Greetings once again!

| 25 Comments

Hi all. I recently accompanied Dr. Tara Smith to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting down in Atlanta, GA. What a blast that was, though I was unable to make it over to Cobb County, where I hear they have some kind of famous sticker store! Anyway, Atlanta was fun too, though I have to say their bamboo still doesn’t compare to Manhattan.

Tara introduced me to some microbiology notables, including Jeffrey Taubenberger. Anyone who’s a history buff as I am (despite lacking a Ph.D. in that area, I have 3 Master’s degrees in American, European, and, of course, Chinese history) will recognize the name from the recent work his laboratory has done in sequencing the virus that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic. For those of you not in-the-know like I am, that’s the virus that killed roundabout 100 million people worldwide. Dr. Taubenberger found samples encased in formalin at his institute, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and also was able to obtain a sample from a woman buried in the Alaskan permafrost. The goal of his research is to determine why that virus was so deadly, in order to apply that knowledge to future pandemics. We chatted awhile about pathology, virology, video games, really good alfredo sauce, and life in general, and I gave him a parting suggestion on a re-analysis of some of his data (after all, they didn’t make me an endowed chair of Creatoinformatics for nuthin!) I found Dr. Taubenberger’s work fascinating, and offered more advice if he needed it in the future. Here we are, hamming it up for the camera:

Moving on, I attended a symposium that addressed communicating with the public, on science in general and microbiology in particular. I couldn’t believe that they actually let journalists address my fellow esteemed biologists, but address they did, and I actually even thought some of it was good stuff! Luckily, there were a few credentialed scientists in the bunch as well, including Dr. Cynthia Needham, author of Global Disease Eradication: The Race for the Last Child and Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth, the companion text to the PBS series of the same name. She was a pleasure to speak with, and we discussed not only the difficulties of disseminating science to the public, but also the phenomenon of blogging–and specifically, female bloggers. Can you imagine? Poor Dr. Needham also had her luggage lost on the way…pays sometimes to only wear a bowtie and mortarboard!

After a relaxing evening and a dip in the local pool (my pigeon friends declined to be photographed–modest little creatures they are),

I met up with Dr. Gail Cassell, currently Vice President of Infectious Diseases at Eli Lilly and Company, and a former President of ASM. Dr. Cassell and I go way back, as I spent time in Alabama working on one of my dissertations while she was a professor at UAB. We discussed infectious causes of chronic diseases. I don’t think Dr. Cassell was very amused when I suggested they should simply keep the population on antibiotics from birth to death, and we wouldn’t have to worry about this silly infection stuff. Anyway, I hope it’s something she’ll give consideration to. I got the feeling that she had a bit of a crush on me.

After the conference, I flew back to Iowa with Tara. She introduced me to her family, and gave me a quick tour of her laboratory and the area around the University of Iowa. Here I am playing with the biohazard sharps, which she immediately told me was a rather large no-no. Big faux pas on my part…

From what I gather, Tara does the kind of research that even creationists accept…studying variation within different species of bacteria, and how those differences relate to disease potential. That’s all fine and dandy, but I made sure to clean myself off carefully after I left the lab!

She even was kind enough to introduce me to their mascot, Herky. He was a bit cold, though, I have to say.

And of course, no trip to Iowa would be complete without a good old-fashioned romp through a cornfield. Hoo boy, did that ever tire me out!

I said I’ll be sure to stop back by if those folks from Kansas start to invade the state.

Well, Reed is calling me…guess I need to get back to work. I’ll send an update on my Alaskan adventures shortly!

So long, ’till next time. -Prof. Steve Steve.

25 Comments

I want to know what Cynthia Needham’s hand is doing on Prof. Steve^2’s knee!

RBH

I love Pandas they are my favorite Animal, they are cute sweet and cuddly. I would give anythying except my family on this planet away to have one my cell phone has 5panda backgrounds and i want more Panda stuff do you know of a place to get panda stuff? I have even Video taped pandas playing at the national zoo, and i watch the tape frequently. i want to talk to others about Pandas, do you have a forum? I LOVE PANDAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

E-mail me if you know anything :)

I don’t think Dr. Cassell was very amused when I suggested they should simply keep the population on antibiotics from birth to death, and we wouldn’t have to worry about this silly infection stuff.

