Entries from blogs tagged with “Technology”

A Second Life Field Trip and Protein Music

Yesterday I took some of my students to Second Life to visit a wonderful genetics site called Genome island. Second Life is an on line world where users can build pretty much what ever they want. Second Life has begun to attract interest from educators and Genome Island is a good example of its strengths and the weaknesses as an educational tool. are some of my students in first life and in Second Life.A full article about my field trip with pictures is on my general blog.Our Genome Island host, Dr. M. A. Clark, from Texas Wesleyan University has worked on an interesting fusion between music and biology- taking proteins and translating them into musical forms by assigning a different tone to each kind of amino acid in the protein. She claims that hearing protein structure rather than seeing it reveals patterns and themes not apparent visually.You can hear the results at: Learn more about Dr. Clark and her collaborator John Dunn inthis article in Leonardo On Line produced at MIT.Second Life and other sorts of virtual universes have been in the news a lot lately. Have you been in Second Life or other virtual universe? If so what has been your experience? Of course, comment about Dr. Clark's protein music as well.If you use Second Life, visit Genome Island here. This link will only take you there of course, if you have Second Life installed on your computer.


Dangerous to plants

bryophyllum2I get periodic alerts from our local garden store when new succulents arrive and among the recent arrivals was this really cool little plant. The label said Kalanchoe and I almost passed the plant by because I don't have good luck with this genus. I like growing plants but it just seems that some common things just elude me even though people with cast iron thumbs instead of green thumbs can get them to grow in groves. Aloe vera is another such plant.Either I forget to neglect them or the cat knocks the pot over or a sudden tornado flings the pot against the house and the plant gets sucked into a vortex and deposited in Missouri somewhere..stuff like that. Why just yesterday I lost a Cyclamen to our dumb as a post Siamese cat, Carl who decided to knock the pot on the floor, a cyclamen that belongs to my wife's boss and was loaned to me to nurse back to health. It was doing great too. Maybe I can salvage it.Oh back to my new plant. A little search on the web on my cell phone while at the garden store suggested that this plant belongs to a section within the genus Kalanchoe called Bryophyllum from Madagascar that includes one of those nifty plants called mother of thousands that grows new plants asexually along the leaf margins. My plant based on matching pictures-I know dangerous to do this- appears to be K. Bryophyllum porphyrocalyx.According to this site this plant grows about 35cm tall and is a common ornamental and hanging plant. Still I think a handsome looking plant compared to those garish Kalanchoes one sees so often in the stores. Besides even common plants hold surprises if you know where to look or just happen to stumble upon them.Tonight I decided to take a few more quick macros of the plant which is now producing pollen. Take a look at this funky green pollen. I don't think I have seen guacamole colored pollen before, but here it is.bryophyllumEnjoy! By the way fess up. What common plants can't YOU grow?


Shuttle Night Launch

Watching a Shuttle launch at night is an incredible experience. Below are three amateur videos of last night's launch, shot from across the water near Titusville and Cape Canaveral, each are about 10 miles from the launch pad. You can hear one group listen to a radio broadcast of the launch and feel the excitement as the count reaches zero.The rockets are so bright that they illuminate the low hanging clouds. The shuttle disappears into the low clouds pretty soon after launch, so the spectacle is briefer than usual, but also more stunning. After the video goes dark, you can hear the sound from the launch finally reach the camera. Even though it is 10 miles away, you can hear the crackling sound of the rockets.I hope they give you a taste of the wonder and awe of a Space Shuttle launch:
Here is another youtube video. Note the glowing clouds as the shuttle rises through them.
And one more, this is the best quality video and audio of the 3:


So Much to See #11 (3/9/2008)

Previous:SMTS #10
Next:SMTS #12

Where is it? What is it? I'll let you know if you're the first person who correctly identifies the subject of the picture from the small part shown below . Each day I'll add an image that shows more of the entire scene.

It is Clinton park, by Pinckney Elementary. punkrockmom nailed it on the 2nd comment. I knew it was to easy! Here is the full picture, Click on it for a larger image:


