EMAIL! Pulse–>Chase

Edited 8-22-08 to contain MORE win

Its going to be a slow blag week. Im trying to cram as many experiments as possible into this last week before school starts again. The last major experiment I want to finish (have to finish) this summer is a ‘pulse–>chase’ to watch how fast each of my chimeras process gp160 into gp120 and gp41. I do this by 1– transfecting cells with my clones, 2– starving the cells of cystine and methionine, 3– giving the cells radioactive food (sulfur-35), 4– waiting a set period of time, and blowing up the cells.

While blowing up radioactive things is one of my most favoritest activities in the universe, there is one drawback to this experiment: the 12 hour time point. I get into the lab 7:30/8 am-ish, set everything up, take my first time point at ~10 am… I have to come back into the lab at 10 pm to get the 12 hour time point.


So slow blag week, as the rest of this week I will be doing a billion pulse–>chases (Im so cool, Im still doing research at 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights! WIN!).

But I do have a moment to post a few fun emails Ive gotten this week from a couple of HIV Deniers. Read them slowly to really really savor the condescending arrogance:

Hello there Ms. Smith,

I’ve been interested in this whole HIV/AIDS debate lately and became pretty skeptical about the HIV/AIDS theory in the last few months. I came across your blog after I googled this phrase:

“one is looking, they can switch back to the original theme”

You might be interested in checking out the other search result… Anyway what led me to write this email is because I noticed that you also appreciate people like Dawkins and Sagan. It might interest you to know that I started a topic about HIV/AIDS skepticism at the “Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science” page in Facebook. The discussion hasn’t been so productive so far unfortunately.

I really want to clarify this debate as soon as possible, independent from what the truth is. Because there are a lot of skeptics out there like me, who try to figure out by themselves what all this is about. And unless scientists decide to debate this until it all becomes absolutely clear, this vagueness means a huge waste of time for people with doubts. The waste is even bigger if the consensus is incorrect, because then it becomes waste of resources and human lives.

I don’t know if you’ve got a Facebook account but there are also groups/pages in Facebook titled “Rethinking AIDS”. I would like to learn what you people consider as the evidence for the theory that HIV causes AIDS and if it’s something that really -I mean really- refutes the dissident arguments; like the ones in the “Rebuttal to NIH Evidence”, or in the Perth Groups arguments(e.g. “Yin and Yang of HIV”).

Considering how sensitive this issue is, I fear that you’ll write an over-enthusiastic response if you act out of your first reaction to this email. So please try to be as objective as you can in your response. Finally, here are the links I’m talking about:

The discussion topic at the “R. Dawkins Foundation” page:

I’d appreciate it if you don’t reply before you read everything that has been written over there. If you can’t ressist to say anything before reading it all, then please create another topic.

And this is the Rethinking AIDS link in Facebook:

Try to ignore the group’s picture if it’s annoying, it’s not really an official group but it’s the one with most members. And if you could post THE evidence there, I believe we could start a constructive discussion. And who knows maybe you turn out to be the one who ends up changing your views… πŸ™‚

P.S. By the way, you’re related to Tara Smith by chance..? That would be interesting I suppose…or maybe not…

Warm regards,
Sadun Kal

Hi Sadun!

Yours in Christ,

Hi there! I came across your blog. As someone who has been interested in the HIV/AIDS issue for quite some time, I was wondering if you could give me your opinion.

I came across some information, you can call it from AIDS denialists or whatever, but It seems to pretty much eliminate debate on whether HIV is even a virus never mind contagious and leads to the 30 different diseases associated with it.

Please review this interview and let me know how this information is wrong:

Also please check out this page of quotations from a few Nobel Laureates amongst other noted giants in their fields..

Thank you for your time.

Just a quote from the above URL, you might want to take into consideration.

“I received my PhD in 2002 for my work constructing mathematical models of HIV infection, a field of study I entered in 1996.”

“My work as a mathematical biologist has been built in large part on the paradigm that HIV causes AIDS, and I have since come to realize that there is good evidence that the entire basis for this theory is wrong. AIDS, it seems, is not a disease so much as a sociopolitical construct that few people understand and even fewer question…”

“Why have we as a society been so quick to accept a theory for which so little solid evidence exists? Why do we take proclamations by government institutions like the NIH and the CDC, via newscasters and talk show hosts, entirely on faith? The average citizen has no idea how weak the connection really is between HIV and AIDS, and this is the manner in which scientifically insupportable phrases like ‘the AIDS virus’ or ‘an AIDS test’ have become part of the common vernacular despite no evidence for their accuracy.”

