Movie Meme

Tony at Milkriverblog has a movie meme he would like everyone to participate in. Tony explains:

Now they can name as many as they would like, but i’m asking for only one. They name it in a post, and i’ll check all the blogs and collect the nominees and compile a master list here. They also should challenge their readers to post one also, and then notify me so i can add them to the master list.

I have three I would like to suggest. Two are science fiction, the third may or may not be fantasy.

1)The Phantom from Space. This movie is somewhat ahead of it’s time. It starts with communications engineers looking for the cause of some interference. Along the way they come to the aide of a woman, her husband, and a friend. They had been attacked by a mysterious man with no face. As the police investigate it becomes clear thatt the police and communications engineers are looking for the same thing. A man from outer space. It also becomes clear that what is motivating the aliens behavior is the need to survive. You see his space ship is wrecked at the bottom of the ocean and the only thing he has left is his space suit which is rapidily running out of power, correct atmosphere, etc. The movie was made in 1953 when all men from outer space when all aliens were out to kidnap earth women for nefarious purposes, so it’s sympathetic view is years ahead of it’s time (don’t see it again till Starman or ET).

2)The Magnetic Monster. In the 1950’s most science fiction revolved around bug eyed monsters – either made in the lab or coming from outer space. Although, the magnetic monster was made in a lab it definately did not have bug eyes. The monster of the story is a weird radioactive isotope that sucks down massive amounts of energy and actually reproduces. The heroes of the story have to figure out a way to stop it before it destroys the world. It is a low budgett film by Curt Siodmak that was actually well done – although I don’t think you will find it at any of the movie stores.

3)Secrets of the Roan Innish. What does a ten year old girl and seals have in common? And what’s up with the mysterious “dark” branch of the family? Absolutely phenomenal! Great acting, great cinematography, great story. When it was over I found myself saying “It can’t be over, I want more!” See it if you can.

Transitions News

RPM at Evolgen has allowed me to cross post his series on “Detecting Natural Selection”. I have decided to create a new page for genetics at Transitions. The first two parts of RPM’s series can be found here.

I have also selected the next Site of the Week Check both out. Be sure to visit Evolgen while you are at it.

Papers I have Read in the Last Two Weeks

Fry, B. G. and Wuster, W, 2004, Assembling an Arsenal: Origin and Evolution of Snake Venom Proteome Inferred from Phylogentic Analysis of Toxin Sequences. Mol. Biol. Evol. 21(5):870-883. Background for a post I was thinking about doing, but Zimmer beat me to it. May still do the post anyway.

Vidal, N. and Hedges, S. B., 2005, The Phylogeny of Squamate Reptiles (Lizards, Snakes, and Amphisbaenians) inferred from Nine Nuclear Protein-Coding Genes. C. R. Biologies 328:1000-1008. See above.

Bleiweiss, Robert, 1998, Slow Rate of Molecular Evolution in High-Elevation Hummingbirds. PNAS 95:612-616 Background for a post I’m working on.

Martin, A. P., Palumbi, S. R., 1993, Body Size, Metabolic Rate, Generation Time, and the Molecular Clock. PNAS 90:4087-4091. Same as the previous article, although it may be awhile before I post it. I’m thinking of going out and buying several books on the subject as I’m really developing an interest in the effects of body size, etc, on metabolism.

Seino, S., Bell, G. I., and Li, WH, 1992, Sequences of Primate Insulin Genes Support the Hypothesis of a slower Rate of Molecular Evolution in Humans and Apes than in Monkeys. Mol. Biol. Evol. 9(2):193-203. See above.

Fielding, S, Martill, D., and Naish, D., 2005, Solnhofen-Style Soft-Tissue Preservation in a New Species of Turtle from the Crato Formation (Early Cretaceous, Aptian) of North-East Brazil. Paleontology 48(6):1301-1310. I did a post on this a few days ago.

Bell, G. L., and Polcyn, M. J., 2005, Dallasaurus turneri, A New Primitive Mosasauroid from the Middle Turonian of Texas and Comments on the Phylogeny of Mosasauridae (Squamata). Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 84(3):177-194. I did a post on this as well. Strangely enough, it is relevant to the above two articles on snakes. I’ll mention how it is relevant if I actually get round to writing the post. I say strangely because a paper I mentioned here has bearing on the above articles on body size, metabolic rates and molecular evolution.

