Face on Earth

More of this week's miscellanea

So Livingstone brought the office of mayor into disrepute by hurling abuse at a tabloid reporter? Sounds like perfectly reasonable behaviour to me, I'm afraid.

The dentistry is over for another year. Hopefully. I went to have a filling replaced on Wednesday, which turned out to be a completely painless experience. It was an amalgam job, probably from my teens, so hopefully this one will last until my late fities, by which time I'm sure I'll have no teeth left anyway. Advances in medical technology will doubtless have made it possible for me to grow new teeth to replace them by then - or, more likely, for my friends and family to have a whole replacement Me grown to replace the irritating old git that I've become.

Which reminds me. I was looking at the Onion the other day, and they're featuring a fine story about using technology to increase the impact of science on policy-making. They aren't ignoring the major matters of topical interest, either. I was also (admittedly slightly cynically) amused by the headline Betty Friedan Honored With Second-Class Postage Stamp also.

Anyway, that cloning thing leads nicely onto this article, from Wednesday, about moves to oppose the ALF and their cronies, who are issuing scarcely-veiled threats of violence against researchers, students, builders, and anyone else who has the temerity not to agree with them. There's another article in today's Guardian (there's also a photo of Cave with That 'Tache, but that's a separate story).

As I said in a rather less temperate post a few months ago, I don't agree that animal-based research is either useless or (necessarily) unethical. And as they haven't convinced the country not to kill animals for food - and don't seem to be particularly interested in doing so - I don't see they've any business getting selfrighteous about medical research. I have at least one friend with advanced MS, who'll probably die of it at some point in the indefinite (but not necessarily distant) future. I don't appreciate these people playing games with her life, or with anyone else's.

A lot of people argue that medical research on animals is misleading. The evidence that tends to be supplied for this is generally inaccurate or irrelevant. Nothing (and nobody) is perfect, but the tools we have are used because they've been proven by years of testing.

On a more pleasant topic, Patti Smith will apparently be reading her poetry in Glasgow.

I'm moderately impressed by the Whitby lineup, but as I remarked elsewhere there isn't anyone that I'd drop everything for and run to buy tickets, as I did for (frinstance) the Lorries or ITN. I was thinking, though - if they're after that sort of coup, someone's playing what seems to be her first gig in well over a decade in France soon, and her initials are D D. I wonder if she could be tempted? In fairness, she used to be very expensive to book. Ah well.

Finally, this, although it'll admittedly be of little interest to most of you :

Hamburg, 23.02.2006. Olympus has developed a new family of objectives specifically for Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (TIRFM) which selectively visualises processes and structures of the cell membrane. Researchers can now choose from four different specially designed TIRFM objectives with magnifications between 60x and 150x, and extremely high numerical apertures (NA) - including a world record NA of 1.65.

Yeech! That's outrageous - f/0.6 in photographic terms. TIRF is also known by the far more beautiful name Evanescent-wave microscopy, but for some reason the buggeringly ugly term caught on.
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That objective is a buggeringly big bucket for your light.
It's probably about the length of your thumb, and only a little thicker. Although it's got a stupefying capture angle, the field of view will be tiny.
Cave with That 'Tache

Who I initially mistook for a young Burt Reynoulds... 8-)
Glad to hear about the Pro-test thing so thanks for the link.

I suggest there should be an extreme wing of "Pro-test" who off a lab mouse every time the ALF break a window or send a threatening letter and send the videos in to the media.
I have a sad feeling that the student in question is going to regret doing it. Brave gesture indeed but I wouldn't want to be in charge of it.
Out of quite sincere interest (I loathe the animal rights mob as little better than terrorists), what if any possible alternatives are there to animal testing? Are such things existent but poorly understood as yet, or is there some other obstacle?
what if any possible alternatives are there to animal testing?

They should use animal rights nutters for testing.
Trust me: when I rule the world, they will do.

I'm curious to know whether there are any genuine possibilities for an alternative, though.
People are working on them, but you have to understand a system very well before you can be confident that your replacement is equivalent. There are charities funding this work - FRAME is probably the best-known - as well as more conventional sources. A good system would be preferable to using animals, as it would be cheaper, more convenient to work with and need less regulatory oversight. Allegedly the British phramaceutical industry spends almost a tenth of its research budget (300 million quid out of 3200 million) on developing techniques to reduce animal testing. Half as many animals are used as were 30 years ago.

I came across a nice quotation while I was looking around - "during our lives, mediacl research uses two mice and half a rat for each of us."
Mind you, what kind of life could half a rat have? Even if it was given a tiny wheelchair it couldn't reach the wheels with its tiny arms.
I don't think half a rat sounds very appetising anyway - someone else can have my half.
A man goes into a bar...

(body of joke about "a half of rat" snipped for brevity)

"I can't drink that."

"Why not?" said the barkeeper.

"No head on it."
My mother has a personal licence to experiment on animals. She says that the rats and mice that she works with are treated as well as our cats are (in other words, spoilt rotten). BTW, she's helping to research leukæmia. I wonder how ALF members would feel about animal testing if they or a loved one developed leukæmia and the treatment for it depended upon animal research?
Some of them would, certainly, although I expect that in the majority of cases they'd be taking the line that living entirely on fresh loganberries with regular coffee enemas guarantees a cure.

I've got a book somewhere with John Diamond taking down the freaky treatments people try. He was dying of cancer himself at the time, and he's not gentle with them.