Sciencing on Myself!

Dear Readers, this has been a science-packed weekend. Firstly, I’ve been hard at work on my Biology of Survival assignment with the Open University, and it’s fair to say that things have stepped up a bit since the first one – I had a few rocky weeks before Christmas and it’s been uphill all the way to catch up. Still, it’s not due till the 22nd February so I have a little bit of time left.

We’ve been looking at cold adaptation in rats – fortunately this is all done with cyber rats rather than the real animals, as if it was real ones I’d have to decline. Still, it is fascinating stuff – many animals (including little new born human babies) have something called brown adipose tissue (BAT) for short, which can generate its own heat. Normally we shiver when we get cold, but BAT takes the energy that we’d normally use for movement and short-circuits it so that heat is generated instead. You see it a lot in animals that hibernate, and in small animals that dive. The experiment should show that rats that are kept in cold conditions develop more brown fat, but I’m not sure that my pretend rats have. Still, let’s see how it all turns out when I crunch the numbers next week.

I’ve also been looking at a very interesting paper on, of all things, guppies. I remember one of my relatives used to keep guppies, and I was always intrigued by how different the males were – you could identify each one by the pattern on his tail. Apparently this diversity of colours is carried on in the wild, and the question is, why? You’d normally expect one pattern or another to become dominant, either because females preferred it, or because it was less or more attractive to predators, but this doesn’t happen. Is it because the females prefer novelty, or is it that predators have a fixed idea about what a tasty guppy looks like, and ignore the ones that don’t fit the stereotype? We shall see.

But most interestingly (to me at least), is that I’ve just joined a study run by Zoe – this was originally set up to monitor Covid, and continued to record data long after the government had given up. This particular study, though, looks at blood sugar, blood fat and gut health. I am currently wearing a very nifty blood sugar monitor, which sits on your arm – you can access the results via an app on your phone. I’ve been fasting for most of today, except for some bland muffins that are supplied so that everyone is eating the same thing. And half an hour ago I did a finger-prick test, which resulted in a bit of a blood bath (ahem – well I always was a bit over-enthusiastic). How it made me feel for my poor Mum, who at one point was having her fingers pricked in hospital every hour. And there’s a poo test to do too, but that’s probably far too much information.

I will be very intrigued to see what spikes my blood sugar and what doesn’t – I tried my monitor out with raspberries and icecream yesterday evening and there was barely a hump, let alone a spike. But these things are very individual, and it will be fun to see what my personal nemesis is. And also to see how my gut biome is getting on. I love citizen science, and my results will be compared with those for other people who are taking part. For now, though, I’m just glad that the fasting is over, and I’m off to sort out my Sunday dinner. I hope you enjoyed yours!


7 thoughts on “Sciencing on Myself!

  1. Anne

    You do get involved in interesting things! As for Sunday dinner … we had no power from 2 am until half past three in the afternoon – apparently there was a fault in an underground cable – so no dinner for us. I look forward to reading about your results.

      1. itwasjudith

        Sounds like an exciting and entertaining research! At any rate , it might be yielding valuable results . I think gut flora is underestimated. And bad ass fungi

  2. Emily B

    I hope you find the whole Zoe thing as fascinating as I have! It was an eye opener, and I have definitely changed what I eat since taking part.

  3. Christine Swan

    All this takes me back to my biology days. I taught it in secondary schools for 10 years before migrating sideways into more lucrative chemistry and physics. I still get my regular fix by involving myself in wildlife groups – namely our local badger trust and bat group. All of my habitat surveying skills still get put to good use. I too did not enjoy experiments with animals. In truth, this is the major reason for me moving away from teaching it. I don’t think dissection is now mandatory. I used to refuse to take part in practicals as part of my degree, they were hideous. I now teach computer science which is really interesting, despite its public image. I still have badgers, foxes and bats in my life.


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