Diatoms Floating in the Interwebs

Rarely I mention that I work in the geology department of the California Academy of Sciences. In most museums these days there's a push to digitize the collections...photograph and database all the specimens for modern record keeping and to provide global access to holdings (among other reasons). One of my main tasks at my day job is to photograph specimens within the Geology Collections (Thanks, Scott Mansfield, for mentoring my photographic efforts). Awhile back I photographed some interesting microscope slides. These slides contain arrangements of microscopic algae called diatoms. The arrangements are generally meant more for beauty & novelty than for research (though arrangements sometimes show all the species found in one location, which could potentially be useful). I posted the pictures on Flickr as usual and they've...well, they've gone viral. This week I was surprised to open up my feedly reader and see the pictures posted on one of my favorite blogs, Colossal. Woah. I've had inquiries about prints...we're looking into logistic and copyright issues...stay tuned!

UPDATE: Prints can now be ordered. Send me your email and I'll send you an order form.



Geekiness and reusing (e.g. thrift store shopping, upcycling, etc.) are two things that seem to be popular with the kids these days.  I feel super popular right now because some old scientific glassware made its way into my hands, so I refreshed my thrifted candlestick collection (okay, one of those is from IKEA, but since it only cost 49 cents I let it come home with me).


Three candlesticks from Goodwill, a candleholder from IKEA, a flask, an ink bottle (?), and a sort-of graduated cylinder.  I had to add some polished gravel to the flask and ink bottle because they nearly wobbled over the edge, and that would have been sad.


I got a couple of other pretty bottles whose openings were too small for candles, but will work just fine for desk decor.  The larger one is my favorite because it has an iridescent sheen that old glass sometimes gets. I'm a sucker for iridescence. 


Hope you like my glassware.  You should definitely keep your eye out at thrift or reuse stores for old scientific stuff (beakers, flasks, etc.), but you can also find great items at places like American Science & Surplus, or look for science inspired stuff, like at West Elm

[p.s. if you're going to put food in sciencey containers, buy it NEW]


We rarely venture across the Bay, but we felt like an outing on Saturday so we headed for the hills above Oakland to explore a hidden gem for the curious...the Chabot Space & Science Center


Space is fascinating, don't you think? Chabot has two planetariums, three telescopes, and lots of space & science exhibits. We were worried it was going to be geared too much toward kids, but we really enojoyed our afternoon there. We were able to look at Venus through 'Leah,' Chabot's oldest and first telescope:


We also saw the sun through a special telescope whose filters allowed you to see the 'processes'...the shooting jets of plasma visible at the edge of the sun.  AWESOME! Plus Scott, who is enamored of the early space programs got to play in a replica of a Mercury capsule...


...and dress up as an Apollo astronaut...


After visiting the Chabot center we munched on astronaut ice cream and took a stroll in the redwoods surrounding the building. We had an awesome Saturday...if you want something fun and different to do in the Bay Area I highly recommend it! We want to go back sometime to see the telescopes in action at night.  Wouldn't that be a fun date?


Uh, I guess if you are sensitive to situations where 'nature takes it's course' you might skip to the bottom video portion of this post :) 

Fish aren't the first thing you think of when you think of a snake's dinner...but it happens. Here's some pics I snapped at the aquarium of a Burmese Vine Snake (Ahaetulla fronticincta) munching on a fishy lunch.

Pardon the blurriness...some bite readjustment was happening.  So cool.  I watched a few of these snakes catch lunch, and then of course had to wait and watch them get the fish into their bodies...so awkward...and lumpy. 

Speaking of animals, you must watch this short film. It's hilarious and you'll probably watch it 50 times and you'll probably sing it and quote it for at least a week.  You have been warned. Huge thanks to Diane and her sweetie for sharing this delight.