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Conjurer's Kitchen

14 Cakes Inspired By Scientific Concepts

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Conjurer's Kitchen

We already featured anatomical cakes, which are great for anyone obsessed with biology, but if you’re interested in any other scientific fields, don’t worry—there are plenty of cakes for you too. From geology to physics, we’ve got all sorts of scientifically inspired confections to satisfy your educated sweet tooth.

1. Earth’s Internal Structure

The realistic depiction of our planet's landmasses on this cake is pretty impressive—but the realism doesn't stop there. Slice the cake open, and it reveals the interior composition of the Earth’s core. It’s hard to think of a better way for a teacher to present the topic to a group of elementary school students, which is precisely what LiveJournal user Cake Crumbs’ sister did with the tasty creation. The lesson was fun and delicious!

2. Geological Stratigraphy

Here’s another tasty treat showing what’s underneath the surface of our planet—only this time, the cake focuses on the immediate layers of sediment just below our feet. While it’s no doubt scientific, Flickr user Khol?’s design was actually part of the Threadcakes competition, which involves turning Threadless tee shirts into cakes (in this case, the shop’s Geology shirt).

3. The Solar System

It would be easy to make cake pops representing the solar system. But the fact that these pops—made by Paper, Plate and Plane—feature swirled surfaces on all of the gas giants make these sweet solar system treats orbit worlds above the competition.

4. The Sun’s Active Regions in Multi-Wavelengths

Ain’t no party like a NASA party cause a NASA party features cakes that show active regions of the sun in multi wavelengths! Yes, this cake was actually prepared by a scientist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for the center’s 2010 annual Sciences & Exploration Directorate (SED) New Year's Poster Party.

5. Coronal Mass Ejection

This interesting coronal mass ejection cake creation was part of NASA’s 2011 Science Poster Party and ended up winning first place in the Science as Food category. If you’re wondering about the equipment beside the cake and the demonstration time beside it, this cake went on to be an experiment involving some kind of burst of air erupting from the orange mass. While I don’t know exactly what happened, I’m sure it was messy based on the photo of the experiment as it began.

6. Canine Facial Anatomy

NASA workers aren’t the only professionals creating science-based cakes involving their careers. The Nottingham Veterinary School created a whole series of odd and gory cakes based on their profession as a fundraiser for Red Nose Day. Here is one student’s confectionary take on the superficial facial muscles of a canine. Personally, I’m particularly impressed by the seriously realistic-looking teeth.

7. A Canine Testicle

Here’s another cake by The Nottingham Veterinary School, this time depicting something vets see all too often –the testicle of a dog. At least it looks more like a medical illustration than the real thing.

8. One Very Dead Sheep

This oh-so-cheerful culinary creation by another Nottingham Veterinary School student depicts a dead sheep beside a snail and what is presumably either an infected organ or a diagram of a particular virus-infected cell. Whatever the thing beside the sheep, this piece won the prize for best depiction of an infection. According to the photo’s notes, it was also very moist and had a rich, deep chocolate flavor.

9. An Animal Cell

DeviantArt user NicholeWilliam created this tasty model of a cell as part of an assignment for her Biology 330 class. The piece is even more impressive when you learn that it was her first attempt at using fondant.

10. Failed Abdominal Surgery

This cake, featuring a failed abdominal surgery, was created for a company that designs the computer game “Surgical Simulator 2013.” While the surgery might be a failure, the cake sure isn’t—it not only looks great, but also features intestines made with removable truffles. The brilliantly bloody masterpiece was created by Conjurer’s Kitchen.

11. Anatomical Wax Model

Conjurer’s Kitchen has actually made quite a few weird anatomy cakes, though the most impressive may be their set that looks just like anatomical wax models, including a head, an arm, and a chest section.

12. The Periodic Table of Cupcakes

Photo courtesy of Rosanne Cook

In 2009, The Chemical Heritage Foundation held a party to celebrate the first anniversary of their museum opening. To celebrate, they commissioned this Periodic Table of Cupcakes by Jennifer McCafferty of JPM Catering in Ardmore, PA.

13. Schrödinger’s Cat

Is the cat inside a box dead or alive? According to Schrodinger and Cake Guru, it is simultaneously alive and dead, as illustrated in this delightful cake.

14. A Microscope and Fruit Flies

CakeCentral user doughking has a daughter who is a biology major at California State Long Beach and requested her dad make her a science cake for her birthday. He certainly did not disappoint when he presented her with an impressive microscope cake accompanied by fruit fly cake pops. They may not be the tastiest-looking treats around, but they are certainly scientific.

Sure, baking is a science, but baking cakes that actually look scientific is an entirely different discipline. What scientific concepts would you like to see illustrated in sugary goodness? I’d still really like to see a Large Hadron Collider cake myself.

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Animals
Why Male Hyenas Have It Worse Than Females
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A life of hunting zebras and raising young on the savanna isn’t half bad for a female hyena. Sadly, the same can’t be said for their male counterparts. As MinuteEarth explains, things take a downturn for the males of the species once they hit adolescence. No female in their pack will mate with them, a behavior scientists believe evolved to avoid inbreeding, so they head off in search of a different group to join. After dealing with vicious hazing from their new clan, they file in at the bottom of the rank and wait for other males above them to die so that they can slowly gain status.

Even after rising through the hierarchy, the most a male hyena can aspire to is being second place to the lowest-ranking female. Thanks to their bulky build and aggressive behavior, female hyenas enjoy a dominant position that’s rare in the animal kingdom.

After watching the video below, head over here for more facts about hyenas.