“Optic Nerve” - Blogisode #1

The hand that came toward my face smelled like lemons. Maybe it had just squeezed some flavor into a bitter glass of iced tea, or recently lathered a dish with scented soap. I never got to find out. That fancy blade sliced right into my eyeball and took off a piece of my cornea like a soft grape.Then it all faded into a pit of darkness.I was blind.I must have said something to that effect because the voice of God came in and set me straight. "Don't worry. You're not blind," God said. His voice wasn't very deep and it didn't reverberate off the walls like the people who make movies would like you to believe. It was warm and sucked me in like a soft mud bath.And God was right. Within seconds, the world came back to me. Only it wasn't exactly how I'd left it. The hands in front of my face were nothing but a pixilated mess of fleshy blocks. There was no one to blame but myself. Hadn't I watched enough Twilight Zones to know how this would turn out? I could practically read the caption on the box- "Girl too vain to wear glasses must spend rest of life with video game eyes:""It's not right," I said, hoping God would come to my rescue again.And he did. "That's just how it looks without the cornea to bring it all into focus," He said. This all-knowing reassurance put me at ease. Or maybe it was the Valium the nurse had given me... Either way. I actually started to enjoy myself. It was like seeing the world through a gigantic kaleidoscope. I felt so relaxed I even loosened my grip on that old teddy bear on my lap. Now don't go getting any funny ideas, the bear wasn't mine. This chick in the waiting room gave it me because she thought I was nervous. That might sound like a nice gesture to you, but that teddy bear just about ruined my life.You know all those big decisions you waste your time fretting over, like where to go to college or if you should take that job out-of-state? Well, forget about them. You'll be the same old shmoe in Kansas that you were in New Jersey. What you should be worrying about is whether you should stop for that bagel in the morning. Maybe you get into an accident making that left hand turn, or perhaps run right into that ex-lover from back east. Yeah, it's the little things that'll kill you. In my case, it was a teddy bear. And nothing gets more innocent than that.To Be Continued...


Amazing Sidewalk Art

Julian Beever does chalk drawings on sidewalks. When you follow the link at the bottom, remember that the drawings are made on flat sidewalks with colored chalk. They must be seen from a specific point, preferably through a camera lens, for the illusion to appear. They are amazing.Let me repeat:They are amazing.Julian Beever's official siteNote that a couple of the pictures show the drawings from the "wrong" perspective to show how it is done.Here is one of my favorites:


And the Beat Goes On… Clinton & Obama Closer than Ever

I've only been a registered Democrat for a few weeks now and I already have a few complaints: First off, what exactly is the point of these superdelegates? I mean, really, why should unelected officials get a separate vote just due to their prominence in the party? Secondly, I have to believe there could have been some way to avoid the debacles in Florida and Michigan. And, finally, (perhaps most importantly), why couldn't they let Stephen Colbert on the ballot?With Senator Clinton's wins last night, one one thing is certain- this thing is going to get ugly. This kind of negative campaigning, particularly in big states like Pennsylvania, can only serve to help John McCain. But having said that, I don't blame Hillary for hanging in there. I probably would, too, with things so close. And who's to say the other states shouldn't get the opportunity to weigh in for the candidate of their choice? Still, I may have to get myself motivated to go volunteer in Pennsylvania for a few days for Obama if nothing changes:Either way, this election has been an exciting one and the first one I've cared about in a long time. And, hey, I still have my old stand-by, Ralph Nader, to vote for if I end up jumping of the Democratic ship.


Rethinking Autism

Via the New York Times Health Blog, "Well" comes this fascinating video put together by an amazing woman with autism. First, watch this haunting and wonderful video. Next read about autism in this article in Wired Magazine.


The Encyclopedia of Life

When you think World Web Web and encyclopedia you probably think Wikipedia but there is a new entry that is worth watching, the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) I had tried to visit this site last week but there were too many hits so this is my first look at the site.The vision of the EOL according to its website is to
-Create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike.
-Transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating virtually all known data about every living species.
-Engage a wide audience of schoolchildren, educators, citizen scientists, academics and those who are just curious about Earth's species.
-Increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity. Each species will have its own home page curated by a specialist in a particular group of organisms. Right now most species pages are blank, but there are some exemplar pages to show what fleshed out species pages are like. Presumably having each species or group of species be curated by a specialist will enable the EOL to avoid some of the quality control issues that plague Wikipedia. The idea is that the curator would bring together materials from around the web along with traditional print resources. Groups of specialists would collectively verify the quality of the material.The Encyclopedia has its origin in a 2003 essay by Harvard Biologist E. O. Wilson. This essay is republished here.For instance this image is a screen capture from the exemplar page for the American Burying Beetle. This beetle was once very abundant but is now endangered. Why this species has become endangered is not clear according to the Encyclopedia. page includes other images and videos. For the burying beetle, one of the videos shows the larvae feeding on a dead mammal of some sort. One interesting feature of the EOL is that the user in theory could set the level of information detail. Eventually specialists and lay people wil be able to access the level of information they desire.Another feature is a special projects link which opens a page with links to other data bases and web pages related to the species, including molecular and genetic data about the species.This is an ambitious project, one that will challenge our ability to organize vast amounts of biological information, and make it accessable to non scientists without sacrificing scientific rigor. Right now, the project is still far from completion. It will be interesting to see how this project evolves and whether or not it can find a a niche among all the other online data sources out there.


