What happens when you’re super excited about something, and then it doesn’t happen? That energy has to go somewhere, right? Last week, I decided to put my disappointment about missing the lunar eclipse into taking crazy double exposure photos of Tarantula and the moon. It was possibly more challenging than photographing the eclipse itself, AND it made me giggle, which cheered me up.
It all started last Tuesday evening, when I was nerding out about the Super Blue Blood Moon! I love taking pictures of the moon (as y’all know), and lunar eclipses (the “blood moon” part) are especially fun to photograph. Unlike a solar eclipse, you don’t need crazy equipment to keep your eyes and your camera safe. You just point the camera at the moon and click click click click. Yayyyy. Cool moon pictures.
The total eclipse was supposed to start at… 4:50 am on Wednesday morning here in Washington state. My friend K and I planned to get up at 4 am and meet up so we could witness/photograph the wonder together. Great plan!
4 am is quite a bit earlier than I am used to getting up, though, so I decided to pack my camera stuff the night before. That way, I could roll out of bed, grab my fancy new camera bag, and go see the moon!
I was getting everything ready when I looked up and saw the super moon watching me through the window. It was pretty neat. Some trick of the light made a mini reflection of the super moon right underneath the moon itself. I liked it because it was still a pretty detailed reflection. So I took a few photos. But not too many because I thought I would have way cooler ones in the morning.
BUT when I woke up at 4 am, it was CLOUDY. Cobalt, nice husband that he is, even went on a mini walk outside to see if our apartment was blocking the moon. He came back with sad news. No eclipse for me.
I was so grumpy on Wednesday. People were posting such cool photos online. Blood moon over an observatory, blood moon over the ocean, blood moon, blood moon, blood moon! It seemed like everyone saw it! And yet, I had nothing. It’s not like I slept through my alarm, or I forgot to charge my camera battery. It’s just that sometimes, these things happen. It was out of my control.
On Wednesday night, when the moon rose, I glared at it. It was still kind of cloudy, but you could see the moon. It was taunting me. Oh now you decide to show up, moon.
A part of me suggested that maybe I take some full moon pictures anyway. My camera was already prepped for moon photos. So I grudgingly set everything up and took a few photos of the moon from our deck.
Tarantula watched me from the back door. That’s when I got the idea. What if… I took a picture of the moon and then, using the multiple exposure mode on my camera, took a picture of Tarantula so that it looked like she was watching it?
Crazy challenge accepted! Finally all my grumpiness had somewhere to go: This photo was going to require some serious planning.
The way the multiple exposure mode works is that it takes two (or more, depending on what you tell it) consecutive photos and smashes them together into one photo. So I had to take two perfect photos back to back. Which was hard because the moon and the inside of my house are lit quite differently. Also Tarantula is quite a bit closer to my camera than the moon is. ALSO… I had to remember where I framed the moon in the photo and then somehow get my cat to look in that general direction.
It took two different lenses (take picture of moon, switch lens to portrait lens, adjust settings, take picture of cat) and a lot of trial and error.
I’m still sad that I didn’t get to see the eclipse. But at least I got to have fun with my camera, which is one of the things I was looking forward to. I’ve been trying to take pictures that tell a story. Sure, a photo of the eclipse would have told a “Potassium got up super early so she could see this sweet lunar phenomenon” story. But these photos tell a pretty neat story too. I mean, how often do cats get to look at a moon in their own living rooms?
Now it’s your turn! Did you see the eclipse? What’s something that’s disappointed you lately? How did you handle your feelings?
It’s been a rough week, you guys. There is so much going on right now, and I’ve been feeling super anxious. It helps to make my kitchen an absolute mess while I bake something delicious. Unfortunately I get the idea to bake something after the sun has gone down so we have some less fancy iPhone pictures for you today.
Two weekends ago, in honor of Fall, I decided to make apple cinnamon rolls! I have a tasty cinnamon roll recipe from an old version of Joy of Cooking (apparently my version is too healthy to have the recipe for something so buttery…). Then I scoured the internet for how to make them apple-y. Turns out it’s easy. Just add chopped up apples!
