Monday, December 5, 2016

Zen cones

A reader is inspired to reminiscense:
I was hired by the local government to cut costs on emergency equipment by standing by the side of the road and warning drivers about upcoming roadwork.
Roadcone cosplay is not recommended in New Zealand, where the Kea is the Roadcone's main natural predator, for Keas are bitey little buggers.


The other natural predator of roadcones -- in Christchurch at least -- is the Mitsubishi sedan.
Cones have evolved a number of ways to disguise themselves from their enemies.

They masquerade with equal ease as flower-pots, as a giraffe and as the Duke of Wellington's head.

In groups they can disguise themselves as a chessboard or a sea-urchin.


HA HA that one is not a camouflaged roadcone; it is a pink flamingo in the middle of the Polhill Reserve, possibly placed there as part of a guerilla marketing campaign to promote a theatrical reenactment of a John Waters movie.

The orange colouration comes from caretenoid pigments concentrated in the roadcone's outer layers to demonstrate its fitness to potential mates and thereby improve its reproductive success. Except in Japan, where they come in all colours (including black and white) because Japan.

I for one am concerned that these chromatic aberrations are introduced to other countries, they will out-compete the orange variety, in the manner of grey skwirls. One can only hope that they only look like road cones and are in fact a variety of Kasa-obake.

http://www.contractormag.co.nz/contractor/feature/road-cones/

Sunday, December 4, 2016

When I become world dictator (#273)...

...The BBC will broadcast a science fiction series about the adventures of an immortal alien who believes that he is dead, or a fictional character, or both, as he recruits companions who share his delusion, and they travel through time and space in the Cotardis.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My love is like a red red nose (#2)

Another Kiwi and I were enjoying a pint of Gleamhound's Bloodpressure Plummet [may contain plums] at the Old Entomologist when we were appraised of the new research from Pazda et al. (2016) and Thorstenson et al. (2016), about pairing up the most red-faced men and women so as to selectively breed a sexy new human subspecies with apoplexic complections [or possibly vice versa]. This will enliven the supermodel career path and will be good news for suppliers of natural vermilion-based face-raddle. Naturally we dropped everything and headed to the laboratory to replicate their findings, NO WAIT we had more beer.
Apparently redder faces are sexier; also healthier-looking, more intelligent and more honest. Indeed, it is a mystery how the human race managed to reproduce back in the days of my childhood before colour photography, when everyone was black-&-white.

Note the sex-appeal
Let us pass discreetly over the possibility that exaggerated colour contrast in photographs and digital media have left us expecting a heightened level of colour saturation, and that it was increased saturation that turned the cranks for Pazda's and Thorstenson's subjects, rather than ruddiness as such.

Staircase procedure: Doin it rong
One wonders whether these studies are compatible with the earlier report that facial yellowness is what makes for pulchritude... especially yellow tones in the skin of otherwise-albino Scotspeople, such as might result from the natural food pigments in an atypically-healthy and un-Scottish fruit-n-vegetable diet.

Arguably, a flaw in that study was its reliance on a staircase procedure to measure sensitivity to yellowness, which assumed that Yellow=Sexy and by design could not detect preference for pallor instead.


No wait! Last author on the Yellow=Sexy study was Dave Perrett... who was also last author on both Red=Sexy studies. Perhaps he should compromise and investigate the allure of Orange. Perhaps he was right both times, and a future dynasty of orange-hued elective overlords will trace their descent back to the King in Yellow and the Queen in Red. "House of Orange" joke goes here.
Doubleplus Unsexy
This time Perrett has crossed the Rubicund and teamed up with Thorstenson, Padza and Elliot, who previously came into the Riddled purview with their discovery that a vaguely sad emotion disrupted one's colour perception (in a study with such egregiously bad methods, statistics and interpretation that it was retracted within weeks rather than the customary years). It is not clear what the new super-group will call themselves -- I humbly put forward "Pigments of the Imagination" as a band-name -- before they go on tour, performing cover versions of such classics as "Before the Kiss (A Red-Cap)" and "Rudolf the Red-faced Reindeer".

