Saturday, January 30, 2010

Avatar in the Amazon

I took from this clip the same message I took from my encounter with Eugenie - free and open dialogue is our best hope.  Thanks for posting this Bora!

Eugenie Scott on national science education standards

Heads up Margaret Morgan! If you are interested in hearing what Eugenie Scott has to say about the potential for national science education standards in the United States I have isolated that bit of the interview. I placed the audio file on livearchive and have dedicated it to the public domain.

Listen here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eugenie Scott Interview

If you notice in the first 10 minutes I shut the door due to the vacuum cleaner at the bookstore and begin recording on my phone. What follows is the remaining hour and 10 minutes of the interview if you are interested in hearing more. I actually get to answer some TPG reader questions in the later part of the interview. I'm amazed at the sound quality from a recording to an iphone.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Upcoming interview with Eugenie Scott

Is it a fallacy to attempt to derive ethical imperatives from nature? According to an anonymous commenter on my "Theorum of Evolution" post it is. I have thought long on this assertion and am not sure I agree. Where should ethical imperatives be derived if not from nature? I suppose you could argue they should be derived from contemporary civil consensus. But what is the keystone on which consensus is built if not nature? An invisible sky father? This will be the basis of at least one question I ask Eugenie Scott during her visit to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado this Monday January 25th 2010. I have an hour with her for a one on one interview. If you have any questions you would like me to ask please let me know soon either by commenting here or e-mailing me at kristopherhite (at)

Links from my Mother

Since her emergence onto the Facebook stage my mother has grasped with fervor the connectivity it brings to friends and family.  Perusing her wall today I was moved to share some of the videos she has recently posted.  When viewing each I was filled with that tingling sensation over my entire being.  I am proud to be the progeny of such an amazing woman.

"Stand by Me" performed by musicians around the world from SKAT on Vimeo.

Post with the Most: the entries so far

The 2010 Post with the Most blogging contest is underway. So far there have been 4 high quality entries submitted. If you write, read, paint, play an instrument, or perform in any way and have a blog or have thought about writing a blog this is an opportunity to showcase your work. contests like these  help connect and expose you to others interested in pushing citizen generated content into a rich new context. The contest has received some encouraging support from elsewhere in the blogosphere, including Abbas at 3QD and Bora at a blog around the clock.

Here are the entries so far...

Monday Musing: the greatest of all time by Abbas Raza 

A Natural History of my instrument: by Alicia Jo Rabins 

A Natural History of My Mishearing: by Ed Skoog 

Natural Histories Project: by Sean Hill

Please submit your own entry by posting a link in the comments below. For more details on the criteria for posts visit the original competition announcement here. In a nutshell, we are looking for entries using at least 3 different forms of media. These forms include, but are not limited to - text, static images, audio, video, and any other medium, even those not yet known to the world.

Thank you for visiting,
may your day be filled with free thought.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bora and I agree on Ida

In the middle of 2009 a breathtaking fossil took the world stage. I blogged about this debut at the time and though she was controversial I tried to express the positive aspects of the discovery rather than the scientific discrepancies about her actually being a "missing link." Not until I saw the following video from last week's science online 2010 conference at research triangle park in North Caolina did I realized how much Bora Zivkovic at a blog around the clock and I really fall in agreement about bringing science to the masses. As a science communicator one must first draw the crowd or "pull them in" before one can break down the details. Ida's bombastic debut was a perfect example. It got regular people to look at science through a wide angled lens in a positive light. There is nothing wrong with that! And even though I felt duped when I read about Carl Sagan potentially lying to us all about the Heikegani Japanese samurai crabs while reading The Greatest Show on Earth I can not deny that watching the cosmos series en total solidified my affinity for science. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'Creation' Premires tomorrow in US

Months after its debut in the rest of the world Creation will finally premier in the United States. So says USA today. Though I am having a tough time finding any theater in Colorado where it is playing. Are we just to close to Kansas?

The National Center for Science Education reports it will only appear in select cities. If you value science education please call your local theater and ask that they bring in the film.

Warhol DNA

Found my eyeballs via
Specifically, through this post
more specifically, through a comment on Culturing Science by the author of Genes 2 Brains 2 Minds 2 Me

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Single Molecule Chromatin Studies

ResearchBlogging.orgMichelle Wang of Cornell University spoke during the morning session of the Keystone Symposium on chromatin regulation in Taos, New Mexico today. She described her research focused on understanding how nucleosomes behave when they are pulled apart upstream the moving transcription machinery. This is like investigating how a train moves along a track when the track is tied up in knots. The train is the polymerase (transcription machinery) and the track is the DNA. She does this work by using amazingly delicate single molecule studies. By trapping either end of a stand of DNA with nucleosomes assembled and then physically pulling on one side she can observe the corresponding force curve which gives a readout of how strong or weak the histone/DNA interactions are during the pulling event.