“Over the past ten years, my attitude toward HIV and AIDS has undergone a dramatic shift. This shift was catalyzed by the work I did as a graduate student, analyzing mathematical models of HIV and the immune system. As a mathematician, I found virtually every model I studied to be unrealistic. The biological assumptions on which the models were based varied from author to author, and this made no sense to me…”

“Enough is enough, and I can no longer in any capacity continue to support the paradigm on which my entire career has been built.”

“…But few people know that the criteria for a positive WB [Western Blot HIV test] vary from country to country and even from lab to lab. Put bluntly, a person’s HIV status could well change depending on the testing venue. It is also possible to test ‘WB indeterminate,’ which translates to any one of ‘uninfected,’ ‘possibly infected,’ or even, absurdly, ‘partly infected’ under the current interpretation. This conundrum is confounded by the fact that the proteins comprising the different reactive ‘bands’ on the WB test are all claimed to be specific to HIV, raising the question of how a truly uninfected individual could possess antibodies to even one ‘HIV-specific’ protein.”

“I have come to sincerely believe that these HIV tests do immeasurably more harm than good, due to their astounding lack of specificity and standardization…I cannot buy the idea that any individual needs to have a diagnostic HIV test. A negative test may not be accurate (whatever that means), but a positive one can create utter havoc and destruction in a person’s life – all for a virus that most likely does absolutely nothing. I do not feel it is going too far to say that these tests ought to be banned for diagnostic purposes.”

“The real victims in this mess are those whose lives are turned upside-down by the stigma of an HIV diagnosis…People have lost their jobs, been denied entry into the Armed Forces, been refused residency in and even entry into some countries, even been charged with assault or murder for having consensual sex; babies have been taken from their mothers and had toxic medications forced down their throats. There is no precedent for this type of behavior, as it is all in the name of a completely unproven, fundamentally flawed hypothesis, on the basis of highly suspect, indirect tests for supposed infection with an allegedly deadly virus – a virus that has never been observed to do much of anything.”

“Suffice it to say that the HIV hypothesis of AIDS has offered nothing but predictions – of its spread, of the availability of a vaccine, of a forthcoming animal model, and so on – that have not materialized, and it has not saved a single life.”

“After ten years involved in the academic side of HIV research, as well as in the academic world at large, I truly believe that the blame for the universal, unconditional, faith-based acceptance of such a flawed theory falls squarely on the shoulders of those among us who have actively endorsed a completely unproven hypothesis in the interests of furthering our careers…”

“For over twenty years, the general public has been greatly misled and ill-informed. As someone who has been raised by parents who taught me from a young age never to believe anything just because ‘everyone else accepts it to be true,’ I can no longer just sit by and do nothing, thereby contributing to this craziness. And the craziness has gone on long enough. As humans – as honest academics and scientists – the only thing we can do is allow the truth to come to light.”

Why I Quit HIV

— Rebecca Veronica Culshaw, PhD. Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Texas at Tyler. Advisor, Journal of Biological Systems. Studied and published mathematical models of HIV infection for 10 years.

Hi SL!

No problem!

1. Connect your computer to the internet. Sometimes your computer will do this automatically when you double click on the icon for an internet browser (you are probably using ‘Internet Explorer’, which has an ‘e’ for an icon, or AOL, which uses a ‘yellow man’ for an icon). If you are having trouble, youll need to contact your internet service provider for more help.

2. While connected to the internet, type in this webpage address:
Your computer will take you to this webpage if you press ‘enter’ or the ‘Go!’ button near the address bar.

3. You will notice on this ‘webpage’ there is a white box in the upper left corner. This is a ‘search box’. You can type in words you are interested in, and click ‘search this blog’, and it will find blog entries that contain those words. If you are interested in ‘Rebecca Culshaw’, you can ask the internet to search for those words via the ‘search box’. Or, you can try ‘Culshaw’. Or perhaps even ‘blonde dipshit’.

I hope these tips and tricks will aid you on your search for The Truth! You have leveled up one internet!

Yours in Christ–

Author #1 has had a taste of ERV fame– wants moar:

Hello Abbie,

I just read the email I sent again, I still don’t think I made any mistake, or said anything to make fun of, except the humorous parts… πŸ™‚ But I can understand where you’re coming from. I can’t even get my friends interested in this debate, although their profession has nothing to do with HIV. So it’s foolish from me to expect someone as deep in it as you are to be able to examine the debate objectively, I sincerely apologize. And to be honest, if I had listened to your debate with Horrowitz earlier, I wouldn’t have bothered to write that email to you. (Even if he were absolutely wrong about everything he said, you humiliated yourself by trying to humiliate him in my opinion. That’s not something a true scientist who is focused on science would do as far as I know.)

