27 August, 2007

Goose Liver/Terminology Bastards #3

Note to self:

'Foie gras' is not pronounced "fooey grass", no matter how much sense it makes. Rather, it is pronounced "foy gra", with a snobby declension. I have also learned that 'matte' is not pronounced "matteh", and that people insist on saying "i-earn" when it is clearly 'iron', even though it sounds like "irun". This latter item I do no intend to compromise upon.


I dunno what they're actually called. But I don't like them. Around here they're referred to as "monkey suits", basically a one-use plastic smock with an open back panel and thumb loops. Doesn't matter if I'm sweaty or shiverring when I put one on, it only takes a couple of minutes before it is stuck to me with sweat. Yes, I know that it is to protect me from the stuff I work with, but that doesn't mean that it is pleasant to have sweat dripping down your arms and pooling in your gloves.

24 August, 2007

Terror of the Refrigerator

Och! The terror! When you walk into temp H.Q. and find a fellow lab member standing panicked before the refrigerator into which all of the lab's reagents and samples had temporarily been displaced. And when that panicked fellow lab member says to you that the outlet into which said refrigerator had been plugged had been without power, a bolt of pure terror surges through you. Luckily, though, all was fine. The lab tech's pack-rat habit of storing massive numbers of cold-packs in the refrigerator turned out to be our saving grace, and all of our reagents and samples are intact.

23 August, 2007


Sure, blame the moose. Awful easy to dump all the blame on something that can't speak up and defend itself.

22 August, 2007

1) Spam, and 2) Casserole

Not related in this post. Possibly related in a distant relative's infamous potluck dish, but not here.

1) Spam
Sometimes I get really excited about the spam I receive. My email account lies behind a really tight spam filter, so the stuff that gets through is usually really good. My favorites:

A) "Cohomology Bedspring Coronet" by Heidi Valentine:
betoken brookline concurring caspian. dither cork canadian armistice canticle
clarence. cry adsorb algonquin begrudge dart classroom b's amnesia defunct.
allotted cryostat arpa cession damascus cluck ace.

B) "Points" by Nagihan Fadum:
Proveedor local norte, sur.
According, survey released monday ea nc state engineer creates. Aviso, ofrecemos nuestras, disculpas esperando.
Explorer browser lions share. Apuroscom que la nuestros clientes. Standards believe guess texts.
Until connect postponing date as follows. Wooden crate enhances greeting invitation, youquot adventure impression. Token securable, objects registry keys. Addin attempts append, existing. Shell longer capable advisory posted turned exclusive. Music app because xmms masked, amhot cant. Xamps shrine xs aso ve! Shoes also be sure collection, unique method. Metravel homelawn videosget playgolf boat demandone schedule biggest. Santa mnica colinas valle.
Level looks senior fanatic freak, addict.
Proceso, formas pago cupones descuento.
Stateold protocols gopher telnet scriptlets xbm channels cdf dhtml. Isminie, itvar clipid title barometer cherry, blossom. Franais srpski espaol trke today wednesday march enemies.
Pleased th millionth millionen downloads mayhew reaching partners.
Process set work, me.
Acl interface isolation uipi blocks hook attach higher?

C) "
Well, the first thing you need to do is figure out whether it's a legitimate program showing traces of malicious behaviour." by Boran Juuuu
Gireiev glanced up at the wall.

These types of messages fascinate me, in some kind of odd way. How are they made? Who makes them?

2) Casserole

I think that sometime I would like to bake a casserole inside of an Erlenmeyer flask, and make it all the nastiest bacterial colors that I possibly can, just to see if people would dare eat it, even when obliged to by politeness.

13 August, 2007

LPS and Intellectual Property

No, the two titular nouns aren't related, at least in this post. Instead, they're bullet points:

1) LPS
Arg the stuff! It's everywhere. Everywhere! Even in endotoxin-free water.

2) Intellectual Property
So I wound up raising a little bit of hell the other day on an Alternet article. Basically, I asked whether or not the public should have a say in how the public funds for medical research are distributed. The responses were...interesting, and thought-provoking. It was, for one, pointed out that the public already does, theoretically at least, have a say in how funds are distributed through the voice they elect in their elected voice people. But this process is so obscure and convoluted that public funds for medical research are, fundamentally, completely in the hands of the agency that dispenses them and therefore subject to whatever dark processes or technical idiosyncrasies that the agency sees fit to impose. There is also the problem of everyday, non-nerd people understanding the highly detailed and technical knowledge needed to comprehend science itself and appraise it. This is very much exacerbated by the common inability of scientists to communicate without resorting to esoterica and jargon.

Representatives! That's what elected voice people are called...

Nonetheless, all of this also drew in the question of intellectual property and how it is defined and used. I mean, as a scientist, if I worked really hard on some kind of knowledge, quantifying, statisticifying it, etc., I'd be rather very much pissed off it someone else came and looked at my datas and scooped them and beat me to publication and got all the credit for my hard work. Publish or perish! But this is what supports the whole current structure of science, in which we guard our projects kind of closely (especially from other institutions) while closely collaborating with a select few within the same, or closely-related, institution. In addition to this, new knowledge is submitted to august journals for peer-review. While peer-review is necessary for making sure that research is kept up to quality and accurate and real, it also hinders the conversion of knowledge into practice and possibly also the rate at which science, and hence understanding, progresses as a whole.

Let us, for a moment or two before laughing at it, consider the possibility of a massive research wiki application. Scientists could got there to upload their findings and other scientists could read those findings and, as such, be up-to-date on the cutting edge continually, instead of having to rely on PubMed (not dissing PubMed, just saying that it can be a bit cumbersome at times, like a lovable fat aunt, but then, I guess that the wiki proposed above could wind up being a lot like a spastic, hyper-caffeinated troop of twinned monkey children). Would science then go faster? Would technology follow faster? And, most importantly, would improvements to the average quality of life for non-scientists and average people be faster?