So the kitchen turned into a cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter mess while I rolled out the dough, painted it with tastiness, and sprinkled apples everywhere. While I was bustling around, Tarantula showed up, apparently very interested in what I was doing. She even stood on her hind legs to try to get closer to the dough! CAT! Go away! I shooed her away because I was pretty sure cinnamon isn’t great for cats. But she didn’t get the hint. She spent the rest of the evening hunting for cinnamon chunks in the kitchen… even after I cleaned the whole room and hid the cooling apple cinnamon rolls in the microwave.
She was back at it again the next day when I was trying to photograph the completed rolls (see that pic above). Who would have guessed that she liked the way cinnamon smelled?
In other baking news, this past weekend Cobalt and I made Smitten Kitchen’s red wine chocolate cake. After we’d served a few pieces, the cake started to look like a pac-man.
That’s all for today! What do you do when you have really bad anxiety?
Yay science posts are back! Today we are (finally) going to start that daunting question about how to read about science by talking a little about experimental design and what to look for when trying to read about a science topic in the news. There’s a lot going on here so take your time and leave me a comment if something didn’t make sense or you want to know more about something.
Let’s start at the beginning. All science starts with a question, such as “Why are cats afraid of cucumbers?” Then, in order to start answering the question, the scientists have to come up with a hypothesis – their educated guess for an answer. For example, “Cats are afraid of cucumbers because they are green.”
Now comes the tricky part. Scientists have to design an experiment that directly tests their hypothesis. This part is tricky because there are always a ton of potential answers and scientists need to figure out how control their experiment so that solely it tests their hypothesis and doesn’t bring any other factors into the mix. For example, if we wanted to test whether cats hate green, we’d want to control our experiment so we wouldn’t accidentally be testing the cats’ response to different shapes or smells.
Designing a good experiment is really complicated. It’s made even worse by the fact that the very systems that some scientists study are filled with differences. For example, all humans share more than 99% of the same DNA but think about how unique we all are (even identical twins who have exactly the same DNA). The term we use for this phenomenon is called “heterogeneous” and scientists are finding to this day that organisms with the exact same DNA can act completely differently from each other. So with all of this crazy heterogeneity in mind, another way scientists can be cautious about designing experiments that solely test their hypothesis is to replicate the experiment a lot or test multiple subjects (cats, people, bacteria, etc).
Replicating an experiment is really important. For example, if I put a cucumber behind my cat and she doesn’t freak out, can I really conclude that all cats are not afraid of cucumbers? Let’s add some replicates in there! I could put a cucumber behind my cat 10 days in a row and then determine if she continues to stay nonplussed by the cucumber. I could also try putting a cucumber behind my cat at different times of the day to determine if it depends on the time of day. Or I could put cucumbers behind a variety of cats to determine if my cat is just weird and likes cucumbers. All of these ideas would add replicates to my experiment and help me identify if my results are just a weird fluke associated with some other factor that I don’t care about or if they are directly related to my hypothesis.
Good science experiments have established controls and include large numbers of replicates to eliminate “weird flukes.” All of these factors should be listed in the original scientific paper describing the study but these papers are often incredibly dense and hard to follow (even for fellow scientists). However, a good science report or article written for the general public should also list these qualifications. So to test the quality of a good source, I like to see what an article says about controls and replicates.
Here is a fake article that I just made up:
Scientists determine that too much sleep causes cancer.
Scientists at Questionable Science University have completed a study about sleep and cancer. They interviewed two different people who have lung cancer and found that they sleep 7 hours every night. As these data clearly show a link between too much sleep and cancer, people should sleep no more than 6 hours a night to prevent cancer.
Yikes! Does this mean we should stop trying to get a solid 7-8 hours a night?
