Yet again, I have found myself too busy to post properly. So here are some things that have come to my attention that I find interesting/hilarious/scary as hell.
1. Scientists have apparently figured out just how bad being a rocker is for you: if you score a hit record, for the next five years you will be three times more likely to die than your average prole. Usually from, well, you can imagine: suicide, drugs, accidents, drug-induced accidents, rap-induced gunshot wounds, etc.
Aw, I love it when scientists try to prove what we already know. It’s adorable. It’s even more adorable when they apparently say that their research “could be used to prevent rock’n’roll deaths,” as the Guardian reports.
Guys. Come ON. Science isn’t going to make them stop. Dying of a smack overdose in a trashed hotel room is COOL, everybody knows that. Being a complete mess is helping Amy Winehouse sell more records – and she knows it.
2. Why have your face immortalized in paint when you can have an image of your DNA glowing above your mantelpiece?
Starting at $400, Ottawa based company DNA 11 will blow up an image of your DNA, in your choice of eight different colour schemes, all with sexy names like “Bronzage,” “Firesky,” and “Positiv.” You can even get complete family portraits, with up to four people’s genetic material placed side by side. Aaaww…
Now, if you thought DNA looks like those spiral staircases the little animated DNA cowboy taught you about in Jurassic Park, and would be disappointed to see your genetic material take the form of a bunch of lame little lines, FYI: these images are of DNA agarose gels, not DNA per se. If DNA 11 could actually offer you an image of your own DNA up close, it would cost a King’s ransom, and it would look like this:
To create a DNA agarose gel, in a nutshell, some guy in a lab coat takes your DNA, cuts it up with enzymes into a bunch of different-sized little bits, sticks those little bits at the end of a sheet of high-tech Jell-O, then runs a current of electricity through it. The shorter bits will travel farther than the longer bits (‘cause they weigh less), giving you this series of lines. Everybody’s should (in theory) look different. The Wikipedia entry on this process is disappointingly inaccessible and technical for you non-bio geeks. I did however find this fun little tool from the University of Utah, which lets you do a little bit of virtual electrophoresizing – complete with neato sound effects. Whee!
3. Last week I wrote about how fast the polar ice caps could melt in the next century, which some scientists think could happen waaay faster than was previously thought. Now researchers say that the ice has melted this summer waaay faster than they had expected, and that an area the “size of Britain” has disappeared in the past week alone – the Arctic could in fact be ice free by 2030.
Apparently the Arctic has lost a third of its ice in the past 30 years, and that the rate of melting is accelerating – giving credence to the idea that “positive feedback effects” would cause the caps to melt faster and faster as the years go by. Great.
4. I’m really, really glad I have never suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome (a.k.a. ME to Limeys). Due to hormonal and neural circuitry gone haywire, a fever progresses into complete and total paralytic exhaustion, sometimes for years at a time – one of my best friends was physically crippled for four years. You can’t read books or watch movies to escape your misery – it makes you too tired (and usually your vision and hearing are messed up). Nor can you find solace in sleep – chronic, restless insomnia is the norm. It is complete and utter hell. I’m really, really grateful I have never suffered from it. Every time I feel sorry for myself for something, I think about CFS, and tell myself to stop whining.
But then I read about Fatal Familial Insomnia. I am really, really, REALLY grateful that I don’t have this. Check out this long, depressing, and fascinating piece in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine (extracted from a new book) about a Venetian family that is seriously cursed. Round about middle age, if they carry FFI, they stop sleeping. They sweat, they ache. Over a couple of years they become more and more tired, eventually paralyzed. They begin to spasm, foam at the mouth, slip into complete insanity. Then finally – mercifully – they die.
It took about two hundred years for somebody to figure out that the family carries a prion disease, very similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, bovine-spongiform encephalitis (aka mad cow disease), and kuru. Instead of being caused by viruses or bacteria, the illness comes from the sufferers themselves – they are born carrying erroneous bits of protein, called “prions.” Prions are evil little bastards. They somehow make other, normal bits of proteins transform into prions. They enlist more and more of themselves, infect the spinal fluid, and then destroy the brain from the inside out.
There is no cure. Although it is not contagious, and having eaten contaminated beef will not put you at risk (unlike the roughly 4,000 Britons who are infected with BSE prions), there are an estimated 40 families worldwide who suffer from FFI.
And I am bloody glad I do not belong to one of them.
5. If you haven’t already read about it, you should know about the Creation Museum, based just outside Cincinnati, a $27 million haven where Bible thumpers can learn all about how God created the universe 10,000 years ago, humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, and evolution is a fraud – as illustrated by snazzy CGI animations, interactive Edens, and colourful, animatronic dinos.
My response to creationists is much like Chris Rock’s response to women who don’t give head: They still MAKE you? You’re like a Betamax or something.
Well, apparently they do: a recent poll suggests that half – yes, HALF – of Americans believe “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” Damn.
Check out this BBC news piece for a chuckle:
So apparently in the world of creationists, kids could have had dinosaur PETS! Wow.
Being a nutso, repressed Christian is starting to look like fun (for a change). And that, frankly, is kind of scary.