Drawings, writings and the search for the sex appeal quark

Posts Tagged ‘Science

That’s what it looks like

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Written by rubiscodisco

August 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm

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An e-fag hag

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A few weeks ago, somebody asked me to look up whether e-cigarettes were safe to use in non-smoking areas. We had this guest who started smoking while we were in the conference room, and I guess it distracted a few people. I was more than happy to take a break from my normal work and read up on the literature.

For those of you who don’t know, a “fag” is an English slang for cigarette. This is not a gay rights issue.

E-cigarettes are devices that release vapour that simulates cigarette smoke. This vapour can be scented with flavours, and it may or may not contain nicotine. It’s  usually a pen-like device, or it may be made to look like an actual cigarette.

It looks like this

If you walk around in some of the malls in Metro Manila, you can find some stalls selling these items. There are even people trying it out openly. Iv’e seen it in the Better Than Cigarette stall in Gateway. I’m not sure if they sell these in Cebu though. Perhaps we’ll see in the comments? (I wish)

Let me make this clear. This is not an issue of a person’s personal right to smoke these cigarettes. Personal risks or benefits from this device is not what’s being questioned. What we want to know whether it’s safe to smoke this in front of other people. Basically, should we allow it to be used in non-smoking areas?

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Written by rubiscodisco

July 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm

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I’m back, and it’s raining cats and dogs

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Yes, I know. This blog hasn’t been looked at from the inside for three months now. What can I say? I decided to leave off blogging for a bit since I moved. Now I’m back, and it’s raining here.

– o –

So it’s been raining in Manila for a week now, but the weather hasn’t been that consistent. It starts off perfectly sunny in the morning, and continues to be quite fine up to the late afternoon. It starts to rain, and rain heavily at that, when I’m in the middle of my commute home. Of course, this is orders of magnitude better than having it rain all day I suppose, but I can’t help but feel betrayed by the weather when I have to step out of a jeep and walk a hundred meters or so and the water is seeping up my pants.

Also, if you’re a short person with an umbrella, and you stick too close to me while holding your umbrella low over your head making the edge poke at the nape of my neck over and over again, I will spend the rest of my walk plotting a horrible future for you. I won’t do anything, for sure, but if thoughts could kill… Well, anyways, I digress…

Murder weapon – Photo from

Two days ago (from the time of my writing this), I was yet again walking through the pouring rain and I thought about the expression “It’s raining cats and dogs”. And just as trains of thought often lead to the most bizarre places, I wondered what it would look like if it actually rained cats and dogs.

Well, first of all, cleanup would be a mess. All those bodies going splat would ruin everybody’s day. Not to mention that the terminal velocity for a falling cat or dog is probably big enough to damage property and cause serious injuries on impact. But how many cats and dogs would rain if it were raining cats and dogs? In short, if it rained as much cats and dogs as the amount of water that usually falls during heavy rain, how many cats and dogs would that be? That is where the maths come in, because I totally geeked out and computed it.

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Written by rubiscodisco

July 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Introducing new verbal memes

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Anybody who has spent some time having conversations with people will understand that sometimes you have to say something without really saying it directly. Somehow the cold and naked truth is just awkward, and direct words can be so… unlovely. However, the run-of-the-mill common euphemisms can be quite boring, and, let’s face it, as soon as a euphemism becomes widely used, it loses its virtue of indirectness. So if you want to say something rather awkward but find the words rather indelicate, try to use some bio-inspired euphemisms to brush lightly on the issue.

Bathroom breaks

Gotta pee? Gotta poo? Gotta change your napkins too? Sometimes it can be quite taboo to say you’re going to the loo. Fear not, for these words are just for you. (Oh yeah. Rhymed it.)

Peeing is quite easy. Just say you are “completing the process of micturition“, or perhaps “eliminating nitrogenous byproducts“. “Maintaining osmotic balance” is also good, if a little vague.

For taking a dump, it was harder for me to make a quirky euphemism just because “solid waste” and “defecation” are both pretty well-understood terms related to poop. I can think of the clumsy “releasing my [total energy-energy assimilated]” for starters, but after that it’s just “perpetuating nutrient cycles*” I suppose.

Now on menstruation and changing one’s feminine sanitary napkins, I’m not exactly an expert. As you may have noticed, I don’t own a uterus (either within my anatomy or preserved in a jar). Do you think “discarding some endometrium” is classy enough? Or instead of saying you’re in the middle of your period, say that “your progesterone levels are plummeting“.

