Cancer therapy side effects

There’s an interesting tale of a novel side-effect causing problems for young cancer sufferers in the UK. Nightclub bouncers it seems have been turning away cancer patients who have been rendered hairless by their treatment on the basis that they must be “skinhead thugs”. According to the Times –,,2-2319293.html – half the young cancer patients from Manchester’s Christie Hospital have been turned away from a pub or club door. The solution was to issue the patients with a photo identity card to stop them being turned away.

Pines Lab People

I’m not yet sure whether it’s uber-geeky or just clever-clever, but the “people” web page for the Pines Lab at Berkeley, that’s Alex Pines, in case you didn’t know, divides up past and present team members into “Current Pine Nuts”, “Old Pine Nuts”, and “All Nuts”. There are also Global Pinenuts, presumably those Pines lab members who have fallen far from the tree.

Just be thankful, Professor Dogg at MIT hasn’t had a similar idea…or worse still Hadley Cocks at Duke!

Pines lab people can be found here

Porn Star Names

porn star namePorn star names seem to be the modern trendy equivalent of star signs. People at parties ask you what your porn star name might be, and others have a useful little formula for generating them. First name comes from the name of your first pet, say. Lucky. And, the last name, your mother’s maiden name. Cocker. Hence my PSN might be Lucky Cocker. My wife’s is Goldie Black…

It’s fun and seemingly harmless. But, watch out for websites that offer to generate a PSN for you…typing in your pet’s name and mother’s maiden name might seem innocuous enough, but remember that very information usually forms the basis of the security checks for your online banking too…

Incidentally, my pet wasn’t called Lucky and my mother certainly wasn’t a Cocker. I’m not that stupid, it’s Snowy and Hedgecock.

UPDATE: It turns out I needn’t have bothered coming up with a porn star name for myself, apparently there is a 雷竞技官网 porn star out there somewhere as it is. Check out this Sig Figs post for photos of several other people with the name 雷竞技官网 (but not the pr0n star, I hasten to add).

UPDATE: A self-styled Wikileaks for porn has revealed the real names of dozens of porn stars who use stage names (industry pseudonyms). The Independent reports that, “The ability of those pornographic film performers to hide their identity behind sometimes bizarre stage monikers has been shot to pieces after a website published a leaked database containing the real names, dates of birth, and official nicknames of more than 15,000 of the adult industry’s hard-working performers, past and present.”

wHy aRE LeaRNeD SoCietIES SO KeEn on ACRoNyMS

Just in, a press release from the Royal Chem Soc. I really didn’t get far into it because I stumbled at the first major acronym – EuCheMS. Why is it that learned societies and academics in general opt for all these acronyms with mixed upper and lower case letters?

I realise they’re an aid to remembering and pronouncing the acronym, but EUCHEMS would look soooo much neater on the page.


Erotic pictures could cause brain crash

Forget Cronenburg’s Crash…

If you feel your viewing partner cannot see you while watching TV, it could be that the flash of nudity that was on the screen, just then, has caused emotional blindness. The same effect could lead to accidents if drivers succumb to this condition having seen a suggestive billboard.

Portions of the research exploring this effect by Vanderbilt University psychologist David Zald and Yale University colleagues was published in the August 2005 issue of Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

“We observed that people fail to detect visual images that appeared one-fifth of a second after emotional images, whereas they can detect those images with little problem after neutral images,” Zald said.

Anyone who has ever slowed down to look at an accident as they are driving by–or has been stuck behind someone who has–is familiar with the “rubbernecking” effect. Even though we know we need to keep our eyes on the road, our emotions of concern, fear and curiosity cause us to stare out the window at the accident and slow to a crawl as we drive by. The same thing seems to happen whether it gore or phwoarr!

Catnip caught catnapping…

According to this week’s C&EN many cats are unaffected by catnip.

chemical structure of nepetalactoneApparently, only 50% of cats respond to catnip. Catnip sensitivity is inherited, says Carolyn McDaniel, a veterinarian at the Feline Health Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Catnip is available as a herb or the essential oil of Nepeta cataria, and it’s the compound nepetalactone that is one of several chemicals known to set off the characteristic behaviour of cats exposed to it. This behaviour generally starts with sniffing, licking and chewing, followed by head shaking, body and head rubbing, and then repeated head-over-heels rolling.

