Theme Week: WEIRD SCIENCE! August 8, 2021 5:29 PM   Subscribe

Hey, MetaFilter! We're having a theme week, as part of our fundraising month! The theme for this week is WEIRD SCIENCE! I want to see all kinds of science posts, about stuff I would NEVER learn if it weren't on MetaFilter! Old science, new science, weird forms of life, neat rocks, misbehaving AI, I want it all! Tag your posts weirdscience, and feel free to share them in this thread. FILL MY LIFE WITH WEIRD SCIENCE, MEFI!

(Can I say it's part of our FUNdraising month? Too dad-jokey?)

Bonus Oingo Boingo
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 5:29 PM (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

The very first WeirdScience post is a fun one!
posted by taz (staff) at 2:35 AM on August 9


On foot of an Ask about old peaches, I did some instant research on the discovery of sucralose / Splenda. It all hinged on one researcher mishearing another.. Saccharine was discovered when Constantin Fahlberg forgot to wash his hands; and aspartame when ulcer-drug researcher James M. Schlatter licked his fingers to shuffle papers.
posted by BobTheScientist at 9:02 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Weird Science!? This topic has prerequisites. I know to you kids, it's a dumb 80s movie I never saw... but to me, this is a prime example of the real, EC Weird Science, last published in 1953.
posted by Rash at 9:37 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


The answer to "Which pair of scientists made the first contribution to cracking the genetic code?" is not "Crick and Watson" - they 'just' gave us the physical structure of DNA. It is rather a couple of much-less-known biochemists Marshall Nirenberg and Heinrich Matthaei, who in 1961, instead of looking at the ceiling thinking, were looking at the lab-bench experimenting. They loaded the contents of a typical cell in a test tube, fed into the sludge an RNA molecUUUUUUUle consisting entirely of the base Uracil and generated an artificial protein consisting entirely of the amino acid phenylalanine. The first step, UUU=Phe, in cracking the code had been made: it was like Thomas Young's Rosetta Stone insight that cartouches in hieroglyphic script represented proper names. The other codings were knocked off over the next tuthree years by Nirenberg, Matthaei and many others and the real genetic code was revealed to be a robust but quirky kludge of contingency, accident and evolution. Nirenberg shared the 1968 Nobel prize with Holley and Khorana, and Matthaei didn't, adding to the list of controversial awards associated with Mr Dynamite's legacy. I've always supposed it was because nobodaei could spell his name properlaei. That's why UUU occupies top left place of honour on the table for standard genetic code.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:39 AM on August 10 [4 favorites]


Does weird science fiction count?
posted by Kattullus at 2:54 PM on August 10


Very small but very abundant Procholorococcus.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:17 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Does weird science fiction count?

My opinion on theme posts is like my opinion on getting takeout: if you can make a convincing argument, the answer is yes, and the argument doesn't have to be all that convincing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:12 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Here’s another post in the series, not sure the science there is really that "weird" by now but it’s still a pretty novel field and I’m interpreting "weird" in a wide sense aaand the article popped up in my google feed this morning so I thought I might post it!
posted by bitteschoen at 9:20 AM on August 11


Thank you, Made of Star Stuff, for a fabulous and insightful comment about gene names! (And nubs made me laugh. Perfect.) I am out of my element wrt science posts, but this theme week has been a fun way to learn something new.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:17 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


This week has been delightful, I have learned SO MANY THINGS, you all are the best sorts of nerds!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:33 PM on August 13


Tossed in my first front-page post since 2004 just for this, though it's more new science than weird science. An update on protein folding (a.k.a. quō vādis structural biology)!
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 9:05 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


"Tossed in my first front-page post since 2004 just for this, though it's more new science than weird science"

DO THE THING, I AM LEARNING THE THING.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:17 PM on August 15


Just glad I could squeeze in riiiiiiight before SWEET ART. (Don't get me wrong, there are some very pretty protein structures, but most don't quite meet my standards as SWEET ARTTM).
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 9:27 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


I didn't tag the carnivorous plant post as "weird science" but if people feel that it fits with the theme, I'm happy to go back and do so.
posted by sardonyx at 8:42 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Actually, it doesn't seem as if I can add a tag, but if the mods want to put one on, go ahead.
posted by sardonyx at 1:45 PM on August 17


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