Preparation Y: Michelle Ellsworth – Performance art mixing dance, genomics, evolution, humor, sex #brilliant

Just got back from a Sloan Foundation funded meeting in Boulder, Colorado that focused on microbiology of the built environment.  More on that another time.  What I want to tell you about – no – what I need to tell you about – is the entertainment that the meeting organizers arranged at dinner Thursday night.

We had dinner at Red Lion Restaurant – a phenomenally gorgeous spot in the canyon just West of Boulder.  And while we were milling around before dinner I saw out of the corner of my eye a woman walking in to the tent where we were to have dinner.  She was dressed in almost all white and was carrying a giant silver spoon.  So I asked the meeting organizer – Mark Hernandez – if she was the entertainment.  And surprisingly he said – yes – she was a dancer and Professor at Boulder and also did a kind of science performance art.

Her name was Michelle Ellsworth and he said she was amazing.  So I was very intrigued as I am a big fan of mixing science and art.  So I went over to where she had set up and asked her a few questions and took her picture …

I grabbed a seat near the front of the area they set up for her.  And Mark Hernandez introduced her

And then I witnessed what I consider to be – seriously – the most entertaining presentation I have ever seen at a conference.  She presented her “Preparation Y” project focused on what should be done to prepare for “the obsolescence of the Y chromosome.”  She then proceeded to discuss some relatively recent work on Y chromosome evolution in humans as well as an article about this by Maureen Dowd.   And she posed the questions (tongue planted firmly in cheek … though done in a style that was remarkably earnest …)

“What will be missed when men are gone? How can we replace them with choreography, apparati and web technology?”

And then she proceeded to use here web site to take us on a tour of some of the issues associated with the demise of the Y chromosome.

Among the concepts she showed us were devices that can do things that men do that one possibly might miss if men were gone including a greenhouse gas emitter, a toilet seat raiser, a smallerizer, a flinger, and more.  To get an idea of what these were go here and then click on the items on the circle (see screen shot below of the seat raiser).

She also had some philosophical discussions of evolution and ecology including pondering the role of men in extinction crises and greenhouse gas emissions and whether men could be considered a “keystone species.”  It was a combination of geeky, absurd, sarcastic, genius, and outrageous.  There was even an extensive discussion of man dances and both recording them and reenacting them (the dances were amazing I note)  The funniest part (from my point of view) was the preservation of male artifacts including smells (which she cans like jam), socks (which she said sometimes she adds sugar to to preserve better), saliva, and more.  I note – she said she brought vials to collect some additional male artifacts from the meeting for her collection.  I think I was the only one who donated …

Some pictures of the “show” are below.

Anyway – if you ever get a chance to see her show or anyone of her presentations, you must do it.  Also consider browsing her website which has some brilliant videos and other materials.

From her website I discovered she has some videos on Vimeo relating to the preparation Y concept.

Now I have to go check out her “Burger Foundation“.  Not sure what it is … but I am sure it will be good …

Evolution rap: 3.5* til infinity #music

Well, after a rough day I am in need of some lightness. And thanks to Eric Lowe, an undergrad. working in my lab, I got a giggle out of this:

Scary and funny: fake researcher Peter Uhnemann on OMICS group Editorial Board #JournalSPAM

OMG.  This is both hilarious and terrifying.

Many out there know there are journals out there that border on SPAM.  I have written about this often before (e.g., see For $&%# sake, Bentham Open Journals, leave me alone and Yet another SPAMMY Science publisher: Scientific and Academic Publishing and The Tree of Life: Really sick of Bentham Open Spam) as have many others (e.g., Open and Shut?: The Open Access Interviews: Matthew Honan and Academic spam and open access publishing – Per Ola Kristensson). UPDATE: forgot to include this link: Science SPAMMER of the month: OMICS publishing group

But this one takes the cake.  There is a journal called “Molecular Biology” from the OMICS Publishing Group (for more on this publisher see Open and Shut?: The Open Access Interviews: OMICS Publishing …).  It seems new – as I cannot find any publications – but you never know – maybe they have been around a while and just have not gotten any submissions.

But I recommend everyone check out their Editorial Board.  In addition to listing Peter Deusberg (the controversial HIV denialist) there is an amazing person on their Board – Peter Uhnemann. He is listed as being from the “Department of Oximology at Daniel-Duesentrieb Institute, Germany”.  Sounds a bit strange right?  Well check out his Bio

And check out his research interests

It is pretty wacky right?  Well it turns out, as some might have guessed – it is made up.  The reason I know this is – is that Burkhard Morgenstern from the University of Goettingen let me know (in fact he is the one who alerted me to the whole story).

He sent me something he wrote on Facebook which I am posting here:


I’m delighted to inform you that Peter Uhnemann from the
 Daniel-Duesentrieb Institute in Germany was just appointed
 editor of the OMICS journal “Molecular Biology”:

For those of you who don’t know Peter Uhnemann: he is a fake
 person invented by the German satirical magazine Titanic.
 They created an FB account for him to make fun of social
 networks (he soon befriended on FB with various German


For those of you who don’t know Daniel Duesentrieb: this is
 the German name of the Walt Disney comic figure Gyro Gearloose.