No one is sure why cats respond to nepetalactone in this way, but it sounds like it’s doing something not dissimilar to the action of cocaine. (I defer to the experts on that presumption though).
If you’d like a print-quality molecular structure of nepetalactone to accompany an article you may be writing on this compound please check out my molecular modeling service.

What DO scientists know?

Science Magazine recently published a “Top 25” list of the questions scientists are yet to answer. It includes the usual “what is the universe made of?”, “what is the biological basis of consciousness?”, “are we alone in the universe?”, that kind of thing. I compiled the complete list together with links to the individual articles from Science on the sciencebase site: What DO scientists know?. It’s interesting to see the nature of the contextual advertising that is generated by the ad network, not unexpected, but interesting to see what people will pay good money to advertise. Take a look, you’ll get my point…

Solar Energy

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and as such is an attractive candidate for becoming a pollution-free fuel of the future. However, almost all the hydrogen we use is produced using highly polluting fossil fuels. Worse, storing and transporting hydrogen is difficult, hazardous, and costly.

An international collaboration between the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, Institut de Science et de Genie des Materiaux et Procedes – Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, and ScanArc Plasma Technologies AB in Sweden is hoping to develop a solar energy project with European Union funding to tackle the problems associated with hydrogen use by creating an easily storable intermediate energy source form from metal ore, such as zinc oxide.

By using concentrated sunlight, solar energy in other word, metal ore is heated to about 1,200 Celsius in a solar reactor over wood charcoal. this splits the ore, releases oxygen and creates zinc vapour, which is then condensed to a powder.

The final step involves reacting zinc powder with water to release hydrogen gas for use as fuel cell fuel. The by-product, zinc oxide, is simply recycled back to zinc in the solar plant.

In recent experiments, the 300-kilowatt installation produced 45 kilograms of zinc powder from zinc oxide in one hour, exceeding projected goals. Weizmann scientists are currently investigating metal ores other than zinc oxide, as well as additional materials that may be used for efficient conversion of sunlight into storable energy.

Chene Follow U

Apparently, the recent patent using the non-word “chene“, I mentioned last week is older than my original source suggested. More to the point, says UCSF’s John Irwin on CHMINF-L, the patent examiners failed to recognize a whole tranche of prior art from Daylight, MDL, Tripos, and Acelrys, among others. The patent will be invalidated, he adds. Irwin also suggests that we, “Spare a thought for overworked USPTO examiners.”

So, chenomics may not emerge in the way the Japanese patent application hoped. But, watch out next week for yet another patent on a gene, this time by a Canadian company exploiting US university research…can’t say any more for now…

Try spring tide swimming for a dose of the squits

The American Chemical Society reports today that beach pollution is worst during a new and full moon.

A new study of 60 beaches in Southern California suggests that water pollution varies with the lunar cycle, reaching the highest levels when tides are ebbing during the new and full moon. The findings could help beachgoers and managers better assess the potential risk of swimming. The study is published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Alexandria Boehm of Stanford University and her colleagues at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project found that in the full and new phases of the moon, levels of enterococci were higher at the vast majority of the beaches studied. Boehm found that during so-called “spring tides”, when water levels vary the most between high and low tides, a beach is twice as likely to be out of compliance with water quality standards. Spring tides are exceptionally high or low tides that take place during the full and new moons, but have nothing to do with the season of the year.

Beach managers can now use tides as they currently use rainfall to assess warnings, Boehm suggests. When it rains, managers recommend that swimmers not enter the water for three days. “They could also suggest that during spring tides — and especially spring-ebb tides — water quality is more likely to be impaired, and those who are risk-averse should avoid swimming,” Boehm says.

So, no more moonlit beach parties for all you West Coasters…unless you fancy a dose of the squits…you can always blame the barbecue chef.