Monday, June 16, 2008

Where The Heck Have I Been?

Geez! Where the heck have I been for the last couple weeks?

No, I haven't given up blogging. I was on a business trip, then my wife was sick, then I was sick, now we are simultaneously: a) having wood floors installed in half our house, b) stripping wallpaper and repainting our dining room, and c) repainting our master bedroom.

It's enough to drive an angry lab rat crazy! Ever tried living in a construction zone – with two small children – while sick? It ain't fun, and it's just barely begun. (My blogging pal, Maggie, at Mind Moss, can attest to this, having gone through this last year!) It's enough to make me howl at the moon.

So please stay tuned. Lots of good stuff to write about, but it may be as much as a week before I get back to my usual blogging schedule.

In the meantime, there will be a fantastic full moon on June 18th. This is a solstice moon, meaning that the moon will be full around the time of the summer solstice (on the 20th), which means that the moon will be hugging the horizon.

This makes the moon appear unnaturally large and spectacular, an optical illusion known since ancient times but nonetheless wonderful to behold. Here is a link that explains it:

So, in a couple nights, go outside and enjoy the early summer night and its nice, full moon. I'll try to join you, but there's a good chance I'll be sniffing paint vapors while tip-toe-ing around the half-installed bamboo flooring.

Image taken from HERE.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sure, But Which Gene Helps Her Remember Everyone's Birthday?

Last week it was announced that, for the first time, the full genome of a woman had been sequenced:

The lucky gal was Dr. Marjolein Kriek, a clinical geneticist at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, where the study was undertaken. This was not only the first sequence of a woman, but also the first of a European.

The sequencing had taken six months, reading over 22 billion base pairs (the "letters" of DNA for you non-science types out there), but had been run in-between other experiments. If it had been run straight through, it would have taken only 10 weeks. Typical. Once again women get second billing! Go on, you female lab rats! Throw down your test tubes and burn your bras! I'll only gawk a little.

The first human sequence, as you may remember, was completed in 2001 using the combined DNA of several people. The next was that of Jim Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix structure. "Gene hunter" Craig Ventor was next. The final two were of Yoruba African men (I didn't know about those two, but now I'm curious).

In the words of the principal scientist of the study (as quoted in the article), "So it was time, after sequencing four males, to balance the genders a bit”. He smiles: “And after Watson we also felt that it was okay to do Kriek”.

Get it? Watson and Crick? Discoverers of the structure of DNA? Ha ha! Ha. ha. (sigh). Scientist humor….

Now that they have sequenced the X chromosomes of a female, the researchers say they are better able to study X chromosome variability.

That's well and good. But what I'd really like to know is which genes control that desire and ability of women to schedule everything. Or to coordinate their blouse with teal pumps. Or how to have a conversation on their tiny cell phone while simultaneously wiping a child's runny nose, stopping another child from climbing the bookcase, and writing up a report for their high-pressure career.

Yeah, that's right you sexy Dutch chicks, I've got your number (or at least the number of base pairs), and I've got a little Jean Gnome for you to "sequence". Giggity giggity.

Image altered from HERE.