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Friday, January 26, 2007

Three domains, or six reigns?

In the primary schools (or may be it was the secondary, I don't remember exactly), I was taught by my teacher that all living things belong to one of five different Reigns (or kingdoms - but without a king I guess). Animals, Plants, Fungi, Protists, Bacteria.

this is the oldest version with only three kingdom recognised at the time.

Bacteria are the oldest and the simplest, with the others being grouped under the collective label of Eucharyotes. I'm not going to dwelve in details here. check the wikipedia or your biology textbook for that.

Anyway, some time ago I came to know that in fact not all bacteria are born the same. Some of them, called Archeobacteria, do seems to be more rudimentary, yet they are though to have originated Eucharyotes as well.

the whole thing is quite confusing as other people say they are in fact unrelated, and they just sit on the same branch of the tree of life just because 'normal' bacteria are different from both of them.

If you feel like I've confused you, and would like to get clearer idea, here's where you should go. read the posts from the bottom up. cheers

It Snows!!!

I've been waiting for it for quite some time, now... for the moment, single snow crystals are falling down, may be by the end of the day we will see some decent fluffy snow falling down from the sky... I'm looking forward to it.

Well, not really. Tonight, in that case, I'll have to drive over the snow, a thing which I've never tried before. I hope it'll not be too bad. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

How much light?

Plants do convert carbon dioxide in glucose, by means of what is called Clorophillian Photosynthesis. This essentially means that they breath in carbon dioxide, and use the light energy to run a complicated series of molecular machines, called enzymes, which pick and mix CO2 (and water) molecules, take them apart and end up with glucose.

The waste oxygen freed is a powerful venom, so much so that the first great extinction did happen when the level of this toxyc gas in the atmosphere did raise too much, kiling off most of the life of the time, that was anaerobic - i.e., didn't use oxygen. Oh no. Not at all.

Luckyly, some bacteria did manage to use this opxygen to perform the opposite reaction, so that they could live off that waste. Probably at the beginning, it was a simple defense mechanism against this toxic gas, exactly as many bacteria can now take apart toxins which would otherwise accumulate within their body and kill them. It did end up however, as the primary energy production mean for these life forms, which now constitute the great majority of life on Earth. Who knows, may be one day some life form will evolve able to thrive on the mountains of toxic junk that we humans are creating. Think about the Toxic Jungle of Nausicaa of the Valley of The wind.

Anyway. I was told in the elementary school that plants only do this magic at day. At night, when there's no sun, they do consume parto fo that glucose exactly as other animals do. This keep them alive. It makes sense... at night there's no light, so they can't do Photosynthesis. To be fair, a certain amount of glucose burning, unless plants have another magic trick to directly use the energy of the sun to power their system, when this is available. I am not aware of this. So, it's glucose burning. Which produces the same waste as our ordinaryu burning of fossil fuels, i.e. those CO2 and H2O which the plants sequestrated in first place. But there's a big difference. Plants and animals have a molecular machinery able to perform this burning in small, controllated steps, so that they extract as much energy as they can from the fuel, storing it into molecules of ATP(Adenosin TriPhosphate), the Euro of the body. Any other energy currency has its ATP-equivalent. And any structure, large or small, has a more or less fixed price in ATP. Please pardon my euro-centricity, but i fell the euro better fit the role of universal currency as compared to the US$. The states composing the euro zone are much more different, like liver and heart and lungs. Yet, all these organs are built of the same kind of cells, tweaked to perform better in that environment. Fit to perform a particular role. Boph! Anyway.

I got sidetracked...

My initial curiosity was: light can now be always present in a plant's environment. How do they cope with it? do they take advantage of it, or they just shut their eyes at night and do without photosynthesis, even if there's a light bulb half a metre afar? A bit of both i believe. Forcing the cicradian cycle is bound to cause some stress. Some plants will adapt well, some other will not.

I know that Cannabis, for example does actually take full advantage of constant light - don't ask me how I know. I do. and no, I do not grow cannabis in my cellar. But cannabis plants are usually kept under very bright lights. I guess they would not mind growing on Mercury, if only we could send there a greenhouse with enough soil, water and air. Hell, it would probably manage without too. So, bright lights. I can't sleep with bright lights pointing just in front of me.
But if t=it's not too bright, I can sleep just fine. Do plants have a similar request? that is to say, is there any threshold (in lumen) under which a specific plant will not perform photosynthesis, and will instead switch completely to glucose catabolism? I have no freaking clue. Any suggestion is welcome. :-)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

diary of a cold day...

