By jove, he's done it!

The geniuses at the J. Craig Venter Institute have managed to synthesize, in it's entirety, the genome of a bacterium. They started with E. coli, which was used to store the artificial chromosomes, and then hi-jacked the replication mechanism of S. cerevisae to assemble the genome.

It's important to note that they've not created an organism, per se, but just the genome. So, says Hamilton Smith, their next step will be inserting the genome into a cell, to see if it will reproduce.

Can you imagine if your job was creating a genome? Man, you'd get all the ladies.


A tie is better than a loss?

After yesterday's devastating loss to UW, at the hands of Kyle Turris, Minnesota had to be going into tonight's game looking for a win. And they were on their way, too: up 2-0, it was fully their game to lose. By the start of the 3rd, Wisconsin had scored 1 goal, cutting the UMN lead in 1/2. And then, with less than 8 minutes left in the 3rd, Aaron Bendickson took a pass from Patrick Johnson, and tied it up.

Minnesota did all of their scoring in the 1st 14 minutes of the game, and then decided to kick back. Alright, that's not really true. They out-shot Wisconsin 11-5 in the 2nd, and were just barely out-shot 8-9 in the third. Overall, UMN led in shots 32-26.

Of note:

Patrick Johnson had 1-1-2 for Wisconsin


Damn you, Kyle Turris

I'm a fan of Kyle Turris. He's a BC boy, played for the Burnaby Express, scored 8 points in the WJC for Canada ... essentially, he's everything Canada could hope for in an up-and-coming ambassador player.

But why does he have to go and ruin my night like this? Turris' Wisconsin Badgers were playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers (who happen to be my D1 team of choice) tonight. Thanks to Turris, who had a goal and an assist, the Badgers came away with a 3-1 win, dropping Minnesota's record to 6-9-2 in the WCHA (12-11-4 overall), and putting them into a tie for 6th place in the division with St. Cloud State. Wisconsin moves its record up to 7-8-2 (11-10-4 overall), and moves into 5th place in the WCHA.

On another (somewhat related) note, the Men's D1 rankings seem to be all topsy-turvy this year. I mean, the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings have neither UMN or UW listed in the top 15 (though both received 12 votes), and the USCHO.com/CSTV rankings have UMN at #17, and UW at #16. Honestly, I haven't watched any NCAA hockey this year, and I haven't really even been paying attention to results & standings ... but this is a big change from last year's results at this time.


Might as well face it, you're addicted to tetracycline

I just finished reading an insane article on Wired about a company that has genetically modified A. aegypti mosquitoes, making them pass on a "programmed death" gene to their offspring. The males are mutated, and released into the wild to breed with normal females. The offspring then die before they can reproduce. Essentially, the mosquitoes are "addicted" to the antibiotic tetracycline: if they don't get it, they'll literally die. So they keep the males alive in the lab (by giving them tetracycline) until they are of breeding age. The offspring, who receive the "I need tetracycline" gene, die before they reach reproductive maturity (unless they magically get a fix of the antibiotic). While currently the genetic technology appears to only work with A. aegypti (carrier of the Dengue virus and Yellow Fever virus), I see no reason why this couldn't be applied to Culex pipiens, the carrier of West Nile virus (which will soon affect us here in B.C.)

When discussing this breakthrough with colleagues, we decided that Greenpeace might not be totally wrong in protesting this (don't tell anybody that I said that). I'm all for GMO's as an idea, but I would think that this needs some further testing. Or perhaps it has gone through further testing, and I'm ignorant (which is fully possible). The main concern brought forth in my mind is how this will affect the ecosystem as a whole. I'm not sure what species prey primarily on A. aegypti (frogs, birds, bats?), but tests should be done (if they haven't already) on how these higher organisms respond to the genetically modified males (maybe they don't taste as good?)

On the flip side (because, as I mentioned, I'm all for GMO's), the mutant males are only in the wild for a short period of time before they die. Remember: they require tetracycline to live, so after they reproduce, they're finished. So, in theory, they'd be a relatively small source of food.

Now if only we can do something about that damn tse-tse fly


Universal Wi-Fi please

CBC is reporting that the city of Vancouver is seeking bids for the creation of a downtown-wide (2.3sq km, more or less) Wi-Fi network. Essentially, the city wants it to happen with zero cost to the taxpayer, which is understandable. Taxes in Vancouver are bad enough (especially with the increase in Translink-associated fundage). In theory (my theory) the network will either be ad-based (which, if I remember correctly, Google tried to implement in San Francisco), or pay-per-use (which could be reasonably priced, or not). While the cost for WiFi from hotspots (e.g. Starbucks) is fairly restrictive, I see no reason why people couldn't pay either monthly (if you live downtown, and want strictly WiFi), daily (perhaps in town for a business meeting, or vacation) or hourly based on need (with prices becoming more reasonable over longer time periods).

