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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brief video book review!

OK, I did it!  A video review about a great book I read this holiday break.  I mean, REALLY brief.  Super experimental for me.  The blowing noise is the biosafety cabinet...maybe should turn that off the next time.  And scratching behind my ear, oops!  Had to wash my hands again before getting back to my cells.

 Until next time,

 Kindly,

Joanne

Sat, January 10, 2009 | link 

Friday, January 9, 2009

I drink my iced tea with a straw!

Just a few things before the weekend arrives, which for me brings more prep work for the upcoming semester....not too bad if I turn music on loudly and try NOT to sing into the biosafety cabinet--because we all know this is bad technique ;-)

First, I am so happily geeked out that I bought a new poster of the periodic table of the elements.  Oh sure, you can get one of those anywhere, but THIS one is in four languages--  English, French, German, and Spanish!  Why not Russian (Medeleev's home country) or Japanese, Korean or Arabic? That would be pretty fun, too.

pteposter.jpg 

Maybe you heard that a cancer free baby girl was born in the UK.  That is too big of a claim, of course, but what is important is that this in vitro fertilized (IVF) child was "engineered" to not have the genes that we know (so far) that code for breast or ovarian cancer.  My personal concern is that those genes may have other functions that have now been deleted, or now she will be at risk for something much worse.  Time will tell, of course...or maybe not.

It'd be nice to know how I ended up here, at the website for The Science and Entertainment Exchange.  I think I was reading how Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and 1997 Nobel Prize winner in Physics was named by president-elect Obama to be the Energy secretary and found out he was involved in The Science and Entertainment Exchange.  This exchange is a fascinating concept and check out their advisory board! Impressive! Of course, every time I see Jerry Zucker's name, I can't help but think of the movie Airplane! with my favorite representation of a "drinking problem"--a joke I unfortunately apply periodically thanks to drinks ending up on my shirt. Probably my least graceful trait-sigh)

Vlogging this weekend!  You'll see my first experiment with it soon!  Until then,

Kindly,

Joanne

Fri, January 9, 2009 | link 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Aliquoting and close encounters of the third kind.....

Aliquoting is a funny term...I don't know that it is used anywhere but in science, and I've had more than one non-scientist comment on the unusual uniqueness of the term every time I use it.  Basically it is precisely measuring out volumes of liquid reagents, often repetitively, and dispensing them into other tubes or bottles to be available for use at a later date. I'm doing a lot of it right now in preparation for the new semester. My hand is a bit cramped from all of the pipetting.

As I usually do at this time of year, I am training graduate students, lab technicians and professors how to do cell culture, all crammed into a short two week session.  As always, it is fantastic fun to assist people who really want to learn this material, and to top it off, they are all quick learners as well.

In the class, after showing them a tutorial on fluorescent molecules (if you like, watch it, too! here) I showed them the PCR song.  If you have watched it (or know anything about PCR), then you know that Kary Mullis was the inventor of PCR and even won a Nobel Prize (1993) for his work.  Interestingly, just after showing that video, I saw that TEDtalk has him as the speaker for this week, talking about "Celebrating the Scientific Experiment.  It's linked to my youtube site, in favorites. Check it out, interesting and funny.

And, on another interesting note, because everything happens in threes, I also read on that very same day (in a completely unrelated book) that Kary Mullis has written about his presumed encounter with aliens.  You can read about his experience here.  Of course I don't visit that site normally (although I might've if the internet was around when I was 12 years old), I just found it to let you read about it.

Quite a number of years ago, I recall meeting a fellow graduate student's husband who claimed to have been abducted and prodded by aliens. He seemed extraordinarily traumatized by the whole thing. The way he related the experience to me even creeped me out.  At least Dr. Mullis was able to view it in a curious, detached, scientific way.  That's pretty cool.

As I was dumping out aliquots of various reagents from the past year that are no longer viable (another repetitive task), I kept thinking about this.  Does a Nobel prize winner relating a story like this make all of these close encounters credible?  I don't know...just wondering.  It might have been more interesting if he had this encounter BEFORE inventing PCR, making it possible that this insight could have been the result of the encounter (Imagine an alien comment: "ugh, these humans aren't moving fast enough in their scientific expertise, let's bestow some privileged information upon a worthy scientist--oh, look, there's one now!" Wink)

Maybe genius just requires a measure of insanity.  It's been said before.  Of course, witness James Watson, whose comments were getting more and more controversial. Winning a Nobel prize is not necessarily a guarantee of high quality thinking and behavior.  An entire book could be written about scientists behaving badly.  Even Robert Oppenheimer (technical director of the Manhattan Project) tried to poison his tutor in college because he was bored of practical physics and wanted to study more theoretical stuff. I guess he got over it....

Speaking of people behaving badly, I read a great book over break called Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend  (super subtitle!)I will vlog about this one since I enjoyed it tremendously.  I even made contact with the author to tell her how much I enjoyed her book, and hope to share some of our conversation.

Until next time,

Kindly,

Joanne

Thu, January 8, 2009 | link 


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