Well, it looks like these scientists talked to two people who already have cancer. I want to know more information about the people who were interviewed for this study. Did the scientists take care to control for other variables like age, race, or gender? What else do these people have in common (i.e. do they smoke? Do they exercise? What type of food do they eat? Are they the same age?). All of these questions could have affected their results in a way that disconnects sleep from cancer. Furthermore, they didn’t talk to anyone who doesn’t have cancer (this is called a negative control and is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT). Plus they only asked two people! That’s like me saying cats aren’t afraid of cucumbers because my cat isn’t! It doesn’t look like they have any controls or replicate the experiment so maybe this isn’t a great source after all. Yay! Time to get more sleep! -_-
I like to think of science as “a quest for the truth.” Good experimental design is hard but it’s worth it because it helps scientists get closer to finding out the truth! It’s really important to make sure your sources report on good science so that you can learn about the truth! I tried to give you some tools that let you sift through some scientific topics you are interested in so let me know if they help! Go practice the game and then report your findings back to me! :D
Now it’s your turn: tell me about the science you are the most interested in learning about. Or tell me about something completely unscience related. That was a lot of science for one day…
Hey everyone! I thought I would spend today’s post talking about how I got into science.
So it all started when my parents got PhDs (before I was born). There hasn’t been a time in my life when I didn’t know about the option of getting a PhD. Not that that’s what I wanted to do necessarily. Let’s see – I wanted to be a paleontologist or a veterinarian or a marine biologist or a neuroscientist orrrrrr a biochemist? My parents attempted to encourage me to think about engineering so we built a bunch of radios together. However, I was really into cats, dolphins, whales, and other creatures. Hilariously, my 8th grade science fair project nicely merged engineering and animals. My dad and I built an “apparatus” that fed my cats if they pressed on a dispenser with their paws. My project was to train my cats to use the “apparatus” with different paws to see if they would selectively continue to use whichever paw I trained them with to eat. However, mostly my results showed that my cats were scared of the “apparatus”…. except when there was food available.
Luckily for me, there was a ton of stuff available for me, a budding young scientist, to do to explore various aspects of science. I participated in Expanding Your Horizons, which was like a mini day of college where I signed up for various science workshops. All I remember now are two different workshops: one in which I learned about math (we did something cool with geometry and shapes) and another where I learned how to give “vaccinations” to oranges. This program is all over the country. Find a location near you for your middle school or high school girl!
Another fun activity I did was I took a marine biology class at the local university one summer. This class was a week long and we did all sorts of fun activities – like going out on a boat and getting sea sick testing various properties of ocean water, studying crabs, and dissecting *gasp* sharks. (Note: this was before I found out how much I loved sharks, though I still wasn’t super excited to participate. Also, our shark was pregnant! Did you know that some sharks give birth to live babies?! Craziness… sharks are so cool!). Anyyyyyyway – most universities have programs like this for high school students. I taught at one last summer and my students got to learn all sorts of biology that I didn’t get to learn until I was halfway through college! Super awesome (fair warning – the one I taught seemed really expensive so check out the prices before you get your kiddos all excited…. :-/)!
Some students might be interested to see if they like doing research in labs. I didn’t get to experience research until I was in college. For my first research project, I did a summer internship in Fort Collins, CO where I studied how a nasty virus called HTLV-1 takes over our cells. It was SO COOL. That was over 10 years ago and yet I can still tell you all about it.
College students – this is the best part – you can get paid to do research! My first research experience was through a “Research Education for Undergraduates” program and it pays you a stipend to play in the lab! Also, at CU, we have the SMART program that I’ve worked for for the past 7 years. I like it even better than REU programs but it’s the same deal – think you might want to try research? Get paid to do it! Plus in the SMART program, you get to present your findings at a national conference (all expenses paid)! Besides summer research, most universities offer a chance for undergraduate students to work in a lab throughout the school year. Step 1: Find a professor you like. Step 2: Talk to him/her and mention that you would be interested in working in a lab. Depending on the professor/school/your schedule/etc, working in the lab could mean anything from making solutions to having your own independent research project so make sure you chat with the professor about his or her expectations for your experience. Also, if you have your own independent research project, chances are that you can apply for a grant through the school and get paid to do research during the school year! Awesome!
