Controls are Sweet!

In science you always.


Always use controls.

That is the very basis of science, for without a control running next to your experiment, you have no isolated variables, no conclusions that can be drawn from it, and no theories that it can support.

So when I was reading the Ethicurean, as I regularly do, I was simply flabbergasted at this post: Mercury in HFCS. Apparently, a research paper came out proclaiming that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)-containing products had detectable levels of mercury. The explanation given was that HFCS is made using alkali soda, from plants that use mercury in the process of synthesizing it. (Except this has been for the most part phased out)

I took a look at the paper, and the first thing that I noticed was Continue reading Controls are Sweet!

We won! We won!

I just received notice that one of the videos that I worked on as part of my plant breeding video project has won an award in the 2008 MCAI WAVE Awards competition. We entered the video a couple months ago, and the award ceremony was last week. (I couldn’t go for a number of reasons) The video, recently uploaded to YouTube on the Wisconsin Plant Breeding channel is the UW-Madison Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics recruiting video.

Here are the 2008 WAVE Award winners.

And now for the “award winning” video:


The Biofortified Blog

I mentioned before that something seemed to be different about the science blogging world. Several genetic-engineering-centric blogs have cropped up, bringing some in-depth discussion of this field to the internet. In a discussion with someone else online, they suggested – wouldn’t it be great if there was a group of scientists who could respond to news about GE crops? I’ve had similar thoughts as well.

Well after a month or two of work, I’ve built a home for such a group, and invited some blogging scientists to contribute. Behold: The Biofortified Blog!

The scientists we have so far are Continue reading The Biofortified Blog

Nothing new here.

This story caught my attention, “New DNA Technique Led Authorities to ‘Anthrax Killer’,” and I wanted to find out what this new technique was. When I read the story, however, they didn’t say anything about what it was.

The identification was made from those samples, with DNA samples taken from the victims to confirm.

A government scientist told the Associated Press Sunday that investigators started with DNA from some of those victims and matched specific DNA patterns to anthrax cultures that the suspect, Army scientist Bruce Ivins, 62, was responsible for in the lab.

This scientific technique took years to develop.

That sounds like standard run-of-the mill PCR to me. Take some unique sequences in the anthrax samples that can be used to differentiate it from all other samples, then create PCR primers to make copies of, and sequence those sequences in each sample. The victims, anthrax from letters, and the suspected anthrax lab. If the sequences match, you have a winner. (or loser) I could do it.

So I don’t see what is so new about this mystery DNA technique… must’ve been new to Fox News or something.

Still, it is nice to know that we know the source of those anthrax letters, although the suspect committed suicide, this means that if it ever happens again, we can always call on this secret technique involving this “DNA’ thing!

Cummings uninformed about biology

Over at the Ethicurean, Bonnie posted an interview with Claire Hope Cummings, that I think bears examination. Cummings is the author of the book Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds, and goes on to make several ghastly claims. Not only factual errors, but really fallacious reasoning as well. I left a lengthy comment over there, but I will reproduce it here with some of the text of the interview. Continue reading Cummings uninformed about biology

Monday Madness: NPR on the Laws of Physics

I just got an email from Jeff Shaw, my friend back in Davis who I got to know because he is the station manager for KDRT LP-FM, a low-power community radio station where I got my start on the air.

There’s been trouble brewing for quite a while about the status of low-power fm stations, which are currently considered second-class citizens next to full-power stations. A full-power commercial station can just up and sit on an LPFM station and take its spot on the radio dial if it feels like it. KDRT was at risk for being run out of town by a station called KMJE that was going to move close enough to Davis to interfere with KDRT’s signal – they are both 101.5 fm. It didn’t matter that KMJE was the one moving, KDRT would have had to shut down or be legally an “encroacher.” Fortunately, there has been such an upwelling of support for Davis’s community station that KMJE realized that they were about to piss off the new market they were trying to reach, and has backed off with intent to negotiate KDRTs continued existence. But not every LPFM station will be that fortunate.

Fortunately, the FCC is cluing into the inequities involved, and the value that small local stations have for their communities, and is looking to change the rules to give LPFM stations more security. Many media reform groups such as Prometheus Radio and The Future of Music endorse this plan, but they have one big obstacle, one enemy, that will stop at nothing to prevent LPFM stations from having a means to prevent being overrun by bigger stations that just feel like doing it. Who, might you ask? Is it the conglomeromegacommercial stations? An FCC dissenter? Rush Limbaugh?


Oh, they don’t just think that the FCC shouldn’t decide in favor of the low-power community stations, they claim that they have the laws of physics on their side. What? Oh get ready for some Monday Madness! Continue reading Monday Madness: NPR on the Laws of Physics