Monday, June 23, 2008

Way to go Philly!

Philadelphia will honor Darwin and the evolution theory and John E. Jones III is invited to give a talk.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Spot the crook.....

After reading what happened to OHRI's Kristin Roovers in the newspaper and also on the Bayblab Blog, I thought I could design this little game.

All of the scientists below were, once, accused of fraud and/or scientific misconduct. Can you associate the controversial paper with the scientist?


1) Restricted use of T cell receptor V genes in murine autoimmune encephalomyelitis raises possibilities for antibody therapy (Cell. 1988, 54: 577)

In individual T cells one productive alpha rearrangement does not appear to block rearrangement at the second allele (J. Exp. Med. 1989, 170: 2183)

3) Altered repertoire of endogenous immunoglobulin gene expression in transgenic mice containing a rearranged Mu heavy chain gene (Cell 1986
, 45: 247)

4) Evidence of a Pluripotent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Derived from a Cloned Blastocyst (Science 2004, 303: 1669)


A) V Kumar (Leroy Hood's lab - Caltech)
B) T Imanishi-Kari (David Baltimore's lab - MIT)
C) JL Urban (Leroy Hood's lab - Caltech)
D) WS Hwang (His own lab)


1 C, 2 A, 3 B , 4 D

(Imanishi-Kari was cleared of any science misconduct in 1996)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How many more?

What is going on in BC? Five right foot were found and one left....6 feet total! What the hell is going on? The last one foot was sawn off..... Read the story HERE

UPDATED: The last foot WAS A HOAX!!!

Image source: Flickr CC

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Journalists

Went downtown tonight, the usual....bought a magazine, got a latté and started reading. I bought a magazine I never bought before: The Ryerson Review of Journalism. This is a great mag! On the cover one of my favourite journalists, Wendy Mesley. Inside a very interesting article about journalists and PTSD. I have to admit I never thought about that, I guess we are used to associate PTSD to soldiers, Romeo Dallaire and least I was.

I guess we forget about those courageous journalists, risking their lives for the sake of telling the truth or because some of them are actually adrenaline junkies. Nevertheless, PTSD is also afflicting journalists and I there are many resources devoted to them (here is ONE and ANOTHER). furthermore, covering disasters and mass killings (think Virginia Tech for instance) can have a huge impact on the journalists trying to get the story out. Just imagine watching someone drowning, a man caught in a fire or a falling off a bridge. Even though watching the news at 9 seems mundane because we are getting more and more immune to horror because of the distance created by the TV, we should not forget that somebody had to see and live the horror...without it. Just imagine how helpless and guilty you would feel by just watching and reporting the horror.

In case you think you are one of these adrenaline junkies, you can test yourself using the Zuckerman Sensation Seeking Scale...I did not take the test...just looking at the questions I know I am definitely not the type...although.....

The article on PTSD and journalists can be found HERE

Image source: Flickr CC

Friday, June 13, 2008

Time to turn the page

As long as web searches for the current and next leader of America go....George W. Bush is no longer on the radar! I love Google Trends!!!

They were NOT the "savages"

A LOOOONG due apology.....





Love and Pain

Everybody that's ever been in love knows that. You might even have heard (or said): "I love you so much, it hurts"....well, there you go!

Via: (Picture was modified from pictures on site)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pharyngula's author must Google himself!

I love Google Trends! I still love your blog PZ!

Microsoft and Yahoo is dead...long live Google!

No deal between Microsoft and Yahoo....but Google will be allowed to place adds on the side of a Yahoo websearch page. Google think they could get up to $800 M / year on top of what they already make. I should have invested in Google shares.....darn!

Image source:

Pharyngula still going strong. Especially in Minnesota!

According to a November 2007 poll, the Weblog awards, P.Z. Myers' Pharyngula is the second best (most popular) science blog after Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit and Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog. Why second? Actually there are three very popular blogs but Climate Audit and Bad Astronomy Blogs had the exact same number of P.Z. is second. I wanted to use Google Trends to compare the traffic on these three sites and it seems, according to this tool, that Pharyngula is in fact quite ahead when Google searches are used as a comparison.

Lately, there's been a small slip in Pharyngula's traffic but I guess it is only temporary (students on vacation) But there is one thing I find quite odd, most of Pharyngula's traffic, comes from Minneapolis, MN. Humm....Are you "Googling" yourself that often P.Z.???

