"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


A draft of the rat genome sequence has been released. It clocks in at about 2.75 billion base pairs, versus humans' 2.9 billion and the mouse 2.6 billion. Lots of homology in key areas. Very very cool! Will lead to better animal modeling, and also further confirms utility long-standing use of rats in medical research.

Chewing Big Red gum actually does fight bad breath. No real surprises here, anyone who pays much attention knows that herbal components (particularly hot ones, like cinnamon) generally have pretty potent antimicrobial properties.

NAIAD has found its experimental SARS vaccine effective in mice. Unbelievably fast turnaround on that one, hopefully it'll work in people too. Then I can stop worrying about my perpetual coughs.

Researchers have found a gene whose removal seems to increase birth defects in mice. It serves to protect from oxidative stress. Which we all know may be bad. But any new hints and tricks are a Good Thing.

Good and Bad 

This morning's good news is that a study at the University of Edinburgh has found that a licorice extract helps boost memory in older men. This will hopefully lead to some good new research directions. Plus, I've always loved licorice and too maybe now people'll stop dissing it!

There is always a flipside, though...today's first bad news: another Simian virus seems to be causing cancer in humans. And it's linked to vaccines, which means more PR trouble from the anti-vaccination nutjobs (whom I believe should go without vaccines and suffer the bloody consequences!).

Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Many, many people in the US are unemployed. Until recently, I was one of them, but I won't discuss the causes of any of that here, but I will posit that all those who inspired this entry (if it is actually fact-based).

Not having a job is a real problem, though...I was lucky in that while I was unemployed, I spared myself telling people [attractive ones, at least] that I was unemployed: I was and am, technically, a professional photographer. I have been paid to take pictures. I would not refuse being paid to take more.

Coolest.....Part 2 

Best. Research. Ever. And I really don't care if it's valid, it's a great pickup line.

Early Hanukkah 

I have a serious gizmo problem. I like them, want to buy them, but am too poor.

That's why Scubadoo is perfect for me. A AUD$17,000 ($13, 184.50) underwater scooter. I don't live near water (no, that's not really water in the Potomac anymore...), and am a better swimmer than driver, but just look at the thing!!

Plus the salesman might be a hot Aussie.

(added 5:00 pm)
Also, there's the plane NASA tested this week. My own mach 7 plane would mean I could go to dinner in Paris, see an Opera in Moscow, and still get back to DC for a good night's sleep. Again...I wish.


This is the coolest thing I've heard in a long time. Imperial College (London) researchers have successfully transplanted genes into fetal mice, indicating that it may soon be possible to correct genetic disorders (haemophilia, Huntingtons, Republicanism). Which, while kinda creepy (designer babies, etc...although if I'm honest I dislike the idea more because I didn't get all the cool modifications like fast metabolism or photographic memory than because I think it's "wrong"), is very cool and could really make a lot of lives much better.


Bloody brilliant. If I ever decide to publish a book or produce something in need of marketing, I will be very sad that (a) I didn't think of it, and (b) Mr. Mitchell already did it.

I remember reading about the German scientists messing with the English back a few months ago, and to hear of it again is lovely. Especially since it's in a fun context, and the guy has gotten what he wanted (i.e., published).


Results: Erectile dysfunction caused serious distress to all those me who experienced it.
Uhm.....No frikin shiite! The British Medical Journal brings us this startling news.

Nanoparticles cause brain damage in fish. But it's still a cool molecule. I just now have no desire to try those Hostess© Buckysnoballs©.

But in good nanotech news, alcohol makes things run more smoothly. Another thing (besides frat boys) that goes down easy after a few shots!

Monday, March 29, 2004


Everyone always says they make you see such pretty colors. This probably isn't why, but hey, I'm amused.

Employment Issues 

According to a new study, too much time at a cluttered desk area causes illness in workers.

A Sprint building in Kansas was designed to reduce obesity in workers, by forcing them to walk from the garage and making stairs more inviting than elevators. I think this is great. I would so walk up to my office, but my building doesn't even let you on the stairs except to flee fires.

Sunday, March 28, 2004


According to the United Nations Environment Program, Earth is getting literally greener. As carbon dioxide levels rise, and the Amazon's cloud cover dissipates, plants are growing faster and bigger. This is the Gaia Hypothesis in action.

