Monday, November 21, 2005

Art Project VIII / Biology Project II

you will need:

"holographic" projection equipment capable of producing a large (approx. 8 foot cube) three-dimensional image (not necessarily a real hologram)
a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner with associated high-memory computer
a certified MRI operator
interactive three-dimensional imaging software

WARNING: Do not attempt this project if you know or suspect you have internal metallic components of any kind (pacemaker, arterial stent, interior pins or braces of any kind, orthodontic braces, etc.), as might be left from a surgery or injury (shrapnel, bullets). Ask your dentist or primary care physician about interference from dental fillings. This is extremely important: your personal health is very much at risk. MRI machines generate very intense local magnetic fields, which can produce considerable force on magnetically susceptible objects.

1. Remove all metal or magnetically-written objects from your person and clothing. This may include, but is not limited to: clothing with metal zippers, credit cards, car keys, hotel keys or key cards, pocket change, some forms of governmental ID, pocket knives, cigarette lighters, watches, eyeglasses, belt buckles, nail clippers, paper clips, and cell phones. You may then put on a hospital gown and enter the MRI room.

2. Lie down in the MRI apparatus according to the instructions of the operator. You will need to remain relatively still for best results, so choose a position which is comfortable.

3. Lie as still as possible while your scans are being recorded.

4. Transfer the data from your scan to a three-dimensional imaging program. You may wish to use false color to make the various organs more visually distinct from one another. Feel free to separate the scans into multiple images, if desired (the tree of bronchioles in the lungs, the network of blood vessels, the digestive tract, the skeleton): this will improve viewability later.

5. Display your scan results in the projection equipment. Enter the projection and view your body close-up, from the inside. Wander around for as long as you like. You may leave the projection up as an art piece for others to wander through, if desired.

6. Answer the following questions:

a) In what ways did you find your body to be unlike the standard human body from our textbook? Are you proportioned in the same way? Are your organs in the same places?
b) Did you find evidence of birth defects, past surgeries or injuries (broken bones, e.g.)? How could you tell?
c) How did it feel to be inside the image of your body? What emotions were generated? How do you feel about it now?
d) If you elected to allow other people to walk around inside the image: is this in some way an invitation to intimacy with the viewers? Are you proud of your body? Do the images you recorded strike you as beautiful?
e) If you elected not to allow others to walk around inside the image: to what degree do you own representations of your own body? How is it different for someone to look at a false-color version of your insides than it would be for the same person to look at you, fully clothed, on the street?
f) Describe your visual impressions (what surprised you, what did it remind you of, etc.) of each of the following systems: nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, genitourinary, respiratory, musculoskeletal.
g) What parts of your body, if any, will you be giving more thought to as a result of this project? Are there any parts you will be contemplating less than previously?
h) If you have the opportunity to view the projected scan of a classmate, describe your reactions to his/r image. What was surprising? What was different from your own scan? Did the experience strike you as intimate? Could you distinguish between your body and your classmates' body solely on the basis of, for example, your respiratory systems, or are they too similar to permit distinction? If the classmate is of the opposite sex, how easily could this be determined without looking specifically at reproductive organs?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Future of the United States Pop Quiz II

Write brief but complete answers for the following questions. Each question is worth 33 1/3 points.

1. Twenty-six percent of American children under two years of age have a television in their bedrooms.1 Explain.

2. Eighty-nine percent of the Fortune top 100 companies use the Myers-Briggs personality test in employee placement and hiring.1 Explain.

3. About seven hundred new antibacterial products have been introduced into U.S. markets in the past ten years.3 Explain.

1 Susan Linn, Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, p.5. The New Press, New York, 2004.

2 Barbara Ehrenreich, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, p.32. Metropolitan Books, New York, 2005.

3 Jeanette Farrell, Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives, p.16. Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2005.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sociology Project II / Art Project VII

You will need:

a small digital video camera with a wireless connection, or an easily-hidden connection to a laptop computer
a baseball cap
a six- or twelve-pack of cheap beer
needle and thread
chewing tobacco
high-quality photographic paper (optional)

1. Locate attire which as nearly as possible approximates the clothing of a homeless person. (You may, if you like, locate an actual homeless person and offer to trade outfits or buy them a new outfit, though this may not actually work.)

2. Get about eight cans of beer and empty them (you may drink the beer if you are of legal age.). Place about 100 mL of water and a quarter-sized plug of chewing tobacco into each one, and set the cans outside in the sun for five to ten days.

3. Partially empty the cans and place them in a small plastic shopping bag. It's okay if some of the liquid remains in the cans, or sloshes out of them while you put them in the bag.

4. Spend about a week without shaving or bathing. Use some of this time to get your clothing dirty, sweaty, and torn.

5. Using the needle and thread, attach the video camera to the inside of your baseball cap. Make sure that the camera can be positioned so that it has a relatively unobstructed view of anything in front of you when you wear it, yet cannot be easily seen by others.

6. Go out into public in the full outfit, with the camera on and running, carrying the bag of cans, and record as much video as possible. Spend as much time as you can in public places, places of business, etc., and make a point of trying to look directly at people in the area. You may need to upload some of the video into a storage computer and then go out again. The more video you can shoot, the better. Approaching people directly may be helpful.

7. Return to your home, change clothing, shave, bathe, etc. Return any borrowed clothing to its owner(s).

8. Search the video for single frames of people's faces. Ideally, you want to catch people in the moment where they first notice you, when they are facing you directly (or as close to directly facing you as possible), and when the image is relatively unblurred. Alternately, frames in which people are beginning to turn away, frames in which you catch furtive glances, etc. may be used.

9. Save as many separate frames from the video as satisfy your standards for emotion, direction, and clarity.

10a. Edit these images together into a video where the images are looped together and change about every 1-5 seconds, OR,
10b. Print out these images on high-quality photographic paper and mount and display them.

11. Title your collection.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Telecommunications Project I

You will need:

pen and paper, or a computer
reference book, or website, listing popular television shows with summaries of the series premises (optional)

1. Generate a list of television shows, either from memory or from a reference.
2. Combine series premises to as to generate a new premise, and write down the new show pitch. (Examples below.) Ideally your pitch should combine a drama and a comedy.
3. Repeat at least ten times and turn in your pitches.
4. Write a pilot episode for your premise.


"The Facts of Life" + "Renegade:" An elderly girls' school matron and four of her orphaned charges go on a cross-country motorcycle ride to clear her of a murder she did not commit.

"The Dukes of Hazzard" + "Mr. Belvedere:" A stuffy British housekeeper joins an extended redneck family in Georgia, where the whole group takes on a set of corrupt county officials.

"Designing Women" + "MacGyver:" Four spunky Southern belles who do interior design work for a shadowy quasi-government organization escape from their frequent jams using applied science. And they also have an African-American friend!

"Wonder Woman" + "Friends:" Six powerful Amazons with superpowers and invisible jets fight crime when not sleeping with one another or drinking coffee.

"Party of Five" + "Newhart:" A family of five orphans takes on the daunting task of running a small Vermont inn and trying to fit in with the quirky townspeople.

"Roseanne" + "Knight Rider:" An earthy working mother / housewife / "domestic goddess" fights crime with the assistance of a talking car.

