The Genome News Network sez:

The Genome News Network sez: “The first head-to-head comparison of draft human and mouse genome sequences can be summarized in one word — fourteen. Fourteen genes on mouse chromosome 16 are not found in humans.” How do you like that? Out of more than 700 genes on chromosome 16, mice got everything we got, PLUS fourteen extra genes. Pretty sad, if you ask me. What genes do you think they are? The stay-really-small gene (TNY), the beady-eyes gene (BDII), and the be-furry-and-have-a-skinny-pink-tail (FZY) gene. I’m betting that’s three of them right there. How do I submit papers to Science? It also brings to mind a fun experiment: make a knockout mouse that’s missing all fourteen of those genes. Then stand back!

Go look. It’s a Welsh

Go look. It’s a Welsh blog. You won’t understand it, but it looks so cool: MorfaBlog. Or as the host, Nic Dafis says, “Yn ôl y geiriadur, rhywbeth A chanddo weflau mawr, cyriog, gwefldew. Neu, cyfieithiad diog o’r gair Saesneg ‘weblog’.” (pause for laughter) But seriously, folks…

I went to my college

I went to my college reunion last week and there discovered that a classmate of mine was actually in World Trade One on the 83rd floor when the first plane hit. I knew that no one in our class died in the attack, but I hadn’t considered the people I might know who had close escapes. People have different reactions when asked to recount a story they’ve told many times, but he was willing to tell his one more time. A few tidbits from his story that I hadn’t heard anywhere else: the flexure of the building due to the impact did all kinds of damage throughout the structure, breaking water lines, knocking marble tiling off the walls, and bending door frames. This last apparently trapped some people in their offices by jamming the door shut. Burning fuel pouring down the stairs diverted them from the first stairwell they came to and sent them running to the second, by which time the smoke in the hallways was already very thick. He also said the stairway wasn’t even crowded until he got down into the 40s. Which he knew at the time was a bad sign.

On the way back from the reunion, I stopped in New York to look at the site. It’s just a big construction zone now, the last remnants of debris having been cleared from the site itself. The scene surrounding the big void is more telling. There’s still plenty of damage visible to the nearby buildings, and a few spray-painted signs (“TRIAGE”) remain on the walls. Lots of tourists. Lots of security. The city hasn’t removed any of the tourist signs that tell you fun facts about the towers. I wonder if they ever will.

Can this be real? Snoop

Can this be real? Snoop Dogg has a blog? Check out the Snoop Doggy Blog. It looks real. It smells real. It’s not real. On the internet, no one can tell if you’re kidding. Fortunately it has a tag line at the bottom of the page: It’s a parody. Get over it. Somebody has a lot of time to devote to this. My favorite line: “If I married Winnie The Pooh, my name would be … Snoop Doggy Dogg Pooh.”

Here’s a good example of

Here’s a good example of new information disturbing the sleepy status quo. A web site at Williams college (called Factrak) lets students anonymously rate their professors. The faculty doesn’t like it. Of course they don’t like it; having people anonymously rate you in a publicly availaible forum is hard for anybody. But what can you do? There’s absolutely no way to stop it. The profs will have to accomodate themselves to this new state of affairs. There are some juicy catty remarks in the article, such as this one by an auditor of university president Morton Schapiro’s popular economy class: “By the end of the course, I think I’ll know more about his Nobel Prize-winning ‘friends’ than microeconomics.” Those uppity students don’t know what’s good for them. Here’s the article (from the Boston Globe): Student Web site for rating faculty riles Williams College. [This link will be defunct soon, since the Globe reaper pulls its content from view after a while. Read it while you can]

One of the fears mentioned by the disapproving faculty members was the specter of grade inflation. If you know you’re being rated every day, will you pander to the crowd? Will you become an affable but ineffective buffoon, or will you risk cyber-humiliation to hold back the tide of rising grades? This
column on grade inflation in the New York Times supports the view that students who expect high grades get them and further that students who get bad grades give bad reviews.

Now this is something I’ve

Now this is something I’ve been wanting for some time: my very own three-dimensional copy of a transfer RNA molecule. David Goodsell was so kind as to point me to the Center for BioMolecular Modeling at the Milwaukee School of Engineering as a place where I might be able to buy a made-to-order protein model. Sure enough, the friendly people at 3-D Molecular Designs quoted me a reasonable price for yeast initiator methionine tRNA (PDB entry 1yfg). I’m getting me some.

Why transfer RNA? Because there is nothing more central to the mystery of life and language than the point where the arbitrary code (like DNA) gets turned into active agents that move the world (like proteins), and transfer RNA is the hardware that makes it possible. Check out Goodsell’s images and explanation of transfer RNA and its good friend and partner aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase. You know, at a certain level, the meaning of life is just messy, gluey arts-and-crafts project.