Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
originally uploaded by JimmyMac210.
When I heard a while ago that a team of researchers had expanded the genetic code by altering the subcellular machinery used to synthesize proteins I thought this would be big all over the mainstream media. I was wrong, however, and I have heard nary a peep on how this could lead to all sorts of interesting mutant enzymes and bizarre polypeptides by substituting other things in place of the twenty-two amino acids that naturally occur on Earth.
I would like to propose a slightly different hack made possible with the expanded vocabulary: mirror image proteins. We could designate twenty-two of the four base pair sequences with mirror-reversed optical isomers of the standard amino acids, generate the appropriate mRNA sequence to assemble them in exactly the same way as proteins we already know, and have the ribosomes and tRNA machinery start to produce these backward polypeptides. I would guess that these would fold in exactly the same way as the conventional proteins, only reversed, with the left-handed alpha helices and other structural elements matching up just as they should. Going further, we could take the entire genome of an organism and rewrite it using our new four base pair language, provide it with the wrong-handed nutrients needed, and have it generate all the proteins making up that creature but completely reversed. It would take a little bit of work to engineer the mirror cells needed to house this machinery, but given enough time I am sure it could be done. We would start with microbes and work our way up to larger animals and plants once we had everything in place.
In the end, we would have a completely mirror-reversed organism relying on the alternate coding in order to grow and reproduce. If we were to eat that organism, we would not be able to digest it very well at all and so would be inherently low in calories. But just maybe it might taste wonderful.
Monday, July 05, 2010
Yesterday I took advantage of the outflux of New Yorkers from the city and snagged a free parking spot on 84th and Madison so I could go over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's been a number of years since the last time I had been there, but I remember the futility of attempting to see too many priceless objects at one time -- it's too easy to burn out your brain's aesthetic centers that way -- so I stuck to only a few of the galleries. In the Museum Store on the first floor I bought an inexpensive set of drawing pencils packaged with a pad of drawing paper so that I could have some fun sketching a few pieces from the collection.
In the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts section, this Hanging Lamp with a Griffin Head appealed to me because of its Gothic spikiness and beautiful patina. Only dimly could I imagine what this would have looked like hanging in a niche in some cathedral or palace, oil blazing away.
This sculpture of cruise line heiress Nancy Cunard by Brancusi is on the first floor Modern Art gallery. The bronze surface polished to a high luster is protected from fingerprints by a Lucite case, because it is one of those things that would be nearly irresistible for the unruly visitors to touch, causing it to tarnish I am sure. Graphite pencil is wholly inadequate to represent the quality of the material, but it was enjoyable to trace the precision of the lines of this piece. I saw many striking paintings in this gallery more or less contemporary wi th this item, but could not figure out how on earth I would get anything out of sketching them, precisely because of the arbitrariness of their proportions, in most cases.
Upstairs a little ways from the Pollocks and Matisses is Damien Hirst's popular work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living which is due to end its stay at the Met sometime this year. The interesting thing about this was how I grew to appreciate this work during the time it took to sketch it out (maybe a half hour, ensconced in a back corner of the gallery away from the families with small children thronging all around it), and to recognize that although everyone naturally focuses on the shark (the second to serve in that role since the work's completion), the massive formalin-filled tank also plays a significant role in the artistic statement, with its heavy riveted ironwork and ponderous dimensions serving to underscore the menacing thing. If it were just a shellacked shark on wires hanging from the ceiling, natural history museum-style, it would be mildly interesting but not nearly so monumental, I think. I also dug the way the water and glass refracted the contents so that I could get two views of the shark's mouth from where I stood.
After a few hours I took my artist materials and went back out to 5th Ave., where I bought a jumbo hot dog and a knish with mustard at a food cart. I did not in fact draw these, being famished, but I might have for all the perfection they too manifested.