"Perfect Strangers" + "Beastmaster:" Two cousins, one American and one foreign-born, use their special ability to communicate with animals to fight corruption, monsters, and assorted bad people.

"Will and Grace" + "X-Files:" A gay man and his Jewish platonic female friend investigate government cover-ups of alien encounters with the aid of an irrepressible gay entertainer and a drunken heiress.

"CHiPs" + "Xena: Warrior Princess:" Lucy Lawless stars in this drama about motorcycle cops in ancient Greece.

"The Brady Bunch" + "Deep Space Nine:" Two single parents with three children each fall in love and create a brand new, huge family next to a giant wormhole to another part of the galaxy. And some of the kids are Cardassians!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Art Project VI / Poetry Project II

You will need:

a small, clean glass container (e.g. a cleaned baby food jar)
rubber gloves
an X-Acto blade, metal file, flathead screwdriver, or other metal implement with a scraping surface
fountain pen
smallish paper or plastic bag
heavy, good-quality paper (like you would use for a resume, e.g.)
working knowledge of how to hotwire cars
a bad poet who owns his/r own home
source of ignition (Zippo lighter, cigarette lighter, matches, etc.)
accelerant (gasoline, nail polish remover, lighter fluid, kerosene, Everclear, etc.; should be in its own container)
glue (optional)
mortar and pestle (optional)

1. Put on the rubber gloves.
2. Place the ignition source and accelerant into the paper or plastic bag and close up the top. If you have a cell phone, leave it at home. Also leave behind your driver's license, or any other identification: you may choose to bring a small amount of change for public transportation if you like (dimes and Susan B. Anthony dollars are ideal, from a weight-to-value standpoint; avoid nickels and pennies).
3. Steal a parked car and place the flammables in its back seat.
4. Drive to the home of the bad poet.
5. If the home is occupied, pour accelerant around the outside of the home (or in bushes, garage, etc., as flammability permits) and ignite it with your ignition source. Be careful not to get the accelerant on your gloves: some rubber gloves will dissolve in accelerants. If home is unoccupied, break into the house and set it on fire from within.
6. Leave the property quickly. You should bring containers, lighters, etc., with you in the vehicle. For best results, do not drive directly home; drive around for a while first, discarding the ignition source and accelerant container in as many different places as is feasible. Only once these have been disposed of should you discard the gloves.
7. When the ignition source, accelerant container, and gloves have all been disposed of, you may stop and abandon the car, using whatever means present themselves to return home (taxi, bus, hitchhiking, etc.). Do NOT have someone you know pick you up.
8. Throw away the clothing you were wearing, preferably in several different towns, none of which are to be the town in which your poet's home is located, and none of which are to be the town in which your own home is located. Convenience store restrooms, fast food restrooms, university buildings (student union buildings, dormitory dumpsters, etc.), and Wal-Mart dumpsters are all good places.
9. Upon your return home, wait for thirty-six to seventy-two hours before proceeding to the next step.
10. Using your own vehicle, bring your small glass container to the remains of your poet's home, along with your metal implement. (If the building is not significantly burned, abandon the project or return home, locate another poet-homeowner, and try again from step 1).
11. Find a part of the house with significant damage and use your metal tool to scrape soot into the baby food jar. This may take a long time, as you will need to retrieve a substantial amount of soot. In a pinch, you may simply take a large chunk of a severely charred piece of wood, if available. In either case, take care to minimize the amount of non-charred material in your sample.
12. When you have a substantial amount of soot/char in your container (ideally about 3/4 of a baby food jar), cap or cover the jar and return home.
13. If your char sample contains a significant amount of solid, use the mortar and pestle to grind it into a fine powder.
14. Suspend the powdered soot/char in water. You may find it helpful, in the end, to add a small amount of glue, though this is not strictly necessary. (If glue is used, stir the solution well to distribute the glue thoroughly.)
15. Draw a small amount of the suspended soot/char into your fountain pen and test it on a piece of ordinary paper. If it is too thin (spreads too easily), heat the suspension gently to evaporate some water and then test it again. If it is too thick, add a small amount of water, stir, and test again.
16. When you have achieved the desired consistency, use the ink you have created to write a poem on the high-quality paper. One possibility is to do a rewrite of one of the bad poet's poems, though credit will be given for wholly original works as well. For best results, you should have a poem already written elsewhere, which you can copy onto the sheet.

SEMI-OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: Neither Krill, Numinous Krill, nor its originator, Jessica M. Guilford, nor any affiliated persons, blogs, organizations, or employers advocate carjacking, arson, B&E, murder, or other activities which are presently illegal in the United States, its protectorates, territories, or other space presently regarded as belonging to the United States by treaty or other international agreement.

KNK and JMG are in no way to be held responsible if you or someone you know thinks that reading something in a blog gives them license to act on the instructions therein. Any actual instances of someone performing the instructions herein, whether in total or in part, is clearly the result of their own mental instability and should not be excused by the appearance of the above instructions on this blog. KNK/JMG's preferred method of dealing with bad poetry is to mock it behind the author's back.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Ethics Worksheet II

You work in a small very low-tech grocery store in a state which has a bottle and can deposit law (as in Michigan, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Vermont, Hawaii, Iowa, or Oregon). One of your responsibilities is to count up cans and bottles and return people's deposits to them.

In practice, the deposit law serves mainly as a source of income for the homeless people of your state, who go through dumpsters and ditches looking for cans to return.

One day, a man who looks (and smells) homeless comes into the store with a large black garbage bag full of bottles and cans and wants the attendant deposits for these. When asked, he says he does not know how many there are in the bag, so you can't take his word for it. Most of the bag contains beer cans, some of which have been used for chewing tobacco (which has leaked out of the cans and gotten all over the outsides of everything, and the inside of the bag), and the whole bag is incredibly ripe-smelling because it has been out in the sun on a very hot summer day, while the homeless guy was walking it over to your store.

Your store is not obligated to take these, as they are for products you do not sell. Also, you would not have to take these even if they were from your store, because they are dirty and sticky and smelly and covered with tobacco spit, and you are legally allowed to refuse to take back anything that nobody in the store is willing to touch. Your co-workers have previously counseled you to refuse any such bottles and cans as the spirit moves you.

The homeless guy smells like alcohol already, and is presumably only collecting cans in order to get together enough money to buy more. However, if he's as alcoholic as he looks, he may well require the alcohol in order to function, and who are you to judge what he does with his body anyway; if he wants you to take his cans and give him money so he can get drunk again (or continue to be drunk, whatever), what business is it of yours?

There's nothing illegal about what he's asking you to do, and your store is probably the only one which would take them anyway -- other stores are more high-tech and have machines which collect the cans, but the cans in question have to be in fairly pristine condition, or at least not all crunched-up (as a quick glance into the bag reveals that most of the cans inside are). In other words, you are probably the guy's only shot at can redemption within walking distance.

But the cans smell really bad, and are coated with the germs of whoever drank out of them, and spat tobacco into them, and there are enough of them that it's going to mean a pretty substantial amount of time, if you take them.

Do you:

A) accept the cans, smell the smells, enable the alcoholism, and incur the wrinkled noses of your co-workers, or

B) deny the cans, leaving the homeless guy fundless and possibly D.T.-ing, for no good reason beyond your own prissiness about not, literally, wanting to get your hands dirty?

