Saturday, 30 November 2013

Floral Dresses & Cropped Sweaters | Biochemistry Basics part 2

Dress is thrifted | socks are from a market stall | shoes are c/o Yeswalker | sweater is thrifted | bag is from Asos

When I moved out of home, I left about two-thirds of my clothes at my parent's house. Whenever I go back to visit, I also get to rediscover all these old clothes! Going through my old wardrobe is like visiting my own personal (free) thrift shop, and lets me refresh my wardrobe every few months without having a buy a thing. This cropped sweater is a gem that I've had for years, originally thrifted. And I just got this dress for a couple of dollars at an op-shop the other day, too! I'm really enjoying getting into thrifting again, though it's helped that I've been finding the most awesome stuff lately.

Now that you all know how cells, DNA and chromosomes work (if not, read part 1 of this post first), let's talk about what genes are. Inherited your mum's thick hair or your dad's big nose? It's all got to do with your genes, baby.

The "gene" is the basic unit of inheritance - the stuff being passed down from generation to generation. And a gene is actually just a section of DNA, somewhere on one of your chromosomes, that gives your cells instructions to make a particular protein. Genes that make globin, for example (part of your blood) look like this, and the protein it makes (a stylized image, of course) looks like this.
(If you've forgotten what the letters stand for, read part 1 first.)

So your cells make proteins by reading genes.

Your cells are able to read the DNA sequence of your genes, which each have a little "promoter" - a specific DNA sequence - to let the cell know that it is there and ready to be made into protein. When the cell knows that the time is right (and there is a whole lot of complex signalling going on to tell the cell when the time is right, that I'm not going to go into here), it uses what is called an "RNA polymerase" to transcribe the DNA into a similar molecule called mRNA.

mRNA also uses "bases" and they are just the "opposite" of what is written on the DNA, with T being substituted for a very similar base called uracil ("U").
When mRNA is made, it pairs up with one strand of DNA, and places a U wherever there is an A, an A wherever there is a T, a C wherever there is a G and a G wherever there is a C.

The mRNA is just a code for making proteins - and each group of three bases makes a particular amino acid, which is the basic unit of proteins.
For example, the code "UUU" makes the amino acid "phenylalanine" in the protein.

If you can imagine that all the DNA in your cell is a whole book of instructions, making mRNA is essentially like copying out just one instruction from one page of the book. Then the mRNA sits around in your cell, a code waiting to be translated into the language of amino acids. When it is translated into a series of amino acids, this is called a protein. The protein can then go and do useful stuff - like making your hair a particular colour.

Example: Red hair genes
A gene that can determine whether or not you have red hair is a sequence with the name MC1R. It is located on chromosome 16, and one particular variant has this DNA sequence.
MC1R makes a protein that attaches to hormones in cells which make skin and hair pigment, and influences the rate and type of pigment being made. We all have the MC1R gene, but if you have a particular version of this gene (meaning that the letters in the DNA are slightly different from someone with brown or blonde hair), you will have red hair! I unfortunately do not have this gene myself, and have to dye my hair red instead.

This map shows where many of the genes are on your chromosomes that are responsible for determining the thickness, colour, growth rate and curliness of your hair.

We all share a lot of the same genes with one another - you are 99.9% identical at the DNA level to any other random human on the planet. But the differences inside many of the genes, and the insanely large number of combinations that you can make out of all of them, is what makes us all individuals.

Read biochemistry basics part one here.

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Friday, 29 November 2013

Bows and Polka Dots & 3D-Printed Selfies

Dress - Thrifted | shoes - c/o Yeswalker | hat - Thrifted

So a bonus of the rise of online shopping which slightly negates the frustrating amount of waste is that half of it ends up in the op shops, brand new with the tags still on, because it clearly didn't fit people! This is a brand-new asos dress I thrifted the other day, because I couldn't walk past the cute polka-dot-and-bow print. I actually altered it by bringing the collar together, as there was no button on the original dress, and I really like how it looks.