For those of you who don’t know the OMICS journals: these
 are junk journals spamming around invitations to join their
 editorial boards. 

On their web page they say that

 “election of the “right” editor for a journal is one of the
 most important decisions made by OMICS Publishing Group …
 Editors, Executive Editors & Editor-in- Chief of journals
 must be senior researchers, e.g. chaired professors.”

 As it looks, Peter Uhnemann from the Daniel-Duesentrieb
 Institute meets these criteria.

It is both hilarious and a bit terrifying.  Now – mind you – it is possible that this journal could end up with some papers worth looking at.  But clearly, the Editorial process at this journal is probably going to be a bit, well, circumspect.

UPDATE: finally – as of 2/16/12 he is no longer listed on the editorial board …

Draft post cleanup #15: Now this is how to write a scientific paper

Yet another post in my “draft blog post cleanup” series.  Here is #15, from May 2010.

I had written:

Just found an old fax I received from my brother of a paper published in 1974 in Scientia Sinica. “Studies of the insulin crystal structure: the molecule at 1.8Å resolution.” Sounds pretty straightforward right? But then you read the paper: Here is the abstract (could not find a PDF so scanned in the fax I got).

I note, I stopped here because I could not figure out how to upload a PDF here.  But I did figure out how to upload it to FriendFeed.  But I think in the end it would be good to have a version of this post on my blog.  So, well, here it is.  And now I have included scans of the fax:

If only scientists were as important as Rupert Murdoch

(CNN) — A synthetic life scandal may have cost J. Craig Venter the nobel prize in medicine in 2011, but the maverick science mogul managed to end the year with a modest addition to his empire — an account on Twitter.
Within 48 hours of debuting with tweets about family, work and his dogs, Venter had pulled in more than 5,000 followers and stirred internet debate over why the 60-year-old was now embracing a technology often used to attack him.
The tweets also raised doubts that the notorious technophobe was writing the messages himself. Science writer Carl Zimmer — one of only eleven people being followed by Venter — however insisted that the media mogul was writing “with his own voice, in his own way.
Venter appears to have made his Twitter debut some time ago but with the new year many are waiting anxiously for more posts with insight into his maverick lifestyle.
His past 27 tweets include posts about celebrations of the birthday of the first synthetic cell, Osama bin Laden, President Obama, and biofuels. These have raised suspicions that Venter’s Twitter account was being used as a publicity tool to help improve his image after a damaging few years of people complaining he is trying to play God.
Trump is the Winklevoss of politics
Craig Venter via Twitter
Others claimed that the voice of the tweets, as well as their faltering grammar and punctuation, were unmistakably Venter. “You can tell by the tweets he’s doing it himself,” wrote Hamilton Smith, Nobel Laureate and colleague of Venter’s.
A spokesperson for the Venter Institute confirmed to CNN the account is genuine.
The account could offer new insight into a scientist whose life has been under intense scrutiny over the past few years after creating life, beating the public human genome project in the race for the genome, and using his boat as a decoy to study microbes that live in his body.
Twitter played a prominent role in many of the scandals around Venter when it was used to pressure funding agencies into limiting funding for Venter’s Institutes. Commentators said the loss of this revenue was a key factor in Venter’s decision to create life.
Venter’s subsequent appearance before a US Congressional inquiry into synthetic biology also caused a sensation on Twitter, particularly after his wife, Heather Kowalski, threatened to use one of their motorcycles to run over anyone who threatened Venter at the hearing
There were echoes of Venter’s congressional appearance — which he called the “most humble day day of my life” — in some of his tweets such as his comments about his visit to Syracuse University “Impressed with the student enthusiasm at Syracuse U.”
But there were also signs that the science mogul was still getting to grips with social media. Reports suggested he was forced to quickly delete one post — possibly after Kowalski leapt to his aid once again.
The Institute for Genome Sciences — a fierce rival of Venter’s — was among genome centers claiming that Venter was guilty of “tweeting-before-thinking” for suggesting that Francis Collins was evil.
The message was apparently removed, but not before someone tweeting as Heather Kowalski implored: “Venter – DELETE TWEET.” A further post on the unverified Kowalski account later added: “EVERY1: @jcventer was only having a joke pROMISE!!!” [sic].
Among other tweets by Venter, who also follows President Barack Obama, humorist Bill Maher, and MicrobeWorld, was an expression of support for President Obama’s vision for the future. 

With apologies (sort of) to CNN and their report on Rupert Murdoch’s use of twitter. Brought to you by FSN – Fake Science News.