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Boris the Cat can walk again!

I like stories like this (From The Vancouver Sun)
Boris the cat is found at a construction with a broken back in Mission but, thanks to hydrotherapy at K9H2O in Abbostford Boris can walk again......makes me believe in the human race again!

See Boris during hydrotherapy and Boris walking again

K9H2O's photostream on Flickr

YOU CAN ADOPT BORIS (before June 20th)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Energy, Pyramids, Wine and DNA

I am in Kelowna, Canada's closest thing to the Napa Valley. I like wine, I like to taste it and I like to smell it. I just like wine...just enough! Last Friday I went on a wine tour and I have been looking forward to this. Imagine, the sun, the vines and that wonderful liquid.

We went to Summerhill Pyramid Winery, one of the most visited winery in Canada. Why? I have absolutely no idea...for one thing I did not like their wine ! The special thing about this winery is that they have this tacky pyramid where their wine ages. What? They age their wine in a pyramid? Absolutely! This pyramid has the same proportions as the great pyramid of Kheops. Our guide even told us:

"It has been scientifically proven that wine ages better in a pyramid, milk will turn to yogurt when put in a pyramid"....are you kidding me? Scientifically proven? Has he was saying that I looked around me to see if our group (about 40 people) were buying this....NO ONE SAID ANYTHING, they just had fish eyes not really listening to what was being said. It seems so easy to fool people, all you need is to mention a few buzzwords such as Energy, Science, Proof and voilĂ ! Doing a bit of research on the net about pyramids and their powers I found this list (with some of my comments beside them...)


  • Sharpen razor blades (Sure...Gillette will hate that!)
  • Restore the lustre to tarnished jewellery and coins
  • Purify water (Hey, build a pyramid in Myanmar...)
  • Mummify and dehydrate meat, eggs and other food stuffs (Mummies...of course)
  • Help keep milk fresh and prevent souring without refrigeration (and yogurt...)
  • Dehydrate flowers without losing their form or colour
  • Increase the growth rate of plants (a pyramid will activate transcription factors just like that)
  • Help attain increased relaxation
  • Improves the taste of coffee, wine and certain fruit juices (taste is relative, is it?)
  • Promotes healing of cuts, bruises and burns, as well as reduces pain from toothaches and headaches (Sure.....!)
Here's what I think...people are so gullible because they:
  1. Lack scientific knowledge
  2. Lack critical thinking
  3. Trust anyone that seem to "know what they are talking about"
This is sad. Very sad!

A company even claims that they can activate some of your junk DNA...just go there, read their biological blurb and tell me if you understand anything!

Via Sandwalk

Friday, June 06, 2008

Good point!

I need to vent......

Habacuc could have saved this dog in his exhibition, he could have shown that one person can make a difference and that we can not remove ourselves from our environment. He could have shown that human compassion can triumph. He decided to let this dog die while everybody watched in silence. This does NOT surprise me (see next video below), it reminds me that Homo sapiens can be a real parasite to this planet and that we, in fact, do not live in harmony with other species. We belong to no ecosystem, we are part of the problem. I wouild like to believe that someday things will get better...I do not. I will keep on doing my random acts of kindness....

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Q: How many available free ribosomes in E.coli? R: 500 nM

I like trivia and I always wonder about how many of "whatever" per cell...or, wait, how fast a specific process is...This kind of data is usually a pain to find...Well not anymore, I found this site: B1ONUMB3R5. Even better, click on the topic you are interested in and get the reference....Now you have data you can use to impress people at conference cocktails.


I want to learn...and remember what I learned!

To all of you interested in teaching/learning, I urge you to read THIS ARTICLE from Macleans. Teaching behavior will influence learning habits and retention. After all, that's our goal, teach something the students will apply! Isn't it?

Image source: Flickr CC

Device to Root Out Evil

Ah...controversy finally got the best of it! Art is sometimes supposed to challenge our minds and our souls. I guess this was too much for some people...just too bad! I am surprized this sculpture will move to Alberta (Calgary), a more conservative province. Oh well....all the best little church!

Read the story HERE

Image source: Flickr CC

Tornado in a bank.....

