This is your brain on Toxoplasma

August 30, 2006

Seed magazine:

Approximately one-quarter of Americans host a parasite that has been shown to affect personality in both rodents and humans. According to a recent study, this single-celled organism may be able to shape entire cultures.

(via Quantum Ghosts)

Global bird flu sequence database planned

August 25, 2006

According to this story in Science, a former Hollywood TV executive has been flying around the world on his own coin collecting signatures for a proposed “Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data”, through which genomic sequences of avian influenza are made public. The executive, Peter Bogner, who bears a striking resemblance to Eric Idle, was inspired by the campaign of Italian virologist Ilaria Capua, who had called for the open sharing of H5N1 sequence data earlier this year. Mr Bogner’s motivations are unclear:

Capua says Bogner initially suggested that he was working for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Bogner says that the U.N. is one of his clients but not on this issue; indeed, he says, he hasn’t been paid a cent for his flu efforts. “In fairness, there are some aspects of this whole story I don’t quite understand,” says Capua. “But we’re getting what we want.”

UPDATE: Here is the letter to Nature referred to in the story above, in which we find that the Global Initiative on Sharing Influenza Data (GISAID) has a website.

Google vs. Brazil

August 24, 2006

Google is in big legal trouble in Brazil for withholding information about the users of its social interaction website Orkut, some of whom may be in involved in pornography and crime. An astonishing 66% percent of Orkut members are Brazilians – this is an example of the Brazilian Internet Phenomenon, the causes of which are mysterious and intriguing.

Welcome to Memomics

August 21, 2006

Why “memomics”? Memomics is about the totality of memes if you like, or maybe memos, take your pick.