Hahaha, this is so silly (but I kind of want one...). You all know how I'm obsessed with 3D-printing? Well, if you ever wanted to, you can have a miniature 3D version of yourself printed out and sent to you. If you have a kinect, that's all you need (or, if you live in the UK, simply visit an Asda). The kinect scans your body from multiple angles, turns you into a computer file and prints you out using a 3D-printing machine.
Artists have also recently used this technology in Japan to create 3D family portraits. Yeah. Thanks to 3D-printers, there is going to be even more unnecessary plastic crap in our worlds. 3D-printed stuff is going to be the new kitsch.
But increased interest and innovation in 3D printing is also leading to some amazing things such as 3D-printed prosthetics and organs. Which is just too cool. So I guess we'll have to put up with all the weird plastic crap that'll come along with that (which, I have to admit, is kinda cool on its own anyway).

p.s. the winners of the Freena bow necklace giveaway have just been announced.

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

I'm back!

Blouse is thrifted | skirt is thrifted | hat is thrifted | belt is thrifted | bag is thrifted | shoes are from Asos | lipstick is MAC (Ruby Woo)
Whew! I went nearly two whole weeks without posting a thing here. I hope you haven't all forgotten about me. But I am happy to announce that I have officially completed my second year of university!

Lessons learnt while being a study hermit - my hair is naturally curly! I can't believe that I haven't let my hair to be its natural self in more than 2 years, always blowdrying my hair straight after my shower every single day, whether or not I was going out that day. Which sounds crazy, but I guess it was just part of my normal morning routine. However, one day, in the middle of some intense studying I actually wasn't bothered to blowdry my hair for once and that's when I discovered that my hair was wildly curly. It wasn't always this curly when I was younger, and I'm not sure what's made it go this curly now but I'm sure not going to complain, because now I don't have to put any effort into doing my hair, haha.

I thrifted this blouse and hat yesterday to reward myself for finishing my studies for the year. Aren't they pretty? I was so lucky to find them. A tip for any aspiring thrifters - get out of the city. I went more than an hour out of the city into the western suburbs to find this stuff. When you try to op-shop right in the middle of the city, all the good stuff is either gone or way overpriced (though I have a few secret favourites in Sydney - and no, I'm not going to share because then they'll be raided for all their good clothes ;) ).

Regular posting shall now be resumed. I hope you're all doing really well, I've missed you guys!

p.s. because I was away for so long, I've extended the Freena necklace giveaway for one more day :) Enter here.

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Bambi and a Baby Panda

cardigan is Thrifted, skirt is c/o Sheinside, bag is DIY, top is c/o Choies, shoes are c/o Yeswalker

Photos by Ashley Dy.

I can't remember if I have ever posted my DIY panda backpack on this blog before! But anyway, here it is. I was kind of distraught about having to cut his brains open to make him into a bag, but I sewed him up real good and now he can fit a phone and a wallet!

No science post today - I'm too busy studying it instead (in fact, I'm posting this from the library at uni which I went to today to force myself to study. Oops). But I wanted to post this outfit up at least! I don't like going days and days without blogging something - I feel all disconnected from the world, haha.

I hope that you're all super well! And thank you for your kind comments on yesterday's post :)

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Take a Step Outside

"Go on, take a step outside. It's a whole other world out there."

The second illustration from the "Annika is totally learning how to draw" series, haha. Today I was sick, so I ditched study and spent the day working on this instead. I wish that I could just transfer my ideas straight from my brain to a computer without the intermediate of my hand/drawing tablet, but this one happened to turn out pretty much as I imagined it in my head, so I was happy!

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

High-Waisted Genes

Top is c/o Choies | Jeans from Dotti | shoes from Dotti

Photos by Ashley Dy

It's a rarity to see me wearing pants of any kind on my blog! These photos were actually taken last August when Ashley Dy came to visit. I still love this combination, though, and this outfit is actually more practical then it was at the time we took these photos - it's actually almost summer now - proper crop top weather, instead of the middle of winter!

Because I'm currently studying genetics like a mad lady and have probably lost my mind, here is a genetics joke. Oh dear. (Scientists have the worst jokes).
(But this actually made me laugh a lot when I first saw it.)

