Apart from acting as an indicator of hygiene, the presence of this six-legged creature often prompt nerve-breaking shrieks and wails from ladies and men alike.

Cockroaches, however, are no less fascinating. They’re nocturnal, have two brains (one inside their skulls, and a second, more primitive brain that is back near their abdomen), they have cream-colored blood, they can tolerate a higher dose of radiation (cockroaches survived the atomic bombs test blast at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands), and female stores sperms which may last her a lifetime.

Cockroaches will eat almost anything including glue, feces, hair, decayed leaves, paper, leather, banana skins, other cockroaches, and dead or alive humans. They will not, however, eat cucumbers. They are particulary fond of dried milk around a baby’s mouth. German cockroaches Blattella germanica, the most common domestic roach in the United States, have been observed to live 45 days without food, and more than two weeks with neither food nor water.
The roaches are not confined to any particular environment and live in a tremendous variety of places, from underneath woodpiles in Alaska to high in the jungle canopy in the tropics of Costa Rica. They are even found in the caves of Borneo and under the thorn bushes in arid stretches of Kenya. Wherever they live, they are masters at surviving.
The insect is also notoriously hard to kill.

Richard Schweid, the author of The Cockroach Papers observes that

“when a cockroach feels a breeze stirring the hairs on its cerci, it does not wait around to see what is going to happen next, but leaves off whatever it is doing and goes immediately into escape mode in something remarkably close to instantaneous fashion.”
Studies show that a cockroaches can respond in about 1/20th of a second, so

“by the time a light comes on and human sight can register it, much less react by reaching for and hoisting something with which to squash it, a roach is already locomoting towards safety.”
Since it’s almost impossible to kill a cockroach physically, we must resort to chemicals.

I had the opportunity to test the resolve of the German roach firsthand.  In one of my past employment adventures I cared for roaches.  Yes, a long story for another blog entry.  Suffice to say, captive roaches do not fear Raid or HotShot nearly as much as I felt they should.  So what can one do if these visitors have infested their home?

Make them come to us and fight back dirty!

Get some moist stale while bread with warm, slightly soured beer, and then place it in a jar. Apply petroleum jelly, for example Vaseline to the interior rim of the jar to prevent the trapped insect from climbing out.
Next, dispose the intruder accordingly. I suggest fire grinding or draino.  Raid will work, but close the container and let it steep. 

You may not want it to return so make sure it is killed and not released. It’s not an endangered species anyway.


How organizational structure and conflict relate to each other.
Teamwork requires cooperation and communication.  When you have diverse teams with different job tasks and goals, then conflict will arise.  In some cases this conflict will benefit the organization by motivating each team to work harder in competition with one another (Ivancevich et al, 2008).  However this can also backfire and cause anti productive behaviors between the teams.  If key factors are missing, then the conflict will often consume both teams and lead to failure (Sheard & Kakabadse, 2001).  
Key factors like clear goals for each time, clear leadership, good communication, appropriate resources and infrastructure are needed for success.  Without these factors conflict among teams can become disruptive (Sheard & Kakabadse, 2001).
If the organization has the foresight to design the teams and interaction with intelligence, then conflict can be reduced (van der Helm, 2007).  I have teams that are organized by floor in a large facility.  Each team is responsible for their own area, yet they have a reciprocal independence amongst each other.  The success of each team and the completion of their work relies upon the output of the other floors.  This can cause conflict if one floor perceives another as slacking or giving them inferior materials.  One of the techniques used to alleviate conflicts is common goals and objectives for all teams and variable rewards for achieving those goals. We have also provided better communication tools and training in conflict resolution so they can manage relatively minor issues independently without management involvement.  This has dramatically reduced the number of disciplines and productivity problems.
Chong, P., & Benli, O. (2005). Consensus in team decision making involving resource allocation. Management Decision, 43(9), 1147-1160.
Drea, C., & Carter, A.P. (2009). Cooperative problem solving in a social carnovore. Animal Behavior, 78, 967-977.
Ivancevich, J.M., Konopaske, R., & Matteson, M.T. (2008). Organizational Behavior Management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin
Sheard, A.G., & Kakabadse, A.P. (2001). From loose groups to effective teams. The Journal of Management and Development, 21(2), 133-155
van der Helm, R. (2007). Ten insolvable dilemmas of participation and why foresight has to deal with them. Foresight, 9(3), 1-17.

Mimicry is an art.

Human seeks to mimic animal call, other humans, a certain repertoire for the purpose of hunting, defence, or simply to entertain. But even a seasoned mimicry artist of our world would have paled in comparison to some of the masters of mimicry of the animal kingdom.

For them, mastering the art of mimicry is a matter of life or death.

A Stick Insect. Image:

Most animals mimic to defend themselves. Some to attract mate, and some, for example chameleons
and alligator snapping turtles mimic(or camouflage) for food.

An Alligator Snapping Turtle. Image:

Yesterday I read this article about a phorid fly, Vestigipoda longiseta, from southeast Asia, that mimics ant larvae.


