Tag Archives: Science

Posts that relate to science in some way.

Gamers beat scientists in solving HIV puzzle

Who says gaming is a waste of time?

Agence France-Presse, The Raw Story, reports that online gamers have solved an enzyme structural puzzle in only 3 weeks that eluded scientists for over a decade.

Enzymes are proteins that facilitate chemical reactions necessary for life. Proteins are simply chains of amino acids that fold into specific shapes depending on their specific order of amino acids. There are only 20 essential amino acids used by all terrestrial lifeforms and each causes protein chains to fold and twist in unique ways. The final shape of the protein is essential to its function.

For example, hemoglobin is the protein inside of red blood cells that carries oxygen. It is made from 4 separate protein chains (2 alpha chains and 2 beta chains) that fit together like puzzle pieces. The beta chain has 146 amino acids. If position #6 has the wrong amino acid the protein can fold incorrectly and subsequently result in sickle-cell disease.

Proteins can have up to thousands of amino acids, and obviously the longer the sequence the more difficult it is to determine its 3D structure. If you want to design a drug that attaches to an enzyme and blocks its function, it is critical to know its shape.

To solve the HIV protein folding mystery, Seth Cooper helped to create an online game called “Fold.it“. Per Cooper, “People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.”

Given the success it is very likely that gamers will be tapped to solve other scientific mysteries provided that innovators are able to make games for them.

Michele Bachmann: Pray the gay away

Not only does she think that gays are NOT born that way, undercover video recording by Truth Wins Out has exposed a hidden agenda at Bachmann’s husband clinic: you can pray the gay away! Such “therapy,” aimed at changing homosexual orientation into a heterosexual one, has been going on for DECADES. Not only has it been proven to be fruitless, it is actually DANGEROUS.

“The nation’s leading professional medical, health, and mental health organizations do not support efforts to change young people’s sexual orientation through therapy and have raised serious concerns about the potential harm from such efforts.”
-American Psychological Association

And though befuddled Fundies continue to state that “there’s no scientific conclusion that it’s genetic…” -Tim Pawlenty

There is a cohesive scientific opinion that sexual orientation is innate.

“An estimated 2 to 5 percent of adolescents are homosexual, the same percentage as among adults. Scientists generally agree that several factors converge to form a person’s sexual orientation. But there is increasing evidence that human beings may be genetically predisposed toward heterosexuality or homosexuality. These tendencies may even be established prior to birth, just as gender, hair color and complexion are all preprogrammed. Contrary to what some believe, we do not choose to be straight or gay. Come adolescence, a person is innately drawn toward one sex or the other.” -American Academy of Pediatricians

If right-wing politicians want to believe that evolution is just a theory, that sexual orientation is just a choice or that the world really is flat great for them. But to state that science supports these beliefs is nothing more than a pack of lies.

For more evidence-based information about gender identity and sexual orientation, please see my introduction to these topics, What Everyone Should Know About Gender and Sexuality.

Related posts

Total lunar eclipse, 6/15/11

The longest total lunar eclipse in 11 years occurred yesterday, 6/15/11, and the photo above is a picture of it. Unfortunately we who live in North America were poorly positioned to see it. An excellent video from space.com explaining the phenomenon can be viewed by clicking on the link. I am unable to embed it due to WordPress restrictions.

Inventor of the World Wide Web

LiveScience is reporting that Tim Berners-Lee should be credited as the inventor of the internet that we all use and love today. Developed in the 1970s, the infant internet was born from the need to permit file-sharing between computers quickly and efficiently and was it was utilized only by a limited number of scientists at the US Department of Defense and various universities and laboratories across the nation. In March 1989 Berners-Lee received permission from his superiors to continue his research to bring the internet to the masses. One year later he had created hypertext transfer protocol (http), the primary programming language that all websites use. In 1992 he left CERN, the company that fueled his dream, to create the World Wide Web Consortium with the goals of improving accessibility and neutrality of his invention.

As I sit on my bed with my laptop tying this blog I am profoundly grateful to Mr Berners-Lee for his vision, hard work and passion. My life has been impacted in numerous ways because of his invention. When I was a closeted gay man still married to my ex-wife I recall vividly the feelings of utter solitude and dismay. I remember too the amazing window to world that the internet provided me from the comfort and privacy of my home. Eventually I stumbled upon the email discussion group, Bisexual Married Men of America (BMMA), where I found many other men like me with whom I could converse, relate to and pour my heart out to. Over time I gained enough strength and self-confidence to accept myself as I am.

The internet continues to effect my life. I met my husband, Patrick, online 9 years ago in a chat room on gay.com and we found both of our dogs online as well. My initial investigations of both my medical school at OHSU and my OB/GYN residency program at the U of MN began online. And now I am writing this blog that you have stumbled upon. How has the internet affected your life?

TSA whole body scanning FAQ

m4s0n501

Courtesy of the National Center for Transgender Equality, here is an informative PDF document that answers frequently asked questions regarding airport whole body scanning and how it relates to trans travelers.

  • If you are one of the unlucky few chosen for special treatment, you have the right to choose whether TSA scans you or pats you down, both are intrusive
  • Consider packing your binding and prosthetic devices in your luggage to avoid increased scrutiny and delay. Also place your syringes, liquids, gels and powders in your checked baggage.
  • You have the right to be treated respectfully without discrimination. If this right is violated you should file a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties as soon as possible.

Then human said, Let there be life

It’s official: multiple sources (The New York Times, CNN, LiveScience) are reporting that Dr J Craig Venter and other US researchers have created the first synthetic life form. While it literally as simple as can be — a cell membrane encasing a single artificial chromosome — it is also the first of many more to come. Innovative microscopic chemical processors will be the next to arrive doing everything from processing toxic waste to producing mass quantities of essential medications and other chemicals. Eventually we may see the creation of multicellular species that will both aid and challenge us. Some may say the End approaches (Judgement Day, The Singularity, etc) but as the birth of this Adamic cell attests, every moment is yet another brave new beginning.

Walk on heels, run on toes

Multiple times in the past I have attempted to pick up running only to have to abandon it a few months later. I enjoy the sense of freedom it offers and the simplicity of the exercise but why does it have to hurt so much? Shin splits, knee pain, hip pain, wondering how this high-impact activity is going to affect me down the road… I guess my body just isn’t cut out for running… or so I thought.

Humans evolved to walk on our heels (unlike most other mammals) to save energy and thus be able to cover vast distances. However running on our heels is high impact and damaging. New research coming out of places like Harvard suggest that we should run on our toes. Of course they are quick to add the disclaimer that more research is needed and that they are not advocating that the traditional way of running should be discontinued, but I find the concept fascinating. By running on our toes we make use of our massive Achilles tendons and calf muscles to absorb shock instead of our bones and joints. Could it be that after all these years of failed attempts at running the problem was simply relying on artificial cushioning from modern running shoes to protect my joints instead of my own shock absorbers? I don’t know but I’m going to do some experimenting of my own and find out!

Cool new “barefoot” products are starting to be marketed for people like me who want to be able to re-experience the joy of going barefoot while protecting our skin from abrasions and germs. FiveFinger shoes by Vibram (pronounced VEE-bram) are one such product that looks promising. I’m going to buy myself a pair and see if my body was meant to run after all!

Metal foam


Female mechanical and aerospace engineer, Afsaneh Rabiei, of North Carolina State University has done the “impossible”; she has created a material as light as aluminum and more impact resistant than steel. Introducing metal foam, a material that is bound to revolutionize everything from buildings and vehicles to replacement joints and body armor.