We're a little crazy, about science!

Thoughts from the Lab

Great expectations

What did you want to be when you grew up? Sometimes the question ends in hilarity, a dinosaur, a unicorn, or maybe some other type of animal. Sometimes it leads to dreams of a sci-fi future, deep space traveller, Mars colonist, maybe a superhero. Whatever the answer is, they all have something in common. No one dreams of being average, but the average exists because so many people fall into it. Most of us have our dreams die as the reality of our existence becomes clear. I say fuck that, dream big until your last breath, why not?

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Full speed ahead

Neither rain, nor sleat, nor pandemic, nor freezing to death stop us from moving forward. I think that’s how the PhD motto goes anyway. Since the past week we’ve been struggling to simply live, we’ve had the whole city sort of on pause. That pause has come to an end, there is no recovery period here, it’s straight back to work. That’s a feature of capitalism, not a bug and it isn’t limited to getting a PhD, but we’re definitely included in the back to work group.

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On the stories we tell

It’s been a busy week, there was so much to do that I was worried it wasn’t going to all get done, but here we are! Things got done, mental health was prioritized, and I figure it’s a good time to talk about words. Or rather the stories they form, it’s a complex topic and this is really more for me than anything, a friendly reminder that I really enjoy writing. After all, while this blog is meant to help others, it’s also a message in a bottle to my future self, a reminder that I was really here and actually did the work. An ever growing time capsule of my thoughts if you will.

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The road to a PhD program

In hindsight this post should’ve happened a long time ago, like year one and day one of my 365 days of academia project. Things have… evolved in ways I didn’t understand when I started this, originally the project was simply going to be a notebook for my classes, then it turned into my journey as a whole, and even what I do in my spare time. Like anything we create it took on a life of its own and I’m reminded I should touch on the process to getting accepted into a PhD program.

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Scientific figure design

Well I’ve done it… sort of. I edited the grant for the semi-last time. Now we’ve got a working copy that reads the way we want it to read, so it’s off to the scientific writer to read over it and make sure it sounds good. You would think that means my work is done, but no. I need to do arguably the hardest part and create some of the figures we will use in the paper. Writing well takes practice, but making a good figure, well that’s art.

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Not cool Robert Frost!

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” starts Frost in a poem that most people are at least familiar with, but typically is misnamed. The poem is typically identified as, “The Road Less Traveled”. This makes sense because the poem talks about the thought process behind why he chose the road less traveled and that it was worth it. That’s not the name of the poem though.

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New year, new grant

It’s all connected somehow… I just know it.

Nope, still on vacation… I tell myself as I make arrangements to meet with my Co-PI. This is important though and unlike some of the other projects it has a firm deadline. That’s right, I’m writing a grant. No this isn’t an update to the last one I wrote, this is a whole new one. How did I end up in this position? Who knows, but I’ve been trying to figure it out since it happened. Let’s discuss, shall we?

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A look forward

It’s a new year, a new chapter, and it’s time to set some new goals. What kinds of craziness will I accomplish this year? Well I have a few ideas. No pressure or anything, I don’t want to force myself to fit things into the year just because I planned for it. Instead I like to set goals so I can check things off a list (I do love my lists). So even if that list rolls into the next year, it’s not the end of the world. Just a helpful hint for those of us who are chronically anxious!

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A year in review

So long 2020, while the calendar is a human construct, I hope that the significance means something for mankind as a whole. Who knows maybe we will finally take the pandemic seriously, or global warming, maybe even gun violence. Yeah, I don’t think so either, but one can hope. In lieu of stating my hopes for humanity, let’s just take a quick look back at the year I’ve had and what this new year holds. This is my year in review.

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The perils of publishing

So you want to publish some science. I don’t blame you, as a scientist we’re driven by the “publish or perish” mindset. The further along you get the more you’re stuck having weird nightmares about h-index and impact factor. Or maybe that’s just me, who knows? In any case, any publication is a labor of love, one that typically turns into a labor of spite. Because publishing isn’t easy, or maybe that’s just me.

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And finally something good…

I don’t know why my mind went with hidden treasure, but that’s what we’re going with today.

