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Why do I love Cn3D? Let me count the ways. What does Cn3D do? (Hint: say "Cn3D" out loud). Seriously, Cn3D is a program that draws lovely pictures of molecular structures by using experimental data from techniques like X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Surprisingly (to some), and in contrast to many bioinformatics programs, Cn3D is really easy and fun to use. Have you ever used programs like MS Office? Using Cn3D is at least 10 times easier. An added benefit is that you don't have to try and find old copies ... Read more
No biology course is complete these days without learning how to do a BLAST search. Herein, I describe an assignment and an animated tutorial that teachers can readily adopt and use, and give teachers a hint for obtaining the password-protected answer key. Development of the tutorial and the activity were supported by funding from the National Science Foundation. This is reposted from the the original DigitalBio blog. This popular activity, designed to accompany the BLAST for beginners tutorial, has been updated to ... Read more
i-5e05c7070b9ee8a38eb30b5847ac7647-colors.pngHave you ever wondered about Cheeze Whiz? why new cars have a distinctive smell? or what makes golf balls so springy? Chemical and Engineering News, published by the American Chemical Society, has a wonderful section that you will certainly appreciate. "What's that stuff?" is a ... Read more
The fall soccer season is well underway and the Hummingbirds soccer team is kicking everything in sight. The hummingbirds in these two series of photos are much quicker, considerably smaller and certainly cute. A friend sent me this link since I manage the Hummingbirds soccer team. Hopefully, the person who posted these shots of baby hummingbirds will leave them up for awhile. My husband told me about this page at Nature Photography with other truly incredible hummingbird ... Read more
One of most wonderful things about the Internet has been the emergence of research projects that involve the general public. Universities like Cornell, Kansas University, and the University of Minnesota, to name a few, have established web sites and on-line databases that encourage both students and amateur biologists to participate in biological field studies. Not only do these projects extend the potential for good science by collecting more data, they give visibility to the research process and allow the public to take ownership and contribute to the store of scientific knowledge. ... Read more
We heard quite a bit about rainforest destruction in the 80's and 90's. Even the Grateful Dead joined the efforts to raise awareness and gather support for rain forest preservation. In the past, the Dead stayed away from political activism because (quoting Jerry Garcia):
Power is a scary thing. When you feel that you are close to it, you want to make sure that it isn't used for misleading. So all this time we've avoided making any statements about politics, about alignments of any sort.
But the Dead decided deforestation was too big of an issue to ... Read more
Have you ever wondered how people actually go about sequencing a genome? If they're sequencing a chicken genome, do they raise chickens in the lab and get DNA from the eggs? Does the DNA sequence come out in one piece? Why is there so much talk about computers? What are Phred, Phrap, and Consed? What is the Golden Path? Wonder no more! You too, can take a virtual tour of the Washington University Genome Center. I found this really excellent series of short videos that ... Read more
When can a really bad virus be used to do something good? i-a6550bc9f8fd2b4ba98054d13cd679e5-hiv_photo.jpg When we can use it to learn. The human immunodeficiency virus, cause of AIDS, scourge of countries, and recent focus of ScienceBlogs; like humans, evolves. As one ... Read more
Last week, we embarked on an adventure with BLAST. BLAST, short for Basic Alignment Search Tool, is a collection of programs, written by scientists at the NCBI (1) that are used to compare sequences of proteins or nucleic acids. BLAST is used in multiple ways, but last week my challenge to you, dear readers, was to a pick a sequence, any sequence, from a set of 16 unknown sequences and use BLAST to identify that sequence. This ... Read more

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