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October 26, 2007

Who's your daddy? 'Website tracks ancestry using DNA'


Above, the headline over Chris Nuttall's October 17, 2007 Financial Times (FT) story about "the launch of a website that uses DNA testing to help users find family members through the ages."

Note to Google — here's the next big thing, right up your alley:

1) Accept DNA samples submitted anonymously (free, of course)

2) Digitize the results and throw them into a(n ever-growing) registry

3) When a possible match appears, inform both parties, with the option for anonymous contact

4) Only if both accept is information exchanged

You think Facebook is big?

Just wait till iGene launches....

Here's the FT article.

    Website tracks ancestry using DNA

    Social networking will take on a new dimension on Wednesday with the launch of a website that uses DNA testing to help users find family members through the ages.

    Some 15m members of Ancestry.com, a genealogy site linked to MyFamily.com, a social networking service, will be able to swab the inside of their cheeks and send samples for analysis. They will receive an online report showing the DNA haplogroup they belong to, defined by genetic markers.

    Many people in the UK belong to the R1b haplogroup, a race that arrived in Europe from west Asia 40,000 years ago and was one of the first to practise cave art and use stone tools.

    Ancestry.com is creating networking groups that will allow haplogroups to share their common interests. Those with a common surname could also form a group and pool their DNA resources to work out how they are related.

    The DNA test details up to 46 individual genetic markers, which are compared with Ancestry’s database of DNA results. The site then shows the closest matches it has found with other members — revealing distant cousins that could not be found using Ancestry’s standard databases of births, marriages and deaths records and census results.

    “DNA testing in family history is reaching critical mass,” says Megan Smolenyak, Ancestry’s chief family historian. “For people with common surnames like Smith and Jones, they can use this to help eliminate possibilities and to tell them they are on the right track.”


My crack research team points out that Ancestry.com announced its venture into DNA testing back in June of this year, saying then that the capability would go live "by the end of the summer."

Australian summer is what they were referring to, no doubt.

And talk about the rich getting richer — that's all Google needs, a bookofjoe MoneyMaker™.

October 26, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

IKEPOD Horizon Watch


Designed by Marc Newson, it refers "... to the 'event horizon' in astrophysics, literally meaning the edge of a black hole — the moment when gravity becomes infinite, when both time and space disappear."

Looked at that way, death is a black hole.

But I digress.

I've always liked Newson's perspective on things and this only reinforces that affinity.

If you're going to think you might as well think big — real big.

The watch is available in a signed and numbered limited edition in red gold with a red gold dial (pictured).


Price upon application: info@ikepod.com

October 26, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'When knowledge accumulates ceaselessly but at random, it increases the desire for a system' — Raymond Aron


"Aron [1905-1983] was one of Jean-Paul Sartre's most formidable intellectual rivals," wrote S. S. Fair in the first paragraph of her essay entitled "The Case For Authoritarian Skin Care," which appeared in the October 21, 2007 New York Times Magazine Style "T" supplement.

I was struck by the after-the-fact utility of Aron's epigram in explaining the rise of Google.

Fair continued, "Aron had Marxist materialism in mind, but he makes the case equally well for skin care."

You could also apply Aron's observation to the seemingly innate human tendency to find order or a logical narrative when presented with many seemingly unrelated but apparently relevant facts.

October 26, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hand-Hammered Copper Pizza Pan


Even if you're like me and call Domino's whenever the urge strikes, you'll still have a nice readymade.

From the website:

    Hand-Hammered Copper Pizza Pan

    The techniques for crafting this pan date back to ancient Rome.

    Handmade in southern Italy with a hand-tinned interior, our pan is ideal for making pizza and flatbreads.

    Copper’s supreme ability to conduct heat and the pan’s wide surface create a crispy crust and tender interior.

    The rolled edges help shape the pizza and prevent the pan from warping over time.

    Attached hook for hanging.

    Made in Italy.


    15.5" dia.




October 26, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Pop Art — To Color Me Beautiful'


Above, page 30 of this past Sunday's (October 21, 2007) New York Times Magazine Style "T" supplement.

I just like the colors.

In case you want to know more about anything pictured, the caption has it.

October 26, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HappyCat Lights


Jon Heller and his wife up in Salem, Massachusetts will create a personalized light using any design you like — for a lot less than you'd think.


"The total cost, which includes the lamp, artwork, bulb, and everything you need to hang it, starts at $40."


You could look it up.


The lights measure 9" x 9" x 4".


If you'd rather not have them create something especially for you, they'll make any light they've previously designed — by hand —just as if it were your very own one-off.

