Friday, September 29, 2006

Damn that's a big pipettor!

Check out the macropipette (is that a P-10^12?).
I came across this photo on the Lim lab website at UCSF (pretty cool as lab websites go).


Bet on Nobels

Each year Thompson Scientific, better known for updating impact factors of journals, makes a prediction on possible Nobel Laureates based on their citation counts. They've proven to be quite successful in the past. This year they have for medecine the discoverers of homologous recombination, nuclear hormone receptors, and DNA fingerprinting. And it's a tight race, just look at the polls:
34% - Chambon, Evans, Jensen
33% - Capecchi, Evans, Smithies
33% - Jefferys
So which are you putting your money on?


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Spiderman, Spiderman. Does whatever a zebra tarantula can.

In Nature, the zebra tarantula is shown to be the first example of a spider spinning silk from its feet instead of its abdomen. It shoots out adhesive silk to aid in locomotion and climb vertical surfaces. Just like the real Spiderman.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Allen Brain Atlas

Speaking of cool 3D visualization tools. I highly recommend you try this with your favorite gene. It displays expression data in the brain in 3D at a high resolution. Really impressive! But you'll need a decent computer, my laptop was chugging worse than at a CS LANparty.


Robots - The Good and the Evil

What if those first-person shooter/Counter-Strike robot players were real - ie had a remote-controlled corresponding physical representation in the real world? What if your character also had such a physical representation when you were playing video games? Would you care? Big deal right? Video games aren't real and neither are the physical robots structures. Good clean fun and no (biological) one gets hurt. Except that what you're talking about is a robot war. Sound far-fetched? Maybe, but the US military is taking advantage of the gong show that once was Iraq to test out their prototype robot soldier as we speak. It actually looks pretty wimpy, but hey, it can fire a machine gun like nobody's business. Slap some camo on that thing and all of a sudden it's a bad-ass killing machine. I can't decide if robot wars would be a step forward. Robots killing robots sounds better than people killing people, and we could just settle all our international conflicts at a good old-fashioned LAN party. We could even move the physical representation of the battle somewhere they wouldn't hurt anyone or our environment, like the moon or Pluto (it's not even a planet anyway) and let them duke it out. Hell, you could just eliminate physical war altogther and make them entirely virtual. It just makes you realize how out-dated physical fighting really is - why don't we just divvy up the world's resources over a euchre tournament?

On the other hand, if one side, like the US gets their war-bots online first and no one else has any, than it'll be robots vs. people which is very scary. Maybe it's a good thing that the Japanese and Chinese are leading the way in robotic technology.

Speaking of which, I just heard about this robot that's all the rage in Japan. The robot, called wakamaru, can speak and understand Japanese, remember and recognize up to 10 familiar faces. It can wake you up in the morning, remind you about appointments and even call you up if there's trouble at home. It gets around the house on its own thanks to an internal map, and returns to its charger when the battery's low. Best of all, it runs on Linux. Wired reported back when it was released.



There is a little historical perspectives type article in Oncogene about the NCI-60 cell panel and the standard ways to show data from screens of these cell lines. The article mentions some online tools for looking at data of this type but I haven't spent the time to figure it out (I can't even see how they call it 3D). It is at least interesting to note that the NCI-60 cell panel was origonally set up as a lung cancer cell panel that was in need of negative controls.


Friday, September 22, 2006

IA updates

Yeah more IA updates. As always very good.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

PLOS one : a new way to publish

Nature recently started an experiment in open-acess online peer reviewing. The concept is simple, the reviewers, from the same field, are open to critisize and submit comments pre-publication, but they do so under their own name. I think this could lead to greater accountability, and better peer review ultimately. But how many are willing to try this experiment? If the paper is not accepted for publication, everyone is free to replicate your experiments and scoop you. PLOS, everybody's favorite open access journal, is going even further by starting a new journal, PLOS one, which will abide by the same principle : open discourse + access + data = open science?


Fortune telling through science

It seems anti-aging research is getting a lot of press recently with the announcement that the co-founder of Paypal is teaming up with the infamous Aubrey De Grey to match the funds of the Mathuselah prize. Whoever gets his mice to live longest gets the 3.6 M$ jackpot. The evil scientists on their tropical island are collectively rejoicing. Then this paper comes out on PNAS saying that by analyzing every biomarker under the sun you can guess how long you'll live. It seems to me we could use those markers to breed super-mice. I for one welcome our immortal mice overlords. If you are interrested, those are the rules: "The rejuvenation prize deals with peer-reviewed studies involving at least 40 animals, 20 treated and 20 control. Treatment may begin only at mid-life, and the average lifespan of the 10% longest living treated animals is used for the record. As of 2005, this record stood at 1356 days (about 3.7 years); the treatment was calorie restriction."