The long “grubworm” part of the body is simply the enormously elongated and unpigmented abdomen of the adult. This has all evolved from an ancestor that looks pretty much like the flies you know.

You can imagine why natural selection would favor this resemblance: the ants tend and feed the larvae, and mistake the flies for their own brood. It’s a lifetime of free lunches! The ants also protect the flies and carry them (like they carry their own larvae) when a colony is on the move.

An adult of V. longiseta being carefully carried by an Aenictus ant. Image:

Why can’t the ants detect these intruders? Well, they’re not terribly harmful, getting just a bit of food from the colony, so there’s probably not strong selection to weed them out. Ants, of course, have pretty bad vision, so they probably can’t see the intruders as different from their own brood. There’s probably chemical mimicry going on here as well: the hydrocarbon molecules on the fly’s cuticule may well resemble the compounds on ant larvae, so that the ants, who “taste” these hydrocarbons, are fooled by chemical mimicry.

Another master of mimicry that I would like to introduce to you all is the Mimic Octopus. Read my previous post~

A Mimic Octopus. Image:

And another one which really amazes me is the Superb Lyrebird. I remember watching a video about the mimicry power of this bird when I was in Form 2, and I thought it was fake. Given the handicapped technology of that time, and the level of maturity of the audience, I was unable to record the episode for further review.

A Superb Lyrebird.

Nevertheless, I found this video on youtube yesterday. Watch as Sir David Attenborough (Sir David Attenborough is a fantastic naturalist; down-to-earth, full of knowledge, a titan of science) relates the ability of this bird to mimic the call of every other birds, including other sounds it hears: chainsaw, camera shutter, cars… FOR REAL!

A planthopper mimicking a leaf. Image:


Caterpillar mimicking a snake to scare off birds. Image:

Dead-leaf butterfly. Image:

Have you ever wondered how insects, especially small ones like mosquitoes and flies survive the downpour?

Raindrops pose hazard to mosquitoes because of their relatively large mass and speed. A mosquito is around 2~5mm in length, weighs around 2mg, and flies at 1m/s. On the other end, a drop of rain has 1~4mm radius, weighs 2~50 times the weight of a mosquito, and travels at 5~9m/s. Putting that into perspective, it’s like us getting hit by a blob of water with the size of a shopping cart, weighs 3 tons and travels at 18~32 km per hour.

It’s an irony that the delicate blood-sucking parasite thrives in wet, rain-laden tropical country like Malaysia. Wouldn’t they be crushed to death by the raindrops?


Mechanical engineer David Hu of the Georgia Institute of Technology who thought of this question placed some mosquitoes in a cage and exposed them to water drops. Slow motion footage showed that rather than dodging the water drops, the insect flew right into the them.

Since the mosquitoes were so lightweight, the raindrops lost very little momentum upon impact. By minimizing resistance, the insect minimized the impact of collision. So instead of flattening the insect, the water drops simply spun the mosquitoes away, though the insects recovered soon afterward.
It’s like an asteroid hitting a piece of paper: the paper is so lightweight that it’s just pushed aside.

And nature has given mosquitoes a helping hand: mosquitoes are designed to be hydrophobic, thanks to the hairs on the mosquitoes’ body. The hairy surface increases the wing’s surface area, and thus its energetic cost of wetting. Thanks to this hydrophobicity, low speed drops simply bounce off the insect.


Moreover, insects are blessed with hard exoskeleton to help them withstand the impact. And mosquitoes could withstand sudden acceleration of up to 300Gs. If we were in a comparable situation we wouldn’t even survive past 2Gs.

Thanks to its tiny weight and hydrophobicity, the evil parasite lives to suck another victim.


I hate cutting onions. Actually, I used to hate cutting onions. Now I am not bothered by the tears. Onions were just too good to give up over a few tears.

When we cut open an onion, we allow an enzyme called alliinases to react and break down amino acid to generate sulphenic acid. At this point the chemical still remains on the cutting board– so how does it get to our eyes?


A second enzyme called lachrymatory factor synthase or LFS later mix with sulphenic acidto form, get ready for this, propanethiol S-oxidePropanethiol S-oxide is a volatile gas, and it travels readily in the air. When the gas reaches your eyes, it mixes with water in your eyes to form sulfuric acid. This prompts our eyes to release water to irrigate the irritating invader.

The natural reaction to the Propanethiol S-oxide invasion is to shut your eyes. This, of course, is not a good idea if you are cutting an onion. Rubbing your eyes is a bad idea, since your hands are likely full of the tear-making onion juice, and by rubbing your eyes you are actually transferring the sulphenic acid to your eyes, in addition to the sulfuric acid induced by the Propanethiol S-oxide gas.


So how do you keep from crying? I believe there are many methods out there, or some traditional methods passed down from mom to child. One that I have tried and works is from WikiHow.  It suggests briefly freezing the onion, using a sharp knife, and cutting near a strong fume hood. Downside- I never prepare far enough in advance and freeze the onion.

Another tried and true, if not inconvenient method is to cut underwater.  I believe the water dilutes the chemicals making it a cry free experience. But then who has the time, space and inclination to cut onions underwater every time?

