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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Herd Immunity

In MicroBiology class we’re still a long way from our immunology unit, but we have started talking about some basic principles of the immunity and vaccination, including the idea of ‘herd immunity’. This is the notion that even incomplete vaccination may be sufficient to prevent the spread of an infection through an entire population.

In this video, Scientific American’s Dina Fine Maron explains Herd Immunity very simply.

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid910142956001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAFNl7zk~,OmXvgxJOvrGd04F7pX4DjTcq0KXtMvCb&bctid=2632175457001

Interestingly, as I started writing this, I stumbled upon the old crap movie, Outbreak – I’ll also be calling this film crap on my film blog, 100FilmIn100Days.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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“Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest”

ImagePhysics -> Chemistry -> Biology

The Smithsonian Magazine has an article this week proposing that we consider Mars as the origin of Terrestrial Life. This notion stems from Steven Benner’s Four Paradoxes: The Tar Paradox, The Water Paradox, The Single Biopolymer Paradox and The Probability Paradox. Each of these is described in the abstract of his work, and do add up to a possible alternative for life’s origin. However, as compelling as his arguments may be, the origin of life will always be a mystery veiled in time. Even if we were to find evidence of life on Mars that is very much like that on Earth, it would be difficult to say whether Terrestrial life was the origin of Martian life, or vice versa.

Another problem I have with tracing the origins of life off-planet is that it does not solve anything, but merely relocates the source. So it’s not that I feel that Benner’s work is uninteresting or unworthy of consideration, but presently, Ockham’s razor precludes Imageseriously considering extra-terrestrial origins without a good deal more hard evidence. Further,  relocating the source or life’s origin does little to change how we think about  origins. Regardless or where life started, it is still highly probably that it began with RNA, a unique molecule in that even today it serves dual roles as an information-carrying molecule and a structural one that often has enzymatic function. And, that the addition of the more stable , DNA molecule as the primary source of information happened later – as adding protein synthesis also did for providing an alternative structural / functional molecule. 

Evolution of the Central Dogma?

                                                              RNA

                        DNA -> RNA                                                  RNA -> Protein

                                                  DNA -> RNA -> Protein

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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ImageCoding Club today.

There’s a chance I may be getting more takers for my ‘Codecademy’ – based coding club at FSCC soon. Several students have shown interest and I look forward to opening up the class towards becoming a more open space with students (including myself) pursuing a number of projects simultaneously. 

If anyone (local, at least) is interested in joining our group, please feel free. We take all comers and look forward to building our numbers with anyone interested in learning, teaching or challenging themselves.

If you’re not local, I’d still be interested in hearing from you if you’d like to start an online learning community tied to codecademy, code school, or any other online resource.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Cool Virtual lab for my Micro Students

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An excellent example of a streak plate

I was looking around online and found this site that has a virtual lab for doing streak plates. Since we will likely be doing these very soon, I thought you might find this to be a pretty neat preview from Michigan State University. 

It took a little playing around before I got it, but click on the ‘module’ button to get started and then drag the inoculating loop to the burner. I think once you do that, the rest is pretty intuitive. There is a pdf of instructions as well to get you started.

The purpose of streak-plating, you should recall, is that it allows you to pick individual colonies that have grown out from individual cells. 

Streak Plate Simulation 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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First Quizzes tomorrow…

Image I mentioned in my classes that I sometimes post extra credit hints here – but not always. Just enough to make it worth checking once in a while and help buoy my stats.

In class last Thursday someone mentioned that they heard I liked to post extra credit questions about Twin Peaks (a favorite series), but that was last semester. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist throwing a couple in at some point. And, after all it’s always a good idea to see that TV doesn’t always have to be predictable and mundane – sometimes it can be awesome.

If I am giving any hints, it’s that this year, I’ve been watching a lot of movies- especially ones from the 70s and 80s – and writing reviews on my other blog, the now-incorrectly titled, 100FilmsIn100Days. So perhaps, we’ll see a little of that nice Dutch Colonial on Long Island from time to time. 

But not all of my extra credit questions come from incidental materials. Sometimes, they’re  serious, about subjects like the Measles outbreak I discuss below or material that I think is cool, but too detailed or tangential to be tested on for credit.

I look forward to getting back in class. See you soon.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Another Measles Outbreak puts 2013 on course for another peak year

ImageA new Measles outbreak erupted in Tarrant County, TX when a visitor to the Eagle Mountain International Church infected members of the congregation, staff and the daycare. Although the church’s pastor, Terri Pearsons, has been critical of vaccines in the past, she has fortunately changed her outlook and is now urging her congregation to get immunized now to prevent further spread of the disease.

ImageMeasles is a highly contagious virus, that infects ~90% of those who are exposed (and unimmunized). Since the introduction of the vaccine in 1963, cases have fallen from the hundreds of thousands per year to near eradication levels. However, global travel and the recent rise in anti-vaccine rhetoric has allowed for the past several years to see higher numbers of cases in the ‘post-vaccine era’.

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2013 Measles Map

Although it is imperfect (due to incomplete and sometimes redundant data), I put together this map of the 2013 outbreaks in the US, presently amounting to ~135 cases (using data from  Vincent Iannelli, M.D.’s report to About.com.) With four and a half months remaining in the year, 2013 stands a chance of reaching or surpassing the 2011 (modern) record of 220 cases.

This map helps to highlight that Measles is considered to be eradicated in the United States, however the disease continues to be introduced by travelers and spread in short bursts amongst unimmunized individuals.

“The majority of measles cases were unvaccinated (65%) or had unknown vaccination status (20%). Of the 911 reported measles cases, 372 (40%) were importations (on average 34 importations/year), 239 (26%) were epidemiologically linked to these importations, 190 (21%) either had virologic evidence of importation or had been linked to those cases with virologic evidence of importation” says the CDC.

The CDC encourages parents (and all Citizens) to remain vigilant and follow these recommendations to help maintain herd immunity and prevent introduced cases from becoming endemic:

  • vaccinating children at age 12-15 months with a first dose of MMR vaccine,
  • ensuring that school-age children receive a second dose of MMR vaccine,
  • vaccinating high-risk groups, such as health care personnel and international travelers including infants aged 6 to 11 months,
  • maintaining measles awareness among health care personnel and the public, and
  • working with US Government agencies and international agencies, including World Health Organization (WHO), on global measles mortality reduction and elimination goals.

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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All I know about is a bunch of damn gangs that live in a round neighborhood

Professor Venus schools Arnold on the Pros, the New Boys and the Elected Ones – the three gangs who rule the neighborhood.

Now, get back to school.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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