James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

September 20, 2008

Name That Plant

Filed under: Plants — James @ 12:46 pm

Now it’s time for another exciting edition of NAME THAT PLANT!

I ran into today’s contestant at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers Market (which is, by the way, proud to be GM free, but I was with people I knew so I refrained from trying to provoke people I didn’t know).
Name That Plant #1
Name That Plant #2
Raw, the outer flesh tastes reminiscent of green pea pods.

September 10, 2008

Another day

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 8:28 pm

… another grey hair. (Sorry, no picture)

Incidentally this is post #50. I couldn’t believe it either.

Science is going well. Started my first rotation. I alternate between listless boredom and information overload, but I think I’m at a near optimal ratio between the two.

Scientific Fact of The Day:

Mutualistic relationships between species rarely break down. What can happen is that a related species will exploit the mutual beneficial relationship developed between their relative and another species, by accepting benefits without reciprocating in the same way their relative would. The specific example we were discussing was bacteria that fix nitrogen for plants in return for being provided with nutrients and protection from the outside world.

September 9, 2008

Thank You All

Filed under: Photo Posts — Tags: , , — James @ 12:11 am

This one goes out to all of you who’ve made me tasty food.
My friends:

The girl I live with:

My girlfriend:

And my friend’s girlfriend:

Thanks also to my ex-girlfriends (food not pictured), my friend’s ex-girlfriend (food not pictured) and my girlfriend’s friend (additional pecan pie not pictured).

September 8, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 8:15 am

On the one hand I love this dialogue:
“You know what they say about [high fructose corn syrup].”
“What it’s made from corn? ::girlish giggle::”
On the other hand, this kind of heavy-handed low-info advertising reminds me a little to much of the “We Call it Life” ads that came out a while ago from the oil industry…

September 7, 2008

Point Lobos

Filed under: Photo Posts,Recreational Travel — James @ 11:11 pm

On the retreat this weekend we had a three hour break in our schedule and a bunch of us drove down to a park on the coast called point lobos. Pictures have been posted to flickr.

Forest Trail

First Retreat

Filed under: Campus Life,Recreational Travel — James @ 11:07 pm

The department gathered in Monterey (home of the apparently famous pebble beach golf course) to discuss science and meet/embarrass the new grad students.

Highlights (in no particular order):

The people who study magnetic bactera are really enthusiastic about the science they’re doing. The logic regarding how the bacteria are gaining an advantage by producing magnetic crystals seems a little hazy to me, although I’m not a microbiologist. But whatever the reason, the fact that they are is really cool.

Huge studies looking at the linkages between alleles of genes and the effects of drugs in humans. These are pure associate mapping studies, since you can’t do any controlled mating. Thousands or tens of thousands of subjects from drug studies. Convincing results that you can tie genetic data to drugs have no effect, enhanced effects or negative effects. The problem is that you can’t do anything cool about it. You can make more people take prevenative drugs. But you can’t introgress beneficial alleles into the rest of the population. Or make a transgenic line to test for complementation. This is why I work on plants.

The fields surrounding Gilroy, California produce some rediculus fraction of the total garlic crop in the US. The town features such cullinary delights as garlic flavored gum and garlic flavored ice cream as well as hosting an annual garlic festival, at which they crown the Gilroy Garlic Queen. We were told we’d be able to smell garlic just driving through on the highway and believe it or not we could.

Bonfires on the beach of the pacific ocean both nights. I haven’t seen the coast in daylight as of yet. But a good time was had by all. I was inducted into the secret society of grad students and given the sacred position of “fire bringer.” Translation: one of the graduating students handed me a box of matches and said: “ok, now it’s your responsibility to always remember to bring these.”

September 1, 2008

Obama on Science

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 8:49 am

“Advances in the genetic engineering of plants have provided enormous benefits to American farmers. I believe that we can continue to modify plants safely with new genetic methods, abetted by stringent tests for environmental and health effects and by stronger regulatory oversight guided by the best available scientific advice. ” 

– Barak Obama’s answers to 14 science and technology policy questions.

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