Defend your answers.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Math Problem VIII / Physics Problem I

The Bush Administration is renewing production of Plutonium-238, a radioactive substance not found naturally on the Earth. 94Pu238 has a half-life of 86 years and decays by ejecting an alpha particle. It has a high spontaneous fission rate and a very high heat output. It is not normally used for weapons, nor is it normally produced in pure form. It is typically a minor constituent of plutonium produced by neutron bombardment of 92U238.

Plutonium can be used as a power source in space probes, espionage devices, etc., owing to its intrinsic heat, as well as in nuclear weapons. The Bush plan calls for 330 pounds of Plutonium to be produced over a 30-year period. The program would cost $1.5 billion over that period; no specific information has been released about the intended use of the material, but powering espionage devices is the assumed purpose for most of it.


Plutonium will cause death in a few days to a few weeks if swallowed as 500 mg of a soluble salt or a finely divided powder. Inhalation effects depend on the size of the particles inhaled, but 20-100 mg is sufficient to cause death within one month if the particles are retained.



Into what isotope does 94Pu239 decay?


(1 kg = 2.205 lb)

1) If all the plutonium about to be produced according to the Bush Administration's plans were converted to soluble plutonium and ingested by human beings, how many human beings could it kill?

2) If all the plutonium about to be produced were converted to finely divided airborne particles and inhaled by human beings, what is the maximum number of people it could kill?

3) If the overall estimate of the program's cost at $1.5b is correct, what would be the cost per person of killing the people in 2)? Can you think of other ways to kill that many people which would be cheaper?

Answers in comments.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Music Project III / Biology Project I / Religion Project II

Write a song which compares God to the giant squid (Architeuthis dux) without irony. You may view this page for information about A. dux which may prove inspirational. Songs will be performed in front of the class and grades assigned on the basis of other students' assessments.

EDIT: This project has been cancelled because it has been brought to my attention that the pro-animal-rights Christian Contemporary heavy metal band "Tourniquet" has already written such a song. You can read the lyrics here. You may read reviews of the album on which "Architeuthis" was released, Where Moth and Rust Destroy, here. A new project will be assigned shortly.

Poetry Worksheet I

Your assignment is to follow this link to refried ORACLE phone and answer the questions therein.

Responses will be graded by Stan according to whatever criteria he chooses.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Future of the United States Pop Quiz I

1. Silicon Valley, California : 1987 : : ________ : 2030

a. Casper, Wyoming
b. Salt Lake City, Utah
c. Hattiesburg, Mississippi
d. Research Triangle, North Carolina

2. The end point for the collapse of church-state separation in the United States (by 2035) will be:

a. Sunday shopping and working still permitted
b. contraception allowed for married couples
c. divorce still possible in cases of infidelity
d. mandatory child-bearing or adoption for all married couples

3. The most valuable thing (as determined by its value in trade) to own in the U.S. in the year 2045 will be:

a. a Bible
b. a beer
c. a gun
d. a ten-day course of antibiotics

4. Reproductive cloning will first be achieved in _______, but will never be widespread because of the attendant __________.

a. 2006, expense
b. 2015, legal risk
c. 2019, health problems of the clones so made
d. [will never be achieved], [impossibility of the process]

5. By 2027, ________ will be the new crude oil.

a. hydrogen
b. drinkable water
c. sunscreen
d. gold

6. The current Iraq war will end in _________, amid ___________.

a. March 2007, George Bush's impeachment hearings
b. December 2018, the collapse of the global economy
c. November 2005, huge demonstrations protesting the draft
d. February 2010, catastrophic nuclear assault on the U.S. by North Korea

7. AIDS : 1980 : : ________ : 2030

a. the Ebola virus
b. smallpox
c. multidrug resistant tuberculosis
d. influenza

8. In 2021, it will be illegal to teach evolution in ______ U.S. state(s).

a. one
b. three
c. fourteen
d. twenty-nine

9. The point of the United States' greatest consumerist excess will be realized in the year _____ by the ______.

a. 2006, self-tearing toilet paper roll
b. 2008, portable microwave oven
c. 2009, 'MegaHumvee' sport-utility-assault vehicle
d. 2011, personal x-ray machine (with optional CAT scanner attachment)

10. You personally, going into the decades of the 2020s and 2030s, are most going to miss:

a. infections that can be cleared up with a course of antibiotics
b. drinkable water
c. electricity
d. food-transportation infrastructure

My answers in comments. Yours may vary. Grades will be assigned in 2045. Each question is worth ten points.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Art Project V

you will need:

food coloring
8-oz. drinking glasses (number subject to personal discretion)
a two-gallon or smaller desktop aquarium with top-down illumination
a bucket or plastic wastebasket
small syringe (preferable) or turkey baster
(preferably viral:) sinusitis with pronounced post-nasal drip, bronchitis1, or tonsillitis2

1 If you have asthma, COPD, emphysema, or other condition in which bronchitis would be more than usually life-threatening, I must have a note from your parent(s) or guardian(s) giving permission for you to go ahead with bronchitis. Students unable to get permission are encouraged to get a sinus infection instead.
2 You will not be able to get tonsillitis if you have had your tonsils out already.

WARNING: Students with elevated blood pressure, or who are on sodium-restricted diets, may skip this project with the written permission of their doctor.

1. Wait for peak mucus production from your respiratory infection of choice. Post-nasal drip is highly desirable.
2. Disconnect and discard aeration equipment, if any, from the aquarium.
3. Remove top (including light) from aquarium and fill with clean, lukewarm tap water.
4. Place salt in each of the drinking glasses, and fill to 8-ounce mark with warm water. Amount of salt should vary between glasses from half a teaspoon to four teaspoons. Stir water until salt is dissolved.
5. Add food coloring to the salt water in the drinking glasses. No two glasses should have exactly the same color composition. Keep in mind that the colors will be diluted considerably by the time they appear in the work.
6. Gargle with the colored salt-water mixture for as long as possible and spit it out into the wastebasket or bucket.
7. You should now have some highly-colored, very salty, mucus left in your mouth. Carefully spit it into the aquarium. If all has gone according to plan, and the sinus infection, salt level, coloration, and etc., are at appropriate levels, you should now have a string or blob of colored mucus in the aquarium. If it is highly saturated in salt, it will be at the bottom; if your mucus is of inconsistent quality, or you had to spit it out with force, it may be stringy. Low-salt or low-viscosity mucus may spread out at the top of the aquarium; if this is not a desirable effect for you, remove it by sucking it out with the syringe, or skim the top with a glass.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 as many times as desired for each of your color selections. You may need to take a break or two in the process of building up your mucus sculpture, to give your body a chance to produce more mucus. Rinse with water twice between each color switch; otherwise, some of the preceding color may taint the working color.
9. When you have finished, replace the aquarium top, and turn on the overhead light and assess your construction. Are the colors pleasing? Are the mucus blobs and strings relating to one another harmoniously ? If there are any air bubbles in the piece, do they enhance it?
10. Use the syringe to remove undesired elements, nudge mucus globs into alternate positions, remove or add small air bubbles, etc.
11. As your construction would be destroyed by even minor jostling from transportation, your grade will be assessed on the basis of photographs or sketches of the work. For photographs, get as close as possible while still keeping the picture in focus: detail is critical! Experimenting with lighting of different intensities, or at different angles, may be helpful. Sketches are likely to be of better image quality but are more time-consuming, and the mucus may dissolve during the production of the sketch. Keeping the work cool may slightly delay disintegration.
12. Students who are unable to achieve satisfactory results with photography or sketches may bring their apparatus to school with them and construct their pieces on-site. Principal Brown may or may not view the pieces as well, and may or may not know the method for their construction when he views them.


