403: This is your brane on string theory. (String Theory)
( Jul. 28th, 2015 12:41 am)
From Mother Jones: Bark beetles are decimating our [conifer] forests. Maybe we should let them. (tl;dr - Surviving trees have superior tolerance of hot weather. Lots of trees will die, but the forests live on.)

Science surprise: Constrictor snakes don't kill by suffocation.

A macroscopic quantum phenomenon has been observed in water ice, at around 20 Kelvins.


On the more human-related end of things:

A great deal of feminist Win is taking place in this MetaFilter thread. The original article is interesting, but the MeFi discussion is where things are happening. If you just want the high points, people have been collecting their favorite quotes in the comments over [livejournal.com profile] siderea way.

The NYTimes has another update in its "Outlaw Ocean" series: 'Sea Slaves': The human misery that feeds pets and livestock

And I've recently run across a thoughtful article from 2011 titled Clinical Despair: Science, Psychotherapy and Spirituality in the Treatment of Depression, which is just what it says on the tin.
403: (The Human Condition)
( Jul. 14th, 2015 08:09 am)
Some Cambrian-era fossil comb jellies had skeletons. (Note that comb jellies are not actual jellyfish. Instead they're the oldest/most basal animal clade. True jellies are relative newcomers.)
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Song et al. "Regeneration and experimental orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered kidney", Nature Medicine (2013)

Abstract:
Approximately 100,000 individuals in the United States currently await kidney transplantation, and 400,000 individuals live with end-stage kidney disease requiring hemodialysis. The creation of a transplantable graft to permanently replace kidney function would address donor organ shortage and the morbidity associated with immunosuppression. Such a bioengineered graft must have the kidney's architecture and function and permit perfusion, filtration, secretion, absorption and drainage of urine. We decellularized rat, porcine and human kidneys by detergent perfusion, yielding acellular scaffolds with vascular, cortical and medullary architecture, a collecting system and ureters. To regenerate functional tissue, we seeded rat kidney scaffolds with epithelial and endothelial cells and perfused these cell-seeded constructs in a whole-organ bioreactor. The resulting grafts produced rudimentary urine in vitro when perfused through their intrinsic vascular bed. When transplanted in an orthotopic position in rat, the grafts were perfused by the recipient's circulation and produced urine through the ureteral conduit in vivo.
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403: This is your brane on string theory. (String Theory)
( May. 1st, 2012 09:25 pm)
I have a presentation and poster session a week from today, on the behavior of Arabidopsis thaliana LBD16 mutants under phosphate starvation. This afternoon, I finished the last of the main-inquiry data gathering. Now I have to make it mean something.

Probable radio silence ahead, not that that's any different from usual.
403: Listen to the song of the paper cranes... (Cranesong)
( Jan. 15th, 2012 02:35 pm)
How to Read a Scientific Paper. I wish more people knew how to do this.
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Subject line of an e-mail I just recieved: "Over 1,000 New Moronic Acids from Alfa Aesar".

Sadly, the body of the message is all about boronic acids, which are far more mundane.


(In other news, I'm allllllllmost done with the semester. Yay!)


ETA: 5/19/11, 0:29 - First off I am now DONE! with the semester. Second, the real topic of this post gets better. Moronic acid turns out to be a real substance.
403: Igor (Igor)
( Apr. 14th, 2011 01:00 pm)
I am currently in the same room with a scanning-tunnelling electron microscope. Its carrying case is the size of a large briefcase. So far, we're not being allowed to play with it.


Inspired by the Institute For Figuring. This is what you get when you start with a round of six chain stitches, and double each stitch for six full rounds.
The experiment: Collect fruit scraps (apple cores, lemon peels, the white bits of a watermelon, etc.) in the 'fridge for whatever length of time is convenient. Add to a solution of 1/4 cup honey per liter of water, in a wide-neck bottle or jar. Cover with a cloth held on by a rubber band, and leave in a cool, dry place for a week. Next week, I'll find out whether watermelon rind makes a decent vinegar.

The science: The first and obvious step of any sugary solution left at room temperature is that wild yeasts will ferment the sugar into alcohol. Once there's alcohol in solution, the naturally occurring acetic acid bacteria will ferment that into vinegar, quickly lowering the pH below that favored by the various species of microbes and fungi that cause spoilage. (If the culture contains Acetobacter xylinium or similar, they'll form a harmless mat that floats at the top of the jar which is known as "mother of vinegar".)
Last week I assembled some trellising to hide the neighbor's ugly garage wall, and give the pitiful-looking grapevine someplace to grow. It looks good, but the cheap wood of the trellis is starting to bend under its own weight already.

Monday, my housemates and I hauled a massive desk bequeathed to us by the previous owners upstairs for my use. Because it's large, red (cherry stain, if not actual cherry wood), and evil to move in any way at all, we've named it "The Balrog". In retrospect, we probably should've waited for the professional movers, but the three of us got ambitious. We also succeeded with only a minor ding to the stairwell, which speaks for itself.

