Friday, July 30, 2010

Mix Tapes ...

... are cool. Though technically, they're more like Mix CD's now, eh?

1. I'm a Believer - The Monkees
2. Bus Stop - The Hollies
3. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
4. Just You 'N Me - Chicago
5. Never My Love - The Association

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thor ...

... looks like it's going to be pretty darn awesome.

China - Food for Thought

Read this commentary over at Reuters and it raises some interesting points, but the most interesting point IMNSHO was raised by a commenter who said:
Population control takes many forms, does it not? Every government is guilty and bloody handed. Do they care? Unlikely.
As I was reading that commentary, that very thought was going through my head. I simply do not think that China cares about its population*, and if a number of them die so that China can progress economically, then they died for a good cause. It's a horribly shortsighted position to take, considering the long term effects that pollution will have, but at least to me it appears a route that China is willing to take. I don't think anything will happen in the near future unless the people demand it, and that can't happen or won't be allowed to happen.

*We already know China has stringent population control measures in place, so we know they consider themselves overpopulated to begin with.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weekend Reading

Effects of Medium Composition on the Growth of Chlorella vulgaris During Photobioreactor Batch Cultivations
A promising alternative to petroleum-derived fuels lies in microalgae-produced biodiesel. Compared to major terrestrial crops, microalgae have higher rates of oil and biomass production and appear to be the only source of renewable biodiesel that can meet global demand for transport fuels. Chlorella vulgaris may be suitable for biodiesel production due to its faster growth and easier cultivation compared to other strains. Lipid production is achieved in two steps: a biomass production phase, and a lipid production phase, in which the lipid content of algal cells is increased by submitting them to environmental stress such as nitrogen starvation. As a preliminary step towards the optimization of the biomass production step, the effect of different nutrient concentrations in TAP medium on the photobioreactor cultivation of C. vulgaris was studied. The results showed good growth of Chlorella vulgaris in 2X TAP, reaching a biomass concentration of 6.0 g/liter. Growth inhibition was observed at concentrations of the nitrogen source, NH4Cl, between 500 and 1000 mg/liter in the medium. Varying the concentration of the phosphorus source, K2HPO4 in the medium had no effect on cell growth within the range studied, provided phosphorus sufficiency is ensured. Other medium components are non-limiting at the levels studied.

... and ...

Semi-continuous Cultivation of Chlorella vulgaris for Treating Undigested and Digested Dairy Manures
The present study, based on a previous batch-wise experiment, investigated a lab-scale semi-continuous cultivation of green microalgae Chlorella vulgaris (UTEX 2714), as a useful means for nutrient reduction as well as production of algal biomass which can be used as potential feedstock for the production of biofuel and other commodities, on 20x diluted dairy manures. Both undigested and digested samples were applied in parallel experiments for comparison regarding the requirements of hydraulic retention times (HRTs), removal efficiencies of nitrogen, phosphorus, and chemical oxygen demand (COD), biomass productivities, and CO(2) sequestration abilities. It was demonstrated that algae grown in undigested dairy manure achieved removal rates of 99.7%, 89.5%, 92.0%, and 75.5% for NH (4) (+) -N, TN, TP, and COD, respectively, under a 5-day HRT, while the HRT had to extend to 20 days in order to achieve 100.0% removal of NH (4) (+) -N in digested one with simultaneous removals of 93.6% of TN, 89.2% of TP, and 55.4% of COD. The higher organic carbon contained in undigested dairy manure helped boost the growth of mixotrophic Chlorella, thus resulting in a much shorter HRT needed for complete removal of NH (4) (+) -N. Moreover, algae grown in digested dairy manure provided more penitential than those grown in undigested one in CO(2) sequestration per milligram of harvested dried biomass (1.68 mg CO(2)/mg dry weight (DW) vs 0.99 mg CO(2)/mg DW), but did not surpass in total the amount of CO(2) sequestered on a 15-day period basis because of the better productivity gained in undigested dairy manure.

