Last week, researchers from Harvard published a paper with the most gorgeous images I’ve seen in a long time. Now, I work in a microscopy lab, so I see beautiful biological images all the time. These new images of neurons, however, blew me away. (more…)

NASA is broadcasting the ongoing spacewalk live.

I’ve been following it off and on all morning and it’s amazing stuff. Watching someone gingerly maneuver their way across a high-voltage solar panel brings home how fragile the human endeavor is in space as well as how brave the astronauts really are. Reading about it in the paper after the fact just isn’t the same. So catch it now.

Poster’s note: Some people have requested that I try to relate scientific topics to a mostly non-scientific audience (a la Ira Flatow of “Science Friday”). I hesitated to embark on this line of discussion as I am not a scientific expert. However, the benefits of clarifying some incorrect impressions that the public has of scientists, debunking scary scientific myths, and explaining basic scientific concepts far outweigh any negatives I can think of. Any person more knowledgeable on a subject I may post is more than welcome to correct me. Also, feel free to suggest topics or post questions. If I feel that I can impart knowledge on the subject, I’ll cover it. And with that disclaimer, let’s get it on.

Biologists have chosen certain organisms as model organisms because frequently, we can’t study whole organismal phenomena in humans. What does that mean? Well, if I wanted to study where one particular muscle gene functions in the whole body, I can’t delete that gene from Johnny and see if that gene works in his heart or in his bicep. (The heart’s just a muscle, folks.) I might get lucky if Johnny’s bicep shrinks, but it would suck if Johnny had to have a heart transplant. The public frowns on that sort of research. So, scientists decided to use non-human organisms for basic research. (more…)

I just returned from the five-day International Caenorhabditis elegans (tiny worm) Conference at UCLA.  I heard a lot of good talks on my research area and other fields and promise to report on some of the science in another post.

The basics: over 1500 undergrads, lab technicians, grad students, post-docs, and professors who all study or have an interest in the little, soil-dwelling nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans.  In other words, a whole bunch of nerds together.  And we definitely lived up to our bookish reputation for most of the conference.  However, on Saturday night, there was a worm art show, a worm comedy show (actually hilarious), and then a finale dance.  Complete with unlimited amounts of beer and wine.  Since the lines for alcohol were long, most people got two at a time.  Just like frat guys.  By the end of the night (according to my labmate), seven police cars were needed to break up the nerd dance.  See?  Maybe scientists aren’t as nerdy as you think.

The weather in LA was insane.  75-80 degrees, no humidity, and not a single cloud in sight.  For four days.  On Sunday, we saw one weak-ass, wispy cloud.  In other words, LA’s weather achieved perfection.  I’m thinking way back in the day, someone pulled a Robert Johnson-sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-at-the-railroad-tracks-deal.  Too good to be true.

To the three high school volleyball teams on my 6:30AM flight from LA to Minneapolis yesterday morning—next time you’re on an early flight, consider skipping the airport Starbucks for your pink, sugary, raspberry mocha frappucinos to go along with your Cosmo Girl magazines.  Please.