Category Archives: Basic Science

Where on earth did proteins come from

Asteroids? Lightning? Hydrothermal Vents? Minerals? Fancy Gold Reactors? November 12, 2010 I’m sitting here and I don’t know how to start this article. For whatever reason, I am feeling anxious. Who knew that writing for all of your relatives could be so nerve-wracking. (My mom is one of 17 kids … so seriously, I think I might actually be related to all of these people.) The anxiety I am experiencing is caused by the release of proteins by my body. It may be just this specific protein but it’s more likely that the feeling of anxiety is brought on by the release of lots of different proteins. Proteins are big, complicated molecules, made up of building blocks called amino acids. Proteins make up our muscles. Proteins help us digest food. Proteins help us see. Proteins play a primary role in everything we do. To give you an idea of how … Continue reading

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Time to fall back

Have your internal clocks changed yet November 9, 2010 I catch the bus to the train station each morning for work. I usually get to the train at right around 6:45am. When I arrive, there are a couple of things that are the same day-in and day-out. First, it’s dark. Like, I should still be sleeping dark. Like, why am I even out of bed right now dark. Like, it’s hard to imagine that my daughters woke me up an hour ago dark. Second, I can leisurely make my way up to the train. There is no rush. There is no crowding. There is no fight through the turnstiles. And, third, there is always someone passing out the free local newspapers. (This is great because I get my sudoku and crossword fix everyday on the train). Yesterday almost all of that changed. First it wasn’t pitch dark out. It didn’t … Continue reading

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The Joy of Science

In images and videos November 3, 2010 I wanted to share some images and videos with you. These aren’t necessarily new. Some of them have been making the rounds on the internet lately, and it is likely that most of you have seen these already. Well, according to me, these are so cool that I am sure that you won’t mind seeing them again! There is no substitute for a good image or movie to effectively portray how much fun and how inspiring science can be. I hope that you agree with me that these images are well worth sharing. Images: A brief confession: If I had this PhD thing to do all over again, I would have been a microscopist. I would have made images. I LOVE reading microscopy papers. I am absolutely fascinated by super-resolution imaging techniques. And, I usually just end up staring, wide-mouthed and speechless, when … Continue reading

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The Morning After

How my body was altered overnight November 1, 2010 The human body is made up of lots of different material. Some of these materials are more abundant than others. Water. Water makes up about 70% of our bodies. Amazingly, this mimics Earth’s planetary composition. (Maybe amazingly isn’t the right word for this context. Perhaps logically or obviously would be a better choice. But I think that this fact is really cool). DNA DNA, our genetic code, is the set of instructions that tell us how we should grow up and develop and live. Protein Protein, a polymer made of the repeating backbone shown above, does all of the work to make our bodies function properly. Hydroxyapatite Hydroxyapatite is the mineral substance that makes up our bones. Its empirical formula (for those of you who care) is Ca5(PO4)3(OH), which just means that those elements repeat themselves over and over and over … Continue reading

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Impassioned by my fellows…

WOW October 29, 2010 I was fully planning to post this Friday’s article on the upcoming mid-term elections, but my blog-partner-in-crime, Matt Hartings, just did an amazing job to rouse us all from our indifferent slumber, to invigorate our sense of patriotic duty, and to remind us (scientists and non-scientists alike) of the powerful tools in hand. We can make a difference! Also, I’d like to draw attention to the website, Scientists and Engineers For America, for more info on science policy. (Thanks to our reader, PlatoMolloy, for the link!) Again… VOTE! Vote Smart! Vote early! Vote Often! VOTE! Cheers~gk

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I just flew 13.1 billion years

And boy are my photons tired October 26, 2010 Not just tired … but really, really faint. And waaaaaay red-shifted (more on this in a minute). Some how, some way, astronomers have found a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away. (A light year is just the amount time light travels in a year). That means that for light from this galaxy to reach us, it has had to travel approximately 77,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles! I have a hard time even understanding what that number means. I think most people would agree with that sentiment, which is why astronomers use light years, which is much more reasonable, which in this case comes to 13,100,000,000 light years, which really makes the distance more approachable, really(?), doesn’t it, OK. Let’s just say this galaxy is old. It’s older than that T-shirt your wife keeps asking you to get rid of. It’s older than your Grandma … Continue reading

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So, you’re going gray

Perhaps you’re just getting old October 20, 2010 Or maybe there’s more to it than that. Graduate school seems to be one stressor of gray hairs. (Although, I don’t think that I kept most of my hair long enough through graduate school for it to go gray.) There is the old wive’s tale that promises the plucking of one gray hair will yield two new gray hairs in the original’s place. And, of course, there is the theory that a traumatic event will instantly turn one’s hair white. Or, as told by Lord Byron in The Prisoner of Chillon: My hair is gray, but not with years, Nor grew it white In a single night As men’s have grown from sudden fears. Perhaps Lord Byron was a scientist too. But, what’s the science behind going gray? Have we advanced our understanding of the salt-and-pepper look beyond what your Grandma Pearl … Continue reading

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I’m feeling scattered. Where’s my insulin?

Looking at glucose in rat brains October 18, 2010 (My inspiration for this post came from two entirely different types of chemistry blogs. The first is ChemBark. Paul’s recent post on Royce Murray’s aversion to bloggers convinced me that I needed to highlight some research from Analytical Chemistry. The second blog is a newly-found favorite read of mine icanhasscience. In a recent post: Pass Me the Insulin, I’m Glowing Again, Sharon talks about monitoring glucose levels in an enjoyably en-lightening (yes, of course that’s a pun) way. Also, I should note that I blatantly ripped off her really amusing title.) Typical (aka boooooring) glucose monitor. The image above is a way of life for some people. In fact according to the people over in StatisticsLand (or … perhaps it was diabetes.org), around 18 million people in the US have diabetes with 1.6 million new adult cases diagnosed each year. That’s … Continue reading

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Stem Cell Trials

Wait and see October 13, 2010 Stem cells have been approved for study in humans by the US Food and Drug Administration. The first patient to be part of this study was injected with a stem cell cocktail (emphasis mine) on Monday morning (October 11th). In my brief search, I only found a handful of media outlets covering this story (here and here). The FDA gave the license for this study to Geron, a Silicon Valley biotech company. They are specifically looking to see if their stem cell therapies will help patients who have had spinal cord injuries regain feeling/motor-control/other functions. The first subject of the study is a patient who is partially paralyzed as the result of a recent spinal cord injury. The benefits of stem cell therapies have been boisterously argued over the past several years. (Of course, all of you know that already, ’cause you’re up on … Continue reading

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And the Peace Prize goes to….

Nobel Storm coverage continues here at ScienceGeist… October 8, 2010 Well it’s midnight in Pasadena, CA, I just got home from lab and despite the late hour, it seems downright silly not to just wait up for the announcement of the winner of the 2010 Peace Prize. So while I wait, let’s take a look at some Nobel facts and statistics. (T-2 hours to go…) Since 1901, Nobel Prizes have been awarded in the 5 categories of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace with a 6th category for Economics created in 1968. Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) is best known for work with explosives (aside from his Prize, that is). Nobel first patented nitroglycerin as an explosive in 1863 and later found that mixing it with diatomaceous earth (think sawdust), provided a much safer handling of the material. This was patented in 1867 as dynamite. Unfortunately, this discovery came 3 years too … Continue reading

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