Monthly Archives: April 2009

Cancer and the drug companies

Ever since I can remember there have been a small but vocal contingent of people who hold the belief that the big-time drug companies (Big Pharma as they’re commonly known) are willingly and purposefully withholding cures for various diseases, but most notably cancer. No, not any specific cancer, but “cancer” in general.

First off, cancer isn’t one thing. It’s an umbrella term for a very wide ranging number of diseases that happen to share a few defining characteristics. It may be theoretically possible to treat a very large number of them with a specific therapy (such as halting angiogenesis – blood vessel formation), but since not all cancers act the same way I think it’s impossible to have a “cure for cancer.” If there was one out there it would be decades beyond our current medical technology since we simply don’t have the basic science of cancer understood well enough to form a reliable “cure” for it.

Even more damaging to this idea is the amazing cooperative conspiracy Big Pharma would have to have to be undertaking to keep such an amazing scientific breakthrough under wraps.

But what puts this idea to rest is this: science is all about prestige.  Anyone who has spent any time in the academic sciences knows how absolutely ruthless (seriously) people can get about new scientific discoveries.  I know loads of people who would disown their families to be a first author on a ground-breaking paper because they know it opens up the scientific world to them. Prestige equals power, money, powerful positions, and authority in science, and everyone wants it.  A cure for cancer would be in a class of its own when it comes to scientific accomplishments; instant Nobel prize (along with many other prestigious prizes), any tenured university position you want, the ability to charge tens of thousands of dollars for speaking engagements, becoming top dog in biology, knowing that you’re going to be personally responsible for saving millions of lives, and the inevitable millions of dollars that will be generated by the cure (most will go to the university, but s/he’ll make money off it too).  This makes the notion that somehow a cure is out there that is being suppressed by the very scientists who created it is so absurd as to be unbelievable without some form of evidence.

It has been said many times, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  If you believe junk such as this then pony over that evidence. Oh, that’s being suppressed too? How convenient…

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Filed under animal research, cancer, crazy, just sad, pet peeve, Those Other Sciences

Improving science literacy – part 3

There has been much talk about “cloning” in the popular press over the past decade or so and I have realized that most people don’t really understand what cloning actually is. That’s a problem I can easily clear up with a little bit of explanation.

Cloning is simply making a copy of something else. That copy is typically DNA, and it can either be partial or complete. The way it is typically used is in conjunction with human embryos, so that’s what I’ll focus on.

First off, DNA isn’t the be-all, end-all determining factor of human behavior/function/whatever. Development is determined by many factors, but when cloning is involved it is only concerned about one particular source of information: nuclear DNA. This plays into the nature vs. nurture debate because it means that people with the “same” DNA can develop into different people. However, problems with this idea persist. First, they probably don’t have the same DNA. Simply due to the nature of DNA copying there are bound to be fuck-ups which can then be compounded by developmental differences between the siblings. This can help account for the differences between identical twins, as can many other theories, but this helps explain why “identical” may not be the best term for such twins.

Essentially, what this comes down to is that even if there is an exact copy of your nuclear DNA out there (which is very unlikely), there are many other factors involved in the development of a person that influence it’s final outcome that it will not be a carbon copy of you (and I didn’t even touch mtDNA, DNA imprinting, or external developmental factors).

Genetics is crazy and you can’t even begin to understand how fascinating and confusing it is. I have only scratched the surface and my mind has been blown so many times I don’t know what “gene” means anymore. That’s another post… A very complicated post that I don’t want to write…

Hope this helped. Questions are welcome.

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Filed under Those Other Sciences

Stupid stuff keeping me from blogging

Between my soon-to-be-ex-wife wanting me to constantly cook for her and give her attention, my cat pooping all over the carpet in my apartment, and setting up a summer lab rotation for grad school I haven’t had much time to write since coming back to the big city. I’ll carve out some time soon though since there’s still plenty of stuff I want to write about.

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Drunk story #1

So, here’s one of my better drunk stories. It all began one fateful Saturday morning; a beautiful Fall day and a still-drunk-from-last-night me…

It was a tailgate morning, and being on a Big 10 campus tailgating is a big deal. Being students our setup was minimal but contained all the necessities: grill, burgers, and lots of cheap beer. However, this day we also had a red hardhat with horns on it someone had stolen from the dorm cafeteria. Destiny (and lots of beer) brought us together.

