# 3.14 Ways to Make Pi Day a Piece of Cake!

Celebrated each year on March 14th (3.14), Pi Day commemorates the irrational, transcendent, and never-ending ratio that’s used to represent a mathematical constant. This infinite number is crucial when describing circles because no matter how big or small, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter will always equal to pi.

In 2009, pi day, also written π or 3.14, was declared an official national holiday–one that’s worth celebrating! We’ll help you kick things off with 3 fun facts, 1 joke, and 4 activities that are certain to get you in the Pi Day spirit.

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# Avoid the Cloning Blues This Season

I was blasting a holiday music playlist while driving recently, and Presley’s Blue Christmas played. I couldn’t get the phrase “Christmas Cloning Blues” out of my mind, and by the time I arrived at my destination, this happened:

### Cloning Blues Christmas

(to the tune of Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley)

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you

Colonies so blue, insert without you

Incubating my plates at 37 degrees

Won’t be the same if you’re not in lacZ

And all those blue colonies are forming

When my lab mates’ clonings are performing

They’ll be doing alright,

With their plates all filled with white

But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue cloning

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# The Crows Have Ideas

It has become increasingly evident to scientists that the intellectual prowess of your average crow has been roundly underestimated. With remarkable skills including superior social acumen, analogical thinking and the ability to craft and use tools, crows seem to prove themselves more and more clever with every investigation into the inner workings of their small, but mighty, brains.

Most recently, new research has revealed that crows may be capable of recursion, a hallmark feature of advanced linguistic ability originally posited by Noam Chomsky in his hierarchy of grammars. Recursion in language is used to grow the complexity of sentence structure to contain, in theory, an infinite number of embedded elements or ideas. Put simply, linguistic recursion refers to the nesting of one grammatical structure, this sentence for example, within another of the same kind. Formerly thought to be a skill exclusive to primates, research like that recently published in Science Advances has challenged this assumption.

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# From Outside the Window to Inside the Cell: How Photography has Broadened Our View of the World

Photography. From the time the first image was captured almost 200 years ago, people have been using photography techniques to record, improve and expand their world.  Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is credited with capturing the very first photograph—a view of outside his window—using a technique called heliography. From that blurry, one-of-a-kind print to the stunning images captured today we can capture using our mobile phones, the advances in personal photography have been phenomenal. But progress has not been limited to capturing images of the world we see, scientists have leveraged these advances into new tools to capture images of the world we can’t see.

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# Making “Scents” of the Mysterious Science of Plant Odors

When it comes to plant aromas, we tend to forget that we, as humans, are not the target audience, and these odors were not designed with us in mind—we are really passive spectators to a show that luckily most of us happen to enjoy. This past spring Mother Nature demonstrated just what it means to have a target olfactory audience at Madison’s Olbrich Botanical Gardens. For the first time in about 12 years, one of the four massive titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) plants that reside at Olbrich bloomed, an event that typically only happens for 24-48 hours at a time and 4-5 times total throughout this plant’s roughly 40 year lifespan. More informally (and aptly) known as the “corpse flower” due to its carcass-adjacent coloring and distinctly foul odor, hundreds of plant enthusiasts and hopeful spectators queued for hours to catch a glimpse and whiff of the pungent plant. Until rare events like this happen, it can be easy to forget just how interesting and complex plants really are. We romanticize and lend meaning to flowers and relish in the sweet fragrance they provide, while often completely overlooking the intricate biological and chemical processes that comprise the science of floral scent.

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# Urs Albrecht Winning Photographer of the Promega AG Art + Science Competition

The Albrecht Group in the Department of Biology at the University of Fribourg, investigates circadian rhythms in biological systems. Recently Urs Albrecht submitted a photo of baby squid for the Swiss Art + Science Competition sponsored by Promega AG. We have covered squid communication in a separate blog. Here we talk to him about the photo and the inspiration behind it.

