On Hiatus

I’m working on my scientific fiction book. I’ll be back in a while…


Rare Disease Day 2014

A topic that should be on all scientists’ minds. What do we do about rare diseases?

Rebecca Bradley

rdd-logo Tomorrow is Rare Disease Day . An annual awareness raising event for those living with rare diseases and the decision makers about the impact of these diseases on the patients lives.

It’s to raise awareness to everyone, because we all come into contact with people who may not even look as though they have an illness, but actually be living with a pretty disabling rare disease.

I am one of those people living with a rare disease. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

I have found first hand how difficult it is to navigate the NHS system with such a diagnosis. It’s either not understood and discarded or maybe even believed to be more than I’m displaying to them at that time, so I’m dismissed. This shows a real lack of understanding.

The mascot within the Ehlers Danlos Community is that of the Zebra, because trainee Doctors are taught, that if they hear…

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The Evolution of an Island Culture


It’s one little step after another, and finally, we end up as a culture, a civilization, an economy that has problems. The nature of a community is everyone compromises. The strength of this group of people is how they take those mitigating steps so more are satisfied than not.

We can all learn from the Philippines.

Why we are where we are

INQUIRER.net, pablo_b

THE ELECTION season finds many Filipinos thinking not only of who should be the next president, but also of why the country – a nation of rich natural resources and talented people – can’t seem to get its act together, why it has fallen back.

To understand why the country is where it is today, we have to look back, even beyond our lands. After all, our country’s problems were created not just in the past decades. Neither was the country isolated from the rest of the world.

For starters, when our nation was born in the 19th century, it was already among the poor nations of the world, compared with European civilization which at that time made up the richest section of humanity. (more)



DNA Computers–Think Origami, or Brain Folds

Scientists have struggled for over thirty years to market a DNA computer to the masses. It can play tic-tac-toe and solve the Traveling Salesman Problem (best way for a national sales guy to visit twenty-thirty cities–quite relevant to everyday people). Now the experts are considering using DNA computer apps to fight disease. But, for us middle Americans, we are far from benefiting from the power, affordability and tiny size of DNA computers.

Here’s a clever idea I stumbled across on MIT’s blog. We all know that the reason the brain can do so much is it relies on the folds that cover its surface. Technically, they’re not ‘folds’; they’re Gyri or Gyrus (singular) and the ‘valleys’ between the Gyri are called Sulci or Sulcus. Anyway, Mother Nature added these to give that umph to our brains in power, storage capacity and speed that no computer comes close to matching. Why not add them to DNA computers? Here’s a discussion:

DNA Origami for Faster, Smaller Computer Chips

Using DNA structures, researchers may be able to construct tinier, cheaper chips

Artificial, self-assembling DNA structures may help make smaller and cheaper microchips, according to research presented in the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology. Tinier microchips would allow faster computers and other electronics.

Researchers from IBM and the California Institute of Technology used a technique known as DNA origami, where a long strand of DNA is folded into a shape with many shorter strands dubbed staples, creating a three-dimensional shape. In the paper, the researchers demonstrated using DNA origami-shapes as a scaffold for carbon nanotubes–a trick that could eventually be used to create nanoscale microchips.

The DNA structures are tiny enough to have features measuring six nanometers–the current industry standard for microchips is 45 nanometers. The process could replace the expensive tools manufacturers currently use to make tiny chips, although IBM suggests that it could take up to 10 years to test and refine the process for manufacturing.



Why Are People Right-handed?

Twining ivy

Twining ivy

Plants are left or right-handed. Look at them. They grow toward one direction, not

necessarily due to the sun. You’re probably most familiar with plants that have tendrils, or twine their way up a post  or fence. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that they form consistent right- or left-handed helices as they climb.

Non-human primates are balanced as far as handedness goes–some left, some right–as were Australopithecines. But when our genus Homo arrived, we became more likely right-handed.

Why? Take a guess before you read the article below. Defense? Hunting? Some requirement of balance with our upright position? Maybe a relationship between the right hand and left brain?

Read on.

The Origins of Handedness – Origins

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The Importance of Magnetic Signatures

Scientists use electro-magnetic signatures to image an underground area up to 100 meters down.  How? Every structure has a different magnetization from the surrounding  natural ground. app_1A magnetometer can distinguish the signature of the buried item from other underground objects like stones. Think of the striping discovered in the ocean floor which proved to scientists that the poles have switched: Iron in the molten crust extruded to create new ocean floor orients toward ‘north’ before solidifying. Surprisingly (not anymore, but back then), sometimes ‘north’ was ‘south’.

This technology transfers to urban traffic control. Magnetic sensors, buried under streets, sense the movement of vehicles and control traffic lights.

The military has used magnetic signatures for years, not only to identify submarines and ships, but to track the

MSF in Kings Bay

MSF in Kings Bay

movement of trucks and caravans–anything with iron in it.

What are ‘magnetic signatures’? Any vehicle or vessel traveling on the Earth’s surface or under water disturbs the magnetic field. These disturbances are collected and analyzed by systems such as MAGSAV (The Magnetic Signature Analysis and Validation System). The Military has a database of these signatures as they relate to military vehicles–subs, cruisers, carriers, etc. It’s what allows our soldiers to identify  who they’re dealing with in the field–friend or foe.

My concern is with Otto, my AI. By tying his computational powers into a MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) device, he can read these fluctuations. Because his detection algorithms are so sensitive, he can pick up even the magnetic signature of a human (created by the presence of iron in our blood). He can’t differentiate between people, but he can tell that a human is present.

