Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Crisis of Research Funding in the US

There's a crisis going on today in US research labs.  Brilliant researchers are trying hard to stay afloat with research budget cuts and stiff competition for grants.  This post is mainly aimed for US-based readers, but US-based research, particularly biomedical health-related research, impacts the entire world.  It's good for everybody when we push the boundaries of human knowledge through research, but unfortunately it is getting harder and harder to do that.  I want to talk a little bit about what's going on.  If you are interested, read more after the jump....

Monday, May 27, 2013

Scientific Exploits of Ben Franklin Part 2: Franklin Fights Smallpox

"Dr." Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
In our first blog post about Benjamin Franklin, I mentioned that Ben was, in many ways, ahead of his time.  Another good example of this was his recognition that scientific observation has an important place in medicine and his work to use science and statistics to improve medicine.  While he was called "Dr. Franklin," this title came from honorary doctorates given to him in 1759 by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and 1762 by Oxford University in England.  These were in recognition of his contributions to physics and electricity.  Ben didn't have the university education that most of his contemporary scientists had.  He also had no formal training in medicine at all.  Nonetheless, beyond his contributions to theoretical science, he also designed medical equipment and devices, treated patients and made clinical observations, and helped to found The Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia in 1752.  Ben also played an important role in the field of public health, most notably by acting as one of the major proponents for smallpox vaccination in the New World.      More after the jump....

Friday, May 17, 2013

Biology of Beer

There's an ancient battle raging everyday in breweries around the world.  The battle is to protect your beer from dastardly bacteria that want to invade and spoil it.  We're not fighting alone, though.  The yeast that ferment the beer do a lot of the antibacterial work themselves.  They make beer into a pretty inhospitable environment for bacterial growth, with a low pH and lots of alcohol, but bacteria are tough little buggers.  Let's take a little journey through some of the science of beer.  This post is a salute to the complex microbiology of beer and beer brewing as well as the men and women who developed and continue to develop modern brewing.  Open a cold one and read more after the jump....