written in the snow

After last week’s snow, this appeared near the new Media Lab building (Amherst Street near Ames Street):

“CAL (butt-print) MIT”

I think it’s a sentence…

synthetic genome

all over the news today.

Scientists have built the first synthetic genome by stringing together 147 pages of letters representing the building blocks of DNA.

The researchers used yeast to stitch together four long strands of DNA into the genome of a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium. They said it’s more than an order of magnitude longer than any previous synthetic DNA creation. Leading synthetic biologists said with the new work, published Thursday in the journal Science, the first synthetic life could be just months away — if it hasn’t been created already.

“We consider this the second in our three-step process to create the first synthetic organism,” said J. Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute where scientists performed the study, on Thursday during a teleconference. “What remains now that we have this complete synthetic chromosome … is to boot this up in a cell.”

This is what they actually did. Looks like an interesting application of TAR cloning in yeast (another link) — normally used for sequence selection — which itself is a significant extension of the YAC toolset.

I guess small artificial genomes are a practical reality now, but TAR cloning is really the key here, allowing a less restrictive abstraction of the join operation to be implemented. Nice.

Dear Michael…

…the building manager,

I am getting sick from the formaldehyde and benezene fumes that are obviously emenating from the newly installed carpet. It smells like a freaking dry erase marker every time I breathe. My throat hurts, I have phlegm, my eyes water, and I got a headache. Look, I don’t want to get high on glue. You should have gotten a carpet installer (who will surely die from lung cancer) that aired the carpet out. Or left time to air the building out. How much is it worth to get everybody sick? Less than a week of rent? Think again…

“M.I.T. Sues Frank Gehry, Citing Flaws in Center He Designed”

Hoho… It does suck compared to the Brain and Cognitive Sciences building right across the street.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has sued the architect Frank Gehry and a construction company, claiming that “design and construction failures” in the institute’s $300 million Stata Center resulted in pervasive leaks, cracks and drainage problems that have required costly repairs.

The center, which features angular sections that appear to be falling on top of one another, opened to great acclaim in the spring of 2004. Mr. Gehry once said that it “looks like a party of drunken robots got together to celebrate.”

Gehry should stick to designing museums, and, the MIT planning offices should stick to practicality.


“Emergency” shut down

This old building needs to go. There are no light fixtures in the rooms, the heat cannot be adjusted, the lobby front door stops opening periodically, and the blasted water gets shut down every half a month. No, it’s not an “emergency” shutdown, but because the plumbing can’t be worked on somehow unless the water is turned off to the entire building! The entire building!

3PM TO 6:00PM

Date: 2/1/07
Time: 3PM TO 6PM
System: All domestic water (hot and cold)
Duration: 3 hours

Replace shut of valve on the 11th floor

Loss of hot and cold domestic water. This means that no bathrooms, showers, kitchens and drinking fountains will be operational during this shutdown.

Fill bathtub with water for duration of shutdown. Use this water to flush your toilet. Fill a bucket from the tub and dump it into the toilet bowl. This will force the toilet to flush.

To avoid flooding, please be sure all faucets are off and stay off for the duration of the shutdown. If you try a faucet and find the water is still off, turn the faucet back off.

Thank you for your patience


Previous reasons have included leaky pipes on the 4th floor, the basement, the lounge, and various other places. Maybe I’d be content to fill a bucket of water from the village well and dump it into the manure pile if the rent were cheap and I were a sharecropper, but clearly…