Top 10 Humorous Science Videos of the Year

I was starting to compile a Top 10 list of best humorous Science-related videos of the year.  And I got stuck on #1 because it is so so so good.  But I was able to find some others I liked (and listed them in no particular order)… so here goes.  If you know of other good ones please post/tweet …

1. Bad Project video from the Zheng lab.  This is simply awesome.

2. Top 10 quirky science tricks for parties.  I found out about this from Twitter … and it is very good.

3. Cracked.Com has some funny spoofs, though usually not about science.  Here is one I found about science, sort of.

4. The Onion has some great science spoofs of course.  I found this one but there are many more.
Brooke Alvarez Has All The Answers, Even About Particle Physics 

5. Colbert has some brilliant Science spoofs.  This one however takes the cake in a way: Colbert nuclear explosion

6. Robotic Operation (which I found through

7. OK – so it’s very very long.  But there are some funny parts – the 2011 Ig Nobel Award Ceremony

8. Abby Harrison is very funny. … I first saw here microorganism stand up stuff but I think this one is better.

9. OK so this is not the funniest video with Brian Malow but it give some background on “The Science Comedian”

10. And perhaps my favorite – from the Daily Show — Science – What’s it up to?

Please suggest others …

Dear Potential Post Doc or PhD Student – top10 ways to get a position in my lab

Dear Candidate (for any type of position in my lab)

I thought I would write a letter to you to help guide you in how to apply for a position in my lab.  Here are some suggestions for things that really help out – based on real emails I note …

  1. Describe your interests by copying text from my web site.  This shows that you are not only able to read, but also able to either copy directly or retype what you have read.  It is very appealing.
  2. Get my name or institution wrong in some way.  This shows that you are likely being industrious in applying for lots of jobs.
  3. Include attachments that do not open on Macs. Screw Steve Jobs and all of his fans.
  4. Send the same email multiple times – once to Prof. Eisen at UC Davis, once to Dr. Eisen at JGI, and once to Prof. Eisen from the “Genome Center at UC Davis.”  Repetition is an important literary technique. 
  5. Refer to the “reputation” of my group without saying anything specific about what interests you.  I love things based on reputation alone.
  6. Describe your background as very relevant to our work and then say that you too have focused extensively on microarray based studies of gene expression (I love stealing candidates whose original goal was to work in my brother’s lab).
  7. Have no publications but a list of more than 10 as “in preparation”.
  8. Include viruses in attachments – as I am interested in evolution of microbes this is appealing.
  9. Express an interest in biological weapons and biological defense and be from a terrorism sponsoring country.
  10. Have the original email message be more than four pages long with dozens of questions for me about my institution and my open positions.

My brother Matthew, a UC Irvine grad. student in sound engineering, takes on the pepper spray issue

My younger brother Matt is a sound engineering student at UC Irvine. As I did with my post: Top 10 reasons to still consider attending #UCDavis #OccupyUCDavis he has tacked the UC crisis with humor … Check out his radio spot: Radio Spot by mattglenn

Top 10 reasons to still consider attending #UCDavis #OccupyUCDavis

I am sure I will get in trouble for this but here goes …

Top 10 reasons to still consider attending UC Davis

1. Performance art spreading throughout campus

2. Chancellor will be doing student laundry for next five years
3. Buy a van with a satellite dish, get free parking anywhere on campus
4. Work study program has many alternative career paths including sign makers, tent cleaning, socialism club treasurer, etc. 
5. Our logo found on more artwork than any school in country
6. Free housing in the quad
7. Students determine which professors get tenure
8. Police nowhere to be found, even for huge parties

9. New majors in “Crisis Mismanagement” and “Silent Movie Making”

10.  Like a building – it is yours.

Wikileaks obtains internal Nobel Prize committee communications revealing 2011 winners

Stockholm. October 3, 2011. 

Well, Wikileaks has done it again. Though this time they have cracked one of the most secret organizations in the world – the Nobel Prize Committee, Julian Assange announced in a press conference today. Assange said

“We have obtained the entire database of email communications for all Nobel Prize decisions for the last ten years. To say the least, these provide a fascinating look at the secret decision making process.”

The cables have not yet been released to the public. Assange said

“We are working with journalists to go through all the documents and redact out names in order to protect the innocent. There is some potentially damaging material in there and though we are inclined to release it immediately, we also understand there are risks. For example, there are many discussions disparaging the work of many famous scientists as being “obvious” or “inane.” In addition, we have obtained all the nominations submitted from around the world, which includes a remarkable number of self-nominations by people who have done relatively trivial work.”

Assange proceeded to show highly redacted examples of email communications from inside some of the committees, discussing things such as who would look good next to the King of Sweden or the King of Norway and thgat the peace prize award to Obama was given simply “for not being George Bush.”

Assange also stated that the communications reveal the winners of the 2011 prizes which he was not going to reveal “in order to make a little bit of money on the side” to support Wikileaks activities. Although Assange did state that “I can conclusively state that Obama will not win the Medicine prize for his healthcare system” as some have suggested.