz)

07. How did adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine get their names? Well, according to the book, adenine comes from the Greek word for gland as it was first isolated from the pancreas. Thymine was first isolated from the thymus gland. Cytosine was first isolated from cells, and "cyto" in "cytosine" refers to cells. Guanine is much more interesting. It was first isolated from bird guano or bird poop.

08. We often pay little notice to ants. However, ants were used to close wounds during the war between the Greeks and Turks in 1912. First, pull the sides of the wound together. Next, take a red ant and allow it to bite in such a way that it closes the wound together. Cut off the body, leaving the head there. Repeat the process with more ants until the whole wound is closed.

09. There is more to kissing than meets the eye. Studies shows that women subconsciously prefer the smell of men who have genes that code for different immune system proteins than their own. These smells are produced by scent glands on the cheek! (Personally, I didn't know that a simple act could be so complicated.) Mixing immune system proteins results in healthier offspring (lol).

After reading the book, I have sure learnt a lot of things...most of them being


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