What’s on Your Napkin?

whiteboard_graph2Either nature or my brain or both do a wonderful job of clustering related things for me so that I often feel coming along many related things within a short time. Recently, I read Stuart L. Pimm‘s wonderful The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth. It contains the following sentence:

« Robert Colwell, an ecologist from the University of Connecticut, and I were sitting in a bar drinking Antarctica and excitedly drawing lines on paper napkins, the preferred medium of serious scientific discourse worldwide. »

Shortly afterwards, I learned about the blog What’s on my blackboard? showing people’s blackboards (or whiteboards) which are often stunning.

Hence my question: what’s on your napkin? I dare you: grab your smartphones and share images of your napkins full of scientific sketches and/or formulas!

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Regular Viruses

As long as they do not infect us, viruses are nothing but fascinating. One aspect of this fascination is based on the shapes of viruses. Looking at electron microscopy images of viruses or at computer models based on X-ray crystallography, my impression is that mother nature has copied from a geometry book. This impression is echoed by what you find in books and papers on virology. Why do biologists think about possible polyhedra with icosahedral symmetry? Why is it that many viruses have the shape of such polyhedra? For some years, it seemed like biologists had a very accurate theory of the construction of such regular viruses. Advances in imaging have left them less confident but with an even higher appreciation of the formation of biological shapes.

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