James and the Giant Corn Rotating Header Image

January 31st, 2008:

Arriving at Berkeley

I’ve arrived at the Berkeley City Club , and pretty soon will be going over to a lecture on campus before dinner. Meet another student from Cornell, and she’ll be putting pictures up on facebook, so I should have some visual aids after the fact. So far San Fransisco looks grey and foggy, but hopefully that will improve over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to interviews tomorrow, one of the advantages of Berkeley is that the department is big enough there are lots of different people doing research I’m interested in. 


The afternoon talk we went to (quickly):


Enriched amounts of C14 from nuclear testing in the 1950s provide a way of determining how long it takes carbon to cycle through into different parts of the ocean. Obviously it takes a carbon a really long time to reach some deep sea carbon cycles, since atmospheric carbon for the 50s hasn’t made it there yet. 


They found a six gene operon which is sufficient to allow otherwise heterotrophic bacteria to make ATP (energy) from sunlight, using a protein called rhodopsin which is also the light sensing protein used in the rods and cones of our eyes. You can splice this single operon into something like E. Coli which doesn’t get any energy directly from light, and suddenly that bacteria is capable of photosynthesis. The speaker has also found evidence that this operon has been taken up, as a unit into new, previously non-photosynthetic species in the wild. That was definitely the most exciting part of the talk for me


All in all, definitely worth getting soaking wet for. (I forgot to pack an umbrella when I as leaving at 4 am this morning.) Hopefully tomorrow is less rainy.

A Grim Beginning

A least my bad lucks are overlapping rather than combining additively or multiplicatively. 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave my apartment (at 4 AM) I thought to check my camera which I had thought was suffering from uncharged batteries and for which I had bought a new charger so I could photograph this visit. Unfortunately it appears the problem was more severe than a dead battery, and so I shall have no pictures of Berkeley, and when I get home I’ll have to figure out if the issue is repairable or if I need a new camera. The end result of this was that I was late arriving at the airport for my 6 am flight. They’re recommending two hours even for domestic flights now. But of course no one came out to man the ticket desk until 5 am, so I ended up spending extra time at home instead of waiting in an empty airport. Anyway, next post should be from sunny california. But you’ll have to rely on my descriptive prose instead of photos. -James