* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where Saint Nicholas is so real he can even be verified by science...or even by elementary school science students. This week please welcome the unlikely named Boudreau Freret to our pages. When he is not writing for us, Mr. Freret also contributes to Yankee Pot Roast and The Talking Mirror, both of which can be found in our Blogroll to the right. His first piece for us celebrates Christmas in a spirit of pragmatic rationalism. Cheers! Please note: we will be on holiday hiatus until Wednesday, January 6. Until then, merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Third Grade Science Fair

By:

Similarities Between Reindeer Bioluminescence and Insect Bioluminescence

Susanna O. Brown

Objective:

My objective is to find out if the light emitted from some reindeers’ noses is caused by the same bioluminescence used by insects like glow worms and fireflies.

Question:

Is the light source for a luminous reindeer’s (Rangifer Tarandus, sometimes called Caribou) nose similar to the light source in glow worms (Arachnocampa flava) and fireflies (Lampyridae)?

Hypothesis:

My hypothesis is that light emitting reindeer noses use the same chemical reaction to produce light that glow worms and fireflies use.

Background Information and Research:

Glow worms (not really worms, but larvae of a type of fly) give off light to attract insects so they can catch and eat them. The light is blueish-greenish, and is a product of a chemical reaction between the enzyme luciferase, adenosine triphosphate (ATP, the energy molecule) oxygen, and luciferin (a waste product). See http://www.wettropics.gov.au/pa/pa_fireflies.html.

Fireflies also produce light by the same chemical reaction. See http://iris.biosci.ohio-state.edu/projects/FFiles/frfact.html. The color of firefly light ranges from “intense green to bright yellow.” http://jgp.rupress.org/cgi/reprint/48/1/95.pdf.

Reindeer noses have specialized bones that increase the surface area inside the nostrils. This helps warm incoming cold air with body heat, before the air reaches their lungs. See Wikipedia, Reindeer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reindeer. This may explain how reindeer get the extra oxygen needed for the chemical reaction between the luciferin, the luciferase, and the adenosine triphosphate.

The Wikipedia Reindeer entry does not mention light emitting reindeer noses, but we know from other sources that they exist. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Robert L. May, 1939. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, (Song), Johnnie Marks, 1949. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, (Television Broadcast), Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc., 1964. These sources all describe a light that is red in color, not blue-green or yellow.

A Google Image search for “light up reindeer noses” returned photographs of clothing, costumes, and holiday decorations, as well as many drawings, but no actual photos of reindeer with light emitting noses. The results proved only that the reindeer with light up noses exist, but did not explain the source of the light. However, a search for “glow worms” and “fireflies” produced thousands of actual photographs, many taken in low light. Other than the glow, it was difficult to tell what was in many of these pictures.

Actions Taken and Procedure:

I visited two zoos because that’s the number my dad would drive me to.

The first, Jungle Louie’s Petting Zoo, doesn’t have any reindeer but I did talk to the Executive Director, Louie Cognomi. Mr. Cognomi was very nice, but did not answer any of my questions. I had several questions prepared about how reindeer noses might combine luciferin, luciferase, and adenosine triphosphate, but midway though the first page, Mr. Cognomi interrupted and said I could hold one of the zoo’s sugar gliders if I wanted. It crawled across my shoulders for a few minutes (which tickles), then my dad said it was time for us to leave. I never got any answers.

The Belcher County Zoo has two caribou (another name for reindeer) on loan from the Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board. Neither have light emitting noses. Their handler, Maggie Cervidae, gave me a tour that included her office. There was something on the wall that my dad said was a master’s degree, but it must not be in reindeer, because she didn’t know anything about light up noses. In fact, if I understood her correctly, she said that reindeer do not have light up noses. I know that isn’t right, because so many sources describe one in detail. See Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Robert L. May, 1939, Johnnie Marks, 1949, Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc., 1964.

Results:

We know that some reindeer noses light up, but Wikipedia does not explain why. Mr. Cognomi never answered any of my questions, and Ms. Cervidae incorrectly said that reindeer don’t have noses that light up. Mom and dad just change the subject when I try to talk about it. I don’t know what is going on, but I feel like I’m getting the runaround, and I intend to get to the bottom of all of this before next year’s science fair.

Conclusion:

My hypothesis was that light emitting reindeer noses use the same chemical reaction to produce light that glow worms and fireflies use. My results do not fully support my initial hypothesis. I believe that some of the Google Image results for “glow worms” and “fireflies” are actually poor quality pictures of reindeer with light up noses, particularly the really blurry ones that show what looks like a bright yellow light source. Two color examples are attached to this report as an Appendix. More research is needed to figure out why the light in the photos looks yellow, not red, if the light is produced by the same chemical reaction that glow worms and fireflies use, and why nobody wants to talk to me about it.

