Seven questions for Harry Potter

Nobody has asked me to do this meme, but I can’t resist. I saw it on Scholar’s  Blog, where Michele was tagged by Sheila of Wands and Worlds [no link as there is none or it is broken on the source post].

1. Butterbeer or pumpkin juice?
Pumpkin Juice. (Cabernet Hogwarts might have stood a better chance.)

2. What House would you most likely (or want to) be in in Hogwarts?
Ravenclaw.

3. If you were an animagus, what animal would you turn into?
Red squirrel (but knowing my luck, I’d end up as a Lethocerus).

4. What character do you empathize with, or resemble best?
Sirius. And strangely, I related to him in this way in book 3 before further similarities were revealed in 5 (he barely comes into 4).

My favourite character is Lupin, though of course I have a very soft spot for Harry.

5. What position do you play at Quidditch?
Chaser.

6. Which teacher is your favorite?
Lupin (especially his boggart lessons). Mad-Eye Moody’s Dark Arts lessons were pretty cool, too.

7. Any Harry Potter 7 predictions?
Yes. 😉  In common with many of my acquaintanceship, I have worked out what I think is likely to happen in book 7, but I have great faith in J K Rowling outwitting us all.

Your go.

Musings on scientific celebrity

From "The Dark Ages" column in the Times, by Kate Muir:

"I saw this cartoon the other day: two kids in their school careers office standing before a rack of brochures for future jobs: Celebrity Chef, Celebrity Gardener, Celebrity Painter and Decorator, Celebrity Antiques Dealer…and Celebrity Rodent Exterminator. And it would be funny if a huge swathe of children didn’t think these options were true, for the telly has told them so.

For instance, there’s not a Celebrity Scientist on the list. Children don’t value science as much as they used to. “One of the things that makes people choose a particular career is the chance of becoming a celebrity,” claims Professor Edwin Southern of Oxford University. “Children are not seeing science as a place to go.”

Fame by association, or even transient celebrity, seems far more attractive than hard work, even for the most able children. A survey by Fame Junkies author Jake Halpern of US schoolchildren gave them about ten choices of future careers: 23 per cent wanted to be head of a great university, 13 per cent wanted to be a politician, 9 per cent wanted to be director of a huge company – and 43 per cent wanted to be a “celebrity personal assistant”…."  In another of Halpern’s surveys, "650 schoolchildren [were asked to] to choose their perfect dinner companion from a list that included President Bush, Jesus, 50 Cent, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton and Einstein. The kids selected J-Lo as their top choice, followed by Jesus – proof that celebrity is the new religion for teenagers. Paris beat Einstein, of course."

Professor Ed Southern, by the way, achieved fame for inventing the Southern Blot. I kid you not. His paper in the Journal of Molecular Biology describing how he made it is probably the most cited paper in biology, after one by a man called Laemmli, who discovered SDS-PAGE (sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis). This is a tongue-twister and may sound boring, but the Wikipedia link I’ve provided in the previous sentence leads to a Hollywood-like "demystifying" video of life in the scientific fast lane (sorry about the pun). Laemmli’s 1970 paper describing SDS-PAGE is far and away the highest cited Nature paper ever. Why this should be is another story for another day. But one thing is for sure, Profs Southern and Laemmli did the work first and got the celebrity later. As intimated by Ms Muir, though, scientific celebrity isn’t the same as other types of celebrity: probably nobody outside science has ever heard of Profs Southern or Laemmli, and probably neither gentleman owns a Malibu beach house or a private jet. Yet modern biology depends on the techniques they invented.

P.S. If you are really interested, here’s the abstract of Laemmli’s paper, in its entirety: "Using an improved method of gel electrophoresis, many hitherto unknown proteins have been found in bacteriophage T4 and some of these have been identified with specific gene products. Four major components of the head are cleaved during the process of assembly, apparently after the precursor proteins have assembled into some large intermediate structure."

Wall Street Noir from Akashic Books

Via Akashic Books: … Wall Street Noir. "at the rotting heart of corporate America, Peter Spiegelman collects disparate, darkly humorous voices that shed light on the seedy underbelly of the financial world, providing an alternative and honest look at life on the Street. A starred review in Publishers Weekly endorses Spiegelman as “the ideal editor for the Wall Street entry in Akashic’s noir anthology series, assembl[ing] a stellar cast of 17 crime genre luminaries, many with financial backgrounds,” showing how Wall Street has spread its insidious reach far beyond the boundaries of lower Manhattan. Through cautionary tales from the likes of former Merrill Lynch securities analyst Henry Blodget, ex-finance lawyer John Burdett, and renowned author and Wall Street Journal writer Jim Fusilli, these stories showcase a side of Wall Street previously restricted to convicts, criminals, and newspaper headlines."

Er, wow! Enthusiastic blurb. Peter Spiegelman is one of my favourite authors: here’s my review of his latest, Red Cat. Of the other authors listed above, I have only read Fusilli, but he’s good too.

Akashic Books is dedicated to "reverse gentrification of the literary world". As well as Wall Street Noir, their other newest title is Tango for a Torturer, apparently a "long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Adios Muchachos!".

How will history judge Blair?

Link: BBC NEWS | Politics | How will history judge Blair?.

I could get quite into this politics thing. I wonder if the world of politics could possibly be as argumentative as that of science? Having written that I didn’t think I’d ever be writing about Tony Blair et al. on this blog but finding myself doing it, I received an email the other day (from my husband, using a civilised method of spousal communication), containing the BBC link at the top of this post. There, you can read accounts by three historians of the Blair era. The MP read the articles because he’s enjoying reading a book (on Wellington and Napoleon) by Andrew Roberts, one of the three historians.

Roberts starts out: "Before 11 September 2001, Tony Blair was set to go down in history as a second-division prime minister, one of those who stayed in power for a long time but without having any appreciable effect on the story of his times."

By the end of his article, he concludes: "Prime ministers are not judged by posterity on issues to do with transport, health, education, or even – most of them – on economic indicators. They are judged by the One Big Thing that happens during their premierships. That is why Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement, Anthony Eden’s Suez Crisis, Edward Heath’s Three-Day Week, and John Major’s ERM debacle have left them branded as failures. Equally, Winston Churchill’s Blitz orations, Margaret Thatcher’s saving of British capitalism and Tony Blair’s vigorous prosecution of the War against Terror will leave them noted by history as highly successful prime ministers. "