Friday, September 29, 2006

Why Oranges and Lemons Taste Differently

I know what you're all thinking, "They're different because they grow on different plants." Well, it's not as simple as that. It's not even as general as genetics. It's much more basic: it's because of molecules and their shape.

Let me explain this a little more. In my Organic Chemistry class, we discussed shapes of molecules, and my professor gave us the example of a molecule found in both oranges and lemons. Both molecules have the formula C10H16 (or CH3C6H8CH2CH3 in the expanded formula). The only difference between the molecules is that the groups found at the bottom of the carbon rings are in different positions. Here's a graphic to explain that a little better:

If you can't tell, the groups are pointed in different directions. You have to imagine this in 3-D, which let me tell you can be quite difficult. The group on the orange molecule is coming out of the picture, as referenced by the dark line. Conversely, the group on the lemon molecule is drawn back into the picture, as referenced by the dashed line. Now does that make a little bit more sense???

Now, the main part of this lesson was to explain why oranges and lemons taste different to us when we eat them (or drink their juice). The enzymes and taste receptors in the body are chiral, meaning they are not symmetrical and read things in a certain direction. Because these molecules are also chiral, they are read differently by the taste receptors and enzymes in the mouth. The fact that the bottom groups are in different directions gives the molecules different tastes. This also shows that even changing the shape of a molecule can dramatically alter it's properties, in this case, taste.

So, there's your Organic Chemistry lesson for today. I hope at least part of that was interesting to you, since I really thought that was cool. But anyways... Thank you to everyone out there that has sent in their survey responses. I have gotten almost 100% participation only one day after sending it out, so that is very good. I thank you...

Well that's really all I wanted to share tonight. If I can think of anything else to post about, I'm sure I will have ample opportunities to post this weekend. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Computer Woes and First Tests

As some of you may have noticed, I have been away from blogging for the last two weeks. This is not because of laziness or lack of time; unfortunately it was because of computer problems. Two weeks ago Friday, my screen went completely black, and I was unable to see the desktop. I could see some specks of light breaking through the darkness, but not enough to do much of anything. I called Dell immediately, and they proceeded to ask me lots of questions, and to see what the problem was. The giant box came a few days later, and I sent it away that same day. About five days later, I picked it up from the post office, and it was back to normal. Apparently they had to replace the screen, which, mind you, is not very cheap. My warranty had expired, so none of it was covered. But, I don't mind, since I really wanted my laptop back. So, there's my story.

As for school, this week and last week are the weeks for tests. I had a Botany Lab test on Tuesday and a Calculus test on Friday, and then I have a Chemistry test this coming Wednesday. I also had a paper due last Wednesday in English, and another one is due is a couple weeks. And, finally, as most of you already know, I am working on my Sociology project, which is due in two weeks. Speaking of which, I am ready to begin communicating with my participants, so if I could have your e-mail addresses, I would be most appreciative. If you don't want to leave your e-mail addresses on here, you can e-mail me at and I'll get back to you within a day or two. I'm really looking forward to this project, and I thank all of you again for participating.

Well, that is all for my short update. I will blog more about my classes later this week, so I hope you all are looking forward to that. And, as I get results to my first tests, I will make sure to update you on that also. That's all for now, and I hope everyone has a very productive week.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sociological Study

Hello all! I just wanted to write a short note about a project that I will be doing for my Introduction to Sociology class in the near future. The interesting part of this project is that I will be involving you, if you wish to do so. The project is called a sociogram, and I will explain more about it later, as soon as I find out more information. The main idea of this is that I will be asking a couple of questions, predicting your answers, getting your actual answers, and compiling data for the sociogram. I need to have at least six (6) people for this study, so are any of you out there willing to participate?

I can assure you that the questions I will ask will not be deep, personal questions. And even if they were, I am supposed to interact with each person individually (ie. not sharing answers with others, and communicating with one person at a time). And it would also be best to keep this within a social group, such as a family. So, since most of you readers out there are family, that would be a pretty simple task. Any takers?

Remember I need at least six of you, and it would help me out tremendously if you could participate. If you could just leave me a comment or an e-mail if you are interested, I will communicate with you later with the questions and other details. Thank you in advance for your help, and I hope to hear from some of you all very soon!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My French-Canadian Ancestors Would Be Proud!

