Thursday, 25 August 2011

08:22 – I’ve been thinking about unusual antonyms, ones that almost no one knows. Last night, I was thinking about writing something about the Euro crisis, focusing on the mistaken idea that the Eurozone is an “optimal currency area”. Far from it, the Eurozone is the opposite of optimal. So what’s the antonym for optimal? I had to think about for a moment. So, quickly and without looking it up, what’s the antonym?

Having thought of it, I did a quick google search on “optimal” and its antonym. The results were about 200 million hits on “optimal” and about an eighth of a million on the antonym, making “optimal” about 1,600 times more commonly used than “pessimal”.

In every one of my books, I’ve included one horrible pun, often quite subtle, and I just added the one for the biology lab book. I was writing up a lab session about the effect of nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobium) on the growth of lima bean plants, touching on the ecological principles of mutualism and commensalism.

In mutualism, each species benefits from the relationship with the other species. In a commensalist relationship, only one of the two species benefits. The other does not benefit, but suffers no harm. For example, on one level the relationship between squirrels and oak trees is commensalist. The oak tree provides shelter for the squirrel by providing a secure location for its nest, but the tree does not benefit from the presence of the nest. (In another sense, the relationship is mutualist, because the squirrel benefits from acorns as a food source, while the tree benefits by having the squirrel bury its acorns far afield, where they can germinate.)

Rhizobium forms nodules on the plant roots, and converts atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates that the plant can use, an obvious benefit to the plant. But what is the benefit to the bacteria? Obviously, there must be some benefit to the bacteria from a close association with the plant, or the bacteria would be distributed throughout the soil, rather than forming nodules on the plant roots. Oh, yeah. The pun. I mention the plant providing the bacteria with a location for a nice, cozy nodular home.

09:09 – I just ordered a Pentax K-r DSLR with the kit lens from B&H, along with a spare Pentax battery and a Class 10 memory card. The AA battery adapter is back-ordered, so I’ll pick up one of those later. B&H is supposed to email me when they’re back in stock.

This is the first DSLR we’ve bought that can save image files simultaneously in RAW and .jpg formats, a feature that I’ll definitely use. For the last few years, we’ve always saved as RAW format and then I’ve used showFoto to convert to .jpg for printing at Walgreens and so on. Having the camera produce and save .jpg files along with RAW files will save some time and effort. Speaking of RAW, that raises another question. All of our past Pentax DSLRs have offered only the proprietary Pentax .pef RAW format. This camera offers the choice of saving RAW as .pef or .dng. Is there any advantage or drawback to choosing one or the other?

16:06 – As usual, good sense from Pat Condell, this time concerning the European Union.