Sunday, October 07, 2007

Roger Ebert on El Topo

This is sort of totally random, but Roger Ebert just put up an excellent essay on El Topo on the "Great Movies" section of his website to commemorate its long-awaited release on DVD.

Since we here at the Neurophile are avowed fans of the works of Mad Genius Alejandro Jodorowsky, I felt sort of obliged to link to it.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

I'm working with people who are sane!

Holy crap! The lab I'm rotating in doesn't require that our lab notebooks be the standard design with numbered pages, obvious if you ever take out any pages, etc. You know, the way everyone's always required to use them because 20 years ago everyone actually had to use notebooks because they didn't all have laptops and it was physically possible to keep your data in a non-electronic fashion.

It's so sensible!

...I have this horrible urge to go get an old-fashioned lab notebook, just so I'll be able to find everything when I need it.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tonight's Reading Made Me Laugh

from The Neuron: Cell and Molecular Biology 3E, by Irwin B. Levitan & Leonard K. Kaczmarek, chapter 3:

The plasma membrane of a nerve cell or, indeed, of any cell provides a resistance to the flow of ions between the intracellular and extracellular compartments. Accordingly, it can be thought of as an electrical resistor, with the membrane resistance, Rm, being measured in ohms (Ω). In addition, the lipid bilayer provides an extremely thin insulating layer between two conducting solutions. This allows the membrane to act as an electrical capacitor, a device that is capable of separating and storing electrical charge. The membrance capacitance, Cm, is measured in farads (F). These considerations allow us to describe the electrical properties of the lipid bilayer membrane simply in terms of an equivalent electrical circuit, as shown in Figure 3-4a. This description is introduced not to torment the student of cell and molecular biology, but rather because it is extremely useful in understanding the electrical behavior of biological membranes under a variety of physiological conditions.

(Bold emphasis mine)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

All Kinds of Neato

Arkansas nuns excommunicated for membership in a Canadian sect that claims to be founded by the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.

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This Title Sucks

Well, that's a comment I wasn't expecting to see.


First day of class

Just got out of my first class, NEUBEH 501A: Introduction to Neurobiology. Based on the syllabus and the first lecture; it looks like a lot of the same old, same old... but I'm sure I'll regret having said that.

After we got through the standard first class period stuff, the rest of the lecture worked its way around one simple topic:

Neurons are just like other cells... but different.

Theyre the same in that they have all of the standard cell paraphernalia and do all of the standard cell things. They have a full complement of organelles in the soma, they homeostatically regulate their living conditions, all that.

But they're different both because they have specialized functions and because the specializations lead to special needs. They need to be exceptionally long (extreme example: some sensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglion need to carry sensory information from your toes to the somatosensory cortex in your brain; those can easily top 2 meters in us tall folk, and then think about the giraffe!); but the extreme length of these processes leads to a fundamential specialized need: the need to ship proteins and assorted cell products from the soma where they are manufactured to one end or the other of your body. Neurons are also extremely polarized due to their need for fast electric signaling, which is also required for their ability to rapidly exocytose materials (exocytosis = ejecting material from a cell). In addition, neurons have an extraordinarily long life cycle: although some neurons can be replaced during the course of a human life time, they are definitely in the minority.

There was then some small discussion of the specializations underlying different types of neurons, but my battery is about to die so I'll leave it at that for now.

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I don't know, man, I didn't do it!

Sorry about the RSS feed crapping out like that. Don't look at me, I haven't posted in ages! It's TOTALLY blogger's fault!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Things I have that make me happy

#1.) A poster proof! It's all shiny and everything!

#2.) The first figure done for my paper. And decent revisions of both the Intro & the Methods section. No Results or Discussion yet... next week is gonna be hell.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Today's Epiphany

Just so you know, I finally have a legitimate excuse for horribly erratic posting habits, as I'm currently simultaneously preparing to move across the country and writing my first paper for publication.

So I'm taking a break from the latter to finish revising my poster for SfN (since I realized that the standard turnaround for posters is 5 days, which would mean that if I turn it in today it'll be back the day before we load up our PODS), and I had an epiphany about the difference between writing for a scientific audience and well, pretty much any other kind of writing I've done.

A key element of writing for a general audience is to have a host of synonyms at your disposal, so you can always insert whatever word sounds best into a given sentence. Also, you need to be able to avoid using the same words in consecutive sentences when possible as your sentences will sounds homogeneous and monotonous. But in science writing, you need to choose a some word and stick with it. Use the same term to describe the same thing every. Single. Time. Otherwise, your audience will just get confused and wonder if you're talking about different phenomena. I realize this is not a major grand epiphany for most people, and is probably a bit obvious. But it's part and parcel of explaining all of the writing problems I've had when working on things in the lab. My secret to good writing has always been to write for the ear; I just get the text out there and then revise and revise until the prose has some flow to it. But when I try to do that on my poster or in my paper, it's actually counter-productive since I'm just messing things up when I try to liven up the words.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Google Search Terms Q & A

In response to the person who arrived at my blog using the google search terms "3-minute depression cure does it work?":

No. I'm pretty sure that no, it doesn't.


Your Tuesday Sort-Of SciAm Moment

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn--from The Gulag Archipelago--as quoted in Michael Shermer's Skeptic column from the latest issue of Scientific American:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Suddenly I understand why my mom had all those Solzhenitsyn books on the shelf when I was growing up.

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New Candidate for Most Useless Headline Ever

Reuters: Brain chemical has key role in ADHD


Two Observations From Jamba Juice & One From an Airplane

#1: The second most horrifying sentence I've heard thus far this week: "I'm gonna have to run back to get a band-aid soon because this thing fell on me again and I'm bleeding all over the place." This, from the person preparing my breakfast.

#2: I think this is the first business I've ever entered that with a sign up informing customers of their ticker symbol.

#3: The most horrifying sentence I've heard thus far this week, uttered on my flight from Charlotte by the hideously obese, greasy truck driver that is every Northerner's nightmare: "Why don't you just get out of the way so I can get my butt up in that?" And yes, he was talking to me.

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