Penny Thoughts

The Ramblings of a Biology Lover, with a Few Surprises on the Side

Month: February, 2013

Hubert Duprat: Combining Nature and Art

Caddis fly larvae live in the world’s waterways and build themselves protective casings from what they can source in their surrounding environment. Normally this includes small rocks, dirt and vegetation, however, Hubert Duprat left these caddis flies no choice but to choose from some of the finest materials around. The resulting cases, as can be seen, are a one of a kind piece of work sculpted by these larvae.

Hubert provided these flies with the building blocks and the larvae acted as the architects, putting together these parts and creating some stunning results.

Caddis fly larvae aren’t exactly the most beautiful of creatures, and although impressive, their usual casings are rather unexciting. But stick them in a container of gold, pearls and gemstones and you come to appreciate more the skill and work that is put in by these larvae in their incessant need to cover themselves in stuff.

It may seem as if Hubert simply pimped out these fly larvae but even myself, not being a massive bug fan, have to admit to quite fancying a couture caddis..

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The Secret Life of Plankton- Tierney Thys

Stumbled across this great video earlier when browsing through TED talks and videos. Its portrayal of the microscopic diversity that exists within our oceans is beautifully captured and well documented giving the idea that life is a lot more complex that what meets the eye.
The clip gives a great idea of the diversity that exists within this world and how each individual plays a role in maintaining the huge web of interactions that they are involved in.
Like all TED clips it is short, concise and doesn’t mess about, presenting some remarkable shots of this relatively unexplored area of life.

Bon Iver at AIR Studios

Found this recently and can’t really stop listening to it. It’s great to see not just Justin Vernon, but also Sean Carey in this. Justin Vernon being basically the main man in Bon Iver, this clip shows just how important the other members are; I didn’t actually realise how much Sean Carey actually contributed to the songs. The other two members weren’t present, which was a shame, but it’s a real treat to see these guys in a studio environment.
This is one of my favourite Bon Iver youtube clips ever and I have listened to it far too many times.
Have a listen and whisk yourself off to a land of calm and serenity with Justin and Sean.
It just gets better and better every time..

Destiny’s Childless: The Pill’s Wanted and Unwanted Effects

The pill has been letting women grab life by the balls instead of washing those of unwanted children for over 50 years. Roughly 100 million women worldwide take the pill and this has led to improved quality of living across the globe, huge reductions in numbers of deaths during childbirth and an understandably massive decrease in the number of unwanted pregnancies.

The pill acts by changing hormone levels to trick the body into thinking that it is already pregnant. This stops eggs being released from ovaries and leads to various gruesome sounding things like increasing your cervical mucus. The main aim is to make the womb a pretty inhospitable place for eggs.

So the pill has been having its way with women’s wombs for a long time and has played an important part in allowing women to have better educations and explore further into the working world. It’s unlikely that many female CEOs and even Destiny’s Child could have been such independent women if it weren’t for contraceptives like the pill.

However, along with these many female-empowering outcomes of the pill, there is evidence that the pill may be altering other choices that females make, including their choice of potential suitors and their sexual tendencies.

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Normally, when women are not on the pill, they experience alterations in their mate preferences through their menstrual cycle. Research has shown that when women are ovulating, and therefore fertile, they show a strong preference for more masculine and dominant men. Whereas when women are not fertile they shift their preference to more feminine ‘good father’ type men who can look after them and provide them with resources, be it sandwiches or diamonds. So these changes in women’s instincts lead to the exploitation of men for either their potential to shower you with resources or to provide their fantastic genes.

This cycling has been put down as one of the key reasons why women tend to cheat more on their partners when ovulating. Women also tend to act in a more sexually promiscuous way when ovulating, so single men of the world, maybe it would be in your benefit to show some interest in the ladies’ menstrual cycles. However, these women are generally going to be seriously fertile, so kids… use protection.

Preference changes also occur in men in response to ovulating women. It has been shown that men are actually more attracted to women when they are ovulating, be it because the women are acting more confidently or that men are picking up on some kind of pheromone-type signal. So, what better way to test this idea than send a load of awkward scientists to a strip club? They basically looked at female stripper wages throughout their menstrual cycles and found that they earned on average $150 more when they were ovulating. This pretty ridiculous sounding fact is true; it’s been proven using numerous beloved statistical techniques. Therefore, I conclude that ovulation makes me (and all you other women) $150 sexier. So thank you to you ovulation for fuelling that questionably sexy dancing in clubs all over the world for many years to come.

All this normal cycling is altered when women are on the pill. Instead of having a change in mate preference, women on the pill are generally stuck in the ‘good father’ preference. As women don’t actually ovulate when on the pill, the switch in preference to dominant, sexy, genetically matched men does not occur or does to a much lesser extent.

The kinds of relationships that form when women are on the pill therefore tend to be with ‘good father’ type males. Questionnaires of these couples showed that they actually tended to be happier in their relationship and therefore they often lasted much longer than couples that met when the woman was not on the pill. However, a huge majority of these couples stated that they were disappointed with their sex lives and weren’t really very attracted to their partners.

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There are even further issues. Say, there is a lovely couple that got together when the girl was on the pill. They go through life fulfilling numerous dating and romantic clichés until finally he pops the question. What wonderful news! NO. Following this apparent joyous news the inevitable baby conversations are going to come up, and the decision to come off the pill commences. Problem 1: when women come off the pill they show a strong preference for the masculine, sexy male type. This is not the type of man our scenario husband is. This means that these kinds of couples have an increased chance of splitting up at this point when the woman comes off the pill. Problem 2: If the couple do stay together, questionnaires have shown that these couples are more dysfunctional, unhappy and have unfulfilling sex lives. So your options here are either, never have children, stay on the pill forever and continue with your lovely relationship, stop taking the pill and break up with partner or finally stay with your partner and grow into an old bitter couple that probably hate each other.

These problems aren’t even the end of it. As more women are on the pill than ever before, more woman are having to face these potential situations, and many are choosing to stay with their “good father” partner and having their children. These men are not as well matched genetically as those men they would naturally chose to make babies with and it has been suggested that this may lead to some detrimental health impacts in the future. Basically, those men that are better matched genetically have more genetic dissimilarities, particularly in term of genes involved in immunity. Therefore, if more women are having children with poor genetically matched men, there are likely going to be more children with worse immune systems than if women were picking men naturally without the pill’s interference. This could mean more allergy prone children and the potential increase in for example, cases of asthma. With the future for health looking already increasingly bleak with ever increasing waste lines and pint glasses, the addition of more sickly children is not ideal.

But please don’t worry, this is not the case for every woman and these negative health effects aren’t predicted to be severe. Also, if you did meet your partner while on the pill, don’t panic! This is not the case for everyone, you may be the lucky exception.

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