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Friday, February 22, 2008

We are moving...

Following the example of the Rabbit, I may soon be moving to WordPress, importing all my old post and such over there.

The reason, quite simply, is the lack of pre-made 3-columns templates on Blogger.

I know I could modify myself the html to allow for that, but I can't be arsed. After all, that's the age of internet 2.0, we users are not supposed to know what html is, exactly like you don't need to know electronics to operate a TV. And since I am no enginneer and want a wide-screen blog in these times of wide-everything, I am getting a new one exactly how I would get a new TV.

It's as simple as that.

So, you will temporarily be able to find me at:

Upload your blogrolls then...

PS: I will possibly use the opportunity to start another, science-only related blog. I haven't decided yet what its name is going to be, but I will try to write down a diary of what my work is about... Let's see how it shapes up...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wisdom, or lack thereof...

It's taken thirty years to convince my lonely wisdom tooth to emerge from his burrow... It was a tiny sliver of enamel poking up of my upper-right mandible, only a couple of years ago... Then, it came out bit by bit, and my tongue learned every feature of its contorted surface. It never was much of help in chewing, having come out sideways compared to the other teeth. But alas, I didn't mind too much - it was a welcome (well tolerated) guest in my mouth...

Wisdom teeth have, by the way, quite an interesting scientific story. They come out later in life, after you've been adult for a while, and that's why they're called wisdom teeth. At least, that's my educated guess. Why do they come out later in life? because this way our ancestors would have at least a spare tooth when the other molars were rotten, or just too worn out. I guess they used them on much tougher food that we do today... Charles Darwin himself cites the wisdom teeth as 'rudimentary', in "The descent of Man', which I am reading right now in the new, concise edition curated by Carl Zimmer.

But let's go back to my single lonely tooth. Suddenly, just a couple of weeks ago, a dull pain started to manifest itself, and playing with my tongue and finger over it (just imagine the scene) I self-diagnosed that the last, invisible addition to the smile had started to push against the neighbor... yesterday took a dive and, for the first time in years, and only the third time in life, I went to the dentist.

She opened my mouth wide open, looking inside and poking with her shiny metal tools... And prodding around, found a cavity, my first cavity, in my little wisdom tooth... The bastard. Last one to come out, first one to cause me troubles... }8-[

She suggested to take it out, and I buggered off with an excuse (not before being asked to pay 84 Euros for the privilege), with the promise that I'll show up next wednesday to let her play a bit more with her pliers and drills.

She has, I noticed when she took out her mask, the most beautiful lips I've ever seen up close. Hopefully, having a crash on my dentist will help me bear the pain she'll inflict me. Ouch!

Stay tuned. More to follow...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Michael Pollan has a blog, too!

One of my favourite writers/journalists has a blog, about good agriculture and good food.

Check it out: On The Table

and make sure you read how agricultural policies of developed states influence the things we eat.

It's a pity he does not update it more often...

Have an Ice Day!!!

Pseudomonas syringae is an extremely interesting bacterium, which I discovered reading Olivia Judson's latest post on cloud-dwelling bacteria.

Usually, plants growing in cold regions use special chemicals as anti-freeze. This bacterium, though, secretes Ice Nucleation-active proteins to make ice crystals grow at temperatures as high as -2C. The crystals cause damage to cell walls of plants, and the bacterium vacuums up the nutrients released.

So, they use ice crystals as straw, although the name "syringae" doesn't come from there. Rather, it comes from the plants they were isolated from at first:

It is named after the lilac tree (Syringa vulgaris), from which it was first isolated[2]
(from the wikipedia)

and always on the theme of vampires from the cold, the new Penny Arcade strip is out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Double blind scientific review

John Denney over at Evilutionary Biologist makes an interesting point: How often and how much knowing the reputation of the author of a paper influences the opinion we get from reading it?

The discussion was sparked by a piece on the journal Nature.

Would it not be better if the review process was double blinded, as it happens in the case of clinical trials of new drugs?

I do happen to think it is a good idea too.

It is certainly possible to guess who the author of the paper is from the subject, his writing style and (possibly) the amount of self-citations(!).

But one more hurdle to accepting a paper as a gold nugget just because it's been crapped up (down) by Dr Eminent can't hurt, can he?

I am personally in the middle of the final touches to my paper before submission - and I think that another good point of it is that reviewers who will happen to read it (if it gets accepted for review, that is) will not know my name so they will not black list me for future collaborations.

Oh, come on, a bit of self-confidence, Dr Fenu...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Do supermarkets make our lives better?

The BBC radio program "World Have Your Say" points to an opinion piece by food critic Jay Rayner discussing whether or not supermaret are a good or evil force in our fight for better, affordable food.

I have to admit that I quite like his position, founding it well reasoned and far from the anti-supermarket crowd rants...

