Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Irradiation rocks, or «the apple experiment»

It certainly rocked whatever microorganisms had lived on my apple before the procedure. The ultimate proof you are asking for? Last year, I bought some tasty [1] UK apples that all but one got consumed by moi [2]. Cleaning and emptying my fridge isn't especially one of my favourite pastimes and I don't stick to expiration dates anyway [3]. Hence, the apple stayed in my fridge for a «good deal» of time - in fact, roughly four months by now. And thanks to the wonders of modern fruit treatment it still looks more or less appealing. If the apple was similar to the flavr savr tomato and had no pectinases I bet it'd be crunchy as well.

I am actually contemplating taking some smears from the surface and incubate them on plate count agar. Very tempting ...

[1] Let's claim they were tasty.
[2] Yes Emily, I also ate the cores.
[3] Unless as there's a green layer of moulds on top or the food starts moving it falls into the Mike-category «eatible».

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

From cells to plasmid

Over the last days, one of my laboratory quests was carrying out a couple of maxi-prep plasmid DNA isolations via alkaline lysis and a Caesium Chloride ultracentrifugation. Today - eventually, after a dialysis and phenol-chloroform purification step - I bore the fruits of my hard work when I precipitated the relatively pure plasmid in ethanol. And merely for the matter of showing you the beauty of a «snow-storm in an eprouvette» I signed up at YouTube and uploaded a little movie-clip I made. You have permission to be amused by my Austrian accent.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Slim-Fast your Western blots

Uli Müller from the University of Berlin suggest the dietary wonder-drink for blocking Western blots. One to four per cent Slim-Fast and 0.05% Tween in PBS or TBS buffer allegedly does the job better than any dry milk or BSA solution could do. Thus far, Müller only tried chocolate taste but is confident that banana and strawberry will be equally suitable.

Enough of random science. The PCR gods were benign and blessed me with loads of product without further optimisation and I'm currently experiencing the Midas-touch as everything works out immediately. Now, if I were behaving analogous to Rugby players on a winning spree I wouldn't change my underwear for the next week. Because I'm only an ordinary student, I'll simply celebrate this boon with a nice chilled pint.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Caught in routine

Almost every day appears to be the same since I've started my research. Despite daily lectures and steady progress in my research project, days become more similar as time passes by. A usual day starts with a lecture from 10-11am, followed by a rapid sprint to the lab to check transformation, set up digests, control PCRs etc. just to find myself in another lecture from 12-1pm and eventually do more plasmid construction work intercepted by many coffee breaks and gossip with my supervisor [1].

After a busy day of work I always leave the good old Darwin Building with a broad smile, happily whistling to my iPod music. The fact that I'll have to leave this great place in June casts a little shadow on my mind (sob), but I'm looking forward to (hopefully) getting to the US (and closer to my girlfriend).

I better get going on Oxbridge applications, otherwise I'll never get them finished. Cheerio!

[1] She's truly an exhilarating source of entertainment. Of course there's also Chris and his «girl research gang» that spice up the coffee breaks.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Goddamn London prices

I just spent 5.77 pounds on a lousy 30ml bottle of contact lense rubbing fluid. Now I know there's a correlation between income and prices and therefore most things are more expensive in the UK, but this product is produced here and the price in Munich was only 1.5 Euros! If I haven't missed a recent roaring increase of salaries an at least fivefold difference isn't justifiable - bloody blood-sucking bastards (what a nice alliteration).


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Airport security

While I was reading «Genes, Girls and Gamow» by James Watson, I realised that I use quite an unusual bookmark [1]. Scrutinising the little carton told me it's from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) someone must have slipped into my bag after they searched it for whatsoever dangerous items.

Now the peculiarity/effrontery is the following paragraph.

If the TSA security officer was unable to open your bag for inspection because it was locked, the officer may have been forced to break the locks on your bag. TSA sincerely regrets having to do this, however TSA is not liable for damage to your locks resulting from this necessary security precaution.