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Results of Art Project III, done in January with a smaller-than-recommended number of balloons.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Art Project IV

You will need:

room with a large picture window
scotch tape (™ 3M Corp)
overhead projector
overhead projector bulb
overhead projector stand
silicone aquarium sealant (one tube should be sufficient)
butcher paper sufficient to cover picture window
multiple siphons long enough to reach a bathtub or sink from your designated window (these may be shared among members of the class; sign up for a time to use them if you do not have your own, or are unable to purchase your own, or else substitute a pitcher)
aquarium (approximate dimensions: 6" H x 40"L x 16" W; consult me if you are unsure whether your pre-made aquarium may be used)
approximately 15-16 gallons of water (amount will vary according to aquarium dimensions)
30-35 small goldfish or 5-10 large koi
two wood or metal stands (to be custom-built)
aquarium thermometer (inside-mounted preferable)

Ms. Guilford wishes to publicly acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Schaffer and his fifth period Industrial Arts class for their offer of expert help in constructing custom aquariums and support stands. This project counts for course credit in Industrial Arts; interested students should contact Mr. Schaffer, room 15, for details.

1. Tape a single sheet of butcher paper over the picture window.
2. Place the overhead projector, on its stand, in front of the window. Turn it on (make sure the bulb is installed and functioning).
3. Adjust the distance of the projector from the window until the image fits precisely in the window.
4. Adjust the focus of the projector so that the image projected on the window is as sharp as possible, then turn off the projector.

NOTE: you may require some assistance for steps 5-8.

5. Place the stands on either side of the projector. They should be sturdy enough to support about 60 pounds of weight. The tops of the stands should be slightly taller than the top of the overhead projector (one inch or less if on carpet, less than a quarter-inch if on wood, stone, tile, or concrete floor).
6. Carefully place the aquarium across the tops of the stands and the projector. For best results, the bottom of the aquarium should be resting just above, or else flush with, the top of the projector.
7. Unplug the projector.
8. Slowly fill the aquarium with water. Be alert for any leakage (especially from corners).

ATTENTION: If any leakage is detected, stop filling the aquarium immediately and empty it with a siphon, pitcher, etc. until it can be moved to a different location and dumped out. You must then allow the aquarium to dry before resealing the edges and corners according to the silicone manufacturer's instructions. Also take care to dry the projector, stands, etc. thoroughly before proceeding.

9. When the aquarium is full, clean up any water spills and then plug in the projector and turn it on.
10. Recheck the focus of the image produced on the butcher paper and adjust as needed. (You should not need to make a large adjustment.)
11. Add the goldfish to the aquarium.
12. Your butcher paper should now be the screen on which a projection of the goldfish (viewed from top down) is being shown. You may decrease the water depth for slightly sharper shadows, though this will increase ripple visibility from the goldfish, and may also make the glass more prone to breakage, due to temperature differences. For the first few hours of operation, monitor the water temperature; goldfish and koi are relatively hardy over a range of water temperatures but the heat output of the projector may vary according to make and model; if water temperature goes above 80ºF (27ºC), add more water (if possible), cool the room, or shut down the projector for 18-24 hours. You should also go outside and view your projection.


Under NO circumstances should you leave the projector in continuous operation for more than two hours; though the water should serve to buffer extreme temperature changes in the glass, it is still only glass, and will break if overheated. You may connect the projector's electrical plug to an outlet via a 24-hour timer (available at most department stores): I would recommend setting the timer to run the projector from 9 to 11 PM and 1-3 AM (plus an optional 5-7 PM run during the winter, when the nights are longer.).

Do not leave the projector unattended while in operation.

Overfilling the aquarium may increase mechanical strain and lead to breakage of the aquarium glass, the projector glass, or both.

Students concerned about animal cruelty may substitute other items for the goldfish, subject to my approval; some mechanism to provide continuous object motion must be included in the proposal or it will be rejected.

Goldfish will die if not fed regularly. Frequent cleaning (at least every three or four days) of the bottom of the tank will be necessary as well.

Water will evaporate from the tank over time and must be replaced with fresh dechlorinated water (at least every two weeks).

Algae will grow on the sides and bottom of the tank and should be regularly removed to maintain transparency of the projection.

The presence of water in this electrical installation greatly increases the risk of shock. Always disconnect the apparatus from the power supply when performing aquarium maintenance. Whenever possible, have a parent, guardian, or other student in the room when making adjustments to the projector, aquarium, stands, etc.

Extra Credit Opportunity: Students will be given extra credit for completing, prior to set-up of this project, an electrical safety program given by the local Red Cross chapter. Contact me no later than June 7 if you wish to sign up.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Math Problem VII

1) A cubic meter of helium gas can lift a load of one kilogram. Assume that the mass of the balloon (and string or ribbon) is negligible, and calculate the diameter of the spherical balloon required to lift:

A) a 21-gram mouse
B) a nine pound, two ounce newborn baby in a fifteen-pound car seat
C) a 230-pound giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
D) a Humvee (5200 pounds)

Extra Credit 1: an average-sized rubber party balloon has approximately the same volume as a sphere eleven inches in diameter. Determine for each of the above how many such helium-filled balloons would be required to lift the object in question.

Extra Credit 2: a king-size waterbed mattress contains about 1.325 cubic meters of water when full. Determine for each of the above how many such helium-filled mattresses would be required to lift the object in question.

2) Annual world production of helium (mostly from natural gas) is 100 million cubic meters. How heavy of an object could this lift if it were all gathered together in a single spherical balloon?

conversion factors:
1 cubic meter = 1000 liters
1 pound = 16 ounces
1 pound = 2.2046 kilograms
1 kilogram = 1000 grams
1 ounce = 28.35 grams
1 foot = 0.3048 meters
1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
1 foot = 12 inches
1 meter = 100 centimeters

volume of a sphere = (4π/3)r3, where r is the radius
diameter of a sphere = 2r, where r is the radius

π = 3.14159

Answers in comments.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Math Problem VI

You are attending a college undergraduate commencement ceremony. One of the commencement speakers has told you that there are 1,400 students graduating on this day, and they are all to line up as someone reads their name and someone else shakes their hand. You count twenty names read during the first minute. If the first name was read off at 10:06 AM, what time will it be when the last name is read?

Answer in comments.

Ethics Worksheet I

1. John (not the same John who is seeing Mary in Math Problem V, by the way) goes to Wal-Mart and picks up a frozen chicken and a hunter's knife. While there, he has the idea to go to the sporting/hunting department and use the knife to threaten a clerk, steal a gun and ammunition, and go on a murderous rampage.

John decides not to rampage on the grounds that he would probably be shot or arrested before he could leave the store, and leaves without incident.

Was John's decision moral, immoral, or neither?

