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Random Natterings and an Art Rec

 Well, my mid-term seminar/review went well, so it appears that I should continue to remain employed for another 2 years.  In fact, my chair has told me to start submitting names to write promotion letters for me.  If all goes well, I will finally make it to full staff (the equivalent of full professor, if I were in a real academic institution, and not a private research institute with pretensions ::g::).  Now, if only I can get that MCB paper through the review process and get my NIH grant renewed!

Speaking of science, I don't know how much any of you pay attention to science news, but there was a real paradigm shifter published in the week's Science; so much so that it made the regular news.  It's such a cool thing, that I'm going to geek out on you a little here, so just skip this bit if science bores you.  :-)  

It's always been assumed that there were certain elements that were essential to life - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus - and it's always been assumed that there can be no substitutes for these because no other elements could do the jobs they do.  Phosphorus has two very critical roles to play in life here on earth: it forms the structural backbone of the genetic material (DNA/RNA) and it carries energy needed for sustaining the chemical reactions of life in the form of a nucleic acid called ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate).  It's the breakage of the phosphodiester bonds in ATP that provides the power that drives every function that defines life.  So, no phosphorus, no life - right?  Well, maybe that's not true.  A group of NASA exobiologists found a bacterium that they were able to drive into using arsenic to substitute for phosphorus, something that's never been demonstrated before.  This is important in the search for microbial life on other planets and the design of instruments to detect same, but also because we may have missed a number of living things on our own planet, which might exist only under extreme conditions.  There are many questions raised by this finding, and a lot of stringent work which needs to be done to show that this is more than a novelty, but, if this pans out, it will be as exciting as finding the bacteria which can survive the high temperature/ high pressure environment  and sunless economy of the deep oceanic thermal vents.  And that was *very* exciting.  Really!  OK, you can stop snoring now.  :-)

One last thing you *will* be interested in, and then I'm shutting up and going off to the big art fair to do some holiday shopping.  Most of the the holiday fests have started up now, and already there have been some wonderful fics.  But my favorite thing so far is a comic panel (I recognize the artist, but I can't say who she is yet) that went up yesterday on Snupin Santa called The Stupendous Snupin Film Club.  Ye gods, it's funny, but it's the details which make it  extraordinary.  Even if you aren't a Snupin fan, I think you'll like it.  Some of the films 'reviewed' are Star Wars, The Sound of Music, Indiana Jones, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Little Shop of Horrors, Shaun of the DeadThe Care Bears Movie (yes, you read that right) and several others.  Go check it out and have yourself a good lol!

Have a wonderful Saturday, my dears!


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, Merlin, that Snupin story was hilarious! Brilliant! McCatwoman. An American Werewolf. The whole discussion leading up to it. (And aboot is a word. Are we doubting McG here? The insubordination of former pupils knows no bounds.)

And thank you for the science explanation. For once, something scientific more or less reached me. The 'less' parts are because of my utterly unscientific mind, which is best described as light and fluffy. They should promote you at once.
Dec. 4th, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
It IS fascinating - even for a non-scientist.

And congrats on promotion noises!
Dec. 4th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the review! Also, thank you for the great write-up of the arsenic/phosphorous finding, because I've been excitedly trying to explain that to a couple of people and have mostly been bungling it.
Dec. 4th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! And I have no doubt you'll be promoted. Look how well you can explain things. I always follow space-related news (several of my relatives spent most of their careers at NASA -- dad, grandfather, two uncles, so our whole family are space-program addicts). So I'd seen a brief article about this, but I didn't understand the implications until now. Thank you!

Oddly enough, I was typing up my own review of that grand Snupin comic at the same time you must have been posting this. It's the first work on that site that has inspired me to register so that I could review (not that I've read much Snupin, but it's definitely starting to grow on me). I think I know who the artist is, too -- always so clever.
Dec. 4th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
That was indeed funny, very clever!

I have mixed feelings about the arsenic discovery however. How are little old ladies going to kill people after the change?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )