Jan 12

Welcome Back Epic Fu! (…on Jan 21st)

pwningsince06If you see me wearing my tacky internet-related shirts here and there, you might have seen a green one with “Epic Fu” on the front and wondered what that was.  Well it’s one of my favorite podcasts and after being acquired by Revision3, they looked like they were on the fast track to internet fame.  Unfortunately Rev3 got into some financial trouble (like all businesses did at the time) shortly there after and Epic Fu was cut from the line-up.

Well after a fairly long hiatus, “the Fu” looks like it’s back on track, with two new episodes just released on their feed.  Here’s a look at their “we’re back” posting!

Want to support the show?  Get a cool shirt like me at their rockin store!

Jan 08

My Buckyball Creation

For Xmas I got a supercool geek toy, Buckyballs.  Along with everybody else on the internets, here’s what I have decided to build with mine!

Buckyball Art

Yep, that IS a pyramid holding up a perfect sphere.  And yes, that is a cute picture of my old dog in the background.

Dec 02

Glow On Little Microbes, Glow ON!

Motile bacteriaThe semester is drawing to a close, so I thought I’d share a bit of what’s going on with me…

First of all, after a full rotation in Dr. Stein’s laboratory, I’ve transitioned into Dr. Stewart’s lab. While Stein Lab was very interesting, I think it was a little too genetic for my interests and really didn’t work for me personally. It’s a shame too because all the people there are really doing some important stuff. At any rate, I admit I feel much more at home in Stewart Lab.

Dr. Stewart studies motility and signal transduction. While those two terms may not be familiar to the average reader, they are explained easily enough. Motility is simply the ability to “move.” Bacteria move through a system called “chemotaxis,” where they can sense good chemicals “attractors” or bad chemicals “repellers” in their environment. For example, food might be considered “good” and an antibiotic might be considered “bad.” When they see an attractor they continue to go straight. When they see a repeller, they tumble randomly until they move in a beneficial direction (which activates straight swimming). Their movement is controlled by whether their flagella are moving clockwise or counter-clockwise.

How do bacteria “know” a good chemical from a bad one? How does that information influence the flagella? This is what Dr. Stewart and I are working on. The system for relaying such information is called signal transduction. Receptors on one end of the bacteria recognize components of the environment. Somehow the proteins in the rest of the cell carry signals from the receptor all the way to the motor of the flagella.

While there is a pretty good model for how this works in most bacteria, we have chosen a less widely known Bacillus species, Bacillus megaterium, to use as a model we can visualize with fluorescent markers.  Essentially B. megaterium translates to “great beast” in English, which suits it because it is about 5 times larger than E. coli, one of the most commonly used bacteria.

So far I’ve spent my rotation measuring the length of each B. megaterium strain and testing it for motility on a special growth media.  Now, after several weeks of little changes here and there, I’ve successfully transformed one of the strains so that it glows green under fluorescent light.

Check back in a little while…I should have an image of said bacterium for your viewing pleasure soon…assuming it’s ok with my PI and all.

[Bacteria Illustration from TreeHugger]

Oct 04

SGU: The Next Generation of Stargate

I wanted to take a break from the humdrum of my grad school life to share my thoughts on the newest iteration of the Stargate anthology…

stargate-universe-sdcc-poster

If you haven’t heard about it by now, Stargate: Universe (SGU) is a show that takes place in the world of Stargate, but adds in the Voyager-esque element of being “lost in space.”  It’s understandable if this show slipped under your radar.  With the return of the big fall shows on the major networks, and the noticeable increase in shows that target the geek demographic, SGU has a lot more competition for interested viewers.  Even long-time Stargate fans probably thought “Oh, just another Stargate, will this even be worth my time?”  After viewing the pilot, I can tell you that this is not so.

The third version of something is often the LAST version of it.  While I LOVED The Matrix Trilogy, I will admit that the second and third movies were less and less popular as they got away from the central theme of The Matrix.  Stargate: Atlantis was arguably worse than the original series, not because it was so particularly bad, but because it brought nothing new to the table.  The writers and directors essentially made carbon copies of each Stargate: SG1 character and stuck them in a slightly different universe.  This third try at the Stargate franchise seems to be not a rerun, but a re-imagining of what Stargate can be.

Remember, Stargate is a very old show by scifi standards, so some of the original styling has become a bit dated.  Atlantis tried to address this by making everything all wacky and “Atlantisy,” but that just made it say “sequel” even more.  SGU takes steps to make the plot of the pilot fall in line with what Stargate viewers expect, but still offer something new.  That newness comes in the form of character depth and a coherent framing of the story.

First, when it comes to character development, SGU is clearly trying to speed up the pace.  The original Stargate didn’t really get into serious characters until after the first several seasons.  In contrast, this pilot is chock FULL of backstory, emotional tension, and foreshadowing.  This is clearly a reaction to the new wave of scifi shows (Battlestar, Heroes, Lost) that focus much more on WHO is playing out the story, not just WHAT they’re doing.  In fact, SGU still has the option to make the show more like a serial than Stargate’s “single episode story” model (though I don’t expect they will).

The other value-add for me was the architecture of SGU.  While the first two series focused on the “we know nothing, not even sure where we are” aspect of exploration, this show dispenses with a lot of that.

[Spoiler Alert] In the pilot alone, the new “crew” has been given a map with their precise location, efficient communication with Earth, and a fairly strong knowledge of Ancient tech.  Also, the ship is “aware” of their needs and every episode (presumably) takes them to a new planet with a convenient Stargate already installed.  There’s even a handy clock informing them of how long they have for each away mission! [/Spoiler Alert]

I like this new setup, not because it adds a formulaic aspect to the show (which it definitely does), but because it allows the show to get off to a strong start without messing about in the procedures of figuring out how to drive the ship, make food, etc.

My fears for this show were that it would either be lame and out of place like Voyager largely was or overly dark and gritty like Battlestar was/is.  I was pleasantly surprised by how strong this pilot came across.  It is a smart balance of familiar mythology, complex character design, and endless possibilities.  Hope you enjoyed it as much as I!

The Stargate: Universe pilot is available on Hulu now! For extra SGU goodness, here’s a great photo gallery that give you some ideas about the look and feel of the new show.

[“SGU Poster” via GeekTyrant]