Thursday, September 30, 2004
There is, to my knowledge, absolutely no reason to suspect that the Mayas or Incas had any contact with Europeans. They were in America 2,000-3,000 years ago, Europeans were not. Unless reproduction was a very different process back then, those are very separate genealogies. Clearly, the Australian aborigines were not interbreeding with even the Chinese that recently.
I'd like to defend scientists everywhere by pointing out that the author of this paper is a mathematician (famous for ignoring reality in favor of an elegant model), but the editors of a certain journal did, in fact, publish it.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Two slightly scary bits in the news today effectively support this proposition: a military blimp is now being tested as a surveillance instrument for DC (floating over my head now, watching me...), and a Barcelona club is injecting RFID tags into VIP-listers. These are the subtle beginnings of something quite unappealing. Welcome to the Police State. Please wear your tinfoil hat at all times.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Any suggestions from the more technically minded?
Hopefully, however, this discovery, in regards to HIV, will be irrelevant, and a Nigerian surgeon's apparent vaccine will prove not to be the DOQRAPS entry it seems. The nature of the publication, being highly secretive, etc., is either worrying or encouraging. He could be scamming for publicity, but since he offers to open it up under contract (the journal editor apparently agreed to his terms, and found his methods "plausible"), or he could really be on to something and smart enough to protect himself from Pharma. I'm hoping for the latter but have a sinking feeling about the former.
Monday, September 27, 2004
In my work, I've seen lots of these studies, and so have more info than that little release gives. The moral of the story is that communities need to be built in such ways as to encourage people to walk and bike, in stead of drive everywhere. To do this, things like grocers, shops and schools need to be close enough to get to without driving. Also, less parking makes places prettier in addition to discouraging unnecessary drivers.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Friday, September 24, 2004
There's tons of evidence linking LTP to learning and memory functions, which makes sense. How it all works, however, is a mess (like all of neuroscience, that's what makes it fun and interesting!). In today's issue of Science, a team of researchers have found that recycling endosomes seem to act as the 'storehouse' for receptors bound to and from the membrane. When they stimulated LTP, they found that these organelles do the legwork of upping (or, in the converse, reducing) the cell's receptor densities. But, surprisingly, they also saw increased recycling of other molecules as well! This is one of the fun things about science: the more you learn, the more mysteries you find!
Sometimes I am struck by the pure poetics of scientific language. I am charmed by this title and first line from the new issue of Nature.The article is about quantum teleportation, and the title is "Demonstration of a quantum teleportation network for continuous variables." I agree, it is beautiful language, though this may be the allure of a foreign tongue. I speak neither Physics nor (much) Math. I'm encouraged that someone who actually understands it thinks it's pretty too.
Someday I'll get around to designing one of those cute award graphics that winners can put up somewhere, should they happen to have web pages.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
UPDATE: Regarding comments so far. The trick is that the 'lease' is actually just a rental agreement and is probably only useful in establishing squatters' rights. I wasn't at the auction, because no one told us it was taking place (about which I'm more than a bit annoyed). I'm planning on calling around, etc., but of course this happens just as I get mad busy at work AND this weekend is Yom Kippur (hm, maybe this is Jarma (Jewish Karma) for something).
The (mainly) Republican idea is that by shifting the costs of insurance onto employees (patients) instead of employers, people will spend more carefully and the market will reduce costs. This report should give anyone who believes this pause.
This is one of those times the nice economists' theories don't work. At. All. People strapped for cash skip prescriptions, avoid the doctor, etc., and end up making mountains out of molehills. Or, more accurately, pneumonia out of a light bronchitis. So they go to the ER. And get three or four prescriptions. None of which they can pay for, so the hospital 'eats' the cost. And passes it on to the rest of us. If they had had proper insurance and gone to the doctor in the first place, it would've been a matter of one visit and maybe one (and relatively cheap) antibiotic prescription. Instead you have an ER visit, multiple prescriptions, and lost work. This is why coverage is key.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
"experts say adopting four simple lifestyle measures more than halves an elderly person's risk of dying."This is a profoundly stupid and totally misleading statement. An elderly person, or for that matter any person has the same risk of dying no matter what. The probability that you will die is approximately 1, no matter what you eat, drink, smoke, or do. A better statement would be that following these recommendations might increase your lifespan, or improve your quality of life.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
'J'écris en mauvais français pour les mauvais français.'