A note – high school students, don’t want to wait till you go to college to check out research? See if there is a professor in your area who wouldn’t mind having a high school student shadowing in the lab. We even have a program at CU for high school students to work full time in a lab (disclaimer: also super expensive)! However, you probably won’t get paid for this type of opportunity. Booo…
Since I didn’t do research until I was in college, I spent my summers and Saturdays at the best job ever – working at a vet clinic. I started out volunteering there the summer after my freshman year of high school and then they offered me a job starting that fall! My job started out with me working in the kennel mostly – walking dogs, feeding cats, etc – but then as I was there longer, I got more responsibilities. I learned how to hold animals for procedures, make up prescriptions, help with surgeries, and make surgery packs (which is where you clean all the tools and organize them appropriately for the most common surgeries). Making surgery packs is to this day one of my favorite work chores. There was something so delightful in the cleaning of the tools, the precise arrangement of everything for each pack into this neat square of fabric, the wrapping of the fabric around the pack, the sticking of “magical” autoclave tape (it turned black when the pack was sterilized) to close the pack, and then finally, the placement of the completed packs in the autoclave (=big scary machine that sterilizes things with heat and pressure) to be sterilized. I loved my job. I had so many fun stories about crazy clients and crazy animals. I had my favorite animals who boarded with us a lot (remind me to tell you about them sometime). It was an AMAZING job. I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they like science/might want to be a vet some day.
So what happened to get me where I am today? Well after I graduated from college, I was still fairly undecided between vet school and grad school so I decided to see where life took me. It took me to New Mexico where I was in the PREP program (which was like a mini version of graduate school) for a year (also I met Cobalt). I worked in a lab full time (and had two independent projects). I also took some fun math and physics classes because I am a nerd and they were cool (also my advisor made me take the chemistry class he was teaching). This program paid me a nice salary and prepped me for graduate school. I really enjoyed working in my lab in the PREP program and decided that grad school sounded really fun (if this was a mini version of grad school, the real thing had to be way cooler). Plus, I really wanted my PhD (see my previous post for more info about that). So I went to grad school.
Note: I just want to remind you that my tuition was paid for for the PREP program and grad school. Plus, I got paid to work in the lab and all through grad school. This is the only advanced degree program that does not require you to be filthy rich or to take out tons of money worth of loans.
Grad school was pretty cool. I traveled all over the US to present my research at conferences and I got to go to France to learn about data analysis. Plus, I learned a LOT about microscopes. But it was also really hard. REALLY REALLY hard. And at the end of it, I realized that maybe I don’t want to do research anymore. As cool as it is being the expert of some crazy problem, and as much as I love sitting in the dark watching cells crawl around on a microscope, I think I need to be out of the lab and in the world with you guys!
So what’s next on the list? Not sure but I hope whoever hires me next is ready for this surgery pack-making, microscope- and camera-loving, stuffed shark- and kitty-cuddling doctor! :)
Now it’s your turn – what’s going on in your life career-wise? Did you have any crazy unexpected turns? What do you want to be when you grow up? Don’t you wish there was a class called “Hello, now that you are (insert age here) and have figured yourself out a little, take this class to figure out your next step”? I would take it!
This concludes our science posts for the month of January but stay tuned! More science is coming you way next month! We still need to talk about how to read about science and how to figure out who to “trust” with your science news!
Never fear science readers… I have some ideas for a new post (think – what kinds of jobs can scientists have?!) coming soon. But for today, let’s put science on hold and talk about something else I am passionate about – photography! I miss my photo blog! The end of the year is coming up really soon and I have been thinking back about everything that happened this year. One really cool part of this year was that Cobalt and I got to go to Hawaii with my family for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary! My aunt and uncle live there so we stayed with them for a lot of our trip, which was really awesome because I haven’t seen them since I was in high school (or even younger?!). Plus I got to hang out with my cousin, whom I also haven’t seen in forever. Yay family!
Anyway – so we were in Hawaii surrounded by so much stuff to photograph. Really it was kind of overwhelming for the photographer in me. Part of me just wanted to experience everything not from behind the lens of a camera and part of me wanted to take a picture of everything so I wouldn’t forget it. Also, it was the first time I’d pulled out the DSLR in a while (So sad…) so there was a lot of remembering what to do under various lighting conditions. It was also fun to challenge myself to take unique photos. A photographer once told me that all photographers need to find their own style so I like to take these opportunities to figure out what my photography style is. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite DSLR pictures with you from our trip.
