Monday, February 02, 2004

Study break

Most of the time I'm thankful for scientific names. They are either logically descriptive (central sulcus), based on Latin roots (fenestrated cappilaries), named something so bizarre you remember it forever (Sonic hedgehog is a morphogenic chemical produced in developing embryos; sea slugs have two proteins named piccolo and bassoon which aid in synaptic vesicle release), or after the dead super-scientist who discovered it (Wernicke's area.) With any luck at all I'm able to remember the correct spelling, except when it comes to the dead scientists. Especially the German ones, who tend to have particularly difficult names. I must admit I came across one of the better ones as I studied for my functional neuroanatomy midterm. After pawing through 2 pages worth of planes of section, brain divisions, lobes and cortical areas, sulci and gyri, subcortical structures, fiber tracts and nerves I pulled up short when I came to the nucleus ambiguus. I can just imagine the naming process... Several tired scientists are poking around in a brain or looking at sectional samples when one of them sees something new. "Hey, what does this do?" "I dunno." "Well what's it's name?" "I dunno. Doesn't have one. I already used up my last name on that other fiber tract area thingy." "Me too. Except I named the ventral glob body watchamacalit after me already." "OK well since we don't know what it does and no one else has named it, lets call it the nucleus ambiguus and publish a paper describing our find." "Alright." And so they do. The function for the nucleus ambiguus has probably since been discovered, but the name hasn't been changed to something more useful because that's another thing about science. No one changes names once they've been established. It's too confusing, so we just keep the old ones even when they're misleading and inaccurate. Science is full of this sort of thing. Keeps it crazy. Current mood: listless Current music: "Purromatic" by Methyl GTOTD: 1990 BMW in my driveway. (No, it doesn't run. Yet.)


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