Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eel-powered Christmas Lights

Probably not a viable substitute for fossil fuels...


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Economist view of academics

An article in The Economist presents a depressing view of doctoral degrees. I also consider myself underemployed, partly by choice. Unfortunately the article doesn't address the view that I have and I think that many other graduate students must have. I really enjoyed my extended time as a student, the work and the lifestyle. Also, the statistics reported in the article about the number of jobs for PhDs actually seems better than I had estimated from my experience as a graduate student.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

"In the real world, that would be considered a mental disorder!"

CollegeHumor looks at grad school...


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sulphur hexafluoride blooper



Monday, December 06, 2010

Arsenic-based life? Not so fast.

Everybody is abuzz with the discovery of a new study that claims to discover a bacteria that can substitute arsenic for phosphorus in its DNA backbone. There's lots of blog coverage of this research, much of it skeptical. If you only read one post about it, I would recommend this one from We Besties. It does a great job of looking at the paper and the experiments from a chemistry standpoint in an easy to understand way. The bottom line seems to be that there are some key experiments needed to be done before we jump the gun on declaring the discovery of alternative biochemistry.


Friday, December 03, 2010

Cancer Carnival #40

Time again for the Cancer Research Blog Carnival, a monthly collection of cancer research and other cancer-related blogging.

The holidays are upon us, and it's a short carnival this month, so we'll kick things off with a short post. Alexey Bersenev at Stem Cell Assays points us to a new review of aldehyde dehydrogenase in stem cells.
Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) is a potent and “popular” marker for both normal adult and cancer stem cells in rodents (mice) and human. I was happy to find very recent and comprehensive review about role of ALDH in human stem cells.
ALDH1, it seems, is not just a convenient marker of normal and cancer stem cells, but may play an important role in stem cell physiology.

Speaking of stem cells, I have a post up at the Stem Cell Network blog describing a new method for interconversion between cell types without first producing an induced pluripotent stem (iPS).
Because these cells never enter a pluripotent state, they were shown to not give rise to teratomas, and the resulting engraftments lacked leukemia stem cell properties, this suggests a decreased cancer risk compared to other alternatives that retain tumour potential.
At Respectful Insolence, Orac describes the tolls of second-hand smoke.
One aspect of the results of this study that were particularly disturbing is that deaths due to secondhand smoke were skewed toward poor and middle-income countries, where children tended to die of lower respiratory infections associated with secondhand smoke. In Europe's high-income countries, only 71 child deaths were recorded for this study, while 35,388 deaths were in adults. In contrast, in Africa, there were an estimated 43,375 deaths potentially attributable to secondhand smoking in children compared with 9,514 in adults.
Orac also discusses flaws in the described study, but overall evidence points to the dangers of second-hand smoke inhalation. Meanwhile at HighlightHEALTH, with over 1 billion smokers in the world producing second-hand smoke, Walter Jessen points out that tobacco prevention funding is at a 10-year low.
According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend $12.8 billion a year on marketing; that equates to $25 tobacco companies spend to market tobacco products for every $1 the states spend to fight tobacco use. Perhaps not surprisingly, a recent CDC study reports that the number of adult smokers dropped between 2000 and 2005, but the adult smoking rate has stalled at 20-21% since 2005.
Given that tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in the US, and the toll of second-hand smoke on non-users described above, this isn't great news.

Finally, ERV talks about a paper discussing Merkel Cell Polyomavirus and it's role in Merkel cell carcinoma.
This paper isnt perfect. I have a lot of issues with it too-- BUT! I think it is a fantastic step in the right direction of establishing the role of a virus in a cancer and establishing the biochemistry of that interaction. This not only helps with the logic (there are some logical issues I have with XMRV-->prostate cancer) so people believe you, but if you elucidate the biochemistry/genetics/physiology, taking the issue beyond "WE CAN FIND THE VIRUS IN 80% CANKERS!", you can figure out potential avenues of treatment.
Read the post for the full story.

That's it for this month's Cancer Research Blog Carnival. For older editions, visit the Carnival Homepage. Don't forget, the CRBC has subscription options; you can follow by email or RSS feed. An aggregated feed of credible, rotating health and medicine blog carnivals is also available. For a broader collection of science-related blog carnivals, sign up for the Science, Medicine, Environment and Nature Blog Carnival Twitter Feed.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gay Prostates

There is a long history of research on digit ratio, that is, the ratio of the length of index to ring fingers. Interestingly a correlation of a larger index to ring finger length (2D:4D) to homosexual orientation in males has been found although it is controversial. Many other quite varied traits also seem to correlate with digit ratio including skiing ability, financial trading success, and musical ability (check out the wikipedia entry for a comprehensive list and references). It has also been shown that those with a lower 2D:4D have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. The data seems quite convincing and I don't think that the correlation of high 2D:4D with homosexuality is as strong, however, is there less prostate cancer in gay men?
As an aside, can we get any pics of great (creepy) Movember mustaches now that its all over?Link