Science is Beautiful

Mrs. Modulator and I went to see the Wizard last night and had a delightful time! PZ Myers is an entertaining and informative speaker! Don’t miss him if you have the opportunity.
There is plenty of commentary avaialbe on the talk and the evening, e.g., Geoff had a good time; as did Jeff, and in the comments here.
No, this wizard does not hide behind a curtain. In fact, here is PZ on your right. The one wearing the gold bling:
Something I have not seen mentioned elsewhere is the list of books he recommended:

If you are stuck online check out:

His closing tip: Never mind “importance” science writing is all about beauty!

Off To See The Wizard….

…of Science, Blogs and Intelligent Debates:

Join the Northwest Science Writers Association and the Forum on Science Ethics and Policy for a conversation with PZ Myers, biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and the author of the science blog Pharyngula at Pacific Science Center’s Laser Dome on Monday, June 2 from 7-9 p.m.

PZ has made it to Seattle:

I’ve made the journey to Seattle (actually, Auburn, where many of my family members live), and have discovered that access to the internet is spotty in the west coast suburbs — there are wireless servers everywhere, but at the same time, everyone has gotten savvy and protects them with a password. How cruel! Fortunately, I’ve talked one of my nephews into handing out their home network password to a known internet provocateur, so maybe I’ll have some access this week.

It appears that he has been able to keep up his prolific posting rate even as he diligently prepares for tonight’s talk.

Enjoy Those Bananas While You Can

The ones that many of us ate as children are not the ones we are eating now.
The ones we are eating now may disappear soon:

Introduced to our hemisphere in the late 19th century, the Gros Michel was almost immediately hit by a blight that wiped it out by 1960. The Cavendish was adopted at the last minute by the big banana companies – Chiquita and Dole – because it was resistant to that blight, a fungus known as Panama disease. For the past fifty years, all has been quiet in the banana world. Until now.
Panama disease – or Fusarium wilt of banana – is back, and the Cavendish does not appear to be safe from this new strain, which appeared two decades ago in Malaysia, spread slowly at first, but is now moving at a geometrically quicker pace. There is no cure, and nearly every banana scientist says that though Panama disease has yet to hit the banana crops of Latin America, which feed our hemisphere, the question is not if this will happen, but when.

This is not just a minor problem for US breakfast and lunch menus. Consider Uganda: according to this article bananas account for up to 80% of the local diet.
Part of the answer may be genetically modified bananas. Would you eat them?

Also, should you be reconsidering your Chiquita investments?

Bill Gates Says He will Release His Personal Genome

With one caveat: he will not have his genome sequenced and release it until after the top 20 infectious diseases have been cured.
On Wednesday, 4/23, the University of Washington Department of Genome Sciences kicked of their 2008 Symposium with a Special Panel Discussion: The Personal Genome: Consequences for Society.
Gates joined Dr. George Church, Dr. Eric Lander and Dr. Leena Peltonen on the panel. After a 15 minute introduction by Dr. Lander the panel, moderated by Dr. Maynard Olson, answered questions from the audience, local and online, for the next 90 minutes. For example:

  • The personal genome is likely to benefit only those in developed countries. How will it assist undeveloped countries?
  • Does all this knowledge of genetic variations risk a world of designer babies?
  • Given the influence of environment over our health doesn’t the public over emphasize the power of genes?

Some important points:

  • Even though dramatic advances are being made at an accelerating pace genomicists are still just scratching the surface,
  • 2) there are significant privacy issues to be worked out,
  • there is a high risk of misuse and abuse of genomic information and
  • public education on genomicsand collaboration with the public on the above and related issues will be critical.

You can stream a video of this Panel Discussion. Dr. Lander’s introduction is worth the price of admission and Gates’ commitment is near the end of the program.