Sunday, May 02, 2010
How does one implement a <3 day? Romantic music, low lighting, elegant waitstaff bearing trays of sumptuous delectables, handouts of personal protective equipment (if you know what I mean, and I think you do)? We must salute this forward-looking policy as a morale booster that should be adopted perhaps more widely.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Monday, March 01, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Book title: Lives of the Great Bloggers
I am not sure that Lives of the Great Tweeps passes the suspension of disbelief test, however.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Restaurant name: Bistro QR
Instead of the the blue and white checkered tablecloths each table would have a QR code which the servers would scan at the time the order is taken. The food could be coded as well to ensure accuracy in delivering the courses as well.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Implement of non-that-flashy destruction: Sub-Atomizer
It would be a fearsome gadget to possess, but still an elegant one to look at, with its main chamber perhaps made of some semiprecious stone or cut crystal, and the part which does the puffing off to one side of the nozzle in a way that calls to mind some kind of casualness that the trigger of a gun or the fire button of a launch console clearly does not. To do its thing it would have to have some potent power source around, but that would be hidden so that it would keep its neat simple lines and its finesse as well, probably miniaturizing and condensing the thing so that it could be tucked into a corner of the reservoir or more likely embedded in the spray head somehow. It would be shielded, tamed, of alien provenance most probably, and worth more than battleships or research reactors, provided it could be something you actually could buy.
Who would know of the sub-atomizer, though, unless its devious amoral creator releases some information, not too much, about what it can do? But in publicity, as always, the more effective the buzz about the thing is the more perilous it is to have it around where curious types of low morals might try to liberate it for themselves. It would be more effective to broadcast a demonstration of its potential, showing how thoroughly it renders the armament of the superpowers obsolete all except for the think tanks working feverishly to reconstruct it in their own labs, if even in a perverted form.It does its best work in secret, but does not rely on sleight-of-hand or social hacking the way most pieces of malware on the Internet. It needs no master and very little language to accomplish what's in its nature, though it would be good to place trusted guards on it so that it can be kept from close inspection by the criminal brutes who understand only that it is new and valuable. They are not the kind of people who would want to deal with the non-sold-out mission, little impressed by the graphics that go along with it either.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Since New Year's eve I have been fighting with a bad cold that has progressed to bronchitis, which we have been treating with various drugs. Sunday morning I had a typically disturbed kind of sleep, waking up at 4 A.M. possibly because of the steroids I had been prescribed. I did make it back to sleep and woke at around my usual time a couple of hours later. There was one odd thing I noticed at the time, though, and that was the way my heart seemed to be racing, regardless of my trying to induce a relaxed mental state. I got up, had breakfast, took my medicines, and was just getting dressed to go out to the gym when I noticed a feeling of pressure around my chest. Going up a flight of stairs made me feel winded, and the rapid heartbeat was still unchanged from before. Time to ask my wife to drive me to the nearest emergency room.
It had been a couple of years since my last trip to the E.R. and the hospital we went to that time is not even in business any more now. We went to the very new facility at Englewood Hospital a couple of miles away and was soon set up with medications to treat the condition. After a few hours, I was set up in a room in the Cardiac Step-Down ward waiting for my heart to "flip" back over to a normal rhythm, or, failing that, schedule a cryoablation to reset it. I didn't know that a person's heart could fibrillate for twelve hours and still be alive, but now I do.
I spent the night and was released today after they had a chance to image the malfunctioning part with ultrasound, apparently not sustaining any permanent damage. I'm on a couple new prescriptions and advised to avoid going on a "bender" which can set this sort of thing off. Wilco. Also, pleased to be here.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Thor did indeed rebuild Asgard, in Oklahoma, and he embarked on a quest to liberate his fellow Asgardians who were trapped in mortal shells.And here I thought a guy named Thor Odinson be up with his people among the fans of the Golden Gophers (though admittedly, the Marvel canon has been relatively silent on the latter). Stereotypes are so ugly and destructive, and do not ultimately account for the power of the great nemeses such as the Crimson Tide.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Name for the last decade: The kooky glasses era
Makers of novelty eyewear have had to be more inventive than usual this year because of the missing double-aughts in the middle of the year. I predict that next year the available strategems will prove to be too strained to come up with a viable marketable product.