I’m not sure where he’s going with this. He looked at metamaterials (with potential uses for cloaking devices–see my post here), and now he seems to be focused on submarines. Yes–I see the tie-in; millions of dollars are spent yearly minimizing the magnetic signature of subs so they can’t be located. When the magnetic level reaches a critical level, the sub returns to a port (such as Kings Bay) and it goes through the Magnetic Silencing Facility to minimize the signature and the possibility of detection (If you’re interested in how the Bad Guys use magnetic signatures to track our submarines, read this on anti-submarine warfare from Globalsecurity.org)

Cloaking devices, magnetic signatures… Let’s see where this goes.

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The How and Why of Early Man

So many questions about our past are debated because of the lack of  written records. Before man put proverbial pen to paper, we had only bones and teeth, soil contents, paleo-geology and -geography and -climate, to intuit what might have been.

This, despite the fact that we know for a fact that written records are always from the writer’s perspective. They are only trustworthy to the point we trust the writer–like a Leakey, Donald Johansson, Chris Beard, Jane Goodall. These interpretations–albeit highly trained–of primary sources (Earth’s record) are given more credibility than the primary source itself (an action I’m sure discouraged by Leakey’s and Johnasson’s and Beard’s and Goodall’s teachers as they pursued their research). Why? The reason is simple: It takes a PhD to interpret Earth’s story. Continue reading ‘The How and Why of Early Man’

What’s in this blog

Discover the sizzle in science. It's not that stuff that's always for the smart kids. It's the need to know. The passion for understanding. The absolute belief that for every problem, there is a solution. The creative mind seeking truth in a world of mystery. The quest for the Holy Grail.

That's science.

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Books I’m Reading

Great Science Books

Assembling California
Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
The Forest People
Geology Underfoot in Southern California
The Land's Wild Music: Encounters with Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest William, and James Galvin
My Life with the Chimpanzees
Naked Earth: The New Geophysics
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness
Sand Rivers
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
The Tree Where Man Was Born
The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animal and Plants of the Region
The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography

Jacqui's favorite books »
Share book reviews and ratings with Jacqui, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

RSS Fact and Fiction about Early Man

  • The Old Way: A Story of the First People October 4, 2017
    author: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas name: Jacqui average rating: 4.20 book published: 2006 rating: 5 read at: 2017/10/04 date added: 2017/10/04 shelves: history, early-man review: […]
    Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  • Ki'ti's Story, 75,000 BC December 11, 2016
    author: Bonnye Matthews name: Jacqui average rating: 4.24 book published: 2012 rating: 5 read at: 2016/12/11 date added: 2016/12/11 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Bonnye Matthews
  • Meeting Prehistoric Man October 4, 2014
    author: GHR von Koenigswald name: Jacqui average rating: 4.00 book published: 1492 rating: 5 read at: 2014/10/04 date added: 2014/10/04 shelves: early-man review: Meeting Prehistoric Man by GHR Von Koenigswald is a journey throughout the world in discovery of early man as paleoanthropologists understood him during VonKoenigswald's time, circa 1950' […]
    GHR von Koenigswald
  • Letters from the Field, 1925-1975 September 13, 2014
    author: Margaret Mead name: Jacqui average rating: 4.20 book published: 1977 rating: 5 read at: 2014/09/13 date added: 2014/09/13 shelves: early-man review: If you didn't read my last week's post, you may wonder why I am so excited about Margaret Mead's eye-opening book, Letters From the Field. Even if you read me last week, you may wonder--I […]
    Margaret Mead
  • The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention January 12, 2014
    author: Guy Deutscher name: Jacqui average rating: 4.17 book published: 2005 rating: 3 read at: date added: 2014/01/12 shelves: early-man, research review: Dr. Deutscher has done a scholarly, thorough discussion on the roots of language, but I believe he started too late in time. I'm of the persuasion that language involves more than the spoken word. I […]
    Guy Deutscher
  • She Who remembers November 3, 2013
    author: Linda Lay Shuler name: Jacqui average rating: 4.00 book published: 1988 rating: 4 read at: date added: 2013/11/03 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Linda Lay Shuler
  • The Runaway Brain: The Evolution Of Human Uniqueness July 25, 2011
    author: Christopher Wills name: Jacqui average rating: 4.15 book published: 1993 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: science, early-man review: In my lifelong effort to understand what makes us human, I long ago arrived at the lynchpin to that discussion: our brain. Even though bipedalism preceded big brains, and we couldn't be who we are […]
    Christopher Wills
  • The Origin Of Humankind July 25, 2011
    author: Richard E. Leakey name: Jacqui average rating: 3.97 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, history review: If you're interested in man's roots, there are several authors you must read: Birute Galdikas Dian Fosse Donald Johanson GHR Von Koenigsman Glen Isaacs Jared Diamond Ian Tattersell Lev Vygots […]
    Richard E. Leakey
  • Lucy: the beginnings of humankind July 24, 2011
    author: Donald C. Johanson name: Jacqui average rating: 4.12 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I read this book when I was writing a paleo-historic drama of the life of earliest man. My characters were Homo habilines, but they cohabited Africa with Australopithecines, so to understand the co-st […]
    Donald C. Johanson
  • Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.25 book published: 1990 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I have read every book that Jane Goodall wrote. She has an easy-going writing style that shares scientific principals easily with the layman. Probably because when she started, she was little more than a no […]
    Jane Goodall
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