I have described the optical tweezing technique for studying single DNA stands on this blog before.

There is also a great summary of her lab's research here.

Hall MA, Shundrovsky A, Bai L, Fulbright RM, Lis JT, & Wang MD (2009). High-resolution dynamic mapping of histone-DNA interactions in a nucleosome. Nature structural & molecular biology, 16 (2), 124-9 PMID: 19136959

Monday, January 18, 2010

Live Blogging: Keystone Symposium on Molecular Basis for Chromatin Structure and Regulation

Hello, I'm in Taos,  New Mexico broadcasting my impressions of a scientific conference I'm attending.  I will be careful to follow the rules when it comes to blogging about unpublished data. According to the rules of the conference I am not allowed to report unpublished results, take audio recordings, or pictures. Initially my "open access" mentality cringes at the thought of being under a gag order but I do see the merit in this - it keeps the peer review process legitimate. This rule reminds us that it is up to literate people everywhere to dive into the scientific literature and talk about results AFTER they pass through the peer review filter.   I will be sure not to violate the symposium's requests but I am still free to give you my interpretation of what is going which I will do to the best of my ability...  Here we go.

The keynote speaker is Roger Kornberg.  

Who is Roger Kornberg?

He was awarded the 2006 Nobel prize in chemistry for his work on the crystal structure of RNA polymerase. This feat has given science and atom by atom view of the process in which genetic information is transcribed from the DNA code to the RNA code that is then translated into all the tiny machines that make our brain cells brain cells and liver cells liver cells.

What is he talking about? He is introducing unpublished data regarding nucleosome occupancy during transcription.  This is, by nature, a controversial topic in the field of chromatin regulation because there are several camps of scientists who have different ideas about how nucleosomes behave while DNA strands wound up around nucleosomes are "read" by the transcription machinery.  Do the nucleosomes come apart or remain intact as the machinery pushes through during transcription?  Look for a paper from Kornberg et. al. to find out a suggested answer in the near future.

There is another controversy in the chromatin field Kornberg is adressing.  Is DNA wrapped around histone proteins removed from its coiled wrap and if so how exactly does this occur? There are two main ideas about how the string of DNA comes off the core histone proteins.  These are "twist diffusion" or "bulge diffusion."

Kornberg is throwing this out saying there is another way to think about this phenomenon.

based on published results he is claiming RSC binding disrupts nucleosome structure.    So RSC displaces DNA from the nucleosome which enables translocation.

Oh, he mentioned Karolin!

Now C. David Allis is speaking...

 He started with a quote from Alan Wolffe.

He is mainly speaking about histone variants. Specifically histone H3.3 and its role in epigentic regulation in a mammalian system.

- Mentions this company Sangamo biosciences heads up Green Ninja.

more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Collective Power for Good

Donate to Haitian earthquake relief via doctors without boarders!  It takes less than 2 minutes. And It feels good to hit the DONATE NOW button.

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

The Open Lab 2009

A poem from the Tom Paine's Ghost was selected to be published in the annual anthology - The Open Laboratory - the best writing on science blogs. A special thanks to Scicurious and the entire panel of judges for their combined aesthetic powers. Perusing the top 50 posts reveals some truly beautiful expression being cast into the universe. A venerable Smörgåsbord of creativity for all who crave novelty. I am honored to be a part of this free endeavor.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Motorless wind powered robots

Designed and fabricated by Theo Jansen using evolutionary algorithms.

More from Theo here

Resolve to battle entropy

Thanks to Sean Carroll for bringing Ludwig Boltzmann back to my frontal cortex. After re-reading Ludwig's Wikipedia page I realized Lise Meitner was his graduate student! My imagination went wild thinking of the intense conversations they must have had about moral philosophy especially as it relates to evolution.

Carroll's video also triggered a memory from the ascent of man series where Jacob Bronoski is exalting Botzmann at his tomb in Vienna. This clip points out a little talked about fact - that Boltzmann was an early follower of Darwin and actually used his own theories in statistical mechanics to provide a rational for the emergence of entropically negative life forms - which always seemed to be irrational in terms of the second law of thermodynamics. Ultimately it was Boltzmann who first suggested that the surplus of energy that basks our planet from the sun is the reason life is physically possible. And he saw that evolution works in this context by trapping things that "work" or survive.  The same kind of realization came to me while reading Richard Dawkin's latest book.  While Dawkins describes studies in the evolution of e. coli metabolism he reveals how traits that increase the growth curve plateau randomly emerge and are held onto like a staircase of stratified stability. Understanding this concept is key to battling the oft used creationist argument that things like the human eye "just popped into existence!"  The eye gets to be an eye by a series of emerging genetic events that each, on their own merit, benefit the bearer.