Wednesday, September 19, 2007

 

This one's for Mom

The XVIVO video from before, but with some explanatory narrative so you know what's going on. Once again, this (structural biology) is what I work on, folks!



Monday, July 09, 2007

 

Vengeance

From my friend Samir's AIM profile (hopefully the cool quote will make up for my own pathetic-ness):

"Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge, on God if they can't find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There's an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He's taken out on the water and he's dropped. He's bound so that he can't swim. The family of the dead then has to choose. They can let him drown or they can save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they'll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn't always just... that very act can take away their sorrow. Vengeance is a lazy form of grief."

~The Interpreter

Friday, June 22, 2007

 

Summer in England

I got to London on Saturday, moved into Cambridge on Sunday, and showed up for work on Monday. Things are settling down. I even screwed up my first experiment!

Fortunately, I imported my procrastination skills with me to England (this blog post is a testament).

Further details to follow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

 

I Miss Math. Must be Medschool.

I wax lyrical after the first class session:

Mathematical
Modeling class: glorious.
Can't wait till Thursday.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

 

Global Warming + El Nino = Warmer 2007

This on top of a warm 2006. Personally, coming from India, I like warmer weather. Too bad for the Australians who will be hit with draught and South Americans who will get drenching rains. The Indian Ocean waters are also warmer, which will definately affect the monsoons.

And for all my warmophilia, global warming is going to have the last laugh in the end, by causing a rise in sea levels. While this might not put Manhattan underwater in the next decade, the consequences of a rising water table will definately be felt close-to-home, especially for our city which loves its subways, sewers, cabling, and other underground infrastructure.

I'm beginning to think the greatest challenge to for our planet in the next century or two will not be the coming energy crisis (I wouldn't call it a crisis so much as increased competition) but global climate change. El Nino brings draught to Indonesia and the Pacific Rim, so an increase in temperature may lead to longer or more intense draught conditions. These could lead to famines in various parts of the world.

However, a more holistic view must take into account that so many physical and biological things depend on the climate that the entire makeup of the planet will change. A worst case scenario would probably be drastic changes in habitats, resulting in massive population migrations and resettlements. The stress from that sort of competition for space and resources will present significant challenges to the leaders of tomorrow (even more apocalyptic a view: the one thing we know humans do very well is wage war, especially to get something they want). The scary thing is that I have no idea what can be done. Perhaps all we can do is try to mitigate the damage we are already doing to the environment through policy (now rather than later) and roll with the punches through the coming re-equilibration.

Link to the Article

Saturday, December 09, 2006

 

Philosophical Football

Hilarious. Putting the Columbia liberal arts education to good use.



"...Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant by the categorical Imperative, is holding that it ontologically exists only in the imagination, and Marx claiming that it was offsides!"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

 

Two Interesting Links: XVIVO and superlions

Two interesting stories on the web caught my fancy recently. They are focused on the two ends of the biological spectrum of how to look at life: the first highlights molecular or structural biology, looking at phenomena that you can't even see with a microscope; the other deals with evolutionary biology, tracking the changes that occur in organisms over the span of decades, centuries, millennia.

The first is about a 3D animation company (XVIVO), collaborating with BioVisions at Harvard, that modelled a series of molecular mechanisms in the cell. As a biophysicist and recently ex-crystallographer, this was the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. It's also a great way to bring to bring to life what structural people are investigating on a daily basis. Now when I explain what I'm interested in, rather than glazing over and giving me a blank stare, people can see in front of them the kind of phenomena I'm looking at (set to dramatic music).

DyneinIt's also cool as a cell biologist to see many of the important functional mechanisms you learn about animated in front of you. I especially liked the depiction of dynein (the caterpillar-like motor protein shown at left). The animating company used real structural information from the PDB (in short, other than the color, that's exactly what these proteins look like! This stuff is going on right inside you! How cool is that?!!)

How many proteins can you recognize?
Link to the article; Direct link to the video

SuperlionThe second article is about peripatric speciation in African lions. Apparently, in a remote island off of Africa, a fascinating predator-prey dynamic has caused adaptive changes in between a species of lion and water buffalo. This interaction has resulted in amazing consequences, including bigger, stronger, and more intelligent lions:

They have adapted ... by hunting during the day under the baking African sun, swimming through deep rivers in the hunt for buffalo. This water-based training programme combined with a diet of protein-rich buffalo meat has led to the development of huge muscles, and these super-cats now dwarf other lions.

My favorite part was the hunting strategy adopted by the Tsaro pride of lions, which keeps close tabs on the water buffalo, herding them like sheepdogs, and culling the herd of a weaker calf or buffalo geezer. Ironically, this selection accelerates the evolutionary adaptation of the buffalo species, subsequently accelerating the selection on the lions themselves. Interestingly, this has resulted in a disappearance of the sexual dimorphism in lions; lionesses are just as big as male lions in this species. Thinking of predator-prey dynamics is quite fascinating and involved sometimes.

The question on everyone's minds is, of course, what's going to happen when these superlions turn on us?


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