George Mayerle’s International Eye Chart

I found this little gem while exploring the National Library of Medicine’s “Hidden Treasure” collection of interesting items of the past. This chart is for eye examinations, published in 1907 and created by German eye doctor George Mayerle, who worked in San Francisco, California. He helped form the first national optical association, the Optical Specialists’ Association of America, and developed this eye chart to aid in diagnosing eye ailments.

When the chart was sold, advertisements promised that it would help increase the income of general practitioners, because  the chart “convinces the patient as to his professional skill and ability to diagnose, and, at least, correct defective eyesight.” I find this amusing because it seems to imply that persuading people that you know what you’re doing is just as, if not more, important than fixing some visual disorders!

Luckily, I am freshly practiced to look at eye charts because I just got my own eyes checked yesterday! Let’s take a closer look (pun intended). Continue reading George Mayerle’s International Eye Chart


Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” artist honored admirably in The Banner Saga

The Banner Saga is the first game of a series based on a mythical world in which humans and Varl, Norse-like giants, are struggling to survive. The intriguing story begins with an ending: the gods are dead, the sun has stopped moving in the sky, and no one knows why.

This opening sets the stage for a Viking-esque world embedded with a deliciously deep mythology, ethically challenging choices for the player, and interesting and complex characters. However, the real icing on the cake for me was the graphics: upon reflection, I would say that The Banner Saga was by far the most beautiful game I played in 2014. Continue reading Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” artist honored admirably in The Banner Saga

Coding plurals in the English language

Code for returning the plural form of an animal or English noun.

My coworker shared with me a little bit of interesting code he was working on so that the game returns the correct plural form of nouns. In the code, you can see there’s a list of exceptions in which the singular form is the same as the plural (moose, sheep, etc.), and unique cases (children, oxen). Then there are a few rules for singular nouns with particular endings:

  • if the singular ends in -y, the plural ends in -ies (e.g., butterflies)
  • If the singular ends in -lf, the plural ends in -lves (e.g. wolves)
  • If the singular ends in -s, -ch, -sh, or -x, the plural just adds ‘es’ (e.g. bushes, birches, foxes)

And everything else just gets -s added! Just thought it was interesting.

Tour of the mouse brain

This month is the 5-year anniversary of the publication of one of my all time favorite scientific animation videos (I don’t normally keep track of these types of anniversaries, I just happened to notice the date). This 3.5 minute tour of a mouse brain helps the viewer conceptualize the parts of the brain in relation to the whole, including how individual neurons work together and form new connections.

For an annotated tour, below I’ve listed all the terms that appear in the movie, with a short description about their functions or relation to other parts. I highly recommend that you plug in your headphones for this tour! The music and sounds are beautiful and add a lot to the experience. Continue reading Tour of the mouse brain


Game review: Banished

A small group of travelers is banished from their previous civilization and wander into the forests to start over and establish their own society. As time passes, it’s clear that there are numerous challenges: avoiding starvation, having enough firewood and warm clothes to survive the winter, fighting disease, and replacing the workers’ tools as they wear out. Can this small community thrive and grow, relying only on the resources in their unforgiving environment? This is the premise of the game Banished, developed by Shining Rock Software (Windows PC, $20). Continue reading Game review: Banished

Science teaching has suffered because science has been so frequently presented just as so much ready-made knowledge, so much subject-matter of fact and law, rather than as the effective method of inquiry into any subject-matter.

John Dewey, American philosopher and education reformer, 1910

It’s a little sobering to think that we are still struggling with the same problems in science education more than 100 years later.

Ishihara plate No. 13: You probably see the number "6", but I see nothing. (Image: Public Domain)

Students interview me about my color-blindness

I know a high school teacher who teaches science and had just finished a unit on sight and genetics with her students. She asked me if I’d like to be interviewed by her ELL students in class one day. Before I came to class, she asked her students to think of some questions, and then they each selected one to ask me while I was there (she told them ahead of time that I was an artist, so they were really interested in that). The students were already familiar with Punnett squares so we did those on the whiteboard.

It was a really fun and interesting experience for all of us, so I kept a copy and wrote my answers for others who may be interested. (Student names are changed). Continue reading Students interview me about my color-blindness

New direction for the blog

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, mostly because my life has been pulling me in directions other than thinking and writing about science. I’ve been doing a lot of design, especially, and I’ve wanted to share my projects with the world, but I haven’t had the venue for it. So I’ve been thinking lately that I should expand the scope of this blog to include more of my interests: science, education, games, and design. Of course, the Science Slug will still be the beloved mascot!

I’m really excited for this new direction and to start posting again! See you soon,

The Science Slug

Thinking about the Big Bang blows my mind

As an illustrator who’s dabbled in animation myself, I love the science videos by Kurzgesagt, who has just recently posted a new video on “The Beginning of Everything: The Big Bang.”

Besides the appealing graphics and Hitchhiker’s Guide-esque narration, a few things struck me about the video. One I’ll mention here is this almost casual observation: “But what’s the meaning of ‘light’ anyway, when there’s nothing alive yet that could have eyes?”

Since light and sight are so central to how humans function in the world, it’s easy to forget that “visible light” (commonly just “light”) is only called that because it’s the miniscule part of the electro-magnetic spectrum that our eyes are capable of detecting. There are numerous species who have more complex eyes than we do and can see more of the light spectrum, like mantis shrimp (Order: Stomatopoda). There’s much much more “unvisible light” in the Universe, from radio waves to gamma rays, that has been (and still is) bouncing around for millenia all over the galaxy. And we only experience just a tiny, little sliver of that time and spectrum, but we’ve learned so much already! And so much left to explore!

“Since we ourselves are made from dead stars, we are not separate from the Universe. We are part of it. You could even say that we are the Universe’s way of experiencing itself.” When one contemplates the Universe, and one’s place in it, you can’t help but be poetic.


Matters of the head and heart

In a study published online on Feb. 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS), researchers at the Institute for Systems Biology and the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research present molecular evidence that exposure condition similar to that experienced in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause heart tissue damage in mice. Continue reading Matters of the head and heart