You wake up in the morning. I mean, before it. kinda 5.30, 'cause your room's noisy heating started, and you crawl to the bathroom to turn it on there too. hate this old house. no double glazing and directly under-the-roof.
Cold as frozen hell.
uhm, I better pee before going back to bed. if only for half an hour. you never know.


vrrr... vrrr... piripi piripi beep vrrr... my mobile alarm... Zelda's catch a treasure ringtone from the other mobile, receiving an sms from google calendar to wake me up... bang them on the wall but one of them keep buzzing...

Ok I get it... get up and reach the microwave, with your eyes closed and a bottle in your hands.
I just hope it's milk, not the sardinian blueberry spirit. that wouldn't wake me up, not really.

mug, sugar, milk (or mirto), soluble coffee, chocolate powder. microwave for two'. drink. shower. no wait, first weight yourself, let's see if your body fat %age has changed thanks to those eight lanes in the swimming pool y/day. nope. not a chance.

never mind, quick shower and hunt for lean socks. cotton or wool t-shirt? It's cool in the house, just imagine what it must be outside. animals move, plants don't, I need to move so it's wool. two layers of it. three if you count the jacket. need a new one damn, one of those fancy new multi-coloured american-style kinda of rocky mountain trekker that my indian colleague appreciates. may be next weekend. if I get paid, that is.

OK. trainer shoes on, no I'm not gonna run but they're the most comfortable. sorry love, am not going to look smart and sharp today. too cold outside for my sardinian blood.

off we go... down the stairs (lazy, with the elevator - lift for you englishmen out there)

in the car. no wait! it's all frozen. uhm may be I want to scrape the ice from the windscreen? why cars don't come with automated functions for this? I mean, it happens regularly in half of the EU. how hard can it be to wire some wires (ouch!) in the front windscreen like in the back? never mind scrap scrap scrape, it's done.

jump into the car and rush to work... brr... freezing cold. why do I have to get here before seven? I don't know. that's life I suppose.

well never mind. let's try to start working before ten, for a change. see you later...

update: nice sunny day, although this pale fusion ball blazing up there can't warm up this place above freezing point. it's a miracle that life can survive in these conditions. I mean, i look at the grass outside the window, covered in sparkling ice crystals, and I know it's alive. isn't this wonderful?

Goodbye Blogspot?

What? are you leaving us, Darren? please dont tell me so... I really hope you're just moving over to Although I don't like their standard layout too much.
Or maybe you found a job and will not have time anymore for those long zoological posts? Pants!
Anyway, good luck.

I'll hunt for you on the

The Future is Wild

I did long time ago, buy a book which tried to depict how animals would evolve in the next 50MY. The logical premise was tha human would become extinct, something which I find rather likely. If ever there is some primate left, it is going to be rather different from us. Anyway.
The book was OK, but not great, pictures specially were kinda old-fashioned, like from a medieval bestiary. Animals didn't look quite right to me, and mostly were kludged, like trying to force a toad to look-like a rat. bah...

Now, I discovered they made a series inspired on it (just inspired). The future is Wild. It takes under exam three time points, 5, 100 and 200MY from now. It looks pretty interesting, so I'm going to give it a go. Either buy it if I can, or download it if I can't.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


did I tell you that the sixth season of Scrubs is running? and do you know that the sixth episode is very very good, all sung in the mind of a patient? click here or the title to download it with bittorrent :-)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Converting movies for my phone

I've been spending the morning (and until now, in fact) playing with a nifty application named 3GP_converter, which uses ffmpeg and such to translate movies into a version readable by my sagem mobile. I've managed to get the video working beautifully, but the sound still gets lost in translation.
Pity. Anyway, I will try later on if I can find some hack able to do it. with Quicktime I can export the file, but most of the settings which should work (H.263 for the video, AMR-narrowband for audio) results in movies which even on the pc stop playing after a few seconds. pants!