Fighting off a chest cold -- I started getting sick as I was putting the last touches on the Jordan paper. Oh, well, better after than during.
Went to the doctor this morning, but not for the cold: it was to talk about my medical exam and shots for Burundi. Turns out that yellow fever shots are only given at eight or ten locations in Germany -- "tropical medicine centers". Apparently you get a consultation with the shot, on things like tropical diseases and hygiene. That's nice, but it means a four-hour round trip drive at some point next week.
Had a nice afternoon with the boys. How long can you can entertain a five year old and a two year old with a swing and a hammock? Oh, an hour or so.
Watched a couple of eps of Battlestar Galactica with Claudia. We're just starting Season Three. Cheerful stuff.
The baby has dropped, which means that suddenly the various pains and discomforts that were keeping Claude up at night have... moved to new locations. On the plus side, she can eat now.
Some random links:
First off, check out this neat SEED article on the non-Euclidean topology of chords:
Western music can ultimately be represented as a series of points and line segments on abstract shapes in higher dimensions. If we can understand their structure, then the deep principles underlying Western music will finally be revealed.
When, the dust settles, two-note chords live on a Möbius strip, three-note chords live on a solid, twisted triangular doughnut, and larger notes live on higher-dimensional analogues, whose shapes become difficult to describe nonmathematically. The boundary of each space, or shape, is geometrically unusual ("singular")--line segments appear to "bounce off" the boundary, rather like billiard balls reflecting off the edge of a pool table.
The shapes of the space of chords we have described also reveal deep connections between a wide range of musical genres. It turns out that superficially different styles--Renaissance music, classical and Romantic music, jazz, rock, and other popular forms--all make remarkably similar use of the geometry of chord space. Traditional techniques for manipulating musical scales turn out to be closely analogous to those used to connect individual chords. And some composers have displayed a profound understanding of the higher-dimensional geometry of musical chords. In fact, one can argue that Romantic composers such as Chopin had an intuitive feel for non-Euclidean higher-dimensional spaces that exceeded the explicit understanding of their mathematical contemporaries.
It's the sort of thing that makes me wish I knew more music theory. Then, I'm surprised this article hasn't gotten more play in the news:
Pathologists Believe They Have Pinpointed Achilles Heel Of HIV
ScienceDaily (July 16, 2008) — Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) researchers at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston believe they have uncovered the Achilles heel in the armor of the virus that continues to kill millions.
The Achilles heel, a tiny stretch of amino acids numbered 421-433 on gp120, is now under study as a target for therapeutic intervention. Sudhir Paul, Ph.D., pathology professor in the UT Medical School, said, “Unlike the changeable regions of its envelope, HIV needs at least one region that must remain constant to attach to cells. If this region changes, HIV cannot infect cells. Equally important, HIV does not want this constant region to provoke the body’s defense system. So, HIV uses the same constant cellular attachment site to silence B lymphocytes - the antibody producing cells. The result is that the body is fooled into making abundant antibodies to the changeable regions of HIV but not to its cellular attachment site... HIV’s cleverness is unmatched. No other virus uses this trick to evade the body’s defenses.”
Paul’s group has engineered antibodies with enzymatic activity, also known as abzymes, which can attack the Achilles heel of the virus in a precise way. “The abzymes recognize essentially all of the diverse HIV forms found across the world. This solves the problem of HIV changeability. The next step is to confirm our theory in human clinical trials," Paul said.
Unlike regular antibodies, abzymes degrade the virus permanently. A single abzyme molecule inactivates thousands of virus particles. Regular antibodies inactivate only one virus particle, and their anti-viral HIV effect is weaker...
The abzymes are derived from HIV negative people with the autoimmune disease lupus and a small number of HIV positive people who do not require treatment and do not get AIDS. Stephanie Planque, lead author and UT Medical School at Houston graduate student, said, “We discovered that disturbed immunological events in lupus patients can generate abzymes to the Achilles heel of HIV. The human genome has accumulated over millions of years of evolution a lot of viral fragments called endogenous retroviral sequences. These endogenous retroviral sequences are overproduced in people with lupus, and an immune response to such a sequence that resembles the Achilles heel can explain the production of abzymes in lupus. A small minority of HIV positive people also start producing the abzymes after decades of the infection. The immune system in some people can cope with HIV after all.”
Google says yes, "abzymes". Live and learn.
Since we're on a science link roll, this week saw the 30th birthday of the first "test-tube baby". So, here's a discussion of what might come next:
Next I expect that germ cells — sperm and eggs — will be successfully derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells [cells that have the potential to develop into any of the body's cell types]. It will be possible to make iPS cells from skin cells, to make germ cells from these, and then combine them to make human embryos.
It means every person regardless of age will be able to have children: newborn children could have children and 100-year olds could have children. It could easily happen in the next 30 years.
This next one is for geeks only: the first trailer for the Watchmen movie. By all rights this should be awful: there's no way Alan Moore's multilayered monster could be fit into a single two-hour movie, that song is by Billy Corgan, and the whole thing is from the creative team that brought us "300". But...