Every Boy’s Dream…

March 29th, 2006

Oh, dear… this had me laughing the minute I turned on my computer this morning. I can totally see my husband doing this… next time we go out for pizza. And, you probably thought it would be something related to porn.

Ahhh, Life…

March 24th, 2006

A study out in Science today uses the new field of bioinformatics to determine how organisms went from anaerobic to having metabolic processes dependent on oxygen. The intricate tale that they weave describes the steps that must have been necessary, yet were so unlikely to occur at times. You see, we live in a caustic environment. Oxygen is incredibly reactive, and although we and most life on Earth depend on it, it is a corrosive bath in which we have fought through time to be able to survive.

There are many steps as yet undetermined, but the authors, Raymond and Segre, found through their analyses that there has to have been a distinct procession of chemical steps that pushed life to higher metabolic complexity. When life began on earth, it was dominated by anaerobic organisms that were able to capitalize on the reductive molecules available at the time. However, they lacked the metabolic pathways to be able to oxidize the large supply of H2O. So, it wasn’t until the evolution of photosynthesis that organisms began to take advantage of electron-donating water, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. The shift to oxygen then moved evolution more rapidly as organisms had to create new ways of protecting themselves from the ravages of such a reactive compound. At the same time the atmosphere and oceans were filling with oxygen released as a metabolic by-product of the growing populations of photosynthesizing organisms. The anaerobes became relegated to pockets within the environment as oxygen became more and more plentiful. Oxygen soon supplanted other reactive chemicals that organisms had relied upon for so long, and forced organisms to find ways to use organic materials in order to reduce oxygen to water. This led to the development of respiration, which uses both aerobic and anaerobic processes to create energy. Respiration created new problems for cellular organisms to deal with, requiring even more creative metabolic solutions, and thus spurred evolution to advance once again. Since then the fight to live dependant upong oxygen has given rise to eukaryotic, multi-cellular, organisms - the plants and then the animals.

All the diversity we see around us has come from the fight to survive in one way or another. Whether it be to out-smart oxygen or a cunning predator, life is always full of incredible solutions. And, it is able to respond quickly to environmental challenges, leading ever onward on its unknown path.

I haven’t figured out how to embed images in my posts yet (is moveable type really as complicated as it seems? or is it just that they have a crap help section?), so here is the link to the graphic relation of these processes. You may not be able to see it if you are not subscribed to Science.)

What is with the South?

March 21st, 2006

Ok, so I understand that there is this concept of states rights; that each state is able to make whatever laws they see fit as long as they generally don’t go against the Bill of Rights or federal constitution. I get this. But, I don’t get the laws that legislators think they should be making.

Take for instance the outlawing of sex toys in Mississippi - it is illegal to own, operate, or sell devices for the purpose of sexual genital arousal. Now, I know that not everyone uses, has used, or ever wants to use sex toys, but why take that right away from all people? How many people have been killed by sex toys? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m sure it’s not that many. Why not make some laws about things that really matter instead of pushing a moral agenda that not everyone shares. Heck, you outlaw sex toys and people are just going to go somewhere else for their sexual gratification.

Mississippi isn’t alone either. Alabama, Georgia, and Texas all have laws restricting sex toys. Nashville legislators have proposed a similar, yet slightly more enlightened law. You see, these legilsators aren’t stifling the hunt for knowledge. They plan to let the academics keep their sex toys as long as they are subjects of study. Hmmm… sounds like a much more interesting and engaging dissertation topic.

I read a comment on someone’s blog that states have the right to legislate morality, however that right ends when it becomes unconstitutional. I just wish that the Circuit and Supreme courts would uphold the constitution rather than the moral agendas of a few. How many more years until our country publicly recognizes the fact that adults should be able to make decisions about their own sexuality without the state butting in. People say that this is a free country. Compared to other countries maybe, but taken on its own, I don’t know how true that statement is.

Color me Impressed

March 20th, 2006

This weekend I attended the Sacramento Regional Science Fair. This was my second year at the fair. Last year I was a judge and this year I went as a member of the press. I have to say that I was once again so completely impressed by the young scientists showing off their acheivments that it was all I could talk about for the past two days.

I showed up Saturday morning at Cal Expo, microphone and recorder in hand and spent the better part of the day intreviewing the students with presentations that struck me as interesting and insightful. I wish that I had had more time and battery life. My recorder gave out before I did unfortunately.