I'll explain the title momentarily, for all those that are puzzled right now. First, I wanted to give a little background on a project I am doing for my Botany Lab Class. Since this class is dedicated entirely to plants, naturally part of that class would be identifying different species and types of plants. Well, that's just what we have been doing!

Part of the process includes using a dichotomous key. Any takers as to what that is?! Instead of making you wait in anticipation for another post, I'll just fill you in now. A dichotomous key is a written device used by scientists to identify organisms and objects. "Dichotomous" refers to the fact that there are two lines or phrases identifying a trait of the organism. The purpose is to describe the organism or object in a series of steps to narrow down the possibilities of what it is. In Botany, this is done by separating out different kinds of plants into groups and eliminating the erroneous possibilities. For example, a typical dichotomous key could start out like this:

1a. Leaves deciduous (fall out in winter) - step 2
1b. Leaves not deciduous (evergreens) - step 20

In this instance, you are eliminating several steps just in the first lines. The purpose is to follow the steps until you know with a great level of certainty what a specific plant (in this case, tree) is. We practiced this around campus, and used the key with great success. Of course, when it comes down to different trees in the same family (oaks, for example), it becomes more difficult to differentiate due to cross-breeding or similarities in tree features. But, this key would be useful in determining the family or genus of a particular tree.

Next, my professor gave us a mini-assignment of our own. After using a key she provided, she gave us the opportunity to create our own key. She gave each person a unique print-off that had images of leaves from around the campus. Each person had five leaves on their paper, and had to create a key for those particular leaves. I have scanned the paper I received into this post. Can you find anything in that image that might explain the title of this post?

(Hint: Look in the lower left-hand corner.)

Do you see it? For those who could not, it is a Sugar Maple leaf, the leaf on the Canadian flag! Being of French-Canadian ancestry, as I am, and as many of you readers are, it was very fitting for me to get the Sugar Maple leaf for my project, the symbol many Americans associate primarily with Canada. Wouldn't my Beauregard ancestors be proud?

So, my task by Thursday is to create a dichotomous key for these five leaves. I can take any approach I wish, but the recommendation of my professor was to separate the leaves into simple and compound leaves. Simple would be, for example, the Sugar Maple leaf. Compound, for example, would be the long branch with several leaflets in the middle of the page (the Golden-Rain Tree). By differentiating between simple and compound, I would be able to eliminate one of the leaves from my possibilities, since there is only one compound leaf. This would also allow me to not differentiate between mundane characteristics like leaf margin or apex shape, which would be harder to differential than the difference between simple and compound. Do you get the idea?

Well, that's the end of my lesson tonight. I hope I didn't utterly confuse everyone in the process! Oh, and by the way, to answer the question posed by my grandfather on my last post, yes, I do know what that is. I believe you mean "apical meristem," and that is the tip of a leaf, root, or stem where the plant continues to grow. Anyways, that's it from me! I hope everyone is having a good week, and had an enjoyable, long Labor Day weekend.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

First Week of Classes and Answers

Well, my first week of Fall classes is now over. There's not really much to report about those, so I will just leave it at that. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed my other classes and that I think it's going to be a very good semester for me.

In other news, I have been battling a cold since I got here on Sunday. I figured that by now it would have subsided, but alas, it comes and goes. I have been taking antihistamines and Tylenol since the onset, not to mention plenty of rest and fluids. However, the rain and fluctuating temperatures in Cincinnati are aggravating this illness. Hopefully within the next couple of days I will discover what to do to successfully rid myself of this cold. For now, I'll drink my OJ and get plenty of rest.

Oh yeah, and I guess you all would like to know the answers to the questions in my last post. To date, I have only had one person (Uncle Tim) attempt to answer my questions, and that is a bit disappointing... Is this something that we want to continue in the future? I promise that other questions won't take as much research involved! But anyways, just let me know if this is something you wish to see again in future posts. (Remember that I have several courses from which to find material!) Here are the answers to the previous post:

1. roots, stem, and leaves
2. Chlorophyll, green
3. Xylem and phloem
4. dermal, ground, and vascular
5. petiole
6. node

Did anyone get close to these answers?

Well, I guess I should get back to treating my cold and watching my tennis. I just watched another amazing match by Agassi; I'm not sure what round it was, but it was against James Blake, and he beat him in the fifth set tiebreak. I hope to hear from all of you soon, and wish me luck on defeating my nemesis. Have a great Labor Day weekend!