i just had a very berkeley moment

August 4, 2010 at 8:44 am | | nerd

I was walking up Hearst near campus. I said to a friend, “Well, I never got into Harvard.”

A nearby hobo overheard me and said, “You didn’t miss much! Anyway, I chose to go to Princeton in the end.”


July 28, 2010 at 3:46 pm | | grad life, nerd, postdoc life, science and the public

One of my labmates attended Comic-Con last week in San Diego and decided to dress up as a TARDIS (a sort of time-machine from Dr. Who) in what can only be described as an epically awesome costume.

While there is a side-on photo of her with writer/director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Serenity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Avengers, etc.) that’s been circulating on Twitter, below is an EXCLUSIVE photo from her own camera.

In addition to attracting the attention of the famous and powerful, she also managed to attract the very sketchy. Link

even JACS is excited about the new Tron movie

July 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm | | cartoons, literature, nerd

I thought this TOC looked pretty awesome.

what the heck is permanent press?

July 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm | | nerd, open thread, science@home

OK, what the heck is the “permanent press” cycle on my washer? On the dryer, I think it just adds a cool tumble to the end to avoid wrinkles. But what about for the washer?

Wiki says that some machines might spray a little water during the spin, but I’m fairly sure that my cheap washer does not have that feature. From what I can tell, the perm press wash cycle is 2 min shorter than the “normal” setting, and the second rinse is a “cool down” rinse. However, my washer make the second rinse cold anyway, so I don’t think this makes perm press special. I wonder if the agitation is weaker (or stronger) for perm press compared to normal, but I sorta doubt it.

So, in conclusion, I have no idea what the “permanent press” settings on my washer are for. Maybe they just had extra space on the settings knob, so they added some fictional settings?

UPDATE: I called GE to ask them this question about their washer. The woman at the technical service said, “I have no idea.” And sorta laughed. No help there.

Creatine, a popular sports supplement

July 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm | | nerd, science and the public, stupid technology, tutorial

Creatine, a small-molecule found naturally in red meat (and biosynthesized in our bodies), is a popular supplement for weight lifters. To understand how it works, one needs to know that ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the body’s energy molecule.  It gives muscles the energy they need to function, but in the process, it loses a phosphate group and is converted to ADP (adenosine diphosphate).

Creatine monophosphate has the ability to convert this low-energy ADP molecule back into the super-charged ATP molecule that muscles crave.

Creatine monophosphate

As a consequence, lifters that supplement with creatine can do more reps, which can lead to better results in the gym on a shorter timescale.  Creatine supplementation also has the effect of increasing water volume in the muscles, causing them to swell and look bigger; this effect subsides quickly once creatine supplementation is stopped.

It is well known that consumption of simple sugars with creatine increases creatine absorption.  When you consume sugar, your blood-sugar level increases, and your body releases insulin in response (assuming you don’t have type 1 diabetes).  Insulin instructs the cells to take up sugar from the bloodstream.  Insulin also has the nice effect of stimulating creatine transporters, which transport creatine from the blood into cells.

Now that the background is finished…

I was at GNC yesterday buying some creatine.  I looked at the ingredients on the GNC-brand creatine and gasped.  Creatine and sucralose!?!?!?!  Sucralose???  OK- a little more background.  Sucralose is a zero-carbohydrate, synthetic, sugar mimic.  As you can see below, it looks a lot like sucrose, only it has some chlorine groups that basically make it unrecognizable by the body’s enzymes.  So your tongue recognizes it, but your waistline doesn’t because it’s not metabolized.



Now to the remarkable part.  Sucralose has no effect on the blood sugar level. So this GNC-brand product that I bought containing 17% sucralose/83% creatine is ridiculous.  Uninformed weightlifters don’t want “sugar” calories so the industry introduces 1 g calorie-free sucralose per 5 g creatine, which has no effect on creatine uptake and actually tastes quite disgusting (sucralose is 600x sweeter than sucrose, which is regular sugar).

So who is the bigger idiot?

my balls have finally dropped

March 17, 2010 at 10:20 pm | | nerd

My goodbye gift from lab was a Galilean thermometer (with phosphorescent coatings!). It’s been colder in my apartment than the dynamic range of the instrument. Until today, that is!

It’s slightly above 68 F.

vulva (hehe)

March 15, 2010 at 9:33 am | | literature, nerd

This is fit for NCBI ROFL:

Where the sun does not shine: Is sunshine protective against melanoma of the vulva?Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology 2010.

I suppose that if you research the vulva, you’re going to be very tempted to make silly jokes.

To be a scientist…

February 13, 2010 at 9:20 am | | nerd

A wonderful XKCD for Valentine’s Day:

hard-core sugar balls

February 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm | | literature, nerd

Andrew alerted me to this awesome title:


enormously large!

January 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm | | literature, nerd

Now here is an exciting title:

Enormously large (approaching 14 eV!) electron binding energies of [HnFn+1] (n=1-5,7,9,12) anions

I just love exclamation points in titles.

check out this cool link

December 19, 2009 at 11:29 pm | | nerd, science community, wild web

Check it out here. I promise you won’t be rickroll’d.

red laser pointers

October 13, 2009 at 3:42 pm | | conferences, nerd, science community

Open letter to presenters at Optical Society of America Meeting:

You are presenting at an optics meeting. It is unacceptable to use a cheap keychain red laser pointer. As a member of OSA, with a tag on your shirt that reads “LaserFest,” red laser pointers are embarrassing. (I suppose very bright red laser pointers are OK.)

Green pointers are best. Human eyes are highly sensitive in the green. At 630 nm, eyes are not nearly as sensitive.

Given that you’re at a lasers/optics conference, it is even cool to use a blue pointer—even though it is inefficient—just to demonstrate that you’re a stud.


Ubiquitous oxymoron in journal articles and the English vernacular

September 20, 2009 at 12:03 am | | help me, nerd

How many times have you heard someone refer to the “biggest bottleneck” in some process? I’d guess at least once a week if you’re an engineer. Now think about that for a moment.  Biggest bottleneck?  Exactly how much flow does a BIG bottleneck suppress? I didn’t have this epiphany until I typed “smallest bottleneck” in my dissertation.  But “biggest bottleneck” wins over “smallest bottleneck” by an 84:1 margin according to Google.  It is not rigorously an oxymoron, however, because there could literally be a series of bottlenecks and one could be the biggest (i.e., largest bore diameter), but the manner in which the term is commonly used suggests a contradictory role between the adjective and noun. I guess it’s like people saying “I could care less” when they mean “I couldn’t care less.” Am I crazy or does this bother anyone else?  “Accuracy above all else,” I say.


April 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm | | everyday science, nerd

I had a nightmare that our controls were failing.

some light reading

April 17, 2009 at 7:31 am | | everyday science, grad life, literature, nerd, science community

What do you read…


…while on the toilet?

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