March 31, 2009

New Secretary of Health and Human Services Hearing

It's happening now:

Committee: Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Title: Hearing for Secretary of Health and Human Services-Designate, Governor Kathleen Sebelius
Date: Tuesday, March 31, 10:00 a.m.
Place: Hart 216

Senator Kennedy is introducing her now - his speech is a little labored, it's kind of sad but valient.

March 30, 2009

International Women's Day and Gender

International Women’s Day was on March 8, 2009 this year, and I’ve shockingly missed it this year again. I marked it three years ago, in Congo.

Fortunately, my sister who is a medical student in Australia, also works on Diffusion Science Radio, a very cool website that diffuses weekly shows on brainy, nerdy science.


Here’s a great podcast she helped produce, for International Women’s Day 2009:

International Women's Day 2009 with Victoria Bond and Ian Woolf
Gender bending stories:
- Phthalates feminize boys
- Half-boy, half-girl bird brain
- Sixth sense switches mice gender
- Gender gene identified
- Gender and sex identity development
- Gender development disorders
- Turner sydnrome
- Kleinfelter syndrome
- Hermaphroditism and gender assignment
- Testosterone receptor insensitivity
- Women in Science: Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Rachel Carson

Presented by Victoria Bond, Produced by Ian Woolf

March 25, 2009

La Grande Anthologie de la Science Fiction

I grew up with a whole library of strange books at home. My mom was interested in French fiction and non-fiction, reading books about escaping from turbulent relationships, the French Kings’ legacies, and women marrying Iranian men and struggling to get their daughters back to France. My dad was more of an Anglophone reader and introduced me to short stories about Englishmen ill fitted for the Indian Colony, books about spies, and science fiction. Their tastes in books have both evolved, and my mother tends to read stories on culture and religion, and my dad is all history and disease these days.

Still imprinted in my mind, are his amazing books on science fiction. Before the age of 12, I didn’t really ask myself what it would feel like to be the last person on earth, or how radiation might mutate my neighbors, or what would happen if my robot-servant decided to go rogue. But boy, when I picked up those science fiction books, I was plummeted with a myriad of outlandish scenarios that blew understanding of life right out of the ballpark.

I fondly remember 4 or 5 books that belonged to a collection called La Grande Antropologie de Science Fiction. The stories were often kooky, with odd conclusions and parting words. For example, when meeting aliens, apparently “two heads are better than none”. This refers of course, to the fact that conversing with a two-headed being is easier than conversing with a no-headed being. The books dated from the 1970s, so they had this intoxicatingly pleasant musky smell, and the pages were brittle and yellowed.

One day, much to our collective (my brother, sister and I) horror, my mother decided to take the books to church and donate them to the church Bazaar. We cried and moaned, blamed and tore our hair out, but alas, those books where for the benefit of others now.

After a lot of digging, I just found that there are a few remaining copies on the internet! French Wikipedia says the following (paraphrased):

The Large Anthologie of Science Fiction is a collection published by a French company Livre de Poche in the 1970s, by Demètre Ioakimidis, Jacques Goimard and Gérard Klein. The collection was initially composed of two series, one with 12 volumes and the second with 24 volumes. A third series dedicated to French Scifi had 5 volumes.

Each volume has short stories organized around a main theme.

First Series (1966-1975)
1-Stories of Aliens
2-Stories of Robots
3-Stories of Astronauts
4-Stories of mutants
5-Stories of the End of the World
6-Stories of Machines
7-Stories of Planets
8-Stories of Special Powers
9-Stories of Tomorrow
10-Stories of Travel in Time
11-Stories of Going Backwards
12- Stories of Galaxies

Second Series
1-Stories of ESP
2-Stories of Survivors
3-Stories at the End of Time
4-Ecological Stories
5-Stories of Colonizers
6-Stories of Space Travels
7-Stories of Doctors
8-Divine Stories
9-Stories of the 4th Dimension
10-Stories of Immortals
11-Stories of Androids
12-Stories of Supermen
13-Stories of Creatures
14-Stories of Future Societies
15-Stories of Strange Worlds
16-Stories of Mechanics
17-Stories of Rebels
18-Fake Stories
19-Paradoxale Stories
20-Stories of Mirages
21-Stories of Year 2000
22-Stories of Catastrophes
23-Stories of Future Wars
24-Stories of Mechanics
25-Stories of Sex-Fiction

Third Series
1-Worlds of the Francs
2-The Hallucinated Hexagone
3-The Exploded Frontier
4-Mosaics of Time
5-Divergant Horizons
6-Story of Science Fiction

I bought two books at an exorbitant price, and am now voraciously reading through my Stories of Aliens. In this economy, it seems silly to spend so much money on used books, but who wouldn’t do the same to recapture one’s youth?

March 06, 2009


What is it?
Gigapan is a program that allows you to create amazing panoramas, with intricate number of details and an amazing level of granularity.

Case in point
This is a picture of India, which shows a beautiful Golden Temple on the water. But wait! You can zoom in, and zoom in, and zoom in again, until you get to see people in front of the monument, in colorful clothing and regalia. Amazing!

GigaPan panorama by Matt Deans

How’s it done?
Panoramas are usually constructed out of 10's or 100's of individual pictures. Each picture is zoomed in to see a small area, and these pictures are assembled into a single panorama using "stitching" software. There are several ways to capture pictures and stitch them. The GigaPan project has developed an automatic system for capturing and stitching pictures, but you can share panoramas from any source on this site.

What’s the Best Gigapan?
Here’s an breathtaking image taken during the inauguration of Obama. At first glance, it’s a well taken picture of the capitol, and the crowds around it. Until you start zooming in, and see every single person in the crowd. Wow!

March 04, 2009


So, I was looking up a biography of Rush Limbaugh on wikipedia, because he's been quoted as making incendiary comments lately (what a shock).

Did you know he was partially deaf? So it made me want to look up Cochlear Implants (which are really cool devices that consist of a tiny microphone and a receiver implanted on the skull which transmits radio waves to the cochlea).

Then it showed a link to deafness, and of course, I had to look up Hellen Keller. She in turn is connected to a number of really interesting people (did you know that her mother sent her to Baltimore to get more information about her deafness after reading a collection of anecdotes by Charles Dickens?). She met really interested people later in life, such as Ann Sullivan (which had a really tragic childhood in Ireland and the United States).

Then, what the heck, it seems like looking up the entry to American Sign Language was important, and I learn lots of interesting facts about Home Signs, the Old French Sign language, and Scarlet fever (which, by no coincidence I'm sure, caused a number of child to become death and blind, and some became both, or DeafBlind).

Now, I really want to learn sign language. Wow, all that from an entry about Rush Limbaugh!