Plus ce change, plus ce meme chose. Pourquoi pourrirent pas les vieux cons me laisse? Une ancienne problème viens de m'appelée. J'ai dit "je suis occupe" mais il rappellera. Chaque fois je fais du progrès, il y a quelqu'un ou quelque chose de ma passé qui m'embêté. Je ne veux pas être méchant, mais je veux moins soit retourné aux histoires.
While our old friend vanilla does new tricks, old momma nature has more and more up her sleeve: a 22nd amino acid has been discovered. Sorry all ya'll med students: another one to memorize!
Meet you newest friend, L-pyrrolysine:
Monday, September 20, 2004
And make no mistake, all the rest of ya'll be damned: I. Am. Going. To. Marry. Jake. Gyllenhaal.
And, another old idea gets the boot (or, the beginning thereof). Patrilocality, the tradition wherein a woman moves to where her new husband lives, suggests that womens' genes would travel farther than mens'. Chromosomal analysis suggests the opposite to be true: men seeking 'fresh meat,' if you will, wandered far and wide across evolutionary time. Interesting.
Unrelated, but interesting: Botox may be useful in treating tinnitus. Ahh, sweet prospective potentially dangerous relief!
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Hat tip: Graham.
Scientists have derived a protein complex, called Photosystem I from spinach chloroplasts, which shows promise as a new bioelectric power source. I'm not fully coherent today, so all the cool and interesting stuff in my head about this is not coming out properly. In other words, go read the article!
Friday, September 17, 2004
Those who say the latter, are wrong. For anyone who'd like to argue that children's health is not a (or perhaps THE) key measure of a successful health system I will also note that the US has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than do most other "First World" nations. We need to drastically change our system, or we are In Trouble.
Deaf kids in Nicaragua (who probably don't have great healthcare either) , have provided a groundbreaking 'natural experiment' in language development. They developed their own sign language, and researchers have been able to track its evolution in real-time. Very, very cool. Anyone who has the full-text journal article should send me a copy and I'll love you forever.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Great idea, I say. I'm all for not using the mouse. It would make my wrists so much happier. I do not think, however, that I would sacrifice any of my few remaining shreds of dignity to this cause by nose-pointing like a bloody spaniel. I also seriously doubt how well this would work. People blink all the time, sometimes multiple blinks together, naturally: how many false-clicks is that going to produce? I know I certainly don't sit still in my desk chair and keep my head in one fixed position all day: I move around, answer the phone, etc...how can the camera keep tracking its focal points through all that, and how long does it take to reset?
This technology sounds much more useful to me as a springboard, or even just a proof-of-concept, than an actual product. I'd rather wait till I can do it all telepathically.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Why no consideration of something utterly alien, I ask. The basic definition of life, something which displays metabolism/entropy resistance and self-replication, could take any number of forms. I agree with Mr. McKay, how we find and identify life is a critical question, but I am unwilling to accept his limited criteria.
...For you drunks. Moderate alcohol consumption after heart surgery seems to improve outcomes. I'm concerned about this result, because you're supposed to get beta-blockers after surgery I think, and alcohol can interact with beta-blockers and kill you.
...For oselle tea lovers. It seems that hibiscus extract has similar cholesterol-fighting powers to red wine. Brilliant.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
It turns out that jacuzzi's are major vectors for Legionnaires Disease. The hot water provides not only ideal conditions for colony growth, but also steam and aerosols for easy introduction into the body. Plus, maintenance and disinfection are difficult. Bummer.
UW-Madison researchers have found that transthyretin, a protein which binds beta-amyloid proteins, seems to stop Alzheimer's progression. This is a totally novel direction for Alzheimer's research, and could lead not only to effective treatments, but also to better prediction and detection (defective transthyretin gene or under/overactivation?
Monday, September 13, 2004
Most of what we know about behavioral neuroscience comes by accident: chance injuries that very specifically knock out some function, like the ability to use verbs (but not nouns or adjectives), or, in the case of Charcot-Wilbrand syndrome, to dream. Swiss researchers have examined a stroke patient with this condition, and found that areas in the deep occipital lobes (visual cortex?) and right posterolateral thalamus were affected, and that the dreaming process does seem to in fact be separate from the REM sleep function. This is all really interesting. Anyone got full-text?
