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Archives for August, 2008

Mumps was a common childhood disease when I was a child. We grew up learning that it was better to get mumps as a child because getting it as an adult would make you sterile. No doubt that idea arose from symptoms like swollen glands, swollen testicles, etc. When I looked in PubMed though, I…

It’s déjŕ vu all over again. The first chapter in Arthur Allen’s book “Vaccine” describes the history of smallpox vaccination in the United States. In 1721, in Boston, the prevailing belief was that to get vaccinated was to intervene with “divine providence.” If you tried to protect yourself, it meant that you lacked faith in…

Last night we went to a pub to hear about some new technology for diagnostic testing. A wonderful speaker, Karen Hedine from Micronics came and told us about the work that her company is doing. She brought along a demonstration machine and passed the machine and several plastic test chambers around the pub so we…

A few days ago, I wrote about a cool project that some high school students did where they used DNA sequencing to identify seafood. One question that came up from one of my commenters was how a school would start a project like this. I’m totally biased, but I think DNA sequencing (well, actually the…

The Periodic Table of Videos from the University of Nottingham has 118 short YouTube clips about the elements. Wired Campus recommended the Sodium clip (below). I liked it, too. It’s not quite as funny as Mentos in Diet Coke, and but it’s still cute and the narrator has a haircut like Gene Wilder in Young…

Two teenagers, Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, carried out their own science project over the past year. They visited 4 restaurants and 10 grocery stores and gathered 60 samples of fish and sent them off to the University of Guelph to get sequenced. I like this story. One of my former students did a project…

One of the things that drives me crazy on occasion is nomenclature. Well, maybe not just nomenclature, it’s really the continual changes in the nomenclature, and the time it takes for those changes to ripple through various databases and get reconciled with other kinds of information. And the realization that sometimes this reconciliation may never…

Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to respond to a specific thing. Most of the vaccines we use are designed to prime the immune system so that it’s ready to fight off some kind of disease, like whooping cough, polio, or influenza. Some vaccines can have more specialized functions, like stimulating the body to…

Vaccines, part I

A long time ago, I saw a movie called “The Other Side of the Mountain.” The movie told the story of Jill Kinmont, a ski racer who contracted polio and lost the use of her legs. I was sad for days for afterward, but also relieved to know that Jill Kinmont’s fate wasn’t going to…

Every year people adopt pet dogs, cats, birds, and other creatures and take them to their local veterinarians for all the usual vaccinations and exams. The usual vaccinations protect your pets from diseases like rabies, distemper, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and Feline Leukemia. But it’s not just pets that get protected by vaccines. Agricultural creatures: fish,…