Genomics Blog

January 15, 2012 7:30 PM
Where are they now: Catching up on my 2011 Blog Posts
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In January, I wrote a blog about the movie The King’s Speech. The movie went on to win 4 academy awards and 68 other awards. There was some controversy as to the contribution of Lionel Logue to the making of the King, but there was no controversy to the contribution the movie made in the awareness of stammering and stuttering.

I also announced the Google Science Fair in January. I was very excited to observe the process of this first major world-wide virtual science fair that came the same year as Canada was celebrating 50 years of Canada-Wide Science Fairs. I described the role of Genome Alberta as a major sponsor of regional science fairs throughout Alberta. Through that involvement, I had the opportunity to interview some of the top Alberta science fair students. When I interviewed Rebecca Todesco for Gerry’s Gene Scene 8, I encouraged her to consider the Google Science Fair. Not only did she enter, she was the only Alberta student in the 15/16 year age category to make it to the semi-finalist stage. Congratulations to Rebecca for outstanding work in the biotech field. I touched again on Science Fairs in June when I reviewed Judy Dutton’s book: The Science Fair Season, one of the most thrilling science books I read this year.

I started off March asking about the apparent madness regarding the changing rules of the Archon Genomics X-prize. The prize was initially set up to reward the sequencer of “100 human genomes within 10 days or less, with an accuracy of no more than one error in every 100,000 bases sequenced, with sequences accurately covering at least 98% of the genome, and at a recurring cost of no more than $10,000 per genome”. By March 2011, the rules included the phrase of “clinical significance”. By November 2011, the rules changed again so that the 100 genomes must come from 100 centenarians.

In April, all of us at Genome Alberta were blogging about and promoting DNA Day. It was a huge thrill to be involved not only with the cutting-edge science, but with the cutting-edge method of communicating. Four scientists: four simultaneous chat rooms: lots of questions and answers. I am already looking forward to DNA Day for 2012. Keep a date open on your April calendar for this event.

In May, I talked about the travels of Christopher Columbus and what the DNA says about him. On Dec 5, 2011 the National Geographic released the results of population genetic studies which provide very strong evidence that there was a massive population drop in Native Americans immediately after European contact. It is suggested that a number of virulent diseases travelled quickly through the population. I also asked the question “Was Maimonides the first nutrigenomist?” Actually, I find that I have to be particularly careful of the source when it comes to reading about nutrigenomics. It is an area of science where there is the potential of pseudo-science or hucksterism. I once sent out a tweet linking to what appeared to be a new finding in the field of nutrigenomics, only to be strongly chastised by some of my fellow tweeters who pointed out that the source was not credible. I vowed not to make that mistake again, and now cross check the provenance of pages I link to.

In June, Gerry’s Gene Scene 10 explored the current state of the E.coli outbreak in Europe which led to the death of at least 50 people, and, after the blame was spread around, to major financial losses in 15 other countries. A commenter on that blog noted that: “It amazes me that after more than a month of what I understand to be intense investigation by the authorities to find the origin of this outbreak, there are still no clear answers. Today I read in several papers that there may be a restaurant or a fishmarket or farmers in Spain who could all be responsible or involved in this. No doubt it’s a complex scenario“. In late December, as I watch the BBC News, I’m learning of a new outbreak of H5N1 bird flu virus. Perhaps having learned their lessons in the past, a leading expert says "We're very aware that we don't want to over-play or under-play. We're trying to get that right." Bizarrely, on the same day, another news headline in the National Post reads “Request to suppress information on man-made ‘monster virus’ not ‘censorship’.” Apparently there is fear that a global pandemic could result if the mutant H5N1 strain were to escape or be used by terrorist groups.

In July, I interviewed Andrew Clapperton of Calgary’s Heritage Park about his program on the Wetlands. From him, I also learned about the Society of Educational Resource Groups (SERG). This led to my attending a meeting and blogging about SERG in November of this year.

I have to admit, the most fun and the most feedback I received this year was related to the three part series I did called “Seeking Science in London” (1, 2, 3). I know that I barely touched the surface in London, so you know that I will be adding additional posts to this series not just from London, but from other exciting science destinations. I was also pleased to be selected to contribute to a new feature launched by the Smithsonian on Evotourism, defined as travel where you uncover secrets to the greatest natural drama, evolution.

I am pleased that I was able to bring to you cutting-edge science through 2011. Our website is getting a whole new look for 2012 making it even easier for you to stay in touch with science and issues of importance to us all in the year to come.