Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blog Crawl Gems

This Week's Treasures

On the subject of internet freedom -- SOPA and PIPA are losing sponsors.  Three more had dropped out as of 10 am PT Jan 18.  But that’s only 3 of 31!  (Map of SOPA sponsors by state)  You can easily email these folks as well as your own legislators at websites for the Senate and House. Some Senate websites were experiencing technical difficulties today ... hmmm, too much traffic?  Another option is to sign Google's online petition.  As of 4:30 pm ET Jan 18 there were 4.5 million signatories.

For something more relaxing -- Looking for Detachment provides a series of virtual visits to Spencer Hot Springs in Nevada:  then, and now a bit more civilized (for better or for worse?).  On the left is the remains of a photo from waayy back, early 1980s at the latest. The memorable bath house is now gone.

Have a look at the incredible blue color of sodalite, courtesy Sandatlas.  I find it so beautiful that it is almost intoxicating.  Is it possible to have pleasure receptors sensitive to a specific wavelength of light?

Courtesy USGS Tapestry.
earth-literally is posting material from his course on Basin Analysis ... very cool!  thanks, e-l.  He starts with introductory material:  “Introduction and genetic basin classification; Heat flow and the geotherm; isostasy. Introduction to stretching.” Week 2 features “More of lithospheric stretching, including passive margins”.  For me, the material ranges from very informative to incomprehensible, with the latter not standing in the way of learning quite a lot about basins.  I look forward to intermontane basins (my home), and hopefully metamorphic core complexes (vacationing in Basin and Range country this spring).

CHIMERAS writes about promising gene therapy to deal with the mutation behind Duchenne's muscular dystrophy in “Introns, exons, and stop codons: how antisense oligonucleotides can fix frameshift mutations”.  Not only is it good news, it is a really cool mechanism --  a molecular “bandage” that covers up the error so that the resulting messenger RNA works as it is supposed to ... to direct synthesis of the protein dystrophin, critical to muscle function.

I have an amazing friend who pedals across large stretches of the US each summer for JettRide, leading packs of teens on bikes to raise money to fight Duchenne's muscular dystrophy.  Go Melissa!!

Mention of proteomics generally makes me sigh and drift off, but at Small Things Considered I found a very understandable and interesting (i.e. well-written) post about the thermodynamics of proteins in the human body:  "Pushing the Thermodynamic Envelope into the Proteomic Edge."  We indeed are living on the edge, “just a few kcal mol-1 away from being a pile of unfolded proteins”, a melted mass of mush.

Finally, here’s a much lighter side of molecular biology -- protein synthesis a la The Sixties, portrayed in “a dynamic and joyful way”.  Actually it was 1971 at Stanford University.  Paul Berg (Nobel Prize 1980) starts with a short lecture, explaining that “Only rarely is there an opportunity to participate in a molecular happening.  You are going to have that opportunity”  His talk is followed by Stanford students dancing on a grassy field -- messenger RNAs, ribosomal RNAs, transfer RNAs, initiation factors and amino acids all joyfully cavorting in the California sunshine.  Berg later said that when he saw the entire film, he was taken aback by how dry and academic his performance was ... especially compared to what followed :)

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