Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chemistry can be Fun!

Doggy Style

For some time (since 1876) veterinarians have been describing a type of tumor in dogs that occurs in the genital region of dogs. it is known by various monickers including CTVT (Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor), Sticker Tumor, and Infectious Sarcoma.

It has long been thought of as being a sexually transmissible disease- and it is- but with a twist.

Ok- so there is nothing new about sexually transmitted infections, and really nothing new about sexually transmitted viruses that contain ongogenes that cause cancer. Well known examples are genital wart viruses (of certain genotypes) that lead to squammous cell cancers of the cervix, and Hepatitis B virus that can lead to cirrhosis and hepatocellular (liver) cancer. (Three cheers for the Australian scientists who discovered a vaccine to prevent HPV induced cervical cancer).

The amazing thing about this dog venereal tumor is that THERE IS NO VIRUS (or anything else) that causes it. Here comes the amazing part: it is the tumor ITSELF that is infectious!

This is quite bizarre. We all know that "cancer " isn't supposed to be "catching" or contagious.

This condition is more like a parasitic skin graft (allograft) than any previously known infectious disease. Genetic studies have shown that it probably arose a few thousand years ago in a single dog- and has been transmitted through biting and dog sex ever since. It probably began life as a skin tumor that then mutated to somehow avoid being detected by he dog's immune system (perhaps by downregulating expression of MHC surface molecules). In the process, it's ditched a few unwanted chromosomes completely.

So... in summary... this organism is a thousand-year-old bit of dog tumor. Should it be classified as a sub-species of canine? .. or should it be classified next to "Dog" on the evolutionary tree as an infectious unicellular organism?

It turns out that this sort of thing also happens to a certain type of russian hamster- and also may be resposible for a mysterious "Facial Tumor Disease" currently decimating the population of Tasmanian Devils on the Island of Tasmania (off the south-eastern corner of Australia for the eographically challenged). The dog disease, however, rarely metastasizes and only kills puppies (so thats OK).

I wonder if any human diseases will/do/have evolve(d) in this manner. (Sounds like a plot to a B-grade shlock-horror film).

CELL article pdf from last year
Wikipedia here

Friday, May 23, 2008

1001 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Your Google Page Ranking

link to your own page a zillion times! it works!!!

1001 More Stupid Things You Must Do Before You Die: Tales From the Palliative Care Bookshelf$product$The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

For goodness sake! Last time i was in a bookshop (real, not amazonian) i saw yet another one of those 101 or 1001 THINGS YOU MUST DO BEFORE YOU DIE books.

This one was something along the lines of "101 British Garden Walks you Must Do Before You Die". Really? Must I? I don't even know what a "bandwagon" is - but every publisher seems to have jumped on board. I guess with baby boomers nearing death, the market needs to squeeze out every last dollar.

If you're actively dying these incessant lists are just going to stress you out! You'll die feeling like a failure only having reached #356 of the chronologically arranged movies in "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"- a great pity as when the "Talkies" get going- cinema really seems to take off.

What about those 1001 books? That's going to take a lifetime ( er.. and literally)... and also figuratively in the sense that the whole thing resembles the "1001 Tales from the Arabian Nights" where Scheherazade has to keep spinning yarns (Our autobiographical narratives) to stop her homicidal (Uxoricidal) husband ("Death") from decapitating her. When the last story ends, she's dead.

And while we're on the subject- what about this strange fascination with the particular numerology? Why 101, 1001, 10001? Because they are prime? And why specify the "before" in "before you die"? It's not like you can do anything when you are dead- can you? Maybe when you're an angel- you get so busy you don't have time.

Here's My List:

"11 Things You REALLY Must Do Before You Die"

1. Make a will.
2. Phone people that pissed you off in your life and tell them to F-ck off.
3. Stop breathing.
4. Say goodbye.
5. Plan your funeral.
6. Make a video that begins with "If you are watching this then it means that i am dead..."
7. Go rollerskating.
8. Phone the after hours help line of "Ocean Spray Pty Ltd" ... tell them you just drank a glass of "Ocean Spray Light" (OSL) that contains "No artificial colorings or flavourings"... and say the following in a short, desperate, breathy voice-
"Drank OSL with NACOF-"
"Can't breathe-"
"Allergy to sucralose!!!"
"Call ambulance!!!"
"Wife is Lawyer!" (small voice)