In the senior division, the students were consistently well-spoken , and had very well organized posters. The projects ranged from immunology to medicine to computer science. Above all though I was impressed by the knowledge that the students had for their subject matter. They hadn’t simply been told what to do, and memorized what some adult had told them. They had learned and integrated knowledge about their topic, and very often come up with original ideas as a result.

the ability to think for oneself is essential for success. And, in a time where we are looking at statistics that tell us how far behind the rest of the world we are falling in science and math, it is reassuring to have spoken with the future of our country’s scientific workforce. These kids are really smart, hard-working, and fully capable of maintaining the US’s position as a technological leader.

The students came from very different schools, cultures, and economic backgrounds, but the one trait that they all had in common was support. They had supportive teachers and parents who pushed them to do more than what is simply required to graduate. They had people standing behind them willing to help them find mentors in the research community, to drive them to internships, to help them learn how to use computer programs for data analysis, talk to them about their research projects and ideas, to help them lbelieve in themselves.

I have a couple of hours of audio recording to go through before finishing my final story on the fair. I look forward to listening to my interviews again, and maybe even learning a thing or two from the experiences that were shared with me.

Happy

March 16th, 2006

I’m actually happy with how things are going this week. When last week seemed as though life was pure bleakness, I didn’t know how I could continue forward. But, this week: my mom came home from the hospital, I have re-coverslipped half of my messed up slides, I went to the library and took got the articles I’ve been needing for weeks, and I started working out regularly again. So, all told, things are looking up and I am happy about it.

this weekend I’ll be attending the Sacramento Regional Science Fair. I’m interested in interviewing a few of the top students about their projects and experiences for a short pre-produced piece I’m putting together for my radio show. Last year I judged the competition, which was incredible fun. The day was really long, and it was difficult to pick a winner there were so many amazing projects. I’m sure this year will only be better.

And, finally, as St. Patrick Day looms upon us, check out this tidbit. All is not well in Ireland. find out why the favorite holiday of so many around the world is being called “the most depressing and dangerous” day of the year. However, I know that come tomorrow evening I will most likely be celebrating my Irish heritage instead of wallowing in depression for the old country.

Fish, fish, fish, fish

March 14th, 2006

I almost worked with fish, but it didn’t work out. But, my friend Becky Kihslinger seemed to get along with the slippery stream dwellers just fine. She recently finished a study looking at the effects of environment on brains of salmon. It seems that where fish grow up has all sorts of effects on the fish that in turn create serious conservation concerns. Read on…

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Hairy, hairy, quite contrary

March 8th, 2006

Now, this is something to write home about…

I will never cease to be amazed by the diversity of life on this planet.

The Damage is Done…

March 7th, 2006

So, my mom is in the hospital again. This time with the flu or something. They don’t know for certain yet, just that her blood pressure this morning was 60/25. By all means she shouldn’t be alive now with a BP that low. But, they are pumping fluids and sugars and medications into her veins to nurse her back to health.

She hates hospitals, but it won’t bother her for long because she won’t even remember being there once she gets home. Even so, I do wish that it were a better hospital for although she’s being cared for, she’s not really getting the care that she needs.

You see, my mom has multiple sclerosis. And, it’s not the pretty kind of MS that Montel Williams or Annette Funicello have. Theirs is the kind that allows you to have a life. Hers is the kind that destroys everything about your life. My mom used to be engaged and interested in life. She was a poet, and a mother. Now she is a disease, and there was really nothing that could be done to stop it from happening.

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Doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist…

March 3rd, 2006

So, this isn’t science, but omg… I find it incredibly funny. I guess this story goes to show how this country really is sitting on knife edge since 9-11.

How ethical is it?

March 2nd, 2006

I’m sure that many will have seen this story by now, but I find it amazing to think that things like this still go on.

In a study of an experimental blood substitute, trauma victims receive the subsitute from paramedics instead of blood. The blood substitute is then administered well after the victim arrives at the hospital. The ethical sticking point is not that the victims are recieving the substitute in the first place because otherwise they would often simply receive saline, but that they don’t recieve a transfusion of regular blood once they get to the hospital. Being a trauma victim they don’t have the ability to consent to the therapy in the first place, but the idea is that the substitute should be better than just saline. However, not receiving a blood transfusion as soon as possibe at a hospital where blood is available is technically denying the person treatment.

I don’t see how any review board thought that this design was a good idea. It denies treatment to people who have not consented to being part of a study in the first place. Um, yea… someone screwed up. It’s too bad because it will probably reflect poorly on the company, the company stock will drop, the company will go out of business, and we still won’t have a good replacement for blood. And, we need a good replacement. Not enough people give blood (me among them). We are constantly lacking in supplies. Without blood, trauma victims are expected to make it on sugar water and blood thickeners that really don’t cut the mustard.

It’s just too bad that people didn’t think before starting this study. It could have been done so much better.