This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
The definitive host: May 2010

The definitive host

de·fin·i·tive host (duh-fin'eh-tiv) n. 1) An organism where a parasite undergoes the adult and sexual stages of its reproductive cycle 2) Someone you go to for interesting stories and/or facts, and puts on one hell of a dinner party 3) This blog, devoted to science and other geeky subjects

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lost in LOST

NOTE: If you do not watch LOST, or have not watched the series finale yet, please be advised that this post may not be for you.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have been an avid watcher of the TV show LOST since the very beginning. I was amazed throughout the entire first season, slightly disappointed with the second, and was heavily disheartened by the third. But, when the third season ended with one of the best scenes, I once again dared to hope.

The fourth season got much better, and continued into the fifth. This last and final season, number six for the series, had its ups and downs, but changed up the formula in a very interesting way. And, last Sunday, it aired its final episode.

Recently, I re-watched the final episode and took notes to address some of the good, the bad, and the weepy sprinkled throughout the episode. Also, each segment will be divided by an important quote (in bold) from the episode.

And be warned, SPOILER ALERT!

For my re-watch, since I already knew the ending to the story, I was able to keep an eye out for some references that didn't occur to me during my initial watch, but gently hinted at the stepping stone answer.

Firstly, the ending has been discussed by countless people and will continue to be debated for a long time to come. People have praised it, and people have chastised it, but you all have to appreciate what they did. This is my attempt to explain it to those of you who are confused (I will get to the rest of the episode in a bit).

I've been told lots of random theories about the ending from friends, and this is my take on what makes the most sense.

Jack - "There are no shortcuts, no do-overs. What happened, happened. Trust me, I know. All of this matters."

The quote speak volumes. Just like they did with the nuclear bomb explosion at the end of the last season, they could NOT simply re-do the timeline and forget everything that we had seen on the island. Everything that happened on the island was important to their growth as individuals.

One of the most important things to realize about the flash-sideways, is that TIME is RELATIVE.

Just because we were seeing them all together at the same time as the "present" time on the island, does not mean they were happening simultaneously. With the flash-sideways universe (much better name than purgatory or way-station or stepping stone in my opinion), time no longer matters to you. When you die, time ceases to exist.

While Jack died in the forest, many survivors of Oceanic flight 815 lived many years and died at their own time. One example clearly illustrates this from when Ben and Hurley were talking at the church.

Hurley - "You were a real good number two."
Ben - "And you were a great number one, Huge."

This hints that they lived many years after Jack's final moments on the island, perhaps even centuries after.
NOTE: It has been revealed that on the complete series box set, there will be a special feature (about 10-14 minutes long) about the Ben and Hurley years on the island

Another note on the ending - I would have preferred someone else in the Deus Ex Machina role, other than Christian Sheppard. I believe Desmond, as our guide through the time-space continuum, would have been an amazing fit.

But, that said, the conversation between them in the multi-faith church (did you notice all the faith symbols scattered across the room and in the stained glass window? See the picture above) had a lot to cover and I thought they did it relatively well. It involved a lot of careful wording to let the audience know what was going on, and while they painted with broad strokes as to not focus on any religion to much, it was a little heavy handed at times.

Here's the entire church conversation between Jack and Christian for you to examine:

Christian: Hello Jack.
Jack: I don’t understand. You died.
C: Yeah. Yes I did.
J: Then how are you here right now?
C: How are YOU here?
J: [realization hits] I died, too.
C: That’s OK. It’s OK, son [hugs]. I love you son
J: I love you, too, Dad. Are you real?
C: I sure hope so. Yeah, I’m real. You’re real, everything that’s ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church. They’re all real, too.
J: They’re all dead?
C: Everyone dies some time, kiddo. Some have been before you, some long after you.
J: Why are they all here now?
C: There is no now, here.
J: Where are we, Dad?
C: This is a place that you’ve all made together so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody dies alone, Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.
J: For what?
C: To remember, and to... let go.
J: Kate... she said we were leaving.
C: Not leaving, no. Moving on.
J: Where are we going?
C: Let’s go find out.

What I think you need to take from all of this, is that the theme of this season was all about letting go and moving on. Think about that for a second: Letting go, and Moving On.

Every main character from season one let go of their personal baggage and was able to move onwards. These are only the main Losties who were at the church in the end and were characters from season one onwards.

Sawyer - Killed the real Sawyer and found love
Sayid - Embraced who he was and found redemption in love
Kate - Finally stopped running, and found love
Hurley - Found his purpose (helping people) and found love
Locke - Finally accepted that which he could not change and accepted help
Jack - Embraced his destiny and his true purpose, and yes, found love
Charlie - Embraced his destiny and found love
Claire - Embraced motherhood and found love
Sun - Became a more independent and self-sustaining woman, and re-affirmed her love
Jin - Realized that work was not all the was to his life, and re-affirmed his love

**I am not including Shannon or Boone, as their story lines were not as prevalent as the others**

Do you see a pattern there? Love. While it may not necessarily be romantic love, but I think it is more about a connection. To be "woken up," it needs to be done by someone who had a profound impact upon your life.