TSA won't be viable for vandalising luggage?!? Doesn't that mean that any airport worker could easily abuse his/her power for cracking open suitcases and slipping the carton into the bag afterwards? «Sweet», certainly increased my trust in Airport services. I'm not sure whether it's still prohibited to take Laptops into the cabin as hand-luggage, but I would consider abusing the trick with the replica weapons [2].

I had seriously considered buying little pad-locks for my bag before I went to the US. Phew, lucky once more.

[1] I use whatever piece of paper that crosses my way.
[2] Unfortunately, it slipped my memory where I read about this. However, weapons and even replica weapons are (for obvious reasons) not allowed in the plane cabin and must be locked away in a checked-in suitcase. Not surprisingly, people were abusing this law to protect their valuable equipment they weren't allowed to take to their seat.


Thursday, February 08, 2007


It is always amusing to notice how two to three inches of snow can drive a whole metropolis into chaos. The tube and trains are late, higher incidence of car accidents, nothing is working properly. Consequently, it was not surprising that our first lecture at 9am didn't take place (due to «severe» snowing, as the blackboard claimed). In such situations I only chuckles under my breath and wonder what London would do in case global warming decides to turn into an ice-age.

Nevertheless, it is rather annoying that the English and especially the London Transport people aren't capable of coping with the slightest amount of frozen precipitation. Two weeks ago, when I started my trip to New York (and later Germany), all but one Heathrow Express train were cancelled due to «technical difficulties» caused by a slight shimmer of snow on the rails. The Canadians on the train were going mental (and I chuckled once more).


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My primers are delayed

First, they've been in quality control for ages and now one of my twelve primers needs to be resynthesised («Germany efficiency», pfff). I haven't even started my work properly and I'm already behind my imaginary schedule.

Change of topic: One of my core modules this year is «Biochemistry of Health and Disease», which includes a lot of lectures about cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer biology. To utterly confuse students (exactly my category), the course was split into two half course units allowing folks other than me to attend either section of the module. This leads to a peculiar timetable, having cancer biology only on Thursdays and Fridays and CVD during the rest of the week. The in-course assessment includes a MCQ exam on next week's Friday. «Overly» enthusiastic as I am, I started revising two days ago (also trying to catch up with the lectures I missed during my time in the States and Germany), not realising that this test only embraces the cancer biology stuff. «Great», at least I won't have to revise platelet coagulation for my finals any more.

On another issue: I read on Po-eight's blog (german) that the Pope has been reminding scientist to be more open for the «non-provable» truth and embrace both faith and evidence, while working. I totally agree with Po8 on this point; I wish there would be more folks like Richard Dawkins around pointing out how ridiculous the whole church business is. In case you haven't seen Richard Dawkins' last masterpiece of amusement yet, I strongly recommend you check it out on

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

The latest addition to the miketionary

Look what flew into my mailbox (thanks Aurora).

Oxford Dictionary's latest definition of the following words

Someone who is early when you are late and late when you are early.
A person who kills your ills by pills, and kills you with his bills.
Future tense of marriage.
A pinch of tobacco rolled in paper with fire at one end a fool on the other.
An art of transferring information from the notes of the Lecturer to the notes of the students without passing through the minds of either.
The confusion of one man multiplied by the number present.
The art of dividing a cake in such a way that everybody believes he got the biggest piece.
The hydraulic force by which masculine willpower which is defeated by feminine waterpower.
A place where success comes before work.
Conference Room
A place where everybody talks, nobody listens and everybody disagrees later on.
A book, which people praise, but do not read.
A curve that can set a lot of things straight.
A place where you can relax after your strenuous home life.
The only time some married men ever get to open their mouth.
A sign to make others believe that you know more than you actually do.
Individuals who can do nothing individually and sit to decide that nothing can be done together.
The name men give to their mistakes.
Atom Bomb
An invention to end all inventions.
A fool who torments himself during life, to be spoken of when dead.
A person who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.
A person who starts taking bath if he accidentally falls into a river.
A person who while falling from Eiffel tower says in midway "See I am not injured yet."
A person who lives poor so that he can die rich.
A banker provided by nature.
A guy no different from the rest.... except that he got caught.
One who shakes your hand before elections and your confidence after.