Archive for June 16th, 2009

I Have Questions

Some things I’m wondering about today:

1) Considering that Iran’s presidency is rather circumscribed and the Ayatollahs are the ones calling the shots, why are they letting a contested election stir up revolutionary fervor like this?  The religious rulers used to allow toothless ineffectual moderates and “reformers” to be president to keep the people happy, why not now?  Do they like Ahmadinejad that much?  Do they want to send a message that their people haven’t gone soft over Obama?  Or is there something else at stake that I’m completely missing?  I just can’t believe that Ahmadinejad’s upside is worth the fire they’re playing with.

2) I know it’s kind of a moot point now, but since so many progressive representatives pledged not to vote for any Iraq supplemental that didn’t include a timeline for withdrawal… why didn’t Obama include one?  He already presented a 16-month timeframe for withdrawal during his campaign, so why not put it in the supplemental to make it easier for progressives to vote Yea?

3) How is it that the same Republicans who wailed about how the Democrats weren’t supporting our troops every time they voted against a supplemental are doing the exact same thing now that it’s a Democratic president asking for the money.  They’re still the same troops, right?

4) How is it that the possibility of 50-100 million people fleeing to a public healthcare plan the first chance they got is a flaw in the public option and not an indictment of the crapitude of our health insurance industry?

5) When do Sarah Palin’s 15 minutes end?

2 comments June 16th, 2009 at 09:20pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Healthcare,Iran,Iraq,Palin,Politics

B&W Philly Sculpture Photoblogging

Some sculptures from the fountain in the middle of the Franklin Institute plaza. I wonder if fish make more comfortable headrests than swans.

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June 16th, 2009 at 11:40am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging

The Fats Of Life?

It looks like biologists are closing in on the answers to some longstanding questions about how life first evolved:

The origins of life on Earth bristle with puzzle and paradox. Which came first, the proteins of living cells or the genetic information that makes them? How could the metabolism of living things get started without an enclosing membrane to keep all the necessary chemicals together? But if life started inside a cell membrane, how did the necessary nutrients get in?


The three researchers, Jack W. Szostak, David P. Bartel and P. Luigi Luisi, published a somewhat adventurous manifesto in Nature in 2001, declaring that the way to make a synthetic cell was to get a protocell and a genetic molecule to grow and divide in parallel, with the molecules being encapsulated in the cell. If the molecules gave the cell a survival advantage over other cells, the outcome would be “a sustainable, autonomously replicating system, capable of Darwinian evolution,” they wrote.


Simple fatty acids, of the sort likely to have been around on the primitive Earth, will spontaneously form double-layered spheres, much like the double-layered membrane of today’s living cells. These protocells will incorporate new fatty acids fed into the water, and eventually divide.

Living cells are generally impermeable and have elaborate mechanisms for admitting only the nutrients they need. But Dr. Szostak and his colleagues have shown that small molecules can easily enter the protocells. If they combine into larger molecules, however, they cannot get out, just the arrangement a primitive cell would need. If a protocell is made to encapsulate a short piece of DNA and is then fed with nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, the nucleotides will spontaneously enter the cell and link into another DNA molecule.

IANAB (I am not a biologist), but this does sound promising.  Cell formation isn’t the only question about how life got started – the article goes on to describe advances in understanding RNA replication, nucleotide pair formation, and some things about the “handedness” of the various component molecules.  Fascinating stuff.

June 16th, 2009 at 07:34am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science

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