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The DNA behind DNA

By | August 1, 2007

Sitting around a table piled with seafood and wine, a group of scientists came up with an idea. It was the Fall of 2005, and the diners were from the DNA sequencing company 454 Life Sciences, celebrating the launch of the company's sequencing technology, the Genome Sequencer 20. 454 was established with the goal of making human genome sequencing an everyday technology, and that night the ambition seemed within reach. At the Stone House restaurant on the marina at Guildford,

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A biologist realtor

By | July 1, 2007

Biologist Don King has spent years watching precious things disappear. As an educational tour guide in New Mexico in 1981, King led a group through a Navajo village on the way to ruins in Chaco Canyon. They came upon a funeral in the hybrid Catholic-Navajo church for the village medicine man. With his death, hundreds of years of history and culture disappeared, since the local children weren't interested in learning traditional ways, preferring to adopt mainstream American culture.

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An underwater life

By | July 1, 2007

Lloyd Godson in front of the biosub before it was submerged. Credit: © John Egan/Australian Geographic Images" />Lloyd Godson in front of the biosub before it was submerged. Credit: © John Egan/Australian Geographic Images After living underwater for 13 days, Lloyd Godson started to feel a little weird. His blood pressure went through the roof, he struggled to fall asleep at night, and he had an unsettling feeling that the walls of the metal box he was living in were closing

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Nobel pseudo-prizes

By | July 1, 2007

In 1995, European Union officials made the mistake of deeming the new European ICT Prize the "Nobel Prize" for innovation in information and communication technologies. Soon after, they received a friendly note from the Nobel Foundation saying they had infringed upon a trademark license, and could face legal action. EU officials promised to cease and desist from such comparisons, and everything resolved amicably. As harmless as it may seem to invoke the name of Nobel to

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Surgeonfish's revenge

By | July 1, 2007

Credit: Courtesy of Kendall Clements" /> Credit: Courtesy of Kendall Clements Surgeonfish aren't as dedicated to life-saving as their name implies - quite the opposite, in fact. While sample-gathering in the Seychelles in May 2001, marine biologist J. Howard Choat wrongly assumed that he had killed a surgeonfish (genus Naso). When he took the fish off the spear, one of its razor-sharp caudal knives sliced open his right palm, severing two tendons. He received timely emergency care, b

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The oldest tree

By | July 1, 2007

Frank Mannolini and Linda Hernick Credit: Courtesy of NYS Museum/Albert Gnidica" />Frank Mannolini and Linda Hernick Credit: Courtesy of NYS Museum/Albert Gnidica On a sunny summer day in 2004, two employees of the New York State Museum took a scenic drive through the countryside. It was a perfect day for a field trip, but inside the car, an awkward tension hung between driver and passenger. "We were both thinking a lot of the same things," says Linda Hernick. They were

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Formula One neuroscience

By | June 1, 2007

When the English racing driver Lewis Hamilton finished third at Formula One's Australian Grand Prix in March, it made him the first rookie driver to reach the podium since Canada's Jacques Villeneuve managed it 11 years before. During the race, commentators praised Hamilton's finesse and confidence as he steered his silver McLaren Mercedes through the streets of the Albert Park circuit, south of Melbourne. A few, notably racing legend Jackie Stewart, mentioned the extensive tra

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Isle(t) of the pigs

By | June 1, 2007

Credit: Photo by Gail Simons" /> Credit: Photo by Gail Simons In August 1806, an English whaling captain by the name of Abraham Bristow was sailing home to England from the colony of Van Diemen's Land (now the Australian state of Tasmania) when he came across a remote, windswept archipelago of small islands. He named them "Lord Auckland's," in honor of his father's friend William Eden, First Baron Auckland. These seven sub-Antarctic specks - Auckland Island is the largest,

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Kids climb Everest

By | June 1, 2007

Credit: Courtesy of Janeet Stocks" /> Credit: Courtesy of Janeet Stocks On the first day of school after spring break, nine British children had an unusual tale to tell regarding "what I did on my vacation": They climbed Mount Everest. At least part of it, that is. Ranging in age from 6 to 13 years, the kids were part of an expedition that Janet Stocks led. As a professor of respiratory physiology at University College London, Stocks designed a study to investigate how

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Magic mint for mania

By | June 1, 2007

William Calezon's group purifies salvinorin A from bags of dried Salvia divinorum bought off the Internet." />William Calezon's group purifies salvinorin A from bags of dried Salvia divinorum bought off the Internet. For Karen Schrock, it started with a big hit off a smoking pipe filled with Salvia divinorum and a crash to the kitchen floor. From there she was off to an alien world of silhouetted figures who lived by a complex social structure. Any sense that there had ever been

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