The thing is, it's not a good sign: it's a sign of how significantly we're changing our environment. Even assuming the Gaia Hypothesis works, there's the question of how much it can do and how long it takes.

The other problem is that persons inclined not to like environmental protections will misinterpret this report as saying that things are OK. "Greener" happens when smaller, fast-growing plants outcompete big, slow ones...this causes habitat devastation, and can lead to mass extinctions.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


This week I'm going to be guestblogging over at DCSOB. I'll keep posting science-y stuff here, but it'll be lighter due to my doing stuff over there. Expand your horizons...go give it a read!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Grains of Salt 

A new meta-study from the American Psychological Society claims to provide "Unequivocal Evidence" that exposure to violent media makes kids more violent and aggressive. Well, duh .

Clearly, if people set better examples for kids, the world would be a better place. HOWEVER, the thing about these studies is that they (a) don't provide any really useful scientific advances (we already know kids learn by observation), and (b) provide fodder for media hype and bullshit which leads to stupid things like calls to ban everything from books to music to video games to whatever else.

The facts of life being what they are, kids are gonna see violence. And the idea that kids are more violent today than they were 50, 100, or 1000 years ago is utter crap. The story goes that Cain killed Abel, back in the beginning...remember that back then, living 25 years was a good long life: Cain was almost certainly a kid, by today's standards. Alexander the Great took throne and began his conquests of Persia at 20. He died at 33. Less long ago, young people fought in wars, and were bandits: Billy the Kid gained notoriety and was killed before age 21.

Another factor leading to the perception of kids being more violent than in previous eras (or for that matter decades) is population density. More kids = more kids committing crimes. And then there's the media....we see it more than we did even 25 years ago, simply because of increased news coverage and sensationalism.

Two bits 

I just can't resist putting up:

Worst album covers ever. These are bad. Anyone got further nominees?

Lilly, a four-eared kitten, has found a home. Now, we just got a new kitten, but a four eared one would be awesome!!

Well, Duh.... 

A sociologist has published research asserting that chatroom users tend to get nasty. And that they 'yell' and are duplicators and establish pecking orders. Uhm, well, it is a group of people, who always do that, and it's also a group who don't usually get to have any sort of place on the 'real-world' pecking order (i.e., pale, skinny computer geeks). Earth-shattering revelation this is ever so not. Anybody remember Godwin's Law??

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Happy Birthday 

To the color TV. A milestone indeed. One wonders what life would be like if we still only had black and white. I imagine it'd be very different, and not even subtly. Probably there wouldn't be as many hair dye commercials, and fashion marketing (thus fashion itself) would be very different.


Fatty McOversized, Continued 

Once upon a time, we heard about the Fast Food Nation. Perhaps 'World' is now a better term. McDonald's is expanding beyond expanding waistlines, to covering them as well as selling them toys, books, and DVDs.

Oh. Dear.

The Scots have invented a new, uhm, *delicacy*.......the deep-fried chocolate sandwich. Now, I love chocolate as much as anybody (possibly more), but that is bloody gross.
According to the article, Scots really like fattening foods, "which is depressing news for nutritionists." Regardless of my opinions about which fatty foods they choose, you have to say anything that causes such a statement to appear in a major newspaper is perhaps worthwhile.

J'en veux! 

Au bureau, Puisqu'il est rigoleuse!

Chez moi, pour amuser des invités.

Via BongBoing

A vous de reflechir! 

The EU has set a goal of increasing its "green electricity" production to 22% (from 14) by 2010. Sounds good to me. This is a kind of project that strikes me as much more feasible in Europe than in this US, simply because of shorter distances and smaller population. Later I'll work on translating the article.


The theory of matter may need a rethink. I don't understand most of it, but it seems like something to watch out for. If anyone can elucidate, please comment!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Brains and Jaws 

A new report postulates that about 2.5 million years ago, a mutation caused our ancestors' jaws to relax, allowing their brains to grow, and paving the way for human intellect to evolve.

This is a pretty interesting idea, and it's published in Nature, so it's probably pretty good, but....let's just that whenever I relax *my* jaw, I'm probably doing something stupid. Teeheehee.

