Closing Bell

Most Recent

In Memory of Eponyms

By | July 5, 2004

When I was learning biology many years ago, structures and disorders named for their discoverers not only eased memorization, but added an historical dimension that I sorely miss. Turner's syndrome, for example, conjured up an immediate image of the good Dr. Henry Turner. At a medical conference in 1938, he described seven young women in his endocrinology practice with the same strange set of symptoms: folds of skin on the back of the neck, malformed elbows, and lack of secondary sexual characte


Getting Hip, Getting Tested

By | June 21, 2004

I must admit I was jealous that Craig Venter donated his own DNA to Celera's sequencing project; his sense of self has reached the molecular level. So, I was thrilled recently to see direct-to-consumer genetic testing on the Internet.Don't misunderstand; I'm not advocating that we should get an APOE test [for Alzheimer disease] at the mall in between buying shoes and downing a Frappucino. There's serious genetic testing, for metabolic syndromes, and familial breast cancer, for example. And then


Lab Vultures

By | June 7, 2004

One day my adviser asked me to accompany him to an unoccupied lab whose former occupant had retired. It was like entering a well-appointed haunted house: glassware on the shelves, awaiting use; chemicals in the hood, fuming; gel boxes idling on the bench. It was a lab, but its eeriness was unsettling; it felt somehow wrong to be there without the owner. I was snapped out of my thoughts by my adviser, who turned suddenly and asked, "What do you think of this centrifuge?" Now I understood why we h


Drs. Atkins and Agatston, You Were So Right

By | May 24, 2004

On January 20, I joined the ranks of those who've sacrificed themselves for science: I started one of those "low-carb" diets. So far, the sacrifice has been worth it.I'd always resisted celebrity-sponsored diets, smugly thinking my background in genetics and biochemistry made me more of an authority on matters nutritional than the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Ferguson. I've even taught the subject.But this low-carb diet is different. It prescribes "good carbs and good fats" while blacking


A Way of Life (Almost) Going Up in Smoke

By | May 10, 2004

When James Joyce, the great Irish novelist and self-proclaimed artist of life, settled in Zurich in 1915 to escape the War, he little imagined that almost 90 years later people would flock to a pub there bearing his name, to smoke. Joyce wrote most of Ulysses in Zurich and became quite fond of the city, precisely because it seemed the polar opposite, in attitude, of his native Dublin. It was spotlessly clean and homogeneously handsome without any notable landmark or character. Joyce described th


Rituals and Deities in the Lab

By | April 26, 2004

As a young postdoc, I accidentally stumbled upon the secret to getting my protein preps to work; unfortunately, my solution is unpublishable. It's an unnamed, hand-sized, stuffed purple dragon with a fuzzy mane and shiny wings. I got it at a museum gift shop on a particularly bad protein-prep day. Something, I have no clue what, told me to buy it. When I returned to the lab, magic started happening. I had thought all my protein had precipitated, but it was back in solution. My column, which I ha


Hate Grant Writing? Stand Up and Be Counted

By | April 12, 2004

Recently, I cofounded a small business, and my partner and I decided that we needed capital. Since neither of us had the desire or skills to write the mandatory business plan, we hired Howie, a new MBA and my son's friend, to do it for us. We gave Howie some background information and made some guesses about what things would cost and what we would earn. After getting additional background material, Howie devised a business plan that my potential investors say is just fine.Howie could not have d


Long Live the Dodo!

By | March 29, 2004

I have never thought stuffed birds make good museum exhibits. A stuffed bird looks exactly that – stuffed. Compared to mammals or arthropods, birds lack physical diversity; their behavior and song are far more interesting, but neither survives the stuffing process. Which is why, on childhood trips to London's Natural History Museum, I'd always hurry through the bird gallery to get to the insects beyond (dead insects are nearly as good as live ones). However, one particular avian exhibit wo


The Impossible Dream of Eliminating the Nobel Prize

By | March 15, 2004

Given the reverence that the Nobel science prizes command, there's but a scant chance that the century-old awards will be deservedly terminated for what they've become: anachronisms that caricature the workings of modern research and sow acrimony among scientists.The turbo-hyped Nobels annually bring luster to Sweden, where the king hands out $1 million prizes in a ceremonial setting that draws prime-time attention worldwide. As one of the biggest, oldest, and most mystique-bound awards, the pri


Your Robot is Ready!

By | March 1, 2004

As your sales rep for US Lab Robotics Inc., here's an update about our most recent models. We've come a long way since UK researchers built the first science robot. In hindsight, that first model was rather primitive. To quote its designers, it "automatically originates hypotheses to explain observations, devises experiments to test these hypotheses, physically runs the experiments using a laboratory robot, interprets the results to falsify hypotheses inconsistent with the data, and then repeats


Popular Now

  1. Thousands of Mutations Accumulate in the Human Brain Over a Lifetime
  2. Two Dozen House Republicans Do an About-Face on Tuition Tax
  3. 2017 Top 10 Innovations
    Features 2017 Top 10 Innovations

    From single-cell analysis to whole-genome sequencing, this year’s best new products shine on many levels.

  4. The Biggest DNA Origami Structures Yet
    Daily News The Biggest DNA Origami Structures Yet

    Three new strategies for using DNA to generate large, self-assembling shapes create everything from a nanoscale teddy bear to a nanoscale Mona Lisa.