Archive for: November, 2008

Friday Weird Science: The Grad Student 15

Nov 28 2008 Published by under Friday Weird Science

A somewhat late Friday Weird Science, but I want to point out that Sci was not up at 4am shopping with all the crazies. I don't DO that sort of thing. Online is so much better.
So here I was, rolling myself around the house after a particularly delicious Thanksgiving dinner, and contemplating what offering to place upon the alter of the blogosphere. And then I came upon it. The scale. Normally, I'm not too obsessive about weight, but Sci is running a half marathon very, very soon (I in fact ran an 8k race to earn my Thanksgiving dinner). Thus, it is in my best interest to not gain more weight, because anything I gain is weight that has to be lugged 13.1 miles. And then it occurred to me. How much weight do people generally gain over Thanksgiving? Is it really the frightening 5,000 (or whatever) calorie binge that will stay on your hips foreverandeveranddon'tyoudaretouchthatstuffing?! You may not want to know... Hull, et al. "The effect of the Thanksgiving Holiday on weight gain." Nutrition Journal, 2006.

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Thanksiving Links, and a clarification

Nov 27 2008 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Yeesh, I post ONE thing on tryptophan and everyone's all like "excessive daytime sleepiness!" Oy. So let's be straight here. Turkey contains tryptophan. So does chicken. So does beef. So does anything containing proteins, because tryptophan is an amino acid that is one of the building blocks of larger proteins. It contains it in roughly equal proportions compared to other amino acids, and thus, eating turkey is not going to give you way more tryptophan than anything else. Also, I would not encourage anyone to take in higher amounts of tryptophan than normal, because that is silly.
I also want to say that I don't think the tryptophan in turkey is what causes excessive sleepiness after Thanksgiving meal ingestion. For reasons behind this, see this excellent article from Adventures in Ethics and Science. After all, haven't we all experienced a "food coma"? You eat a big carb meals (mmm...pasta...breakfast of champions) and the next thing you know, you're falling asleep over your computer trying to workbecausethisthing is duetomorrow...zzzzzzz....*wha*? sorry? Right. Anyway. Heavy eating of foods with high glycemic index (masshed sweet potatoes and pie, anyone?) causes changes in bloodflow (as your body lovingly cradles your stomach), as well as release of hormones in the parasympathetic nervous system which leads to "post-prandial somnolence". So don't blame the turkey, what did it ever do to you?
Also, there's a new blog 'round here! "What's new in life science research". It will be covering the current biggest topics in biotechnology, including stem cells! The latest posts are already up, and it's a great read! I recommend. Some familiar faces over there.
And now it's almost dinnertime, and I'm off to get quickly into my own food-coma amongst a plethora of family members, dogs, cats, and significant others. Mmmmm. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Holiday getting you down? Pass the Turkey.

Nov 26 2008 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, hands down. Well, ok, I also celebrate a series of personal holidays on the day after Valentine's, the day after Easter, the day after Halloween, and the day after Christmas. Why hinge your emotions on the uncertainty of a holiday when you have the certainty of all the chocolate going on sale the day after? Day after holidays are beautiful things and I encourage you all to celebrate with me (though I warn you, stay AWAY from the Russel Stover "european" chocolates. Nasty).
But of the real holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. It's the one holiday where my family actually gathers (we are spread up and down the East Coast and now on the West Coast as well), and my family is a lot of fun. A lot of geeky fun. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.
And of course there's the food. I've got a cousin that makes cranberry relish (amazing!) and my mother has this double-decker pumpkin pie (my brother and I are always asking her to make two, because we each need one). The same cousin also makes this fantastic pumpkin cheesecake. And there are casseroles, and ham, and my father makes this amazing breakfast spread for everyone (with Polyface meats this year!). An aunt makes another amazing breakfast (I really hope she does the homemade scones again). It's a family with two professional chefs, a professional cook (I don't know, does he count as a chef? The other two had culinary school), and a bunch of extremely talented amateurs. With the exception of Sci, whose culinary abilities are limited to a damn good cup of coffee.
You may have noticed one rather large omission here. There's no turkey. We had one last year, and all the years before that, but this year, we're giving up our free-range, organic, happy turkey (which presumably died a free-range, organic, happy death before we ate it). We never ate the whole thing, and turkeys always get so DRY, even though you try and try...

Our first Thanksgiving without turkey. How will it go?! Will everyone be...depressed? And is it just the lack of a large bird sitting in the middle of the table getting us down, or is it...something else? Roiser et al "The effect of acute tryptophan depletion on the neural correlates of emotional processing in healthy volunteers", Neuropsychopharmacology, 2008.

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12 responses so far

Scientists, Science Fiction, and the people who love them both

Nov 24 2008 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

I first got this question from the lovely Stephanie, and then again from the Borg: How does Science Fiction relate to you as a scientist?
I am a Sci-Fi lover. Well, Sci-Fi and fantasy. I am mostly a book person, but I also do DVDs (I do not own a working TV and haven't for about two years now, it interferes with my internet time). Favorite Sci-Fi includes Firefly and Star Trek Next Gen, though I can also wax poetic on the subject of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I suppose it doesn't count as "real", but it's so great! Someday I'm going to edit Wikipedia to include the words "Don't Panic" on the heading of every page). Dan Simmons is my personal hero for the deep stuff (I actually recommend "Ilium" over "Hyperion" for various reasons, which I can get in to if anyone really cares).
So when I saw the list of the questions, I knew I HAD to blog this.

