Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hippos love explosives.

Back in the day my brother and I used to play a decent amount of Dungeons and Dragons, one of the games we played being the Cosmofantasy, Spelljammer. It had it's own neat quirks, and I was reminded of our good times after reading this bit on creepy looking hippos over at Archy. The Giff, giant Hippo-men with an affection for firearms were one of my brother's favorite races to spin into the nightly fun, and I can't help but think these findings would fit perfectly in those themes.

Or maybe it was just King Hippo from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! Hard to say.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

How would you like someone to poison you?

In the tail episodes of my beloved Arrested Development it is revealed George Bluth had a penchant for sending poison muffins to his enemies, but just the first two, the other twenty-three were copycats. But it tickles my fondness for the best comedy ever when I stumbled upon this article in Nature. Does some folks' disdain for vegetables like cauliflower, brussel sprouts and others that contain the molecule phenylthiocarbamide, a compound that plugs into the TAS2R receptor in the taste buds. Molecule of the Day has some neat commentary on these embittering substances.

Discriminating poison is a vital part of the taste sense, if not its most essential. Wild almonds contain a high amound of toxin yet it was important for early adopters to roast the nuts to remove the threats such as prussic acid, better known as cyanide, a tasteless, odorless and potent poison.

Still, both green vegetables and nuts provide easily available sources of all sorts of vital nutrients, and one would be hard-pressed to turn these down or hand them over to competitors.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Visceral Reactions

Via Mind Hacks: Cadaver Video Dissections! As a graduate student, I had a chance to assist a good pal of mine in directing the cadaver lab for the A&P section of the nursing degree. An old chestnut I like to spin was how a dead man can make you so sore, since working a bone saw or manipulating the body to different positions is a physical workout. Anyways, not for the faint-hearted.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brainmeats Geography

This God Spot article was all good and fun if you happened to read a few weeks back. I especially like the idea of trying to recreate these holy experiences, though the data suggest the setup was probably too ambitious to begin with.

Brain geography has always fascinated me ever since I saw a PBS special on it as a child, where a doctor would poke someone's exposed brain with a latexed finger and produce some Three Stooges like result. In fact, I find brains so cool, my attractive graphic designer wife and I snapped up one of these for the coming haunting season. Fitting eh?

More interestingly and more concise is the work linking action and cognition of that action, as biting the peach is almost like tasting sweetness. That is, this mirror behavior that the brain likes to conjure for us is probably a whole lifetime of work for several research groups.

But finally, it seems everyone I know has had one of these, be they in the form of extreme paranoia, religious experience or the delusion of being visited by ghosts. Mine usually rise in the form of lucid hallucinations between delta periods of sleep, I suspect my subconscious is usually prompting me to work through something.

Delicious opiate molecules await us all!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tripoli Six

Declan Butler, Nature reporter extraordinaire, has put the call out regarding this story of philanthropic medical workers facing an unjust execution in Libya. It's a particularly unsettling story but I think Butler frames it well as how global reaction might be were these American doctors and nurses.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Exercise Gods

Exercise is something I hold pretty dear. While a child I was instilled with a rather shallow yet broad tutorial as to why the practice was important, and later found personal subjective reasons as to why it benefitted my lifestyle. Here's some more objective material.

Certainly they all are excellent points but I'm partial to highlight 1, 4 and 6 as the ill affects of these are chronic, long term issues young folk rarely consider.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Humans - Freak Animals

A recent exchange with my pal Finback stirred up some talk about how weird humans are compared to the rest of the mammals, if not the rest of the higher vertebrates. Here today we see research suggesting were freaks in our own human family tree. This graphic gives a nice evolutionary comparison of us and our cousins which can cause all sorts of consternation. While the research here tries to separate us with our lack of brow ridges and other facial features, I'm curious as to the sexual practices of Neanderthals and whether they are as bizarre as our rituals. Anybody know where I could dig that info up? I wonder if there are any of those latent Neanders out there I could probe about their sexy thoughts.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The most delicious invasion this Fall

I admit it. I've been rather obsessed with the crab news. Bioinvaders are nothing new. Here in Michigan we've dealt with old pals like lampreys who quickly made themselves at home in our freshwater bastion when the St. Lawrence Seaway was completed. On their heels (or rather, in the hulls of boats) came the zebra mussels. I won't even get into the issues surrounding the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, that's a whole other enchilada I'll serve to you in the future. Both have multiplied to high levels with no natural predators and no viable economic contribution. I hear lamprey isn't the best eatin' and for all the algal filtration that might be attributed to zebra mussels, they squeeze out the natives and permanently change the ecological landscape due to anthropogenic impact. The latest news on bioinvasion our regional area is the events of the somewhat perverse Redneck Carp Tournament. Details of the actual event are pretty hilarious, such as using one's face to catch ten pounder fish.

The Dungeness crab (with the delightful Latin name of Cancer magister) is a voracious and practically an omnivorous eater, which could spell serious threats for all sorts of fauna in the Atlantic ocean. Apparently only males are caught for food so the fact this fugitive was one of my boys at least leaves the possibility that this lone crab just escaped a restaurant or was released by humans too full to eat another.

I love the crabs and crustaceans in general. Their hulking, armored bodies coupled with their ponderous walk has always delighted me. I spent a good part of last year watching The Deadliest Catch, and on an upcoming trip out to the West Coast I plan to sample as much multi-legged animals as is served on my plate.

Is it time to panic that we have another bioinvasion on our hands? Probably not, but given our track record, it's bad news, Scrapper. By the time we find conspicuous evidence of the invaders, they're everywhere.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cancer Gangs and Supressor Tradeoffs

Earlier this week research in my backyard have proposed game theory applied to cancer cells.

This kind of cooperation reminds me of slime molds and their ability to aggregate from independent Slimy Slime Molds. These guys are generally the lone ranger types until the environment changes and it becomes advantageous to have a little slimy sex, which involves maturing into fruiting bodies and releasing spores. In this scenario, not all the cells pass their genes on to the spores, so someone's getting screwed despite all the teamwork. Typical.

In the tumors, one of the major steps precancerous cells need to overcome is recruiting a rich blood source, through signaling molecules like VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) so perhaps you're a precancerous cell but just can't get that rich blood capital. But your wingman has got you covered! He's paid your tab! I can just see the tumor being represented by some sort of wolfpack/Hell's Angels/Charlie's Angels type treatment.

On the other side of the tumor wars, there's this neat nugget: Fight Cancer or Get Old. Apparently the p16 gene plays a dual role where it plays part of the tumor suppression cascade and also combats wear and tear in the body that results due to ageing. As one gets older, perhaps we stock up on p16 the way a retiree reorganizes his finances into more useful and predictable investments. So it's quite the biological Catch-22 at the moment. No p16 and you might get cancer. Have p16 and your tissues won't rejuvenate. Still, this work seems to kick the door open on a whole new knot we get to try and tease apart.

The Whitestest of Diseases

It appears Tuberculosis, sick (dur hur hur) of taking a back seat to youngbloods like AIDS and West Nile, is coming back with a new attitude. I recall freaking out the first time a professor of mine mentioned he had TB, it was a disease I had so little grasp of outside of that little pronged disc they would poke me with for no apparent reason. The new strain is being labeled 'XDR-TB' which we all know adding an X indicates a superpowered version of the previous redeco strain. To quote a pal, it is monsterious, and that X can be so sexy and dangerous. Still, SexyDanger-TB has its own merits...

Bonus Round: Some technical reading for those so inclined. I'm involved in some ATP-biosynthesis targeting, and it's a topic that gets kicked around our pathogen-oriented projects quite a bit.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Attempting to start a science blog and synthesize a better understanding of what it is I do in the bowels of my chemical genomics lab. We'll see how that goes.