Archive for the 'the_secrets' Category

Nov 06 2007

Stand Tall for Phenols

Published by Brian under the_secrets, science, agriculture, biology

I’ve suggested before that plants are the ultimate selfish genies. Or geniuses. Red queens in green drag. One day soon, I swear, I’m going to get around to explaining what I mean by that and once and for all answer the question, Who cultivates whom?

In the mean time, here’s a tantalizing tidbit that underscores just how dependent we are on plants. Norm Lewis is a scientist at Washington State University’s Institute for Biological Chemistry. I’m a news writer for WSU and, more particularly, for the College of Ag, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, of which the IBC is a part. Lewis’s work interests me professionally, since I’m paid to be interested, but also because it’s straight up cool: I’ve learned from these scientists to never turn my back on a plant, much less an entire monocropping field of them.

PhenylalanineLewis and his crew of researchers, in the words of a Newswise press release,

has cloned six genes coding for different forms of the enzyme arogenate dehydratase (ADT), which converts a compound called arogenate into phenylalanine.

A description of phenylalanine’s fate underscores its central role in terrestrial plant life and the importance of the enzymatic reaction that produces it.

Phenylalanine is converted into phenolic compounds that are the building blocks of many of the plant world’s most distinctive and important substances, including the pigments in flower petals and chemicals that protect leaves, stems and bark from ultraviolet radiation. Perhaps the best-known end product of phenols is the one that allows trees to stand upright.

But, the release continues,

Phenylalanine is more than a precursor to other important compounds. Since it is an amino acid, it is used as a building block itself in the production of proteins. That happens in animals as well as in plants; humans and other mammals, however, can’t produce phenylalanine. We obtain it by breaking down proteins in the food we eat—either plant material, or the meat of animals that ate plants.

We’re getting close to the big-bang heartbeat of the living world here or, at least, to identifying a strand that weaves all life together.

Lewis said our reliance on plants to make phenylalanine means the reactions that produce it are as crucial to our survival as they are to that of plants.

“If these don’t exist, we don’t exist. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

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Sep 16 2007

Dr. Sullivan’s Science - Episode Two - All about Sturgeon

Published by Brian under travel, the_secrets, film, science

Another in our series of educational science videos, this time we visit the Bonneville Fish Hatchery to dive into the mysterious lives of sturgeon. Dr. Sullivan informs us that these ancient creatures, which can live as long as two hundred million years, are in no way related to science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon.

Don’t miss the exciting first episode of Dr. Sullivan’s Science.

4 responses so far

Aug 13 2007

Dr. Sullivan’s Science, Episode 1

Published by Brian under travel, the_secrets, film, science

Continuing on our journey along the Oregon coast, we stopped at a beach near Arch Cape, just south of Cannon Beach. More sea stacks, etc., all lovely.

We shot an educational science video which we hope you enjoy.

3 responses so far

Apr 04 2007

Memories from Life after Death (for RAW and T. McK.)

Essay by Brian Charles Clark

As Robert Anton Wilson (the man, the modality, the moonmeld) indicated in undisclosed locations known only to a select few, and the Dogon of West Africa have known for thousands of years, cheese is of alien origin. The phrase “the moon is made of green cheese” is not just smoke blowing from the door of an opium den. Rather, it is a literal truth, one a world-wide conspiracy has sought to suppress for many moons. Cows are robots from space, implanted with soulful stares that have but one purpose: to disarm and befuddle the planet Earth’s population into thinking that they, and other udder-bearing beasts, are the sole source of milk and milk by-products. Which, in fact, they are. Continue Reading »

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Mar 01 2006

Go FOIA Yourself

Published by Brian under the_secrets, privacy, politics

Ever wondered what the FBI has on you? Here’s a Freedom of Information request made simple. (The FBI has nothing on me. Not sure if that’s good or bad.)

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Aug 29 2005

A Film of Nematodes

Here’s something that supports my long-held thesis that scientists make the best science fiction writers not because they know so much about science but because they’re so damn weird:

“…if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites.”
From Nematodes and Their Relationships, 1915 by Nathan Augustus Cobb, the “father of nematology in the U.S.

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Dec 04 2001

The Pentralium

essay by Brian Charles Clark

A secret war has been raging for millennia. The battle lines can be roughly drawn between those who insist that empiricism can answer all our epistemological questions, and those who insist that knowing is fundamentally an imaginative act, one that is forever becoming and shrouded in mystery. Plato is typical of just how “rough” those battle lines are. In the Republic, Plato wrote of the dangers of the imagination, especially as displayed in the poetic consciousness or “divine madness” of inspiration. This is the same Plato whose beautifully erotic love poems grace the pages of the Greek Anthology.

Two thousand years later, in 1817, John Keats would jump into the fray with his eyes wide open. In fact, it was Keats’s viewing of a painting that led him to write a famous letter. (Keats’s letter of December 21, 1817 is quoted in full in, among other places, Rodriguez, Book of the Heart (Hudson, New York: 1993), pages 39-40.) After looking at a painting by the landscape artist West, Keats wrote his brothers that there were “no women one is mad to kiss” in the picture. Nothing in the painting inspired his passion, “there is nothing to be intense upon,” nothing provoked his sense of the marvelous. The hic et nunc flatness of West’s painting admitted no otherness, no “Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without an irritable reaching after fact & reason.” Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Jan 13 2001

Splitting, a novel by Brian Charles Clark

Splitting, a novel by Brian Charles ClarkA rhizomatic epic poem disguised as a novel, Splitting is “A psychedelic odyssey of love and spiritual discovery.” –Publishers Weekly

“Four hundred billion stars for Brian Charles Clark’s world-heavyweight champion novel… In this hallucinatory yet grounded tale, our narrator employs a richly allusive style, half Joyce, half William Borroughs.” –Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, review by Paul Di Filippo

“Brian Clark’s romp through a world of static television screens and desert landscapes sends science crashing headlong into fiction with its highbeams on. The resulting wreckage, Splitting, is a jagged collage of delicate poetry, hip-flasked theory and high-energy prose broadcast directly from the cerebral cortex of a bisexual potassium terrorist struggling to resist the systematic telepathic colonization of earth by hyperlingual aliens. Using a host of agents, neurotic doctors, and psychotic drugs, the aliens are replacing our fractured, amnesiac reality with a cohesive, linear history that corrodes the human capacity to think.” –Review of Contemporary Fiction, review by Trevor Dodge

“Brian Clark’s first novel is a fever dream: a voluptuous explosion of melody and rhythm. A gender-bending ride in search of spiritual identity, Splitting revels in the regenerative power of art and language.” –Nikki Dillion (aka Lisa Dierbeck), author of Scratch

Splitting, excerpt from part one

The rush from the injection while supplies last kicks me in the chest, a chill metal gasp fleeing custody, a lightning of Tartars hording down my medulla oblongata. Continue Reading »

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