More Low Blows 

Because it's just that time of the month (or something).

You're Brazil!

You're athletic, charming, and probably a good dancer.
 Unfortunately, you don't really mind chopping down the rain forest, and you probably

consider homeless people expendable in certain circumstances.  Of course, your
personality is so diverse that it's hard to track down exactly what you're like.  You
definitely like Pele, the World Cup, and shouting "gooooal" at the
top of your lungs.

theCountry Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Ok, I do get a bit pushy, and try to be as eclectic as I can, but......

You're Love in the Time of Cholera!

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Like Odysseus in a work of Homer, you demonstrate undying loyalty by
sleeping with as many people as you possibly can. But in your heart you never give
consent! This creates a strange quandary of what love really means to you. On the
one hand, you've loved the same person your whole life, but on the other, your actions
barely speak to this fact. Whatever you do, stick to bottled water. The other stuff
could get you killed.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


Reasons to Visit China 

Aside from the fact that I have at least one friend living there, they have just opened a Sex Theme Park. Most of me doesn't really want to know what the Chinese government approves of as 'sexy,' but that's why I live life by listening only to the more masochistic, curious bits.

Low Blow 

You are Lucy!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Yeah, it fits. Sad but true.


Chronic sinusitis may be caused by fungi, and easily treatable. I've had a stuffy nose for about 23 years now, and a reprieve is of course most welcome!

Bouncing Brains 

Exercise is a Good Thing to get lots of, no news there, nor in the fact that listening to music improves cognition. The good news is: the combination of these two activities has a synthetic effect of marked overall cognitive and mood improvement. Cool...I'm waiting for a few follow-up studies!

And Duke University scientists are working on developing "neuroprosthetic" devices: artificial limbs, etc., controlled directly by brain power. I just want a telepathically-controlled chair like Professor Xavier's!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

3D Beer 

New "X3D" technology is hitting the streets. Or at least the bars. This is a clever system which turns a plasma-screen TV into a 3-D image projector, without the funky glasses.

And as with not nearly enough things, it's first being used to sell beer. Which is as good a thing as any to see in 3D, I say. But when will it come with taste-o-vision, or drunk-o-vision??

Good, Bad, and Scary 

With many of the top antidepressants on the market linked to suicide, the FDA may have finally started to wake up on the subject. These drugs are prescribed willy-nilly, more often by primary care physicians, who lack the training and experience to properly diagnose depression or to properly pick which drug is right for which patient, than by psychiatrists, who have said training and experience.

Only related by way of governmental-ness: the Supreme Court will rule on whether or not persons not under arrest must give their name to police. This is a scary one to me: if the answer is yes, it's another step in the [probably inevitable] direction of a truly Orwellian society. The right to remain silent is so important, and should be even more closely protected when the police don't even have a warrant or probable cause.

The good news, however, is that PolyHeme, an artificial blood, is being tested in critical trauma patients. The problem, of course, is that the Washington Post is using its scariest reporting voice to describe these trials. Which of course gets good ratings, and sells products of advertisers, but is so totally irresponsible. This is a critical test of potentially life-saving technology....don't cause a public furor over it, fuckheads.

Tobacco has been getting lots of attention recently, none of it good. Smoking has now been found to accelerate cognitive decline in aging.

We know smoking is bad for us, and we all also know that too much sun can cause skin cancer. Previously, it was thought that the cancer-culprit here was UVB rays. The National Academies of Sciences has published a paper contradicts that view, and indicates that UVA also causes DNA damage, and thus cancer.

So, take your vitamin D. Another recent study indicates that vitamin D may have potent anti-cancer activities....but don't think this means you can just go sunbathing!


Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, and yes, Umami. These are the five 'basic tastes' more or less agreed upon (for the moment) by taste scientists. Recent advances in molecular genetics have made possible great leaps in understanding taste, and what functions it fulfills. I like taste, it's a very nice sense to have.

Monday, March 22, 2004

BonBons Fumés, parte Deux: 'Duh...' and Tumors 

We all know a few 'social smokers.' Who only smoke when they drink. There seems to be a good reason. Add to list of rationalizations.