9. Tell your family that you loved them even though they disappointed you and you disappointed them.
10. Swim towards the light
11. At the last moment, and after a life of vigilante-like zealous agnosticism, recant and call in your Rabbi.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Battlestar Galactica is Frakkin' Great

warning: gushing fan ramblings follow-

Wow, i was on the edge of my seat last night watching the 6th episode of the current and final (sigh) series of Battlestar Galactica (otherwise known in download circles as S04E06- sounds like chemistry). Partly because my wife (NEVER previously a SF fan- and certainly in no way a geek/nerd chick) got the good seat in front of the Mac (downloaded episode)- I perching on the edge of a stool.

Poor "Mr Gator" - leg blown of by Anders the Android- "Keep those fingers away from the hybrid keyboard Anders!!!". Luckily for him, Starbuck had a supply of 'blood dust' or whatever- and she knows how to handle a "Morpha" syringe like the true junkie that she is. That nasty "Six" got her just desserts - she just couldn't forgive and forget (being shot in sewage) could she?. Athena (see above) gives one of the dying Boomers the cold shoulder- so much for her 'humanity'. And what the frak is the hybrid a hybrid of? Cylon and Human? "The Dying Leader" will apparently understand her Opera house dream....

So what's next? I guess they'll resurrect Xenabot .... will Adama and Roslyn make out? Phew!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Deco 'Fembot' : Tamara de Lempicka
"There was nothing ordinary about Lempicka; even her name clings to the tongue like an exotic marmalade. Flamboyant (paradoxically remaining true to herself while being a slave to fashion) and imperious, she pinned down her husbands like butterflies in a case, gave lavish parties for hundreds and indulged in every vice that came her way. In the Paris salon of the poet Natalie Barney, she sniffed cocaine and drank sloe gin fizzes laced with hashish among the likes of Andre Gide. On the banks of the Seine, she picked up sailors and female prostitutes. After her nocturnal debauches, she painted until dawn. Her life style (and her ''affair'' with the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio) sent her first husband, Tadeusz Lempicki, packing into the arms of a plump heiress." Beautiful Rafaela, 1927 by Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)

I've always liked these paintings- as with everything Deco! The women all look streamlined, almost "android" in appearances. The long tubular fingers look like they're made of metal. Deco Fembots?
"If you're a frakkin' toaster- GO MAKE ME SOME FRAKKIN' TOAST!"

Icosidodecahedrons, Psychobabble, Platonic Solids and Extra Dimensions

When my older sister was in high school she came one day with a football-like cardboard sculpture. She said: "It's an Icosidodecahedron". Icosi-dodeca-hedron. I said it again and again- like a mantra. Until the sounds stop being words and start being sounds again without meaning.

On that point i think it's fascinating to listen to foreign languages ( i don't understand any). German in particular sounds agitated and funny- think Siegfried from Get Smart (Shmart!). Danish sounds like English played backwards, Japanese: cold, constipated and forgetful (old joke). What does it sound like when Germans imitate English? Do they find it funny?

Once you learn a language, those arbitrary phonemes are no longer audible- all you hear is the meaning. I guess our brains are wired to accept language. Try and imagine what English sounds like to a native Japanese speaker. What does Japanese sound like to a Japanese?- the same as English to an English speaker.

When novels are translated, the settings and names are not. A "Raskolnikov" in an English translation of "Crime and Punishment" immediately sounds alien and foreign- "Roger" would be better. There was no intention of the author for the character to have a foreign name!

I digress-
My sister's Icosidodecahedron ended up being one of my prized possesions- suspended (next to my "airplant") on fine fishing line above my desk, slowly rotating in the breeze. It was composed of 20 triangles and 12 pentagons.

I was reminded of it having re-listened to a great lecture on extra-dimensional space by Prof John Barrow. Why is it that in 2 dimensions you can make a regular polygon with any number of sides above 2: triangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons, heptagons, octagons etc BUT there are only FIVE 3-D equivalents: the Platonic Solids.

Why is that? it seems God-the-Geometer has been bizarrely stingy. If the universe really has 11 spatial dimensions- are there ANY regular solids allowable?