Otherwise, I’ll stick to wearing goggles. This works like a charm, is quick and ideal for the lazy chef.



In the process of beginning to teach my son about computer programming we came upon the topic of computer.  An obvious requirement for learning to program. As an Apple family, we have only Macintosh computers.  But my son asked who invented the computer.

No, it wasn’t Steve Jobs.

While Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs did lay the groundwork for the home computer revolution, they cannot be credited with the device itself.

Some people might say Alan Turing, the guy who, in the 1930s, laid the foundation for computational science.
Back in college I was a dual computer science and marine science major.  I did actually take a rather dry course on the history of the computer.  Going back into the early days of vacuum tubes and electro mechanical counting machines, even some discussion of the ancient abacus. But one name came up over and over. Charles Babbage.
 Did an eccentric mathematician named Charles Babbage conceive of the first programmable computer in the 1830s, a hundred years before the idea was put forth in its modern form by Alan Turing?
Charles Babbage? Yeah it got me wondering too, and thinking… after all a small software retail chain was names after him until its demise in the 1990’s.
I wiki-ed the guy and here’s some fact about him:
He was born 1791 and died 79 years later. He was born in London into a quite well-off family. Smart but constantly plagued by health problem, he loved mathematics and was a member of the Ghost Club, a club concerned with investigating the supernatural.
In Babbage’s time, numerical tables were calculated by humans who were called ‘computers’, meaning “one who computes”. At Cambridge, he saw the high error-rate of this human-driven process and started his life’s work of trying to calculate the tables mechanically. He began in 1822 with what he called the difference engine, made to compute values of polynomial functions….. using the method of finite differences, it was possible to avoid the need for multiplication and division.— wikipedia.

Babbage, however, didn’t manage to build his machine due to cost overrun and political disagreements. He did, however, completed the plan of the machine, and the Science Museum in London actually built the machine in 1991, and guess what, it actually works.
So Babbage did came up with the concept of computer in 1800s. But he didn’t actually build it. So can he really be called the Father of Computer? I’ll leave it to you to decide.
I am quite certain Mr. Babbage did not imagine a world of iPhones and iPads, and wireless internet. But his early ideas did pave the way for these devices.

The Pufferfish is considered the second deadliest vertebrate in the world, after the Golden Poison Frog. The common image we have of this creature is that it inflates when threatened. I have kept these fish in an aquarium, and in my experience they rarely puff out in captivity.

What makes the Pufferfish, also called the Fugu so popular is the lethal toxin in its liver, skin and the ovaries, and the fact that the Japanese treat it as a delicacy. Pretty ironic I guess? By the way it is extremely expensive and prepared only by trained, licensed chefs who, like all humans, occasionally make mistakes.


Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. The toxin paralyzes the muscles, including the muscles in our diaphragm, which is essential for breathing. The victim eventually dies of asphyxiation. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote. Tetrodotoxin has been isolated from widely differing animal species, including western newts of the genus Taricha (where it was formerly termed “tarichatoxin”), pufferfishtoads of the genus Atelopus, several species of blue-ringed octopuses of the genusHapalochlaena (where it was called “maculotoxin”), several sea stars, certain angelfish, a polyclad flatworm, several species of Chaetognatha (arrow worms), several nemerteans (ribbonworms) and several species of xanthid crabs.

Tetrodotoxin molecule


Negative aspects aside, Puffer Fish makes cute companion.

Of course, don’t go around scaring puffer fish because a puffer fish could only perform a limited number of inflation in its life.


When a Pufferfish is threatened, it will pump itself up by taking 35 gulps or so in the course of 14 seconds. Each gulp draws in a big load of water thanks to some peculiar anatomic changes in the muscles and bones. The entire fish balloons as it continuously takes water into its stomach.

The stomach expands to nearly a hundred times its original volume, and the fish’s spine, already slightly curved, bends into an upside-down U shape, and all other internal organs become squeezed between the fish’s backbone and its rapidly expanding stomach. Meanwhile, the fish’s skin is pushed out, obscuring most of the puffer’s features-

Image: Sally J. Bensusen. American Museum of Natural History.

Sometimes they have difficulties expelling water from their stomach, and hence they actually risk dying every time they inflate. I guess we should record a default video showing one individual inflating itself on a public website to prevent curious divers/swimmers/fishers going around harming more Pufferfish. Pufferfish belong to family Tetraodontidae is a family of primarily marine and estuarine fish of the order Tetraodontiformes. The family includes many familiar species, which are variously called pufferfishpuffersballoonfishblowfishbubblefishglobefishswellfishtoadfishtoadies,honey toadssugar toads, and sea squab. They are morphologically similar to the closely related porcupinefish, which have large external spines (unlike the thinner, hidden spines of Tetraodontidae, which are only visible when the fish has puffed up). The scientific name refers to the four large teeth, fused into an upper and lower plate, which are used for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks, their natural prey.

With all of this, many people still consider Fugo to be a delicacy , especially in Japan.