Somewhat off topic: But does anyone else here find it hillariously ironic that it’s accepted bad practice to give antibiotics to people when it isn’t required, yet all over the world antibiotics (even analoges to medically important human antibiotics) are being fed to farm animals in exactly the manner described above. When you consider that bacteria shouldn’t be thought of as an isolated genome anymore (yeah, I’m an E.O. Wilson fan) when you breed antibiotic resistance in one thing (farm animals) you’re going to inevitably see it transfer down the food line to our bacteria.

:/ It’s just nonsensical.

RBH Wrote:

I want to know what Cynthia Needham’s hand is doing on Prof. Steve^2’s knee!

It was purely innocent, I assure you. :) But that Steve Steve sure is a ladykiller…

Joseph O'Donnell Wrote:

Somewhat off topic: But does anyone else here find it hillariously ironic that it’s accepted bad practice to give antibiotics to people when it isn’t required, yet all over the world antibiotics (even analoges to medically important human antibiotics) are being fed to farm animals in exactly the manner described above. When you consider that bacteria shouldn’t be thought of as an isolated genome anymore (yeah, I’m an E.O. Wilson fan) when you breed antibiotic resistance in one thing (farm animals) you’re going to inevitably see it transfer down the food line to our bacteria.

:/ It’s just nonsensical.

One person who I wanted to get a pic with and missed was Stuart Levy, who’s been beating that drum for, hmm, at least 20 years now. Things actually have been getting somewhat better over the last ~10 since I’ve been aware of the issue–people realize there is a concern, and some measures have been taken to address it. But it’s certainly still a problem, and I agree, nonsensical.

Not only is Steve Steve a real “ladykiller,” but Jackson’s post shows that our resident panda now has groupies!

“I couldn’t believe that they actually let journalists address my fellow esteemed biologists, but address they did, and I actually even thought some of it was good stuff!”

At an ASM meeting some time back, they had another discussion with journalists. One of the reporters (I think one from the NYT), was questioned about the unwritten “requirement” to present “both sides of an argument” in science reporting. The reporter admitted that sometimes this striving for “balance” got a bit ridiculous – To his credit, he did say that even when the opposing position was “far out”, he made every effort to avoid calling Jeremy Rifkin, except as a last resort.

Don’t know about “groupies”, but looks like the Prof. has a new relative: Panda Mating Season 2005 – July 10

Mei Xiang and her cub continue to bond and seem to be doing well. Staff and volunteers heard noises from the cub that suggest it is nursing, but it’s hard to be sure.

Henry

As a farm wife in the 80’s, a supplement of low level anti-biotics was routinely given to hogs. It increased their growth rate and it was used by the most modern hog producers. I haven’t been on the farm since 1995, but I think/hope that practice has stopped. I do know there are many people that expect antibiotics when they go their phycisian.

It still continues to this day unfortunately colleen, particularly in the poultry industry where the antibiotics are used to control Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella enterica problems that occur with chickens living too close together. Typically efforts to get the practice outlawed are met with massive resistance, particularly the argument that legislators seem to buy every time “But if we stop, all the chickenzes will die!!!11oneone”.

It’s very anti-common sense but an extremely difficult practice to try and persuade people to stop.

And Steve Steve looks cute in the corn field! Hope he isn’t allergic to herbicides, because unless that field was weeded by hand, it’s full of them. I love PT!

Yuch Joe. I still live in rural Iowa and have to pay attention. There are big chicken buildings here, too.

…though I was unable to make it over to Cobb County,…

*snort* Oy; would it kill you to call me…?

There are big chicken buildings here, too.

There are big chicken buildings, and then there are big chicken buildings.

It still continues to this day unfortunately colleen, particularly in the poultry industry where the antibiotics are used to control Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella enterica problems that occur with chickens living too close together.

Last year I presented my thesis research at a veterinary medicine conference, where (being on a budget), I spent a lot of time in the speakers’ room, since they provided snacks and drinks. Being there so often, I got to talking every day with the A-V guys, who were overseeing the equipment, and so who got to see a lot of talk rehearsals trying out the equipment. Apparently there were so many talks on poultry diseases, and so many lurid slides, and so many speakers on the subject, and so many rehearsals, that all of the guys there were like “Chicken? No, thanks, not again, not ever…”.

