functional morphology


Clearing and staining, or diaphonization, is a process used by vertebrate biologists when seeking to visualize a particular animal’s skeletal system. Some steps include submerging the specimen in containers of digestive enzymes to render their organs translucent, while other steps involve immersing the animal in alizarin red dye, which adheres to calcium in their bones and stains them red, and alcian blue dye, which reacts with the cartilage of their joints. The results manage to be useful for studying biomechanical function and skeletal morphology, as well as appear stunningly beautiful. 

Learn more of this process by watching our latest episode: Clearing and Staining Fishes

pleasespellchimerical  asked:

Hey! Question about structure (which is built into your name so yay). I've found that when writing longform, I tend to structure things into three acts. First act: set everything up. Second act: Things that were set up happen. Third act: Consequences of things that have happened. It seems to work pretty well for me, but I'd be curious to dive into the lit side of structure a little more, since all my experience with studying structure is from drama. (1/2)

(2/2) Problem is, the three act structure in plays seems to be most often used in comedies that I hate. I do not write comedy. Plays that I love tend to divide either into five acts or two acts. I’m not sure how people who study literature talk about dividing up a story? Could you share a little on how novels are traditionally sectioned, and the theory behind that? Are there examples of novels that use that three act structure? What about other ways of breaking things up? Thanks!

Well, the great thing about novels is that they’re such a diverse form that you can structure them in pretty much whatever way you can think to do it. Of course some are going to be more ‘traditional’ than others, but experimentation never hurt anyone … literary experimentation never hurt anybody.

You’ve got your basic concepts of what goes into each of the acts down pat, but you’ll probably want to think about the differences in form between stage and page.

In a play, the three acts are generally balanced in terms of length, and they’re separated by an intermission where the audience can get up and get a snack or use the facilities. A play is consumed in a single sitting (usually) and having the acts be nearly the same length each makes for an easy viewing experience, and helps hold up the structure of the piece.

(Thinking here about other formats, a tv show might have 4-7 acts depending on how long it is and how many commercial breaks there are in it, audio plays and podcasts often have 2-3 acts intercut with sponsored ads, pay attention next time you’re watching or listening to something, and think about how they structure the story in relation to the ad breaks)

The main difference between a three act play and a three act novel is that in the novel, the acts will often not be of a uniform length. Your first act will usually be around a quarter of the book, the second act often half or more than half of the total length, and the third act is very brief, wrapping up plots and loose ends and sometimes giving lead-in for the next book (if there is one).

I, personally, don’t tend to think of novels in terms of the three act structure except for after the fact. When reading a book I can often look at it in terms of acts, but when writing there are other markers that I use to guide the writing process.

Remember, when you’re writing a novel, it’s less about a series of predetermined marks to hit, than it is about working through a number of problems (interpersonal, political, material, emotional, etc), to solve the main Problem that is fuelling the whole narrative. The One Ring has to be destroyed, Hannibal Lecter is having dinner parties, a space ship that was meant to have disappeared twenty years ago has suddenly reappeared. The drive of the story is going to move toward resolution of that problem, and the events between the start of the narrative and the end of it are going to be a series of challenges, negotiations, stumbling blocks, mistakes, and victories.

So what do you want in the three acts of a novel? You’ve got it fairly right, there’s set-up, event, consequences, but those are pretty nebulous concepts.

First Act:

Establish the setting and character. You don’t want to have a bunch of your page-time taken up just telling the reader what the town looks like or what the protagonist eats for breakfast, use this as an opportunity to show the readers what normality looks like to your characters, however briefly, and then have it interrupted by …

The Inciting Incident – the moment your sense of normalcy is thrown off, a Problem is revealed to the characters and/ or to the reader, and we realise that there is going to need to be action taken to confront that, this leads into …

First Major Conflict which will be the high point and wrap-up of your first act. At this point, you’ll often see the protagonists come off second-best. It’s early days yet, and failure will motivate them going into …

Second Act:

Building Momentum, as the protagonist learns more about the Problem they face, and make decisions about how they’re going to confront it. They may go up against several minor conflicts as they learn and progress.