Yes, supermarket "are bloody convenient", as he points out. But they are not the "the dismal and anonymous places" they are made out to be... The people working in there are just, well, people, and they are as likely to behave nicely or badly with their customers as any other "small-retailer" who has been put out of business by them.

Also, I may add, from my personal experience, in Italy the small distribution is suffering now the revenge of customers who until now were forced to pay extortion prices for goods often 1/3rd cheaper in the supermarket.

And as Jay thoughtfully points out, all those chef recommending exotic ingredients would not be able to offer recipes for less than 5 pounds if it weren't for the big scale economies that allow big chain to sell these foods at a lower price.

There certainly is a lot to be done to force supermarket to pay an honest price to farmers... But as long as people pushes them to have cheaper and cheaper food, they're going to attempt anything they can to provide them with it. Once people will start demanding high quality food, we will see a shift in the chains' modus operandi. Not one second before.

Almeno l'itagliano... Impalalo!!!

Tanto x ripostare qua qualcosa che mi ha fatto ridere quando mi e' arrivato via e-mail... l'N-esima catena umoristica...

1. Mi puoi disinnescare la segreteria telefonica? (Ordigni moderni...)

2. Soffro di vene vorticose. (Sarà un ballerino...)

3. Di fronte a queste cose rimango putrefatto! (Che

4. In farmacia: Puoi darmi un 'una tantum'? (forse si
chiama 'tantum verde'?)

5. Quando muoio mi faccio cromare. (Valido!)

6. Arriva il treno, hai blaterato il biglietto? (.....)

7. Come faccio a fare tutte queste cose simultaneamente?
Dovrei avere il dono dell'obliquità! (la torre di Pisa???)

8. Un'onda anonima ha travolto i surfisti. (e nessuno la
sa riconoscere???)

9. Almeno l'italiano... sallo! (Eh...)

10. Basta! Vi state coagulando contro di me!(trasfusione?)

11. E' nel mio carattere: quando qualcosa non va, io
sodomizzo! (Stategli lontano!)

12. Anche l'occhio va dalla sua parte... (Si chiama strabismo...)

13. Non so a che santo riavvolgermi. (Una videocassetta devota....)

14. Avete i nuovi telefonini GPL? (No mi spiace solo benzina!!!)

15. Il cadavere presentava evidenti segni di decesso. (Ma va?! Strano)

16. Prima di operarmi mi fanno un'autopsia generale. (Auguri!)

17. Vorrei un pacco di cotone idraulico. (Ha una perdita???)

18. Abbiamo mangiato la trota salmonellata. (Ancora auguri!)

19. Vorrei un'aspirina in supposte effervescenti. (Quando
si dice faccia da culo...)

20. Vorrei una maglia con il collo a volpino. (Non era

21. Devo andare dall'otorinolalinguaiatra. (che dire...)

22. Ho visitato palazzo degli infissi a Firenze. (
ci sono infissi alla finestre e allora??)

23. Vorrei una pomata per l'Irpef. (Herpes è

24. Se lo sapevo glielo divo! (Ovvio...)

25. Usare il DDT fa diventare più grande il buco nell'Orzoro. (Addio colazione)

26. Tu non sei proprio uno sterco di santo. (Meno

27. Tu l'hai letto il fu Mattia Bazar? (Antonella

28. E' andato a lavorare negli evirati arabi. (Contento lui...)

29. Lo scontro ha causato 5 feriti e 10 confusi. (Uno dei confusi sei tu??)

30. A forza di andare di corpo mi sono quasi disintegrata. (O disidratata??? Alla faccia della diarrea!)

31. Mia nonna ha il morbo di Pakistan. (....)

32. La mia auto ha la marmitta paralitica. (...e al posto dei cavalli ha le sedie a rotelle??)

33. Verrà in ufficio una stragista per il tirocinio. (Si salvi chi può!)

34. Sono momentaneamente in stand-bike. (L'attesa in bicicletta....)

35. Che lingua si parla in Turchia? Il turchese. (...è logico)

36. Davanti alla sua prepotenza resto illibato. (

37. Scendi il cane che lo piscio. (...guinzagliato però!!!!)

38. Da vicino vedo bene, è da lontano che sono lesbica.(Aiuto...)

39. C'è una peluria di operai. (Che schifo!!)

40. E' inutile piangere sul latte macchiato. (Meglio farlo su un bel cappuccino...)

41. Sono sempre io il cappio espiatorio (L'impiccato)

42. Beviamo una Magnum di Kruger. (salute)

43. Signora, vorrei 100 grammi di prosciutto senza polistirolo. (...che faccio un po' fatica a digerirlo...)

44. Mi sono fatta il Leasing al viso. (..pensavo un mutuo...)

Ed infine (AUTENTICA sentita oggi in uno studio medico)....
“.... ci ho l’ernia letale”