Student Post: Sleepless in Morris

Well… it’s about that time. You know, the end of the semester where you start every project you’ve had the semester to complete. At least that’s what I’m doing. I finally made some headway on my Neuro project during the past few weeks. I’m sleep depriving zebrafish; I had planned to devise a scheme using streams of bubbles that work on some obnoxious structure to generate a regular disturbance (alright it was PZ’s idea). However I finally admitted defeat about the same time I shattered a water heater and realized I had gotten nowhere.

Desperately I went to a local farm supply store to look for what I could only articulate as “a really really slow motor.” (I don’t want to hear any comments about torque or gears… A: I probably won’t understand you and B: at this point in the semester, it might make me weep.) I tottered over to what looked like the motor isle… although they could have been bombs or anchors because I wouldn’t have known the difference. I waited until my confused expression attracted an employee and asked if they had any of those “really really slow motors… to… um… turn a rod in my fish aquarium.” The guy actually looked offended like I asked for adult entertainment products. “We wouldn’t sell any of that here.” He replied stiffly. Fortunately his buddy overheard and offered, “You mean like a rotisserie?”

Brilliant! They tried to sell me a one hundred dollar rotisserie which I declined, but the idea was invaluable. Why didn’t I think of that? I was imagining a Rube Goldberg machine with a lot of hot glue. Anyway I found an old rotisserie motor for $5 and am quite pleased. Also, PZ put together a big black box in which I’ll hang a light on a timer. Not only will these fish be gently stirred but they’ll have the lights going on and off all night.

I would feel bad except I’m not sleeping either.


  1. says

    Nice, the rotisserie motor is a clever idea. Where do you just find an old rotisserie motor though? You left that part of the story out! If there’s some store in Morris selling electromechanical parts, color me really jealous. I don’t know of such a place around here.

    And I love the visual of a bunch of fish being stirred up. It reminds me of the episode of Mythbusters, where they use rotating foam sticks to keep pigeons from landing on the floor while testing the myth of a container becoming lighter if the birds inside are flying (it doesn’t).

  2. says

    Nobody is as sleep-deprived as people who study sleep deprivation (or circadian rhythms). I have done experiments that lasted 38 hours straight. Others that lasted 3 days with only occasional opportunities for a 30 minute nap. It takes some stamina and determination!

  3. says

    I love the way that students are always surprised we professors are also sleep deprived and generally ready for the semester to end at about the same time they are. I hate to say it, but sometimes finals does feel like this. Bwahahahahaha!

  4. says

    A True Tale of Scientific Achievement

    When I was nine my mom went to work to get her masters in biology. For her thesis subject she took mating behavior in southern white rhinos.

    At the time the San Diego Zoo had two elderly white rhinos, male and female. Every now and then the female would sort of act frisky, and the male (name of Rheinhart) would sort of respond. Mom would get a call and rush down to the zoo to make her observations. Every time, without fail, nothing would happen.

    This went on for weeks, until Mom starting get sick at the mention of potentially amorous southern white rhinos, and dreaded driving anywhere near 163, the freeway that went between our home in Clairemont and the San Diego Zoo.

    She finally did a study on nutrition processing in a bacterium (got a nifty poster of the ATP cycle for it too), and got her masters.

    Meanwhile the Zoo decided to open up a second campus, in San Pasquale Valley east of Escondido in the north county. The female was found to be a bit too old to be moved, so she spent her last days at the Zoo.

    Rheinhart was a different matter. He was transfered to the then under construction San Pasqual Wild Animal Park a couple of years prior to its opening, where he joined some young, nubile females from the Republic of South Africa. The only male southern white rhino in a herd of young, nubile females. Rheinhart was in rhino paradise.

    Mom took her three boys (me being the middle one) to see the new Wild Animal Park a few months after it opened. We saw all there was to see at the time, and then took the Wgasa Bushline to catch the main displays. We tooled around the enclosures, listening to the conductor’s spiel (“He knows about sexual dimorphism!” Mom) and in due time came to the South African exhibit. There our conductor directed our attention to the park’s resident southern white rhinos. Pointing out that the three young calves—plus four more on the way—were all the doing of one—count them, one—male southern white rhino; Rheinhart, The Romantic Rhino.

    Mom shot to her feet and yelled, “You son of a bitch!”

  5. says

    So when will you start forcing them watch Triumph of the Will while playing Beethoven?

    After that, those forella’ll be so bezoomny, they’ll shive a koshka’s brooko and razrez out its tick-tocker if you crarked.

  6. Matt says

    Umm, that sounds like something I might have read in Reader’s Digest while sitting on the toilet…is it true?

  7. Hank Fox says

    You didn’t think of a disco ball, a spotlight and Donna Summer singing “What a Feeling” over and over?

  8. says

    Oh, you could have gone for the 007 option. Put the aquarium on a lab shaker (for jittering tubes etc.), placed at a low speed. That way they’ll be shaken, not stirred.

    I thank you.


  9. says

    Good post! Just make sure you don’t get a motor fast enough to blend them fishies into primordial soup. “To sleep — perchance to become protein sludge.”

  10. Moggie says

    This sounds like a job for LEGO. Shouldn’t every lab have a set of LEGO, with a selection of motors and gears?

  11. Sirrus911 says

    I’ve been up all night working on a presentation my partner and I are giving tomorrow/today for a lab research project due Friday, and measuring my dorm furniture for a Stagecraft drafting project due next Monday. This post just made my early morning, and I thank you heartily.

  12. Chas. says

    Oh, Katie, Katie, Katie….

    Farm Stores and rotisserie motors? Haven’t you heard of American Science and Surplus???

    Kidding, mostly.”If it’s stupid, but works, it isn’t stupid”

  13. windy says

    I waited until my confused expression attracted an employee and asked if they had any of those “really really slow motors… to… um… turn a rod in my fish aquarium.” The guy actually looked offended like I asked for adult entertainment products. “We wouldn’t sell any of that here.”

    He might also have thought you were looking for hydroponics equipment for illicit purposes :)

  14. mudderbadger says

    #17: you don’t need fancy science stores in Morris, when you have the old hardware store…..everything you need, personal service, a fair price…..