It was only technically nine hours into the day and yet six of those I had spent drinking, not an uncommon occurrence so I thought I could handle it. I was wrong. Someone put the helmet on me and being in a very impressional state I was told to begin ramming people. So, like a raging 135lb. bull I began a reign of destruction upon all those who entered our tailgate.

Many videos were made of me ramming people, knocking them over, and then screaming, “I RAMMED THE SHIT OUT OF YOU!” However, you can imagine that by this point I am becoming particularly unstable on my feet. Somehow I can ram people just fine but I can’t stand up on my own so I did the only reasonable thing a man in my situation would do: I hugged a tree for support. Scratch that, I didn’t just hug the tree, I was practically making love to it. See for yourself…

tree-hugger

You’d think that after that I’d be done. You’d be wrong. A girl I knew took me and my best friend back to the dorms so we could pass out in peace. I wasn’t ready to pass out though, I felt like shaving. My chest. Dry. In the hallway. Wearing only my boxers.

The girl saw me doing that and pulled me into my best friend’s room which thankfully happened to be nearby. I then proceeded to pass out on his futon. I awoke several hours later with my friend passed out on top of me. He was also wearing only his boxers. It was totally gay. We woke up, put clothes on, and started drinking again.

I miss college.

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Filed under crazy, hilarious

I’ll make it back one of these days

I’ve been busy writing, traveling, and entertaining at my parent’s house so it has left little time for blogging. However, I will return soon and it will be glorious.

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On perspective

For at least the past six years I have always ended my self-pity with the line, “it could be worse, I could be on fire.” It’s kind of a joke, but it does really keep me grounded; no matter how bad my problems seem there are plenty of ways my life could be much worse. The vast reach of the internet has made that line even more applicable. Now, every chance I can I downplay the relative bad stuff that has happened in my life because, well, it is only RELATIVELY bad. No one died, no one was crippled, no one was permanently hurt.

It doesn’t make how I feel about a personal situation hurt any less, but it does put it into the larger world perspective which, in my mind, is a good and grounding feeling. For instance, I recently contacted a sweet girl I went to high school with about a fairly unimportant conversation I had and she mentioned that I was one of the few people to take the time to contact her about anything beyond the general “hey, how’s it goin???” bullshit since her father had died. Her father succumbed to cancer late in our senior year roughly seven years ago and she still feels it everyday. Even with everything that has happened to me in my life I have never felt anything like the hurt that she has felt. I know that feeling such sorrow is part of being human, but knowing how much it has hurt her I hope to never feel it and that is why I put all of my sad life happenings into perspective with, “it could be worse, I could be on fire.”

Her story also struck a chord due to my current situation. I am writing this post sitting in a house with my mother and father quietly sleeping in their second-floor bedroom knowing full well I will see them in the morning, and I take that for granted. I shouldn’t, but I do. Most of us don’t appreciate the little things that a surprising number of people lack: the ability to breath properly, walking, not having to worry about a family member, etc.

Yes, I’m getting divorced and I’m almost broke. However, my wife and I still have a great relationship, I have savings I can use to help the financial troubles, I and my family are still healthy and prosperous, and I’m beginning grad school this August. As bad as things may look from a single perspective, when you take a look from all perspectives many times your life looks much better than you could possibly imagine.

Just remember: it could be worse, you could be on fire.

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Filed under cancer, childhood, home, life, morality, sleep deprived

Baguettes and gay marriage

Well, since I’ve had a lot of free time hanging out at my parents house on an extended mini-vacation I’ve taken to doing a few things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. One of those things is learning how to make a fantastic baguette.

Please note, I am not a baker. Far from it. I don’t bake shit, but I got on my computer, researched the hell out of baguettes, bought some yeast and flour, and went to town. I failed many times, but every time I have learned something from my mistakes. So far I have the flavor I wanted and the crumb structure (the bubbles inside) is ~80% figured out, but the dough consistency and the crust are still far from perfection. So, I got a lot of work ahead of me, but as soon as I figure out where I’ve gone wrong I’ll type up the recipe for all to use and enjoy.

Much like my baguette battle, gay marriage in this country is making progress as well. Four states now allow for same sex marriage!!! Fuck yes, score one for the good guys! I can honestly say that if you have a problem with the equality of allowing homosexuals to marry then you and I are probably not going to get along (my last boss had to travel back to England to marry his boyfriend; he should have been able to do it here).

Progress is being made not only on the baguette front, but also on the civil rights front. Both of those things make me a very happy man.

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Filed under christianity, food, home, marriage, morality, religion