Irrational behaviour at the casino – why were the other players so angry with me?

During our recent short trip to Niagara Falls, my wife and I strolled through a casino, as a warm and sheltered shortcut from our bed and breakfast to the waterfront.  I had no interest in trying out the slot machines or any of the table games.  I enjoy considering the statistics behind casino games, and I love playing card games and games in general with friends.  But I’m not a big fan of casinos themselves…

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Niagara Falls didn’t freeze over, and it was beautiful

My wife and I left the Downtown Toronto hustle for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s, for two nights in a lovely bed and breakfast in Niagara Falls. The intent of our mini-vacation was to spend some quiet time indoors, reading books, perhaps writing (in my case, I thought more about relaunching Atoms and Numbers!), and just relaxing after a busy few months. Unbeknown to us when we booked this trip in early…

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A Motion-Sensor Switch for Antibiotic Resistance: My New Paper in the Journal Structure

I’ve been working on my thesis for the last few months, squirreled away in libraries and coffee shops, but now I’ve submitted and waiting to defend, I’m happy to share what’s happened in the meantime! A research paper I’ve been working on for a long time has been accepted, and published in the journal Structure. You can find it online, here. This paper makes up a bulk of the work in my PhD thesis, containing…

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How build a protein – lessons from the Protein Engineering Canada 2016 meeting

How do you make a new protein, or a new function in an existing one? This is the goal of the field of protein engineering. Researchers working in this field use a number of strategies to try to make proteins with new characteristics. The development of proteins with new function have applications in industry, medicine, and biotechnology. Want a more stable or more efficient enzyme? Talk to a protein engineer. Want to convert a protein…

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I love thial-S-oxides so much I cry

Lots of things can make us cry. Pain. Joy. Boredom. Sadness. Toy Story 3. There’s another common source of tears in any home, and it lives in the kitchen. Onions and other plants in the Allium genus produce compounds that trigger an involuntary reaction. Chopping these bulbs turns even the most stoic into a weeping mess in minutes. What makes this happen? Does the onion want us to be sad? Does it want us to…

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Music of the Macromolecules

To fully understand a molecule, you first need to learn what it looks like, and then, how it moves. This isn’t easy. I’ve talked before about how unusual biological molecules can be if you’re accustomed to thinking of real-world objects. They are fundamentally flexible and dynamic in a way that everyday objects aren’t. They move chaotically, at lightning speed, crashing through a molecular mosh pit on the sub-microscopic scale. Protein and nucleic acid macromolecules are…

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How Spicy Would You Like That Chemotherapy?

Molecules are abstract objects, so it’s easy to talk about one using the single property we know about it. Penicillin cures infections. Chlorophyll harvests sunlight. Cocaine gets you high. Thinking this way keeps everything simple and makes it easy to tell a story about them. Referring to molecules by a single characteristic keeps things simple. Unfortunately, nature hates simplicity. A molecule doesn’t know the role we’ve given it. It wiggles blindly through solution, crashing into…

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Change la musique, mon vin a un goût bizarre!

20 h 30. Vous entrez fièrement, votre femme au bras, dans le dernier restaurant à la mode. Dès l’accueil, les enceintes vous assaillent les oreilles d’un Kanye West dégoulinant. Le pinot noir que vous visez dans la carte des vins pourrait ne pas le supporter. Vous non plus. La musique influence directement l’expérience (sensorielle) de la dégustation. Pour le meilleur et… parfois le pire! L’odeur est un goût comme les autres… Dans la presse gastronomique,…

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Untranslated Elements: CRISPR

My last couple posts have become longer than I expected. I’m going to break the pattern this week. I’m starting a recurring series of posts containing brief thoughts, centred on a single topic in the molecular biosciences. These posts will be unorganized, full of sarcasm, conjecture, and the occasional opinion. I’m calling it: Untranslated Elements. Today, CRISPR technologies.   For a brief background, CRISPR/Cas9 is a gene editing technology developed from a bacterial system for…

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