Category Archives: medical


You’re sitting at your computer, writing your next awesome computer program. You think, “I want to run my new program. But the computer I have is too slow and too boring to run it on.”

You glance over at the petri dish in your biology lab. “What if I could deploy my program as DNA, and the outcome of my program gets expressed as proteins and genes in a real cell?”

Sounds kind of crazy. But Microsoft is researching this.

An Escherichia coli predator-prey system implemented with a synthetic biology programming language developed by Microsoft researchers.

In their paper Towards programming languages for genetic engineering of living cells, Microsoft UK researchers Michael Pedersen and Andrew Phillips have developed a programming language that translates logical concepts into models of biological reactions in simulators. Reactions that have favorable results have the potential to be synthesized into DNA for insertion into real cells, achieving some level of cyborgian awesomeness that we can only just begin to imagine. (Insert obligatory Blue Screen of Death joke here).

More info here. And be sure to check out the full paper here.

Maybe they are insurance reps

“I’ve had patients tell me, ‘Doc, it’s not very reassuring’.”

– John Kroner, surgeon, discussing the turkey vultures perching on the ledges and windowsills of Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin. Quoted in the article “Vultures prey on surgery patients’ peace of mind.”


WHAT did you call me???

My eighteen months of frustrating COBRA insurance coverage is coming to an end, and I recently received a letter explaining the expiration of my coverage. Their choice of salutation is interesting:

Did they just call me a penis?? Ah well. I’ve called them much worse things over these past eighteen months.

Science is pretty

I just saw an awesome video about computer simulations being used for scientific research and visualization.

It is an incredible look at how computer simulations are helping us reveal even more of our amazing universe. Click the montage of screencaps to see the video. Or, here’s a direct download link.

Happy DNA Day!

Today is National DNA Day. In celebration, marvel at the wondrous complexities of molecular biology:

I am boggled with wonder at the endless coils within coils within coils, and the molecular machine in the 2nd half of the clip. Life is amazing!

Don’t sneak up on me like that.

Interesting medical findings

(Thanks, Chris).

The device that betrays your thoughts?

Through the Illinois Genetic Algorithms Laboratory blog, I learned of the Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize, a $30,000 award given to outstanding student inventors. The selection process for the prize is down to eight finalists, one of whom has created an amazing method to translate thoughts into speech:

Michael Callahan – Graduate Student – Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, College of Engineering

Michael hopes to assist individuals without the use of speech and mobility communicate through the application of neuroscience. By interfacing near the source of vocal production, he has been able to translate unspoken thought of the mind from intercepted neuronal activity at the vocal cords. The method that Michael has developed produces complete fluent speech with 70% accuracy from neurological signals.

Incredible. I can’t wait to see this kind of technology in use. It might complicate poker games, though.

Another article on Michael Callahan

Bring me her brains!

Followup to the previous post

I made some more animations of Carolyn’s MRI scans, and Clint expertly strung them together and set them to music!

Watch the video above, or click this YouTube link

Journey into the soft machine

Carolyn recently had an MRI done, and Clint posted the photos onto their Flickr account. The pictures are all stills from a “media viewer” that comes with a CD given to Carolyn after the procedure. After seeing some of the stills, I realized that they had a lot of potential to be animated (they were not animated in the media viewer). So I generated an animated GIF and converted it to a movie. Clint posted it on YouTube. Have a gander:

The sequence fascinates me. Yet gives me the heebie-jeebies. Props to Carolyn for her bravery in posting her brain on the web!

See more info here.