Monday, March 31, 2008

WHOOOO!!

WHOOO!!

So theres a really nice dog park in Del City Ive wanted to take Arnie to (its much closer to us than the others in the OKC area), but Ive been terrified to take him there.

Despite a state law against breed specific legislation, the Del City suburb made their own little law against only dogs with 'bull' in their names (irrefutable Oklahoma logic-- 'Dar, its gosta bull in dah name so itsa mean daaawg. Daaaar.'). Its been challenged in court, and WHOOO!

DEL CITY, Okla. -- A metro city has backed off trying to enforce a law regarding pit bulls after a district judge overturned its controversial ban.

Hundreds of people in Del City have been ticketed for violating a city ban on having pit bulls. According to state law, however, the city cannot ban a specific breed of dog.

Del City officials said they disagree, saying it's a safety issue.

Residents who oppose the ban said the reversal is a victory for anybody who owns a pit bull.
Just to put this into perspective, as a 'safety issue'-- 30-50 children die every year in the US by drowning in 5 gallon buckets.

~30 people are killed by *all* dogs in a given year (not just 'bully breeds', *all* breeds).

Yeah, banning Arnie should be high on everyones list of 'safety issues'.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Silent ERV

Im in like... my 20th year of school now.

You would think that by this point I would start studying earlier for tests.

Alas, Im not that clever, so another block of test this week, and another week of all-nighters (You might be a grad student if... #105-- Youre genuinely angry Red Bull isnt sold in 2 liter bottles).

So this week youve got a silent ERV :P

Ill be in the clear this weekend, though, and I gots lots of neat stuff to share (hint-- it will involve LAZERS!!). But for now, please enjoy piccies of deh puppah!!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Yah, about that cell video in EXPELLED...

PZ has a post up clarifying that the animation in EXPELLED is not Harvard/XVIVOs animation, 'Inner Life of a Cell.'

Hmm-- Now why would PZ, Dawkins, and dozens of EXPELLED viewers that have emailed me recently have been confused about the animation in EXPELLED and 'Inner Life of a Cell'?

September 17, 2007
William Dembski makes a presentation at the University of Oklahoma where he plagiarizes 'Inner Life of a Cell' to describe 'the cell as an automated city.'

November 20, 2007
After Dembski ignored Harvard/XVIVO for two months, I broke the story on my blog.

November 27, 2007
Dembski issues a stock standard notpology, but proclaims:
I continue to this day to think that “The Inner Life of the Cell” is the best animation illustrating cellular activity. But there are other videos that make the same point. From now on, I will no longer use it and instead go back to using a clip from “Unlocking the Mystery of Life.”
This wonderful completely original animation that is currently in EXPELLED appears not to exist, at this point.

December 9, 2007
A professor of theology in Dallas gets invited to a pre-screening of EXPELLED. He makes a note of the animation, and positively identifies it as 'Inner Life of a Cell' without being prompted. Expresses concern that the producers have not obtained the appropriate rights.

December 21, 2007

Dembski brags about his textbook 'Design of Life' being a 'companion text' to EXPELLED.

December 25, 2007
Peter Irons and Afarensis identify footprints in 'Design of Life' where screen-shots of 'Inner Life' were to appear.

January 11, 2008
We are informed that EXPELLED will not be ready for its scheduled February 12 release. Though all accounts of the film thus far describe it as cut/pastes of stock footage, one wonders what the hold up was...

March, 2008
EXPELLED confuses viewers into thinking the animation they are using is 'Inner Life of a Cell', featuring Dembski blithering about 'the cell as an automated city.'


Well I just cant figure out why PZ would have thought EXPELLEDs current animation is at all related to 'Inner Life'.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An apology to the Discovery Institute

Wow, Im getting another dose of humble pie today (actually, its pineapple upside-down cheesecake).

All those times I pointed at the Discovery Institute or one of its 'fellows' and laughed 'FAIL! LOL!' 'EPIC FAIL! LOSER LOL!'?

I was wrong.

Those werent epic fails.

This is an epic fail.


So I apologize Discovery Institute, and producers of EXPELLED. I severely underestimated your ability to fail. Touche.