2. John arrives home at his apartment, where he lives alone. He places the chicken on the counter and allows it to thaw. When it is thawed, he has intercourse with the chicken, cooks it, and eats it.

Is John's behavior moral, immoral, or neither?

3. John goes to bed. While he is asleep, a burglar enters the apartment and begins to steal John's VCR. John wakes up and enters the living room with his bedside handgun, whereupon the burglar pleads for his life and offers to leave the VCR. John, rationalizing that no one would hold him responsible for killing an intruder in his own home, shoots the intruder dead and then calls the police.

Was John's decision to shoot moral, immoral, or neither?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Poetry Project I

you will need:

poetic skill (optional)

1) Go to this web site and click on the word "English," under the "Word Generator 1.2" heading.

2) A new page will be generated, at the center of which will be a 6 x 10 array of "words." Select six of these. (If there are not six adequate words on this page, refreshing the page will generate a new set of 60 words, which you may select from as well. Repeat until you have six.)

For best results, your words should be pronounceable and not already in use as an English word.

3) Use these six words as the end words of a sestina. Your line length and meter is up to you; however, extra credit will be given for sestinas in iambic pentameter.

HINT: Some students will find it easier to begin if they invent definitions for the words before beginning.

4) You will be asked to write your words on the blackboard, and then read your sestina in front of the class. The other students will be asked to guess at the meaning of your six words, and you will be graded according to the accuracy of their guesses regarding your words (60% of grade) and the accuracy of your guesses about their words.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Math Problem V

NOTE: The ages in the following word problems are not constant from one question to the next. Mary's age from problem #1, for example, cannot be used to solve for Steve's age in #2.

1) Mary is dating a man, John, who is one and one-half times her age. In John and Mary's jurisdiction, John can be imprisoned for statutory rape if Mary is under the age of 18. If the sum of John and Mary's ages is 50, is John in danger of going to prison if found out?

2) Mary is seeing two men simultaneously, John and Steve. John is one and one-half times Mary's age, and Steve is seven years younger than John. What is the smallest possible value for the sum of their ages if all three are at least eighteen years old?

3) Mary has decided to become a prostitute. Her pimp, Tony Vinylman, requires her to pay him 75 percent of all earnings from her tricks, and she has living expenses of $300 per week. She can perform oral sex twenty-four times per day. How much does she need to charge for oral sex in order to pay her bills, assuming a five-day workweek? How much should she charge if she works every day?

Answers are in comments.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Dadaism Project I

you will need:

one lint brush
20 oz. semisweet chocolate
one square of origami paper
one copy of Document album (REM, 1987)
500 g calcium chloride
5 gallons deionized water
modeling clay in at least three colors (may substitute Play-Doh™)
one medium carrot, peeled
one Phillips-head screwdriver
one 750-mL bottle of Black Velvet brand Canadian whiskey
Southern Baptist preacher (optional)
one nine-inch round cake pan

1. Beg with left hand.
2. Rotate pan 180 degrees.
3. Fold lengthwise and tear along fold into two equal strips.
4. Blend in brown sugar until the mixture has a creamy texture.
5. Wait twenty minutes.
6. Repeat steps 3-6.
7. Rinse with an equal volume of water.
8. Flex at top of curl and hold for fifteen seconds.
9. Keep out of reach of children for fifteen minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
10. Fold up from base until top of fold is three inches from the edge of the sheet.
11. Heat above burner while stirring and add 1.5 mL of EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetate, 1M in water).
12. Declare victory.
13. Ignite blowtorch and turn over top card. Insert floppy disc into drive and wait for system response.
14. A box will appear asking you if you wish to retry. Click the "yes" button.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Extra Credit Assignments I


Playing with ice (courtesy of Jeezidunno)


Using chocolate and a Coke to start a fire (courtesy of Samantha Moss, the greatly missed contributor to Oracular Vagina and Oracular Vagina 2)


Expense of some common liquids by volume (courtesy of your instructor, Ms. Guilford)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Perfumery Project I

You will need:

Calvin Klein's "Obsession" (buy the big bottle)
assorted organic chemicals common in perfumery (will be provided by instructor)
your lab notebook
pen or pencil
10-mL graduated cylinder
test tube (7-10 mL)
50-mL beaker
stirring rod

1) Measure 10 mL of "Obsession" into the graduated cylinder and transfer this to the beaker.

2) According to your whim, add chemicals from the organics cabinet to the test tube, dropwise, carefully recording in your notebook which compounds you used, and in what amount. Stir after each drop added

3) When you have come up with a fragrance you dislike, add it to the sample of "Obsession" in the beaker and stir with the stir rod.

4) You should now have a mixture which smells like neither the "Obsession" you began with or the unpleasant-smelling assemblage from the test tube.

a) If the resulting mixture is not an improvement on the original "Obsession" sample, discard it, wash all glassware (including the stirring rod!), and begin again from step 1.

b) If the resulting mixture is an improvement on the "Obsession" you began with, contact Calvin Klein's perfume people about marketing your mixture as an adjunct fragrance called "Compulsion," for exclusive use by people who are already wearing "Obsession."

The first student (or if you have a lab partner, pair of students) to have a signed agreement with Calvin Klein will receive an A for the course. All other students will fail and must repeat the class during the summer session.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sociology Project I


According to popular culture, all human beings on the planet are connected to one another by only six degrees of separation. A 'degree of separation' is defined as personal contact in which both parties know the name of the other and have some means by which to contact them.

Part A:

If you were to try to communicate directly with actor Kevin Bacon, using only persons (as opposed to corporations, chat rooms, or other non-personal intermediaries), which of your acquaintances would you select as your first contact, and why?

Part B:

Which famous person or persons do you have the smallest degree of separation from? (You may use whatever definition of 'celebrity' seems appropriate to you. Bear in mind that if you name someone sufficiently obscure, you may be called upon to define the field in which your celebrity is famous.)

Part C:

As with Part A, except substitute a poor Ivory Coast farmer for Kevin Bacon. Was your answer different from your answer to Part A? If so, explain.

Part D:

Your answers to Parts A-C will be read to the class, and then I will ask you to write a short (<5 pp.) essay in which you discuss whether or not you believe that six degrees of separation are sufficient to connect any two individuals on the planet, according to the popular theory. (Keep in mind that any celebrities named by your classmates in their answers to Part B are now connected to you by only one more degree of separation: e.g., if Christy is three degrees from President Bush, you are now four degrees from President Bush.)

Monday, February 28, 2005

Math Problem IV

There are approximately 6.3 billion (6,300,000,000) human beings on the Earth at the present moment.

Imagine that each person on the planet is given a coin which is scrupulously calibrated to be absolutely fair, equally likely to come up heads or tails. (Persons who are neurologically undeveloped, damaged, or ill will have a coin flipped on their behalf by a family member or neighbor.) At exactly midnight, GMT, everyone flips his or her coin and records the outcome (heads or tails). Then the process is repeated again at 12:02 AM, and 12:04 AM, and so forth, every two minutes, until every coin has come up heads at least once and tails at least once, at which point the coin-flipping stops.

What time is it (GMT) when the coin-flipping stops?

Answer in comments.