Guess I'm going to be interested in algae this weekend. What about everyone else?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The hotties of science

Over the past few days there has been a bit of discussion about the place of women in science. Part of it revolves around this ill-advised post which clearly objectifies women. Creepily, in my not so humble opinion. Sheril Kirshenbaum of the Intersection responded in a very calm and rational manner, and some other bloggers have weighed in as well. I found the discussion particularly interesting given the fact that Newsweek just had an article discussing the "Beauty Advantage" and how looks do matter, more than we'd like to admit actually, and that women do have it worse. So it goes without saying, but needs to be said despite some people's objections, that everyone really should use a more critical eye towards their own verbal regurgitation's ... before they spew them into the workplace, cyberspace, the street, or wherever they happen to be at the time.

Remember, it's better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

With that said, one thing that was unfortunately lost in the entire discussion is that we can talk about the hotties of science without objectifying anyone. Yes, there are many good looking men and women in science -- myself included -- but it still overlooks another important facet ... the science itself.

So with that, I would now like to present the true hotties of science, or at least the ones I can pull from the top of my head.

1. Pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is a process by which organic material is exposed to extremely high temperatures and often pressure, in the absence of oxygen. This material is broken down into several components for the generation of energy. It is a player in the emerging biofuel discussion and has the benefit of being able to use multiple feedstocks. A common utilizable energy product from pyrolysis is methane which can then be used for natural gas in homes, vehicles, workplaces, you name it. It can also be used to generate bio-oils (PDF, 42 pages) for liquid fuels. As mentioned, people have looked at a number of feedstocks including cellulose and other plant materials, such as rice husks and even coconut shells. Oh, and people have looked at cooking swine manure as well (PDF, 8 pages) with excellent results.

2. Gasification. Gasification is the dizygotic twin sister of pyrolysis. Like pyrolysis, gasification is playing a visible role in the bioenergy discussion. Pretty much anything that contains carbon can be gasified, and fossil fuels such as coal are often gasified to produce electricity. Since the process typically occurs at over 700 degrees Celsius, this is a very hot science topic indeed. There are several approaches to gasification, as well as feedstocks. Gasification of biomass (PDF, 23 pages) has been studied to a great degree (PDF, 64 pages).

3. Thermo-tolerant bacteria. Now we get into my own wheelhouse! The blood always gets pumping when talk turns to the extremophiles, groups of organisms which live in the most inhospitable of environments. From the extremes in pH and temperature, to salinity and arid environments ... places we would never expect life on earth, seemingly harbors entire communities. These organisms have been used as models for exobiology, and been used in applied science the world over. Heck, one can easily argue that if it were not for the thermophile Thermus aquaticus (from which we got Taq polymerase), we would never have experienced the genomic revolution.

4. Lasers. I blurbed about this already today, but man weaponized lasers are pretty cool/hot/awesome/no longer the stuff of science fiction alone. Maybe the end-product isn't science itself, but to get it to that point some serious applied science needed to be performed, and these systems are the end result. These directed-energy weapons (DEWs) literally evaporate their targets. That's some serious heat!

5. The Hubble Telescope and Astronomy. Ok, so the telescope itself isn't hot per se, but what it typically views generates some pretty serious heat. The core of our own star, Sol, tips the thermometer at a mere 15,000,000°C, which by all estimates is pretty hot. Launched in 1990, the Hubble Telescope continues to produce amazing pictures of our universe today. Recently, astronomers detected a "monster star" which outweighs our own sun by ~300 fold.

6. Climate Change. So, is the world really getting warmer? It's a debate that has certainly generated a lot of heat, which in and of itself warrants it's placement on this list. I wish I could say that there are things that both sides could agree on, but I'm not so sure that there are. There is plenty of research being conducted on greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide. Scientists continue to look into how these gases are generated, how to reduce/sequester them, and the impacts they play on the environment. From my own vantage point, these gases are all part of two important nutrient cycles, nitrogen and carbon (PDF, 33 pages). Life goes on, and one thing is for sure ... marmots are getting bigger.