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Even Patry has a Podcast

It seems our beloved overlord, "el presidente" Gilles Patry recently started a podcast of his own. If even Patry has a podcast, it's definately time for Bayblab to develop its own... So tremble in anticipation to our upcoming podcast, featuring fermentation product-fueled discussions of the effect of aptamers on extrasolar planet geology.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Firefox scholar

I am going to wet myself. This pleases both the scientist and the tech geek. Firefox Scholar logoFirefox Scholar is a set of extensions to the popular open source web browser that will:
  • Recognize and capture metadata from online objects (e.g., author, title, publication information of books)
  • Collect documents, images, and citations from the web
  • Allow materials to be sorted, annotated, and searched
The program will be free and will replace programs like EndNote, while operating completely within the browser window. A beta of Firefox Scholar will be available in the summer of 2006. Like the Firefox browser itself, Firefox Scholar will be open and extensible, allowing others who are building digital tools for researchers to expand the platform.


Buy cigarettes in bulk!

Forget about your local dealer or even starting your own meth lab... any good scientist knows the best way to score a quick hit is to use your CIHR funding on the good stuff from Sigma. Cocaine, heroin and other drugs are readily available (once you can prove to the DEA that it's for 'research purposes'). Or better yet, just buy one of their Pseudo(tm) scents (now available in 'corpse'!) and sprinkle it in your co-workers luggage next time you go through airport security...

And for those of you not really into the hardcore drugs and your Player's Light just won't cut it, you can buy research cigarettes from the University of Kentucky. Now, I'm not sure what the current price for a pack of smokes is, but 12 000 cancer sticks for $2800 doesn't seem like that bad a deal. Maybe smoking isn't so un-economical after all.


Monday, September 11, 2006

What's cooking?

If you are into extreme cooking you may like these recipes involving high voltage and burninating food. The videos are a must-watch. I wonder if we could come up with recipes of our own involving the drying ovens...


Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists

From the annals of improbable research, the group responsible, among other things, for the IgNobel prizes comes a club for scientists who have luxuriant flowing hair. It is a well known fact that the lenght of the hair is correlated to the scientific abilities, just take Newton and Eisntein as examples. "The project was first announced in mini-AIR 2001-02. The initial list, assembled by a subcommittee comprised of seven members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was meant as a nucleating seed, from which a larger list could grow." Well Bayman, I think it's time you let your hair grow back!


Science funnies

Enough said...


Financial planning for scientists

Science seems to have a series of articles about finances this week. Find out how to scam grant money, how to purchase stocks with your scholarship, and sell research cigarettes on the black market... Just kidding, mostly common sense stuff: don't overspend, KD and coffee is perfectly healthy diet anyways. FTA "While their counterparts in other fields are contributing to 401(k) retirement plans, academics are still scraping by on graduate fellowships or assistantships that lead some to wonder when they took a vow of poverty"


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The origin of SMAD

Just had to share this one. Have you ever wondered what SMAD stands for? The story starts with the common fruit fly. During development, its 15 body segments are established from 14 parasegments that give rise to various limbs and apendages. Three genes are particularly important for the establishment of the boundaries of these parasegments and the polarity of these segments: wingless, hedgehog and pentadeca(15)plegic (dpp). Not surprisingly the dpp KO have severe dorsal/ventral polarity defects. During the course of research it was found that the drosophila homolog of SMA (c elegans), when mutated in the mother repressed the gene decapentaplegic in the embryo. Hence the gene was called, tongue-in-cheek, "mothers against decapentaplegic". And in the human we have SMA and MAD related protein (SMAD), also officialy known as MOTHERS AGAINST DECAPENTAPLEGIC, DROSOPHILA, HOMOLOG OF.


Al Gore gets a 3.2km hardon

The European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica Has drilled and retrieved the longest ice core sample to date at 3.2km, giving us a record of the past 800 000 years. In short, the current CO2 levels are the highest ever recorded, the rate of increase is 60 times faster than the fastest CO2 buildup within those 800 000 years and every CO2 rise has been quickly followed by a warming. Another, very long nail in the coffin. Also Check out these climate-related carricatures.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Don't eat the New Brunswick mussels

On the way to Newfoundland we camped a couple nights in Fundy national park, and took a stroll on the beach at low tide. Sadly, the mussels are apparently toxic (see below). I guess it must be pollution, although you wouldn't guess it as the beaches in the park are still quite beautiful and quiet. The shells on the beaches of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were also noticeably tiny, but it was interesting to find that the shells on the more isolated beaches of western Newfoundland were much larger and more numerous. It's crazy to see human activity, even in these relatively unpopulated places, having such a noticeable impact on the ecosystems of an ocean that seems so massive and indestructable.


Hello from the Rock

Here's a few pics from Newfoundland as we get ready to head back home to Ottawa. The landscape here is quite unique, similar to parts of Iceland from what I saw in the Coward's pics. (Don't know if you can jig a cod there though).


Friday, September 01, 2006

IA updates

As if it being Friday before a long weekend weren't enough.
New IA updates are up.