Chris's bookshelf: read

Sandman SlimCodexThe Night CircusMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenThe Dragon's ToothGraveminder

More of Chris's books »
Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Words fail me...

Came across this amazing graffiti animation over at Make blog (originally from

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo

On another note, its been hellishly busy around here lately.  Hopefully my next post won't take me so long...but no promises.


What do you think when I say "scientist"?

I was crawling through one of my favorite sites at the moment, io9, and came across a recent story about a man recently cleared of a number of charges stemming from his possession of bacterial cultures in his home. Where did this "mad science" stigma come from, I wonder? Has the hollywood portrayal of the evil genius cooking up destruction in his private liar/lab become so ingrained into the public's mind? I'm a scientist. When someone asks me what I do I'm proud to tell them that I'm a microbiologist. But I have, on occasion, wondered what what impression that makes on the person I'm meeting. Do they imagine that I'm concocting potions with wild abandon? Running around my lab with wild hair in my stained lab coat, muttering to myself?

I'll admit to the bit about the hair and lab coat, even to muttering on occasion. But for the record, I suck at potions.


The last place you need a BSOD...

An interesting video was recently published by Science. One part in particular caught my attention, however. One of the scientists mentions how the central dogma of science (DNA -> RNA -> protein) is becoming more complex by virtue of the fact that we are now discovering that the information is not as one-way as we thought. This got me to thinking (which can be dangerous): is the nucleus (or nucleoid, for us microbiologists) an evolutionary version of a hard drive? It would appear that the chromosome is not read-only, but rather read/write. Understanding the "write" functions better may even be the key to combating some of the nasty gene-oriented diseases such as cancer. Cancer cells are essentially cells that have lost the ability to control its replication. Maybe by sending the right command to the cell we could force the cell to perform a "soft reset" before it gets out of control.

I realize that controlling cancer is much, much more complicated than sending a simple command, I'm just wondering if this could be the next big biotech strategy...

(I think I may have just stumbled onto the subject of a future story project, as if I didn't already have enough on my plate already)


The beauty of science...

The past year, one of my ongoing research projects has involved crystalizing a protein of interest to the lab in which I work. One of the unexpected bonuses (aside from screening a never-ending procession identical looking drops of liquid while hunched over a microscope, of course) is occasionally stumbling across beautiful, if unintentional, crystals. The following image is a layer of lithium sulfate crystals resulting from allowing one of the drops a was working with evaporate:


This, to me, is proof that science does not have to be cold and calculating...even the unexpected can be beautiful.


Cities of light...

Seeing this makes me wonder if giants feel the same way when they look back at their trail of foot-prints across the land. I agree with the narrator that the city-prints each contain their own form of beauty, but consider the cost in energy represented by each one. I'm no activist, by any means, but the majority of these lights are ultimately powered by a finite supply of fossil fuels:

Image from ISS, NASA