“I have the stripes, but where is the zebra?”

October 29, 2009

piglickerHi Everyone.  Sorry I haven’t posted anything in the long time.  My apology is a post that even longer and more meandering than usual.

I’m at Indiana University for the Biocomplexity X workshop on Quantitative Tissue Biology and Virtual Tissues.  It’s been great — perhaps because there are many physicists converted to biology.  There have been several talks that touched on non-linear elasticity, though most people’s background is in foams and not granular matter.   Rene Doursat gave an especially good talk today on agent-based models of morphogenesis in which he mentioned another alleged quotation, attributed to Alan Turing, who made either the titular comment or said “The stripes are easy, it’s the horse part that troubles me!” in reference to the ability of certain systems of equations to create seemingly biologically-relevant patterns without necessarily providing biological insight.  Brad has Read the rest of this entry »

Apocryphal or not…

April 27, 2009

Last week I attended both the first ever workshop on Virtual Tissues conveniently (for me) held at the EPA’s RTP campus (though it was a EC-US Task for on Biotechnology event) and a partial reunion of the Lunchtime! crew. Dr. Tighe and Tina were in town and we managed to make it to the Ale House, though with no Martha and Dr. Bunton busy dealing with fires in Conway, some of the old magic was missing.

Efforts to create virtual tissues are certainly ambitious. The idea is to create a sufficiently accurate simulation of biology that the effects of perturbations (such as a toxic substance) are emergent;, rather than hard-coded. There are numerous challenges ahead and it may or may not even be possible, but as I mentioned tot he Ale House attendee’s someone presented an extremely pithy pair of quotes. They may or may not be apocryphal (a word whose own meaning is apparently somewhat dubious), since I cannot find either quote outside of this pairing, but it’s certainly an entertaining idea relevant to ;any technology on the cusp of feasibility:

On October 9, 1903 two interesting things happened.

The New York Times wrote “Hence, if it requires, say, a thousand years to fit for easy flight a bird which started with rudimentary wings… the flying machine that will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years…”

On that same day in North Carolina, Orville Wright wrote in his diary.

“We unpacked rest of goods for new machine. We started assembly today.”

PS: I found a reference to the NYT quote!

Carolina “Classic”

April 26, 2008

There are some things about North Carolina almost everyone knows, such as tobacco, basketball, and NASCAR. Then there are things that you only learn if you live here for a while; e.g. coleslaw is a condiment.

That’s right, any self-respecting North Carolinian restaurant serves a tiny cup of coleslaw on the side with every sandwich (and many other orders) so that you can put it on your sandwich if you care to. It actually works quite well because the cole slaw here is the best I’ve ever had: unlike its Midwestern brethren it contains only a bit of mayonnaise, and unlike the local barbecue it’s light on the vinegar.

Coleslaw features prominently in Carolina-style burgers, which also have chili, chopped onion, and mustard. Even Wendy’s has a fast-food version that is sold regionally. Apparently there is some sort of difference between coleslaw and “slaw,” but either way I find them to be delicious.

Another, more interesting North Carolina “quirk” has to do with how I’ve used quotation marks in these last two sentences. Read the rest of this entry »

Doctors, Lawyers, and Captains of Industry

April 5, 2008

As described by the Detroit News, when legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler (80% winning percentage) took over a struggling Michigan team in the late 1960’s, the more difficult practices and harsher coaching style drove 20-30 players to leave the team. For Michigan fans it is well known that he had a sign made reading “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions” and that he pretty much honored that claim by winning at least a share of 13 Big Ten titles in 21 seasons. What isn’t reported often is that one of the departing players added to the first sign: “And those who leave will be doctors, lawyers and captains of industry.” I think that’s an important part of the story. Read the rest of this entry »


February 21, 2008

It seems like we live in an age where it is more important for text to be copyright protected than grammatically correct. The New York Times, however, has a pretty funny article celebrating the proper usage of a semi-colon in a sign placed in subway cars. The article contains a tidbit about David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer who was, according to one columnist, “the only murderer he ever encountered who could wield a semicolon just as well as a revolver.”

The article also has a great quote from Kurt Vonnegut:

“When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life. Old age is more like a semicolon.”

Is Our Children Learning?

January 11, 2008

From the New York Times:

Corpse Wheeled to Check-Cashing Store Leads to 2 Arrests

 Two men were arrested on Tuesday after pushing a corpse, seated in an office chair, along the sidewalk to a check-cashing store to cash the dead man’s Social Security check.

Clearly movies are educational after all.  If these guys had only been fortunate enough to see Weekend at Bernie’s, or it’s sequel (which is currently earning 3.6/10 stars on IMDB) they could’ve avoided possible fraud charges.

My favorite part of the article is the detailed description of how the corpse was dressed:
The late Mr. Cintron was dressed in a faded black T-shirt and blue-and-white sneakers. His pants were pulled up part of the way, and his midsection was covered by a jacket, the police said.

I’d like to think my roommates would at least go to the effort of putting my pants all the way on.


December 3, 2007

Chick-Fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan: “We couldn’t find a better matchup between two teams so similar. Both have coaches named Tommy, both are Tigers, both are 5-3, both are second in their division, both are coming off big wins over their rival.”