15 July 2007

Nerd Dating, Genetic machinery, Italian ice, NIN

Hello from unrelentingly swampy Boston-ish. Poor Toby has been up several times tonight, crying his eyes out instead of sleeping. We don't know if it's the heat or tension from all the stuff we did today... but pardon me if this post comes out haltingly.

In descending order of scientific worthiness,

How Organisms form from DNA (the whole Ontogeny thing)
I don't know a whit about molecular biology beyond what one picks up in the scientific press, but I've been reading the works of Stuart A. Kauffman, a researcher who studies "theoretical biology" -- using computer simulations to think about how genes and the proteins they express might act in generalized chemical networks.

A chapter regarding how-an-animal-gets-its-appearance-based-on-DNA-stuff (ontogeny), his book The Origins of Order makes a point along the lines of "natural selection is only part of the story... complex chemical networks have interesting properties on their own; heck, even simple systems can create some startlingly complex effects."

Here's how he puts it (quoting from p. 408, though that doesn't imply I read the previous 407 pages):

"Focusing attention on structural genes - that is, those coding for proteins - and simplifying to imagine each protein to be either present or absent in a cell, we find that there are at least 2^20,000 possible combinatorial patterns of gene expression. This is 10^6000, a number vastly larger that the number of hydrogen atoms in the known universe. It is the genomic regulatory system which constrains into useful behavior the patterns of gene activity during ontogeny. The problem, simply stated, is to understand how such coordination is achieved and how it could have evolved. The central tenet of the ensuing chapters is that many of the highly ordered properties of genomic regulatory systems are spontaneous, self-organized features of complex control systems which required almost no selection at all. Clearly, if much of the order we see in ontogeny reflects the natural properties of complex control systems, we must rethink evolutionary biology. Some of the sources of order lie outside selection."

Geek Dating
An online dating site for nerds: Sweetongeeks.com.

Facebook and other Web 2.0 Social blah-blah
Do you have pages on LinkedIn, Facebook, Friendster, and other places you've maybe forgotten? I finally realized that I've made no new connections due to these things, the privacy issue outweighs the upside potential (when I google my name, my LinkedIn profile appears -- and people can tell if you've browsed their profile!), and I'm getting friend-requests from people who I may've met once but kind of make me wonder if I'm just fodder for Rolodex-padding.

I've begun my retreat from these social networking sites by deactivating my Facebook account.

However, I'm still curious about sites that would increasing the chances of you, my friends, bumping into me when I'm out of the house. Like dodgeball. However, I doubt anyone would appreciate getting insta-TXTing along the lines of, "Gregg's at The Diesel." "Gregg's at Mass MoCA." "Gregg's handing out $5 bills at the local playground..." Or would you?

Hey! I've been duped by an 8-year old!
We went to a local "water park" today with Toby, which really is a sort of schoolyard playground whose blacktop includes a few tiny geysers for kids to run around and get wet in. It was a little scary to have Mr. 15-month-old darting around a bunch of - what - 7th graders with buckets of water? - but he had fun.

The ice cream man came, and we got some goods including our own "Tweetie Bird" ice cream so we could assess if it was as creepy as this one. (It wasn't.) A little boy sauntered over to me and asked, in a shy voice, "Hi. Um... my mom forgot to bring money with her today. Do you have any money so I can get some ice cream?"

He looked very sad.

I said, "What do you need, a dollar?"


I opened my wallet and found that the smallest thing I had was a $5 bill. "All I have is this five. Why don't you bring me back the change?" J-Fav looked at me incredulously. I had assumed this sort of largesse would be up her alley, but had been overridden by the possibility that his mom didn't want him having ice cream, or he's diabetic, or...?


He trotted off and got a reddish Italian ice, and handed me change: $1.50. (A cup of ice is $3.50??? The ice cream truck hands out $1 coins??? That's like... fake money... right?). Then he sauntered off and hid behind a fence somewhere, and disappeared. I could hear the family next to us wondering, "Where is that kid's mom?"

I've been had. But that's okay.

My Thoughtful, Verbose, and Generally Positive Review of a NIN CD
I got the new Nine Inch Nails album, "Year Zero," and I like it. I must be in the mood for hearing the industrial sounds of digital noise masquerading as drill presses, razor blades, and Trent Reznor screaming his conspiracy theories. Makes good driving-around-at-night music.

I think my future as a music reviewer is limited.

A Question for You, Dear Reader
Returning to a previous topic, have any of you had experiences with a "social networking" site that resulted in any, say, social networking?



wubbahed said...

I have or have had accounts on LinkedIn, Orkut, Friendster, myspace, Facebook, FoodCandy, Vox, Yelp, Blogger and Twitter and my only big social networking breakthrough was three years ago when I found my wedding photographer via Friendster.

Other than that, it's just an easier, more passive way to keep tabs on what friends are up to...

MF (aka sir black maggot) said...

g-fav, you've almost certainly seen the BioVisions "Inner Life of a Cell" vid, since anything scientific that shows up on my radar usually shows up on yours too. When I first saw it, knowing practically nothing about cellular biology (except for that junior-high-level image we probably all have in our heads, with the big nucleus and the blue mitochondria floating around and something mysterious called the "endoplasmic reticulum"), I found it actually kind of shocking to realize, viscerally, how much complex activity goes on at that level.

I'm not sure if that's in any way related to the Kauffman material you mentioned, but I'm going to check that book out and see.

I don't use social networking sites at all, because being 35 I'm generationally incapable of understanding them. Also, I like to write my own HTML.

(Side shoutout to wubbahed. I've been meaning to call you guys since, like, forever. How's everything?)

G-Fav said...

Wubbahed - You have your bases covered! This topic reminds me of the collection of "digg"-like sites that you can click various buttons on blogs to post to. (what a tangled sentence) -- once I saw a news site with something like 8 buttons to thumbs-up a story.

mf - That video is awesome. It looks like a narrated full version is available here at Harvard: the full clip, up top/


MF (aka sir black maggot) said...

Wow... that is seriously incredible. But I still only understood a fraction of what they were saying (and some of that fraction, I'd figured out on my own). I almost think I prefer it without the narration, where all you can really register is the unbelievable intricacy and strangeness of the billions of things that go on every second -- and this in every cell of every organism on earth. It's making me want to rush off and reread all my Lewis Thomas.

RLM said...

About the only thing the social networking sites have done for me (I'm on Friendster and LinkedIn, and have a myspace account just to be able to access the pages of some of the musicians I like) is get me back in touch with a few people I hadn't talked to in a really long time. For instance, just recently a former coworker found me on LinkedIn and sent me a message. I enjoy hearing from people from my past, so if those sites make it possible for them to find me, that's cool. But I haven't actively used the sites to connect to *new* people or anything.

donnybrook89 said...

There's a better site for "Nerd dating". It's Geek 2 Geek (www.gk2gk.com). Many more members, and a better interface. Also has a great section on Why Geeks Make the Best Mtch. If you're gonna look for geeks, look here.

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Head Geek Chick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Head Geek Chick said...

Thanks for the mention G-Fav! :)
Joyce ~ President SweetonGeeks and nervous Sox fan.