Edited to add-- Kristine has a short account of the events at AtBC. Where is Randy Olson? What was his point in 'Flock of Dodos' again? How Creationists are nice people? Seriously, omfg! Radical Christians are plotting to give me a fucking brain aneurysm this week...

An apology to Sally Kern

I would like to use this post as an opportunity to apologize to Sally Kern.

She is not a backwards hate filled bitch for Jesus.

She is much, much worse than that.

I dont believe there is an English word or phrase that properly describe Sally Kern or her twisted, inexplicable interpretation of reality.

The entire transcript of Kerns diatribe is on the internet.

You can read it here.

Excerpt:

Another practical benefit of Christianity was the elevation of knowledge, of learning, of science, okay, of the arts.

...

... he believed that we needed to have a society that was based upon Christian principles because elevation of science, elevation of knowledge is very important if you’re going to have an informed public. And I believe it was Thomas Payne also said, you know, you can look at a picture and it makes you think of the artist, you can look at some kind of invention and you think of the inventor. Why is it that we look at the creation and we don’t think about the creator. You know, we don’t do that. And if we really had Christian principles our educational system would not be in the mess it is in today.

...

Another thing that I’m real big on that is a real detriment to this society is evolution. Evolution undermines Christian principles. Period. That’s all there is to it. You either believe there is a creator or you believe there isn’t. Some people say well I believe there is a creator and he used evolution. There’s a lot of problems there folks. When does sin come in, when does the spirit come in? You know, it’s evolution. You read God’s word and you will see the word creation all through it, old and new testament. And it undermines people’s faith. They have trouble reading or believing the Bible.

Sally Kern: Hate filled bitch for Jesus, Part Deux

Must be read to be believed.

Seriously, thank you to the True Christians who had the decency to step up and defend your god against people like Kern.

Do it again.

Louder, if you really love the beautiful religion of Christianity.

*atheist dream sequence*

Churches turned into libraries. The mega churches into schools. Pews chopped into lumber to rebuild New Orleans. All the shiny shit melted into scrap metal and all those god awful 'Christian Rock' CDs thrown into a food processor. The Bible is required reading for an ancient literature course that students dread more than Herodotus. Crazy motherfuckers like Kern living in compounds in the hills, waiting for TEH HOMO MAN to come eat their children, but never in a political office. Never daring to speak their hateful thoughts around humans.
... I dont think its TEH HOMOZ you need to be worried about, Mizz Sally Kern. I think its a fucking mirror.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chris Mooney vs Chris Mooney

Goddammit, Brian.

Should we confront anti-scientists at all?

Chris Mooney, 2006--

And just as science-abusing corporations must be fought in the courts, science-abusing religious conservatives-- who would misinform our children about the origin of the human species and about virtually every thing having to do with sex-- must be fought in schools, the educational system, and the public arena more generally.
Chris Mooney, 2008--
First of all, what is the point of fighting and debating climate skeptics any more?

... if you actually bother to rebut the Heartlands and Discoverys of the world, you instantly enter into a discourse on their own terms. The strategic framing these groups employ to attack mainstream science heavily features the rhetoric of scientific uncertainty—and so if you try to answer their arguments, you’re inevitably committed to conveying more abstruse technical information and, thus, more uncertainty as soon as they wail back at you (which they thoroughly enjoy doing).

Does debating anti-scientists pump up the 'controversy'?

Chris Mooney, 2006--
Political attacks on science succeed, at least in part, because they confuse the public and policymakers, leading them to believe that a scientific "controversy" exists where one actually does not...
This would not happen so frequently, however, if journalists-- the chief purveyors of scientific information to the American public in controversial and politicized areas-- performed their job better.
Chris Mooney, 2008--
There’s certainly a longstanding mentality among progressive groups that nonsense must be refuted, often in rapid-fire mode if possible. But that mindset runs up against something else that ought to be obvious: controversy sells. If you create a big fuss over what your intellectual opponent is saying, you might well be helping him or her.

Should major science organizations speak out against anti-science?

Chris Mooney, 2006--
We must also mobilize the natural defenders of Enlightenment values: scientists themselves, who all too often fail to engage antievolutionists and other know-nothings in defense of what they hold dear. True, groups like the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have shown historic willingness to step up when it counts, especially with powerful friend-of-the-court briefs in creationism lawsuits.
Chris Mooney, 2008--
Nevertheless—and to stick with environmental groups for a second–they fall into this trap constantly, refuting at length anti-environmental forces at rightwing think tanks or in the media. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund (now known simply as Environmental Defense) both published lengthy studies to refute New York Times contrarian John Tierney’s 1997 attack on the efficacy of recycling, to name just one example.

