IPMB Scavenger Hunt!

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Here in Michigan Big Gretch has us all stuck at home cause of rona, and some of you might be quarantined with a younger brother. What can you do with him that is both educational and fun? Try the Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology Scavenger Hunt!

In the first section of IPMB, Russ Hobbie and I talk about distances and sizes. We show a couple illustrations (Figures 1.1 and 1.2) containing biological objects drawn to scale. Our goal is to help you build intuition about the relative size of things. This is an important skill, both for a sophomore premed student and for your third-grade niece. So, grab your little rug-rat and let’s play. Start with a picture of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, the virus that causes covid-19.

The starting point for playing IPMB Scavenger Hunt!
The starting point for playing IPMB Scavenger Hunt!
This game is best played in Powerpoint, so I suggest downloading the .pptx version of the figure. Now, you and your little sister search the internet for pictures of biological objects, copy and paste them into the figure, and label them. Make sure you expand or contract the image so its size matches the scale bars in the figure. You should be able to fit eight to ten objects in the picture before it gets crowded. When done, you will have created your own version of Fig. 1.1 or 1.2. But yours will be cooler that ours, because it will be in color and will probably contain real images as opposed to poorly drawn cartoons. An example that I created is shown below.

An example of playing Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology Scavenger Hunt.
An example resulting from playing IPMB Scavenger Hunt! A couple good sources of pictures are the CDC Image Library, and the Molecule of the Month Website.
What are the goals of this activity?
If your young cousin doesn’t want to stop, you can create your own version of the game using a larger or smaller initial object (perhaps a nerve axon and a 10 micron scale bar).

Your tenderfoot friend may select objects that don’t fit into the figure. For instance, she may want to include a red blood cell, which is too large for the slide. Don’t say no. Find an object around the house (perhaps a pillow) that is about the size of a red blood cell on this scale, thereby reinforcing the relative size of things. Don’t worry if you don’t have Powerpoint. Instead, pick your own size scale (for example, one foot equals one micron) and go around the house collecting everyday objects to represent “viruses,” “bacteria,” and “cells.” The only requirement is that they are all to scale.

If the little fella can’t get enough biology, have him look at some of David Goodsell’s drawings (be sure to see his latest coronavirus painting, below). If you have plenty of time and money, buy him a plush covid-19 toy.

The coronavirus.
Illustration by David S. Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank;
doi: 10.2210/rcsb_pdb/goodsell-gallery-019

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