Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The real evolution nightmare: hairs

I was sitting on the can the other day, when it occurred to me how the flushing toilet was one of human's best technological achievements. In fact I believe it might be one of these key things that jump-started civilization, like agriculture, writing or the wheel. Think about it, without flushing toilets the early human had to venture far outside of the cave, where he could be preyed upon, or if he chose to be lazy, put his entire clan at risk of infections from an unsanitary dwelling. The first remains of flushable toilets date from 2600BC. In 1886 the first jet-flush toilet was invented in England, and was later improved in the US by using IR sensors in the 1970's to create the first self-flushing toilet. This for sure must be the pinnacle of human waste disposal you might think, I don't have to go outside at -20ºC, I don't need to put the seat up (unless you live under female tyranny), I don't need to flush. Yet there is an ultimate limitation, here I am in the 21st century, wiping my own butt with some archaic scroll made from dead trees. On top of it, it is very inefficient and unsanitary because the damn shit sticks to my butt hairs. So I wipe and wipe, and spread the bacterial goodness around. Apparently in North America, we haven't discovered the bidet. The Europeans must have invented it after we left and forgot to tell us about this technological marvel. In fact, while most countries may be behind our times with our self-flushing toilets, they are way ahead of us in the butt washing department.

So the question popped in my head, why do we even have butt hairs. I mean we lost most of our body hairs, they're pretty vestigial at this point, so why keep butt hairs. Once upon a time we were covered in body hairs, it kept us warm, protected us from the sun and bugs but then we started losing it. Some theories propose that it is sexual selection, females preferred males with less hairs. But we kept the one on our head, I guess the females liked those, and they were the only ones needed for sun protection, since we now walked upright. We also kept those in the pubic area and under the arms, maybe to spread our pheromones around. We kept some around our eyes and in our nose to protect from dust. But why keep those around the butt hole. Were the females preferring man with butt-hairs. If anything it is displeasing for both parties. I mean, I don't think they're there to keep the dust from going in, or to protect from the sun, since it doesn't shine there as they say. Perhaps to spread our pheromones around, but I doubt that kind of odour is very attractive to females. It is an evolutionary mystery.

In fact no one knows when hairs evolved in mammals in the first place, since they seemed to come all at once. Unlike feathers coming from scales, there is no obvious previous structure from which it evolved. They rose independently in insects and other animals, but only once in mammals. The only mammals which lack fur are the pigs, whales, elephants, humans, mole rats and walruses. In these only small fine hairs are present. In fact the average human has more hairs than a chimpanzee, they are just harder to see. So if humans are still evolving, I know one thing we could improve on...


Monday, January 29, 2007

Scrotal safety commission

The scrotum is man's second most vital body part after the very testes it contains. I have heard that some man have it pierced, and one of those individuals suffered persistent leakage afterwards and had to have it removed. So while it is not cited as a hazard by the scrotal safety commission, i would add this one to your checklist of things not to do with your scrotum. While we are discussing this general area, one "doctor to be" who told us he treats but does not judge, meantioned a propensity to contract UTI when you decant. If like me you don't know what that is, here is the definition: " The act of using a catheter to drain one's bladder of urine, and the replacing it with wine or any other type of beverage. The decanter then serves other people by urinating into their mouths.". So yeah don't do that either, unless you really have to.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Bayblab podcast funnier than we think!

While on the topic of alcohol, it turns out that the hilarious, alcohol fueled musings in the bayblab podcast are probably even funnier than we realize! This German study shows that alcoholics, among their other cognitive defects, have an impaired sense of humour (this is unrelated to grumpiness from a lingering hangover, or lack of sense of humour in Germans in general). Participants read jokes and chose from a group of punchlines. Overall, recovering alcoholics chose punchlines that were less coherent and logical than the control group. If you ask me, the sample joke in the article isn't funny regardless of the punchline chosen. But what do I know? I'm just an alcoholic.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Diluting your alcohol

Real nerds know that global warming is for sissies, the real ultimate, unavoidable death to all things in the universe is the ever increasing entropy. Real nerds might also know that when you combine water and alcohol they seem to mix in an exothermic reaction, and the overall volume of the solution is less than the combined volumes of the water and the alcohol because of hydrogen bonding. However according to this reasearch, they never truly mix: "Nobody has ever tasted a microscopically perfect mix of alcohol and water," says ALS scientist Jinghua Guo, one of the leaders of this research. We found that the mixing of alcohol and water on the microscopic level is incomplete no matter how long you wait."
So what does this mean for entropy. Well when mixing two perfect pure liquids, you would expect entropy to increase substantially as the mollecules randomly distribute in the solution. However because water and alcohol don't mix, alcohol mollecules create ordered cages of water, thus decreasing the entropy... "The rings formed when alcohol and water are mixed are stable structures because the hydrogen bonds are saturated," says Guo. "One would expect to see even further reductions in the entropy of the system if there were more methanol and water molecules forming highly ordered structures."
So there you go, save the world one drink at a time.