The Luther Burger just watched Paula Deen cook up a southern brunch. On the menu? Chocolate chip pancakes with cinnamon cream, garlic cheese grits and bacon cheeseburgers served on Krispy Kreme Glazed doughnuts.What?!That's right. A bacon cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut instead of a bun. Intrigued by this, I went straight to the computer and Googled this concoction. Turns out, the official name is the Luther Burger, named after R&B legend Luther Vandross. From Wikipedia: "According to urban legend, the Luther Burger was invented at Mulligan's bar in the Oakhurst, neighborhood of Decatur, Georgia, one day when the cook ran out of hamburger buns and decided to use two donuts instead. Its creator named the sandwich after R&B legend Luther Vandross, who reportedly enjoyed the sandwich; some rumors claim that Vandross himself invented his namesake burger."Has anyone tried this? I can't imagine the amount of calories and fat and goodness a bite of this burger contains. I challenge anyone to try this at home and post the results here (photos included). Here's Paula's recipe if you're interested:1 1/2 pounds ground beef 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves 2 tablespoons grated onion House Seasoning2 tablespoons butter 3 eggs 6 slices bacon, cooked 3 hamburger buns 3 English muffins 6 glazed donutsMix the ground beef, chopped parsley and grated onion together in a large mixing bowl. Season liberally, with House Seasoning. Form 3 hamburger patties. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the burgers and cook until desired temperature, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Fry bacon in a hot pan until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Set aside. While burgers are cooking, heat a non-stick pan, over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter. Crack 3 eggs into the pan. Cook until the yolks are just set and still slightly runny and remove. Place burger patties on English muffins or buns, and if desired, on glazed donuts, as the buns. Top each burger with 2 pieces of bacon and a fried egg.


So Much to See #10 (3/2/2008)

Previous:SMTS #9 1/2
Next:SMTS #11

Below is a small portion of a picture taken somewhere in the Lawrence city limits. It may be something you've never noticed before.Each day I'll post an image that shows a larger part of the full picture. I'll notify the first person who identifies the location and subject of the picture.

Image #2:

Hint #1:The picture was taken somewhere in the blue rectangle below.

View Larger MapImage #3:

Image #4:

The EleventhStephanie identified the house at 15th (actually 1501) Pennsylvania) first. Here is the entire picture:
(Click on picture to see a larger image)


Is it Over for Hillary?

Sure, we won't really know the fate of the former First Lady's presidential race until March 4th, but as of now it is not looking good. Supporters are swinging support to Barack Obama every day and Tuesday's debate in Ohio reeked of desperation. Prefacing the answer to the first question of the night with a complaint about preferential treatment (and a reference to Saturday Night Live, nonetheless) is just not the sign of someone in control. Combine this with a "shame on you" and an emphatic speech on the futility of hope and her chances of inspiring voters is just about over.For a moment there it looked like Hillary just might be paving the way for a graceful exit. Last week's debate in Texas showed a softer side of the candidate (um, New Hampshire, anyone?) that makes her much more likeable than she is when delivering corny one-liners like "change you can Xerox" or nitpicking over the words "reject" or "renounce." But for some reason, her campaign failed to capitalize on her softer side and instead focused on a lot of negativity. Perhaps the woman who will become the first female commander in chief is out there taking notes right now and won't be afraid of showing a little humanity.


So, Starbucks …'m sure you've heard about Starbuck's recent "Espresso Retraining". It was all over the news. All of the Starbucks in the country (save for the "licensed stores" in supermarkets, airports, etc.) closed down on Tuesday evening to retrain their baristas on the finer points of Starbucks academia. Now, I appreciate Lawrence's local coffee establishments and love them to death. But there's something to be said about being able to walk into any Starbucks and order a drink, getting the exact same version in Honolulu as you do in Bangor, Maine. But recently, Starbucks seems to have lost its way. And their "re-training" is supposed to focus on getting the company back to its roots: coffee.That said, I did some Googling about Starbucks. 99 percent of the results were from people hating on the corporation and praising the spirit of their local, independent coffee joints. One link caught my eye, though. "The most expensive Starbucks drink". A blogger recently set out to use his free drink coupon from Starbucks and order the most expensive coffee concoction he could come up with. The resulting $13.76 order:"A 13 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel."Here's the link to his story:, can you top him? I know my double venti drip (or "Shot in the Dark" or "Red Eye") only sets me back a couple of bucks. I could buy almost seven of these caffeine laded pleasures for the price of his one. (Requisite Starbuck hating expected in the following user comments).


So Much to See #9 1/2 (2/27/2008)

Previous:SMTS #9
Next:SMTS #10

Since this week's image was guessed on the first comment, here is an extra picture. The entire picture is below, no sequence of gradually expanding images this time.