As proteonomics quickly becomes a dominant force in bioscience research, new ways to measure cell protein levels, in real time, are critical. UNC researchers have developed a new dye that seems to allow visualization of active proteins in vivo, a major step forward. This kind of measurement will be key to better understanding of cell and gene functions, as well as drug effects and possible outcome predictions. Watch for more technologies like this to come along quickly after this!
UCLA scientists have found, by genomic analysis, that the first eukaryotic cell was formed by the physical fusion of two prokaryotes. They consequently assert that the "Tree" of life is more accurately represented as a ring, and, being proper nerds, titled their paper "One Ring to Rule Them All." Without the full-text, I'm not sure really how I feel about this, but it sounds interesting.
A movement has begun within some circles to abandon the Linnean nomenclature, that's the one we all learned in High School biology - Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species - for a new system called PhyloCode. The PhyloCode proponents are of course regarded as renegades, and I suspect that PhyloCode may also be proprietary (i.e., a business venture, which is no way to do science), but they seem to have a point. Linneaus' system, while brilliant, is fairly limited to its phenotypical origins: it does not (cannot?) account for genomic classifications, and as more and more families and even classes and phyla are discovered, it becomes unwieldy. A new system might be good, but which one is the question.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Copyright Michael, 2004.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Education is one of those things that everyone in the US pretty much agrees is essential, but are mostly unwilling to spend any money on. Until we get over that, America will continue to fall further and further behind the rest of the world. We must find a way to stop that trend, because I do not have any desire to raise my children in a third-world country.
I wish I was good enough at the things required to study virology (calculus and computer science are my problems)...HIV research is so mind-blowingly fascinating I would love to be involved, even purely for the genetics aspect. Horrifying as it is to say, this is one damn cool virus.
A new Yale University study has found that social gambling is actually beneficial to seniors. Who needs casinos on Indian reservations...have them at retirement homes!
And, a follow-up study has further established that cannabis is helpful in treating MS, both in terms of palliative (pain relief) measures and in reducing spacicity, a primary symptom.
University of Texas researchers found that bed-restricted patients who got nutritional supplements (sports drinks with amino acids, carbs) suffered less muscle wasting than did controls. So if you're laid up, take your aminos!!
Another study demonstrates the safety of the MMR vaccine. It does not cause autism.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
And, a new way for Big Brother to watch over us: travel records by hair analysis.
term) over childhood immunizations. There are lots of reasons people
give for not immunizing their children, and to be honest none of them
hold water. The religious objections are I suppose valid, but the
problem is that it not only endangers the child in question, but
everyone else too: one non-resistant kid becomes a vector for new
variants of a disease, and all of a sudden you have an outbreak.
The most preposterous of the anti-immunization arguments, however, is
that they aren't proven effective and/or safe. Yes. They. Are. The
whole "debate" only really started when one guy in the 1970's decided
to go on a personal crusade, and cooked up all kinds of bogus science
to support his delusion that vaccinations were variously harmful to
kids, kids' immune systems, etc. And so the public health world has
had to re-invent the wheel on vaccines, spending untold millions on
unnecessary studies to prove that something some guy made up isn't
And more bits of the puzzle fall into place: research shows that thiomersal
is not harmful to children, and that the chicken pox vaccine
Monday, September 06, 2004
Last night, we went to Taint at DC9, because it happens on Sunday and I don't ordinarily get to go, so it was my first time. By 'we,' I mean myself and two of my (straight) friends.
It was brilliant. Great venue, not too crowded (which made the waiting in line almost OK), and yes, great music...we'd expected this, having been fans of DJ RC's shows at St. Ex for some time. The funny thing is, I always have more fun at gay clubs when I go with my straight friends. Yes, it means that I won't meet or hook up with any guys, but that seems to be the biggest draw: I'm there to drink and to dance (I love and am damn good at both, if I do say so myself!), and get to not give a shit what people think. When I go dancing with my gay friends, it always ends up being a competition. Plus, my straight friends (male and female) can out drink my gay friends three to one, which means not only *don't* I care what people think, I *can't* anyways.
After Taint, we walked back up towards Adams Morgan, and stopped at the Best Jumboslice Ever. It's on U, between 13th and 14th, and it's brilliant: same greasy pizza you get anywhere else, but the vibe is totally U St, as opposed to Adams Morgan. There's Arabic techno playing loudly and spillover crowds from Bar Nun, Velvet Lounge, Between Friends. The people were friendly, smiling and saying 'hey' as you walk by (unlike in AdMo, where they just sortof push and shove and spill on you), plus, the best part: they have seating!
