A good scientific meeting will often lead to more questions than it answers. And sure enough, I’ve recently returned from the American Society for Cell Biology with a mystery object that has evaded all powers of comprehension. In the spirit of collaborative, cross-disciplinary research, I thought I’d crowd-source its identification.
One afternoon wandering around the Expo hall, I was selected at random to receive a plastic bag bulging with swag from various exhibitors. Upending it later in my hotel room, I found myself the proud owner of a wide variety of items including four extra-extra-large T-shirts; a pack of post-it notes; a keyring torch; a 4 GB flash drive; an oddly seductive glass paperweight dedicated to the Silver Anniversary of the first publication of Leninger’s Biochemistry; lens paper; a mini-slide holder; and no fewer than 26 bizarrely over-engineered ballpoint pens, some with the girths of bananas.
And this little fellow:
In short, what the hell is it? The device opens and snaps shut like a clam shell, and those white ovoid pads are made of a very firm foam substance.
Whatever it is must be somewhat useful: the mystery item is inscribed with both a US and Chinese patent number, although searches on the internet for their applications drew a blank. In my jet-lagged state, I tried to image what it might be for, but the only thing I could come up with was a device for pressing Drosophila or other small model organisms for your scrapbook, as children press flowers.
Any guesses, serious or otherwise, are welcome!