New discovery into how tumor cells avoid immune detection. I don't have access to the full text, but this could be cool. My first thought is that this seems odd: tumors often (at least from what I know) arise from mutations in a given cell or set of cells' genes. How can it be that so frequently, such a specific mutation would occur?

BonBons Fumés 

Smoking is unhealthy. I'd provide a link to evidence, but we all know it's true. Bad news for some women, though: a gene variant seems to make it harder for some women to quit. While this is bad news for the women in question, the prospects of examining a gene tied to addiction are very juicy indeed!

More bad news for smokers: smoking seems to increase incidence of age-related macular degeneration. No details given as to whether this effect is linked to nicotine (very likely, given nicotinimide's association with visual processes), inhaled toxins, or topical smoke exposure through the cornea (bad news for non-smokers).

Bad news for non-smokers: donated organ shortages have caused UK doctors to begin transplanting 'imperfect' organs into patients with dire need. Including smokers' lungs. Ew.

Sunday, March 21, 2004


Everyone should have goals in life.

Towards this end, a Mr. Frank Rich has posted a list of forty things a good drunk should do before (s)he dies. Some of them are amusing, some not so much.

I've accomplished 21, and with maybe three exceptions, I'm not going for (and generally trying to avoid) the rest.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Water Supply. 

We've all heard about the lead in DC's water supply. Some of us have known about it for some time ("some of us," i.e., anyone who's ever looked at blood samples from people living in versus not living in DC), some (i.e., WASA) seem surprised.

Coca-Cola is also having water troubles, and has recalled about 500,000 bottles of its Dasani water in Britain, due to excessive bromate levels. I've always refused to buy Dasani, simply on the principle that for $1.25 a bottle, I can get spring water as opposed to "filtered" water. But those marketing geniuses at Coke keep on selling it, and probably will even after this.


Reports all over the press today say another simian retrovirus seems to have passed to humans. The viruses don't seem to cause any diseases, as of yet, but then retroviruses are pretty well known for causing cancers later on. Oy.

That's what you get for eating monkeys, but it's probably also contagious. Oy, again.


A fascinating bit in The Economist about the biotech backlash among consumers, and how nanotechnology may soon be up for the same treatment.

I agree in part with the premise, which is that all this backlash is kinda stupid, but do think we should be much less cavalier about unleashing GMO's into the world. But largely that's because what gets released tends to be Monsanto's one-generational seeds, which cross contaminate other fields and destroy crops.

But it would be nice if the public could stop being so shortsighted and see the benefits of all these things.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Life and Death 

A new theory suggests that life may have begun on earth assisted by a process not unlike PCR. I have no inherent problem with this theory...it seems logical, and fits with the whole circularity of time thing. However, the biologist quoted in the article goes a step in a direction of which I am not at all fond: he says this theory means life couldn't have evolved on Mars, because it doesn't have a big enough moon to cause tides for the effect. Now, I have two problems with this. The first is, as stated before, that life developing (in the way suggested by this article or otherwise) is so unlikely, that it happening more than once is even more infinitely unlikely. And why should we demand that other life-forms be like us? Rather silly, if you ask me. Second of all (if you ignore the first bit), Phobos may have once been bigger (it's irregular shape may suggest this), or Mars could have had another moon/moons. Or maybe the effect of two smaller moons has an effect we don't know about (not having one and all).

Death. Lots and lots of death. According to a pair of papers published in Science, which is the only reason I take them seriously, Earth may be headed for its sixth mass extinction cycle. The data seem to be only from the British Isles, however, which are both isolated and probably super hard hit by humans' muckings about, but if they generalize...uh-oh.....

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Last week I had lots of fun writing Dupont circle haikus over at DCSOB, that when I saw a page of double dactyls over at the Nielsen Haydens' place, I had to start my own amateur poetry bit.

Add your own (for rules, see above link)!!!

