Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Paleosol Cupcakes, Part 1 of 2

For those of you not in the know, some people study dirt. While this is fortunately not an affliction either member of the Vengeance Team suffers from, it is an actual thing, and sometimes it is actually a very interesting thing. Of the poor souls who study dirt, paleopedologists are probably the best off because at least their dirt is really really damned old: they study paleosols, literally "ancient soils."  Paleosols record evidence of past climate, organisms and ecosystems, which grants them an automatic +10 interest points over modern soils.

Paleosols tend to have poorly articulated layers (soil horizons) only visible to very experienced dirt-interpreters. In this way, they are much like most of Meaghan's experiments in baking ("Is this a layer cake that has suffered some sort of faulting? Did you mean to leave large unconsolidated lumps in this cake for some reason?"). As such, Meaghan felt that baking paleosol study tools was the perfect way to celebrate the completion of her first year of graduate school. That's right: when Meaghan thinks of celebrations, she doesn't think about drinking, she thinks about nerd-baking... and that's why she's in graduate school.

Schools out - it's time for SCIENCE! And baking!

Being an atypically poor baker, Meaghan immediately made a few critical mistakes. See, Meaghan around sugar is sort of like a dog around cocaine: they're both excited and can't stop inadvertently ingesting the product, thus compounding the difficulty of the situation (Meaghan dramatically loses coherency with increased sugar intake). Meaghan's eagerness frequently causes herself to self-sabotage in critical situations (re: first dates) and the kitchen is no different. On the first two batches of white cake, she got so excited about using different food colors to evoke different oxidation levels that she, well, forgot to put in the eggs.
Eggs: sort of critical to cakes, but apparently you can add 'em at most any stage!
Then came the drab haloed root traces. These are the greenish marks left behind by decayed roots, and they are very tricky to insert. Meaghan's first attempts at this were immediately deemed a failure: poking green batter into a pond of wet brown batter just makes... more brown batter. She tried again midway through baking while the batter would be firmer. Little known fact: spit is an important component of drab haloed root traces.

Don't worry, guys, she didn't feed the spitosol to anyone.

Later, Meaghan discovered a totally not sketchy irrigation syringe just lying around in the back of a drawer and relied on that instead. Here she demonstrates proper technique for creating carbonized root traces!

See Amy? This is the sort of shit that happens when you leave Meaghan to her own devices. Not only does she get drunk and buy a thousand new dresses she doesn't need, she bakes obsessively nerdy treats instead of studying, then peer-pressures other people into eating them.

YUM, right Nick and Edward? RIGHT???
Overall, paleosol cupcakes were a success. Sure, Meaghan ate 0 complete muffins but about 6 muffin's worth of batter and got a nasty tummy ache and headache from it, but it was worth it.... even when the shuttle driver behind her laughed his ass off when he saw her using the loading zone to unload three pans of cupcakes outside of Volcanology.

As George put it, Meaghan may have overestimated the amount of fun she needed to have.

Previously unknown fact: all paleosol cupcakes suffer from layer deformation by, erm, tree throw. .

In order to keep the paleosol inundation of your Tuesday at a minimum, we're making this a two-parter. Expect tomorrow's paleosol cupcake post to take today's level of nerdy and bump it up to 11... ON A LOGARITHMIC SCALE. That's right - even nerdier than a log scale reference. Tomorrow's going to be cray. Science cray.


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