I am not entirely sure what a "purview" is, but I imagine it to be a variety of bay window.
[Thx Neuroskeptic]

Friday, December 2, 2016

Excitement at fever-pitch in Oamaru #2

Where was the Only Man whom Goats Respect, when we needed him? It must have been his day off.

The level of Vitamin C within the stressed goat's liver was not recorded.

Below: Constable Conrad prepares blowpipes to fire tranquilliser darts for self-defense against rampaging goat / human genetic aberration.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A drug by the name of "World Without End"
#2 -- Sympathy for Debility

Peter Duesberg had an intriguing though not widely-accepted theory [Below, right]. It involved everyone else being wrong, a recurring theme in Duesberg's oeuvre. More specifically: all the money and effort spent researching oncoregulator and oncopromoter genes are wasted, because there are no oncogenes... instead, cancer is a state of accelerating chromosomal disrepair, or 'aneuploidy', with the karotype going all higgledy-piggledy.

Don't worry, this will not be part of the final exam.

So Marco Ruggiero -- to whom we are grateful as a reliable source of material for Riddled -- liked this idea, and has made it his own. And in this world of post- modernism and deconstructionism where authorial intent is a quaint outmoded notion, he is free to shift the meaning slightly... to "There is no such thing as an oncogene, and it is Bcl-2".

Duesberg's actual words remain the same, in a novel context, much in the manner of genes within the broken and reassembled aneuploid chromosomes of a cancer cell-line.

Source is Ruggiero's Bcl-2 entry in the Springer Encyclopedia of Cancer [Manfred Schwab ed.], 3rd Edition, 2011... I don't always read Cancer reference tomes, but when I do, it's the Springer Encyclopedia. Yellow highlighting is not the authors', and probably not mine either, though who can be sure in this mixed-up deconstructionist post-authorship world?
Secret of Immortality: Blood
transfusions from Centaurs
Now Duesberg happened to remark in passing on the immortality of the resulting disinhibited cell lines, as one might say that HeLa cells and Devil Transmissible Facial Tumour qua distinct biological entities are immortal for as long as there remain Tasmanian Devils to infect. But "immortality" is a word that captures one's full attention, much in the manner of "World domination" or "Free Beer" or "10% discount on Mrs Miggin's Samphire-&-Scallion Pasties". Our man Ruggiero became over-excited by the concept, as if this were the continuity-of-personal-experience kind of immortality that one achieves through not dying.
This was our first warning that Ruggiero is beginning to adopt the viewpoints of pathogens and disease processes, which is an admirable trait for characters in J.G. Ballard novels and Burroughs fictions, but one prefers the loyalty of one's personal doctor to be less divided.

So come with me now on a stroll down the road, around the corner and over the railway overbridge, to a different intellectual magisterium... the world of HIV and AIDS. Form an orderly line, and please, no straggling.

Here we find Woodman and Williamson, describing the evolution of the HIV viral population within a human host as they adapt to escape the host's immune response, at the cost of not replicating as fast as they would like:
After transmission, HIV evolves at a rapid rate driven by the immune pressure until the virus reaches a delicate survival balance: on one hand avoiding elimination through the development of cytotoxic T-cell immune escape mutations, and on the other sacrificing replication fitness as these mutations may come with a severe fitness cost to the virus.
The phrase "delicate survival balance" caught our man's eye, and untrammeled by notions of 'author' or 'meaning' he was free to repurpose the paper for his own narrative -- much as one take scissors to the edges of a jigsaw piece so it can fit into a different jigsaw puzzle --
-- a narrative in which HIV is evolving at the species level for co-existence with humankind.

