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“By night all cats are gray”  – Miguel Cervantes in Don Quixote   I’ve always liked Siamese cats.   Students do, too.  “Why Siamese cats wear masks” is always a favorite story in genetics class.  So, when I opened my January copy of The Science Teacher, I was thrilled to see an article on Siamese cat…

Imagine a simple hike in a grassy part of South America.  You hear a rattle and feel a quick stab of pain as fangs sink into your leg.  Toxins in the snake venom travel through your blood vessels and penetrate your skin.  If the snake is a South American rattlesnake, Crotalus terrific duressis, one of those toxins will…

When finding a female scientists’ data turns into an archeological treasure hunt. A few months ago, I decided it would be interesting to celebrate various scientific contributions by making images of chemical / molecular structures in the Molecule World iPad app and posting them on Twitter  (@MoleculeWorld).  Whenever I can, I like to highlight scientific contributions from women…

When my parents were young, summer made cities a scary place for young families.  My mother tells me children were often sent away from their homes to relatives in the country, if possible, and swimming pools were definitely off limits.  The disease they feared, poliomyelitis, and the havoc it wrecked were the stuff of nightmares.  Children…

We’ve been fans of the Molecule of the Month series by David Goodsell, for many years. Not only is Dr. Goodsell a talented artist but he writes very clear descriptions of the ways molecules like proteins, RNA, and DNA work together and function inside a cell. To learn about proteins and their activities, I like…

To have an effect, a molecule must bind to a receptor and trigger a signal.  Studying a receptor’s structure can give us insights about the way this triggering process works. Capsaicin is a fascinating molecule that puts the “pep” into peppers.  Curiously, the amount of capsaicin in a pepper is measured with a test devised in 1912 by…

National DNA Day has a fun challenge for teachers and classrooms using Pinterest.  Your class can join a larger, national, effort to create a National DNA Day Pinterest board by making your own class Pinterest board on DNA, genetics, and genomics.  Some possible topics are: Things to do with DNA DNA and health DNA and the Arts…

Bio Databases 2015

Something interesting happened in 2014. The total number of databases that Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) tracks dropped by three databases! What happened?  Did people quit making databases?  No.  This year, the “dead” databases (links no longer valid) outnumber the new ones. To celebrate Digital World Biology’s release of Molecule World I’ll discuss some of the new structure databases…

Pull a spaghetti noodle out of a box of pasta and take a look.  It’s long and stiff.  Try to bend it and it breaks.  But fresh pasta is pliable.  It can fold just like cooked noodles. When students first look at an amino acid sequence, a long string of confusing letters, they often think those letters are…

Sometimes when you go digging through the databases, you find unexpected things. When I was researching the previous posts on insulin structure and insulin evolution, I found something curious indeed.                     I wanted to find out how many different organisms made insulin, so I used a database…