*by giving back unassimilated nutrients to lower trophic levels


Being in a culture where sex is considered taboo, a lot of euphemisms are readily available. These are just newer and geekier terms for talking about the birds and the bees and the chimpanzees:

If you’re into metaphors, you can always use descriptions of how other lifeforms have sex. Conjugating quickly comes to mind, and it has a certain microbial twist, doesn’t it? More of a botanist type of person? Why use inseminate when you can say pollinate? (personal fave :D) Or, instead of saying “deflower”, you can say en-fruit, if you get the joke there. Zoologists will love using the term amplexus though. It has such a romantic ring to it. Of course, if you don’t want to use these metaphors, you can always go with “haploid time” or something, but whatever…

Who's up for some Paramecium porn?


Got a bun in the oven but you haven’t told everybody yet? Perhaps you’re the teenage father of an illegitimate child. It the little tyke is not born yet, say that you or your partner is gravid. Also, instead of saying son or daughter, why not try offspring, or, to be even more euphemistic, progeny?

What have you got there?

Just something for progeny.

Better, right? Want to sound even more exotic? Be mendelian and say F1. Or if you’re feeling more in tune with DNA and gene pools, try vector**. I wanna see if “proof of biological fitness” catches on, but I don’t think it will. I guess if you’re into either biogeography or mangroves like me, you’ll have to stick with propagule.

**it’s broader definition as “carrier of DNA”.

Unpleasant qualities

Sometimes we’re tasked to describe somebody to another person and their most defining characteristics aren’t always flattering. For example, your girlfriend looks kind of mannish and you have to describe her to parents, opt for “she has some sexually antagonistic features” (although come to think of it, that doesn’t sound quite flattering either). Fat could be passed off as “lipase-challenged” or “energetically well-stocked” (Cetaceous might be too offensive). Unfortunately, I can’t think of any euphemism for ugliness at the moment. Oh well, maybe we can deal with that if I ever make a part 2 of this post. :)

– o –

On a related note, breakfast today was champorado. I usually eat champorado with milk so I opened up a can of condensed milk and poured it in. Here’s the pattern that I made by pouring thick, white condensada into the dark champorado.

As a science nerd, you know you've crossed the line when you draw metaphase on your breakfast.

– o –

This post is brought to you by René Descartes and this.

Written by rubiscodisco

March 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm

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Teleport machine

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Because many people forget the fact that human bodies are as much a product of microbial communities as they are of human cells and cell-products. Every open orifice is an ecosystem for bacteria, and let’s not even talk about the gut. They help protect our bodies from pathogenic bacteria by elbowing them out by competition as well as help us in digestion (bacteria in the gut for example synthesize B-vitamins). In fact, bacterial cells outnumber human cells in the human body ten to one.


Also, Pi day was March 14 the past week, so here’s a math limmerick

There once was a killer from Flatland
He’s been the cos of some crime
The police they have been
Checking out the crime scene
And found that he fled leaving sines

– o –

This post is brought to you by Les Miserables.

Written by rubiscodisco

March 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm

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Bothered by rods

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So today I’m gonna talk about snakes and rods.

– o –

If you’re like most people, you probably recognize this symbol.

Of course you have seen it before. It’s the Caduceus. Hermes’ hot rod, carries it around in all those depictions of him in Ancient Greek statues and pottery? No?

Well, the thing is, if you are like most people who have seen this thing, you probably know the Caduceus as the symbol for medicine and the medical profession, not as the Greek messenger-god’s most recognizable fashion accessory (although I heard his scarves are divine, trololol). And sure enough, it’s in a lot of medical establishments, medical books, medical instruments, etc. But the problem with you recognizing the Caduceus in this perspective is that although it is practically correct, it’s also kinda-almost-sorta-technically wrong. I’ll explain that bit in a minute.

The Caduceus was thought to have originated from Mesopotamian mythologies, probably from an image of two snakes copulating and as a symbol of the messenger for the “Earth Mother”. As ideas got shuffled around between cultures, it so happened that Hermes, messenger god of the Olympians, was depicted with the staff. The staff, during that time, came to represent occupations and trades associated with the god.

However, Hermes was no patron of physicians. Far from it, he was the god of gamblers, liars, thieves, and worst of all, merchants! Not exactly the type of people you would trust to operate on your appendix, is it? I mean, for Zeussakes, almost the first thing that Hermes did after being born was to steal sheep from Apollo! The most positive myth for the Caduceus was that Hermes found two snakes fighting with each other, and put his staff between them, thus bringing peace between the two snakes, but it’s quite a jump between bringing peace between two squamates and healing the sick.

In fact, the original symbol for medicine was a similar looking staff called the Rod of Asclepius.

Single snake, no wings. Doesn't look as familiar, does it?

The origins of this rod are actually quite fascinating. You see, Ancient Greece, for all the glory of its art, philosophy, and mathematics, was just like any other community at that time in that its sanitary conditions were quite poor. Because of that, all sorts of nasty pathogens and parasites were common at that time, including the guinea worm. You don’t wanna know about the guinea worm, by the way, but I’m gonna tell you about it anyway.