[h/t MinuteEarth]

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The Body
11 Facts About the Thumb
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The human body is an amazing thing. For each one of us, it's the most intimate object we know. And yet most of us don't know enough about it: its features, functions, quirks, and mysteries. Our series The Body explores human anatomy, part by part. Think of it as a mini digital encyclopedia with a dose of wow.

When it comes to the fingers on your hand, the thumb definitely does its own thing. Thumbs only have two bones, so they're obviously shorter, and they play a very important role that no other finger can claim; thanks to their unique saddle-like joint shape, and a little muscle known as the abductor pollicis brevis, you can bend and stretch your thumbs opposite your fingers to grip things. This is why they're known as "opposable thumbs." To bring you these 11 facts about the thumb, Mental Floss spoke with three experts on this unique digit: Barbara Bergin, an orthopedic surgeon in Houston; Loren Fishman, medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, in NYC; and Ryan Katz, attending hand surgeon at the Curtis Hand Center, located at the Medstar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.

1. OPPOSABLE THUMBS MAY HAVE FREED UP OUR ANCESTORS' MOUTHS FOR LANGUAGE.

The evolution of a thumb helped our ancestors evolve to be better at defense, allowing for throwing and clubbing activities. Moreover, Fishman says, it may have even contributed to our cognitive function. "Some say this is why we have language," he says, "because we can hold things in our hands and [therefore] use our mouths for something else—such as discussing the functions of the thumb."

2. THUMBS HAVE THEIR OWN PULSE.

You might have noticed that medical professionals take a pulse with the middle and index finger. The reason is because there's a big artery in the thumb, the princeps pollicis artery, and arteries pulse, making it difficult to feel a pulse in a neck if you're using your thumb.

3. THE THUMB SEPARATES US FROM OTHER ANIMALS. MOSTLY.

"The thumb is wonderful. It evolved in such a way that we can use it to do so many amazing things, and it's one of the things that separates us from other animals," Bergin says. A handful of other animals, mostly primates, have opposable thumbs, or toes, as the case may be. These include orangutans, chimpanzees, a phylum of frogs known as phyllomedusa, some lemurs, and giant pandas—although their thumb-like apparatus is really just an extra sesamoid bone that acts like a thumb.

4. TOES CAN BECOME THUMBS.

If you should lose a thumb, fear not, says Katz. "It can be rebuilt by surgeons using your big toe." This specialized surgery uses microvascular surgery techniques to transfer your big toe to your hand, where it will function almost exactly as your thumb did. "The toe is then brought to life by sewing together small arteries and veins under a microscope," Katz says, a complicated surgery that has become vastly more sophisticated over the years. The second toe can be used too, as you can see in this medical journal, but we warn you: It's not for the faint of heart.

5. … BUT IS A THUMB WORTH LOSING A TOE OVER?

It may not seem like a big deal to lose one thumb—after all, you've got another one. But Katz cites the American Medical Association's "Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment" [PDF], which states your thumb is so important that a complete amputation "will result in a 40 percent impairment to the whole hand." In fact, they claim that it would take "a complete amputation of the middle, ring, and small fingers to equal the impairment of an amputated thumb."

6. IT'S BETTER THAN HAVING YOUR HAND SEWN TO YOUR FOOT.

Katz also points out that "there used to be a common surgical procedure for thumb reconstruction, where the patient's hand was sewn to their foot for a period of time." This procedure was called the Nicoladani procedure, after the German surgical innovator Carol Nicoladoni. "It was a precursor to transplant surgery and plastic or reconstructive surgery as we know it today," he says.

7. YOUR THUMB MAKES AN ASTONISHINGLY WIDE VARIETY OF MOTIONS.

Other than pinching and grasping, Katz points out that the thumb "translates, rotates, and flexes all at once." This coordinated set of motions provides strength and dexterity. "Thus it's the thumb that allows us to easily pen an essay, turn a nut, pick up a coin, or button a shirt."

8. THAT DEXTERITY ALSO MAKES IT FRAGILE.

The thumb may appear to only have two knuckles, but it actually has a third, right above the wrist. This is called the first carpometacarpal joint. If that starts to hurt, or gets big enough to look like a bump or a mass, you may have carpometacarpal joint disorder (CMC), a common condition that is partly genetic and partly from repetitive use, according to Bergin. "You can get arthritis in the other joints, too, but this one is the most debilitating," she says. "First it becomes painful, and then you lose the ability to use it." Surgery can help with the pain, but it won't restore full mobility.

9. PAIN IN YOUR THUMB MAY REQUIRE LIFESTYLE CHANGES.

Bergin suggests small lifestyle changes so you don't need to grip anything too hard can make a huge difference, such as buying milk jugs with handles or using an electric toothbrush. "There are a lot of things we can do [to help] on a daily basis that shouldn't affect our quality of life," she suggests.

10. SWIPING RIGHT MIGHT BE DANGEROUS.

While we generally associate thumb arthritis with older people, Bergin says she now sees it in people in their forties and even thirties. Other studies have suggested that frequent phone use can be damaging. "There must be a genetic component to premature wearing of the thumb," she says. If it runs in your family, it's a good idea to be proactive and try to avoid repetitive gripping activities.

11. WHAT IT MEANS IF YOUR THUMB IS NUMB.

If instead of pain you're experiencing numbness of the thumb that extends to your index and middle fingers, you may be showing early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Fortunately, this isn't an emergency. "The condition takes a long time to become a big problem" Bergin says. People can sometimes help the condition by wearing wrist braces and getting physical therapy. If you just can't take it, "you can get surgery at any point if you failed to improve with bracing," she says. The surgery can reduce mobility, but it should take away the numbness and pain.

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