by Alethea Drexler, archives assistant
We’re back with the answer to last week’s Thingamajig!
Here it is, to refresh your memory:
We got several suggestions about what this might be, including a snail race track (complete with “escargot”–car go–pun), a snake warmer, and, more seriously, a giant electrophoresis apparatus.
Actually, the snake warmer guess wasn’t too far wrong.
It’s a temperature gradient plate for culturing microorganisms. A short summary can be read here.
The mechanism at the closed end is a heating element. Heat is transferred along the plate’s aluminum body, dissipating as it gets further away from the heat source. Researchers can use this to determine the maximum and minimum temperatures a given microorganism can tolerate, because the microorganism won’t grow where it’s too hot (nearest the heat source) or too cold (furthest from the heat source).
 J Bacteriol. 1962 March; 83(3): 463-469