Caution, horror ahead:

The guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis, is a parasitic nematode that likes to lay its eggs in contaminated water, where it hatches into larvae that infect copepods, tiny invertebrates in the water. The copepods, however, are just its intermediate host. It hitches a ride in them as it waits for humans to drink the unclean water (remember, sanitary standards at that time), at which time it leaves the copepods to die, burrows itself out of the intestines, and breeds in your body cavity. The females leave the males to die there and further burrow out to live the rest of life literally crawling under your skin: long, wriggling, and as thick as a strand of spaghetti. It waits for a time when you come in contact with unclean water, at which time it pokes out of your skin to lay eggs into the water, completing the life cycle. No, it doesn’t swim out. After laying eggs it stays in your skin until it dies.

The way to remove guinea worm is to lure the female to poke out of your skin (presumably by dipping in water), grabbing on to its exposed part, and pulling it out. This can be tricky though, (not to mention very painful), because you run the risk of severing the worm, leaving the rest of its body inside your skin. You have to coil the exposed part on a stick and gently turn it to reel in the worm out of your skin, a process that could take days because it’s painful and dangerous to do it all at once. If you somehow find that difficult to imagine, I’ve put a picture here–> (No, don’t click it! It looks horrible. Aaaargh! Aaaargh! Aaaargh!)

Anyway, physicians at that time advertised that they also treat guinea worm infections by putting up a sign with the drawing of a guinea worm wrapped around the stick. This caught on, and then was modified into a snake wrapped around a stick. It’s called the Rod of Asclepius because it became the symbol for Asclepius, the greatest healer in greek myth. He was such a great doctor in fact that Zeus had to kill him because he was bringing people back to life. The change of the symbol into a snake is because snakes were associated with rejuvenation with their ability to molt out of their old skin. Asclepius was also quite fond of snakes, and his temple is filled with them. Besides, the skin-crawling parasite on a stick was probably becoming too yucky.

Anyway, the Rod of Asclepius became the symbol of medicine in western culture up until today. So how is it that most people associate medicine with the Caduceus rather than the more appropriate snake stick? Simple. They looked kind of the same, so people confused them with each other. In fact, the first people to muddle the Caduceus with the Rod of Asclepius were none other than the Americans.

ah, but of course

No really, I try not to bash Americans too much. “Ugh, Americans are so stupid” just loses its impact when you’re from a country that hasn’t even got the Reproductive Health Bill passed yet. I just wish the Americans would not make it so easy for me to mock them. Case in point, in the early 19th century, Army hospital stewards (hospital staff, not actual physicians) began wearing the Caduceus in their uniforms, presumably because they didn’t know the difference between that and the Rod of Asclepius. Eventually, it was deliberately adopted by US Army and the rest is history; the meme spread out from there, presumably because the Caduceus looked “pretty” compared to the other rod, and now only mythology geeks even know the difference between the two.

Now, of course, the Caduceus is everywhere. Generally speaking, it’s more often seen in more commercialized establishments like drug stores and such, while more scholarly establishments maintain the proper Rod. I have to admit, to get medical services from an establishment that uses the symbol of thieves and scoundrels is quite annoying (although surprisingly appropriate in the case of some pharmaceutical companies and hospitals). I just have to live with the fact that, as a symbol of medicine, the Caduceus is here to stay. It’s even the name of the Medivac upgrade in Starcraft II. And I love watching Starcraft II. :(  I feel a surge of hipster anger when I see the Caduceus used this way, and I’m more likely to respect establishments that use the proper rod.

So maybe you should check the medical establishments near you next time. You never know, maybe you’re being treated by scoundrels and charlatans. Or worse, maybe you’re working for them…

…or maybe you are them.

– o –

This post is brought to you by being incredibly thirsty and there’s a cockroach on the floor.

Written by rubiscodisco

February 25, 2012 at 11:54 pm

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Organic chem jokes! :D

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Oops. I was ill last weekend so I couldn’t make a new post. Now I’m just procrastinating, so I can’t be bothered to write the long post I’m planning to make. Anyway, here’s something to tide you over till the next post.

– o –

Q: What does a pirate sound like?


Q: What does an alcohol pirate sound like?



 (get it? because R-OH? anyone?)


 Q: What do you call a troll?

A: A troll.

Q: What do you call an alcohol troll?

A: A trollol

– o –

Twice in a row na na na nigamit ko’g trollface. (Filipino languages using single sylable phrases FTW) This post is brought to you by Andrew Garfield as Spiderman.

PS: If I can think up of other jokes there might be a sequel post.

Written by rubiscodisco

February 23, 2012 at 8:57 am

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