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Phi Zappa Quakka

By | August 24, 2005

It?s nice to see a Frank Zappa fan working in the Nature press office. A recent release extolling the current issue?s report on space dust from meteorites was titled: ?Who you jivin? with that cosmik debris?? The line is pulled from a 1974 classic railing against quackery from the same jester who had hypothesized that there?s more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe (and that stupidity has a longer shelf life). And to the list of Zappa quotes unintentionally relevant to the sciences I offe

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Legionnaires hits close to home

By | August 12, 2005

Two cases of Legionnaire?s disease were confirmed the other day; the irresistible hook being that the men, ages 60 and 70 were Legionnaires. They came down with flu-like symptoms shortly after attending a meeting of the American Legions in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, just miles from Philadelphia where the first cases were documented and the culprit Legionella pneumophila was first fingered almost 30 years ago. Following an American Legions convention in July of 1976, Philadelphia?s Bellev

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Genomes galore

By | August 11, 2005

I see that the $1000 genome is now an official US government project. NIH's genome institute (NHGRI) just announced this genetic equivalent of going to the moon. The agency is spending $32 million to develop technology aimed explicitly at sequencing genomes of individual patients for $1000, long an informal goal among genome scientists. NHGRI's announcement comes on the heels of (and was perhaps provoked by?) papers describing two new sequencing methods that would bring the cost of the Human

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Profiting from insider clinical data

By | August 8, 2005

The Seattle Times ran a great package of stories yesterday that resulted from an investigation into how hedge funds obtain their cutting-edge information on clinical trials. The investigation found ?at least 26 cases in which doctors have leaked confidential and critical details of their ongoing drug research to Wall Street firms.? Such information is of incredible value to hedge funds, of course; if you?re a manager who bets enough money against a biotech stock because you?re the only one who k

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Ivory-billed woodpecker spotted; plays tennis

By | August 3, 2005

Well, it now appears that the ivory-billed woodpecker does exist. The three skeptics who had questioned the evidence presented in a Science paper that the birds were living in an Arkansas swamp now say they are ?strongly convinced that there is at least a pair of ivory bills out there,? according to the New York Times. Very good for ornithologists, the woodpecker, and for those who champion the millions being spent to maintain natural habitats. What was curious about the episode from a scie

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What did the President say? It's a fund-amental question.

By | August 3, 2005

So did President Bush really advocate teaching "intelligent design" in his interview with Texas reporters the other day? Or were his musings about exposing students to different ideas simply a better-than-average example of political weasel-speak? The fact is the remarks gave comfort to his religious political base while disclosing nothing of his actual beliefs about creationism. And they were mushy enough to permit a semi-benign gloss from Bush science adviser John Marburger, a professed

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Gorilla Marketing

By | August 1, 2005

This morning, fellow editor Jeff Perkel, and I ran into a hairy ape and a healthy dose of irony. A man wearing a gorilla mask and a dark grey suit passed just in front of our office. The monkey-man?s unmasked companion was wearing a yellow t-shirt with the words ?Has Evolution Made a Monkey out of You?? Catching the whiff of unchecked creationist dogma on the streets of Philadelphia, we dashed out for a quick interview. Fortunately, ID proponents haven?t resorted to ?guerilla marketing? just

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Apple on Intel: Still a BLAST?

By | July 22, 2005

One question has been rolling around in the scientific community since Apple's surprise announcement that they will switch to the Intel processor in 2006. How fast will BLAST be on Intel on Mac's latest operating system, OSX? In 2002 Apple's Advanced Computing Group announced the availability of Apple/Genentech BLAST - AG BLAST (press release here) - which promised speed increases of "Up To Five Times Faster Than 2-GHz Pentium 4-based Systems." This was gained by Apple's secret computational

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Our Comparative History

By | July 22, 2005

I had the opportunity while on vacation to get waist deep in Mutants by Armand Marie Leroi, a compelling celebration of modern human genetics through the scope of mythology, folklore, and biomedical history. Leroi cites a particularly prophetic quote from Francis Bacon: Once a nature has been observed in its variations, and the reason for it has been made clear, it will be an easy matter to bring that nature by art to the point it reached by chance. The statement supports life-science investi

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The 'miracle' of the ivory-billed woodpecker

By | July 22, 2005

By now, you have no doubt heard that three biologists are putting into serious question the reappearance of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the southern US. See the Girl Scientist?s blog for some interesting commentary and a lengthy interview with Tim Gallagher, one of the authors of the original Science report on the find. The New York Times covered the skeptical scientists yesterday (July 21). But one thing yesterday?s story neglected to mention was the Times? own awestruck editorial, on Apr

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