Monday, December 24, 2007

Who Controls the World?

I work in a potassium channel lab. In lab today I came across a posted copy of a National Geographic article from 2005, on spider venom toxins, which apparently paralyze their prey by dysregulating potassium channel function. The highlighted portion in the lab copy read: "So scientists seek the chemical mastery of the spider. Says Kristensen, 'Whoever controls potassium channels controls the world.'"

haha, I don't know about that! But one thing I do know--that He who made potassium channels controls and loves the whole world, no matter how chaotic it and life may seem. Merry Christmas...and in light of the potassium-richness of bananas, remember to eat your banana starch cookies* this season!

* Bello-Perez LA, et al. "In vitro digestibility of banana starch cookies." Plant Foods Hum Nutri, 2004:59(2), 79-83. (But in moderation, of course!)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Flyby Mt. Parnassus

Back in college I remember discovering one of the only flight simulators available for Linux, an open source project named Flight Gear. I never got it working on my computer, but the screenshots online looked fascinating. And for some reason the project centered its scenery details on KSFO, the airport I passed by every time I drove to college.

Today I decided to give Flight Gear another run, this time on my Windows desktop. It worked. And it was beautiful. I share with you two screenshots I captured of flybys around the San Francisco area. My first orienting landmark was none other than Sutro Tower on Mount Parnassus (aka Mount Sutro), in whose shadow I now live.

The Flight Gear T-38 trainer flying by Sutro Tower, perched atop Mount Parnassus and its UCSF surroundings. The T-38 was one of my favorite jets growing up, perhaps because of its role as an advanced and beloved trainer. In the distance the Golden Gate Bridge pokes through the haze.

Another shot of San Francisco, this time of downtown Market area. Notice the Bay Bridge peeking out from the background.

And of course, next due is a flyby of UCSF Mission Bay.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Basically Green

California seems to make it into Nature News almost as if it were a country in itself. In this week's issue, Nature reports on green technology as "California's latest gold rush," where venture capitalists pour millions of greenbacks into green technology. Roughly $725 million found its way into CA coffers of the $2.6 billion total venture capital over the first three-quarters this year, up from $1.8 billion in 2006. Of course, to put it into perspective, Genentech apparently spent $1.8 billion on R&D alone in 2006.

So where is all this money going, and will it turn into not only sustainable resources, but also sustainable technology? Here's a quotation from the article, with a comment on the basic science aspects of the investment:

There is always a chance that the current wave of investment could peter out, perhaps owing to a substantial fall in oil and energy prices, or a fading of environmental concerns — but these are unlikely. The biggest risk is that the pace of basic technological improvements may fail to provide a pipeline of emerging technologies that venture capitalists can feed off. Venture capitalists are not in the business of funding the basic research that will be needed to make the sort of breakthroughs needed to make solar energy cheaper than coal. Without a significant expansion of public spending on basic energy research, the innovation pipeline risks drying up.

"The biggest risk is that the pace of basic technological improvements may fail to provide a pipeline of emerging technologies..." Of course, this is coming from a journal publishing some of the most prominent articles of basic science research. But it's helpful to be reminded that the building blocks, however tiny, being created day by day in basic science labs may actually form a foundation helpful and perhaps necessary for future technology. I have become particularly interested in translational research in my own projects, but even in translational work, the translation to the clinics starts with the basics.