Halloween Costumes: Retro Science Style

“Back when I was in the lab…”: it seems like every former scientist has a story. Kind of like Thanksgiving Dinner among your elderly relatives, scientists are quick to one-up each other with horror stories from our days at the bench—stories that included escape artist rats, a leaky sequencing gel apparatus, and the iconic radioactively contaminated post doc.

We turned to our favorite science cartoonist, Ed Himelblau, to ask for some retro Halloween costumes based on stories of things that used to be common in the lab that don’t seem like such a great idea now. Enjoy…and if you have a few retro horror science costume ideas of your own, please share them.

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Vitamin D and Asthma

We all like sunshine, right? In fact this time of year, some people pay a pack of moola and travel great distances in search of stronger solar.

Research reports continue to tout the benefits of vitamin D (1). In several studies from 2009, researchers found that patients with low blood levels of vitamin D had worse asthma symptoms than patients with higher serum vitamin D levels. In addition, patients with low vitamin D levels didn’t respond as well to asthma therapies as the patients with higher vitamin D levels.

A study done at National Jewish Health Center in Denver, Colorado, found that that low vitamin D levels influence a number of aspects of asthma, including lung function, bronchospasm and response to steroids. Results of this study are soon to be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2). Continue reading “Vitamin D and Asthma”

How to Use the Flexi® Vectors (Part 2 of 2)

pFN24K HaloTag® CMVd3 Flexi® VectorIn previous entries, I discussed the naming convention for the many Flexi® Vectors available from Promega before addressing how to choose which vector is appropriate for your use. However, I did not cover all the Flexi® Vectors available. In fact, I saved the HaloTag® Flexi® Vectors for this final installment. Continue reading “How to Use the Flexi® Vectors (Part 2 of 2)”

Indy (I’m not dead yet)

DrosophilaI take my hat off to the original inventors of Drosophila gene nomenclature. They managed to create names that are clear descriptions of the genes effect, are easy to remember, and express something of the humanity of the scientists behind the discovery. Once you’ve heard it, you can’t forget that Cleo (Cleopatra) is only lethal in the presence of Asp, or that in tinman, the embryo has no heart. I really appreciate the ease-of-use of FlyBase and the incidental entertainment value of many of the Drosophila gene names.

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Wolfram|Alpha: The World’s Knowledge, Computed

Friday, May 15th, 2009. 11 days ago. The 135th day of 2009, in the 20th week. 36.71% of 2009 had elapsed, and 63.29% remained.

Depending on where you keep your ears tuned on the internet, it may have passed as just another nascent weekend, or you may have been waiting for this day for quite some time – not because it was the 97th weekday of 2009, but because of the launch of Wolfram|Alpha.

I can’t claim the hot level of anticipation that others would – I’d heard the name thrown around on tech blogs and treated with a certain reverence. But starting about two weeks ago, I got feverish emails and IMs from various net.friends.

“Wolfram Alpha launches on Friday.”

“Did you hear about the launch?”

“Check out this screencast NOW.”

Anything subtitled “Computational Knowledge Engine” would normally earn ample mockery from my friends and I, but a few quick queries on the site should disarm all but the most eager attackers.

This is no mere search engine: compare this random string of letters – ACTTACAATG – and the difference in results between Google and Wolfram|Alpha.

There’s an entire section of examples of Life Sciences queries, including a Molecular Biology subsection.

This is less search than it is some kind of very fancy calculator. My hunch is that we’re only hearing the beginning of this tool.