How long until it hits the lab?

The first story regards a new anti-microbial paper, what you would use that for is not entirely clear, but they do suggest that medical records could be kept sterile. The papers are coated with a silver based anti-microbial. How long until this generates paper-resistant Staph. However I could see this as being useful for lab books (mine has suffered spillage in the past), or toilet paper. Imagine the possibilities... The second story regards a guy from Finland who wrote an entire novel in "text message" style. How long until someone writes a paper like that. Where is this world going? It's only a matter of time until we find text message printed on underwear, oh the humanity....


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

IPCC draft report

While the real report is only due Feb 2nd, the draft is available online. Here are some key points as discussed in the Guardian : "

· 12 of the past 13 years were the warmest since records began;

· ocean temperatures have risen at least three kilometres beneath the surface;

· glaciers, snow cover and permafrost have decreased in both hemispheres;

· sea levels are rising at the rate of almost 2mm a year;

· cold days, nights and frost have become rarer while hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent.

And the cause is clear, say the authors: 'It is very likely that [man-made] greenhouse gas increases caused most of the average temperature increases since the mid-20th century,' says the report.

To date, these changes have caused global temperatures to rise by 0.6C. The most likely outcome of continuing rises in greenhouses gases will be to make the planet a further 3C hotter by 2100, although the report acknowledges that rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Ice-cap melting, rises in sea levels, flooding, cyclones and storms will be an inevitable consequence."


Put his body on her legs.....

Lunch yesterday drifted to a hypothesis Laura had about comparing male and female upper and lower body strength. She suggested that a males and females distribute their muscle power differently. Females have relatively stronger lower bodies that upper bodies. Although watching her and Tang battle it out in a leg wrestling match would be a good time, I decided to find a more objective way of looking at it.

I have set up a spreadsheet using athletic records as a measure of female and male physical strength. Using wikipedia and the canadian paralympic website, I claimed that some events are purely upper or lower body activities. I figured that athletic world records represent the maximum possible output of the human female/male body. This analysis has some assumptions namely: a) all of the athletes are in peak form and should have similar body types (the optimal body type and weight for their event) b) rules are enforced so that for example a wheelchair athlete cannot contribute to their success with their legs

Although this spreadsheet is inconclusive especially taking standard deviation into account it looks like Laura's intuition is right.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Science blogger a career?

A sure sign any geek can make it on ;) , some guy named "Bora Zivkovic" was so sick of experiments not working, he quit before writing his thesis and did full-time blogging. He was burnt out and unmotivated (sounds familiar?). Now finally realises blogging is not really a career, begs to be accepted back in a lab while crying himself to sleep every night (he studies circadian rythms). However he got something out of it: he wrote a book about the best writing in science blog in 2006, which fails to mention the bayblab, but probably earned him more than his stipend. From the nature news article: "For almost three years, I didn't write my dissertation. I recently went back to it and read it. Oh my God, how could I write like this? Such dry science-ese! I now write much better. Three years of writing a blog really improves your writing.". My thesis is gona kick ass then.


Birch Syrup

Chairlift discussions last week at Tremblant included such things as if there is syrup derived from trees other than maples. Birch Syrup not only exists, but it also has a wikipedia entry. I also confirmed that sap is used for syrup when is in the process of flowing though the xylem to growing buds in the spring, when syrup trees are tapped.
From a botany site on syrup:
"Most people associate plant sugar with phloem and assume that sugar maple sap comes from the phloem. Not so! Sugar here comes from the wood, and the spout is driven into the outermost sapwood. In late summer and before it loses its colorful leaves in the fall, this tree stores large quantities of starch in the wood parenchyma. Then when temperatures rise in late winter, the starch is broken down and converted into sucrose, which is released into the wood vessels. The high concentration of sugar in the vessels causes soil water to be brought (diffuse) into the roots, building up pressure in the root and forcing the sugary sap upwards toward the unopened, dormant buds. Alternating freezing or cold nights and warm days causes sharp changes in xylem water pressures; flow is greatest in the warm part of the day and stops at night. Seasonal flow lasts for two to six weeks, and it stops when buds begin to open and when all of the initial liquid with the sucrose has ascended the plant. The amount of sap removed from a tree, typically about one gallon, is not detrimental to the growth of the tree"


