Wow! Awesome time at the Viral Evolution conference! But now I have a ton of work/blogging to catch up on!

First and foremost:
I must have had a near-death experience this weekend, or something, cause I was in heaven. Get this– I got to see two gods in abiogenesis, Susanna Manrubia and Valerian Dolja, get into a good-natured debate over the probabilities of there being life on other planets at dinner. Marco and I were cheering on Susanna (Valerian was dead the second he brought up astrophysics, unaware that was Susannas area of expertise).

We were eating enchiladas.

It was so surreal. Like having afternoon tea with Luke Skywalker and Gene Kelly.

The Nobel Prizes:
While Im pleased the Nobel Prize for Medicine went to virologists this year… Im kinda confused. I mean, you expect a Nobel for the people who cure HIV-1, or make an effective vaccine… not for the folks who found the virus. Its just… odd.

As far as the Gallo snub goes, I wasnt even born when Montagnier discovered HIV-1, so Im not the best person to ask about the research drama going on at that time 😛 All I know is, Montagnier found it first. *shrug*

The second presidential debate:
Just in case you missed the second debate last night, I found a 45 second recap on YouTube:


  1. #1 Daniel Gaston
    October 8, 2008

    That’s the great thing about conferences. I’ve had similar surreal experiences witnessing some of the legends of protist evolution having spirited debates about this sort of thing. It’s truly epic and amazing when it happens.

  2. #2 Optimus Primate
    October 8, 2008

    Worst part of last night’s debate? The fact that we couldn’t ask questions in real-time. I so wanted to ask my good friend and hero John McCain what the fuck he has against planetaria!

  3. #3 Katherine
    October 8, 2008

    I work in an HIV lab in the University of Maryland system (but at a different institution than Gallo does), so when the news broke it was a bit of a big deal for us. It would have been nice to have another professor here with a Nobel Prize and the recognition would have been great, but beyond that we’re all pretty evenly split on how we felt about the snub to Gallo.
    It is a shame that they’ve reopened the wounds of that huge fight; Montagnier and Gallo had agreed to share credit for the discovery equally, so this really flies in the face of their decision. I just hope this decision was made because the committee honestly thought Montagnier was solely responsible for the discovery and not due to any scientific politics (We’ve all heard that Gallo can be an abrasive guy–that doesn’t win you friends, but you can’t argue that he’s not an amazing scientist).
    I’m waiting to see if there are any letters to the editor about this in Nature or Science. It’ll be interesting to watch all the drama (a girl needs something to do during incubations!).

  4. #4 mo
    October 8, 2008

    You are really forgetting the more important thing: von Hausen also got a share of the medicine nobel, for discovering that cervix carcinoma is caused by papillomaviruses. That’s really important news for the women on this planet, also there is already a vaccine against this. He should have gotten the nobel alone. Maybe another one for Montagnier & Gallo the next year.

    The conference seemed nice. I also want to go on some, but I’m still too undergraduate.

  5. #5 Jared
    October 8, 2008

    you gave the debate too much credit…. The video was actually done quite well.

  6. #6 Jared
    October 8, 2008

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, the first time I read “enchiladas,” I thought it said “echidnas”–I read this:

  7. #7 The Chimp's Raging Id
    October 8, 2008

    Debate – meh. It seemed to be an exercise in who was least evasive in answering direct questions. By that measure Obama – unsurprisingly – won.

    Still, when old Gramps McNasty and Failin’ Palin are on the GOP ticket, you’ve got to wonder why there’s even a need for a debate at all…

  8. #8 Stacy S.
    October 8, 2008

    Welcome back!:-)

  9. #9 Ky Sanderson
    October 8, 2008

    Montagnier and Gallo are like two bumbling theives fighting over fake diamonds. Neither of them found the virus, neither of them proved that the virus was pathogenic in any scientific sense.

    Glad that only 1 clown, not 2, got the Nobel!

  10. #10 Ian
    October 9, 2008

    We need to see some serious blogging on that viral evolution, ERV. I won’t stop nagging you until you do it!

  11. #11 Sili
    October 9, 2008

    The more people say “planetaria”, the more I think of flatworms.

    Dunno who those guys were, but we don’t want them, thank ya very much.

    Glad you had so much fun. Sounds like you’re a lot better at this stuff than I ever was (no surprise there).

  12. #12 biopunk
    October 9, 2008

    C’mon, share with us what you and Mr. Vignuzzi learned over enchiladas about the probabilities of there being life on other planets!

    ERV readers wanna know!

    And as to tea with Luke Skywalker and Gene Kelly, this is as close as you’ll most likely get:

    So grab a mug and be amazed! It’s around the 8:30 mark.

    Surreal indeed.

    Now, please spill about those probabilities!

  13. #13 ERV
    October 9, 2008

    I dont remember much (seriously, like a dream) but Valerian didnt think that we would find life on other planets/moons/asteroids/etc. Susanna was more optimistic 🙂

  14. #14 biopunk
    October 9, 2008

    Yay Manrubia!

    Thanks ERV!

  15. #15 sadunkal
    October 10, 2008

    Hi Abbie, I’m happy for you.

    And yeah the Nobel Prize is odd isn’t it… And coincidentally it came just a few days after the press conference in New York, with Janine Roberts’ revelations about how the original papers linking HIV/AIDS together were fraudulent and so on:
    AIDS Press Conference Release
    HIV/AIDS Theory Originates From Fraud?

    An interesting topic…

  16. #16 James F
    October 11, 2008

    Abbie, did you see this over at PZ’s blog? Wow….

  17. #17 Snout
    October 12, 2008

    I’m glad that the REAL brains behind the discovery of HIV got a Nobel gong, after all the political and legal to-ing and fro-ing between Montagnier and Gallo, which has been a bit of a yawn to those of us outside France and the US.

    Congratulations to Professor Barre-Sinoussi. She is, as several Scienceblogs commentators have already noted, a class act. She was also, notably, the lead author of the seminal paper about the virus’s isolation.

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