What is the role of Average Joe and Jane Scientist?

Chris Mooney, 2006--
But scientists have too often failed to counter creationist efforts at the local level, preferring to remain in their ivory towers.
Chris Mooney, 2008--
Unfortunately, yet another example of scientific defenders enabling anti-scientific forces has recently come to my attention. The rightwing comedian Ben Stein has a new movie out called Expelled, a supposed documentary about how evolutionary forces are suppressing the intelligent design movement’s intellectually valid dissent. Now, this is nonsense, but what better way to help nonsense thrive than to unleash public statements that would seem to confirm it or to be consistent with it?

**flips off Chris Mooney, 2006**

**flips off Chris Mooney, 2008**

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Future for Oklahoma Students

Today I was rummaging about Big Bossmans Magical Crap Closet looking for a slot-blotter, and I found something a little more unusual.

A crystal ball.

Being a naturally curious individual, and hoping to find the slot-blotter, I wasted no time peering into the crystal balls smoky core. Of all the things I could have possibly seen, the image that appeared was an +A essay by a future Oklahoma eighth grader:

Boreded Ceiling Cat makinkgz Urf n stuffs

1 Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.

2 Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.

3 At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.4 An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin.5 An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!1

6 An Ceiling Cat sayed, im in ur waterz makin a ceiling. But he no yet make a ur. An he maded a hole in teh Ceiling.7 An Ceiling Cat doed teh skiez with waterz down An waterz up. It happen.8 An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has teh firmmint wich iz funny bibel naim 4 ceiling, so wuz teh twoth day.

9 An Ceiling Cat gotted all teh waterz in ur base, An Ceiling Cat hadz dry placez cuz kittehs DO NOT WANT get wet.10 An Ceiling Cat called no waterz urth and waters oshun. Iz good.

11 An Ceiling Cat sayed, DO WANT grass! so tehr wuz seedz An stufs, An fruitzors An vegbatels. An a Corm. It happen.12 An Ceiling Cat sawed that weedz ish good, so, letz there be weedz.13 An so teh threeth day jazzhands.

14 An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has lightz in the skiez for splittin day An no day.15 It happen, lights everwear, like christmass, srsly.16 An Ceiling Cat doeth two grate lightz, teh most big for day, teh other for no day.17 An Ceiling Cat screw tehm on skiez, with big nails An stuff, to lite teh Urfs.18 An tehy rulez day An night. Ceiling Cat sawed. Iz good.19 An so teh furth day w00t.

20 An Ceiling Cat sayed, waterz bring me phishes, An burds, so kittehs can eat dem. But Ceiling Cat no eated dem.21 An Ceiling Cat maed big fishies An see monstrs, which wuz like big cows, except they no mood, An other stuffs dat mooves, An Ceiling Cat sawed iz good.22 An Ceiling Cat sed O hai, make bebehs kthx. An dont worry i wont watch u secksy, i not that kynd uf kitteh.23 An so teh...fith day. Ceiling Cat taek a wile 2 cawnt.

24 An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has MOAR living stuff, mooes, An creepie tings, An otehr aminals. It happen so tehre.25 An Ceiling Cat doed moar living stuff, mooes, An creepies, An otehr animuls, An did not eated tehm.

26 An Ceiling Cat sayed, letz us do peeps like uz, becuz we ish teh qte, An let min p0wnz0r becuz tehy has can openers.

27 So Ceiling Cat createded teh peeps taht waz like him, can has can openers he maed tehm, min An womin wuz maeded, but he did not eated tehm.

28 An Ceiling Cat sed them O hai maek bebehs kthx, An p0wn teh waterz, no waterz An teh firmmint, An evry stufs.

29 An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, the Urfs, I has it, An I has not eated it.30 For evry createded stufs tehre are the fuudz, to the burdies, teh creepiez, An teh mooes, so tehre. It happen. Iz good.

31 An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, teh good enouf for releaze as version 0.8a. kthxbai.

DO NOT WANT. You can still stop this future from happening...