Activity: How many times will the last coin-flipper have seen his/r coin come up either all heads or all tails? Is s/he likely to believe that the coin is fair and unweighted? Divide into small groups and discuss the emotional impact of this exercise on the coin-flipper if A) s/he is inclined to be skeptical of the claims of others or B) s/he is inclined to assign religious meaning to the exercise.

How would you defend the fairness of the coin to the skeptic in A)?

How would you explain to the believer in B) that s/he had not been singled out for special treatment by a deity, that inevitably a long string of H or T outcomes was going to happen to somebody?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Political Science Worksheet I

Greetings to those who followed the link from King of Zembla.

In each of the following exchanges, assume that you are Scott McClellan, G. W. Bush's White House Press Secretary. Compose a response to any one of the following (hypothetical) reporters' questions.

1. Q: The President has recently renewed his proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, despite public skepticism on the part of some Administration advisors and oil company executives that ANWR has sufficient oil reserves to make its production worth the cost of drilling. Does the President still support ANWR oil exploration, and why or why not?

2. Q: Can you comment on reports that the Pentagon has discontinued prescribing the anti-malarial drug Lariam following assertions that it leads to mental instability in some soldiers? Are there plans to investigate the role of the medication in the effects reported by soldiers, and if it turns out that there is a link, is the White House prepared to go on-record as promising compensation to soldiers and their families?

3. Q: Does the President have a sexual fetish for bald men? And was this a factor in Jim-Jeff Gannon-Guckert getting access to the briefing room despite lack of proper press credentials?

Answers will be graded based on the number of points they earn according to the following criteria:

(30 points) response does not incriminate anyone at White House
(25 points) response does not incriminate friends or associates of White House
(20 points) blames Bill Clinton
(15 points/each) blames any group composed entirely of American citizens
(15 points/each) blames European allies / other allies
(15 points) answers a question other than the one which was asked
(15 points) amounts to a claim that the question does not need to be answered
(15 points) amounts to a claim that the question cannot be answered
(15 points) is completely unparsable
(12 points) is more than 7 or fewer than 3 sentences in length
(10 points) discourages other reporters from asking similar questions
(7 points) any appeal to a political principle not actually supported by the Republican Party (church/state separation, reproductive rights, business regulation, bipartisanship, global cooperation, right to privacy, gun control, etc.)
(5 points) sincere-sounding platitude about bipartisanship
(5 points) references an Administration official other than the President or Vice-President without identifying him or her
(3 points/each) platitude about Iraqi people
(3 points/each) platitude about American businessmen or business practices (in general)
(3 points/each) platitude about Republican party, its leaders, or its supposed ideals
(3 points) condescending tone
(3 points) optimistic spin
(1 point/each) uses the words "freedom," "family," "responsibility," "accountability / accountable," "friendship," "full disclosure" "legitimate" (either pronunciation), "clarify," "exchange," "communication," "integrity," "strategy," "co-operation," "credibility," "security"

55 points or less – F
56-75 points – D
76-95 points – C
96-115 points – B
above 116 points – A

Special note from Ms. Guilford: Lurkers are encouraged to try their hand at this one. Send an e-mail containing your answer to me here. Identify which question you are attempting to answer, and the name to which you would like your response attributed, if posted publicly. The highest-scoring response will be posted on this blog, as well as, potentially, any other responses which amuse me. I reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Music Project II

You will need:

large uncarpeted room (a school gymnasium is ideal)
48 identical freestanding shelving units (preferably open on both front and back, and with adjustable-height shelves)
1500 mousetraps
1503 hi-bounce "superballs" (27-33 mm in diameter)
125 12-egg egg cartons
45 identical electronic synthesizers, with amplification equipment
recording equipment for the synthesizers (either MIDI cable – preferred – or microphones)
plywood sheets (optional)
cardboard or card stock (optional)
rubber bands (optional)
1-6 stepladders (optional)
pennies (number variable, optional)
VHS videotape (if camcorder is non-digital)
safety goggles for all students and instructor

The class will divide into three groups for the execution of this project, as it is very complex. These groups will be designated by number. Students may select their own groups, provided that 1) the groups wind up approximately equal in size and 2) no groups cause disruption to the project or to other students. If these conditions are not met, the instructor may reassign groups at his or her discretion.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.1) Assemble the shelving units. You may find it convenient to utilize an assembly-line sort of process. If the units are constructed in such a way that the shelves need not all be at the same height, make sure to include some variation in the heights. Allow a minimum of eighteen inches between shelves.

Group 2 (Detail)
2.1) Cut the egg cartons into individual cups. You should be able to get 12 cups from each carton.
2.2) Trim down the edges of the cups until they are about 20-25 mm deep.
2.3) Either set the mousetraps or use rubber bands to hold them in an open position. Apply a dab of glue near the center of the extended arm (Carefully!) and place one of the egg cups on the dab of glue.
2.4) Allow the glue to dry.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.1) If you wish to prevent certain note ranges from being played, as for example very low or very high notes, cut the cardboard or card stock into strips as wide as the keyboard's keys are long. For most keyboards this will be about four or five inches.
3.2) Insert the strips you just cut into the spaces between the keys, for the ranges of keys you want to block from play. You may need to use multiple strips adjacent to one another, if you desire to block long ranges of notes.
3.3) Set the default voice on the synthesizers to the same option for each. For best results, you should use a voice with a sharp attack and long decay, for example a piano voice with sustain, or bells, or chimes.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.2) Identify the most convenient entrance/exit to the room, and at the opposite end, begin setting up the shelving units. The gym teacher may insist that you apply the rubber "feet" to the bottoms of the units. Avoid dropping or dragging the units, to protect the floor surface. Place the units far enough apart to enable a person to walk between them (roughly 3 or 4 feet), but no more distant than that.

Group 2 (Detail)
Now we will begin to load the mousetraps onto the shelving units. Start with the top shelf (use stepladders if necessary). You should be able to fit about three mousetraps along the width of the units, and seven or eight along the length.
2.5) Set the mousetrap, and place a superball into the cup. Slide the mousetrap gently along the surface of the shelf until it reaches the desired location, then begin on the next trap.
2.6) When one shelf is full, proceed to the next-lower shelf.
2.7) When all shelves on a unit are filled, call members of Group 1 to place another unit and continue from step 2.5 until a row of 16 shelving units has been filled with mousetraps.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.3) When one full row (16 shelving units) has been placed and loaded with mousetraps, tell Group 2 to pause loading, and inform Group 3 that they need to place the synthesizers in the spaces between units.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.4) Disable the automatic shutoff feature of the synthesizers (if possible).
3.5) When notified that a full row of shelving units has been placed, connect a set of fifteen synthesizers to sources of electricity, and amplification and/or recording devices. (Wireless devices are preferable but may not be available.) Place the fifteen synthesizers in the spaces between shelving units.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.4) The class may decide to cover the wires with sections of plywood in order to cover the wires leading from the synthesizers to amplification and recording equipment. If this is desired, cut the plywood to fit over the wires and place stacks of pennies underneath the plywood, at the corners, to keep the surface more or less level. There should be adequate clearance for the wires underneath the plywood; do not just set plywood directly on top of the wires.
1.5) When the wires have been covered, begin the next row of shelving units as in step 1.2. Maintain a separation between rows of at least two inches, to guard against inadvertent bumping of the shelving units.

