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

No Intelligence Allowed Part II

On Thursday, PZ Myers was EXPELLED from Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed, a creationist documentary supposedly about expelling people from academia for their personal beliefs.An irony widely recognized in the blogging community as an Epic Fail, now the news media is picking up the story.

PZ Myers put up another post about the event, and there’s an article written about it in the New York Times.

Read No Admission for Evolutionary Biologist at Creationist Film. Here’s a couple choice bits: Continue reading No Intelligence Allowed Part II

Thursday Madness: No Intelligence Allowed

What happens when someone who was interviewed for a creationist propaganda tries to see how he is portrayed in the film? He gets Expelled. I guess some weeks the Madness in this world takes a little while to come forth. But when it does, it really comes out. In a special Thursday edition of Monday Madness (on Friday), I give you Thursday Madness: No Intelligence Allowed. Continue reading Thursday Madness: No Intelligence Allowed

Hot for Hillary in Madison

I just went to my first political rally today. Senator Hillary Clinton made it through the Wisconsin storms to finally host a rally in Madison. The presentation was good, and the spirits of the attendees were up. Just in case there was an opportunity for questions, I prepared one about science policy. It was a long shot, but there was no space for it. I did, however, have my iRiver along, and recorded the talk. Download and listen to it here. (It has also been added to the Mindcast Extras.)

I have a few pictures, but I don’t have the time to edit them tonight. Ariela and I waded up to the front at the end, to shake hands and get close-up pictures, but they left before we were up there. I got a couple good shots of Chelsea Clinton, and Hillary was in the corner of one of them.

Hillary said a few brief things related to science, such as energy independence and global warming. But not enough attention is being paid to it. ScienceDebate2008 hopes to change that.

Politically and socially I would be happy with either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Their health care positions are similar, their approach to the Iraq War are similar, and they would both be a “first” president of one kind or another. I suspect that their equal popularity will put them on the same party ticket anyway. Then they will be unbeatable. Continue reading Hot for Hillary in Madison