Facebook + Twitter =

Google+. This is far from an original observation, but here it is nonetheless:



Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, I get the sense that making Google+ invite only – for some undisclosed amount of time – was a very good idea. After all, it worked for gmail. Everyone seems to want in, even though there really isn’t much going on yet. At least in my “circles.” Oh man, that will get old.


Yellowstone National Park

I was completely blown away by Yellowstone. I expected lots a trees, some lakes, some animals, and a big geyser. But it turned out to quite possibly be the most impressive natural landscape I’ve seen. Apparently much of the park was created by a supervolcano eruption that occurred 640,000 years ago. The explosion essentially ripped a hole in the Earth, exposing active geological phenomena that would normally be hundreds, if not thousands of meters underground. But that’s about the extent of my understanding of the whole thing. So take a look:

Gas containing lots of sulfur spews out of rocks next to a frozen lake:

A grizzly bear spotting:

This is where the bear came from:

Buffalo milk:

A gigantic pool of gray clay:

This cove was called the dragon’s mouth. It made constant grumbling noises and smelled like rotten eggs:

I’ve got quite a few more pictures, but my internet is a bit slow at the moment. I’ll post the rest over the next few days.

Yeast, Unite!

Two of my favorite topics are evolutionary biology and brewing. It’s rare that they overlap in the same article. It looks like brewer’s yeast has been coaxed to evolve to do more than make beer:

One giant leap for yeastkind (Image: Eye of Science/SPL)IN JUST a few weeks single-celled yeast have evolved into a multicellular organism, complete with division of labour between cells. This suggests that the evolutionary leap to multicellularity may be a surprisingly small hurdle.

Multicellularity has evolved at least 20 times since life began, but the last time was about 200 million years ago, leaving few clues to the precise sequence of events. To understand the process better, William Ratcliff and colleagues at the University of Minnesota in St Paul set out to evolve multicellularity in a common unicellular lab organism, brewer’s yeast.

Their approach was simple: they grew the yeast in a liquid and once each day gently centrifuged each culture, inoculating the next batch with the yeast that settled out on the bottom of each tube. Just as large sand particles settle faster than tiny silt, groups of cells settle faster than single ones, so the team effectively selected for yeast that clumped together.

Sure enough, within 60 days – about 350 generations – every one of their 10 culture lines had evolved a clumped, “snowflake” form. Crucially, the snowflakes formed not from unrelated cells banding together but from cells that remained connected to one another after division, so that all the cells in a snowflake were genetically identical relatives. This relatedness provides the conditions necessary for individual cells to cooperate for the good of the whole snowflake.

Here’s a Real ‘Computer’ Game

Via Ezra Klein, the first version of ‘The Oregon Trail’ game:

“With no monitor, the original version of Oregon Trail was played by answering prompts that printed out on a roll of paper. At 10 characters per second, the teletype spat out, ‘How much do you want to spend on your oxen team?’ or, ‘Do you want to eat (1) poorly (2) moderately or (3) well?’ Students typed in the numerical responses, then the program chugged through a few basic formulas and spat out the next prompt along with a status update. ‘Bad illness — medicine used,’ it might say. ‘Do you want to (1) hunt or (2) continue?’ Hunting required the greatest stretch of the user’s imagination. Instead of a point-and-shoot game, the teletype wrote back, ‘Type BANG.’ ”

— The history of the Oregon Trail.

You can’t even call that a ‘video’ game. That’s the real deal.