Turkey: A Thanksgiving Myth Debunked

Most of you are familiar with Tryptophan. It’s the ingredient in turkey that is widely rumoured to put folks to sleep on Thanksgiving. Pure Tryptophan is a mild sleep inducing agent and because it is found in turkey, many believe that it is responible for many of the food induced coma’s commonly experienced on Thanksgiving. According to National Geographic News this is a myth!

But tryptophan can’t get to the human brain in large amounts when ingested as part of a massive Thanksgiving feast—it needs an empty stomach.

“Tryptophan is taken to the brain by an active transport system shared by a number of other amino acids [the chief components of proteins], and there’s competition among them—like a crowd of people trying to get through a revolving door,” said Simon Young, a neurochemist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Consuming tryptophan-rich foods may cause blood levels of the amino acid to rise. But not enough tryptophan will reach the brain to have a sedative affect.

“Brain levels of tryptophan could even go down after a big meal because of the [amino acid] competition,” Young said.

Apparently, even the amount of Tryptophan in turkey has been overstated:

Turkey isn’t even unusually high in tryptophan. Many foods, such as beef or soybeans, boast higher concentrations.

So, why the need for a nap?

The slumber may be caused by the stressful hustle and bustle of the holidays, alcohol consumption, and the massive caloric intake of the year’s biggest feast.

“There have been many studies citing a post-lunch dip in performance, from factory output to single-car accidents,” McGill’s Young explained.

“These things tend to peak in the early afternoon. A thousand-calorie lunch causes a sedative effect that a smaller meal doesn’t have.”

So the next time you slip into a coma on Thanksgiving day, don’t malign the Turkey. Jest fess up and say “My relatives are stressing me out and I drank to much!”

Added Later: RPM at Evolgenexplains some genetics connected with tryptophan.

More on KU

Recently, I posted on a class at KU called “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies.” The class has raised the ire of the intelligent design community and conservatives in Kansas. Which is kid of shocking. ID advocates have made a big show of talking about how not teaching ID violates academic freedom and amounts to viewpoint discrimation. They constantly talk about how purveyors of “Darwinian ideology” are censoring and intimidating ID advocates into silence. Well:

And John Altevogt, a conservative columnist and activist in Kansas City, said Tuesday that state officials should require the university to change the name of the Department of Religious Studies to the “Department of Religious Intolerance.”

“If we can’t do that,” Altevogt said, “maybe we settle for some cuts in spending.”


Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, said he doesn’t believe KU’s move to offer the course should have a negative effect in the Legislature as long as the course is handled in a serious and intellectually honest way.

“They should be commended for taking the challenge — if it’s done in that manner,” Pine said.

But O’Connor said anything was possible in the Legislature.

“If they press forward in this area and continue to kick sand, the ultimate will be a negative of some sort,” she said. “I don’t know what the negative will be … You can’t kick sand in someone’s face and then expect a positive. And that’s what this is — a sand-kicking contest.”


“Why poke a stick in somebody’s eye if you don’t have to?” she said. “If you’re going to have an intelligent design course and call it mythology, I think in the very least it’s a slap in the face to every Judeo-Christian religion that’s out there.”

Gee, I though ID had nothing to do with any religion, much less Judeo-Christian ones.

Altevogt was still angry.

“There’s nothing intellectually honest about this at all,” he said Tuesday. “This is purely hate-mongering, just for the purpose of hate-mongering. It’s not a religion class. It’s a class of religious intolerance.”

So there ya go. Create a class to explore intelligent design in an academically meaningfull way and the prevailing religious orthodoxy circles the wagons, starts making threats and is trying to intimidate Professor Paul Mirecki into silence. It is interesting to note that ID advocates always protest when people say ID is a way of sneaking religion into science class. ID doesn’t say anything about who the designer is “could be space aliens” (if space aliens are the designers does that mean folks don’t have to worship God and Jesus anymore?) yet the response to Professor Mirecki’s class has come primarily from the conservative christian community. Why is that?

Red State Rabble has an interesting take on the subject as well.

Added slightly later: Thoughts From Kansa also has a couple of posts on the subject.

Too Much to Blog About, Not Enough Time

Really, there has been an explosion of interesting stories that I’m hoping to blog about. I hoping to get to all of them by the end of the weekend. I’m pessamistic though because I keep finding interesting things to blog about quicker than I can actually post on them.

By the way, have you donated to Harry McDonald yet? I have!

Donating to Kansas

I almost forgot… in line with this post. I have sent my donation to the Committee to Elect Harry McDonald.