Plié Plié Plié
Mikhail Barishnakoff
Has danced the seven veils
In his fishnets

His audience stood up
Ran from the theater
Money for debts


Internet vagrancies
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Helps me procrastinate
Some days at work

Attentional shifting
Ominous deadlines do
Before me lurk


Murderous roadraging
Mister Mitsubishi
Cut me off at the light
Sodding cabbie

But a fool would commute
Let traffic pass me by
Be less crabby

Matchmaker, matchmaker 

So Match.com has a physical attractiveness test thingey up. The main problem is that the photos they have to rate are all photoshopped up, and many look just ridiculously fake, making it hard to rate them for attractiveness. My result: the cute guy. Yeah, of the group, the one they picked out for me is the best looking. Not really someone I'd see myself with long term, however. But then again, they do want to stay in business!

They also say that of those surveyed (10,000 allegedly), only 16% share my tastes. Not likely, but again, they want to stay in business (and want *my* business)! I'm supposedly in to "boy next door" and "pretty boy" types, which isn't totally wrong, misses the guys I usually am most attracted to: tall and mysterious, with a psycho killer streak (yeah, I know I need to stop dating those guys!).


Aliso Viejo, California officials freaked out when they learned that foam cups contained an "odorless, tasteless chemical," possibly lethal if inhaled, called dihydrohgen monoxide, and nearly banned them.

Someone then stopped smoking pot for ten minutes and noticed that the chemical in question was, uhm, dihydrogen monoxide: H2O.

Someone read about this dangerous substance on a web site. I'm sure someone is also going to try and sue the webmaster of said website for something. IDIOT TAX!!!!

Undetermined in Iraq 

I'm a statistics geek, working for a survey organization, so when Salam Pax posted a link to this survey of Iraqi people about the situation in their country, I was very excited.

It's a very, very interesting read. There's lots of good info in there, much conforming to what I would have expected, some contrary. As always, however, I want more information. I want to see the responses broken down by ethnicity. I want to see them broken down by region. I want to know what the actual numbers were: the source is pretty good (BBC), but I'd be much happier if I knew I was looking at a survey of 10,000 as opposed to 2,000. Or, a survey of 2,000 in a smaller area. All this information is key to drawing useful conclusions from the survey data. Percentages are nice, but you have to know much, much more.

Bad News Tuesday 

We've known for some time that overuse of antibiotics is a Bad Thing. Now, the World Health Organization is very worried about drug-resistant strains of Tuberculosis popping up in eastern Europe and Asia.

As if it wasn't bad enough, UCSF researchers have found that HIV patients seem to have higher heart disease risk, due to increased atherosclerosis, or fatty buildup in the arteries.

And in other HIV/AIDS news, the Zambian government has adopted the amazingly stupid position that condom distribution encourages sex. And so they've discontinued their AIDS-prevention program involving condoms. Seems American Puritans aren't the only ones with really, really dumb ideas about sex.

And Le Monde opines about terrorism and democracy, through the thinly veiled anti-Muslim prejudice of contemporary French society.

Basest Methods 

Getting girls interested in science has long been a problem. After all the many years of discrimination and sexism, there remains the problem of interest. An anonymous professor has a solution.

I never had a hot professor, but I'm sure if I had, I'd never have missed a class (not that I was prone to skipping anyway)

Monday, March 15, 2004

Got Milk? 

Cows fed rapeseed produce milk lower in saturated fats and higher in unsaturated ones. If you make butter with this milk it doesn't get so hard in the fridge, so you can spread it more easily (selling point).

The stuff is apparently already on the market, at Marks and Spencer no less, so it can't taste too awful, but I gotta wonder about other stuff. Biological systems are so complex that messing with things, even "naturally" like this, is bound to have unexpected consequences. Also, it may taste close to the same as butter or milk, but will it work for my really delicate recipes?

More Above the Neck 

Flexible wires may lead to artificial nerves.

If this is legit (and it's in Nature so it probably is) and proves functional, it is a HUGE deal. This kind of technology has kajillions (actual number) of uses already planned, just waiting for feasibility.

Skipping Steps 

Sedna has not yet been officially called a 'planet' yet, but it may have a 'moon' orbiting it. Which I think is peachy keen. Or something like that.

Check Your Head 

In above-the-neck news, researchers have found that wasps' brains grow larger as they perform more complex tasks. This has some pretty cool implications for plasticity, and adult development.

U Penn neuroscientists have done some interesting work on memory too. They've also gotten transplanted cells to grow hair, as a possible future baldness treatment. I still think research dollars should be spent on other things.