Group 2 (Detail)
2.8) When synthesizers have been placed between the shelving units in the first row, proceed to the second row, repeating the process in steps 2.5 to 2.7.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.6) When the second row of shelving units has been set up and loaded with mousetraps, place synthesizers in the spaces between units as in steps 3.4 and 3.5.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.6) When synthesizers are placed in the second row, cover exposed wires with plywood again as in steps 1.4 and 1.5, and begin placing the final row of shelving units. Be sure to leave at least five feet of space open at the side of the gym by the third row of units, as people will need to be able to walk around to load shelves and install synthesizers.

Group 2 (Detail)
2.9) When synthesizers have been placed between the shelving units in the second row, proceed to the third row, repeating the process in steps 2.5 to 2.7.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.7) When the third row of shelving units has been set up and loaded with mousetraps, place synthesizers in the spaces between units as in steps 3.4 and 3.5.

All Groups
1.7; 2.10; 3.8) When all shelving units have been set up, loaded with mousetraps, and synthesizers placed between them, use the remaining mousetraps and superballs to fill in additional gym floor space, if any. You may have mousetraps and superballs left over. (Be sure to leave at least 3 superballs out for the instructor, in any event.)

I.1) If the gymnasium has a balcony, take the class (and any other students or instructors who wish to view the performance) to the balcony; otherwise, you may seat the class high up in the bleachers. If no seating is available, you may proceed from the floor of the gymnasium.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.9) Begin recording with the camcorder (as well as any computerized links from the synthesizer to recording equipment).

All Groups / Instructor
1.8; 2.11; 3.10; I.2) Put on safety goggles.

I.3) Throw one of the superballs toward the center of the shelving units and synthesizers, or invite a favored student to throw one. If it fails to set off any mousetraps, or the mousetrap is set off but fails to initiate the desired chain reaction, try again with one or both of the remaining two superballs. If these still fail, superballs may be retrieved or unloaded from accessible mousetraps until a chain reaction is successfully initiated.
I.4) When performance has ended, students may proceed to the floor to set off any mousetraps which failed to go off, and collect the superballs, mousetraps, synthesizers, and other equipment for the next class. A few students should be designated to count the returned items and ensure that no items (for example, stray superballs) remain in the gym.

Philosophy Project I

We have just concluded our viewing of the movie The Matrix. In the movie, a group of extraterrestrials have hooked all human beings into the eponymous "Matrix," a mechanism by which humans in a vegetative or comatose state can be used to generate power or nutrients or something for the extraterrestrials. In the movie, the overwhelming majority of human beings are not aware that they are being used in this fashion, and the extraterrestrials are using advanced virtual-reality technology to provide the brains of the humans with impressions and experiences resembling late-twentieth-century everyday life.

I will divide the class into groups of three or four. Groups are to brainstorm for methods by which a person could determine whether he or she was in the world posited by The Matrix. Ideas will be presented to the class next week.

Grades will be based on 1) likelihood that the method you propose will be successful (as determined by your classmates), 2) originality of the idea you present, 3) presentation skills, 4) class participation, and 5) handling of cross-examination about your method from other members of the class.

The second part of the project will be a short (5 pp. or less) essay in which you should address the following questions:

A) Was it more or less difficult to come up with testing ideas than you expected it to be?
B) What did you learn from the class attempts to test the theory?
C) Is it necessarily even a bad thing to be living in the Matrix? Why or why not?
D) Was it uncomfortable to contemplate the idea that you might be a subject in the Matrix? Why or why not?

Math Problem III

An indoor swimming pool is 12 feet in width by 30 feet in length. The shallow end is 3.5 feet deep and the deep end is 8 feet deep, and the depth of the pool changes linearly from the deep end to the shallow end.

One standard box of Jell-O brand gelatin (6 ounces) makes four cups of Jell-O when set up.

Calculate the number of boxes of Jell-O which would be required to completely fill the swimming pool. Assume that the volume of the filtration equipment is negligible and that the pool is to be filled with Jell-O completely.

Conversion factors you may need:

1 cubic foot = 7.481 gal
1 gal = 16.0 cups

Advanced students:
A) One package of Jell-O, prepared according to the directions, makes 8 servings of Jell-O which each have 80 calories. What would be the total caloric content of the swimming pool so filled?
B) If a standard caloric intake for an adult is 2000 calories per day, for how many days could a single adult live off of the swimming pool filled with Jell-O? Assume that there is no spoilage and that the Jell-O in the swimming pool is nutritionally adequate to support life.

Answers are located in the comments.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Biotechnology Project I / Cryptography Project I / Religion Project I


Your vocabulary words are highlighted in maroon.

DNA is a linear polymer which encodes the information by which cells make specific proteins. These proteins are also linear polymers of amino acids. The particular sequence of amino acids in a protein determines its properties.

DNA codes the information for amino acids by means of bases, which are four in number: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. These bases are often abbreviated as A, C, G, and T. These bases are read in groups of three, which are called codons. Sixty-one of the sixty-four possible codons specify an amino acid, with the remaining three being the signal to terminate production of a protein.

Amino acids are often abbreviated using single letters of the alphabet. The abbreviations, along with the DNA codons for them, are below:

alanine (A) encoded by GCA, GCC, GCG, GCT
cysteine (C) encoded by TGC, TGT
aspartic acid (D) encoded by GAC, GAT
glutamic acid (E) encoded by GAA, GAG
phenylalanine (F) encoded by TTC, TTT
glycine (G) encoded by GGA, GGC, GGG, GGT
histidine (H) encoded by CAC, CAT
isoleucine (I) encoded by ATA, ATC, ATT
lysine (K) encoded by AAA, AAG
leucine (L) encoded by CTA, CTC, CTG, CTT, TTA, TTG
methionine (M) encoded by ATG1
asparagine (N) encoded by AAC, AAT
proline (P) encoded by CCA, CCC, CCG, CCT
glutamine (Q) encoded by CAA, CAG
arginine (R) encoded by AGA, AGG, CGA, CGC, CGG, CGT
serine (S) encoded by AGC, AGT, TCA, TCC, TCG, TCT
threonine (T) encoded by ACA, ACC, ACG, ACT
valine (V) encoded by GTA, GTC, GTG, GTT
tryptophan (W) encoded by TGG
tyrosine (Y) encoded by TAC, TAT

The stop codons are TAA, TAG, and TGA.

You will need:

floppy disk (optional)

1) The first step in the process is to expand the genetic "alphabet" to include the letters B, J, O, U, X, and Z, which are not currently assigned to amino acids. You may do this in one of two ways:

1A) (preferred) Assign the unassigned alphabetic characters to whichever amino acid abbreviation most closely resembles it. For example, the letter U might be encoded by valine (V). I recommend the following: encode B with P, J with I, O with Q, U with V, X with Y, and Z with N.
1B) (alternate) You may also, if you wish, assign specific codons to the letters which remain. For example, you could specify that AGA and AGG, which are normally codons for the amino acid arginine (R), will instead be specific for the letter B in your text. If you do this, please bear in mind that you must supply me with a list of the codons so assigned, and you must not reassign codons for amino acids which have only one (e.g. tryptophan). More advanced students may wish to assign redundant codons to punctuation (space, question mark, comma, digits) as well, though this will reduce the length of the text you can encode.
1C) (alternate) You may also bypass reassignment of codons or characters by choosing a text which does not include the letters B, J, O, U, X, or Z; however, finding such texts will be extraordinarily difficult, owing to the frequency of the letters O and U in English.

