Saturday, September 24, 2011

Science Saturday 1.1: FTL, Mind Readers, Gamers and AIDS, & more

Welcome to a new segment on my little ol' blog.  I've been doing a lot more "scientific" reading in various blogs and news sources ever since I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD in the future.  So as a way to collect some of the cool stories I've found, I will be posting every Saturday (hopefully) with some geeky-science tidbits.  I hope it helps you discover something new!

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Volume 1 Issue 1

A group of Italian scientists have studying a beam of neutrinos (a small subatomic particle that is electrically neutral) traveling from a physics laboratory in Switzerland.  Recent results tracked these particles moving faster than light, defying modern physics and causing Einstein to roll in his grave.  Further research needs to be done, and the results need to be recreated by other laboratories for this breakthrough to become fully accepted by the scientific community.  But maybe I should start plans for building the Millenium Falcon.  I wanna beat Han's Kessel Run record.

Neuroscientists at UC-Berkeley have been able to map activity in the visual cortex of the brain while watching movie trailers.  They then were able to use YouTube clips as a database and recreate the movie images by assembling possible image matches with the brain scan results.  The quality is quite poor, but it is still a fascinating step towards being able to "mind read" and possibly visualize dreams or memories.

Are you a mom concerned with your child playing too many video games?  Well maybe they will be the next person to solve a puzzling problem in AIDS research! A game called Foldit was developed to recruit gamers to put together the 3-dimensional structure of various proteins.  While biologists have been working for years to find the right structure, gamers recently came up with multiple solutions for M-PMV (the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus which causes AIDS in monkeys) in 3 weeks.  This is one great example of citizen science, where non-scientists volunteer their time to contribute to research findings.

Featured microbe: Nipah virus
This virus served as the model for the fictional MEV-1 virus featured in the recent movie, Contagion.  Naturally occurring in fruit bats (Pteropodidae family), this virus is a zoonotic pathogen, meaning it can cause disease in animals and humans.  Human infection presents as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or respiratory disease.

Nipah virus electron micrograph

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lazy Pants

I've been too lazy to blog, but today I've been too lazy to do productive work so I thought I'd write up a blog post.  HA!  I've been keeping pretty busy the past couple of weeks.  School is going well, I have a really easy class schedule which allows for me to get a lot of reading/studying/research done at my leisure.

I haven't started working in the lab yet, because the professor I'm working with is still waiting on getting his funding transferred over, so he's assigned a bunch of reading for me to look over in the meantime.  It's been encouraging that I am actually taking charge of my independent study and am trying to learn as much as I can about our research.

journal articles, protocol handbooks, webinars, oh my!!
It cooled off for a few days last week and I was LOVING it!  It felt like fall was on it's way...but alas, it got hot again and I'm cursing the 80/90 degree weather.  At least it isn't as humid as earlier in the summer.  In anticipation of fall, I wanted to make a wreath to spruce up our front door and give it a personalized touch to set it apart from the other 3 doors in our townhouse unit.  I'm happy with the result!!

welcome, fall!!
see the little sticker under the "C"? It was there when we moved in - it says "Awesome".
Lastly, remember when I was thinking about starting a journal? Well I finally found the perfect little notebooks - the Moleskine special edition Star Wars notebooks!!  They were just made available on Friday, but I pre-ordered mine on Amazon (it was cheaper there, too) and got mine in the mail today!  One is lined and the other is plain, so I am going to use the lined one as a writing journal and the plain one as an "inspiration"/doodle journal.  I love 'em!!

the force is strong with these notebooks...
So that's a quick update - after sleeping in embarrassingly late, I will probably be up all night finishing some reading for class and for my research.  I need to get SOMETHING done today!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fangirl Friday

I've been sick this week, so I've spent most of my time on the internet recuperating and discovering some new favorite things to squee over:

*Ellie Holcomb's Magnolia EP - She is the female voice behind Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, a folk-rock band I discovered earlier this summer.  Matt and I even did a cover of one of their songs at a church event!  Her songs on this EP were inspired by the Psalms and her voice singing sweet melodies in praise to God is just so inspiring.

*Crochet patterns for cowls, scarves, and headwarmers in hopes that fall will get here soon.  I love the crisp air and the crunchy colorful leaves...*oh wait* I forgot I live in Mississippi now and it is still 90 degrees outside and fall probably won't be the same as in Wisconsin...we'll see!
*The ridiculously awesome Hunger Games viral site... though I'm still reaaaaaaaalllllyyyyyy skeptical about the movies.  Jennifer Lawrence just does not do it for me.  Nor Liam Hemsworth as Gale.  We shall see.  Anyway, I registered on the site and I'm in District 11, how about you?

*These recipes: Glazed Doughnut Muffins and Cookies and Cream Cookies Need I say more?

*Awesome science blogs such as Not Exactly Rocket Science and Small Things Considered.  I am LOVING reading and learning about all of the fascinating happenings of the cellular and microbial world.  When I was thinking about med school, I followed a bunch of pre-med/med school related blogs and to be honest, I usually just hit "mark as read" on 90% of the posts.  But I'm finding that I just HAVE to read every single post in my Google Reader "Science!" folder.  I think research is definitely my calling :)

*ROME.  An awesome historical drama about...Rome (hahaha) around the rise and fall of Caesar and the decline of the Republic.  It's definitely R-rated (sex and violence) but I love the back-stabby political characters and the beautiful historical costuming and design.

*Apple Cider flavored Halls Warm-Ups.  Menthol goodness to soothe my sore throat and clear my congested nasal passages.  Did I mention it was Apple Cider flavored?  That reminds me of fall.  Did you know that I love fall?!?! :)