The [Ninja Turtles] henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady have hijacked the musical genres for us just like the Lone Ranger hijacked the William Tell Overture for our parents.

- xkcd

Friday, October 06, 2006

The 3B! Listserv Presents:

The San Francisco greater bay area (read: Northern California) just went three for three on the Nobel Prizes of Science (Medicine, Physics, Chemistry). This has resulted in modest amounts of TV coverage and presumably has upturned events in a variety of laboratories at the "University of Suck" and other bay area universities. As a result, my bovine overlords have been bitching about how the camera crew, when wandering to a real lab, stepped on his petri dish. Both I and dEn tried to go over there and explain the situation but all he wanted was to say how horribly misunderstood he is.

Below the fold, let's go through all three news stories on the Nobel Prizes and see who is really at fault:

click here



Lets go through them in chronological order. First up is Dr. Andrew Z. Fire, co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Medicine. What's the Z stand for? Boring! Below we have five minutes of his press conference courtesy of KTVU and dEn's impressive internet sleuthing skills.



I don't expect you to have gotten through that. It was boring, wandering, and, I think, might have mentioned science twice. Meanwhile, he's responsible for the science fad that is sweeping the nation, RNA interference (RNAi). The first freely available scientific publication of that work is here. A one sentence summary is, "RNAi is the use of short RNA molecules to stop gene expression by destroying messenger RNA (mRNA)." He works with C. elegans but this model has been shown to work with vertebrates and people are exploring its use in a vast array of fields and applications. It is impressive work; he discovered a genetic regulatory system people didn't know existed before 1998.

However, based on what we've seen and the remaining lackluster presentation by news crews, why would anyone care. Instead, haha, we get a cute story about the Berkeley - Stanford rivalry. Pshaw on science!

Moving on, we get to physics. Dr. Smoot was the co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics. The first half of this presentation seems pretty reasonable but they pretty much fall off the turnip truck when they try to move to the actual discovery by Dr. Smoot. Decent background here and one of the project pages here)

Here is the news segment discussing this that played on KTVU.



If you watched through until the end, you get to my pet peeve about attitude towards science. The, "it's too hard" mode. He closes with the line, "If you didn't understand, well, I'm not sure I did either." Everyone knows the story, right. (Please excuse me if I am chaneling a little too much Daily Howler but I guess now I know why he sometimes goes off the deep end). They do get credit for explaining the basic Big Bang set up effectively. They point to the pretty microwave radiation picture. They don't bother trying to explain why the picture should or shouldn't look like that and it pretty much falls apart.

At the beginning, note again the biographical sketch. Haha, actors! I don't know how that relates to the story but now there's more human interest. Again, notice that the actual scientist says two sentences about science -- in this case, because those are all the sentences he gets on camera.

Finally, the "queen of the sciences," Chemistry. It went to Dr. Kornberg at Stanford. That's pretty much the only thing we see him saying about science. A good (PDF) summary is available from the Nobel Prize organization. More technical (primary literature) summary pre-2001 feat and post-2001. Again, the news clip:



This one is even more lackluster. First we get shots of Dr. Kornberg's house at night. A story about how his aged father once won the prize as well. Finally, we get a crummy explanation of his work by the reporter. Then, we have another botched explanation by someone (grad student?) in his lab. He holds a 3D model that looks like a blob and say, "this protein is responsible for turning on all genes" What a gross misstatement. Plus, they claim Dr. Kornberg discovered(!) RNA polymerase.

Anyways, now you have an AV basis to continue the discussion and I've done what I can for Science Friday.

8 Comments:

At 10/06/2006 2:43 PM, Blogger CHIC-HANDSOME said...

good movie picture

 
At 10/06/2006 3:07 PM, Anonymous Pinko Punko said...

What a bunch of cobags!

 
At 10/06/2006 3:31 PM, Blogger fulsome said...

this post reminds me of the inverse effort:comment ratio. Also, the dangers of Friday afternoon posts.

Finally, I can enjoy the beauty of self-pity.

 
At 10/06/2006 3:46 PM, Blogger dontEATnachos said...

yes, it's always frustrating when Chuckles 3 word posts get like 73 comments and you take the time to write something down and get like 2.

 
At 10/06/2006 11:55 PM, Anonymous Pinko Punko said...

especially when chuckwagon is mining his wnag territory. you'd think it'd be mined out.

 
At 10/06/2006 11:59 PM, Anonymous Pinko Punko said...

also, some cobag called into the real science friday and tried to get all intelligent design on RNA Polymerase. I want to have smokewagon pull up the poop-chute on his lawn.

 
At 10/07/2006 12:09 AM, Anonymous Adorable Girlfriend said...

What a bunch of tragic nerds in those videos!

 
At 10/07/2006 4:47 AM, Anonymous Clif said...

yes, it's always frustrating when Chuckles 3 word posts get like 73 comments and you take the time to write something down and get like 2.

I second that. Anytime I go after wingnut chumpsticks on technical stuff like law or science, which naturally takes a more detailed posts, I get one or no comments. I think I shall start blogging about my massive wang.

 

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