Acknowledgments:

I would like to thank my father for driving me to the zoos, my mom for giving me an advance on my allowance so I could have the color photos printed for the Appendix, and my sister, Karen, for loaning me her copy of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your online Christmas shopping superstore. We promise not to let any of our employees send you emails like those some nut from Barnes & Noble sent to our good friend Frank Ferri.

The Status Of Your Order

By:

From: service@barnesandnoble.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 25, 2009 12:58 PM
Subject: Your Barnes & Noble.com Order #BN87208685

Dear Frank Ferri,

Thank you for shopping with us. You’ll receive a follow-up email shortly regarding the status of this order. You can always log into your account at www.bn.com to check on this order and your previous orders.

Once again, thanks for choosing Barnes & Noble!

Sincerely,

The BN.com Team

* * * * * * *

From: service@barnesandnoble.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 25, 2009 1:01 PM
Subject: Your Barnes & Noble.com Order #BN87208685

Dear Frank,

You said you wanted the paperback right? Oops, forget it. I found your order; looking at it now. Yep, paperback. Sorry. Ignore me. Been one of those days.

Sincerely,

Phil Grantlier
Barnes & Noble
Customer Service

* * * * * * *

From: service@barnesandnoble.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 25, 2009 2:12 PM
Subject: Bad News About BN Order #BN87208685

Frank,

Guess what? We can’t find the book you ordered. I know we said we had it, but this is a big-ass warehouse and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of everything. Still, it’s embarrassing. Will write back ASAP when I have more details.

Sincerely,

Phil Grantlier

* * * * * * *

From: service@barnesandnoble.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 25, 2009 2:20 PM
Subject: Great News About BN Order #BN87208685

Hey FF,

Me again.

We found the book! Whew! It wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I’ll have a talk with Randy about being more mindful when he stocks the fiction shelves. Sorry about the scare.

— Phil

P.S. Can I borrow the book when you’re done? Just kidding! I have access to a book or two here. Just one of the perks.

* * * * * * *

From: philandphilsmom@gmail.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 25, 2009 2:28 PM
Subject: Pssst…it’s me, Phil

Frank,

Randy totally snapped at me. I don’t know why I’m putting this on you, but I guess I needed to talk to someone and you’ve been such a good listener lately. Anyway, all I said was, “Randy can you please try to keep the books organized by the author’s last name? It will make everyone’s job a lot easier when trying to locate books.” Then he completely freaked saying I always single him out. He filed a complaint with HR. Any advice?

By the way, I’m sending this from my personal email account. Add me to your contacts! (FYI: keep anything you send me “clean”…I share this address with my mom.)

— PG

* * * * * * *

From: service@barnesandnoble.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 25, 2009 2:32 PM
Subject: Your Barnes & Noble.com Order #BN87208685

Frankie Baby,

Sorry. I was so busy ranting in the last email that I forgot to tell you that your order is packed and ready to ship from our warehouse. I’ll shoot you a tracking number as soon as I get it. Or I can call you with it. Let me know what works for you.

— P

* * * * * * *

From: service@barnesandnoble.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 26, 2009 1:08 AM
Subject: Your Barnes & Noble.com Order #BN87208685

Frank,

I never heard back from you about how you wanted to receive the tracking number. No worries. I was able to access your account and pull up your phone number. You have a 609 area code! That’s New Jersey. We’re in Jersey too! I’ll give you a ring, maybe we can meet up. Talk books???

— Phat Phil

* * * * * * *

From: philandphilsmom@gmail.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 27, 2009 3:37 AM
Subject: FW: hilarious

You have to see the attached!!! This list of blonde jokes is hysterical. The one about Wite-Out on the computer screen is funnier than ever now that no one actually uses that stuff.

Hey Frank, do me a solid and forward this on to ten people?

— Phillip (not flathead screwdriver) Grantlier

* * * * * * *

From: service@barnesandnoble.com
To: fferri@gmail.com
Date: May 28, 2009 10:29 AM
Subject: Last Day

Hi Frank.

Got a bombshell this morning when I came into work! Just letting my closest friends — well, my only friend — know that I’ve been let go by Barnes & Noble. Apparently a customer filed a complaint alleging that my customer service methods “crossed the line from friendly and helpful into the overzealous.” Based on the printed email correspondence provided by this customer, HR said they found my behavior “abnormal and creepy and illustrative of several DSM-IV diagnoses.” Whatever that means. I wish they would just tell me who complained, you know? They’re keeping it all secrety and stuff.