October 26, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Liquid Lego' Nanodrops — Heartbeat on a chip?


The November 2007 Scientific American features an article by Gary Stix about a new technology in which water droplets encased in fat simulate cell membranes.

The dream: Simulate the pulsation of a heartbeat on a chip.

Here's the story.

    A Simple Mimic — Water Droplets Encased In Fat Simulate Cell Membranes

    A double layer of fat marks the property line that separates DNA, mitochondria, the endoplasmic reticulum and the rest of the elaborate internal machinery from everything that exists beyond the confines of a cell. Molecules of protein that poke through this lipid bilayer serve as communication channels for incoming and outgoing messages that regulate the body’s most basic activities.

    Biologists have tried for decades to produce a simple model of the cell’s plasma membrane, particularly the openings to the outside world known as ion channels. The goal is not just academic. More than 60 ion-channel gene mutations have been linked to human diseases. Some drugs that target ion channels have achieved blockbuster status. Pharmaceutical companies could deploy such a model to simulate how new drugs interact with membrane proteins.

    An ideal model has remained elusive. Some laboratories have focused on producing protocells — empty shells that are filled with cellular machinery that makes proteins or causes a fake cell to divide. Others have just created imitation cell membranes that simulate the electrical and chemical traffic at the cellular gateway. The most ambitious of these endeavors points toward a marriage of the work on protocells with membrane mimicry. It involves research at the University of Oxford and Duke University in which water droplets enveloped in a layer of fat come together to form bilayers into which membrane channels or pores can be inserted.

    The droplets are manufactured by dissolving lipids in a small reservoir of oil. Water droplets measuring less than a millimeter across join the mix, causing the lipids to form a coating on the droplets of no more than half the thickness of a cell membrane. “These systems are very stable, like a robust soap bubble with a skin that’s a biological surface,” Matthew Holden, a postdoctoral fellow at the Oxford laboratory of chemist Hagan Bayley, where much of the research took place [see “Building Doors into Cells,” by Hagan Bayley; Scientific American, September 1997].

    Dubbed “liquid Lego,” the droplets are intended to be a test bed for exploring the workings of not just a single cell membrane but an entire network of protocells. When a droplet joins with one of its neighbors, the two form the equivalent of a complete membrane. Ultimately, the team would like to engineer droplets with different characteristics, varying the pH of the water inside a droplet or the types of membrane channels used. Alternatively, different droplets may contain different drugs. The objective is to demonstrate how cells that constitute heart, brain or lung tissues communicate among themselves. “The new preparation of nanodrops holds enormous promise,” says Bob Eisenberg, chairman of biophysics and physiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “It will allow manipulation of ion channels in new ways; it will allow systems to be built from arrays of drops that show interesting properties.”

    For the moment, simulating the pulsations of a heartbeat on a chip remains a dream, although the necessary tools are starting to come forth. In the June 16 online Journal of the American Chemical Society, Holden and his colleagues recount how they sent current through a chain of 16 droplets by plugging electrodes into various droplets along the network. They inserted bacterial pores (surrogates for ion channels) into the lipid protomembranes and also showed how electrodes could be used to add or remove droplets while keeping the network intact.

    Two droplet experiments demonstrated the prospect of one day building autonomous systems that power themselves or make their own components. The paper describes a battery devised by infusing droplets with differing concentrations of ions and, separately, a current generated when droplets were infused with a membrane protein (bacteriorhodopsin) that causes protons to flow when exposed to green light.

    The last unrealized step, of course, would be to insert DNA and organelles from a cell that could encode the desired ion channel from within the droplet. Then all scientists might have to do is just turn on the lights and watch the show.


The caption for the photo at the top reads, "Liquid Lego: Fat-covered droplets snap together to form the initials for the University of Oxford, where these imitation cells, each of which holds 200 nanoliters of water, were first concocted."

October 26, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Munchkin Gardening Set


Just the thing for a window box or two.

And who's gonna know if you use the tools to toss your salad?

I'll never tell.

From the website:

    Small Garden Tools Set

    Don't let the price fool you: these are not feeble plastic tools.

    Made from glass-fiber-reinforced polypropylene, they are lightweight, strong and non-rusting.

    Children will enjoy learning to garden with this brightly colored selection of tools, suitably sized from 8" to 9" long.

    Adults can use them for indoor gardening as they are easier to store and less cumbersome than traditional hand tools and they won't scratch surfaces the way metal tools can.

    The set of six includes a wide trowel, four-prong cultivator, weeding fork, narrow trowel, two-prong cultivator and weeder.

    A great value, they are also appropriate as a beach or sandbox set.


October 26, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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