Back to studying I go. Hope you're having a great day,

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Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Kawaii Lizard Lady

I have wanted to save up for a digital drawing tablet for ages now, mainly for the purposes of doing cutesy hand-writing on blog photos. But recently, I've also been really inspired by my favourite artists to learn how to do digital illustration as well.

So, I don't know where this is going, but my blog is where I share my creative pursuits (such as my first ever sewing attempt - and I got better at that, too!) so behold: My first ever illustration, that I did today to try out the tablet. 
She is the Kawaii Lizard Lady (idk why either).
If you take a look at my favourite illustrators, you'll see that I'm very into surreal, cartoon-like illustrations of hipster girls with some element of japanese culture thrown into the mix (pop-surrealism is what you would call it, I guess) - so this is basically a direct emulation of that.

Anyway, I'm fairly happy with it for some kind of first-attempt-ever at illustration, because I have never been able to draw, yet I free-handed this lovely lady! I think the ability to "ctrl-Z" any lines that I've drawn wrong, and to copy and paste certain elements (like the eyes and bows), has stopped me from having such a fear of drawing! Still, baby-steps while it still looks like something drawn in paint, haha.

Are there any other digital illustrators out there? I'd love to see your work! (And any tips or learn-how-to-draw sources for someone with literally no knowledge of drawing wouldn't go astray, either).

I hope you're all very well,

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Who Stole The Milk Maid's Outfit? + New Human Body Parts

dress - c/o Romwe (way back) | socks - Clear It | blouse - thrifted | shoes - JuJu Shoes

So I'm justifying all my recent clothing purchases by "but it was on my ethical store directory! I should proooobably review it if I haven't already bought stuff from that store!"
The latest item to succumb to this "justification": these Juju Jellies. I thought that they were great (and looked amazing) until I tried to walk the 15 minutes uphill from the train station to my parents house last night whilst wearing them - where my choice of shoes inadvertently turned that short walk into an excruciating 35-minute hobble. This is because while the heel isn't so steep, the slight decline causes my pinkie toe to be wedged into a very uncomfortable position into that last cut-out before the toe-cap of the shoes. I thought my pinkie toenails were going to be black and bruised by the time I got the shoes off. Maybe I just have weird feet, or tiny pinkies, and I'll try to remedy the situation with some kind of soft foam on the insides of my shoes. Because while they're uncomfortable to walk in they're also BEAUTIFUL and I don't want to have to part ways with them! I think that these would probably be more comfortable.

So did you guys know that we're still discovering body parts?? As mad as it sounds, we are still learning about the basic anatomy of the human body, and finding things that we didn't already know existed. This new human body part is called the "anterolateral ligment" and is a ligament in the knee. People have suspected its existence in the past, but it's never been defined or definitively said to exist (meaning, it hasn't been something knee surgeons are taught about) until now.

That's like knowing there is a vague large mushy shape in the chest that beats occasionally, but not knowing that it's a heart (and having chest surgeons argue for years that it doesn't exist). Alright so it's not as important as a heart for life, but allow me this analogy.

I might be popping in here less frequently over the next 2 weeks while I finish off my exams and write up my giant scary research report! Wish me luck! 

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Buns & Bikes & Biochemistry Basics (part 1)

dress - Bonne Chance Collections | shoes - c/o Yeswalker | bike - Reid Cycles

With this bike, I successfully obtained Hipster level 9000 (I subtracted 1000 points due to my lack of square black-framed glasses - with them I would obtain the status of Ultimate Hipster. Too bad). I've been riding this beautiful thing around everywhere since I got it on Thursday, as you can probably see from the many bruises now adorning my legs (I bruise extraordinarily easily and am also pretty clumsy - not the best combination for bike riding, but I don't care!)

On the weekend, I rode to some fantastic second-hand markets where I also picked up this coat:
Which was a highly inappropriate purchase considering that it was a sweltering 30 degrees, and Sydney summers never require coats, but I couldn't help myself with its sailor-esque collar and cute white buttons.

Now, let's talk genetics!

Genetics and the basics of biochemistry take a long time to wrap your head around. Much of my love of science comes from actually understanding how things work. When you read science stories, you might be like, "yay! researchers discovered the gene for disease x!" and "scientists found that too much protein y makes you develop disease z!", and while that's awesome, without a background in molecular biology, you may also be like "...okay, but what does that actually mean?"

