Ward Cunningham – What If Bacteria Designed Computers?

cunninghamcartoonportraitThere is a pattern of successful technological innovations I can summarize the following way: there is a nerd engineer who actually invents something and builds the first functional prototype, and there is a geeky enough yo who recognizes the value of the prototype and makes the bigger money/fame/other beneficiaries out of it by turning it into a commercial product: the archetypal nerd/geek pair in this respect is Wozniak/Jobs. In case of the wiki software the programmer/inventor was Ward Cunningham, while Jimmy Wales became the official Mr. Wiki due to Wikipedia.

Recently I discovered Cunningham on Twitter and I learnt that for coding he takes inspiration from life’s processes ranging from cell signaling to cultural evolution. His coming speech: Continue reading

Friday Gumbo Journal Club: hESC line differences and a killer MSC review

It’s Friday, that is a lunch heaven for a Gumbo loving biogeek at Tulane:

gumbojournalclub

Stem Cell Express: Copy Number Variant Analysis of Human Embryonic Stem Cells from the Teitell Lab (It’s good to see that CIRM funded results and papers are coming out): Continue reading

Low budget, high tech: Microfluidics device out of a $50 plotter!

7550AplotterBuilding and using low budget but high tech devicesplotterink at home is a main motivation behind hacking. A Harvard Chemistry Research Group now created a microchannel producing device using a Hewlett Packard 7550A Graphics Plotter (see some eBay prices) to perform a diagnostic protein assay with it amongst others. /See my SciFoo microfluidics coverage./

According to the current Nature by Tim Lincoln:

“The system works like this. By replica moulding, the pens of the plotter are replaced with PDMS versions that can deliver various types of ‘ink’. The purpose of the ink, when cured, is to create channels in a filter-paper substrate, and after experimenting with the possibilities Bruzewicz et al. found that a syrupy mixture of 3:1 PDMS:hexane did just fine. Having chosen the appropriate paper, the trick then is to use the plotter to draw channel shapes, with the PDMS syrup penetrating the full depth of the paper to create water-tight chambers in various patterns.”

Hardware-Software Specs from the supporting information:

Computer.
• Computer: Dell Dimension 4100, Pentium III Processor (1 GHz)
• Plotter: Hewlett Packard 7550A Graphics Plotter
• Operating System: OpenSuSE Linux 10.1, Novell Corporation. Available for free download
• Additional Software:
1. Inkscape – vector drawing program, for design of channels. Included in OpenSuSE, also
available for free.

The HP Computer Museum highlights this particular plotter: Continue reading

Mitowheel now helps you design PCR primers for mitochondrial DNA!

mitowheelallelebarsGábor Zsurka, scientist and developer made another upgrade on our favorite human mitochondrial DNA visualization tool, MitoWheel: this time allele frequencies at polymorphic positions are included in the sequence bar in the form of a gray bar above or below a nucleotide representing the number of individuals carrying the SNP.

This is really cool as it is a definite step to turn MitoWheel into a tinkering, engineering, mtDNA hacking tool besides its core science mission:

“This can help you to design reliable PCR primers for the human mitochondrial genome. After all, you don’t want your primer’s 3′-end sitting right on a very frequent polymorphism (risking that under certain conditions you will not be able to amplify a PCR fragment from a subset of individuals).” Source: MitoWheel Blog.

Larry Page is 35 years old today: long live to live long enough!

larrypage35

I’ve always loved the following scene from LOTR, but I’ve always imagined that they are the words of a man who is in a healthy physiological condition due to a robust life extension technology and not due to a mystical ring:

Bilbo: “Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday!”

Hobbits: “Happy birthday!”

Bilbo: “Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.” [cheers abound.] “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

Larry Page is 35 years old today and it’s really easy to consider him as a representative man of his/our generation (I am 33 years old) including his future prospects. A company with an unlimited potential was built on Page’s unfinished PhD. research project.

Blow your Brain Explorer out with the Human Allen Brain Atlas!

At the SciFoo Camp last year at the Googleplex I suggested a little unconference session (ok, there were some slides ready on my MacBook) and one participant was Chinh Dang (another was this inventor) Technology Director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science who made a little intro to the work of the Institute to the 9-10 attendees after this slide of mine:

SciFoo Brain Atlas

Paul Allen is the likable, Steven Wozniak-type co-founder of Microsoft, but I guess a bit richer (once we estimated with a friend of mine that he could buy all the Budapest condos circa 180 times or sg like that).

But instead of doing that he provided $100M – amongst others – in seed money to fund the Allen Brain Atlas.

Continue reading

Kurzweil follow-up in life extension exhausted Wired

Last year I approached a powerful Wired editor with the following story pitch: “A full and deep but cool report on the current (scientific) life extension technologies, persons, battles, camps, grants, problems, perspectives.”
His reply was a diplomatic and definite naysaying:

“Thanks for the idea. Alas, we’ve done *way* too many stories on life-extension over the years, from profiles of the singularity guys and Aubrey De Gray (sic) to shorter takes on various startups and stuff. There may be cool stuff out there, but I’m afraid we’ve exhausted our appetite on the subject.”

kurzweilwiredHowever the life extension appetite is not something that could be exhausted until the problem is solved systematically and the Wired guys’ appetite seems to be restored and healthy again as in the April Wired issue (not online yet) there is a full story (or rather follow up) on the No.1 singularity guy and baby boomer escapist artist Ray Kurzweil called Stayin’ Alive by senior Wired contributing editor Gary Wolf (whose book Wired – A Romance is a good reading).

What is interesting in Kurzweil for experimental scientists/robust life extension supporters is not his meditations on singularity, accelerating change and mind uploading (see the counterarguments by Mark Anderson in the same Wired issue), but his experimental, futuristic, life extensionist lifyestyle:

Kurzweil takes 180 to 210 vitamin and mineral supplements a day, so many that doesn’t have time to organize them all himself. So he’s hired a pill wrangler, who takes them out of their bottles and sorts them into daily doses. K. also spends one day a week at a medical clinic, receiving intravenous longevity treatments. The reason for his focus on optimal health should be obvious: If the singularity is going to render humans immortal by the middle of this century, it would be a shame to die in the interim.

Kurzweil’s physician and coauthor is Terry Grossman (also a SENS3 conference attendee) with an interesting clientele. Continue reading