Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Boing Boing explains Horizontal gene transfer.... not.

Boing Boing: Horizontal gene transfer explains evolutionary jumps

Paul says:

Rice University study models "Horizontal Gene Transfer," a mechanism for evolution where big chunks of DNA migrate between different species via bacteria. This results in faster and more sudden evolutionary branching than what you get with the more familiar mechanisms of sexual selection or random single-point mutations caused by radiation, copying errors, etc.

Now I feel better about eating those tomatoes with the fish genes in them! (Flavr Savr)

My take:
I'm not sure who Paul is, but he gets Horizontal Gene Transfer totally wrong. Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) (sometimes "Lateral Gene Transfer") is predominantly an event that occurs between two prokaryotic (read: bacteria) cells. Although there is evidence for some unicellular eukaryotic HGT, multicellular HGT has yet to be observed. Bottom line, Horizontal Gene Transfer does "speed up" evolution (and at the same time, totally complicates the analysis of bacterial genomes), and it does explain some evolutionary "jumps," but it doesn't explain all of them, and certainly not ones in multicellular eukaryotes.

Also, FlavrSavr tomatoes did not have fish genes in them. In fact, no tomato that has ever reached the market has had fish genes in them. The Flavr Savr tomato contained an antisense gene for polygalacturonase. That is, it shut down the gene expression of polygalacturonase. Polygalacturonase is a pectinase which breaks down pectin. When pectin is broken down, the cell walls get mushier and the fruit gets softer. That is, it's part of the ripening process.

Furthermore, Flavr Savr tomatoes are no longer for sale in the United States and their trademark has expired.


More disturbing 80s videos.

Here's one from Fuzzbox. Check out the scary Barbarella dominatrix outfits and the marionette homage to the Thunderbirds.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Google TV Beta Hoax

Ok, so for a couple seconds I did actually think the GoogleTV Beta howto by Mark Erickson* of InfiniteSolutions might actually be real, but it did just turn out to be a clever scam.

Here's the youtube clip where "he's concerned about the allegations that this is some type of hoax":

Here's an older Infinite Solutions howto tip where you wrap cat5 ethernet cable around your cellphone to boost WiFi networking capabilities:

Very funny stuff indeed. And I must say that him and his friends at Fatal Farm, Jeffrey Max etc. are very good at video editing, that's for sure. Although, they do have a very off-kilter sense of humor.

* And, no, it's not this Mark Erickson, who actually has some pretty cool paintings.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Sicilian Expedition v. Iraq War

Matthew Yglesias laments in a thread that not enough people see that the Iraq war had parallels to the Greek invasion of Sicily. I don't really know enough about the Sicilian Expedition to comment, but I thought I point out the possible connection.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AirTran Kicks Girl Off Plane After Tantrum

These parents are idiots if you ask me. First of all, flying with young kids is a bad idea to begin with and if your seats are separated, it doesn't make much sense to put the kid in the seat by herself.. The dad should've been sitting in that one.

Kudos to the airline.
BREITBART.COM - Girl Kicked Off Plane After Tantrum

Sunday, January 21, 2007

2007 NFL Conference Championship predictions

New Orleans
at Chicago +3-120
43 ov-110

New Orleans over Da Bears
, 31-27

New England
at Indianapolis +3+105
47.5 ov-110

Colts over the Pats, 24-17

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tokyo Nightscape in HDR

Tokyo Nightscape
Originally uploaded by /\ltus.
Here's an awesome high dynamic range rendered photo of Tokyo at night. This might be the best nighttime HDR photos I've seen.

Here's a bigger version.

And the original version (6 Mpixels).


Fun with salt and sound

We need more experiments like this to get kids interested in physics.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Some other amazing Google Earth extensions

My love for Google Earth is no secret. Here are two new items.

First cool Google Earth item:

fboweb.com, a fixed base operator website, has a nice kml file which lets you track individual flights or all inbound traffic for certain United States airports, e.g. LAX, JFK, SFO. Pretty wild stuff. I'm not sure what you'd really use it for though. (My first thought involved stinger missiles... {Also, on that tip, check out this.}) I guess you could use it to plan to fly over some specific landmarks for nice "through the window" shots.

Second cool Google Earth item:

Moving Past Push Pins, a blog by a company making software for Google Earth and other Geo-related applications, has a great post about mashing up data in the form of heat maps:

Below is a screen shot from Google Earth of 600 bars (rated between 1 and 10) in NYC and the location of single women by census block.


Essentially they demonstrate its use to find bars filled with single women.

It's not yet live, but when this stuff is available as KML links and you can mashup your myspace.com data to find heat maps of all the single or swinging bisexual women in your city of choice, well, to borrow a line from Dennis Miller: "that's gonna make crack look like Sanka." (btw, does anybody drink Sanka anymore?)


Sunday, January 14, 2007

NFL Divisional Round Playoff Predictions continued

My predictions yesterday were 3 for 4 in terms of spread an O/U, you know, what counts. Let's see how I do today.

1:00 pm Seattle at Chicago -9.5
O/U 37

Chicago wins by 3 on a last minute FG by Robbie Gould, 17-16, Da Bears!

4:30 pm New England at San Diego -4.5
O/U 46

LT scores 2 TDs and a two point conversion. San Diego lights up the Pats, 31-21.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

NFL Playoff Predictions

4:30 pm Indianapolis at Baltimore -4
O/U 42

Ravens intercept Manning at least twice and Baltimore gets to fly to San Diego next week, 24-17.

8:00 pm Philadelphia at New Orleans -5.5
O/U 48.5

This is a tough one. I'd like Philly to win, but I think the Saints will win in a nailbiting shootout, 34-31.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Recreating photos in Google Earth

Others have done this before* , but with the new Google Earth 4 now out of beta, I thought i'd mention it.

Here's a photo I took in Tokyo near the moat around the East Imperial Gardens.

And here's a recreation using Google Earth to find almost the same vantage point and angle of viewing with 3D building added:

If somebody could add the textures to those buildings, it would be very very close, all that would be needed after that would some vegatation layer. How long before Google adds that?

Here's the kmz file if you'd like to see it for yourself.

* pressure under fire?


Thursday, January 11, 2007


Keeping up with all things nano, here's a nice little exploration of nano-philosophy. The pdf is only two pages and contains gems like:

- What is the sound of two hands clapping?
- Is there something rather than nothing?
- Is the universe made up wholly of Leibniz’s gonads?
- Is this the best of all actual worlds?
- Which came first, the chicken or the omelette?

Comet McNaught and how to find it this evening

The brightest comet in the past 31 years, Comet McNaught, is visible this evening and next (and I'm not sure for how long in total). Here's how to find it, if you're in the Northern Hemisphere. (Don't worry if you're in the Antipodes, it'll be down there soon.)


The Perfect Gift For Any Dallas Cowboys Fan

Check out this Tony Romo action figure on ebay. Available while supplies last! Hats off to the designer of that, but I'd hardly spend $210 on it.