Some creatures of Hawaii
Playing with lights
That’s all for today but never fear! There are tons of pictures left for me to share with you! We did so much in Hawaii that this first post barely scratches the surface (clearly… as there are no pictures of food in here!)! Be prepared to see more Hawaii sprinkled into my posts soon! Plus Cobalt and I also went to Germany so there will be some Germany pictures sneaking into the mix too!
Now it’s your turn!
What did you guys think of that post? What is your favorite picture? Have you been to Hawaii? Did you like it? What was your favorite part? Where did you go on vacation this year? What are you doing for the holidays? So many questions…
Yayyyyy! Look who’s posting again! It’s Dr. Potassium! That’s right! I am (unofficially) a doctor now! I need to edit my thesis and turn it in to get my diploma and officially become a doctor but the hardest part is over! Whew… it’s been an insane few months, you guys. INSANE.
But let’s save all that insanity for another post because today we have much cuter things to talk about! Cobalt and I got a cat and named her Tarantula (really, are you that surprised?)!!! Look at this adorable little puff.
So a few weeks ago when I was feeling really stressed out from all the craziness that goes into writing your thesis and then having to make a presentation to defend your thesis, my friend Titanium picked me up and we got coffee. It was great because we went up into the mountains above Boulder a little and sat on a rock overlooking the city. So pretty. As we talked, we decided that petting kitties at the animal shelter could make the end of our coffee time even sweeter! So we headed to the Boulder Humane Society to check out all the cats. They’ve seriously updated the cat area and now instead of rows and rows of cages, there are big rooms with tons of toys and shelves for the kitties to hang out and play/sleep all day! Titanium and I went into the “playroom,” the biggest of these rooms, to play with the kitties there. We met each of the cats there, including one super sweet but super skinny orange and black kitty. After we met all the cats, we sat on the bench in there and Miss Skinny came over and hopped up on the bench with us. Titanium put her on my lap where she proceeded to fall asleep! Awwww….
Soooooo I pretty much immediately fell in love with this cat and asked the Boulder Humane Society if I could put a hold on her so that Cobalt could come meet her the following day. However, we ended up having to wait almost a week for Cobalt to meet her because the Humane Society wanted to monitor her eating and make sure she was generally healthy before they released her. They finally determined that she was going to need some dental work done before we could take her home but that we could come in and see her before then. We got that news the day I defended my thesis which meant that my family (my Mom, Dad, sister, and sister in law) was in town! So the next day we all went to the shelter to meet our potential kitty. Cobalt fell in love with her too so the day of her dental surgery, we went to two different pet stores to prep our house for our new little puff and then we brought her home the next day!
I think Tarantula is feeling quite at home here now. She’s already looking a lot healthier and she is practically inhaling her food. Plus she loves snuggling and purring. At first, she was super distressed when Cobalt and I weren’t both in the same room but now she has calmed down about that. Awww yay! She also loves to look outside windows and has commandeered almost every window in the house for her personal viewing (downstairs in the morning, office after dinner, bedroom at night, etc).
In case you are wondering where the name Tarantula came from: one time, Cobalt and I went to go play with kittens at the local Petsmart. There was this adorable calico kitten named Tarantella but Cobalt and I read her name wrong so we kept calling her Tarantula! From that moment on, we vowed that one day we would get our own Tarantula (read: a cat named Tarantula, not the spider, much to Cobalt’s disappointment) one day. From the moment our Tarantula fell asleep on my lap, I knew she was purrfect. :D
Finally, today is my mom’s birthday! Happy birthday Mom! What a great day to start posting again! :D I’m going to try to do twice a week but we might have to wait a little for me to work my way back up to that… Hopefully I’ll post on a semi-regular schedule again though. I’ve missed you guys!