If I knew you were going to Iowa, I would have suggested putting in an appearance on CornCam.

Raven Wrote:

Last year I presented my thesis research at a veterinary medicine conference, where (being on a budget), I spent a lot of time in the speakers’ room, since they provided snacks and drinks. Being there so often, I got to talking every day with the A-V guys, who were overseeing the equipment, and so who got to see a lot of talk rehearsals trying out the equipment. Apparently there were so many talks on poultry diseases, and so many lurid slides, and so many speakers on the subject, and so many rehearsals, that all of the guys there were like “Chicken? No, thanks, not again, not ever…”.

Yeah, meetings with microbiologists + food are always an interesting event. :) But note it’s usually the “laymen” who are scared off, while the microbiologists just scarf everything down. If I obsessively worried about germs in all the food I eat, I’d never eat anything.

Bayesian Buffount, FCD Wrote:

If I knew you were going to Iowa, I would have suggested putting in an appearance on CornCam.

CornCam Wrote:

Young corn sprouts from this field near Ely, Iowa. Cool, wet weather has caused corn emergence to lag behind last year’s page of 68 percent by May 15. This year Iowa Agricultural Statistics reports corn emergence is at 41 percent.

Too funny–we could have done that. Ely is very close to where I live.

Dare I even ask how you know about CornCam in the first place? I could suggest more entertaining hobbies. :)

Things actually have been getting somewhat better over the last ~10 since I’ve been aware of the issue–people realize there is a concern, and some measures have been taken to address it.

Comment #37536: Posted by Joseph O’Donnell on July 11, 2005 05:21 PM

It still continues to this day unfortunately colleen, particularly in the poultry industry where the antibiotics are used to control Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella enterica problems that occur with chickens living too close together. Typically efforts to get the practice outlawed are met with massive resistance, particularly the argument that legislators seem to buy every time “But if we stop, all the chickenzes will die!!!11oneone”.

The only thing I know about the giant industrial chicken factories is what they smell like when the wind blows the wrong way, but I have a question for curiosity’s sake. Because of the sheer number of chickens that are bred each year, could a selecctive breeding plan be implemented to render chickens resistant to the most egregious bacteria. After all, one of the two advantages that bacteria have is their fecundity, and humans have rendered chickens into assembly line egg producers. Hogs and cattle may not be present in the world in the numbers necessary to make this work, but using the immune systems of millions of chickens has got to have some potential. And this would have the advantage of not rendering the bacteria immune to something present in the human, hog, and cattle bio(ta?)(sphere?)(physiology?), or the drugs we use, when they inevitable respond to chicken immunology in their turn. Sincerely, Paul

Apparently there were so many talks on poultry diseases, and so many lurid slides, and so many speakers on the subject, and so many rehearsals, that all of the guys there were like “Chicken? No, thanks, not again, not ever…”.

I once heard it said (and I find it quite plausible) that there are many more chickens on earth than there are humans.

Apparently, it is a very successful evolutionary strategy to, uh, taste good to humans. ;>

Re “Apparently, it is a very successful evolutionary strategy to, uh, taste good to humans. ;>”

Maybe, except that an article posted on here a few weeks ago (at least I think it was on this blog) indicated that the “chicken” taste evolve way earlier than chickens (let alone humans), and from there got inherited by any reptile, mammal, or bird lineage that didn’t happen to evolve a different biochemistry in the meantime.

Henry

You may be referring to this (or to something else which refers to it).

Yep, that “this” looks like the article. It must’ve been referenced from a thread here, though I’m not sure if it was one dedicated to that article or a reply. (When I get home I can check my files to see which it was.)

Henry

Ah, found it: Sir_Toejam referenced that article from a few places; one of them was in thread #1035 “New Mammal Family Discovered”.

There is an earlier reference from Sir_ToeJam about this.

Comment # 24974

sir_toejam Wrote:

Comment #24974 Posted by sir_toejam on April 14, 2005 04:53 PM (e) (s) hmm, then i have a question Does the fact that so many things taste like chicken when fried imply common descent, or design? I submit for your amusment, the following: http://www.improb.com/airchives/pap[…]/v4i4/chicke… damn, isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? cheers

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This page contains a single entry by Prof. Steve Steve published on July 11, 2005 1:00 PM.

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