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Phoenix Feathers is updated on Tuesday and Friday

I went demonstrating today. Demonstrating is basically helping at a practical class, where the students (first years in this case) have to do various things, and we help them when they get stuck. Today was the first biology practical for them, and it was just a very simple thing - looking at the living cells of an alga called Chara. Chara cells are an anomaly - they are huge, easily big enough to see just with the naked eye, and if one uses a microscope to look at a living one, it's possible to see not only the thin ring of chloroplasts surrounding it on the wall, but also, inside the cell, cytoplasmic streaming where aggregates of nuclei and other organelles move up and down the cell. It is, like I said, very simple, but also deeply mysterious - the stuff moves in two directions separated by a thin line where there are no chloroplasts (it shows up as white) and even now no-one really knows what the line is. The first-years all took dutiful measurements of the speed and observed a stain fill the central vacuole and stain it red, but I got to wander round and show them this utterly cool thing they could see in a living cell.

I know I must have done this practical when I did Biology of Cells, but I only really got to appreciate it when I showed up at the demonstration practice on Thursday. Once you've spent some time in a lab, you get a bit more confident with stuff. I can't really explain it any other way. When I tried as a first year, I killed three Drosophila larvae looking for the salivary glands with no luck at all, but when I demonstrated that practical last year I got them first try, without any experience of dissecting larvae in between. So while the first years fiddled with their microscopes and stop-watches, I got to wander around showing them this amazing phenomenon that I'd only really seen and understood last Thursday.

I love my subject  ^.^

Here is a Girl Genius web strip I found last week. It comes with a spoiler warning - if you have only read the comics up 'til now (although I haven't read Issue 7 yet), don't read it unless you're willing to put up with a major spoiler (it might be minor - I mean, it's not like it's not anticipated. But anyway). On the other hand, if you've played the card game you've already been spoiled so go ahead and read the strip - it's highly cool. And if you've no interest in reading the comic, read the strip anyway, and maybe you'll change your mind.

Happy Monday  ^.^

- Sun Kitten, 15th October '02

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