Posts in Category: blog

Gattaca’s time.

Picture by ToNo's worldX PRIZE Foundation is a non-profit foundation based in Santa Monica, CA. They gained popularity few years ago when they listed and subsequently awarded the Ansari X Prize. They offered US$10mln to the first private institution that would be able to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. The price was awarded in 2004 and had a lot of echo. After that success, the X-Prize fondation grew stronger so that now they can efford to offer a new batch of prizes, related to different disciplines. One of them is the Archon X Prize for Genomics that also happened to be the largest medical prize in history. The prize is described as

A multi-million dollar incentive to create technology that can successfully map 100 human genomes in 10 days. The prize is designed to usher in a new era of personalized preventative medicine and stimulate new avenues of research and development of medical sciences.

What does it take to make a good Scientist?

Image by *Kazze*I just saw something on the weekly edition of Nature Jobs that made me very happy. It is something that I was waiting to see since a long time. In May 2006 Georgia Chenevix-Trench felt like sharing some of her wisdom with the youngest public of the journal Nature. In the (often embarrassing) portion of the journal called Nature Jobs, she published a Decalogue with “tips for students”; goal of the letter was to provide prospective PhD students with rules of thumbs that would help out having a successful career. Sadly enough most of them were embracing the concept of hard work and only marginally important skills such as creativity, imagination, collaborative science.

A puzzle worth a Nobel Prize.

flickr image by M0nniOnce again, it’s Nobel Prize time. The first prize to be awarded, as expected, was for Physiology and Medicine and went to Craig Mello and Andrew Fire. Mello and Fire were awarded for their discovery of

a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information

namely what is now known as RNA interference or RNAi. Uncommonly for a Nobel Prize, this year’s award came relatively soon after the discovery to which is referred. The paper describing Fire’s and Mello’s work was published in 1998 on Nature. This has been interpreted as a sign of the outstanding importance of their discovery since usually it takes decades for a work to be recognized valuable of such an award. Now, the very fact that someone is publishing a work that is so important to inaugurate a brand new field from scratch is definitely rare and it is something that every scientist dream about. It does happen periodically and many times is, indeed, well recognized for instance with a Nobel Prize. What is very rare, though, it’s the discovery to come out of the blue, completely unexpected. Was this the case for Fire’s Work (he was the corresponding author in the paper)?

All In The Mind

Natasha MitchellAll In The Mind is a wonderful Radio program broadcasted weekly on ABC National Radio in Australia. You can listen at the radio show live if you live in that part of the world or simply download the mp3 files and listen at them from your computer. On the website you can also find transcript of the transmission, in case your english is not excellent and you need some sort of subtitles. The program is also reachable through iTunes so that automatic downloading from week to week is possible in an automatic way. Whatever your choice, I do recommend you hook on it since All in The Mind is one of the best science program you’ll ever experience. All in The Mind describes itself as

a program about the mind, brain and behaviour. From dreaming to depression, addiction to artificial intelligence, consciousness to coma, psychoanalysis to psychopathy, free will to forgetting – All in the Mind explores the human condition through the mind’s eye.

Natasha Mitchell is leading the discussions always in a brillant way; she is not just an ordinary science journalist being actually a scientist herself having studied ingeneering and gone through a PhD in engineering. We all know it is not straight forward to talk about science to non scientists but at the same time we are all well aware of how important this is. All in The Mind really does a good job such that contents are not only enjoyable to non experts but to scientists too. All programs focus on one topic, of course: the mistery of the human mind. It may sound reductive but I believe we got enough material to talk about!

Why is email addictive?

You got mail.Did it ever happen to you to find yourself hitting the “get new mail” button over and over just as if it was something you cannot help but doing? Email addiction (also known as Emailoholism) seems to be a common experience for so many people working with computers and internet access. Some statistics say it might be of interest of at least 6% of internet users, meaning millions of people. Mindhacks features a wonderful, clear, article about it: here. The bottomline is that whenever we look compulsively for new email we actually obey to some reward-conditioning in our brain, as much as rats in a cage in a learning experiment.