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9 responses so far

InAdWriMo Updates

Nov 24 2008 Published by under Academia

Yeah, this should have happened on Saturday, but I was, yet again, busy. Ideally, if I can get enough done over the next few days, I can take some time off during Thanksgiving, and Mr. SiT will not be having to bring me pie and coffee while I type and miss Thanksgiving dinner. This would make me very sad indeed.
Papers read: 21/20. Specific aim 1 for InAdWriMo complete. Conclusions: go me.
Paper Draft I: Complete except for the gorram bibliography. 10,000 words (ish).
Paper Draft II: Major stuff needed here, gotta add some thing three extra figures, including their legends, results, and putting the interpretations into the study. Also needs a bibliography.
Paper Draft III: ummm...I don't think this will happen at this point.
And we're back to work. The coffee is making my hands shake all funny...

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Wouldn't that dolphin look so much better in my fridge? The beauty is in the context

Nov 24 2008 Published by under Uncategorized

Think of a copper tea kettle (I'm cold, tea is warm...). When you think about it, where is it? It's in a kitchen, right? Possibly on a stove. It's definitely in a context where you would expect it to be. Now take that tea kettle, and put it in your mind somewhere like...a desert. Surrounded by sand and sky. Now you're not thinking of tea anymore. But doesn't the copper gleam a little better? It might be out of context, but the tea kettle looks really...pretty!
Ok, maybe you don't follow that example. I happen to think copper tea kettles look really pretty either in or our of context (though a cool painting of a copper tea kettle in a desert would be a really neat thing to have on my wall). But the idea is the same no matter what example you use. And it's one of the reasons I like this study. The other reason is equally awesome: how many neuroscience studies are based off the work of Rene Magritte?! Kirk, U. "The Neural Basis of Oject-Context Relationships on Aesthetic Judgement" PLoS ONE, 2008.

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5 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Of Mice and...Seals?

Nov 21 2008 Published by under Friday Weird Science

This SHOULD be the time when I'm working crazy hard on InAdWriMo, trying to get those paper drafts up and running (ideally they should be ready on MONDAY). Perhaps I should have been doing that rather than writing a 3,000 word post on posters (Really! Count!). So it goes. But here I am, and instead of writing what I need to write, we are BACK with Friday Weird Science!
Sent to me by a friend (who just got his PhD!!! w00t! Can we get a shout-out for Dr. John!), this is one that grabbed me with the title, and it's not so much weird science as...well, weird. de Bruyn, et al. "Mass Mortality of Adult Male Subantarctic Fur Seals: Are Alien Mice the Culprits?" PLoS ONE, 2008.

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Of Powerpoints and Posters

Nov 20 2008 Published by under Academia

Yesterday, a very sleep-deprived (and possibly hungover) Sci finally dragged herself back to reality. SFN is a great opportunity to meet many, many people (most of whom will not remember me and I will be introducing myself AGAIN. I can't even get grad students to remember me!), and to see some really cool stuff, but it can also be hugely overwhelming. Rank upon rank of posters, row upon row of vendors giving away free stuff (I never did find the Jackson Lab booth that was giving away little magnetic stuffed mice...), it all makes Sci's head swim after the first few minutes.
So I get back, I relax a little. And then I check my Google Reader: 400 posts. *yipe!yipe!yipe!* Sci went to bed.
But now I'm REALLY back, and trying to remember all the post ideas I had in my head while I was perusing the many many posters and slide presentations and bars. And the one that stuck in my head the most: posters.
Outside sources have told me that I give both a good seminar and a good poster. I am proud to say that traffic at my poster this year ended up a good bit higher than expected. I have pleased the advisor gods: they bought me a drink.
So through my years of grad poster and presentation giving, I've seen the best and the worst. You all may recall my post on powerpoint presentations, what to do, and especially what NOT to do. Here, I present presentations: the poster edition.

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12 responses so far

Why I Blog

Nov 17 2008 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

So down at the bottom right of the ScienceBlogs mainpage (not that any of you EVER go there, no, you click straight through to Neurotopia first thing every morning with eyes shining in anticipation! Of course you do!), there's a little thing that says "Ask a Scienceblogger". The question most recently is "Why do you blog, and how does blogging help with your research?" Many of the other SBers have weighed in, and as usual, most of them express things a lot better than I do. You can see some good stuff from Janet, Drugmonkey, Laelaps, Chad, physioprof, Alice, Aardvarcheology, and Grrl. They are all different points of view, and all slightly different from mine. And yeah, I'm always ridiculously late on the bandwagon.
Being that blogging is a pretty recent phenomenon for me (my original WordPress site only started in May! Truly, I have come a long way), it's something that I actually think about relatively often. Why did I start this new "hobby" which involves literally hours of writing each week (I'm not very fast), even more reading, and tons of internet perusal to find what the newest stuff is on the blogs? Why am I not using this time to do things like:
1) work on my experiments
2) write my dissertation
3) sleep
4) eat
5) do healthful things
(Please note that this is the typical rendition of a graduate student's life, wherein work and writing come before things like eating, sleeping, and living a decent lifestyle. Oh, and Stephanie, I had cake for breakfast. :))
Hell, looking at that list, why DO I do this??

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7 responses so far

InaDWriMo Update

Nov 16 2008 Published by under Academia

Papers read this week: 14! 21/20 that I wanted to read.
Words written: 3,871 (first 1/3 of paper #1)
You know you've got a lot on your plate when you take time off from a conference to WRITE. There's so much at these conferences (particularly at SFN) that I'm amazed I'm not slack-jawed and drooling yet. Give it another few hours.
But! There is partying too! Tonight, Drugmonkey will be meeting up with people! And I am trying to be there. So if you wanna hang with this here geek (and buy the geek drinks! Please buy her drinks!), email him and get on the list for the location. We shall be geeky together. It will be awesome. I talk GREAT science when I'm blitzed.

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