Tag Archives: christmas

The Red Nose Gene [Repost]

Rudolph's Family

Originally posted on 24 December 2012 when my now 5 year old was 4.

Tis the season…for my 4 year old to ask me to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer repeatedly during any car trip longer than 30 seconds. My apologies to anyone who gets caught in the crossfire. My singing does not get better with repetition.

My kids also love the Rankin/Bass stop animation classic film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. As you probably have come to expect, I have had a lot of time to wonder about how two seemingly normal reindeer could have a child with a glowing nose. Classic genetics is well-equipped to deal with this problem.

Both Santa and we should be very concerned about the genetics of red reindeer noses. According to Wikipedia, the Rudolph story dates back to 1939. There have probably been quite a few foggy Christmas Eves in the intervening years. According to the Pittsburgh Zoo, reindeer typically live for 10 years in the wild. While we can expect that Santa’s reindeer do a bit better than those in the wild, it is clear that Rudolph alone would not be able to “guide Santa’s sleigh” today. Given their success breeding flying reindeer, it is not hard to imagine that Santa’s elves could generate a stable of red-nosed reindeer. How they would go about doing so would depend on how, genetically, Rudolph wound up with that first Red Nose. Continue reading

Eggnog – Alcohol & raw eggs make the season bright [Repost]

Originally posted on 21 December 2012, the Traditional Egg Nog recipe has passed independent replication by Josh Witten.

My father is a very clever man. Long ago, as a Christmas Eve was coming to a close and we were preparing to plate up our milk and cookie offering to Santa, my dad stopped us with a suggestion. Arguing that, because our name was near the end of the alphabet, we were going to be one of the last houses Santa visited. Therefore, the jolly old elf would be very cold and tired of milk. Instead, we should leave him some bourbon to warm him up. It didn’t take long for our young minds to realize that a warmed up and happy Santa was much more likely to leave us better loot. As it happened, Dad had some of Santa’s favorite bourbon (parents know these things), which by amazing coincidence was also my dad’s favorite. I would hazard to say that this was the creation of our family’s traditional Christmas drink: alcohol.

In the spirit (or spirits) of my family’s holiday tradition, this post is going to celebrate my personal favorite Christmasy holiday drink: eggnog. Continue reading

Christmas Shuffle [Repost]

The Best of ChristmasOriginally posted on 20 December 2012.

Last year our eldest daughter (then 3, now 4), The Frogger, fell in love with the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. This year she is obsessed with “A Holly Jolly Christmas”. It is no coincidence that both songs are performed by Burl Ives in the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Cut to me, in the car, frantically pushing buttons to cycle through CDs and play Burl Ives singing “A Holly Jolly Christmas” in order to fulfill the heartfelt request of my child. Experienced parents will know that there are a variety of potential motivations for such behavior beyond simply avoiding a tantrum, for example cutting short a half-hour of repeatedly yelling the same three lines of the song with 73.21% accuracy.

Having found the correct CD and as I pushed buttons to get to the right track, I began to wonder if I was taking the shortest route to my song of choice. There are three possible routes to any given track on my car’s CD player. Continue reading

The Gift of Science: Handmade & Hand-Picked

il_570xN.506447360_hf9vThis one-of-a-kind ring in citrine and bronze depicts a honey fungus, or Armillaria. A perfect gift for a mycologist or anyone who appreciates the more obscure beauties of nature. $120

These “nondenominational festive ornaments” celebrate the contributions of six key women in science: Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Blackwell and Ada Lovelace.

Hang them on your Christmas tree, menorah, Festivus pole or wall. Made of wood with ribbon hangers. $36 – also available as a set of coasters.

Delftia is a new Israel-based etsy shop featuring jewelry made by a self-described “nerdy armchair scientist and metalworker.” Her science and nature inspired pieces include brains, atoms and caffeine molecules, but our favorite is this silver and brass pendant of Darwin’s original sketch for the tree of life. $45

Beautiful, practical and sustainable, this cutting board adorned with a Fibonacci spiral can be customized with an Einstein quote or with your own personal message. (Please note 3 week lead time if you need it by Christmas.) The shop also features other boards with science motifs, including a periodic table, DNA spiral or solar system. $45

Remember your furry friends (and your microbiologist or infectious-disease specialist friends) with an adorable needle felted pathogenic cat toy by Mycrobe Catnip. Pretend your cat is a healthy immune system or strong antibiotic tearing into this catnip-infused bacterium. Lots of other nasties available in Mycrobe’s shop, including myxococcus, trypanosoma and giardia. $10

Sevenstone makes simple and beautiful bowls, vases and tealights from lovely rocks – like this small vase “crafted from a polished glacier stone with a striking band of quartz” A perfect gift for a geology fan, or for anyone who appreciates decor that is both rugged and refined. $65

Genegeek’s line of cross-stitched Christmas ornaments merge old-fashioned craft with modern science. Our favorite is the DNA double helix.

Note that the DNA double helix is in the correct, right-handed direction.

You can also choose from microscope, pipette or cell motifs. $7.70 each or $24.05 for a set of all four.

A slingshot is an ideal vehicle for exploring numerous concepts of basic physics: tension, elasticity, potential and kinetic energy, just to name a few. So you can tell yourself that is why you want this sweet, handcrafted slingshot. Says the maker: “Each one-of-a-kind slingshot is handmade in San Francisco from forked tree branches. They’re carefully varnished, twined in shellacked hemp, and outfitted with a leather projectile pouch using natural latex tubing and imitation sinew. So grab one, head outside and cause some mischief.” OK! $36

Get extra-scientifically clean with handmade glycerin soaps from Sky Rain Soap, an etsy shop packed with choices like astronauts and meteors (pictured), crinoids and trilobites, dinosaurs, elements, and plenty of robots and aliens.Perfect stocking stuffers from $3 and up.

Why wear reindeer when you could have dinosaurs? Be the toast of holiday nerd gatherings with this screen-printed sweatshirt featuring Santa with a triceratops and an apatosaurus. $29

Eggnog – Alcohol & raw eggs make the season bright

My father is a very clever man. Long ago, as a Christmas Eve was coming to a close and we were preparing to plate up our milk and cookie offering to Santa, my dad stopped us with a suggestion. Arguing that, because our name was near the end of the alphabet, we were going to be one of the last houses Santa visited. Therefore, the jolly old elf would be very cold and tired of milk. Instead, we should leave him some bourbon to warm him up. It didn’t take long for our young minds to realize that a warmed up and happy Santa was much more likely to leave us better loot. As it happened, Dad had some of Santa’s favorite bourbon (parents know these things), which by amazing coincidence was also my dad’s favorite. I would hazard to say that this was the creation of our family’s traditional Christmas drink: alcohol.

In the spirit (or spirits) of my family’s holiday tradition, this post is going to celebrate my personal favorite Christmasy holiday drink: eggnog. Continue reading