Your fondness of Dawkins and Sagan misguided me to hope that you might be an open minded, objective person after all. But I should have known better… It’s pretty obvious that you were not someone who could have written a respectful response to that stupid email of mine.

I think it’s a shame that some people are led to feel so good about themselves that they become blind to their weaknesses. Everybody keeps adulating each other and as a result, they become so sure of themselves that they dismiss even simple questions instantly, believing since they’re the perfect human beings when it comes to science, contradicting opinions must be a result of ignorance. Here’s a quote from “Broca’s Brain”, might remind you of a scientist’s responsibilities:

“To the extent that scientists have not given Velikovsky the reasoned response his work calls for, we have ourselves been responsible for the propagation of Velikovskian confusion.

In the entire Velikovsky affair, the only aspect worse than the shoddy, ignorant and doctrinaire approach of Velikovsky and many of his supporters was the disgraceful attempt by some who called themselves scientists to suppress his writings. For this, the entire scientific enterprise has suffered.

But scientists are supposed to know better, to realize that ideas will be judged on their merits if we permit free inquiry and vigorous debate.”

-And here’s a quote from a lecture titled “The Value of Science”, by Feynman:

“…In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant as we are. If we suppress all discussion, all criticism, proclaiming “This is the answer, my friends; man is saved!” we will doom humanity for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.

It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations. ”


If you ever change your mind about that debate invitation, or my support request, you’re welcome to contact me or any other serious skeptic(e.g. David Crowe) for that matter. And you’re also free to publish this email too if you think it’s fun. πŸ™‚

Kind regards,

Hello again Sadun!

Im not sure why you think my response to you was in jest. The answers to life, the universe, and everything are in this picture.

When you see it, you will shit bricks.

Yours in Christ,


  1. #1 flo
    August 21, 2008

    Mmmh, if it would be possible to laugh and cry at the same time I woulde be doing that now.

  2. #2 Lledowyn
    August 21, 2008

    Ur responzes r full of WIN!!!11!

  3. #3 Optimus Primate
    August 21, 2008

    In the best of all possibly universes, you would be President of Earth. And Arnie would be Vice President.

  4. #4 ryanm
    August 21, 2008

    All my base are belong to Abbie.

  5. #5 Yoo
    August 21, 2008

    They’re real, actual emails? Not some form of satire? XO

  6. #6 Confused
    August 21, 2008

    12 hour time point

    Welcome to the life of a developmental biologist. I intermittently do experiments which have 12 hour timepoints for four days running. I have a friend in another lab (sadly not DevBio, she works on bowel cancer) who has a series of experiments that required attention every 3 hours for two days.

  7. #7 rhabdo
    August 21, 2008

    “required attention every 3 hours for two days.”

    sounds like my new baby boy, but that’s been going on for 7 weeks!

  8. #8 PalMD
    August 21, 2008

    What is it about that pic that makes me chortle every time?

  9. #9 Dustin
    August 21, 2008

    Hell man, my eldritch spore has finally germinated and grown into the undulating pods from which will spring my blasphemous offspring. I have to feed them a puppy every five hours or they die, and then I’ll have a very difficult time ushering in the apocalypse.

  10. #10 Jason Dick
    August 21, 2008


    Well, yes, this is the problem. It’s often quite impossible to distinguish between satire and somebody who is just plain ignorant of science on the Internet. This phenomenon has been dubbed “Poe’s Law”:

    Of course, this was originally coined in relation to religious fundamentalism, but really, all brands of anti-science are essentially identical here.

  11. #11 Stacy S.
    August 21, 2008

    @ O’Primate – I vote Abbie for Inter-Galactic Czar!

  12. #12 Jason
    August 21, 2008

    Sorry to hear about the time courses.

    It’s our bread and butter here.

    While we’re discussing horror stories about that though, a friend of mine just got an RSI from doing 18 hour time courses that require work every 20 minutes. But, the work takes 10 minutes.
    No rest for the weary! BRUTAL, huh? He’s getting a tech though…

  13. #13 katie
    August 21, 2008

    I had an experiment that needed attention every 4.5 hours for 5 weeks once. That one hurt…a lot. Damn caterpillars.