These awakenings caused a lot of crying by millions of people. Therefore, here they are in order (for those interested).

1) Sun and Jin remember in the hospital
2) Sayid and Shannon in the alley
3) Kate, Charlie and Claire giving birth to Aaron
4) Locke in the hospital moving his toe
5) Sawyer and Juliet at the vending machine
6) Locke and Ben outside the church (not an "awakening," but still very moving)
7) Hurley and Ben outside the church (also not an "awakening," but very emotional)
7) Jack and Christian

Desmond - "No one can tell you why you are here but you"

Now, here are a few unanswered questions from the finale that were quite obvious to me upon a second viewing.

- Did everyone when they were "awakened" remember their deaths?
- Was Richard indeed ageing (remember the grey hair?) because of Jacob passing on his duties to Jack?
- How did Lapidus survive being struck by a large door underwater in a submarine, make it to the surface on pontoons and wait for rescue for a day or two?
- How did Boone "awaken"?
- How did the cave turn the Man in Black into the Smoke Monster, if he was unconscious (or dead) and all that is down there is a pool with a cork in it?
- If Eloise in the flash-sideways universe knew that it was a type of purgatory, why didn't she leave when she "awoke"?
- Why didn't Miles, Farraday or Charlotte "awaken"?
- Why after Jack and Smoke-Locke's battle did it suddenly stop raining?
- Why didn't Jack bless the water in the Oceanic bottle before giving it to Hurley (like Jacob did for him, and his mother did for Jacob)?
- Wouldn't Richard be more terrified by being on an airplane for the first time in his life?
- Why did Kate change from her dress at the concert (and the one she was wearing in the car with Jack), to another one in the church?

Hurley - "It takes as long as it takes."

With all those answered question from the finale, and all the countless mysteries that were left unsolved (there are tons), what did I think?

I believe that Lost ended the only way it could have - focused on the characters. Every main character had a few moments in the massive finale, and saw their personal stories get resolved before moving on.

Do not get me wrong, I love science fiction and was thrilled when they introduced time-travel, alternate universe, etc... into Lost. But, what you always must remember, is that Lost is a show about people. Granted, the people are in rather bizarre situations on an island with killer black smoke that can assume the form of the deceased.

One final note - for those who watched in the U.S. or did not see ads for what was coming up next on television, your probably saw something like this:

It was released yesterday that it was NOT planned by the producers or creators of the show. The final shot was supposed to be on Jack's eye, and that was it. The images of the Oceanic flight wreckage was placed their by ABC executives to give viewers a chance to collect themselves and think before the news. These shots, however, let some people to believe that no one survived the initial place crash and the entire thing was a lie.

It was not their intention, just an ill-fated decision by ABC executives. It all still happened.

With all the good, bad and mysteries left unexplained, Lost was still a very impressive show. But, it was not perfect and they did stumble quite a few times ... remember Jack's tattoo episode?

Still, it was a hell of a ride.

The definitive host

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Plants never quite held an interest to me. I understood their vital roles in the ecosystem, I admired their beauty and their survival in the harshest of climates, and I spent a long time learning how they grow, evolve and reproduce.

But, they never were able to keep my interest compared to animals, which is why I studied zoology and not botany.

However, there are a few species of plants that I do like, and here they are:


From the family Droseraceae, these plants look and act in an interesting way. At first glance, they appear to have some dew on the ends of their long leaves. But, like most plants, looks can be deceiving - they are true killers.

The droplets of dew are not dew at all, but a sticky substance known as mucilage that will trap any unlucky insect that happens to be attracted to the glistening globs.

Once the insect touches down to sample the fake dew, the true marvel of the Sundew is revealed. The plant then contorts its tentacles to the centre of the leaf, and traps the insect with a barrage of sticky globs of mucilage.

Once the insect is cornered, there is no escape.

It is survival of the fittest at its best.

Pitcher Plant

In researching the pitcher plant for this blog, I came upon something very interesting, but I will get to that after the description.

Examining the pitcher plant (most of which fall within the Family Sarraceniaceae), nothing too extraordinary leaps out, other than their long tube. They seem perfectly innocent upon first glance. But, these plants are a marvel of evolution.

The pitchers live in nutrient deficient areas, like most other carnivorous plants, and have to supplement with the only other source available - live prey. What makes the pitcher plants so unique is the way they go about it, which is distinctly less active than the Sundew.

The leaf attracts insects with the promise of nectar, which is located on the underside of the leaf, right above the mouth of the tube. If the insect strays too far to reach the sweet nectar, it falls into the pit below and drowns in water. It is then dissolved and used as food for the plant.

No fuss, no muss.

And what was the surprise I discovered? The species known as the purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, is of great importance to one part of Canada.

According to the website, newfoundlandlabrador.com, the pitcher plant is of great importance.

"For many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the pitcher plant represents a flexibility and distinctiveness that we associate with. In 1954, the Newfoundland Cabinet designated this unusual and interesting plant as the official flower of the province."

Venus Fly Trap

No list of carnivorous plants could be complete without this magnificent example. It is likely the most famous killer plant, and it cannot be denied that it is one of the most impressive example of unique adaptations and predatory strategies.

The Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula), like the Sundew and Pitcher plants, primarily digests insects and arachnids.

The trap is set up like all the others, with a lure of sweet nectar. But, the fly trap possesses many minuscule hairs strewn along it. If an animal contacts more than one within a few seconds, it triggers an action potential that causes the trap to be sprung.

The closure of the plant is quick, and creates a prison from which escape is not likely, and then the prey is slowly digested.

Here is a video showing Pitcher plants and Venus fly traps in action, featuring none other than the amazing David Attenborough:

And, for those who are interested, here is a website where you can BUY Sundews, Pitcher plants and even Venus fly traps!


By the way, the title of the blog is an homage to the movie "Little Shop of Horrors," which features a very large killer plant that needs human blood to grow.

The definitive host

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You have nothing to fear ...

I was almost done this post yesterday, but my browser crashed, and for some reason, it did not save. SO, I had to start the entire post again from scratch.
Two weeks ago, I saw the re-booted Nightmare on Elm Street movie that was just released, and while it was not a bad movie, it was not good either. They tried to emulate the original, which was the one thing I had hoped that they would not do.

However, when I left the movie, I began to think about just how powerful fear is. After all, we have all been frozen by fear at some point in our lives. You may put on a brave face, you may try to hide it ... but it's true.

But, what exactly is fear? Why is it so important? And why do people love being scared so much?

To find out, I spoke to Andrea Letamendi, a psychologist who specializes in treating patients with anxiety, phobic and traumatic disorders.

Letamendi says that fear is an important biological response, as it primes the body against a perceived threat in order to survive. "We rely on the experience of fear as an indicator," she says. "It's a sign that we need to flee or fight."

The fight or flight response is a mechanism that allows us to quickly metabolize a great deal of energy to step back and flee, or step forward and fight. This is shown by an increased heart rate, tunnel vision, increased blood flow to the large muscles, and the release of a chemical known as epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline.

The brain interprets any and all threats in a similar way, whether it is a relatively benign perceived threat (such as public speaking) or an extremely dangerous one (like a hungry cougar about to pounce).

This cartoon, aside from its terrible animation, gives a pretty good explanation about the fight or flight response.

Click Here

However, fear is only useful when the proper responses are activated and you learn from the experience. According to Letamendi, "anxiety and phobic disorders are a result of poor interpretations of the physical fear response - a dysfunction in perception of fear."

Letamendi also says that the reason why scary movies and haunted houses are so popular, is because the individuals who enjoy them realize that it is in a controlled environment, and that they are safe. But, it must be noted that not everyone responds to fearful stimuli in the same way.

"Not everyone gets pleasure out of feeling fear," says Letamendi.
"Not everyone likes getting scared."

But, fear is a powerful emotion. It can make the most banal activity to you seem an insurmountable obstacle to others.

Even Letamendi admits she is terrified of Freddy Kruger and will never see those movies, despite all her knowledge and training.

But the real question is: do we truly have nothing to fear, but fear itself?

Sleep tight.

The definitive host

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Welcome to Blog 2.0!

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

As you have most likely noticed, there are a few things different about my blog, so let me walk you through the changes.

1) The colour scheme has been slightly altered. Nothing dramatic, just a few tweeks here and there

2) I have a rather large picture at the top of my blog from my undergraduate thesis. It is an immuno-histochemical stain of a cross section of a frog kidney, with different colours representing different components within.
Blue shows DNA, red is for tight junction proteins (which holds cells together), and lastly, green stands for the sodium-potassium ATPase pump (which controls the levels of sodium and potassium within the blood).

3) The title has dramatically been changed.

My blog is no longer entitled, "Musings of a Manly."

It served me well in the two and a half years I have had this blog, but as Bob Dylan says, "The times, they are a changin'."

Let me explain.

I started this blog when I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Biology, and was simply looking for an outlet for my writing. I wrote about anything that came to mind, but since my life focused around school, that was one of the prevalent topics.

However, since I will be receiving a Master's degree in Journalism in a few short weeks, it was time to change this blog to something more akin to what I want to do as a career. For anyone who has met me, you all know what that is - science journalism.

Therefore, I wanted a title that had a scientific meaning to it, but that a normal person could say and understand in some way, shape or form.

Numerous ideas came up, and were seriously considered. Some of the options were: Blog-ology, View from the lab bench, and Occam's Razor.

And then, while thinking about parasites (which I do quite often), I came up with the current title of my blog - The definitive host.

The title, even if you have not studied science, still makes sense. However, if you know anything about epidemiology, the study of diseases, then it has added meaning.

4) And lastly, the most significant change will be the content.

While it will still be my blog, the focus will shift from my life to a more focused view on science and that which I find interesting. While I will primarily write about all aspects of science that peak my interest, I will also discuss movies, video games, technology, comics, etc...

I do not expect all of you to continue reading my blog because of these changes, especially those of you who have no interest in reading about science or technology, but I urge you to give it a chance.

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy what I write!


The definitive host

P.S. And yes, I pick up the pen and start writing "The Black" again, as I know some of you have been anxiously waiting to see what I have in store for you. Have no fear, the next part is coming!!!

Labels: , , ,