But, on the other hand, how would grant funding be decided? How would the role of intellectual property change? How would scientific accreditation change? Would the profit motive (here, more academic recognition than cash) change for scientists? And in the end, would this be like changing in cookies and milk (PubMed) for Red Bull and coffee? Or does chaos theory hold that even hyper-caffeinated monkey children will eventually move together to create some kind of Electric Slide Dance order?

And I'll leave you with that, the mental image of spastic, hyper-caffeinated, twinned monkey children doing the Electric Slide.

08 August, 2007

Where Does Humanity End and Begin?

Another thing I wanna know. Let's suppose that it becomes possible for humans to integrate synthetic/mechanical machinery/technology into their very bodies and/or minds. A person with an extra mechanical arm or data storage where one of their lungs used to be would obviously still be considered to be a human. However, would a being that had modified themselves to such a point that any remaining flesh was purely vestigial and not contiguous to the continuation of their consciousness be considered a machine, human, or some other sort of being?


So, for furtherance of one of the things that keeps me awake at night wondering about things (see below), I think that mitochondria would sound something like a washing machine filled with Jello and power tools on the wash part of the cycle. Maybe throw a hedgehog in there too to make it sound right.

The 3 membranes makes imagining their sound difficult.

The washing machine wash cycle "chug, chug, churn, churn, chug" would be more or less the continual flux of electrons through the electron transport chain. The Jello only makes sense because the mitochondria do, after all, contain cytosol-like stuff. The power tools for the shunting of materials and supplies across the membranes, including the spinning off of ATP (that'd be the buzzsaw). And the hedgehog to introduce a dimension of chaos (yo biology!) that would otherwise not be present.

05 August, 2007


While I am still very much pissed off about the House of Representative's failure to take meaningful action on CAFE standards for the auto industry, I would like to, in the meanwhile, suggest that auto makers try a different tack. For the past several years, Detroit has been focused on making cooler-looking cars with cooler gadgets and more cupholders. Instead, why not add actual content-based value to a car?

For example, I would very much like my car to be more like my dog. I would like to be able to walk outside and call for my car "Here, Betty!" and have it come to me, like a good dog. I would like to be able to tell my car "Fetch groceries!" and have it go do that for me. I wouldn't even mind if the car insisted on cleaning itself, although rolling over would present a bit of a problem.

04 August, 2007


* from the previous post

* = thought of in the course of writing the post

Things I Want to Know

These are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night, pondering and pondering.

1) My parents had a pool installed in the back yard when I was a teenager. Soon after, I found myself wondering how much Jello mix it would take to fill the pool with Jello (answer: about $1,200 worth, given Jello at $0.30/pack). I figured that in the fall, there'd be a day when the temperature would be at around 40 degrees, and the pool had a heater, so I could mix in all the Jello mix as directed. Unfortunately, I was never able to put this experiment into practice, so the question still plaguing me is: If I were to belly-flop in to a pool of Jello, would I a) bounce back, b) land flat, or c) sink into the Jello?
I even tried using physics for this. I mass about 60 kilos (z) and have a ventral surface area of approximately .66 square meters (y). If Jello has a surface resiliency of x, then so long as I zy doesn't exceed xy, I shouldn't sink in. But that still doesn't tell me whether or not I'd bounce or land flat.

2) Do M.D.s actually use the term 'booger', or do they have some kind of complex fancy term for them, like 'congealed mucus globule'? Doctors are strangely unwilling to answer this question when you ask them.

3) If one were in incredibly dire straights, could one survive on pure high fructose corn syrup? Or would its osmolarity spell doom (although neither HFCS nor osmolarity actually spell D-O-O-M or can be reconfigured to say so)?

4) What are the ethics of android sex? I mean, eventually technology is going to produce rather sentient and human-like machineries, so will it be ethical to also give those androids sex drives even though they would, at a nominal assumption, be unable to procreate thereof (that's a whole other issue)? And if so, would they discriminate from one another on a basis of voltage? And, furthermore, would gender differences arise in androids? If so, would they be the result of different programming structures or of socialization?*

5) What if there's another Earth the same size and composition of ours orbiting exactly 6 months ahead/behind us? It'd be always hidden on the other side of the sun so we'd never be able to see it with our telescopes.*

6) What kind of sounds to mitochondria make? Or, for that matter, chloroplasts?

7) Wouldn't it be cool to build a gigantic (e.g., 15m high) mechanical chicken and pilot it to work everyday? And while at it, why not install some fire-breathing apparatus?

8) While I am relieved that terrestrial bacteria are microscopic, I can't help but wonder if, somewhere in the universe, there are massive, planet-sized Ur-bacteria? And wouldn't it be ironic if multicellular organisms lived on or in them?*

9) Would perchloric acid be spicy or sour?*

10) Let's pretend that there's a giant catapult, say, with the fulcrum in Hawaii and the launch arm ending somewhere in California. If one were to get into the basket at the end and launch themselves, would a) they launch themselves into orbit, b) fall off due to inherent structure instabilities that are inescapable at such large scales with present construction technology, or c) be crushed by G-forces and/or fried crispy by friction from air?

01 August, 2007

Philosophicality #1

I can wield a micropipettor.

I can wield a cello bow.

But what lies betwixt?

This is a question that often occupies my mind: wondering about the relationship between science and art. At the moment, the most obvious answer seems to be my fingers, without which I could not wield a micropipettor, cello bow, or toothbrush.

More upon this later...