5-24-14 Hodgepodge

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Editor's Note: I am taking a break from blogging for the holiday. I shall return by Wednesday, May 28. Happy Memorial Day!

From Heresy to Orthodoxy

I didn't do my graduate work in prions, but I did do my admission to candidacy exam on that subject. (Executive summary: our class were departmental guinea pigs.) Ever since, I have been a fan of nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, whose memoir has recently come out and was reviewed by the New York Times:

Sweet revenge comes in many delectable forms, among them the receipt of accolades for work long scorned. And then to get to tell the whole story at length and without a single interruption -- small wonder that the Nobel laureate Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, a renowned neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, writes with a cheerful bounce. Once disparaged, his scientific work is now hailed as visionary, and his memoir takes the reader on a leisurely and immensely readable victory lap from then to now.

In the process, two stories unfold. The first is the progress of Dr. Prusiner's thinking on the transmissible proteins he named prions (PREE-ons) in 1982, starting with his first experiments on an obscure disease of sheep and ending with the most recent work linking prions to an array of human neurological catastrophes, including Alzheimer's disease. The science is convoluted, like the proteins, and for the uninitiated the best way to achieve a rudimentary grasp of the subject is to hear it the way Dr. Prusiner tells it, from the very beginning.
I recall that many were upset that Prusiner's theory violated the so-called Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. (Technically, it does not.) That always struck me as silly, since he was arguing that the misfolded proteins seen in prion diseases were acting somewhat like enzymes, but with the correctly-folded versions as substrates.

Weekend Reading

"The best way to deal with a bully is to ignore him, thus giving him psychological invisibility and invalidation." -- Michael Hurd, in "Why Bullies Bully" at The Delaware Wave

"Unless someone is holding a gun to your head or is outright lying to you, you are never really a victim." -- Michael Hurd, in "The Unnecessary Malaise of 'Victim-Think'" at The Delaware Coast Press

In More Detail

The Hurd piece on bullying is a welcome respite of sanity on this topic, which leftists are currently doing lots of overtime getting wrong. It is important to note that Hurd's advice to young victims of bullying can differ from that he gives to adults.

Quote of the Week

John Cook, on promoting new ideas and technology:
If you want to persuade me to adopt something new, you'll gain credibility by being candid about its drawbacks. Explain by what criteria you think the new thing is better, by what criteria it is worse, and why the former should matter more to me in my circumstances.
He is right to notice that simply claiming something is "better" causes one to lose credibility.


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