DNA: More than just a double helix

Wonder of the Week
The i-Motif knot

Most of us know the story of how the famous double helix structure of DNA was discovered. Many of us also know that a couple of scientists failed to give Rosalind Franklin due credit for her contribution.

What we may not know is that there’s more to DNA than that twisted ladder. In recent years scientists have discovered a twisted, four-strand knot called an intercalated motif, or i-Motif. Previously only seen in vitro, it was observed in living human cells by scientists at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

Genomicist Marcel Dinger, who led the research team, explains, “In the knot structure, C [cytosine] letters on the same strand of DNA bind to each other – so this is very different from a double helix, where ‘letters’ on opposite strands recognise each other, and where Cs bind to Gs [guanines].”

Future research will help us understand how these i-Motif knots influence our biology.

Read more.

Contributed by Craig Good.

The President’s Brain is Missing.

I doubt there is a sane person left who believes Trump has any sense, or any credibility, whatsoever. Following the news as it unfolds in the US is like watching some surreal black comedy.

It’s something Peter Sellars might have made with Stanley Kubrick – Dr Kidglove, or How I Learned to Stop Thinking and Follow the Trump.


Last updated: April 25, 2020, 09:17 GMT
Coronavirus Death Toll

197,694 people have died so far from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as of April 25, 2020, 09:17 GMT.
There are currently 2,836,338 confirmed cases in 210 countries and territories . The fatality rate is still being assessed.

Follow the world-wide statistics, or country by country, here.

At the risk of being considered crepidarian: There is no doubt this COVID19 pandemic is just as scary as WHO said it could be. We are seeing now that the countries with the lowest infection and mortality curves are the ones with the best, and quickest lockdown response. Go New Zealand.

Now that testing is becoming more prevalent, and more reliable, many countries are finding evidence there is a significant proportion of asymptomatic infectious carriers among the apparently healthy population. These are not all being numbered among confirmed cases.

In our current world, this is about as apocalyptic as it gets.

I’m sure they said the same thing during the great flu pandemic of 1918 when about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected and the number of deaths worldwide was estimated to be at least 50 million.

The population of the world is exponentially greater now. So is the risk.

Stay safe out there. Good Luck.

Why Science Works

The chloroquine theory. Some real data, and an explanation of how and why it doesn’t work.

Thanks, Glenn for this.

Hopefully this takes some of air out of the hype machine:


368 patients evaluated (all of them male, all over age 65, all veterans because that's where the data came from):

In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19. An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone.

One interesting point this study does clarify; the original interest in chloroquine was because it is demonstrably effective in a petri dish; stops SARS-CoV-2 dead in its tracks. The difference is in a petri dish, they were getting concentrations of 4.5-17 µM, but the safe range in a human is around 1 µM. Trying to replicate the petri dish concentrations in living humans resulted in patients dying faster than COVID-19 would have killed them.


I self-isolated first.

Late last year I deleted, or thought I deleted, my Facebook page. With that act, I cut myself off from over 90% of my daily social interaction. I had not realised at the time how significant this was.

I kept my Eric TDuck page, and my blogs, but they do not involve any conversations with others. That’s just me talking. I really don’t think many are listening. There is very little feedback, or indeed much indication that anyone reads my blog. Most of the ‘likes’ I get are from self interested bloggers pushing a product and farming followers.

It was not until a visit from my best and oldest friend, followed pretty quickly by the Coronavirus issue, that I realised how much my sanity depended on social interaction. Chatting, joking and exchanging views. And it was appalling to realise how much of the social interaction in my life was now virtual, with friends scattered across several countries, and very few physically nearby. That is, less than a week’s drive away.

Social distancing as a result of COVID19 did not change my life one iota.

If I plotted the location of all the friends with whom I stay in touch on a map of the world using blue dots for all those I have at some time actually met and interacted with, and green for those I’ve met through Facebook and never seen in person, by far the greatest number would be green, and the greatest concentration of blue would be around the great southern area of Western Australia. How did that happen?

Even so, it was through Facebook and Messenger that I had stayed in contact with most of these friends. I speak on the phone to only a few. I don’t write letters, and only a few emails. So. By deleting my Facebook page I had cut myself off from almost all of my friends, as well as the sexist, racist, fascist, ignorant twats who had driven me to despair.

The old nose and face conundrum.

I was surprised when, after following a news link which led to a Facebook post, I was offered the chance to log in as Eric TDuck (expected) or as myself (not expected).

So I got my page back. It seems I hadn’t deleted it. And with the return to sharing my thoughts, jokes, photos and political opinions came immediate conviviality and good wishes plus a little bit of the sanity I hadn’t realised I was losing.

Twelve Monkeys

It’s happening.

Good for NZ.


Many people consider the things government does for them to be social progress but they regard the things government does for others as socialism.

Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (19 Mar 1891-1974) 

Spacetime Simply

Spacetime is a continuum. It is Mathematically proven beyond doubt that spacetime is a manifold, which is to say, it appears locally “flat” near each point in the same way that, at small enough scales, a globe appears flat.

Spacetime is expanding. Which means the universe is growing. Time is expanding. We can think of “the present” as being the surface of an expanding bubble of time. Everything inside the bubble is the past. A fixed and unalterable part of the spacetime continuum. Outside the bubble is nothing. It is the future. It does not yet exist. Until the present expands into it it is just a theoretical possibility.

That is the easy part. Now consider time travel. We are already travelling into the future at the fastest rate possible. The rate of expansion of the continuum. We cannot get there any sooner than anyone else, because there is nothing there until everyone arrives. Literally nothing. So travelling to a distant future is not possible. There is no such thing. Yet.

The math of travel to the past is entirely different. It is possible, but only if it already happened. Therefore travel to the past involves always having done so, and allows no possibility of changing events historically. The attempt to assassinate Hitler always failed, we know exactly who was involved and what happened to them. What we don’t know is precisely which of the conspirators came from the future, when they came from how they got there, and how they insinuated themselves into German Military Intelligence without being discovered. That hasn’t happened yet. Or perhaps it has, and we don’t know. In reality, there seems to be no point in undertaking the attempt, because it failed, and always will. We know the coup will not work, but we also know they did try. So they always shall. There is no way that the attempt can be prevented because it already happened. At some point in the near future therefore, it shall probably be initiated.

That is putting it simply.

There is no need to police the laws of spacetime. They police themselves.

Heinlein was wrong. Vonnegut was right.

Apophenia and Pareidolia in the Crema Void

It all makes sense to me now. Just staring into my coffee, I see it all clearly.

The Worm and the Salmon of Knowledge. Knowledge is not Wisdom.

My dog and my cat. Love and Loyalty are all.

Yin and Yang. There is a Tension and a Balance between Down and Up, Movement and Stillness, Entropy and Enthalpy, Chaos and Order, Cruelty and Kindness, Anger and Generosity, Pain and Cheerfulness, Sorrow and Laughter.

Here in a galaxy of crema and cocoa I see the Ornstein-Zernike relation of life.

I am the molecule in the middle of mine.

Yes. That was a poem.