I think this is a great idea, and needs to be rolled out in other municipalities throughout the province (country, world). I mean, if Blue River can have community WiFi, why not Burnaby?


I Can Haz Big Block?

It's been about 4 years since I bought my 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air. I'll be honest: progress has been pretty slow, but it's all coming together now. The running gear is all installed, the interior parts are in our possession, and just require assembly, and the body work is about 70% done. For an engine, we have a lovely 1980 vintage 350cui SBC, with 4-bolt mains (and only about 20,000km on a rebuild) with Corvette heads, Edelbrock Performer intake manifold and a Holley 850cfm carb. Beautiful.

What would be even more beautiful, however, is a 427cui ZL1 aluminum BBC. Chevrolet, bless their souls, are releasing a limited number (427, of course!) of "anniversary" ZL1s to lucky customers. The 1st one will be auctioned at Barrett Jackson, while the other 426 will be "available" through GM Performance Parts.

Note: by "available", I mean "for sale" ... I don't believe the average person will ever have a chance of snapping one of these up before they're sold out, but good luck to all!

Note 2: there's no way in hell we could jam a 427 into the engine bay of a '53 Bel Air ... the SBC barely fit, and required extensive header modifications

Source:GM via Winding Road via Autoblog


The Blackest of the Black

News out of Rice University (wait, where?) that researchers have discovered the darkest material EVAR! Well, at least the darkest material on Earth. I'm pretty sure that black holes are ... blacker (though those are, by definition, the lack of matter, so can't really be classified as a "material", per se). This black material is made up of Carbon nanotubes, and reflects only 0.045% of incident light, which is useful for light-sucking-intensive applications, such as solar panels.

The report was published in the journal "Nano Letters" (wait, what?) to which I currently have no access (go figure). When I get home I'll see if I can pull it up and post an update (though I'm guessing there's nothing super groundbreaking within the published article that I haven't already mentioned here).

Source:Houston Chronicle



Or any antihistamine, really. Researchers at the University of Zurich have found that mice who are given antihistamines after an initial exposure to bee venom react more violently to subsequent exposures than mice who are not given antihistamines

They believe this is because the mice aren't able to build up tolerance to a given level of allergen. The researchers also found that exposure to antihistamines lowered the effectiveness of future immunotherapy, contrary to popular reports.

The study can be read in full in the most recent issue of "Clinical and Experimental Allergy"

Source:Nature News


Hey Chevy ... get your own engine

I read an interesting post in autoblog today, speaking to the fact that the Corvette LS9 engine (6.2L supercharged V8, 620hp, 595 torques) was built to, essentially, a benchmark set by BMW's S85, the engine found in the M5 & M6 (5.0L naturally aspirated V12, 507hp, 384 torques). If you ask me, however (and I'm sure you would if you could), having a great engine in a Corvette doesn't make it a great car. While the powerplants may be comparable, the M5 is still leaps and bounds better than anything the Americans can come up with.

Source: The Car Connection, via Autoblog


Dr. Jarvik: I looked up to you!

Have you ever seen those commercials for Lipitor, with Dr. Robert Jarvik (inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart!), the greasy-haired short fellow, who goes running with what appears to be his son? Well, it turns out the good doctor is not such a good doctor. In fact, he's really a doctor in name only. Read on, friends, to uncover the truth

This, from the Wall Street Journal: "[Jarvik's] grades as an undergrad at Syracuse University weren’t good enough for U.S. med school, so he attended the University of Bologna in Italy, leaving after two years. In 1976, Jarvik graduated from the University of Utah’s med school, but he never did an internship or practiced medicine".

Yeah, he's just the type of doctor I want to be taking drug advice from. Maybe Dr. Nick can be next in line to hock something for Pfizer.

Source: WSJ Health Blog


Quick, I need $2799USD!

Today Apple released the newest iteration of the Mac Pro (or "PowerMac" as I still call it), and it's a beautiful thing. Not necessarily in terms of design ... it looks the exact same as the previous Mac Pro. More the 8-core processing (using Quad-core Intel Xeon chips), 1600MHz front-side buses (giving bandwidth of >25GB per second) and 800MHz DDR2 RAM. According to Gizmodo, the price point is $2799, but the "buy now" page is down at both Apple.com and Apple.ca. One can assume that it'll be more expensive in our home & native land (even though the dollar sits currently at $1.00898USD).

Edit: the site's back up, and the Mac Pro is going for $2899CAD. Not bad, considering the price differences in other Apple products. Fully spec'd out, expect >$30,000 though.



[he] was murder, P Diddy named [him] pretty

So, I remember reading a while back (many years, in fact) that Ma$e had left rap in order to follow the word of God. Whatever ... happens to the best of us. He was the type of rapper that only had a couple of good albums in them anyway, so it was best to quit while he was ahead. Then I listened to a few songs from "Double Up" ... not bad. I also quite enjoyed "Welcome Back". His new rap made me think that, perhaps the God thing didn't work out for him.