The Oscars Lack Luster

When I was in film school, I celebrated the Oscars with beer and friends. These days it's apple juice with the kids. And I don't think it's just my life that has gotten boring. Okay, so maybe my husband and I snuck in a few glasses of wine but this didn't make Jon Stewart any funnier. I guess you could say the writer's strike was to blame for the lack of any of the usual pageantry, but those of us working in film are used to doing things last minute. Creativity can be best when you're under pressure. So, what happened?I, for one, enjoyed watching "The Daily Show" (or "A Daily Show" as it was called) and "The Colbert Report" during the writer's strike. With talented comedians like Stewart and Stephen Colbert, a little improvisation can be a good thing. In addition to the freshness of spontaneity, you are spared a few groan inducing one liners. But whether it was the lack of prep time or the pressure of such a large viewing audience, one of my favorite political humorists failed to deliver last night.On the positive side, the film I wanted to win Best Picture, "No Country for Old Men," actually got the goods and Diablo Cody seemed genuinely moved when receiving her Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (proving us female bloggers can make good!). And of course the most moving moment of all was the In Memoriam montage of those who have permanently moved on from Hollywood. With both Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman in there this year, it further separates us from the greatness of cinematic past. Sure they were old as Methuselah, but it was just nice to be alive during the same time as them. It made cinematic history feel in the present, somehow.So, perhaps just like film industry it is meant to honor, our buddy the Oscar may be losing his magic: Next year, I'm hoping for Stephen Colbert!


So Much to See #9 (2/24/2008)

Previous:SMTS #8
Next:SMTS #9 1/2

This one is easy. This week I return to the original rules. The first iamge below is a small part of a much larger picture. A larger image will be posted each day. The first person to correctly identify the place or "thing" will be notified by me. The rest will just have to wait until a picture that they can identify is posted, or the answer given.This week's first image:

So now I know what a finial is.

Image #3:

A view of Watkins Museum from the alley to the west:


Frozen Waterfall in Estonia

I saw this video of a waterfall in Estonia. High winds caused ice to cover nearby objects in a fascinating natural masterpiece.


More on the eclipse

Well no sooner did I find reasonable camera settings for getting pictures and the clouds rolled in. This shot was the best that I got... was hoping to capture the reddish tint from light being scattered and refracted around the edge of the Earth, but had not figured out how to adjust my settings to get that tint which was apparent to the unaided eye.By the way, there was a very good interview describing the appearance of lunar eclipses this afternoon on NPR. The interviewee was Kelly Beatty from Sky and Telescope and he had a very interesting image. He claimed that an observer on the moon looking back at the Earth during the eclipse would see the Earth rimmed with a brilliant orange ring which represents in a sense contributions of all the sunrises and all the sunsets happening at that time. That struck me as a wonderful image. You can hear the interview here.I assume that from the point of view of Lunarians (or would they be called Seleneans?) the eclipse would be a solar eclipse.


Total Lunar Eclipse

Sky and Telescope has a nice web site devoted to the lunar eclipse including observational projects and photography tips for those of us planning on taking pictures. tips: someone has some other photography tips..if so post them for us neophytes.And tonight take a look assuming we have clear weather. well, the song says not cloudy all day but that doesn't mean clear skies all the time and certainly not at night.My attempts at night sky photography have been pretty pathetic but if I get any reasonable shots I'll post them tomorrow. So I hope some one else is able to get some nice shots.Happy viewing!


A Flat Boy In A Round World

My three year old son could not stop talking about last night's theatrical production of "Flat Stanley" at the Lied Center until he finally fell asleep at an hour so late I'm afraid to disclose it.It wasn't the vibrant performances of the side characters or the catchy musical numbers that kept running through his mind, but the talking bulletin board that flattened Stanley like a pancake., it's a bizarre premise, but most good children's books are. Whether it's sophisticated rabbit civilizations or magic closets, the realm of the imaginary holds a natural fascination over most kids. "Flat Stanley," by Jeff Brown and Scott Nash, was the first chapter book my preschooler could stomach and helped pave the way for our current delightful foray into "The Invention of Hugo Cabaret."The play combined several books from the Flat Stanley series in order to carry Stanley around the globe (via mailbox) in the space of an hour. The plot felt a bit rushed, but for the little ones in the audience, this may have been a good thing. I was hoping for a bit more visual imagination for the whole flat gimmick, as some of the more amusing parts of the main character's physicality were either ignored or summarized to avoid coming up with ways to translate them to the stage. But that may have just been the filmmaker side of me coming out to wreak havoc on my complete enjoyment of an experience that was otherwise delightful. At the play's end, Stanley encourages the audience to draw pictures of him and send him on further adventures. The "Flat Stanley" paperback we have at home also includes a cutout that you can take pictures of on your travels and mail on to your friends to do the same. I could not help but make the connection between Stanley and the Flat Daddies that families with fathers in Iraq can have made to fill in while they are away. "Flat Stanley" may not be that bizarre of a premise, after all.


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