Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Breathing through what?

Following lunch time conversation, which inevitably gravitates towards all things fecally related, I had to check upon the topic of "alternative" breathing strategies. To be able to breathe in water, you need two things: current and large surface area. And it seems some turtles, particularly one living fossil in australia, has just that, in its ass. It has evolved a pair of cloacal bursae lined with villose mucosa and connecting to the cloaca, fully capable of contracting. And it's not even alone in having evolved this particular ability: the dragonfly nymph can use its butt for both breathing and propulsion! For more information on butt-breathers, this article goes into more details...


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Publishing at age 91

When physicist and astronomer James Van Allen passed away at age 91, one of the best scientist of our era was gone. I hold much admiration for this man who discovered the radiation belt named after him and who tirelessly strived to educate poeple about the beauty of space and the political elite about its dangers and opportunities. He famously argued against a manned mission to Mars, saying that robots could do more for less. Ultimately Bush's decision was more about politics than science. This nice article outlines this man who despite his age never quit researching and publishing until the very last day because of his love for science.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bad Parasites

Just ran accross this link.
Check out some of the nastiest parasites on earth.


As a dark matter of fact

I heard a decent Science Friday podcast about String Theroy (audio link) where one of the guests suggests that it's a bunch of mathmatical hooey. I have actually heard the same from physicist graduatuate students. The real problem seems to be that after a very long time fooling around with mathmatical models there still is no experimental evidence for the theory. As I understand it, there are not that many testable predictions that the theory makes.
Blows my mind also that apparently researchers have just finally found proof of dark matter. Wow. The dark matter guys have much better PR or something. I thought dark matter was fact and already proven by observation.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Bacteria Breath

A couple of quick links
I have always been a bit anti-organic food. I do like the idea and small farming as an alternative to commercial farming that emphasises quantitiy and not quality. However, I have worked on an organic farm where I found out that they use copper-sulphate (basically a poison that predates some rule about pesticides so you can use it and still be certified organic). Also you can't feed the world organically which makes it only a solution to rich westerners and therefore seems shortsighted. Also pesticides are constantly getting better and safer and you just can't argue with the fact that (except for maybe rising obesity) we are the healthiest humans that have ever lived on earth. Case in point about improving pesticides... granted it's a press release from UBC but finally they have developed an organic pesticide. I'm sure this is just the begining.
Also somewhat related is this lactobacillus gum for improving dental health. Imagine the lactobacillus flavour explosion!


Friday, August 18, 2006

We be diggin' for treasure!

In an interesting ruling, AOL has been given permission to dig for buried gold and platinum to collect on a court judgement. The company was awarded $12.8M from a convicted spammer and intends to collect by unearthing the buried booty in his parent's yard. Sounds like maybe AOL has been reading too many of those emails from the recently imprisoned Nigerian president. For a mere $1000, part of his fortune could be yours! Also, I have some great penis enlargment products to sell you.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Of Mice and Men bearing tumours

A good article (free access I think) posted on the Nature website focus area on the problems inherent in studing cancer using mouse models. Not a bad read if you've never really thought about some of the more interesting problems. Apparently only 11% of drugs that look good in mice have any effect in humans. The article suggests the only reason we aren't useing the oncomouse is because of patents and that oncomouse would be better than xenografts.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wikipedia not classy enough for bayblab

We've been booted off wikipedia. Finally.
However, the bayblab's authority can not be denied. Who is the number 10 authority on gleevec cardiac toxicity?


Friday, August 11, 2006

IA updates

Man, I've been jonesing for some IA updates and here they are. Highlights include a link to info on the latest hack, the XBox360. Awesome.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

The land of volcanoes

As I blog this I'm on the road to Iceland's highest summit, typing away on a blackberry. The scenery is impressive, volcanoes and glaciers. Vents everywhere spew out hot smoke and boiling water. People here take advantage of this and huge steel pipes bring the free hot water to the capital. It makes the showers stinky. The hot water was welcomed after a 4 day hike from landmanalaugar to thorsmork. (You can follow us at and click jp travelog, or check out more photos here)


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Predicting Nature papers

A while back I did a journal club about microRNAs predicted to be expressed by viruses. Pretty much all of it was computational prediction. A new Nature paper (link to summary) shows that HSV-1 inhibits neuronal death during a latent infection through a microRNA mechansim inhibiting TGF-B and SMAD3 validating my journal club as worthwhile. These genes are central targets but the paper points to a great unbiased approach to find key genes. Viral microRNAs must have evolved to target some pretty important genes. Interesting to see what will be next.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Exercise Myths

Wicked Quirks and Quarks podcast this week where they talk about a myth I have told so many people who didn't believe me that I was beginning to wonder if I had heard it right. Turns out that it true that streching before exercise is not a good idea.
Sucks to your yoga.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rideau Canal Rider

The bay is a bit toasty today and I was thinking about how EXTREME Ottawa is. The winters are freezing and the summers are ridiculously hot. And so the heat got me thinking about the rideau canal skateway. And I've been doing a lot of biking this summer so I was thinking about pimping out my bike for the longest skating rink in the world. How cool would a skate chopper be?