Turns out, you can be a mad rapper AND a mad preacher. Mason Betha Ministries has some wicked videos (mostly the one on the front page with his wife), but the real gold is on YouTube. I'll just throw up a link instead of embedding the video (because the user who posted it disabled embedding).

Ma$e preaching about stalking God. It's actually comic gold ... and I mean intentionally funny, not "oh dear, this is painful to watch. HAHAHAHA."


Jezza for PM

Top Gear is by far my favourite TV show. Bar none. It's comedic gold that leaves me laughing so hard I can't breathe, every single Sunday. A young gentleman from the UK, however, is far more fanatical about the show than most. "Joseph Dark" (may or may not be his real name) created an e-petition on the PM's website seeking to make Jeremy Clarkson, the outspoken presenter, prime minister. And Dark isn't the only person who thinks this is a great idea: as of this posting, 31,939 other British citizens (must be a citizen or ex-pat to sign the petition) have inked their names showing support for the cause.

While 10 Downing St has not officially responded to the petition, the website states that "We have decided no longer to accept petitions that are obviously intended as jokes", and this petition remains up. Hence, we can assume the PM's office does not consider it a joke

The petition will remain online until April 17. To read Clarkson's writing for The Times Online, go to: http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/driving/jeremy_clarkson/

Don't Let the Terrorists Win!

Due to the perception of threats posed by al-Qaeda, organizers have canceled the Dakar Rally. With eight stages of the '08 race scheduled to take place in Mauritania, and the recent tourist slaying in the country (which has allegedly been linked to a splinter cell of the terrorist organization), race organizers have decided that their only option was cancellation. Don't tell that to the Mauritanian foreign minister, however: "No new element can justify the concern expressed by the French organizers", said Babah Sidi Abdallah.

This is the first time the Dakar rally has ever been canceled. It's a dark day for motorsports ... where else can I see Unimog's tearing through the desert?

Source:CBC.ca World


The Little Old Man from Pasadena?

Heh ... story on CBC.ca speaks of an elderly gentleman (85 years old to be precise), who was busted under Ontario's new-ish "street racing" laws, whereby any individual doing >50km/h over the speed limit can face car impounding, license suspension or prison time. Gramps was clocked at 161kph (and this was after the officer "made herself obvious".

In his defense, I'd much rather get behind a senior citizen doing 160 than a senior citizen doing 36.

Source:CBC.ca News

You Tool(s) (Vol 2)

You know what a hilariously funny prank would be? To break into the Czech republic's national televised weather broadcast station, and make it appear as if a nuclear explosion occurred, just so we could show people how easy it is to manipulate the media. I'm not going to go into this any more, since it's idiocy is blatantly obvious. The culprits are being charged with "spreading false information". Good.

Didn't I see this prank in Adbusters? I'm just saying ...

Source:CBC.ca Arts

You Tool (Vol 1)

There was much ado yesterday about the price of oil rising above $100 per barrel for the first time EVAR. Well, now that the hub-bub has died down, and people have pulled their heads out of their respective asses and looked around, it turns out that 1 guy paid >$100/barrel, just to be special. Yup ... he took a $600 loss (bought @ $100, sold @ about $99.40 x 1000 barrel minimum trade) just to be the winner who shot the price above that magical century point. It was all done with his own money, for his own benefit. Weak.

Source: the Daily Mail

Another way D. melanogaster=H. sapiens

Let me first say that I think it's brilliant how much mileage geneticists are getting out of fruit flies, in terms of research projects. We've learned so much about ourselves, just by studying the molecular biology of these tiny little creatures, who at face values are so different from ourselves

The latest news from the Drosophila camp is that flies get frisky when drunk. Specifically "hypersexuality caused by chronic alcohol exposure has the effect of making the males chase anything with wings — other males included." I have a mexican friend who will chase anything with two legs and a heartbeat. Legs optional (heartbeat might be optional too) ... but that's neither here nor there.

The study also noted that the alcohol had little effect on the females of the species (in terms of mating behavior, at least) because they do not actively court males. Previous studies involving ethanol and fruit flies have indicated that their molecular systems react to alcohol much like humans: they act the same when drunk (becoming disoriented and flying into things), and can build up a tolerance with repeated exposure

Interesting fly news courtesy of Nature News

'08 and Back With a Vengeance

Yes, now that it's 2008, I've decided to catch up on the Daily News, and bring further enlightenment to the intarwebs on all things that I find interesting and exciting.

For instance, this wonderful YouTube video, which shows a horse & rider pulling a sweet stunt-slide underneath a tractor trailer. I can think of no better way to usher in the new year!