Now For A Little Science
First, check out this article in the LA Times, by Rosie Mestel
, about the search for artificial sweeteners. In explaining how taste-bud receptors work, the following sentence is gifted to us:
Part of each receptor hangs into the mouth's slimy void and the other end into the cell. When a sweetener binds, a message is sent into the cell's interior and ultimately to the brain.
Mmm. Mouth's slimy void. Apparently the speed and exact manner of binding is registered by us as the different "flavors" of sweet, and everything from Sweet'n'Low to Equal to Splenda can't quite fool us. With the isolated genes for the receptor, Senomyx, a company in La Jolla, has created dishes of petri cells filled with mammalian cells that glow green when they (the cells!) "taste" something sweet. It's pretty mindboggling to think of how little changings in timing and pressure on a switch attached to some nerves in our mouth produce such a spectrum of flavor in our brains. I was surprised the article put such an emphasis on the dieting benefits of sugar-replacers; I would think that a more important function is serving diabetics.
Now for something completely different. Check out this NASA photo TK
sent me:Large version here
. Stare at it for a while, and then click here
for questions and comments. So how long did it take yout to figure out what it is? Quick, quick, what's behind the Astronaut?
I think it's the sun, perhaps somewhat obscured by something else, hence no blinding halo around the astronaut. The earth, barely visible "below" the astronaut and the shuttle, seems lit up, so I'm guessing it's facing the sun in the picture.
It took me at least a couple seconds to realize what it's really a photo of. For those of you who've read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, I thought this was an interesting extreme on the spectra of detail and recognizability. A cartoonish face--just a circle with two dots--immediately strikes us as a human head; an increasing amount of detail usually only confirms this cognitive striking, but decreases our ability to project ourselves onto the head. In this case, however, the head is presented with perfect detail, yet is notably unrecognizable.