Monday, March 17, 2008

My virus boyfriend-- A love that cannot be

Me: "OMG! My boyfriend published another paper!!"

Bossman: "Ugh. Do you have any idea how old he is?"

Me: "Our love, it is forbidden."
My virus boyfriend Patrick Forterre is still fighting the good fight for viruses:
Redefining Viruses: Lessons from Mimivirus
Why the hell arent the most abundant creatures on the planet included in the tree of life??

Viruses arent just wads of selfish genes. They are an organism. They contribute massively to the evolution of 'life' on this planet.

We arent slack-jawed TARD Creationists pointing at a Panda Bear slurring "Dat der is a BEAR kiiiind." We use genetics to establish phylogenetic trees, ergo, who is related to whom. Why do we point to viruses and drool "It aint ALIVE! It caint go in deh tree!"

It doesnt make any sense. Like having a ribosome imparts an organism with a 'soul' that allows it to be considered 'alive' and included in Earths evolutionary tree of life.

But that is the stickler for including viruses in the tree. Usually its the ribosomal sequence thats used to compare amoebas to oak trees. And viruses dont have them. Viruses really dont have anything in common with cells (so much for the "But viruses r just de-evolved CELLS!!" hypothesis) so how can we attach them to the Tree?

Forterre suggests that we just use the protein that all viruses have in common, capsid, to create a mirror tree. Like a reflection in a graveyard pond, a Tree of Undead Viruses.

Hmm.

Its a start. But I do not like. I dont see the viral world evolving like a mirror Tree of Life with viruses evolving with their hosts in an alternate dimension. I see The Tree of Life and the Tree of Undead Viruses hopelessly intertwined-- in the same dimension-- we can detect where we got protein A and protein B from viruses and where bactereophages stole protein C and protein D from their hosts or one another. I dont think Forterre would suggest that the trees are isolated, as it appeared in a diagram in this paper, but that is going to be the outcome if you compare Ribosomal Encoding Organisms to Capsid Encoding Organisms.

Meh.

It is a start :)

Golden TARD Award

When it comes to The Arguments Regarding Design, few people can top our dear friend Egnor.

So whats he done now?

Okay, click on this.

Now, click on this.

LOL! LOSER!!!! LOL!!! Thats a lovely Golden TARD, Engor!! LOOOL!!!! AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! TARD!!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Shame on the Atlanta Police Department

Want to see your tax dollars at work? Want to see what cops are doing on a Saturday, rather than pulling over drunk drivers or, you know, fighting crime?

Check out this video from the Atlanta Anonymous protest. Riot squads for a group of kids with signs. Kids being arrested for 'violating noise ordinances'. Drivers being pulled over for honking in support.



*flips off Atlanta PD* Got a paid 'day off' huh boys? Got to play make believe storm trouper in your riot gear and ruin the week of innocent people. Jerks.

Note: In other cities, much larger protests were held. Other cities police forces commended Anons on local news for being so peaceful, ate caek, had a great time. This was the result of asshole 'police', not violent protesters. You should be ashamed of your behavior, Atlanta PD.


Edited 3-16-08 to add: They also had a helicopter circling overhead. A helicopter. The 'guy in charge' is Terrell Bolton (tdbolton@co.dekalb.ga.us). Please send him a nice letter (seriously, no lulz) if you feel moved. I sent an email that mirrored this post, plus a suggestion that he ask the mayor to pardon tickets given that day, and to apologize to the tax payers.

EAC-- Project Maotai

Last night I was hanging out with some super sweet folks from the cell bio department, and I accidentally stumbled upon a perfect plan to 'dispose of' Christopher Hitchens should he start going a little too crazy. I call it 'Project Maotai.'

Maotai
is a Chinese rice wine-- like saki or whatever, I guess. Its considered a lovely gift for someone 'higher up' than you, so Chinese post-docs frequently give Dr. Cell Bio bottles of it for gifts.

Minor problem.

It smells and tastes like butt hole.

So as a joke, Dr. Cell Bio gave me a shot of Maotai just to see me gag... But I loved it! Warm, spicy flavor and an unearthly (literally painful) kick. It was like a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster-- LUV!