First Climax will come at the point where the protagonist has build themselves up to strength, no longer that weak farm-boy, now they’re a warrior, a leader and all-round toughie, ready to take on whatever the Problem throws at them, until …

The Crisis. Having built themselves up from nothing, there’s a whole lot to lose when something new comes to light and they find themselves rethinking their whole worldview and understanding of events. The nadir of the crisis will make the first climax look all the higher. But coming out of the crisis will make the protagonist stronger, will spur them on to go on and face …

Third Act:

The Renewal comes after the troubles of the crisis. The protagonist knows more now, they know how they’re going to overcome the Problem, and they know who they can ask for aid, what they’re going to need. They rebuild their confidence as they put together what’s going to be needed when they take the fight to the Problem in …

The Climax. The final confrontation. Note that while I’ve been writing with a marked lean toward action-oriented plots, you can use these same narrative markers in an emotional story arc (a disagreement between family members for example, or an argument between rival academics). The point is that at each position in the story a dynamic shift occurs which gives us new perspective and understanding of the narrative and characters, and how all of these events have come to unfold. In the final confrontation, the protagonist will usually overcome the Problem, wipe their sweaty brow and …

Cool down. Sometimes called the Return Home, or the Return Journey, this is the point where plot lines are resolved, and characters go back to the world that was Established in the beginning of the first act, only to find that Something is Different. Perhaps the town they grew up in has been massively altered by the events that have transpired, or maybe the difference was the experience the character gained along the way. Due to the story happening and the Problem being solved, the world feels different now. Maybe it’s a difference the character can be happy with, maybe it sets up a new Problem for them to solve.

But here’s the thing

It’s a little too neat, to my understanding, to slot things into a structure like this. Please don’t think of this, or any structural guide as being the be-all and end-all of writing a story. 

It’s probably more useful to you to think in terms of these being questions you can ask yourself when you get stuck – how far am I through my story? Do I know what happens next and why? What kind of shifts are going to occur for my characters and the world around them?

If you’re very interested in looking into narrative structure in novels, I’d suggest starting out with Joseph Campell’s The Hero’s Journey, which goes through many many plot points that can occur in a story, and discusses the structure of a narrative through the lens of (you guessed it) a journey. If you want a little more in-depth and a little less easy to read, you could look up Vladimir Propp’s 31 Functions/ the Morphology of the Folk Tale, which … is where Campbell cribbed a whole lot of his notes from.


The End of the Ice Age: Ecology, Functional Morphology, and Megafaunal Response to a Changing World

“Julie Meachen - Des Moines University, "The End of the Ice Age: Ecology, Functional Morphology, and Megafaunal Response to a Changing World"

(Source: Royal Tyrrell Museum via @DeepFriedDNA on Twitter))

Will Ant Necks Give Robots Super Strength?

by Txchnologist staff

The next step toward robots with superhuman strength might come thanks to the tiny ants marching around at your feet. Engineers think the insects’ necks–made of soft, flexible tissue that can support huge weight–could hold important clues to advanced design.

Researchers at The Ohio State University wanted to know how this single joint is built to withstand the full load capacity, so they started looking at its mechanics, structural design and material composition.

“Ants… can lift and carry heavy loads relative to their body mass. Loads are lifted with the mouthparts, transferred through the neck joint to the thorax, and distributed over six legs and tarsi (feet) that anchor to the supporting surface,” the authors write in a paper published recently in the Journal of Biomechanics. “While previous research has explored attachment mechanisms of the tarsi, little is known about the relation between the mechanical function and the structural design and material properties of the ant.”

Find out more and see pictures below.

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Morpheme Dictionary on the Mac App Store
Read reviews, compare customer ratings, see screenshots, and learn more about Morpheme Dictionary. Download Morpheme Dictionary for Mac OS X 10.11 or later and enjoy it on your Mac.

Eyyyyy, so I’m a published developer now!

For those who haven’t seen the web version, this is a simple etymological/morpheme dictionary for those of you who take an interest in Linguistics– which I know I post a lot of on this blog via @allthingslinguistic (please check out that blog if you have the time). Particularly in the word formation aspects of it.

It’s also a boon for worldbuilders (or scientists) who want to create new terms but don’t have the morphological vocabulary at the time to get the right elements.

ANYWAYS, I hope any of you who are interested benefit from it! And definitely feel free to make example suggestions and alert me of any errors, since the data part of the dictionary is– by nature– a continuous research and data collection project.