Friday, March 22, 2013

Epistasis and Quantum Computing

I read an article in the NYTimes about the advent of the "first" (if it gets there) commercial quantum computer. This could be really cool for the stuff I do where combinatorially we are limited by current computers. I would like to look at epistasis and its effect on evolution and disease mapping, but it is a very tough problem that a quantum computer (if I understand correctly which I may not) could help alleviate.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Julia Child's advice on mistakes

My wife just finished reading Julia Child's autobiography. After describing a failed attempt at making eggs florentine for a friend Julia Child states:
We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine. I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one's hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as "Oh, I don't know how to cook...," or "Poor little me ...," or "This may taste awful ...," it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one's shortcomings (or perceived shortcomings)...Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. If the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes. (pg. 71-72 of My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme; bold is mine)
This principle goes far beyond cooking. I tend to be the person who apologizes for things even when they 1) were not my fault but I feel bad, or 2) were my fault but were so minor you probably didn't notice and now my apology clues you into my self-analysis of the situation. My wife has been especially fond of this quote; it can be very liberating when we can move on from mistakes and not overburden ourselves. We need to learn from our mistakes, but not apologize when we have done our best. I think this is an area I could improve on.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't apologies for when we have truly wronged someone, but we can relax when we do are best and come up short.

Monday, January 7, 2013

An Astounding Material Miracle

I saw this on the NY Times recently. Fantastic(al) in its application, this was a really cool use of interdisciplinary science:
Desperate to save her, her parents sought an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one that had never before been tried in a child, or in anyone with the type of leukemia Emma had. The experiment, in April, used a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram Emma’s immune system genetically to kill cancer cells.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Amazing Example

I saw recently that one of my favorite examples of hard-working scientists has passed away. Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini died at the age of 103. She was a Nobel laureate and worked until the day she died. The story about how she worked during WWII was especially moving (and motivating):
... after she graduated in 1936 the fascist government banned Jews from academic and professional careers, and Dr Levi-Montalcini set up a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom, experimenting on chicken embryos.
"She worked in primitive conditions," Italian astrophysicist Margherita Hack told Italian TV. "She is really someone to be admired."