King Tutenboozen 

Spanish scientists, who seem to have too much time on their hands, have analyzed the wine residues on King Tutankhamun's vases and find that he seems to have preferred red wine.

It may also be that that's all they had. This is interesting, I guess, but I really feel there are better ways to spend research funds.


Aux objets répugnants nous trouvons des appas; Chaque jour vers l'Enfer nous descendons d'un pas, Sans horreur, à travers des ténèbres qui puent. (Rushidie)


Il y a quelques jours, Le Monde a raconte une histoire, d'une fille qui a traversait les murs d'horreur, qui survivait. Laetitia été captive de Marc Dutroux il y a huit ans....et elle semble d'avoir récupère très bien. C'est une histoire qui a, peut-être, des graines d'espoir.

Je me rappelle d'un roman, "Le Sourire de Brahim," l'histoire de Brahim, un gamin Beur qui s'aggrandait et réussi de vivre.

Ahoy Sedna 

Sedna, formerly the Inuit goddess of the sea, is now a planet. Or at least something which will be called a planet, amidst much argument over what makes something s 'planet' as opposed to, say, an asteroid. Cool.

Die Roboter, Continued 

I blogged earlier about the DARPA robotic vehicle race. As predicted, there was no winner. But I definitely didn't expect things to go this badly. Oh well.

Back to the drawing board, as they say.

In better robotics news, Toyota has developed a humanoid robot, which is to be sold as a personal assistant, particularly to elderly and disabled persons. "Asimo" can dance, recognize familiar faces (which is unbelievably cool and if anyone has access to a description of how this feat is accomplished, please send it to me), and answer simple questions.

This guy is, I assume, named after Asimov, the writer. I wonder if it follows his Three Laws??

Saturday, March 13, 2004

What's Your Type? 

MP4 may soon be an easy answer. In the long search for an acceptable blood-substitute (with out all the risks and difficulties of donated blood supplies), UCSD scientists may have found a solution....Their blood substitute seems to work pretty well in hamsters, which is way ahead of other, previous attempts.

This is Very Good News.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Hearth and Home 

Three more articles came to my attention today, each relating to home life in some way.

First of all, biologists at Mass General have found that female mice continue to produce eggs in adulthood, contrary to conventional dogma: we always thought females were born with a number of eggs, released them beginning at puberty, and ran out to cause menopause. Maybe not. Good for infertility treatments!

Penn State researchers have developed a microbial fuel cell, which burns human waste for energy: power your home with your shit! Talk about renewable energy: just put one under Congress!

Those crazy Germans are at it again, this time getting ready to test a robot which will 'squirt out' buildings, using concrete or adobe or something else, like toothpaste from a tube. Remember how they built houses on "The Jetsons?" Nothing like that at all, but still pretty cool.

Sense and Senators (Fatty McOversized, continued) 

The House has passed a bill banning lawsuits against the food industry for making people obese. Frankly these sorts of suits are 100% frivolous, yes, but I worry anytime the Fed. tries to legislate things the courts ought to be deciding. Hopefully it won't pass the [usually] more sensible Senate.

Earlier, I discussed cell growth, and what we do and don't know. Well, we now seem to know more.

NYU scientists have found a new growth-regulating protein, APC, which may prove very useful not just in general understanding but also against cancers. *Cool!*

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Gay History 

This post, over at the Fablog, is brilliant. It's informative and funny, although probably not to Mr. Goodheart, author of the review reviewed. I must read the book in question.

When do we get a "Gay History Month?" We could share it with Breast Cancer Awareness or something, I'm sure.

Fat Wednesday 

Because Mardi Gras was already taken.

We all know that being fat (and by this I mean actually fat, not Beverly Hills teenage girl ohmygodIhaveboobs fat) is bad for us. We all know smoking is bad for us. However, this doesn't make it easier for people to lose weight or quit smoking.

A French biotech company, however, has a possible solution. Rimonabant is a new drug that they hope will be out on the market next year, which acts on the endocannabinoid system to ease cravings for food and cigarettes. It works on the same receptors, CB1, as the THC in marijuana, but has the opposite effect.

