First up: apparently there are genetic sequencing hobbyists. Now, while that story is fascinating, and I fully acknowledge that the father, in that case, started out being a clinical geneticist, there's still a great wonder for me in that we have advanced medical technology so far that individuals can make these kinds of leaps. To be sure, he collaborated with other geneticists, and did a substantial amount of work in genetic labs; nevertheless, we have mapped out enough of the human genome that we can now identify separate mutations within familial structures.
Similar research in Australia--though done by more official researchers and labs--discovered an ability to rewire the HIV virus. If this technique proves viable, then doctors could, in theory, cure AIDS and other immunodeficiencies; perhaps so far as curing cancer. It's a long way to go from this discovery to official human trials, but the initial work looks very promising indeed.
Viruses are not the only interesting research going on in the HIV research circles, though. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have come up with an alternately creepy, and cool, way to "vaccinate" against HIV...by using modified bee venom. Now, me personally, the first thing that comes to mind is the number of people who have bee venom allergies. But barring that, the theories they're operating from seem logical. The nanoparticulate melittin is the protein being isolated. While it seems to me to be a spyrochete, and would thus be almost infinitely able to drill through cells of the proper size, it may simply be a small protein able to infiltrate other cells through the corkscrew method, which also creates holes in those cells. Either way, it has potential to cure many diseases, from HIV infection all the way over to Lyme disease. I'm very intrigued with where this research will go.
Another class action lawsuit has been settled against the Lindens. But--at least as far as I'm able to ascertain--it looks like they didn't lose that much, and it seems like the settlement was reached out of court, so did not result in binding decisions on the rights of virtual landholders. Which is rather sad--with so many virtual spaces like Second Life, and in larger MMO games (I'm thinking primarily of gold farmers in WoW, and of gains and losses in EVE Online), there is a fair amount of real money that's being tossed around. I'd really like a solid legal understanding of what that buys for individuals, and how binding those purchases are.
Another bit from NWN interested me, and led me from Iris Ophelia's rant (which really wasn't, based on Botgirl Questi's entry (which still wasn't a rant) on a new (at least to me) artistic endeavor called Single Frame Stories.
In short, the blog lists a theme. It is then our job to take one single photograph that we feel best applies to the theme. From their "About" page:
Each Saturday we'll offer a new word or phrase for a prompt. Participants will each create a Single Frame Story based on the prompt of the week, consisting of a single image with up to 140 optional characters of text. The image can be a photo, screen shot, drawing or painting. The text can be integrated into the image or used as a caption or title.We don't have to include text in the image; if we're more called to use text (AKA typography)over words, we can do that too--with a 140-character limit. Personally, having been on Twitter as long as I have been now, I'm comfortable with the 140-character limitation, but even if you're not, it's still a structure to put in place to outline your thoughts.
There is an odd freedom in working within set limitations--as NaNoWriMo shows us year after year, it can be quite the creative spur to our energies to work within external limits. It forces us not only to think outside our internal self-limitations, but can as well inspire us to redefine what that theme means to us when examined from all sides.
At the Kennedy Space Center, Atlantis, the last Space Shuttle to fly before the shuttles were retired, is now open for public view, where it will remain as a tribute to this chapter of our space program. Things have been so stagnant for space exploration in the last few decades, so I am hoping the slow-rising enthusiasm I see among my friends is also carried outside our social groups. Space travel brings with it many scientific, educational, and inspirational benefits, and we need to find more ways to get out there. The dream of life in space is not just a search for aliens that may or may not exist; it is the sure knowledge that when we look up from this small planet, we know there are beings working, beyond the horizon, and that they are part of us.
And I can't help feeling very sad at this NWN story about ex-Lindens gathering at SL10B. I truly think the Lab did all of their ex-Lindens a great disservice when the cuts came down. They went from a company many of us wanted to interact with. with Lindens we felt listened to us and heeded our concerns, to a company who was actively resentful of customer interaction, who rarely if ever bothered to listen to customer concerns. This was not a good shift, regardless of how much in resources they saved at the time.