Anyhoo, hit me up on philandphilsmom@gmail.com, since I won’t be at the B&N email address anymore. Oh, I almost forgot! As I was cleaning out my desk and burning a disc of our entire database of customers, I had some extra time, so I looked into your order history. “How to Seek Out Crowds: A Frotteur’s Guide to 24/7 Fun,” “Tax Evasion For Dummies,” “Hanson’s Greatest Hits: Volumes I and II”? Weird stuff. Let me know if you want me to post these and some of your freakier orders on Facebook. I’d love to hear back from you! And for some reason, I think I will this time.

Cheers!

— Phil

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where opportunity is always knocking, but we never let it in because it doesn't have a warrant. Say, how would you like to be the spokesperson for a national organic coalition? Because something tells us that Twinkie the Kid will not be getting the job...

Twinkie The Kid Interviews For A Job As National Organic Coalition Spokesperson

By:

Let me start by sayin’ thanks for calling me in for this interview. When I read that ‘cause organic foods have been so popular the last few years that you’d be hiring a national icon, it got me startin’ to thinking. But when I realized that, in particular, you were lookin’ for a symbol that the average American Joe could relate to, I yelled out –- yippee-ki-yay! Then I jumped out of my hot tub, grabbed my cell phone and called ya’ll. Hey, I don’t need to tell you guys that Twinkies are already an American icon. And I clearly had a lot to do with getting it to that level. Look at me! I’m as American as apple pie. I got my cowboy hat. I got my cowboy boots. I’m practically the John Wayne of snack foods!

What? You’ve never eaten a Twinkie? None of you? Get outta here! Did ya’ll grow up in Communist Russia, or what?

Excuse me? Why would I, in particular, be a suitable representative of organic foods? Hmm, well, let me ask you something – what is the one thing that most people think when they hear about organic foods? I’ll tell you –- it rots! That’s right. Organic foods have no preservatives. It rots quickly if you don’t eat or cook it. Well, I don’t think I need to tell you that one thing that people think of when they think of Twinkies is – they last forever. Not a bad association to have: me…Twinkies…lasts forever…organic foods. And on top of that I’m a cowboy. Like I said there ain’t nothing more American than that. This will help dispel the controversy that organic food is part of a terrorist plot to drain us all of our money. That’s right, I read that someplace.

So, okay, I know I’m not made of carob. And I couldn’t tell you the difference between a brussel sprout and a head of lettuce. But I am pretty awesome here with this lasso. I was thinking that you could show my lassoing things out on the range. You know, catching those free-range animals. Probably not a chicken. But, I could ride up on my organic free-range horse, lasso me a free-range cow, drop it to the ground and tie it up in ten seconds flat. You know, it would put a bit of brawn behind that wimpy feeling people get when they think of organic food.

Are you sure not one of you, ever, not even once, had a Twinkie?

Why did I leave my last job? Well, I’ve been involved in the snack food industry since the early 70’s. And a few weeks ago I was sitting around playin’ a weekly game of quarters with Captain Cupcake and Fruitpie the Magician. Fruitpie was yakking it up again about the job stress and his ulcer. And the Captain lost his hearing aid in his beer stein again. I thought to myself — what a pathetic bunch of losers. Then I thought, you know, I ain’t so fluffy and spongy anymore. My frosting’s startin’ to dry up. Do I want to be sitting around a decade from now pining for the good ole’ days of artificial coloring and preservatives with long chemical names? No. I know which side my organic bread is buttered, uh, Earth Balanced on. I can see that organic food is the wave of the future. And, I want to be standing under that wave.

What? That’s it? Oh, come on. I can tell I haven’t sold you, yet. Gimme me just two more minutes and we’ll be good.

Great, thanks. All I ask is that you each take a little taste of my filling. It’s white, right, so it’s got to be pure. Just one taste. Excellent.

See. Not bad, huh? Actually, it’s pretty damn awesome, right?

Maybe, we could emphasize that my corn syrup is from organic corn. Sure, it’s a bit of lie, but no one would know. Hmm, yes, I do have some actual boxes of Twinkies in my saddle-bag. Sure, here, take one. What’s that? Uh, I don’t really know if Dextrose, Cellulose Gum, Polysorbate 60, or Dextrin could be considered organic. But, heck, you guys run this thing. Maybe you could, you know, make it so. Actually, yes, I think there’s an egg in there, too. That’s good isn’t it?

More Twinkies? Wow, you guys tore through that first three boxes pretty quick. Sure, I can call the supplier, but let’s just start with one truckload.

Before I do that, though, I have one last question: so, am I hired, or what?

Ah, excellent.

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