Bayblab scientist becomes famous

Bayman, who recently made it to the front page of nature (.com) is mentioned in this story in the Ottawa Citizen. The story has some quotes from John Bell but they unfortunately ended up cutting Bayman out of the picture. Its always entertaining to see a PI actually stepping in the lab and having to borrow someone's lab coat so they can be photographed holding some randomly coloured solution in a Erlenmeyer, pretending to point at stuff on a blot, all of this while pipeting water. There is also the artsy lab shot, where the portrait is taken across a shelf holding solutions as in this case. I guess people would rather not know that it is young students that are on the front line of cancer research, they rather imagine it's a greying bearded man smoking a pipe on a perpetual bad hair day, with telescopic glasses working in some obscure basement-lab, perhaps under a volcano or something. unfortunately, the article fails to mention the bayblab, a much more authoritative source on all things sciency...


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Free tuition to UC Berkley

Tired of the classes loffered at U of Zero? Then check out the podcast of classes offered at UC Berkley. Now if they could only combine this to the opencoursewear. Also check out this national geographic TV programme about head transplants!


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Don't ban my ipod!

We knew it was coming, there has even been altercations from health officers, but now it's official, headphones and ipods are banned in the lab. Here is a draft of the letter, we're planning to send to stop this madness. Please respond in the comments section if you have suggestions, or want to sign the petition.

Dear Mr. Health Officer,

It has recently been brought to my attention that headphones and portable audio devices will be permanently banned from the lab. The reasons put forth for this action are a perceived increased risk in bumping into someone while moving around in the lab, inability to hear fire alarms or someone calling for help after-hours. Let me address these concerns one by one. Firstly there are hearing impaired individuals working in the OHRI that might take offense to this. I propose instead that headphones should only be used when stationary, such has at the bench, computers or while at tissue culture stations. Safety is a question of comon sense, when working with hazardous material, one should wear eye protection, but clearly that is not needed when working on the computer. I feel this situation is analogous. Secondly, the fire alarm as you are well aware is actually very loud, and by design cannot be drowned by one of these devices. Thirdly, one should not be working with hazardous materials after-hours, and does so at his or her own risk. It is my conviction that the ipod is not only safe, but an essential tool in the lab, as i use it professionally to listen to scholarly publication podcasts. In fact no accounts of lab accidents caused by such devices has been reported here, in the litterature or any other research institution to date. If you want more information on the benefits of personal audio devices in a lab or hospital environment I recommend these ressources :
iPOD, iSAW, iCONQUERED "In general, music ‘at low levels can improve performance of … tasks, especially in an unstimulating environment or in an unmotivated individual’1 and music of any type has not been shown to affect anaesthetist’s psychomotor performance in a simulated environment".
The effect of music on anaesthetists' psychomotor performance "We undertook a laboratory-based study of the effects of music on the psychomotor performance of 12 anaesthetic trainees. Using part of the computer-based PsychE psychomotor evaluation programme, we were unable to demonstrate any effect of self-chosen music, silence, white noise or classical music on their performance in these tests. "
Integrating and promoting medical podcasts into the library collection "Podcasts offer a way for medical professionals to listen to current information in medicine from an iPod, MP3 player, handheld device, or computer. As podcasts become more popular, libraries may be interested in integrating programs into the library collection. South Pointe Medical Library evaluated medical podcasts relevant to the scope of the library collection and explored methods for finding and organizing such programs in ways that are efficient for both the librarian and the patron.".

The bayblab


Monday, January 15, 2007

"scrambling eggs in plastic bottles"

