Sunday, January 21, 2007

more iProducts

In an earlier post, I highlighted new iPea. Well, there is apparently no end to the Apple spoofs. is "the top creative competition and photoshop contest site on the web." (as in "a picture is worth a thousand words") Currently, they are sponsoring a contest to create Apple's Next Product. Check out the entries so far!

While you're at it, you can check out my favorite section of the website: chimeras.
Chimera: chi·me·ra [ki-meer-uh, kahy-] –noun, plural -ras.
an organism composed of two or more genetically distinct tissues, as an organism that is partly male and partly female, or an artificially produced individual having tissues of several species.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

top myths in science

Does it really take 7 years to digest gum in your stomach? Is a dog's mouth cleaner that a human's? Is yawning really contagious? What's the deal with the 5 second rule? Read about the top 20 myths in science.

If you like checking myths, check out Read about all those stories everyone seems to read via e-mail.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

designer babies

Designer babies, once the stuff of science fiction, have been in the news over the last few years. In 2006, a British baby was "designed" not to have a particular cancer gene. For many years, some parents have "designed" babies in order to have tissue matches for sick siblings. Other couples have used the technique to select the gender of their child.

However, in recent news ( USA Today, CNN, New York Post) the question was once again raised - how far should parents be allowed to go to designing their own babies? In this case, a dwarf couple wants to have a baby who is also a dwarf. Some people argue that this is creating "deformer babies." (Not surprisingly, the use of this term does anger some people.)
Three percent, or four clinics surveyed, said they have provided the costly, complicated procedure to help families create children with a disability.
However, others argue that conditions such a dwarfism and deafness are not disabilities. (Many members of the deaf community also resent the use of cochlear implants to "fix" deafness.) I think one of the most interesting side effects of this debate forces us, as a society, to really reconsider what we consider "normal." Is there even such a thing? Is it wrong for a dwarf couple to want to have a baby who looks like them?

Some of you may be wondering - how can a parent design a baby anyway? Doctors use a process called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD. What this means is that before an embryo is implanted (or put) in a mother's womb, doctors diagnosis (or check) the genes of that embryo for genetic defects. If there embryo does have the gene (such as that cancer gene), doctors will not implant that embryo into the woman, and that embryo will not be allowed to grow into a full-term baby.

I think you can see why this would have huge ethical concerns. Who should be able to decide whether or not a potential child's life would be worth living? If we screen embryos for things like cancer, what is next? Diabetes? Deafness? Obese people? Less intelligent kids?

Scientists have the technology to select embryos for a variety of genetic conditions, and there is no doubt that they will be able to screen for much more in the future. However, are we, as a society, ethically ready for that? Students, I welcome your comments on the issue!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

contest results in water overdose

Yes, it is true. You can die from drinking too much water. On Thursday, a Sacramento, CA radio station (KDND 107.9) hosted a contest entitled, "Hold your Wee for a Wii." Contestants were handed 8 oz. bottles that they had to drink every 15 minutes. The first person to pee, loses. The winner was to receive a Nintendo Wii video game system.

The winner, Jennifer Strange, allegedly left the contest crying, with a headache. She was found dead in her home the next morning. I will paraphrase the explanation offered by blogger Shelly Blatts:

Water intoxification can occur when the blood becomes too diluted and the body's electrolyte concentrations are unbalanced. If water enters the body faster than it can be removed (and in the case, they weren't allow to pee!) the body's fluids become diluted to dangerous levels. Because the amount of water in the fluid outside the cells is so great, water rushes into the cells through osmosis, causing the cells to swell and burst under the pressure. (Remember: osmosis keeps the cells balanced in normal body conditions.) If these cells burst in the brain, it can cause death.
What a sad situation. May this be a lesson to the rest of us not to push out bodies to do unnatural things for "contests." My sympathies go out to her three kids.

For more information, read about water intoxication at HowStuffWorks.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

palindromes - wierd al style!

A few years ago, I found this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed its contents. A few years later, someone introduced me to the song "Bob" by Wierd Al. Just yesterday, a student sent me a link to the music video! Once again, Wierd Al is clever, weaving together palindromes to create one wacky song!
Palindrome: A word, phrase, or sentence that reads the same backward or forward.

Two of my favorite palindromes are:

drowsy sword, and

oozy rat in a sanitary zoo,

Although after visiting this site, I think I might have a new favorite!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

green glowing pigs

Scientists in Taiwan just announced that they have successfully bred pigs that glow in the dark.
Taiwan is not claiming a world first. Others have bred partially fluorescent pigs before; but the researchers insist the three pigs they have produced are better.
Scientists used a gene from a jellyfish and impanted it into 256 pig embryos. Of those, three developed into pigs which were born three months ago. Scientists stress that these pigs are no different from any other, except for the fact that they grow green when lit up in the dark. During the day, they look like any other pig, albeit slightly tinted green.

Pigs are certainly not the first animals scientists have injected with an organism's glowing gene. There are glow worms, GloFish, and even potatoes!

Scentists hope to use what they've learned to help study human disease in the future, by using these pig proteins or stem cells that can be easily tracked in another animal's system.

Ironically, China is celebrating the Year of the Pig starting in January.

Monday, January 1, 2007

the smallest ipod yet

Apple keeps coming out with smaller and more efficient iPods. However, this is the best one yet! Read all about the iPod Pea! (If that isn't enough to amuse you, check out the video for the iPod Flea.) It just doesn't get any more amusing than this.

SNL's attempt was not quite as funny.