Natural genes no longer able to be patented

From the NY Times:

Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry.

I feel as someone starting their PhD in Genome Sciences, I should have a nice elaborate analysis for you… but alas, I don’t. I can tell you all about how genes work, or how to isolate them in the first place, but I’m no expert on the pros and cons of gene patents.

I have my ideas, but feel free to discuss in the comments. Do you think this is good or bad for future research? For future medicine?

Anyone doing NaNoWriMo?

Every year as October comes to an end, I get excited for three things:

1. Halloween! It’s my favorite holiday. What’s not to love about dressing up in silly costumes?
2. The day after Halloween. Fuck yeah, half priced candy!
3. My birthday, wooo!

But there’s one thing that I simultaneously look forward to and fear:

National Novel Writing Month.

It’s just how it sounds. During the month of November, you’re challenged to write a 50,000 word novel. It’s the one time where quantity matters more than quality, because it’s an exercise in creativity, not editing.

Then why do I dread it? Because I fail every year.

I probably won’t attempt it this year, since I’m busy enough blogging while doing this little thing called “getting my PhD.” I haven’t quite decided yet, but I may be a “Nano rebel” and try to finish my in-progress manuscript. I’m suddenly more motivated to get it done when I have an editor who’s happy to read it.

But are any of you participating? Do you know what your plot’s going to be? Have any of you actually succeeded before?

Indiana doesn't care about GLBT rights? Shocking

From the South Bend Tribune:

The South Bend Common Council voted Monday to defeat a proposal to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The vote was 6-3 with council members Tom LaFountain, David Varner, Derek Dieter, Timothy Rouse, Karen White and Henry Davis Jr. opposed.

[…]Explaining his opposition to the proposal, council President Derek Dieter, D-District 1, said afterward, “I just don’t think it’s needed in South Bend.”

Dieter said he had not seen any documentation proving workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people exists, “and I think it (the proposal) would cause more harm than good to small businesses.”

For his part, Patrick Mangan, executive director of the conservative group Citizens for Community Values, praised Dieter and other opponents of the proposal, who he said “stood up to a lot of pressure behind the scenes.”

“I’m pleased the council did the right thing in lovingly opposing special rights for homosexuals,” he said, adding, “And I renew the offer to all those struggling with same-sex attraction to come to freedom and come to wholeness.”

And Indiana wonders why it suffers from such a brain drain. Let me give you a hint: educated, caring people get sick of dealing with the rampant backwards bigotry. Unfortunately that means when you’re electing people, too many of your choices are hateful idiots. Sigh, what a Catch 22.

I'm published! …Wait a second

More evidence that you shouldn’t always trust Google Scholar to deliver the best research papers. I decided to look up my name to see if my paper on genetic bottlenecks was searchable even though it’s in a book. That’s the third link listed. The first and fourth aren’t me, just some other poor J McCreight who has had their Google image search ruined forever by boobquake. But to my surprise, the second link is also mine (click image for larger):
…It’s a pdf of a paper I wrote my senior year of high school for AP Composition titled “Creationists in Scientists’ Clothing: Scientific and Legal Reasons Why Science Classes Must Omit Intelligent Design.” It’s pretty damn good considering I was 18 when I wrote it, but I derive endless amusement at how serious it’s being treated. Apparently my English teacher is second author, and the journal is ImageShack.

I mean, come on Google Scholar, how unprofessional. You forgot to mention it was 3rd period! What will happen to my academic reputation if someone thinks I was in 2nd period?!

Mmmm, sexy brains

No, I haven’t turned into a picky zombie. I’m talking about the Skepticon pin-up calendars.To me, nothing is sexier than intelligence… but having a nice body that’s photographed very artistically is a plus too.

Skepticon is November 19-21 in Springfield, Missouri, and will feature amazing speakers like PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Amanda Marcotte, James Randi, Debbie Goddard, Dan Barker, D.J. Grothe, and Rebecca Watson. Not only is it notorious for being so awesome, but it’s free. You can help keep it that way by buying a calendar.

Oh, and apparently if they sell 600, Hemant will pose next year. Need I say more?

Want to make some easy cash?

Christine O’Donnell’s campaign is offering $1,000 to anyone who can show that separation of church and state is in the Constitution.

Wait, what’s that? They want that exact phrase, even though the concept is well understood through case law? Whoops, how silly of me to think a Teabagger running for office would have a better understanding of the Constitution than a five year old.

Apologies to all five year olds.

Troll physics explained

Rage comics are one of my guilty pleasures. Combine them with my love for science, and you can’t go wrong. A physics professor was asked to explain the (lack of) science behind some of the funnier “Troll physics” comics. Here’s one of my favorites:

“DM: Jumping off the ground – or even a chair on the ground – is nothing like jumping off a chair while you and the chair are in freefall. Because the chair isn’t connected to anything, you’ll be pushing the chair DOWN as much as pushing yourself up (via Newton’s third law). And since you have much more mass than the chair, the force you and the chair exert on one another will speed up the chair’s descent much more than it slows your own.”

Is it bad that I think I would have learned more from my physics class if it would have incorporated internet memes?