End result: I may need to give up working the first Monday of each month.
With all this going before, it's only a matter of time before the scientific literature is forced to follow suit. The first step has happened: the NIH proposes requisite free access to the results of all NIH-funded research. This makes sense, not only from a knowledge-wants-to-be-free perspective, but also because this is publicly funded research. Why should we pay twice for it? Of course, the publishing industry has other ideas, but they probably don't have the power to override public opinion here (as the pharmaceutical, oil, and recording industries seem to), so this will happen. And I'll be very happy about it!
Sunday, September 05, 2004
March's music has a childish sweetness and naivété, but below that surface is very adult, and often elegant, songwriting and performance. The instrumental opener, "Résumé," is pure Bertrand Burgalat, lush and dissonant, like waiting for something to happen: a great way to start! Followed by "La Nuit Est Là," bouncy, happy music and beats, a spoken poem by a corpse, lying in wake under the stars. "Coral Bracelet," track 4, might be my favorite: over a tight groove, the sing-along lyrics are subtle and subversive...it's catchy without being an ear-worm. Number 7, "Sometimes When I Stretch," is cool, down-tempo, hallucinatory - the kind of song you might play all night, dancing close with someone you'll never see again after morning. Track 10, "There is Always Madness," is a cheery pop song, catchy and sweet, with an edge: "They wonder what I have, But that is only madness." ♪♪♪♪♪ out of ♪♪♪♪♪.
Friday, September 03, 2004
I'd like to think that, as a civil servant in an at least partially science-based agency, you were here to learn about the latest science news. It was a light day on that front...hell, it's been a light couple weeks on that front (I've been cranky, for those wondering)...but I know that time-wasting is a universal daytime activity. See? I'm doing it right now!!!
It's like the Nader people (interestingly, in the same sense but the exact opposite way): they want to have an alternative voice in American politics, bully for them I agree it's be a good thing. But they fail to understand that they have no power when they vote for non-viable candidates: there is no partial representation in America. If your candidate loses, he has No Voice. At all. None. Zip. Zilch. It's as if you never voted.
The only way that any of the Greens' (or whatever Nader is this week) agenda, some of which is quite good, gets accomplished is by holding those votes hostage in a real sense (as Mr. Bearman suggested to Jennifer Stockman), by saying, we'll vote for you and help you win (in a real sense: this is a tight election; or in an organizational sense: we can GOTV) if you bring our issues to the table. If not, then we'll stay home. Quid. Pro. Quo.
It boggles my mind how so many otherwise thoughtful, intelligent (and certainly well-meaning) people (gays, pro-choicers, etc.) can withstand the dissonance of supporting a party that ignores all the issues that brought you to the table in the first place (economics, personal responsibility, etc.) and makes its entire platform about hate, and hating *them* (these gays, pro-choicers, etc.) specifically.
I've said it before and I'll say it again:
Gay Republicans make me sneeze and break out in hives. I'm allergic to oxymorons.But this is not how it should be, and I would love to see a Republican party that was indeed a "Big Tent." I still wouldn't be likely to vote for them, but I would also not dismiss the possibility out of hand. And that would be good for
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Today someone else left a box in the kitchen of something I had to try: Mango + Orange Ceylon. The packaging is what really strikes me. It is delightfully pretentious!
"Sure you love tea," it croons, "but have you ever fallen deeply in love...for* one tea...get ready for this heart-wrenchingly delicious blend..."
Now, I will say, great tea can be amazing. But ferfuckssake, enough already...it's good, but I'm not going to, you know, *experiment* with it!
*also, is this Engrish? You fall in love, not for it!
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
...you're only two gin and tonics away from being the next
Anna Nicole Smith.
Researchers interested in memory retrieval trained rats to do a water maze task, lesioned their hippocampi, and then tested their memory. The lesions affected learning and memory in interesting ways, which should lead to good follow-up research. I won't bother abstracting it, there's a nice synthesis here.
Another study, which highlights something we all know already (that standardized intelligence/aptitude testing is crap), examined list recall from visual versus aural input modalities. It turns out that recall is highly modality-dependent: the auditory system seems to be naturally 'primed' for sequential memory, whereas the visual system is not. And both seem to be independent of actual linguistic ability.