Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Moment of Vocation

"The page he opened on was under the heading of Anatomy, and the first passage that drew his eyes was on the valves of the heart. He was not much acquainted with valves of any sort, but he knew that valvae were folding doors, and through this crevice came a sudden light startling him with his first vivid notion of finely adjusted mechanism in the human frame. A liberal education had of course left him free to read the indecent passages in the school classics, but beyond a general sense of secrecy and obscenity in connection with his internal structure, had left his imagination quite unbiased, so that for anything he knew his brains lay in small bags at his temples, and he had no more thought of representing to himself how his blood circulated than how paper served instead of gold. But the moment of vocation had come, and before he got down from his chair, the world was made new to him by a presentiment of endless processes filling the vast spaces planked out of his sight by that wordy ignorance which he had supposed to be knowledge. From that hour Lydgate felt the growth of an intellectual passion."

George Eliot (pen name of Mary Anne Evans), Middlemarch, 1874.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cold-Weather People

A talk coming up in September (click above). I believe the charge is "suggested donation of $5.00 to the Oregon Archaeological Society", but I'm still waiting to hear on that.

Thirty-nine days to turn in the evolution book. Writing it is like building a bomb; touch one filament and you might blow the whole rig. It's also like flying a plane; once you're off the ground, just touch what you have to, but, basically, let the plane fly, don't try to do too much. It's also like writing a book! And that means, 'every word counts'.

Some days the stress makes me sick; some days I feel fine. I am up at 3am a lot. I've broken my rule to not print out any new research articles; I've already logged in 300 references and that's not all of them. And some illustrations to ink.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Is it any wonder that I can't wait to get back in the water? Photo of some kind of sea life--I haven't even looked it up, yet--by my dive partner, Todd Olson.

Below, some wonder of human spirit (use linked text if the embedded video doesn't show properly);

Guillame Nery in a spectacular, single-breath Blue Hole Dive:

The late Geoff Robson flies his wingsuit in South Africa. His nervousness and elevated breathing rate before launch are very familiar to me, reminding me of launching my wing.

But it will be a while before I get back in the water...Book is due in 44 days, and my mind is spinning.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Today, again just for sheer wonder, the base-pair sequence for the prestin gene, responsible for hearing-related structures and highly similar in echolocating life forms as diverse as bats and dolphins. Above, just for sheer wonder, original instruments used in performing Pachelbel's Canon in D.

The 2,098 Base Pairs of the prestin gene in H. sapiens sapiens:



Official Full Name
solute carrier family 26, member 5 (prestin) provided by HGNC
Primary source
Ensembl:ENSG00000170615; HPRD:09224; MIM:604943
Gene type: protein coding
RefSeq status: REVIEWED
Organism: Homo sapiens
Lineage: Eukaryota; Metazoa; Chordata; Craniata; Vertebrata; Euteleostomi; Mammalia; Eutheria; Euarchontoglires; Primates; Haplorrhini; Catarrhini; Hominidae; Homo
Also known as: PRES; DFNB61; MGC118886; MGC118887; MGC118888; MGC118889; SLC26A5


This gene encodes a member of the SLC26A/SulP transporter family. The protein functions as a molecular motor in motile outer hair cells (OHCs) of the cochlea, inducing changes in cell length that act to amplify sound levels. The transmembrane protein is an incomplete anion transporter, and does not allow anions to cross the cell membrane but instead undergoes a conformational change in response to changes in intracellular Cl- levels that results in a change in cell length. The protein functions at microsecond rates, which is several orders of magnitude faster than conventional molecular motor proteins. Mutations in this gene are potential candidates for causing neurosensory deafness. Multiple transcript variants encoding different isoforms have been found for this gene.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sea Garden

Above, a sketch of a colony of sea whips, filter feeders 80 feet down in Puget Sound. Todd and I found these on a steep slope that descended into pitch darkness. We've been down that slope once, to 130 feet, but this time, breathing an oxygen-rich mixture from our tanks, going below 90 feet would be flirting with oxygen toxicity we stay shallow.

I'm kneeling to examine the many delicate filter tendrils on a sea whip. Our lamps illuminate a blizzard of specks, from krill to stray organic matter. The muddy sea floor sucks at my knees. Todd hovers above. Photons that ten minutes ago were blasted from the sun have bounced off the moon and now penetrate here, but only weakly.