It was bound to happen eventually, some good news for today! I had a meeting with my Co-PI and we went over the latest findings in the dataset I’m processing for my “super secret” technique and I have to say it went much better than was expected! He’s excited, I’m excited, we’re excited. The issue is we don’t know what any of it means, but I think that’s why it’s so exciting!!!!

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The power of indifference an open letter to the scientific community

indifference

Suddenly your absent-minded thoughts are shattered by a loud noise. Quickly you look around, to the left of you, you see it, and a child has been shot, you see them bleeding heavily. People are standing around with their phones, some calling emergency services, some filming, but most looking confused and scared. No one is actively trying to help; you hear that they are afraid that the person, or persons, who shot the child is still around. What do you do next, do you choose indifference, or do you help?

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Trumped: Why the election is a symptom of a bigger problem

Donald trump hands

Donald trump hands

Right now you are probably thinking that I am going to unleash some poorly thought out diatribe about president elect Trump. No, that is not going to happen. It is not going to happen because he is not the problem, you are the problem, I am the problem, and we are the problem. That goes for those of you who are atheists, Catholics, Muslims, conservatives and liberals, or anything in-between.

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Mental illness, that’s a funny term isn’t it?

It's dangerous out there, take this.

It's dangerous out there, take this.

If you suffer from depression, PTSD, or anything else please visit: Take this

In today’s lexicon, the term mental illness is used pretty widely. It can be used to describe someone suffering from depression, to PTSD, to even someone suicidal. In fact, today it is sort of a catch all term for anyone who is involved in a mass shooting here in the US. We are getting off point however, why are we (myself included) labeled as mentally ill? You don’t call an amputee someone suffering from body illness, nor would you call someone with cancer “cellularly ill”.

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Matrix Unloaded: How you can fly a plane using expert-pilot brainwave patterns

download knowledge

download knowledge

“I know kung fu,” movie buffs might remember the remember the quote from “The Matrix.” We can all probably agree that being able to download knowledge “on tap” would be a boon to humanity. It is a shame it is just a movie… right? While that may be the case, it is just for now. That is because researchers have discovered that low-current electrical brain stimulation can modulate the learning of complex real-world skills.

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Technology and human biology: The singularity may not be so singular

future of humanity

future of humanity

Life literally inside the world wide web, it’s an interesting idea. One that has tantalized sci-fi fans since before the framework for the internet was even finished. While the idea of a seemingly eternal disembodied life through the unfiltered and raw computer consciousness that we all share a connection with, maybe we are shooting for a goal that isn’t really possible — maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

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Our pale blue dot in the wake of destruction

The pale blue dot we call home

The pale blue dot we call home

This is our home, that pale blue dot, dwarfed by an arrow that takes up less space on your screen than this sentence. For all our “overwhelming” intelligence, if we flexed our mental might and developed a weapon to destroy this pale blue dot, it would almost certainly go unnoticed in the universe.

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Scientists create worlds first genetically modified human embryos

CRISPR-Cas9

A funny thing happened on the way to the publisher. In a world first, China has successfully created genetically modified human embryos. It was certainly an amazing piece of science, but the paper was rejected by both Nature and Science. Not because the study was flawed, or because the data was falsified, the paper was rejected for ethical reasons.

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Who’s Leonard Nimoy?

Star trek

“I’m having a crappy day and to top it off Leonard Nimoy died today.” I told my wife as I was getting into our car after a particularly challenging day. No, I was not a huge trekkie growing up, but I did have a lot of respect for Leonard Nimoy and for Spock, the character that seemingly only he could bring to life. Truthfully, Spock and I had a lot in common, we were both mixed and neither one of us had an easier time for it. I typically don’t share my personal story here at the Labs, but I thought I would make an acception.

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Alternatives to antibiotics in an antibiotic resistant world

antibiotic resistance

super bugs

Let’s be honest, we’ve been getting a little fancy with the antibiotics, creating new and more relevant versions of old favorites like penicillin. Truthfully, we are the problem, how many times do we have to drive home the idea that antibiotics are for bacteria, not viruses. It is not all the consumers fault, the Doctors used to hand out antibiotics to placate angry parents of sick children.