2) Select your religious text for encoding. Remember that it must meet the following specifications: a) it must be no longer than 4000 bases (1333 codons). b) It must come from a scripture which is regarded as authoritative, or which has been regarded as authoritative in the past, by some substantial number of people. c) It must exist in a form which utilizes standard English letters, whether by translation or originally. This means that it will not be possible, within the scope of this project, to translate texts which utilize other alphabets (Russian, Hebrew, Greek), unless the texts have been subsequently translated into English. d) It must begin with the letter "M," or else you must write a short identifying tag at the beginning of the text which begins with the letter "M."

3) Proceeding one letter at a time, select a codon for each and write it down in sequential order.

4) When completed, you may double-check your sequence using an on-line DNA translator tool, as for example this one. Cut and paste from your document into the translation window, select "compact" from the pull-down menu for "output format," and verify that at least one of the sequences displayed matches the intended text.

5) Submit your sequence (by e-mail or floppy disk!) to me for verification and grading. You must include the following information: source of the text, intended translation of the text, and a paragraph or two identifying which method you used to encode the "missing" letters (B, J, O, U, X, and Z), as well as any special characters you may have included. Your sequence will then be evaluated and a grade assigned.

1 Methionine also serves as the initiator codon and is required to begin a protein.

Elaboration (choose any three):

1) Write an essay no longer than five pages in which you discuss the potential religious impact, if any, of splicing your text into the genome of a living organism, for example, the bacterium E. coli. Would it change your understanding of the text you have selected if you knew that every twenty minutes, a bacterium kept in an acceptable climactic and nutritional environment could reproduce your text in its progeny, or exchange your text with other bacteria through the bacterial equivalent of sexual intercourse?

2) Order your text from an on-line company which specializes in production of short sequences of DNA (one possibility is Integrated DNA Technologies). For long sequences, you may need to break your text into multiple small pieces and join them together later; alternately, you might enquire as to whether the company would link your sequence together for an additional charge. You may use my name and the address of the school for your shipping information; however, I will not supply a credit card for your order.
Any DNA sequences so obtained will be presented to the class in short (approximately five minutes) presentations, in which you will display the DNA, read its translated text, and explain why you selected that particular text for encoding.

3) As with 2), except use the DNA you obtain to splice your text into a living organism. Students selecting this option will receive a grade of incomplete for the course, until transfection of the text can be verified. Students will then receive all known organisms containing the text, and will be given a grade of A+ for the course.

4) Write a creative short story (less than 10 pages) set after the extinction of the human race, in which aliens land on Earth and discover your encoded message in bacteria. Describe the implications for the alien race.

5) Mutations in DNA sequence can be induced by a wide variety of causes, including chemicals, radiation (including cosmic rays, x-rays, radioactive decay), internal rearrangement of bases, and mistakes made by proofreading enzymes. There are four main types of mutation:

insertion of a base, or set of bases, into the sequence (for example, ACATAG --> ACAGTAG)
deletion of a base of set of bases (ACATAG --> ACAG)
substitution of a base (ACATAG --> AGATAG)
duplication of a base or set of bases (ACATAG --> ACATCATTAG)

"Mutate" your text at least five times with each of the above methods so that a new message with a different meaning is formed. Supply the sequences for the mutations, and identify which type of mutation has led to the new message.

6) Not all mutations result in changes to the protein sequence, or impair the function of the protein produced. Explain how this is possible in a short (300 words) essay. You may find pp. 1156-1175 of your textbook useful.

A sample text and translation, with mutations, is included in the comments. I have included punctuation and spaces which are not, strictly speaking, encoded in the DNA sequence in order to enhance readability.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Music Project I

You will need:

plastic ballpoint pen
scotch tape
a piece of music, recorded on cassette, or a blank cassette tape and a musical selection on CD
a stereo or boom box capable of cassette playback
a stereo or boom box capable of recording to cassette (optional; may be the same as the playback device)

1. If you have a pre-recorded cassette, and you are willing to lose the music on the cassette, this cassette will now be referred to as the Primary Cassette: proceed to step 3. If you have music on a cassette which you are not willing to potentially destroy, or music on a CD, proceed to step 2.

2. Use the recording device to record a copy of the music from CD or cassette to the blank cassette. The blank cassette will now be called the Primary Cassette.

3. Rewind the Primary Cassette to the beginning of the tape.

4. Turn the tape upside down, so that the side of the tape which contacts the magnetic head is facing you. The tape which is visible should lack the brown or grayish magnetic coating which records the music: it is often light pink or blue in color, though it may be other colors. If you are in doubt, ask your instructor.

5. Pull a loop of tape about an inch long from the center of the tape, just above where the magnetic head contacts the magnetic tape.

6. Take two small lengths of scotch tape from your scotch tape dispenser, and attach them on a clean nearby surface so that a substantial portion of the tape is hanging free in the air.

7. Place your index finger in the center of the loop of tape. Hold the tape steady on either side with your thumb and middle finger. Slide the scissors under the loop of tape, and cut through the tape.

8. Pick up one of the pieces of scotch tape from step 6. Put it on one of the loose ends of the magnetic tape. The alignment does not have to be precise, but it should be adequate to cover the full width of the end.

9. Rotate the end with the scotch tape on it one half-turn, in either direction, and then attach the unrotated other end to the same piece of scotch tape, making the alignment of the second end as close to parallel as possible.

10. Fold the scotch tape over the cut. Use scissors to trim away any excess scotch tape from the sides of the magnetic tape. Try to make the reconstituted magnetic tape as straight as possible.

11. You should now have a cassette tape into which a single half-turn has been inserted. If you do not, consult your instructor.

12. This is the boring part: carefully advance the tape, manually, to the opposite side. I.e., you are to rewind to the beginning of the other side of the tape. While doing this:

DO NOT allow the turn to become wound around the spindles of the cassette.
DO NOT attempt to advance the tape too rapidly, as this may cause it to kink or fold.

13. When you reach the other end of the cassette, repeat steps 4 to 10 on the other end of the magnetic tape, but instead of adding another half-turn, remove it. If you rotated the cut end of the tape counterclockwise in step 9, you will need to rotate the opposite side clockwise in this step.

14. At this point, you should have a cassette where the central portion of the magnetic tape has been rotated 180 degrees relative to its ends. Wait for your instructor to confirm that you have performed the procedure correctly before proceeding to step 15.

15. Place the cassette into a playback device and press play. You may need to fast-forward, if you did not have music on the entire Primary Cassette when you began.

Answer the following questions:
1. Why is the music now being played backwards?
2. Do you hear any messages, Satanic or otherwise, in the music? (If so: ask one of your classmates to listen to the same section of your tape, without telling them the message you believe you hear. Do your classmates hear the same thing you hear? If not, how is their interpretation different? Do your results reinforce 1970s/80s-era hysteria about so-called "backward masking" in music, or discredit it?)
3. ADVANCED STUDENTS: Is your recording missing most of its high-frequency sounds? If so, research music recording on magnetic tape in the library or on the internet, and explain why this might happen.