I wrote my neuropharmacology paper on the endocannabiniod system, so it has a special place in my heart. It actually has much, much more far-reaching effects than just the munchies and spacey-ness you get from smoking pot. It's crucial for memory, and learning, and appetite, and also fertility, embryo implantation/development, and digestion. Amongst other things we don't know about yet.

I also really wonder if all those nutjobs who want to 'punish' the French for not going along with W's war will continue their boycott if it means staying fat. Heh.

Die Roboter 

DARPA's current contest, which will be this Saturday (and may or may not produce a winner), is to build a fully robotic vehicle to travel a set route, entirely without human guidance. It's a pretty cool concept, and while DARPA's goals are not necessarily the kind I like, it will lead to good things (automatic cars, for instance). The vision of robot armies taking over, however, is not a pretty one.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


I'm a photographer, so reading about Philips' development of a liquid lens is exciting news.

Even though the actual parts, once properly developed, will be very cheap to produce, I'm sure it'll be a long time before I can afford a new liquid lens camera. I'm not really sure why I'd want one, other than the ain't-it-cool factor, but hey.

The main benefit here is likely to be compactness: a telephoto lens without having to lug that huge, conspicuous 500mm around!

Reminds me of Oberlin.... 

Villagers in western Kenya have forcibly washed a smelly neighbor.

No details given as to why Mr. Kasokong hadn't bathed in ten years, but it really doesn't matter, does it?

If only this sort of thing had happened to a few very smelly hippies at Oberlin, who thought they were making some kind of deep political statement by stinking up our classes. I'm all for free expression, and didn't even mind the unattractive naked people, but really, not bathing is gross.

Monday, March 08, 2004

My Headphones, They Saved My Life... 

BBC reports on a guy who's doing research on how people use portable personal music devices, such as Walkmans and iPods.

No earth-shattering revelations here, but I'll be interested to see the longer-term psychological effects and things that could come from this sort of research. I'm glad somebody's doing it.

More Bad Ideas 

Many doctors are worried about malpractice suits, and even more people are worried that the politicians telling them those suits are responsible for their high medical costs might not be lying. The truth of the matter is that (according to numbers I've heard bounced around) while malpractice insurance costs about $1.1 billion per year, actual tort costs are around $85 million. Ooops...silly insurance companies!

However, many doctors still fear this problem: The Times reports on a really stupid way of trying to avoid it. This strikes me as something for doctors who are, uhm, prone to suits. Meaning probably of dubious quality.

Don't get me wrong....I know there are people out there who try to abuse the system. But this sort of B.S. is just ridiculous....what if someone's on the list and needs care? Hippocratic oath, anyone?

Immune Intrigue 

As much as they screw up sometimes, I gotta give this one to the Post. They've written up the discovery of how HIV's Vif gene works (go read the article, I'm not explaining here) that very much sounds like a spy novel. Bits of David Brown's writing echo of Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaimain (not spy writers, but hey).

Then there's the content. Discovery of the enzyme on which Vif acts to defeat the innate immune system, and the basics of how it's done.

I remember when we studied HIV in my Genes and Genetic Engineering class at Oberlin (one of the best classes ever!)...it was the coolest topic: this virus, breaking all the rules and with each new discovery, rewriting the Book on virology. Using only nine genes, HIV cripples and destroys humans (with millions of genes) with seeming facility.

I wish I was good enough at calculus to have gone into virology.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

A New Hope 

Scientists have discovered that a virus, previously thought to be inert and before that to cause hepatitis, thwarts HIV. GB-virus C (GB-C) infection strongly prolonged the lives of its hosts who also had HIV.

They have yet to figure out how it does this, as viruses have not previously been shown to compete much at all, and never so directly.



I'm all for feminism. I have no problem (and in fact rather prefer) women to be equal to men, in whatever that means. However, stupid things done in the name of making them 'for women' piss me off.

Volvo has decided to make a 'womens' concept car, which has all sorts of ridiculous frilly things, like a palette of colored seat covers, "to match a woman's outfit," etc. And the hood doesn't open and the car tells you when it needs service, and calls you in an appointment by itself. The latter bit sounds kinda cool, but then I have my own mechanic, and don't want to have to go to the dealer (who always overcharges). Plus, what if you need a jumpstart?