I must admit, I distrust people who carry a Nalg around everywhere they go. I mean i know water is good and all, but do you really need 2L of water everywhere you go? Isn't that what water fountains are for? Can you survive an hour in class without giving yourself a kidney failure and a water intoxication? Ok, at least it cuts down on disposable plastic bottle waste. I dislike people who pay 2$ for 500ml of tap water even more. Well now there is even more of a reason to ditch the Nalg, and other BPA-containing plastics. Bisphenol-A, an estrogen mimic screws up meiosis in mammals, at environmental levels: "We are exposed to BPA daily; it is a component of polycarbonate plastics, resins lining food/beverage containers, and additives in a variety of consumer products. More than 6 billion pounds are produced worldwide annually, and several studies have reported levels of BPA in human tissues in the parts per billion range." I mean it's bad enough that humans have miscarriage rates of nearly 20% compared to drosophila with 0.01%, now we have to worry about all these environmental estrogens: "BPA-induced damage to meiotic pairing and synapsis observed in mice by Hunt and her collaborators in the new study would not manifest itself for two generations. Thus, at least some of the effects of exposing a 26-year-old woman to chemicals such as BPA might take 20–30 years to manifest themselves in her grandchildren".
This paper in PLOS goes into even more details in the mechanisms: "In contrast, the studies described herein reveal an effect of BPA on meiotic chromosome segregation by a second, and completely independent, mechanism, that is,by disturbing synapsis and recombination between homologs in the fetal ovary. The finding that unexposed ERβ-null females exhibit a similar phenotype—and that the phenotype cannot be enhanced by BPA exposure—suggests that BPA exerts its effects on the fetal ovary by interfering with ERβ-mediated cellular responses."


Gun ownership and homicide rates

There has been numerous debates in the bay about gun ownership and its effects on crime rates. This informative paper in Social Science and Medecine shows what one could have anticipated: “Our findings suggest that in the United States, household firearms may be an important source of guns used to kill children, women and men, both on the street and in their homes. In these analyses, states within the highest quartile of firearm prevalence had firearm homicide rates 114% higher than states within the lowest quartile of firearm prevalence. Overall homicide rates were 60% higher.


Friday, January 12, 2007

This Just In: The Earth is Getting Wamer

Maybe it's the fact that winter just doesn't seem to be happening this year (what, no tobagganing??!!), or maybe its the impact of Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth. Whatever the reason, it seems that even the most skeptical of the powers-that-be are finally coming to grips with the fact the global waming is really happening as it becomes an increasingly important issue in public opinion. Despite the obvious reality of global waming I've found some recent happenings pleasantly shocking and maybe even historical (if a little too late):
  • Of course, now that everyone seems to be getting on the same page, it may already be too late to change the course of global warming. But not to worry, our government is working to make sure the Canadian economy capitalizes. Talk is reviving these days about opening up an Arctic shipping route operating from Russia and China to Churchill, Manitoba on the Hudson Bay. This idea has been around for a while, as the northern route is shorter but blocked by ice through most of the year. However the Russians are now saying they have the icebreaking technology to get through, plus, as some point out, global warming will solve the ice problem soon enough anyway. Like it or not, the port of Churchill is likely to open up for international business as "The Gateway to North America" eventually, leading to a huge shift in the demographic, economic and environmental landscape of Canada. Currently, Churchill consists of 1, 100 people and at least as many polar bears.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The incredible hulk has a small dick

There has been anecdotal evidence that radiation can cause penile lenght shortening. Now it's been confirmed, the combination of androgen therapy and radiation in prostate cancer patients can not only cause impotence but also a shortening of the penis from 14.2 cm to 8.6cm (p<0.001). This is from the same group that brought you the elctrifying research on a very unusual intravesical foreign body in a male : "We present a case of a battery as foreign body in the bladder in a 36-year-old man. Many kinds of foreign bodies in the bladder have been reported but to our knowledge this is the first case of a battery. The diagnosis and the treatment of the case is discussed."


Physicists are crazy

Over the holidays I was reading about entropy and what it means to quantum mechanics. Apparently all the formulas of quantum mechanics are time-symmetric, meaning they have no time-directionality. The question was, how do we get a time arrow and things like directionality of entropy if these principles are not present in the underlying quantum physical laws. In other words, in quatum mechanics you can find the equations that govern a glass reassembling itself from fragments on the ground, and filling itself with the water spilled on the carpet and jump back on the counter next to you playing wii tennis. Entropy on the surface seems a very anthropic principle, since we are needed to judge what is disordered and what the direction of time is. Of course there are good explanations involving phase space that kind of explain entropy but it still seems odd that quantum mechanics is symmetric. On this topic, I also recently stumbled across some great lectures by non other than Hans Bethe entitled quantum physics made relatively simple, and a personal entropy calculator, perhaps armed with these you can make sense of this connundrum. It's never too late, even the reverse-sprinkler problem of Feynman was recently elucidated.... "We discuss the reverse sprinkler problem: How does a sprinkler turn when submerged and made to suck in water? We propose a solution that requires only a knowledge of mechanics and fluid dynamics at the introductory university level. We argue that as the flow of water starts, the sprinkler briefly experiences a torque that would make it turn toward the incoming water, while as the flow of water ceases it briefly experiences a torque in the opposite direction. No torque is expected when water is flowing steadily into it unless dissipative effects, such as viscosity, are considered. Dissipative effects result in a small torque that would cause the sprinkler arm to accelerate toward the steadily incoming water. Our conclusions are discussed in light of an analysis of forces, conservation of angular momentum, and the experimental results reported by others. We review the conflicting published treatments of this problem, some of which have been incorrect and many of which have introduced complications that obscure the basic physics involved."


