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2013 Term 2 Week 2 – Delphinidins, mutations, pressure, and lychee

2nd week of school was cool too. Started off the week with a leftover final exam, which was fine but a total chore – two-sided sheet of notes allowed and exam questions given ahead of time so I’m really complaining about nothing. The future will perhaps be filled with robots but I find the theory-based path interesting yet slightly dull and too open. I can drink wine now and I can see plants around me. Practicality and hands-on stuff makes things so much easier to study.

Robots are cool BUT IN BIOLOGY YOU GET TO PLANT THINGS AND TAKE THEM HOME

Renly!

BIOL 210 – Vascular Plants
So good! We learned more about plant cells. Most interesting to me were pigments, like anthocyanins and betalains.  Delphinidin, another pigment mentioned in lecture, is an anthocyanidin, which is a sugar-free counterpart of anthocyanins. This particular anthocyanidin acts as a primary plant pigment and an antioxidant, and I was surprised to find out that it also gives Cabernet Sauvignon its colour. Also wine-related: suberin, a very hydrophobic and waxy material (found in plants) which is a main constituent of cork. We also learned about how chlorophyll breaks down when leaves senesce so that red pigments are unmasked: I wonder if this has anything to do with the leafroll virus which causes the leaves of Vitis vinifera to turn a beautiful red and curl up. Unfortunately it’s also a pretty shitty virus to get.

In Thursday’s lab we got to plant some seeds and take them home (I was so excited that I don’t remember what kind of plant it was. Common garden bean? I named it Renly! My bean plant will rule some kingdom). We also had partners with whom we planted sunflower seeds and did microscopic things, and I’m so sure my lab partner was stoked to hear that I’m a clumsy dumbass who hasn’t done biology in one and a half years. I didn’t cut myself with a razor nor did I break any shit! Hurrah!

Today we learned about lignin, which is a compound derived from wood and gives some plant cells structure by being present in the secondary cell walls. Some sort of tannin structures come from lignin, and artifical vanilla extract is some sort of byproduct when lignin is processed in pulp and paper plants. American oak comes to mind (giving wine a “sweeter” vanilla or coconut-like characteristic), and some sources say that some of the phenols come from the lignin.

Hmm! I didn’t realize I would come across so many wine connections within the first couple of classes. My blog posts are about to get reaaaaaal boring and educational.

BIOL 234 – Fundamentals of Genetics
Sometimes lectures are tough to follow but are still interesting. I’ve also come to a realization that cheesy and nerdily excited eye-roll-inducing TAs are much better than monotone uninspired ones. Left halfway through tutorial because spending half an hour on one question in the first week was ridiculous.

I brushed up on my DNA stuff though so that’s cool. We’re learning about mutations at the moment and I can’t help but wonder why Pinot Noir (or any other organism for that matter) apparently mutates so easily, perhaps evident by Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. I can think of two main reasons, which may be right or wrong: perhaps it’s the fact that this grape just happens to have an easily-manipulated phenotype. Maybe mutations occur just as often in other grapes, but their phenotype doesn’t reflect that by chance. The other less probable guess would be that the replisome complexes (i.e., the tiny biomolecular machines responsible for DNA replication) aren’t as efficient and screw up all the time. I wonder whether or not it’s a coincidence that Pinot Noir happens to be a finicky grape variety in the vineyard. WHO KNOWS?!

CHEM 205 – Physical Chemistry
So dry that I don’t even pay attention half the time. My phone went off on Thursday’s lecture which was embarrassing but fitting because it was the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song. We learned more about pressure and the ideal gas law.

FNH 330 – Introduction to Wine Science
So easy that it hurts. Tuesday consisted of talking about the constituents of wine and Thursday was about how to taste wine (bitch, please). Prof mainly explained how old wine isn’t always great and how fruit declines with age, but didn’t explain what ageing does for the characteristics of wine nor why people age it, which I found stupid and a bit biased, but fitting to perish the all-old-wine-is-good-wine stereotype for the class. For lab on Tuesday we begun with doing some basic sensory training where you’d close your eyes and you’d have to guess the aroma. I got popcorn. Didn’t pick up on lychee (?!?!), and I half-got nutmeg. It’s harder than it seems! Apparently we start tasting next week. Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. I may skip next Tuesday’s class and lab altogether to make Taste BC instead. That will be my wine lab.

Prof is a methoxypyrazine hater (i.e. green bell pepper aroma) but I think it adds complexity in balanced amounts. Pff.

Josh

DipWSET, Certified Sommelier, garbage person.

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