Well, that lab was even MORE interesting than I expected.
When I started on this educational journey, I knew it would take me to new places.
I didn't expect Madagascar.
Let me explain.
We finished our lecture, then headed into the lab. On the main bench were our usual tools – racks of test tubes waiting to be filled with yeast suspensions, a flask filled with peas and CO2-capturing pellets, (is this a lab or dinner?), a very large beaker set up as an aquarium filled with plants and feeder fish, and a tank with plants and sticks of wood and no sign of any other life.
Where be the mousies? I wondered. More importantly, where be the wine making kit?
I sneaked a closer look at the tank. It looked more like a setup for a snake. Cool. I like mousies, but prefer snakes and rats. Maybe we'd be working with them instead.
Our instructor stared giving us instructions on how to set up the yeast experiments (I didn't understand the logic of using poison in an experiment right before we were supposed to make and taste wine and kim chee, but what do I know?), pointed out the fish and said we'd be testing their respiration in lieu of snails...oh, and there was one more substitution.
We wouldn't be using mice. We'd be using Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.
Mada – f-ing – gascar
She went on to say that we needed to be careful while transferring them to the flasks and to do it over the aquarium, because if they get dropped they are lightening-fast and will scurry to the nearest dark corner. And they breed like nothing you've ever seen. Trust her.
You could hear the whiplash as everyone searched the corners. All those dark, dark laboratory corners.
One of my lab partners actually left the room. Another one flat out refused to go near the aquarium. So that left 'Lily' and me. I like Lily. She was wearing her Betty Page hoodie that night. It's really cool, and she made it herself. Anyway, Lily had no qualms handling Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. And I decided, 'Aw, hell, when am I going to get another opportunity like this one?'
So I did my best to pretend I was a Slytherin (What? Yeah, right, you wouldn't.) and approached the tank.
They were hiding under a piece of rotting wood. They were all piled up snug and close together. They like to be cozy. Social.
And they don't like to be disturbed. They make that perfectly clear by hissing. Loudly. Thus the name. Pick one up, it hisses, you flinch and wait for the bite. Luckily, it doesn't come; they don't bite. They like to cling instead. Think organic Velcro embedding itself into your fingerprints. At least that's what I was thinking at the time.
Hello! I like to hiss and cling!
Oh, and they weigh about as much as a mouse.
Anyway, we managed to convince five of them to squeeze themselves though the narrow neck of the flask(necks as wide as their bodies) and then hooked them up to a gizmo that in turn hooked up to a laptop.
Conclusion to the experiment: Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches breathe.
And no wine making. I could have used a drink. I came home mumbling, “Must wash hands again. Again. Again.”
But I'm still not going to play with the tarantella tucked away in the lab. Neverevernevereverneverever.
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Oh, and a shout-out to one of O's friends and classmates, Jason S, for the nice review of his documentary in The New York Times. Congrats! Can't wait to see it!