Thursday, February 23, 2012

With their powers combined...they are SUPER GEEK!

Scary things happen when two like-minded geeks get together. Not only do they start "geeking out" together by gushing on about their shared passions, but they also teach each other things and add to each other's geeky knowledge.  Such an occurrence recently took place.

About two years ago, I met Karen Verderame of the Academy of Natural Sciences here in Philadelphia. I was getting a tour with a couple of coworkers and being introduced to some of the staff, when I saw Karen's office. It was full of bugs.  I can't remember my exact words, but I think they were something to the extent of "Look at those giant cockroaches! COOL!"  The geeky fire had been lit, and Karen and I spent the next 10 minutes or so talking about everything with an exoskeleton. Then, like a reluctant child, I was told by my coworker that we had to go.

Last night I was able to meet up again with Karen at a discussion about insects held at the nature center where I work. It was an hour and a half of geeky goodness--I had found someone as insanely passionate about her field as I am mine.  She shared stories of insect courtship, expensive insect shipments gone wrong (curse you FedEx!), and her love for her favorite insects: cockroaches.  I asked Karen if she loved the movie Wall-E for its cockroach star...
...and not only did she reply with an enthusiastic "yes!" but she also proceeded to identify Hal (yup, that's his name, I Googled it and everything) as an American cockroach and spouted off all sorts of facts about what will undoubtedly be the last survivor on Earth. And speaking of cockroaches and courtship, some male cockroaches will backup with their *ahem* "equipment" bared and just hope they run into a nearby female. No dinner first or anything!

Remember how I said that geeks learn things from each other?  The above cockroach love quest story is just one example of a geeky factoid I picked up from Karen. Last night I also discovered that I didn't know as much as I thought about scorpions!  At the discussion, Karen brought along a vinegaroon, which is one of the coolest looking scorpions ever.
No, that is not my hand. Or Karen's.

See those claws on the front? They as much define a scorpion as their distinctive tail (which tailless whip scorpions lack). Well those claws are also not legs, they're mouth parts!  Scorpions, like spiders, have modified mouth parts that help them acquire food. In spiders, they're called pedipalps and sometimes resemble small legs. In scorpions, they resemble claws and can function just like a crab's pincers!

The shortest "legs" in the front are actually mouth parts!

Oh and the name vinegaroon? It has to do with the scorpion's defense, which is not the venom that other scorpions use. Instead, the vinegaroon emits a small drop of acetic acid, also known as vinegar. Karen told us that often times she won't even know that a vinegaroon has used its defense on her until those around her start asking if anyone else smells vinegar. Hey Karen, with Easter coming up, I think you should tell them it's just the Easter bunny preparing to dye all those eggs and watch their response.  Maybe they'll learn something too!

Would you like to acquire some new geeky knowledge?  How about watching some videos...for science?

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