Some people in the room declared that we couldnt be friends anymore. The fact I liked Maotai grossed them out too much (their gag reflexes were kicking in just watching me drink it).

So here is the EAC plan, should Hitchens get too unruly: I innocently challenge him to a drinking contest. Weapon, Maotai. He cannot win. The EAC survives.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Morons in Microbiology

No, not the Usual Morons in Microbiology-- These morons have been around for billions of years!!

A moron (in bacteriophage biology) is a DNA element inserted between a pair of genes in one phage genome when the genes of this same pair are adjacent in a related phage genome.
hmmm.. yaaa... Not so helpful, ASM. Luckily, Bossmans lecture on morons in class this week was much clearer.

'Morons' are genes that bacteriophages carry around which are unnecessary for the virus, but helpful for the host bacteria.

This doesnt make sense at first, because when we think of viruses (especially bacteriophages) we think of infection, making lots of baby viruses, and BOOM!!-- cell explodes and all the viruses are released. Why would it care if the bacteria is comfy as its exploding?

Well, thats not really what happens with phages. They infect a cell, insert themselves into the bacterias genome, and chill. They just sorta hang out until some stressor tells the virus its time to jump ship. Think about it-- who is more fit, a virus that blows up its host and produces a thousand progeny who might/might not find another host cell, or a virus that sits silently in a genome, getting passed down through the generations laterally for a million years? The latter! But while hiding in someone elses cell is a good idea, silent phages have the same problem as plasmids-- How do you convince a bacteria to keep you around when you are genetic dead weight?

MORONS!

LOL!!!

Morons help the bacteria survive by being novel genes that make the bacteria more competitive with its peers in an old niche, or giving the bacteria the ability to exploit a new niche. Morons are kind of hard for us to appreciate... Like the MORON that encodes Type III secretion effectors that make you poop when youre colonized by Salmonella or the MORON toxins that make you poop when youre infected with Cholera or the MORON toxins that make you poop when you eat spinach sprinkled with E. Coli... but theyre actually a really cool evolutionary story, demonstrating the co-evolution of bacteria and their phages over time! Bacteria even have 'endogenous phages' like we have endogenous retroviruses!

I was rather pouty about getting my PhD in microbiology because of all of the associated 'bacteria based' classes I would have to take (Ive never taken an intro micro class-- cocci-wha?), but this stuff is friggen fun!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sally Kern: Hate filled bitch for Jesus

You know that bill I wrote about yesterday? Its part of a slew of radical Christian bills that Representative Sally Kern is trying to get through OK legislature. Who is this woman?

A hate filled, backwards bitch.

Listen to this.

Listen to all of it.

Fuck you, Kern. And fuck all of you 'Christians' that let this shit spread in the name of your god.

Edit-- Some people have better humor about this than I.

Edit again-- OH MY FUCKING GOD WHAT A FUCKING BITCH:

In an exclusive interview with News9.com Kern (R-Oklahoma City) admits it is her voice on the recording and stands by her comments. She said she's just stating the facts on what she believes.
...
"Shame on the person who didn't have the courage to come and say, 'I'm going to tape you and put it out on YouTube,'" she said.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Special Rights for Religious Radicals in OK

You all know the old joke for dealing with Creationists:

What should a teacher say to a student who, every time he comes to a question on a test he cannot answer, writes “God did it.”? Then, when he hands in the test, he expects — even demands — a perfect score and a pat on the head.
Idiot Creationists see unanswered questions, proclaim 'GOD DID IT!' and expect a pat on the head. They are shocked and offended when people laugh at them.

But members of the reality based community know that 'God did it' is a joke answer in the real world.

Well... the real world minus Oklahoma:
The Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee has just approved House Bill 2211. The bill is expected to pass the full House, and then to go to the Senate. Its authors describe it as promoting freedom of religion in the public schools. In fact, it does the opposite.
...
The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.

The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.
Wow. This bill is genius. One bill, school becomes meaningless. Science, history, math, ethics, psychology, health, art, all obliterated.

*clap*

*clap*

*clap*

Touché, radical Christians, touché.

(H/T to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

HIV Evolution for Kids!