7. Heat shock proteins. There is a reason life can tolerate extremes in temperatures. Some cannot handle the extremes as well as others, but we all have a way of dealing with increases and decreases. The heat shock proteins regulate the responses of cells when exposed to elevated temperatures. There are a variety of proteins which handle this chore, and they are found in a range of organisms as well, from bacteria, to insects, to mammals. In addition, some of these proteins have been manipulated to serve a biotech purpose. You have to love applied science sometimes.

So, that's but a small primer on the hotties of science. As I think of some more, I'll definitely add them to the list. If commenters wish to add to the list, provide them in the comments or send me a link to your own posts. Perhaps the most important imparted lesson from this entire mess is that if we can find it in ourselves to look beyond things such as the gender of coworkers, collaborators and peers, and instead focus on the areas of science which really matter ... we'll wind up opening doors to bigger and better things. One can always hope.

ETA: Updated on 07/22/2010 to expand the list.

Nightmare cruise

Thousands of spiders found on ship from South Korea. It was a cargo ship, rather than a cruise ship, but still. Gah!
The Guam Department of Agriculture says hundreds of large spiders and thousands of smaller ones were seen when stevedores began offloading insulation and beams for housing units from the ship, the M.V. Altavia.
They blocked the offloading of materials for fear that the influx of spiders would damage the local ecosystem. I don't blame them.


Killer lasers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Goodbye George ...

... Steinbrenner dead.

I never liked the Yankees. Heck, I hate the Wankees. But you have to give it to George Steinbrenner ... he wanted to win. I would like that in the owner of my favorite team. You hear that Wilpon?

Friday, July 09, 2010

One Funny, One Serious ...

... note.

Based on this article.The funny is the picture of a bunch of mice, on the right hand side. The caption: These mice have preferences. Seriously? That's your caption? Duh.

Now, for the serious stuff.
A GENE has been discovered that appears to dictate the sexual preferences of female mice. Delete the gene and the modified mice reject the advances of the males and attempt to mate with other females instead.
Which gene, and how?
The gene the team deleted is for an enzyme called fucose mutarotase, which adds the sugar fucose to proteins. Park believes that disabling the gene exposes parts of the developing mouse brain linked with sexual preference in adult life to extra oestrogen. The hormone masculinises the brain in mice - though not in people.

In a normal female mouse fetus, this extra oestrogen would be "filtered out" by a substance called alpha-fetoprotein. But AFP only functions properly when adorned with fucose. So without the gene that makes the enzyme, AFP cannot keep the flood of oestrogen at bay.

As a result, the female mouse brain develops as if it were a male. "The mutant female mouse underwent a slightly altered developmental program in the brain to resemble the male brain in terms of sexual preference," says Park.
I don't really intend to get into the whole nature/nurture debate on homosexuality. To me, I honestly don't care if it is a personal decision, or has some sort of genetic basis, or is a mixture of both, or varies dependent upon the person.

What I do care about is the road that such studies could go down. So what if scientists could establish a link between a single gene and lesbianism? Seems like it'd be to screen for. That is where my concerns arise. And they are not concerns I hold alone. The US Council of Catholic Bishops have a page discussing the moral implications of prenatal testing. Here is the "money quote" from that page, and they cite Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).
But since the possibilities of prenatal therapy are today still limited, it not infrequently happens that these techniques are used with a eugenic intention which accepts selective abortion in order to prevent the birth of children affected by various types of anomalies. Such an attitude is shameful and utterly reprehensible, since it presumes to measure the value of a human life only within the parameters of “normality” and physical well-being, thus opening the way to legitimizing infanticide and euthanasia. (no. 63)
Bold emphasis is mine. I do not think it is such a large leap to think that some people would consider homosexuality to be considered an "anomaly" just like one might view a child with Down's Syndrome to be considered an "anomaly". I think we need to be very careful when we head down these roads. It is one thing to wish to understand the things we experience in this world. I think it is another thing entirely to create tests to screen for them afterward. I don't think any small amount of irony should be lost on the fact that the Catholic Church -- an institution that many (not all, but many) of the more liberal-minded people in this country despise -- would be the first to step up in the defense of all people who could be construed as an "anomaly".

