February 2013 archive

Organism of the week #8 – Brought to you by the number 5 and the letters L, S and D

Pseudocolochirus violaceus [CC-BY-2.0 Alex Lomas]

If sea cumbers are an example of intelligent design, then God – sorry, an unspecified supernatural intelligence that somehow doesn’t infringe on the First Amendment – needs to lay off the acid. Echinoderms are what you get when you give evolution the number 5 and half a billion years to piss around. You’ve simply got to love any animal …

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Classes and objects

Mr Wall’s Olde Fashioned Objeckts Caveat lector. Despite some cosmetic surgery, this post, like the previous one on writing modules, may show its age. It was originally written when Perl 5 wasn’t even 10 years old, and things have moved on substantially since then (and no, I don’t mean Perl 6). However, there’s a lot of …

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Organism of the week #7 – Bringing the kids up on junk

Fulica atra nest [CC-BY-2.0 Alex Lomas]

Another quick one this week. Life finds a way… The neighbourhood coots build these landfill nests annually, and I’m never quite sure whether to be impressed or appalled.

Packages and writing modules

Modularisation is a virtue The previous post showed you how to install and use other people’s modules; this post will address how to write your own. At some point, you will probably find yourself copying-and-pasting code from one script to another. When you find yourself doing that, you should consider what would happen if it …

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Dalek chromatic t-shirt [by J. William Grantham]

Love my new Dalek t-shirt: This is also relevant to my interests.

Organism of the week # 6 – Enigmata of the Gnetales

Gnetum gnemon [CC-BY-.2.0 Alex Lomas]

Three for the price of one this week. Most seed-bearing plants fall into one of two main groups: the flowering plants (grasses and magnolias and butterworts and so on), or the conifers (pines and yews and monkey-puzzles and so on). However, there are three smaller groups of seed-bearing plants that don’t fit into this neat …

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Obfuscated pancakes

Anything is better than an recipe that uses volume measurements for highly compressible powders. I’m looking at you America, and your ridiculous ‘cup’ nonsense. Materials 0.110 kg powdered wheat endosperm (without added carbonates or tartrates) 4.28 mmol NaCl 2 unfertilised jungle-fowl eggs (between 63 and 73 g in mass) 275 mL of 75% (v/v) aqueous diluent …

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Illuminating error

pGLO contamination [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Yesterday’s first-year biology practical involved forcing the laboratory work-horse bacterium Escherichia coli to take up a circular piece of DNA called pGLO. pGLO contains a few genes, but the most interesting of these DNA sequences encodes a protein from a jellyfish. This protein fluoresces green under UV light, and goes by the thoroughly unimaginative name of green fluorescent …

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Organism of the week #5 – Something’s wrong here

Drosophyllum lusitanicum [CC-BY-2.0 Alex Lomas]

Busy teaching this week, so it’ll have to be a quick one… I particularly like this plant because of a very specific and unusual thing about its leaves. The more observant of you may spot what it is without having to resort to Wikipedia…