Monday, June 02, 2008

Languages and genomes

While looking through Technorati I stumbled on this blog post..."Litterature - Can languages be understood by treating them like genomes?". That caught my attention because a few years ago, while teaching population genetics at Carleton University in Ottawa I told my students about this tribe on Vancouver Island: The Nuu-Chah-Nulth. I have great respect for the first nations and I wanted my students to learn from an anthropological point of view, not just through a stretch of nucleotides. While doing my research for my course I found a few articles including this one: Gene flow across linguistic boundaries in native North American populations.

Using statistical methods and mtDNA analysis, the authors found that language can in fact be replaced (or modified) faster than mutations can occur because language can be transmitted in a vertical fashion (just like DNA) as well as horizontally between unrelated people. Because first nations have been subjected to tremendous pressures through the centuries it is plausible to think that at times DNA might have evolved at different speeds when compared to language evolution depending on the tribe.

A few highlights:

  • The Navajo and Apache, who reside in the Southwest, have high nucleotide diversities, in the range of nucleotide diversities in populations classified as Amerind speaking.
  • Several sites were polymorphic only in populations classified as Amerind-speaking, but none occurred in all populations attributed to Amerind.
  • With respect to Greenberg’s three language families, the average nucleotide diversity within populations is low in Eskimo-Aleut populations and high in Amerind populations. However, nucleotide diversity varies considerably among the populations classified as Na-Dene-speaking.
  • The Alaskan Athabascan and Haida populations, who reside in the North, have low
    nucleotide diversities, in the range of nucleotide diversities in the Eskimo-Aleut-speaking populations.
When reading through the blog, I slowly realize that the author is a believer of intelligent design** and that, like all ID proponents, he decides to include some no-so-objective-god-related-stuff in his blog. Here's what he states while trying to explain why languages can not be understood the same way a DNA sequence can:
"The problem is that languages are fully teleological, whereas the tools of molecular phylogeny do not acknowledge teleology in genomes."
In other words...God created the do not even try to study them with objective techniques!

**Silly me...the title of the Blog site is: Literature - A discussion of ID-relating reading

Alien design.....Intelligent design? (PART 2)

After writing my last blog posting I was interested to see is UFO sightings were recorded before the camera was invented...actually I knew it was but I wanted to document it. What better than a YouTube video? Well there it is. Actually very interesting. When I think about it, people at that time could not imagine such technology and therefore anything unusual, especially something flying would have been associated with some god or superior entity. Watch the following video and notice that the design of the "flying saucers" has not changed.

Alien design.....Intelligent design?

Reading a recent blog post from my favorite graduate bunch (see Alien Autopsy - Bayblab) I thought of something that bugged me for a long time: Alien Design.

Before you continue: first, lets agree on a few things.

1) be open minded BUT....
2) be critical at the same time

OK...If aliens exist they are probably advanced and the popular belief is that they are way more advanced than we are. If they really are that advanced and if they travel through some wormhole (interesting blog post here), the perception of time is not the same. Therefore design should be quite the same and TIME should not have any effect on the appearance of the extraterrestrial vehicles. When we compare pictures of ufos taken through the years one can only admit one thing....they are very, very similar (there are exceptions of course). If these pictures were bogus, or if the "flying saucers" were man made (a hoax) the design would probably evolve as years go by as we are all influenced by imaginary and not so-imaginary Stealth spy planes.

The ufos all look the same despite their location and year....puzzling isn't it?

Image source: The image was assembled from pictures that can be found on THIS SITE.

Gr8t news! SMS and english language...

Here is on for the purists. It seems "texting" (SMS) and instant messaging (IM) is not as damaging to the language of Shakespeare as previously thought. After studying 1.5 million words taken from SMS and IM (72 subjects), University of Toronto researchers have found that only 3% of the words were abbreviated. Moreover, the word YOU was preferred over U nine times out of ten. Surprising isn't it?

"Contrary to popular belief that IM is breaking down English language, we found that online shorthand is actually not detrimental. Our study shows that while kids use words like 'gotta' and 'gonna' in IM, they do use 'shall' and 'will' while communicating formally. I would encourage my child to use IM simply because it means using a fluid language. This automatically hones their skill with English."

Reference: The Times of India
Image source: Filckr CC