Further reading: Evangelium Vitae

I don't do chain emails ...

... but the information in this one was pretty sound (in my estimate) so I'm posting it here. So here is some advice, for those that want it and/or need it.

1. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

2. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

3. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have, or sleep all you want.

4. When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.

5. When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye.

6. Be engaged at least six months before you get married.

7. Believe in love at first sight.

8. Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much.

9. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.

10. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

11. Don't judge people by their relatives.

12. Talk slowly but think quickly.

13. When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?'

14. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

15. Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze.

16. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

17. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.

18. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

19. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

20. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

21. Spend some time alone.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

If I were to assemble ...

... a soccer *ahem* football team, I would insist on the following:

1. The uniforms would be red.
The psychologists found that when the competitors appeared to be wearing red, they were awarded an average of 13% more points than the blue competitors, even though every athlete was presented in both colors at some point. What’s more, points awarded seemed to increase after the blue athlete was digitally transformed into a red athlete and decrease when the red competitor changed to blue.
2. I would field my team with short players.
Based on evolutionary and linguistic research which has revealed that people associate the size of others with concepts such as aggression and dominance, Van Quaquebeke and Giessner speculated that ambiguous fouls are more likely to be attributed to the taller of two involved players.
3. I'd insist on playing all my games at home.
Analysing over 2,500 English Premiership matches, researchers discovered that referees were statistically more likely to award yellow and red cards against the away team – even when home advantage, game importance and crowd size were taken into account.
4. I'd ensure that my team always played left to right (leftward).
It's been documented that individuals who read languages which flow left-to-right are more likely to have a negative bias for events moving in the opposite direction, from right-to-left. In the Penn study of twelve members of the University of Pennsylvania's varsity soccer teams (all native English speaking), researchers found that participants viewing the soccer plays were more likely to call a foul when seeing a right-to-left attack.
Doing all of this, my team would be unbeatable!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

World Cup 2010

La Furia Rojas!


ETA2: And I win the pool!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I love Maglites ...

... and after this article, I love them even more.
Maglica is obsessed with upgrading automation and fine tuning work flow in the plant to wring out speed and efficiency — the only way, he says, that he can compete with imports from China where labor is so much cheaper. The company has invested tens of millions in automation against pressures to go overseas — a strategy that has worked remarkably well, according to distributor Rich.

“The amazing thing with Maglite is we have sold their product for at least 10 years and they have never had a price increase,” he says. “I’ve never seen anybody not have a price increase every year. Not any other product line we’ve ever sold … and the quality has remained.”
If you need a flashlight, spend the couple extra dollars it'll cost you to buy a Maglite. I have a couple which I've had for over a decade a piece. The only thing that has worn down on them is the batteries.

Friday, July 02, 2010

River in the Road

by: Queens of the Stone Age

Fast approaching monsters,
Marching in a row,
Grab what slips your mind,
And what your memory won't hold.
Run, darling run.
I'll stall them if I can,
You'll escape and I'll be left rotting on the vine.

Ruuuuhhuuun, run run run.
Oh, Oh, Ohhhhhh.
Ruuuuhhuuun, run run run.
Oh, Oh, Ohhhhhh.

Run, darling run.
I'll stall them if I can,
You'll escape and I'll be left rotting on the vine.

Avert the children's eyes,
Forget left untold,
Don't look back to see,
The blood,
River in the road.

Ruuuuhhuuun, run run run.
Oh, Oh, Ohhhhhh.
Ruuuuhhuuun, run run run.
Oh, Oh, Ohhhhhh.

Get sweet revenge with my blood,
River in the road .