Day: November 28, 2011

Monday, 28 November 2011

07:02 – Barbara arrived home in the early afternoon yesterday. As usual, Colin and I did our happy dance. One of us was so excited, he peed. I’m not saying which.

I was working on the fungi/lichens chapter yesterday when I nearly took leave of my senses. The “standard” stain for fungi, which also serves as a mounting medium, is called lactophenol cotton blue or LPCB for short. It’s what I would use for staining fungi, no question. There are other stains that work, but not as well.

So, I decided I needed to include LPCB in the biology kit. I actually started tracking down sources for the chemicals and pricing everything. One of the components–phenol, AKA carbolic acid–is tightly regulated by DOT for shipping, so I made sure that I could ship under the small-quantity exemption, which indeed I could. Then I finally came to my senses. Phenol is truly nasty stuff, and LPCB is essentially a 20% solution of phenol in glycerin and lactic acid, with some water and a small amount of dye added. Phenol is highly toxic, absorbed through the skin, and corrosive. Making matters worse, phenol is a local anesthetic, so you don’t even feel it as it eats through your skin and poisons you. Not something I or any sane person wants an inexperienced 15-year-old student messing with.

So, turning lemons into lemonade, I decided to have students test the various other stains already included in the kit to determine their effects on fungi. Safranin O is actually not a bad alternative to LPCB, but I won’t tell them that. Let them find out for themselves.

14:05 – Yesterday I linked to a YouTube version of The British Grenadiers. The Grenadiers were and are scary guys, no doubt about it. Over the last 350 years or so, they’ve helped Britain win more than a few battles. But for some really, really scary guys, check out the Biochemist Grenadiers. These guys and their colleagues in the other sciences win wars and topple empires. You want these guys as friends.

If you’re not a scientist, you may find the lyrics incomprehensible. Don’t worry. It’s not just you. Here a few lines of the lyrics:

The moiety of glucose, in the succeeding phase
Is transferred to a ketose by an isomerase
Phosphofructokinase now, acts on that F6P;
Fructose 1,6 bisphosphate is the product that’s set free.

The kinase is effected quite complicatedly
And as you’ll have suspected it uses ATP;
FBP by aldolase is split reversibly
To phosphoglyceraldehyde, also DHAP.

It’s good to be a geek.

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