What the heck even are cells, DNA, genes, chromosomes and proteins?

So what I'm going to do in the next few posts is attempt to explain what these terms mean. I'm assuming no prior knowledge of anything biology-related. Today I'm going to explain cells, chromosomes and DNA. Let's go!

Your body is actually composed of units called "cells". Cells are little water-filled sacks that contain useful things needed to sustain life, including DNA. Take a look at your skin. If you could zoom right in on a single cell, using microscopic eyes, you would see something like this:
This cell actually looks like it's not very healthy, as it's been burst open on the left side and all of its contents are spilling out. Also, top-layer skin cells are usually actually dead cells without any DNA in them - skin needs to be tough, so this layer of cells often sacrifice themselves to become a tough outer-layer - but let's ignore that fact for the moment. Imagine that we're looking at skins cells a few layers of skin deep.

Cells make up most of your body - your organs, your bones, your brain - it's all made up of cells. And cells are pretty tiny, around 0.00001 - 0.00005 metres long.

However, in each of your cells - except for your red blood cells - you have 2 metres of a thing called DNA that is wound up really, really tightly. Remember how teeny tiny I just said cells were? So your DNA is wound up REALLY tightly to fit 2 metres of the stuff within every cell.

When DNA is all wound up like this, it's given the name "chromosome". A chromosome is really just a long strand of DNA, that's been wound around on itself a bunch of times. You have 46 chromosomes in each of your cells - 23 of these come from your mother, and 23 from your father. Each time a cell splits into two (which is how your body grows and fixes itself), it copies each of these chromosomes, and gives equally half to each cell it divides into.

DNA has written on it all the biological instructions needed to make you. These biological instructions come in the form of different molecules (molecules are things which are made up from a few conjoined atoms - and we'll get into that later) called "bases". Bases are what DNA is made out of.

In DNA, there are four such bases, and we give each a different letter: A, T, G and C. 
The way that these bases are laid out along the DNA provides DNA with a kind of "language" that the cell can read, and from that, make particular things. For example, if your cell's "reader" (called RNA Polymerase) reads the sequence ATGTCGCGGATG, they will say "Oh! Make some blood-clotting factors!" whereas CCAAGTGTGCA will tell your cell to make insulin (okay, so it's a little more complicated than that, and the sequences it reads are a lot longer, but that's the basic idea of DNA!)

Did you know that you can even extract DNA from cells and have a look at it - using household items? I wrote instructions on exactly how to do so a few months ago! Though remember - unless you have microscopic eyes, you're not going to be able to actually see those bases. To even begin to be able to do that, you'd first need an electron scanning microscope. To wrap your head around the teeny size of cells, and the size of something as small as DNA (even though you've got 2 metres of it in each cell, it's very, VERY thin!) check out this website: The Scale of the Universe.

Read part two here!

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Saturday, 2 November 2013

Watermelons, Zebras and Tactile Touchscreens

 dress - c/o Oasap | watermelon shirt - DIY | shoes - c/o Chicwish | socks - Thrifted

This is probably the best photo-taking wall I've found since I moved to Sydney last April. One of my favourite things while out and exploring our neighborhood is coming across bizarre public murals such as this one. As for my outfit, after putting on this shirt I decided to just go the whole way and embody a watermelon by pairing it with a red skirt and green socks. 

Also, I've been asked to speak at a TEDxWomen event that's happening here in a month's time! I'm pretty crazy nervous about it, but as it is going to be about one of my favourite things - science communication - it would help me immensely if you could let me know what your favourite science post was from my blog. (You can read through all my science posts here). The talk will be posted on the internet sometime in the future, and I'll make sure to include a link to it here when it is (so long as I don't just, you know, get up and drool for 5 minutes.).

This research project (somewhat strangely) being carried out by Disney is awesome: The creation of tactile touchscreens. Disney have been attempting to develop a technology which will allow people to feel the texture and gradients of images behind a touch screen. The screen itself stays perfectly flat, but the illusion of a three-dimensional object is generated by manipulation of the friction between a finger and the screen using electrical impulses.
Read more here and have a great day!

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