Non-stick tumours

Discussion at coffee turned to Teflon this morning. Not only is the stuff used on curling shoes but is even used on non-stick cookware. And Teflon "likely" causes cancer. Strange thing to have in direct contact with your bacon and eggs.
The crazy thing is that Teflon can kill birds while the compound is in the air. Even your pet budgie.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Competing Financial Interests: The Name of the Game in Therapeutic Research and Development

Lately there's been some talk on the bayblab regarding the ethics and implications surrounding the funding of "public research" by private sector companies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of drug development, in fact, private funding is what drives the whole field. Moving preclinical candidate drugs into and beyond clinical trials requires some heavy-duty cash (we're talking hundreds of millions to billions of dollars), the kind of cash that is hoarded by private sector investors and corporations. Of course, clinical trials don't run themselves, hence the need for comapanies to compensate researchers and physicians for their efforts in order to make the trials happen. Even knowing this, I was blown away by the list of competing financial interests declared at the end of a recent 5-year follow up study of Gleevec (a great new leukemia drug that really works) which was published in the ultimate of all medical journals, The New England Journal of Medicine (click on the image at right to read the list.). The authors of the study are obviously pulling in some serious cash in the form of consulting and lecture fees, from multiple drug companies. Of course this is all above and beyond the undoubtedly "adequate" salaries they are paid as staff physicians at the medical institutions and hospitals which employ them. Alas, the ethical world of medical research is anything but black-and-white. That said, as long as effective new drugs like Gleevec get developed and become available to the people who need them, I guess the system is working.


Spicy foods are good for you

I've always been a fan of spicy foods, and now there is even more reasons to like them. Apparently capsaicin, the pungent ingredient of peppers, seems to target mitochondria and cause cancer cell apoptosis. It has proven to be effective in a variety of cancers, with many publications showing efficacy on prostate cancer xenografts. Since we are on the subject of food and anti-cancer properties check out this great review: "we present evidence that numerous agents identified from fruits and vegetables can interfere with several cell-signaling pathways. The agents include curcumin (turmeric), resveratrol (red grapes, peanuts and berries), genistein (soybean), diallyl sulfide (allium), S-allyl cysteine (allium), allicin (garlic), lycopene (tomato), capsaicin (red chilli), diosgenin (fenugreek), 6-gingerol (ginger), ellagic acid (pomegranate), ursolic acid (apple, pears, prunes), silymarin (milk thistle), anethol (anise, camphor, and fennel), catechins (green tea), eugenol (cloves), indole-3-carbinol (cruciferous vegetables), limonene (citrus fruits), beta carotene (carrots), and dietary fiber. For instance, the cell-signaling pathways inhibited by curcumin alone include NF-kappaB, AP-1, STAT3, Akt, Bcl-2, Bcl-X(L), caspases, PARP, IKK, EGFR, HER2, JNK, MAPK, COX2, and 5-LOX."


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Relighting Candles

Here's a bit of grade school science that I learned over the holidays: Did you know you can relight a candle simply by lighting the smoke that comes off once it's extinguished? If you don't believe it, check out this video or try it yourself. The explanation is in the way a candle works. Liquid wax is absorbed by the wick where it is vaporized by the flame and it's the parrafin vapour that burns. When extinguished, the plume of smoke that is visible is condensed parrafin vapour that can then be relit, the flame traveling down and re-igniting the wick. Not exactly hard-hitting science, but a decent party trick.

Those trick relighting candles work on the same principle, only in this case, the wick is treated with a metal that combusts at low temperature (usually magnesium). The ember in the extinguished wick ignites the magnesium which provides the heat to light the parrafin vapour.


Marilyn's Transfatty Milk

Having beer with Marilyn (fellow graduate student) is always educational but when she starting talking about transfats in milk I was like," hello?! trans fats are only a result of synthetic hydrogenation of vegatable oils!"