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Hyper sleep- A “down to earth” space story

hyper sleep

It was every kids’ dream to go into space, not understanding the perils or the boredom that comes with it. The idea of floating weightless and “boldly going where no man has gone before” permeated the imagination as nothing had ever done before. Space, why did there have to be so much of it?

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The Love Song of Philo T. Farnsworth

Philo Farnsworth, if the name sounds vaguely familiar than you might just be a Futurama watcher. If you don’t watch and know who I’m talking about or even better are a fan then, “YAY!” and for those of you who don’t know, don’t sweat it you’re not alone. One of the forgotten greats, Farnsworth should be a household name, namely because one of his biggest inventions is in practically every home.

Did you guess it yet? If you said Television, then you are correct!! [If you didn’t, but wish you had, then good enough!] Philo Farnsworth wasn’t necessarily a genius, he didn’t escape the holocaust like Einstein, nor did he make millions from his inventions like you might expect. In fact, Farnsworth lead– by all accounts — a fairly unassuming life. Interesting when find out that not only did he invent the modern television, but he did it at the ripe old age of 14 years old. No, not 41 that wasn’t a mistype, he was 14 years old.

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In Science We Trust

in science we trust

Sure, I could do a poll right now, how many of you are science fans? I figure if you are reading my blog then the answer is most [if not all] of you are. Unfortunately, that result isn’t the norm. Whether you blame it on lack of education, or just simply because it is “cool” to be ignorant; science is most definitely not as mainstream as it could be.

Why do more people know about the latest celebrity gossip, than the latest scientific advancements is beyond me. Sometimes it feels like pseudoscience has more of a following than actual science. Frustrating when I see my insurance covers things like acupuncture –which does not work– but not root canals — which do, in fact, serve a purpose.

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Land of the Free, Home of the Afraid?

smartphone science

Let’s take a Loony quiz! Do you believe any of these statements are true? Global warming isn’t real. GMO food is the devil. Organic and all natural are better. Science is just a belief like religion. Evolution is just a theory, so other theories should be taught along side. Vaccines do — or can– cause serious health concerns. If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from a lack of scientific understanding, but don’t worry you’re not alone.

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Is that Good Science? A Guide to Cutting through BS

WeirdScience

Part of getting an education isn’t about learning what to think, it is about learning how to find good information. When it comes to scientific literature [especially on-line], it’s hard to separate the good from the bad if you don’t know what to look for. With the emergence of pseudoscience in the mainstream I think it’s important to go over a few red flags when it comes to claims being made.

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5 Reasons Why Science is Losing the War

Science is losing an unseen war and like any war it isn’t without its casualties. The true body count won’t be evident, not at first. This isn’t a war over land, or freedoms, it is a war on ignorance, a fight for the future. Science has brought us a level of comfort and connectivity we have never really seen. Unfortunately that connectivity is being used against us, allowing people with dubious motives to shout from the rooftops bold faced lies and a call for people to follow.

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Gender Bias: 178 girls still missing for going to school

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Roughly two weeks ago [April 16th] about 240 girls were abducted from a school in north-eastern Nigeria. From reports the scene played out like something from a B list movie, six flatbed trucks roll up to a school, armed men storm the building, and just like that, they were taken. Unfortunately Liam Neeson won’t be saving the day.

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What do those words really mean?

organic_produce

Certified by whom?

Organic, all natural, chemical free, theory, toxins, all words that get tossed around a whole lot for sure, especially in advertising. But do you really know what these words actually mean? More importantly is that source giving you a definition a reliable one– probably not.

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Dear Science, I’m so sorry…

child-scientists

Dear America,

It’s a sad fact that being intelligent is now the “uncool” thing to do. Wanting to participate in learning and actually knowing how the world works can mean being bullied or worse. The backlash of this movement [I assumed] would be felt strongly starting with my generation [as an 80’s child]. I was unfortunately incorrect with this assumption, maybe it started a lot earlier. (more…)