This account of HIV as an apologia for the virus, it is the second warning sign for Ruggiero. The fictive realm is drawing him down into its maelstrom and he is becoming a character from David Cronenberg's cinematic practice. This sort of thing happens more and more often (what with the morphogenic flux's increasing intensity), and it never ends well, with grotesque body-melt transformations and aesthetic folios full of skin diseases and such. Run, Marco! Escape while you still can!
"It's my conceit that perhaps some diseases perceived as diseases which destroy a well-functioning machine, in fact change the machine into a machine that does something else, and we have to figure out what it is that the machine now does. Instead of having a defective machine, we have a nicely functioning machine that just has a different purpose. Part of it is a self-deceptive way of coping with the possibilities of disease, but on the other hand I can imagine what it feels like to be a virus. The AIDS virus: look at it from his point of view. Very vital, very excited, really having a good time. [...] A virus is a living creature - actually, sometimes they go crystalline on you, which is what's interesting. See the movies from the point of view of the disease. You can see why they would resist all attempts to destroy them."
I am not making this up. Attend once again to the Springer Encyclopedia, and Ruggiero on Viral Protein R, introducing his theory that HIV is an unjustly-maligned cancer-curing human symbiont:
"Whaddafuck is that garish migraine horror? The goggles do nothing!" exclaims the reader, recoiling, eyeballs bleeding in the throes of a tequila-hangover flashback, unfamiliar with postmodern deconstructionist conventions of colour-coded highlighting. The point is to show the secret life of text, and how genetic sequences migrate independently, crossing the species volume barrier in episodes of horizontal transfer.
Sequences from Mishra et al., J Biol Chem 282 (7), 4288-4300 (2006) *:

and Muthumani et al., Curr HIV Res. 2009 Mar;7(2):144-52:
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That would be a good place to stop, except I have filled in a requisition form for a lot of yellow and blue highlighter, and I might as well use them as it is not worth the extra trouble and form-filling just to send them back into the store-room again. So here are Zhang et al. [below, left], Hum. Mol. Genet. (2001) 10 (21): 2329-2339, making the point that proteins sentences of the Bcl-2 gene family literature are evolutionarily conserved from the Sponges original papers to man Encyclopedia entries. And below that an excerpt from the Whackyweedia.


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Here are Zinkel, Gross and Yang -- Cell Death and Differentiation (2006) 13, 1351–1359:
For comparison with the Encyclopedia entry:
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Presumably space limitations in the Encyclopedia prevented Ruggiero from crediting all his sources in the detail he would have preferred. It is unfortunate that he wasted one of his nine citations on Yamamoto et al. (2008), which is to say a discredited fabrication [three of the four key GcMAF-cures-cancer papers from Yamamoto were retracted, on account of made-up ethics clearance and the probable non-existence of patients; concerns about the Translational Oncology paper were ignored, because Elsevier].
The paragraph advertising Ruggiero's commercial GcMAF product is also a lamentable use of space, shoehorned rather awkwardly into the text with an admission that it has no actual link to the putative topic of the entry. Perhaps a Conflict-of-Interest disclosure would be a worthwhile addition to the next revision.

Speaking of which, there was in fact a 2015 revision of this 3rd Edition. The Bcl-2 entry gained a second author, John W. Anderson.

Now Anderson is not a scientist or researcher. He is more associated with the Isagenyx ziggurat scheme multi-level-marketing operation, which deals in food supplements and weight-loss pills. Anderson's "Dream Master Laboratory"** was employing Ruggiero in 2015, while Anderson's address was used to register Ruggiero's magic-yoghurt distribution company "Bacterix LLC". Comparing the two versions, it is not obvious what revisions or additions Anderson contributed to this updated entry to earn his co-authorship and the associated academic respectability, other than providing Ruggiero with employment, an affiliation, and accommodation.
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* The absence of a citation for Mishra et al. is lamentable, as it deprives readers of the opportunity to check the paper in question, and to discover that the claims it makes are not substantiated -- it was retracted in 2011 on account of manipulated data.

** Evidently a plant-extract importation company rather than an actual laboratory.

*** No longer extant -- recently deregistered in a state of tax delinquency.
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UPDATE:
The analogy between genetic and textual material goes further than I realised; just as genes can duplicate along the genome, leaving each copy to evolve separately to fill a different role, so can paragraphs on pp. 357 and 358.


Bonus SYMBIOSIS.
Ruggiero's fondness for the deriding approach goes back a long way [h/t Dora].

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Clothing-optional day at the Old Entomologist

In retrospect, possibly not as good an idea as it seemed at the time.
I blame the fish. They were drugged or something.