The Menace of American toads in Queensland Australia

Recently I stumbled upon an unusual documentary from the 80s about the giant American toads (Bufo Marinus) of Queensland, Australia. That’s correct. Who would have thought that this 50 minute movie (embedded at the end of this article) with songs of the toad’s praise would turn out to be one of those surprisingly informative and strangely funny movies.

Well, it was certainly fun to watch. Here’s a gist of all interesting things I got from it and some reading which ensued.

Cane toads were never native to northern Australia before the 1930s. Raquel Dexter an entomologist, during the 1932 world conference of sugar technology in Puerto Rico, suggested that the cane toad was the ultimate solution to deal with a native Australian cane beetle. This beetle had decimated the output of sugarcane crop of North Queensland cane farmers.

So, Mungomery Reginald William brought in 102 cane toads into the freshwaters of little Mulgrave river in Gordonvale from Hawaii to tackle the problem of beetle infestation. Mungomery’s intention to make the toads travel for two weeks from Hawaii to Sydney and for another two days to Gordonvale was a noble yet arduous one:

“We have got these bloody grubs by the balls this time and we will go on to bigger and brighter things”

A jubilant Irishman

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Mountain Dew vs. Coke – Which One is Worse

Here’s the quick and hard truth – Mountain Dew is worse for your teeth when compared to Coca Cola. As interpreted by a young scientist, from a simple yet sharp experiment he conducted, there are two main reasons why Mountain Dew is worse thank Coke.

Firstly, Mountain Dew uses citric acid, while Coke uses phosphoric acid to give them their tangy zing. So, since citric acid is an organic acid, it can breakdown organic matter more easily than the inorganic acid used in coke. This is due to the buffering capacity of citric acid (and similar low molecular weight organic acids).

Secondly, even though as a whole Coke has a lower pH of 2.5 as compared to that of Mountain Dew (pH 3.1), which means Coke is six times more acidic owing to the logarithmic nature of this measurement, there’s more to it than just that.
pH measures the strength of the acid in a solution. pH does change due to dilution, but it needs massive dilution to change the pH.

Thus it is more appropriate here to measure the amount of acid actually present in the drink. Which can be done by measuring the Titratable Acidity (TA). TA is the amount of acid molecules present (both protonated and unprotonated) in milligrams or grams per liter of solution available for interaction with the tooth surface.

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Trilobite Eyes: Calcite Eyes Last Forever

It makes great sense to us today that we, or for that matter, so many other living beings around us, have eyes that are made up of organic matter. I’m specifically talking about the lenses of our eyes which are made up of organic material like crystallin. These are squishy, jelly-like biological materials which can change shape as muscles pull them and can focus on objects at different distances. Totally makes sense. But these won’t last long.

Imagine getting extinct, organisms finding our fossils a million years later wouldn’t have the slightest idea of how exactly our eye lenses worked.

Eyes of stone

Whereas the earliest creatures which started seeing, about 400 million years ago, had eyes literally made of stone. Their eyes, unlike any of our eyes would ever be able to do, have been preserved in the fossils we uncover today. [NCBI]

Some of the earliest Arthropods that we know of, belonging to a fossil group called Trilobites had eye lenses that were made up of this transparent mineral Calcite (Calcium carbonate). The closest existing relative of these creatures today are the blue blooded Horseshoe crabs.

The kinds of eyes

Broadly, they were of two types.

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