### How did you become interested in squids as an experimental model?

My lab works mainly with mice. Other professors work with different organisms such as Drosophila, C. elegans, plants, and yeast at our university. One of them, Simon Sprecher, became interested in marine biology and started a course for students. I immediately thought that’s a great idea because it is something different, and few actually look deeply into the biology of marine organisms. The literature on squids is scarce and old, and they are challenging to keep in lab conditions. Yet, my colleague ordered Loligo vulgaris eggs from Villefranche Sur Mer in France and started establishing them to hatch and grow in Fribourg. He was successful. The next step was setting up experimentation. However, squids have brains, and to carry out experiments with them, we needed to apply for authorization from the Swiss Government. I helped out, but it was challenging because there were no standards and regulations, as nobody works on these animals in Switzerland. Now we are interested in studying the communication between squids. It is easy to observe how they change color, because they are transparent. The change in color is related to their stress level and mood.

### What went into taking the image “One Out”?

I’ve been a hobby photographer since I am ten years old. So when I went to my colleague’s lab and looked at the baby squids, I said, “Ohh, they are beautiful.” They looked really stunning, and some of them started changing colors in front of me. I thought that was a fascinating behavior, and I wanted to capture that.

Baby squids are transparent and colorful. I had to think about how I could best picture them. I decided to have them in a Petri dish and put them on a stand with lighting coming from below on a black background. I made several images. On one of them, there was this situation where one of the squids was changing color. It was very different from all the others. It immediately came to my mind that something was happening. They were communicating.

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# World Art Day: Experiences of Fine Art That Disrupt and Drive Innovation

World Art Day embraces art as a means for nurturing creativity and innovation, gaining greater understanding of cultural experiences that are different from our own, and showcasing the contributions of art and artists to sustainable development. It is no accident that World Art Day is celebrated on the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci, the celebrated Italian polymath who used art to express emotions, articulate technological concepts well before their time, and understand the workings of human anatomy.

Takaski Mitachi, a moderator of the 2019 global conference panel on Innovation through Art: Leveraging Disruption for a Sustainable Ecosystem, said that “Art can add value so that we could drive innovation beyond logic and data.” In a sense, the fine arts are a way of expressing our observations about the world around us, similar to how an original scientific hypothesis attempts to explain phenomena we observe and want to test. While scientific investigation builds on data and logic to test a hypothesis, art gives us a different way of knowing our world that extends beyond just data and logic. When we explore the arts, we broaden our understanding and interpretation of the world and bring these new perspectives to our scientific and technological explorations. Art is a disruptor of staid ways of thinking about and approaching problems, and like many other disruptors in our world, it can drive innovation.

In an article in the MIT Technology Review, author Sarah Lewis discusses the relationship between the arts and scientific breakthroughs. She notes one study that found a disproportionately high number of Nobel Prize-winning scientists also pursue art, writing or music as serious avocations. When asked why achievement in art and science seem to go together, she replied: “What the arts allow us to do is develop the muscle required for discernment and also strengthen our sense of agency to determine for ourselves how we’re going to tackle a given problem…Ultimately it’s up to the person creating the work to determine what that path is, and that kind of agency is what’s required for innovation.”

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# 5 Blogs that Made us Celebrate in 2021

The past twelve months have, quite literally, been a year. As 2021 comes to a close, it’s that time to reflect on some of our most popular stories written by our Promega Connections bloggers from the past year. Take a look at five Promega blog posts that gave us a reason to celebrate in 2021.

# Feeling Festive with Ion Channels

The tight embrace of welcoming hugs, the cozy warmth of a crackling fireplace, the brisk chill of afternoon walks in snowy woods—these are some of the feelings that, for me, make the winter holidays one of the best times of the year. This season, I’m also choosing to be thankful for the biology that makes these sensations possible.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine went to two scientists who discovered the receptors that allow us to sense touch and temperature. Joining other sensory mechanisms recognized by the Nobel committee, these discoveries add to our knowledge of how we interact with the world around us.

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# Celebrating STEM/STEAM Day with UW-Madison’s Cool Science Image Contest

November 8th is National STEM/STEAM Day. For 11 years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cool Science Image Contest has celebrated and embraced the art of science. The contest illuminates art in the STEM/STEAM field as students, faculty, and staff submit images and videos that capture science or nature and leave a lasting impression of beauty or wonder.

This year’s 2021 submissions were created with point-and-shoot digital cameras, cutting-edge microscopes, and both backyard and mountaintop telescopes. Contestants captured the art of science from the massive to the minute. Winning entries showcased animals and plants, the invisibly small structures all around us, and stars and nebulae resting lightyears away from Earth.