  14. #14 marc buhler
    August 21, 2008

    Hey Abby,

    About 10 years ago it was suggested that my (part-time) thesis project was “a bit thin” and needed another chapter (or three). At that point, the focus was on V-beta polymorphisms in the TcR in autoimmine models (MS. IDDM, RA) but I had a set of data on that 32-bp deletion of CCR5 you would know about in MS, so it was suggested I add some population work on CCR5-d32 in a couple of cohorts using microsats near and far from CCR5.

    Well, you *don’t* send out samples for genotyping for grad students, do you? (Not ten years ago, anyway.) No – you find a fragment length gel setup in another lab for said grad student to use, right? Except, most days the other lab had a tech using that setup – so only a sample here and there squeeezes into his spare lanes, but that gets his calibration, etc etc. So I had to get a key to that lab and start going home for an early dinner then back in to run a couple of gels before midnight (or later).

    Seriously, it is a plot.

    Every grad student has *Big Science* set them up with something that they have to work on until midnight for months at a time. They have to be *seen* to be hard at work to be allowed to finish the project. It doesn’t matter about the data!! The data is not the point!! You need Blood, Sweat and Tears!! (Played loudly of course.) No rest for the wicked! (Somehow – “wicked” suits here, eh?)

  15. #15 marc buhler
    August 21, 2008

    Postscript –

    That population data on CCR5 delta-32 ended up presented as a talk at the last International Congress of Genetics in the main hall just before lunch on the final day, and got picked up a bit in the media at the time. Of course, I found out a few months later our model not completely correct, but…

  16. #16 The Chimp's Raging Id
    August 21, 2008

    Umm, those can’t be real. Can they? Really? If so I’m going to give up all hope on the human race.

  17. #17 manigen
    August 22, 2008

    Rebecca Culshaw? This would be the same Rebecca Culshaw who can’t keep the difference between exogenous and endogenous viruses straight?

    Actually, she’s a good example of the “Crick effect” isn’t she? I assume she’s a perfectly good mathematician, but when she steps out of her field all we get is offensive waffle and bilge.

  18. #18 manigen
    August 22, 2008

    Oops… I meant the “Watson effect”. I got the wrong DNA discoverer by mistake there.

  19. #19 baley
    August 22, 2008

    zLMAO you receive some rather funny emails

  20. #20 Stacy S.
    August 22, 2008

    Oh my gosh! I know this is OT – but check out Proteopedia!

  21. #21 Sadun Kal
    August 22, 2008

    I’m the author of the first email. πŸ™‚ Funny huh? You should check the links I’ve sent in there! They’re also funny.

    I actually liked the second email, too. I wish I knew who wrote it…

  22. #22 Sadun Kal
    August 22, 2008

    Wow you were fast with that second email. I’m glad I could entertain you all and I also hope that I made some of you think. But I got to get going now… Take care everybody…

  23. #23 cooler
    August 22, 2008


  24. #24 Charlie Foxtrot
    August 23, 2008


    Your vowels appear to be non-functional.

    You should have someone look at that.

  25. #25 Stacy S.
    August 23, 2008

    I’ve seen what can happen to those that have been “disemvoweled” – it can be really quite nasty!

  26. #26 Tyler DiPietro
    August 23, 2008

    Email clients should come with embedded tl;dr filters.

    I wonder if I could make that happen…

  27. #27 Dustin
    August 23, 2008

    I assume she’s a perfectly good mathematician

    That’s a bad assumption, as indicated by the kind of mathematician she claims to be. She’s a mathematical biologist who, ostensibly, worked on models of HIV. Despite that, she is what she is.

    That’s like saying, “I work in operator theory! Why no, I don’t think that topology or complex numbers are useful for anyone. In fact, they’re both total bunk.”

  28. #28 Chris (in Columbus)
    August 23, 2008

    I TOTALLY know what you’re going through…this past week was finals (summer quarter, yay!) and I wanted to tear my hair out between work, finals and well…blogging. I have like 13 dedicated readers that may get fussy if I don’t post every day! I can’t let them down! πŸ˜›

    Good luck on the experiments! πŸ™‚

  29. #29 Chris (in Columbus)
    August 23, 2008

    Oh, I didn’t even comment on the post! Though it’s a bit late…Yay! Great post! I love the photo! πŸ˜€ And the e-mail? Well, at least she was polite?

  30. #30 Jon H
    August 23, 2008

    Is that picture depicting the development of a homeopathic cure for eeeevil?

  31. #31 Anonomouse
    August 24, 2008

    I found this sentence of his very insightful, “I really want to clarify this debate as soon as possible, independent from what the truth is.”

    It seems there is no room for Truth in that Debate.

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