Changing Channels

HHMI Bulletin | February 2012

Scott Sternson has always wondered what drives behavior, especially those fundamental motivations required for survival. Hunger, for example, is so crucial that it must be evolutionarily “hard-wired” deep within the brain. After all, as Sternson observes, “if the animal doesn’t eat, it dies.” read story

Today’s Desert Walk

I took today off from work, but am carless while my wife’s van is in the shop, so I took a little photo walk in the Sonoran Desert behind my house. I managed to capture a few shots of those elusive gnatcatchers, which are everywhere, but hate to have their picture taken.

Autumn in Cambridge, Massachusetts

I attended a scientific conference this week in Watertown, MA, a few miles from the Harvard Square, where I stayed.  The weather was spectacular—unusually warm for November, especially a week after the freak Halloween snowstorm.  The fall colors were beautiful, making me nostalgic for my younger years in Pennsylvania.

The Divided Brain (I’m Busted!)

My friend, jamming budding, personal Excel oracle, and (former) blogger-extraordinaire, John Walkenbach, sent me this to post on the new blog. It pretty much exposes me as perpetrating a long-held science myth on my science writing and science site. Gee, thanks, pal!

Next, I’ll have to dig out the piece exposing the myth that Machiavelli was Machiavellian.

I’m posting this from my iPhone. Wish me luck.

Left Brain Web Design

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and watching video tutorials lately on WordPress site design.  In part, this crash course is for the legitimate goal of learning how to build my site.  I have to confess, though, it’s also because learning how to do something is a lot less daunting than going out and actually doing it.

Today marked a turning point.  I opened the hood of my WordPress default theme and got some grease and grit under my fingernails.  Yes, I suffered some scrapes and bruises, but it was a pretty thrilling first ride out with my souped up site.  OK, it may still look like a Chevette, not a Corvette, but I’m making progress.  So far, I’ve narrowed the vertical space in the header, moved the title and tag line onto the banner photo and added a drop shadow so that they don’t disappear in the graphics, added many more banner photos (all, my own, by the way), and added a contact form, in addition to a few invisible back-end enhancements.

What I didn’t expect was that web design, which I’d always thought of as a mostly “right-brain” endeavor, would be so “left-brain”—not so unlike the worm genetics experiments I used to do in the lab!  For example, there was this pesky 2-pixel border line persisting above the banner, which I could not get rid of.  I found the CSS rule, modified it, and nothing changed!  After more experimenting, without really knowing much about the structure of the WordPress parent theme my site is based upon, I deduced that the 2-pixel border was under control of a different, and relatively hidden, style sheet from the one controlling the bulk of the site.  Further, I realized that this hidden style sheet always reigned supreme.

Classic epistasis! (for you genetics nerds)

Ultimately, with my new found insight, I was able to obliterate that 2-pixel border by inserting ten additional characters into my style sheet: important!

Ha!  Web design—I can do this!

MIT Media Laboratory: The Human Speechome Project

Apple Science Profiles

When Deb Roy and his wife, Rupal Patel, learned of their impending bundle of joy, they did what many first-time parents do: They got a video camera. Actually, they bought 11 video cameras and 14 state-of-the-art microphones. Then they built a temperature-controlled data-storage room in their basement and loaded it with, among other gear, five Apple Xserves and a 4.4TB Xserve RAID, backup tape drives, and robotic tape changers. No, Roy and Patel hadn’t instantly become the world’s most doting parents; instead, they had hatched a plan to record practically every waking moment of their son’s first three years.  iTunes Podcast