Now it’s your turn: tell me about your pets. Tell me your favorite story about when you first got your pet! If you have a kitty, is she/he an inside/outside cat or just an inside cat? I grew up with mostly outside cats so it’s been fun learning how to have an all indoors cat. :D
A long time ago (read: before braces and growing up and all that jazz), Potassium and her family adopted two tiny kittens to befriend their older cat Blackberry. They named the kittens Patti and Smokey. Patti, the runt of the litter, was so tiny that the vet refused to draw her blood for the customary FeLV test at her new cat exam. “She needs all the blood she can get!” the vet commented, adding that Smokey’s test results would be fine for both of them.
In addition to being so tiny, Patti had epically long fluffy fur, she had the tiniest squeak of a meow, and she didn’t even know how to purr (Potassium and her friend G had to teach her). Potassium and her family fell in love with her instantly. Then Patti grew up into an even fluffier little puffball who loved being petted (so much so that she would bite your butt if you were “ignoring her” by petting one of the other cats), thought that cars were her friends (that was scary – she would flop down right in front of people pulling into the driveway so she could get her belly rubbed), and was our adorable little Snowbeast with her little pantaloon pants.
Unfortunately after almost 17 years with our family, Patti succumbed to heart disease earlier this week. We love you and miss you, little puff!
Yesterday I was going through my recent pictures when I came across all these adorable pictures I took of my family’s cat when Cobalt and I were in California for the holidays. This one is by far my favorite of the 50 or so I took of her… She just looks so regal. I had originally wanted to photograph her because she’s all fluffed up for winter and she looks adorable. I think you can see some of her puffiness in this pic.
In case you are unconvinced about how soft and cute this cat is or if up close cat pictures scare you, here’s another picture of her being similarly adorable/puffy/soft:
Thoughts? I love being a crazy photographer with the cats when I’m home because 1) they are interesting subjects to photograph and 2) then I can look at them when I’m feeling homesick throughout the year (this happens a lot). One day Cobalt and I are going to get ourselves a cute kitty but until then, I guess we’ll be okay with our stuffed shark friends… :-/
Do you have pets? Tell me about them! Show me pictures! I love animals. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a vet or a marine biologist (not sure how I ended up in grad school studying biochemistry now, looking back…). Even though I grew up with pet cats, I worked at a vet in high school and had college roommates (one of them is the reason why I met Cobalt) with multiple pet reptiles (a story for another day). These events have not only continued my love of pretty much all pets (cats, dogs, snakes, hamsters, bunnies, etc) but also taught me how to take care of them. Cobalt, you better watch out or you might come home one day to a house full of creatures! ;)
Short post today! Today I have a picture of my friend A’s cat, Meow. She is pretty much the most adorable cat of all times (though I have been known to say that about a lot of cats) and she looks at you with her big blue eyes and meows at you until you pay attention to her (or meow back, one or the other). Anyway, I am super proud of this picture because I took it on my iPhone and then used not one but two different photo apps to make it look awesome… oh yeah… I am turning into one of those crazy iPhone apps people… but only in the picture department. I am such a nerd…
In case you were curious, I used ColorSplash to do her eyes and then Instagram to make the general feel of the picture awesome. I kind of love it.
Oh yeah… I also call cats Batos. It’s my friend C’s fault. She started it when we were back in high school…
Do you have a smart phone? What is your favorite app? Do you have a dumb phone and like that way (that’s Cobalt…)? Tell me… :)
Wow. It has been a long time since I last wrote in here. I got really sick last week and being sick does not make one want to post pictures or do anything at all for that matter. I regret to say that it’s probably going to be pretty patchy for a while still though because I have some family/personal matters to take care of over the next few weeks. Sorry blog friends…
But wait, what am I doing?! There’s a picture of a cute kitty right here! :D This is my friend’s kitty Georgie who is just freakin’ adorable with her HUGE eyes and all her puffy fur. I love her in this picture peeking out of the shadows to see what we are all up to. Shy friend! I also like the way this picture turned out. I was shooting with a REALLY low f number because Georgie’s kitty friend is all black and I was trying to let in all light possible to capture him and Georgie. So I love how only her little face is in focus and everything else is in varying degrees of blurriness. Happiness I’d say. :D
Hope you all are well!