Apparently Marilyn was right.
From Marilyn:

hey guys, I was not in the field...

there is naturaly occuring trans fat in animal products like meat and dairy, but
those are good for you.

''Where do trans fats come from?''

''Some low levels of trans fat have always been found naturally in our food supply
in the fat in the meat and milk from ruminant animals (e.g. cows; sheep). These fats
are produced by the normal action of bacteria in the gut of ruminants.''


''Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers,
candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods
made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Small amounts of naturally
occurring trans fat can be found in some animal products, such as butter, milk
products, cheese, beef, and lamb.''

check out that article were they talk about good and bag trans fat.

to make it event better I pulled out some a paper from the journal of dairy science
but i could only get the abstract at home. let me know if you can get the hole

Major advances in nutrition: impact on milk composition.
J Dairy Sci. 2006 Apr;89(4):1302-10.

Examination of the persistency of milk fatty acid composition responses to fish oil
and sunflower oil in the diet of dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 2006 Feb;89(2):714-32.
end Marilyn's quote.

I pretty much have been proven wrong. However I have an issue with the notion that there are healthy transfats. The only reason the cited article gives that naturally occurring transfats are healthy is that they are natural. No proof.
Perhaps getting transfats exclusively from natural sources is okay however, but only because they are in such low abundance.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Side effects of 'healthy' eating

There's a definite trend growing towards organic, unprocessed and 'natural' foods, but is there a cost to shunning modern growth and processing techniques? A recent study described at Nature News (subscription may be required) has shown that folate, a vitamin that helps prevent birth defects, may not be consumed at the recommended levels thanks in part to a shift towards "whole grain" breads and cereals. Your average loaf of Wonder bread is enriched with vitamins, including folate, helping the population reach the suggested daily 400 micrograms. Unprocessed breads and cereals don't benefit from this enrichement which has led do the decline in folate consumption. A corresponding increase in birth defects has not yet been observed. For those on low-carb diets or with a preference for whole grain breads, spinach, broccoli and yeast products (Marmite, anyone?) are alternate sources of folic acid, but "you would have to eat a very large portion of broccoli or spinach," according to the author.
In other 'health food' related news, for those making the switch to diet Coke to help out with the New Year's Resolutions, it seems that there's a correlation between the consumption of diet sodas and weight gain (sorry for the poor source - CBS, but apparantly this work has been presented to the American Diabetes Association). The reason for the correlation isn't clear, but it seems it may be a change in behaviour when drinking diet sodas (i.e. you think you can eat more fatty foods since you're drinking diet cola) but other theories are discussed.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Continuous Brewing

The beer fueled genius that defines the bayblab recently came up with the concept of brewing beer as a continuous process instead of the conventional batch method. This would improve productivity and would eliminate a lot of messy steps for the homebrewmaster.
Of course it's all been done before, in 1985.
Why has this not been made into a kit for easy homebrewing? I lack the engineering skills required to build the contraption, but I would love to engineer some yeast for the process.
Hmmmmmm spent yeast.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Podcast Episode 5

For those who know how to work computers the newest excellent bayblab podcast has been available for a couple of days if you use the RSS podcast feed. If you don't you should start so you are always bayblabably up to date. I haven't figured out how to work computers to get it up on the website quite yet. Hear the latest on male lactation and the Baymans solution to world hunger using tissue culture.


Nutritional Cancers

Found this figure on a Nature Cancer Reviews paper. Totally ganked it and am anticipating the lawsuits :). Click on it to see it full size and see what foods & lifestyles you should be avoiding as they have been associated with increased risk for cancer. The most conspicuous is the Cantonese Style salted fish, I will be avoiding that like I'll be avoiding Nasopharynx cancer.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Patent Loophole

Ran into a story on Slashdot about a group of researchers that managed to find a loophole in a patent for a very expensive Hepatitis C drug. It is basically interferon (alpha 2b) stabilized with a sugar moiety. It looks as if all they did was find another site (other than the site that was included on the patent) on to which they could add the PEGylation (sugar) to stabilize the interferon and maintain it's biological function. The origonal paper about the alternative stabilization of interferon is in Nature Chemical Biology.
It's interesting to hear Professor Sunil Shaunak's take on the discovery. He definitely seems to be more interested in a cure as opposed to making money. The Slashdot comments of course praise him and his stance. I bet at least one lawyer's head rolls for leaving this gap in the original patent held by the pharma giant Roche.