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Showing posts from 2012

A tale of three cities

(Disclaimer: This post is about a toilet door. Yes. You read correctly. A toilet door that has come to mean a lot of things.)

Once upon a time, there was a group of people who had spent all their lives in a kingdom where women were considered commodities and things of value only if they pleased the eye. Believing that every human being should be regarded as such, they were frustrated with this, and so they decided to go out into the world and find a more accepting place. They came upon a fork in the road that led into three different directions; they decided to split up and promised to send each other word on what they found on the end of each road.

Each group came upon a magnificent city at the end of its respective road, full of technology and science and art and wonder, where strangeness and new perspectives and possibilities of being seemed to be around every corner. However, those three cities were not all the same; and the respective groups soon came to experience very different …

Life after the diploma thesis, or: my case against a PhD

I'm 34 pages into my diploma thesis (target is around 100 pages, including everything), and the deadline for handing it in is Decembre 28th. Time to think about life after the thesis.
I've been toying with the idea of going for a PhD, since I really, really want to do science. And if you want to do science, getting a PhD is the way to go, right?
But after mulling this over for quite a while, I've almost arrived at the conclusion that, no, for me, a PhD is not the right way to go. I'd like to lay out my reasoning and my plan here; who knows, maybe I'll get some useful input before making a final decision? Or maybe I'll make my decision anyway, and leave this as input to others who are in a similar situation.
One of the points that came up when talking about the issue with my parents was: making a living. Really. Me and my three siblings were raised by a single dad at the low-income end of the spectrum. Much as my older siblings, I started earning my livelihood when…

Addition: Questions around personal genomics - sharing vs. privacy

There was something bugging me while writing my last post on some issues with personal genomics, because I seemed to remember I had another point that I wanted to bring up. Now it came back to me. The point was about the technicalities of sharing genomic data.
Now, the last post was mostly me bitching about the current mode of personal genomics, 23andme and all, and how I don't think it's a good idea to hand over your genomics data to some US-based company with very clearly stated commercial interests. (Just to summarize on that: Having commercial interests is not a bad thing in itself in my book, but I'm a bit of a tough sell if you want me to share my data for what seems like mostly your commercial interest, and doubly so if these data are not exclusively mine to disclose.)
But there is another point worth discussing around the topic of personal genomics which is a little more forward-pointing, maybe. Let's say we agree that personal genomics are here to stay. Let'…

Some issues with direct-to-consumer personal genomics

There are a few issues on the personal genomics boo-hah that I've been meaning to write down, so, time for a brain dump. Context: The cost of sequencing DNA is dropping, fast, companies like 23andme have been offering direct-to-consumer SNP genotyping at affordable prices for quite a while now, and they even recently started offering exome sequencing for around 1000 dollars.

(Explaining the lingo: a SNP is a single nucleotide polymorphism - a single base in the genome where at least 1% of the population under study have a different "letter" than the rest. The exome is the set of all exons in the genome; very roughly speaking, it's the subset of the genome that codes for proteins and functional RNA. That doesn't mean the rest of the genome is junk, but the exome is a handy, sufficiently interesting subset that can already be sequenced at relatively low cost.)
And now, to the issues I mentioned. For me, the two major ones are "Analysis and interpretation" a…

Update: Biotinkering, laws and regulations

Benjamin commented on the post "DIYBio and biotinkering - Laws and regulations in Germany":
The legal issues are pretty simple actually - you just cannot do any genetic engineering (including bacterial transformation) in your garage. Simple as that. Sorry. Since writing the original post, I've learned that this is not completely true. You can do some genetic engineering even without a BSL 1 license - namely, "self-cloning". The legal text is a bit mushy on the subject, but essentially, you can genetically engineer known-to-be-safe organisms if you use only sequences that are naturally found in this organism, or one that is "phylogenetically close", provided you don't release the result into the environment.

I've talked it over with the office that is responsible for granting BSL licenses, and they suggested it may be OK for a biotinkerer to, for example, modify E. coli K12 with elements found in E. coli. The University Reading offers a kit, &q…

Some points on misogyny, misandry, patriarchy, feminism, and masculism

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The following be a motley collection of points that keep rattling around in my head as I follow the current discussions around gender roles, feminism, masculism, and anti-feminist backlash.
Complex 1) Often-heard statement: There is no such thing as sexism directed towards men.Alternatively often-heard statement: sexism directed towards men is fundamentally different from sexism directed towards women, since these sexisms are merely "cloaked" versions of sexism directed towards women.Often-heard statement: Feminism has brought about the oppression of men and made them the laughing stock of humanity.Wrong, all of it. And related. (Also, I do not ever want to hear the phrase "reverse sexism" again. It's moronic. Sexism denotes prejudice or discrimination based on sex. Sexism directed towards men simply denotes sexism against men, period, no need for verbal acrobatics.)
I found an interesting paper a while ago, entitled "Down So Long. Why Is It So Hard To Explai…

Geistiges Eigentum und Zeugs

Mit spektakulärer Verspätung habe ich nun doch noch mal beschlossen, meine Philosophie-Zwischenprüfungsarbeit zum Thema Geistiges Eigentum der allwissenden Müllhalde Internet zuzuführen. Beim Lesen dieses nunmehr fünf Jahre alten Texts fand ich, dass er stellenweise sehr trocken und akademisch ist, dass mir der Schreibstil nicht mehr gefällt, und dass einige Argumente klarer formuliert werden könnten - vor allen Dingen ist er aber tl;dr. Ich habe also mal ein paar Punkte aus der Arbeit hier zusammendestilliert. Wem das alles zu viel Text ist, empfehle ich trotzdem den letzten Absatz. Enjoy.

Einige der grundlegenden Fragen, über die ich mir im Zuge dieser Arbeit Gedanken gemacht habe:
Was ist Geistiges Eigentum?Um was für Rechte für wen geht es dabei?Wie sind diese Rechte begründet?Wie weit reichen sie, und insbesondere: wo finden sie ihre Grenzen?Welche gesamtgesellschaftlichen Verhaltensregeln lassen sich aus ihnen ableiten?Den Diskussionen um Geistiges Eigentum liegen unterschiedliche…

Biotinkering & DIYBio - 2011 in review

I've been meaning to summarize what happened in 2011 in the DIYBio and biotinkering sphere, and I finally got around to it. So here's the review of my personal year 2011.

First off, the main thing that happened in 2011, I think, is that both the global and the European community started connecting on a personal level. Which was awesome, and I hope this trend will continue in the future.

The first months, working alone

For the first few months of 2011, I was mostly tinkering on my own in the non-space in the old location of the Space Agency, a Berlin-based hackerspace (https://trac.raumfahrtagentur.org/). I was just trying to get my hands dirty, trying to get the basics to work, such as gel electrophoresis and PCR. After getting frustrated with my semi-functional old thermocycler, I had decided to fork out a substantial amount of money and buy a new one in late 2010, a 24-well Piko thermal cycler. Part of the reasoning in this was that the OpenPCR was still unavailable, and the …