WHOO!! The next issue of 'Evolution: Education and Outreach' is up! This issue includes two lesson plans for using HIV to understand evolution:

Molecular Evolution: The HIV Envelope Protein
Molecular Evolution: HIV Drug Targets and Resistance
Sweet! I approve! And if you have any specific Qs about HIV in those lesson plans, leave a comment!

I also strongly encourage students, teachers, Average Joes, non-biologists, everybody to check out other articles (they arent too long or scary!). Im lovin T.R. Gregorys explanation of how to understand phylogenetic trees!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Useful Pit Bull Fact of the Day

Pit bulls luv jelly beans.














NOMNOMNOM!

LOL! Jewish boys



LOL! Good kid. And good synagogue for not going psycho on him.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Prions: Viruses Red-Headed Stepbrothers?

Funny how we were just talking about rocks evolving yesterday... Today our guest speaker was a prion guy, Jason Bartz (also incredibly nice!)

omg, you guys.

omg.

Prions, evolve, even though they dont have a genome.

omg.

Say you have a mink infected with a prion. In a few months, your fluffy, fluffy mink will succumb to its disease. So you grind up your fluffy fluffy mink brain and put it in a ferret. A few years later, squeaky ferret succumbs to its prion disease. Grind up its brain and put it in another ferret, and so on and so on.

The prion evolves in the ferret. Eventually, it adapts to the ferrets neurological system, which in turn means it cant infect the mink very well, even though 'mink' is where you got the original prions in the first place!

Holy crap.

How does something with the same amino acid sequence evolve??

The idea I pitched to Dr. Bartz (the idea he was already planning on pitching to the scientific community hehe, I iz smrt) is that prions operate like HIV-1. But instead of exploring sequence space like my HIV, his prions explore structure space. One protein exploring all possible structural configurations. It has an optimal configuration for minks, but needs to explore and find a more optimal configuration for ferrets.

Minor problem: With our current technologies, we can only detect a few configurations (because of the chemical properties of prions, theyre impossible to crystal structure, even though the normal protein is easy as pie). We can detect Normal, Prion 1, and Prion 2 (through some tricks, its not easy), but that doesnt mean that there arent Prions 3, 4, 5, 6... 1,000,000,000 that we just cant see. A cloud in the structure space.

On top of all of this, prions are tough mo-fos. You can autoclave them, freeze them, whatever, and they dont change out of their prion form. So I gave Dr. Bartz my usual schpeal "Okay, so everyone who says 'omg viruses are just devolved cells they arent alive' are idiots, so what about prions? Could they have been around for the past 4 billion years? Could they have been in the soup?"

"Yup."

So Im going to look into this more (as time permits)-- I dont know a lot about prions, but Im intrigued. Theyre more than biological oddities to me now. More than just the occasional news report on MAD COW DISEASE.

They could be my viruses red-headed stepbrothers, and family is family :)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Addiction and Revenge in the Microbe World

One of the fastest ways to get me to roll my eyes is to say something along the lines of 'But viruses arent ALIVE!!!' 'Alive' is an archaic, unhelpful word when looking at evolution and the Tree of Life.

Viruses/RNA/Prions ≠ rocks. Dont be dumb. *rolleyes*

See!

So I flipped out last week in class when we learned about a cool trick plasmids can play-- Plasmid addiction. Why is there not a Wikipedia page on this topic for me to link to?? Theres not even another blog around thats posted on it! BUT ITS SO COOL!!

That horizontal gene transfer that some people get so pumped about? It can be mediated by plasmids-- an easy example is how antibiotic resistance spreads between totally different kinds of bacteria. Some plasmids (even though they arent ALIVE!!) have evolved a a sweet system for ensuring their propagation a la 'The Selfish Gene'/'Dune'-- Plasmid addiction.

Some plasmids encode for:

  1. a poison
  2. the antidote
As long as the bacteria keeps the plasmid around, everything is fine! Even though the poison is always being made, there is always tons of antidote around too. Its a burden to the bacteria, but the poison has no effect.

But if the bacteria says 'Ugh. Im not wasting any more resources making this damn plasmid. Lazy bum. Im kicking him out' the plasmid pulls, like, a 'Kill Bill'-esque revenge plot. The poison has a longer half-life than the antidote. If the plasmid is no longer there to encode the antidote, all the left-over antidote degrades, and the poison is left to kill the bacteria.

That. Is. AWESOME.