Sunday, 22 July 2007

It's another Boy

Well my family seems to be expanding at a rapid rate with nieces and nephews coming from all over. But this time it was our turn.

Yep that is right our second child was born at 8.20 pm yesterday (Saturday) and no he will not in any way be named for the Harry Potter book that came out the same day.

I had better get back to hospital and spend some time with Mother and baby but you never know I might even get some photos up in the next few days.

(Update 16/08: For those of you interested in names we went with Quinn - it means the wise in Celtic - and no we did not take this long to decide just to post the update)

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The Skeptics' Circle

Well the latest edition of the Skeptics' Circle is up at NeuroLogica Blog. It is the 65th edition and is an exciting trip to the Museum of Skepticism where you can see exhibits on cranks and crackpots of all shapes, sizes and colours and of course how to see the reality of it all. Well worth the trip, especially since admission is free.

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Monday, 16 July 2007

If I were American

I saw this on The Greenbelt and decided that it would be fun just to see roughly whose policies are in line with my own. Now since I am not a US citizen this is rather pointless, and of course I have never heard of about half of them (and some of the rest by name only) but I am not too surprised at some of the names at the top and the bottom of the list.

Thank you for visiting this Selector.
For more information on this selector and your results, go to 2008 President Selector

  1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100 %)
  2. Dennis Kucinich (85 %)
  3. Barack Obama (81 %)
  4. Alan Augustson (campaign suspended) (75 %)
  5. Joseph Biden (75 %)
  6. Christopher Dodd (74 %)
  7. Hillary Clinton (74 %)
  8. Al Gore (not announced) (71 %)
  9. Wesley Clark (not announced) (70 %)
  10. Michael Bloomberg (not announced) (69 %)
  11. John Edwards (67 %)
  12. Mike Gravel (not announced) (65 %)
  13. Bill Richardson (62 %)
  14. Kent McManigal (campaign suspended) (55 %)
  15. Ron Paul (53 %)
  16. Elaine Brown (38 %)
  17. Rudolph Giuliani (28 %)
  18. John McCain (25 %)
  19. Mitt Romney (24 %)
  20. Mike Huckabee (23 %)
  21. Chuck Hagel (not announced) (19 %)
  22. Tommy Thompson (17 %)
  23. Newt Gingrich (not announced) (15 %)
  24. Fred Thompson (not announced) (14 %)
  25. Tom Tancredo (14 %)
  26. Jim Gilmore (withdrawn) (11 %)
  27. Sam Brownback (10 %)
  28. Duncan Hunter (3 %)

And all that with no real science questions asked, despite the fact that that would be one of my big priorities.

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Friday, 6 July 2007

Where do Stem Cells come from

A lot of the debate about the use of Embryonic Stem cells (ESC) in research comes from objections that are based about the murder of all those babies to get the ESC. You know the sort of thing where on The Simpsons, Mrs Lovejoy comes along and cries out "oh won't somebody please think of the children".

However this is a very unrealistic point. As anyone who has ever been a parent will know, how and when you find out you are going to be a parent is quite variable. Normally the first signs are morning sickness, or extreme tiredness, but neither of these are themselves a reliable test that you are pregnant. So how do we confirm pregnancy? Usually it involves a take-home pregnancy kit, some urine and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

Well now that we know that what does it actually mean. hCG is produced during pregnancy to fulfill some role (that is unimportant to this discusion but can be found at the link above), and so once you are pregnant this hormone starts to be produced (by the embryo/placenta), and it takes some time for the levels to build up such that it is excreted from the mother's body.

For the test to be accurate you want it to cut down on the false readings. The way this is dealt with is by having a threshold concentration for the hCG, this at least cuts down on the false positives (where the test reads positive when you are not pregnant). However because it takes time for that concentration to build up it is possible to get false negatives (where the test reads negative when you are pregnant).

An example of this was with our first child, my wife got pregnant just before I left for Europe for a conference. Now she had her best friend's hens night several days after I left she was worried that she might be pregnant and didn't want to drink if she was. So she took the test and it came back negative. A week or so later the tiredness really kicked in and she went to the doctor and took another test there, it came back negative. Only another week of so later when the morning sickness was started up did a test finally come back positive (note that the timing of the morning sickness and the positive test are incidental).

So in this case my wife was pregnant for three weeks before actually knowing for sure that she was pregnant.

This delay is long enough such that the harvesting of ESC from a mother is not really an option.

So if this is not an option what is? Well as I see it there are two options either we specifically create embryos to take the stem cells from or we make use of the vast numbers of spare embryos that as we speak are sitting in freezers in IVF clinics all around the world. Spares that will most certainly never be anything more than they are now.

In fact since storage capabilities of any organistion are finite then eventually many of these will be destroyed. They clearly are surpluss to the parents IVF requirements and are unlikely to all be adopted. Since they can't be kept forever they will end up being destroyed, but why then can't they be put to a good cause, that of research in to finding cures to many debilitating diseases and conditions.

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Monday, 2 July 2007

8 Random Facts

Well this meme about 8 random facts has been doing the rounds and suprisingly enough I have been tagged (thanks to Ken at Open Parachute).

All right, here are the rules.

  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
Ok so those are the rules to live by and here are the facts.

  1. I have lived in Dunedin all my life. But have been fortunate enough to travel to many other places.
  2. I like to write, although this is the most of my public output thus far.
  3. I am keen on photography and have won an online photo competition. (one day I may even upload the photo).
  4. I am married with a two year old boy and another on the way (due end of this month)
  5. Both my wife's family and my own consist mainly of boys (I have one brother and she 4 - neither of us have any sisters).
  6. The next generation has 4 boys and 2 girls (with one boy due this month and an as yet unknown for December).
  7. I had 13 years of Catholic education and logically I became an atheist.
  8. I have been working on my PhD for 5 years now and I just want it to be finished.
Alright and now for people to tag hmmmm, actually I am goona cheat (but only cause the pooflinger cheated first) and I am going to tag anyone who reads this blog that has not done it yet and you have to leave a comment here saying that you did it.

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