Reporters sans frontières call for action

“Reporters sans frontières” ask to click their site between Nov 7, 11:00 Uhr until Nov 8, 11:00 Uhr.

2005 was the deadliest year for journalists since 1995: 63 journalists and 5 media assistants were killed doing their job or for having expressed their opinion; more than 1, 300 physical assaults were recorded and more than 1, 000 media were censored, an increase of 60% compared to 2004.

You may want to look also at the nice brochure at their website:


The Rosetta stone and the genetic code


The Rosetta stone (I took the picture above earlier this year in the British museum) has become the key to decipher Hieroglyphic as it contained the same text also in Demotic Egyptian and Greek. Discovered by a French in 1799, brought to England in 1802 it become eventually translated in 1822 by Jean-François Champollion.
The Rosetta stone and the genetic code weiterlesen

Hidden feature at PUBMED

No, it is not really a hidden feature – but keep your mouse on “links” at the right part of the citation, wait for the drop-down, select “Link-out” and there is a good chance to jump directly to the publisher site, yea, yea.


The nodalpoint blog” writes about MEDIE, a new PUBMED parser:

…is an “intelligent” semantic search engine that retrieves biomedical correlations from over 14 million articles in MEDLINE. You can find abstracts and sentences in MEDLINE by specifying the semantics of correlations; for example, What activates tumour suppressor protein p53? So just how useful is MEDIE and is it at the cutting edge?

Who goes first?

A recent example of self-experimentation is the famous trial where Dr. Barry Marshall swallowed a tube full with Helicobacter pylori which led him to develop gastritis. Lawrence K. Altman, M.D. has written the story of self-experimentation in medicine covering the many facets of these heroic experiments. Published already in 1987, I discovered this book only now. Highly recommended, yea, yea.

For some, the system is working well

Just received an email – the fall 2006 desk-to-desk message from Dr. Zerhouni, “Making it Work for our Emerging Scientists” It says “For some, the system is working well. The best and brightest are reaching their full potential in solid, research careers. We have the evidence in the number of competitive grant applications being submitted. For others, the queue is backing up… Between 1980 and 2004 the average age of Ph.D. scientists earning their first R01 award went from 37 to 42 years… The problem appears to be largely the result of the ever-increasing age at which a researcher receives his or her appointment as an assistant professor.”
I would like to add that the average life expectancy also increased between 1980 and 2004, so the relative age remains the same. Yea, yea.


Science magazine has different data on salaries of postdocs: academic salaries rose from $74,000 to $78,000 and industry salaries of $106,000 to $116,000 between 2005 and 2006.


German salaries in biotech lab, research and marketing increased at the same time by 3.7% to €99,000 (for leading positions) and 3.3% to €74.000 (for specialists) according Laborwelt 1/2006 page 45.

Is “vitamin” D a biological hub?

Folllowing up numerous emails to my recent review about allergy and vitamin D exposure, I wonder if there could be a quantitative relationship if we look at the vitamin D system as a major biological hub. This is not so much about connecting different playgrounds but of integrating signals (as shown in the hourglass blog). The East-West German difference, the farming studies as well as numerous other studies would even allow a quantitative effect. Yea, yea.


Biospektrum will publish in their next issue a summary of the vitamin D story.


4-07-2007 The list of vitamin D dependent genes that are associated with allergy (IL12B, IL12RB, SPP/OPN, CD14, CD23, VDR, TNF, GC, IFN, IL1RN, IL8, ADRB2, CARD15, IL4R, ALOX5, FLG, SOCS3) is expanding: TSLP and CD86

Truth in science (and religion)

A recent interview of Jane Glitschier in PLoS genetics with Tom Cech nicely shows the relationship of truth and research: “There is a search for absolute truth in research. You never get there—but there are criteria by which you judge how close you are. You’re always criticizing yourself and criticizing your colleagues, and they’re criticizing you. And there is a test, very often, that you can do to decide who’s right.”


Here is a difference between science and religion — Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Yea, yea.

Living near highways

A new study now shows directly that personal exposure of particles is linked to asthma symptoms. Children carried pollution monitors in their backpacks on the way to school where PM2.5 ranged from 20 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Although only around 10 percent of the total mass of particles was diesel soot, it was this that was most closely linked to the children’s asthma. This nicely complements results of our study in Munich in 1989/1990 which was the first survey indirectly linking car exhaust and airway symptoms in children. Mechanisms how this happens are not very well known – for a discussion of the biphasic response see our paper of a mouse model, yea, yea.

On display – the masterclass

During my professional career I have never been told how to make good graphics although extracting essential information from datasets is an advanced (and necessary skill). Fortunately, however, there are some excellent books that cover graphical display. The first one I came across was Michael J Campbell and David Machins’ “Medical Statistics – A commonsense approach” (see pages 44ff and 58 for “increasing data ink”) that gives a lot of useful advices how to improve figures. The next book that I found influential was Bill Cleveland’s 1993 book “Visualizing Data” who introduced into R and S multidimensional lattice graphics (also covered 2005 in “R Graphics” of Paul Murrell published by Chapman & Hall/CRC). I used this technique extensively in my 2005 PLoS paper on the worldwide distribution of allergy. At the moment I am reading the new book “Graphics of large datasets” by Antony Unwin, Martin Theus, Heike Hofmann which seems to be finally the masterclass of displaying data. Yea, yea.

Addendum 1

An examples how to improve a barchart (yes – I resisted to start with a 3D barchart but the cluttering colors and grids are hopefully good to see).


Addendum 2

A new Nature Nascent entry: “The way we present genomic and proteomic data on the web sucks

Foucault pendulum

I visited the Deutsche Museum yesterday, where one of best attractions is the Foucault pendulum a 30 kg weight at a 60 m rope (the original at the Panthéon was 67 meter long and weights 28 kg). We could see, that the pendulum swings on a an elliptic course, hitting the conses always from the back. As we were told, the deviation of the pendulum is a function of latitude. The horizontal axis is the latitude from 90 degrees to 0 degrees latitude. The vertical axis shows the rate of precession in degrees per hour; positive for clockwise precession, negative for counterclockwise precession (the Coriolis effect seems to have a minor role). I wondered what might be the reason for the spin or chirality seen so often in nature. Most DNA has a right-hand screw (nevertheless there are hundreds of images on the net and many scientific papers) that show left-handed DNAs). Yea, yea.

Ethnographic studies at Oktoberfest

Having many years of experience with ethnographic studies at Oktoberfest München, I am fascinated by a new Cell paper that shows distinct behavioral responses to ethanol. This is something that I alread assumed (although I did not known about this particular RhoGAP18B isoform only about ADH deficiency). Will the knowledge of more and more mutations in the lifestyle area raise ethical problems? Yea, yea.

False Memory

The German magazine Spiegel has a nice paper about the false memory debate and the “implanted” memory of events that never happened. They cite Hans Markowitsch from Bielefeld that the autobiographical memory is not very good in recalling past events, being much much more adapted to orientation of current and future events. Has anyone examined blogs and if their content can be recalled by the author? Nai, nai.