Not a car for women, a car for ditzes.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Good news 

Everyone probably already heard about this woman who was at a kids' birthday party and happened to note that one of the girls looked a lot like her and her other kids, and took some of her hair and had it DNA tested. Turns out it was her daughter who'd been thought dead in a fire six years ago.

Now, this is a bloody miracle, no question. What's really amazing to me is that we live in an age where a woman who speaks barely any English, living in Pennsylvania, thinks about getting a DNA sample from a little girl at a party. In this case, it's amazing and incredible and had awesome results, but in the long run...isn't it a bit creepy?

Punk Rock 

The thing about Ian MacKaye is that, aside from being really pedantic, every time he talks, he sounds so like a young naive idealist, and full of shit. The thing is, he's managed to pull it off: success without $ucce$$, never selling out (whatever that means), and a really DIY label and punk rock ethic that's outlasted just about everything else. Fucking Excellent.

New Stupid Human Tricks 

Because karaoke is so fifteen seconds ago.

Movieoke is exactly what it sounds like, and I'm looking forward to it. Butchering movie lines might be ridiculous, but it won't hurt my ears the way all those drunk-ass queens who think just because they're gay they can sing like Whitney Houston. At full volume. (don't get me wrong....it would be really nice if all gay people were naturally talented singers and dancers and interior decorators, etc...I'd be rich, dammit!...but really these boys need to learn to back off)


We all know that smoking is bad for us. Many of us, however continue to smoke. Me? I quit when I was fifteen....just haven't stopped yet. I smoke when I'm out, and people are smoking around me: if I'm gonna die of second-hand smoke, I may as well get the entertainment value of smoking!

RAND did a study recently (that I saw though work) indicating that African-American kids, while just as likely to try smoking, are less likely to become 'smokers' than white and latino kids. Interesting. More specific demographic might shed some light.


UC Berkeley researchers have developed a prototype "bionic" lower-body exoskeleton, which enhances strength and endurance. So you can carry heavier stuff farther, leap buildings in a single bound, etc.

Sounds fun, but has much more interesting potential in conjunction with the new bio-robot and brain-controlled robotics technologies for treatment of paralysis and other things, like MD.


The American Anthropological Association has issued a statement in support of gay marriage, and even more importantly refuting arguments that gay marriage would undermine "the basis of civilization."

It's good to have friends, and especially ones who are all academic and qualified-expert-sounding.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


So W is 'replacing' some members of his bioethics committee. Apparently, a couple of scientists were more concerned with science than with W.'s political angles. His stance on stem cell research has long been a ridiculous one. In pandering to his rabid-right base, he, as usual, ignores actual science. People get so strung out about these things because they don't understand (a) what they are, (b) how they work, or (c) why they're so fucking important. Stem cell research is the only real chance we seem to have of ever treating things like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, paralysis, or Huntington's.

One more reason he's gotta go.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


In an amazing demonstration of just how sick and sad and cynical things can get, Urban Outfitters is selling this tee-shirt. I don't even know how to begin to express how ill this sort of shit makes me, nor can I decide which is worse: that it's clearly put out with specific intentions or that kids are stupid enough to (a) think it's a cool shirt, and (b) pay actual money for it.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden blogged it, and covered the bases rather thoroughly. But I couldn't resist chiming in.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Theories New and Old 

Conventional wisdom has for some time held that the dinosaurs were exterminated by environmental cataclysm due to a asteroid's collision with the Earth, hitting the Yucatan Peninsula, 65.3 million years ago.

A new study has been published claiming that the dinosaurs lived on about 300,000 years after that, and were finally done in by the volcanic aftermath of an asteroid colliding with western India.

Needless to say, this is controversial, and therefore entertaining for those of us with a vague, I'd-like-to-know-but-am-not-holding-my-breath interest in paleobiology.


No, I'm not talking about the presidential primaries today. Scientists have found a way to cheat at coin-tossing. A coin is slightly (but significantly) more likely to land on the side on which it started.

Now I know how I'm gonna have everything decided, from now on. As long as I get to do the calling.

It's not exactly cheating.....

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