My own clumsiness and some misfortune in getting the Balrog into position has left a wide, shallow scrape on the wood floor (appears to be finish damage only). While I'm fixing it, I figure I may as well fill in and finish over the 1/8" deep, 1/8" wide cross-grain gouges left by the previous owners. (I can't figure out what they did to make that shape. Fit their kids for iceskates indoors, maybe?) It will be impossible to hide that it's a patch job, but that's preferable to having the unsanded wood-splinters hanging out near my bare feet.

Yesterday, I did battle with the community college bureaucracy in order to establish my student status. A rematch to determine my tuition residency is in the works, but it's waiting on a utility bill so that I can prove I'm planning to stay (in the mean time, they're charging me the out-of-state rate, and the understaffed FinAid office will eventually get around to reimbursing me). It's worth noting that I ache more after standing in lines for 5h than I did after moving extremely heavy furniture the day before.

In this morning's bout of insomnia, I've been reading about the origins of number representation. The results are pretty cool, and I'm not going to spoil the suspense for you. Read it yourself - I'm going to try to sleep some more.
403: Igor (Igor)
( Aug. 9th, 2010 08:52 am)
Vinay Deolalikar of HP Labs, who's done previous work in the area, has published a proof that P ≠ NP. It will take a few days for other mathematicians to check his work for mistakes. I wish I knew enough math to understand the proof myself.
You really can be bored to death, accoring to researchers from University College, London, but it's a slow and tedious process.

(Abstract here. I have a PDF of the full text, if anyone's interested.)
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403: Spiral of black and white stones, on a go board. (Spiral)
( Jan. 27th, 2010 08:35 pm)
In order to let go of the chaos of the past couple days, this evening I decided to prune my houseplants. By the time I was halfway done with the wormwood proto-bonsai, I realized that it smelled different than it did when I started. Not just the usual crushed leaves and fresh sap. Sharper, perhaps. A sticky kind of scent. My sinuses were finally clear today, after a week or more of hardly being able to breath through them. Maybe that was the difference.

So I opened a window to let the apartment air out. Washed the sap and chemicals off my hands - wormwood is poisonous, keep away from eyes, food, etc. The next plant was the desert ironwood, and it takes a more cautious approach, if only to avoid dulling the pruning shears. (Fun fact: the wood is dense enough that it sinks in water.) After 15-ish minutes of pruning, I noticed the odd smell again. The wormwood was on the other side of the room, but the scent was distinctly right nearby. I was beginning to suspect what it might be.

Another cleanup and a trip to the grocery store confirmed it. I could get the same smell from leeks and cabbage, with their roots still on. Even from the loose salad mix, although fainter. A smell not just of agriculture, but of animal life. A silent, vegetative scream - "I'm being eaten!"

I had a salad for dinner. It was delicious.



(Happy Rabbit Hole Day. I can't stand salad.)
Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction. Dead fish in an MRI, with a real point to the experiment? Someone's going after an IgNobel prize.

Dispatchwork seeks to whimsically repair the world's public spaces.

Now I need to write a 3min talk on the chemistry of the BZ reaction, and make some slides for it. Should get started.
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..you find yourself using the freshly-made bottle of NaOH solution as a handwarmer.
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403: A rack of test tubes with the caption "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate". (Solution or precipitate)
( Nov. 16th, 2009 10:50 pm)
This afternoon, I picked up half of my order of chemicals for a class project. Half, because the other half had been returned to sender by someone in Lab Recieving. Still waiting on an explanation of how that happened. UPS either can't or won't divert packages in transit. The supplier tells me that they'll ship it back out promptly when it arrives, this time c/o'd to the purchasing manager so that it will hopefully stay here. It will most likely get back to me in two weeks.

This evening, I attended a discussion panel about "Faith and Science". The panelists were a Lutheran minister, a Catholic priest, an imam, and one Hillel staffer + a student who also teaches Jewish Sunday school (filling in for the rabbi, who's in the hospital after an accident involving a barbecue grill; he'll be fine but needs time to heal). Not one scientist. All of the religious leaders in attendance emphasized that their faiths are pro-science, within the bounds of what they consider ethical. (They all knew where they stood on issues like stem cell research and abortion. But animal testing threw them for a loop. Go figure.) I tried to add as much of a scientific perspective as I could from my position in the audience, and was only needed to make a religious point near the end, when the Jewish panelists couldn't give a solid answer to the animal testing question. (I've looked into the matter already because it might become relevant in my career.) On the whole the panel discussion turned out okay. There was the potential to be more than okay, but I'll take what I can get.
The "dead sample" (really, uncomfortably alive sample) tally is up to 112, plus 8 vials of meteorite residue.

The project that made them was only three or four years old, but had generated three papers so far. It was on the synthesis of sugars in conditions approximating those in the early solar system, which explains why so many of them were vulnerable to the mold.
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This morning, my employer discovered that her deep freezer had died, and the alarm didn't go off. The device is in the freezer room, where we don't often happen to walk past it, so we have no idea how long it's been nonfunctional - except that some of the samples had started growing mold.

So what I'm doing today? Disposing of spoiled samples, and cleaning dozens of test tubes and litle vials. And keeping my inhaler handy, since I'm allergic to mold spores.
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