Inspiration from simplicity and the skeletal scaffolding of wood and bone…

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Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

When I was a youngster, I was both repelled and fascinated by skeletons and the remains of the dead. While bones will always retain a tinge of horror, anguish, revulsion, and all the associations of graveyards and slasher-movie screams, I also now find a beauty and magnetic charisma to their naked simplicity and inferred motion.

Fossils and trips to museums helped to pry skeletons away from the realm of night-terrors, towards a sedate landscape of appreciation and admiration for the rhythms of anatomy. …

Jeff Bridges, The Dude, has been diagnosed with lymphoma…

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Jeff Bridges (Wikimedia Commons)

Jeff Bridges — New S**T has come to light

Just so we’re clear, that handsome middle aged duuude is not me. That is The Dude. Jeff Bridges. And he (as The Dude) is my profile photo. If you have not seen The Big Lebowski, starring Jeffrey Leon Bridges as The Dude, you have to check it out. Bridges is not only an inspiration for my Medium persona, but also for checking out the disease he has just been diagnosed with.

I first saw Bridges in Starman, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination. I saw it at that impressionable age where the young brain stores profoundly useless items like Bridges as an alien trying to learn Earthly ways, like driving a car, and saying: “I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast”. …

“…whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” — C. Darwin

Working backwards to the origin of life…

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William F. Martin, Ph.D.

William F. Martin, Ph.D. is a former carpenter, born in Bethesda, Maryland, educated in Texas, who after hammering nails in Dallas moved to Hanover, Germany to get his degree in biology, and then to the Max-Planck Institute in Cologne for his Ph.D.

In July 2016, Madeline Weiss et al. from Martin’s lab published a paper in Nature Microbiology that worked backwards from today’s organisms to uncover what they described as the last universal common ancestor to all life on Earth — LUCA. They showed that LUCA was anerobic (did not use oxygen), obtained energy from hydrogen, converted carbon dioxide and nitrogen into essential organic compounds, and was heat loving. Extreme heat loving. They believed that LUCA originated in an environment much like the black smoker hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, discovered in 1977 by explorers in the deep-sea submersible, Alvin. …

Day 26 response: So many life forms, struggling on to procreate, sunlight on a pond…

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Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

Nature versus Nature

First Life eats Sunlight.
Second Life consumes First Life.
Circle of Life Starts.

The first life forms which we might recognize as living organisms were probably chemotrophs or phototrophs. Troph is Greek for eater, and chemo is Greek for chemical, so a chemotroph eats chemicals in its environment. Thus a phototroph is something that “eats” light. Like plants today. But the first life were not plants but closer to bacteria or single-celled algae. These first arose perhaps 3.7 billion or more years ago (at least that is the oldest rocks in which we’ve found fossil evidence suggesting life). …

Tesla’s network of Supercharging stations spans the globe to fight global warming…

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Tesla Model S charging at the Supercharger network station in Newark, Delaware. (Wikimedia Commons)

Tesla Superchargers…

If we are considering buying an electric car or truck, we’ll be thinking about how to charge our car. For many of us, we will be charging from home most of the time, plugging in when we get home from work or errands, and charging overnight to top off the battery. But if we are on the road for longer trips what do we do?

If you have a Tesla, you will be relying mostly on Tesla’s widely distributed and convenient network of Supercharging stations. These are Tesla’s internally developed, manufactured, and installed high-voltage high-speed charging stations.

Let’s dive into these to see why Tesla has dominated the world of EVs and will likely be the leader driving the decline and practical extinction of gasoline-powered cars. …

My notes to a physicist friend hoping to join me in a yeast lab

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Photo by Adrien Converse on Unsplash

The lab where I work is interested in the mechanics of basic biological processes, using yeast as a model organism.

A good friend, a physicist and technology marketing executive by training and profession, will hopefully be joining me in the lab. These are my informal notes to him to get him up to speed in a practical way for our lab, focusing on golden-oldies classical methods to start with. My hope is that he, and others, interested in making such a career transition into a bio lab will find this practical introduction useful as well.

1. Analyzing biological molecules

In previous articles, we took brief, practical looks into major sub-fields of biology: molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics. A common theme in each was breaking down the complex messiness of biology, and focusing on an important component. Such as DNA. Proteins. The inheritance of genes. …

The SARS-CoV-2 virus uses its spike protein as a key

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SARS-CoV-2 virus by electron microscopy (NIAID)

A super-close look at the COVID-19 virus

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing the current COVID-19 pandemic uses its spike protein complex like a key to enter the human cell.

You can see the spikes in the electron micrograph (above) creating the corona or crown surrounding the blob-like membrane-bound body of the virus itself. This electron microscope image is by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the Rocky Mountain Lab. This false-color image shows the spikes in green and the membrane-bound viral body in yellow.

I’m nearsighted. And although you can zoom into the image, it will always remain frustratingly fuzzy to you (like how I see the world no matter the distance). …

Day 23 prompt: Quantitatively modeling our way through the world’s variations…

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Sir Francis Galton, by Charles Wellington Furse (Wikimedia Commons)

Nature versus Nurture

Sir Francis Galton.
Polymath, eugenicist.
Birthed the Holocaust.

Darwin’s half-cousin.
Where did his genius derive?
Statistics answers.

Modeling our way through the
World’s variations.

Correlations and
Regressions toward the mean
Are his gifts to us.

The wisdom of crowds…

Today we often see a jar of jellybeans and enter a drawing to win a prize if we guess the number in the jar. We often speak of the wisdom of the crowds, the supposed magical ability of a crowd to somehow zero in shockingly close to the correct answer. The wisdom of the crowd is actually a calculation of the average of everyone’s guesses. …

Checking in on the latest amazing stories and poems on our new publication…

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Ancient Egyptians woodworking (Wikimedia Commons)

Y’all are the best!!

How did I get so lucky as to have so many amazing writers and artists converge on this little publication? Thank you all. I know it has only been four days since my introductory letter to you all, but you have submitted so many wonderful new pieces that I want to summarize what I’ve published on the site since the last letter here:

The Humble Home for Wayward Words…

These are the latest stories that y’all have submitted and I am honored to host on WotWU.

Terry Mansfield wrote a wistful haiku about making art from wood, here:

James G Brennan wrote a funny, honest, and personal piece about his encounters with woodcraft and crusty old bosses…

Day 18 prompt: Feeling our way through the world of others…

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Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

The Other

Watch their eyes, posture.
Heart, open to your best friend.
Hand, on their shoulder.

Watch their eyes, posture.
Mind, closed to your enemies.
Hand, on the holster.

Watch their eyes, posture.
Soul, open to The Other.
Hand, over your heart.

Those studying the neurobiology of empathy suggest that the basis of empathy lies in hardwired neural circuitry. This circuitry, detected by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), enables us to unconsciously mimic the “postures, mannerisms, and facial expressions of others to a greater degree than individuals who are unempathetic.”

What happens then is that the observer unconsciously mimics the actions and facial expressions of the person who is suffering. The brain stimulates the same motor and sensory areas of the observer, so their brain mirrors the motor and sensory areas of the observed person. …



Husband, dad, scientist, loves to share sciency stuff and goofiness. Please follow me:

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