Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Customer Service (New Darwin Eats Cake)

So, here's today's Darwin Eats Cake. Enjoy!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Make Sudafed from Meth

So, this paper from the Journal of Apocryphal Chemistry should be on the reading list of every journal club. Or at least the journal clubs that should be taking place in the various legislative houses around the country. The authors, O. Hai of the Institute for Theoretical Experiments and I. B. Hakkenshit of the Department of Chemistry at Miskatonic University (as well as the Institute for Theoretical Experiments), have provided simple instructions for synthesizing pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in Sudafed) from N-methylamphetamine (the active ingredient in crystal meth).

The authors note that government regulations stemming from the war on drugs have made it difficult to obtain pseudoephedrine. However, they found that it is quite easy to obtain N-methylamphetamine, and suggest this simple way of using it to generate the popular, now contraband, nasal decongestant.

Or, in their pitch-perfect description:
In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to obtain psuedoephedine in many states because of its use as a precursor for the illegal drug N-methylamphetamine (also known under various names including crystal meth, meth, ice, etc.)[1,2].  While in the past many stores were able to sell pseudoephedrine, new laws in the United States have restricted sales to pharmacies, with the medicine kept behind the counter.  The pharmacies require signatures and examination of government issued ID in order to purchase pseudoephedrine.  Because the hours of availability of such pharmacies are often limited, it would be of great interest to have a simple synthesis of pseudoephedrine from reagents which can be more readily procured.
A quick search of several neighborhoods of the United States revealed that while pseudoephedrine is difficult to obtain, N-methylamphetamine can be procured at almost any time on short notice and in quantities sufficient for synthesis of useful amounts of the desired material.  Moreover, according to government maintained statistics, N-methylmphetamine is becoming an increasingly attractive starting material for pseudoephedrine, as the availability of N-methylamphetamine has remained high while prices have dropped and purity has increased [2].  We present here a convenient series of transformations using reagents which can be found in most well stocked organic chemistry laboratories to produce psuedoephedrine from N-methylamphetamine.   
While N-methylamphetamine itself is a powerful decongestant, it is less desirable in a medical setting because of its severe side effects and addictive properties [3].  Such side effects may include insomnia, agitation, irritability, dry mouth, sweating, and heart palpitations.  Other side effects may include violent urges or, similarly, the urge to be successful in business or finance.
It's a shame about those side effects of N-methylamphetamine.

Read the whole thing here.

via all over Twitter.

Ronin Institute Talk at Colorado School of Mines

So, tomorrow (Tuesday, February 28), I will be speaking at The Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO about the Ronin Institute. I'll talk about my own motivations for founding the Institute, the need for independent scholarship, and the potential future for institutes like this one.

If you're in the area, c'mon down! (Or, up, probably.)

Here's the official summary from the organizer, Alejandro Weinstein:
"The Ronin Institute, or how to reinvent academia"
by Dr. Jon Wilkins, Ronin Institute
4:30 P.M., Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Alderson Hall Room 151
Abstract: After more than 10 years of working in traditional research institutions (Harvard University and the Santa Fe Institute), Dr. Wilkins founded the Ronin Institute with the objective to create an organization that can help to connect and support scholars who, by choice or by chance, do not have an affiliation with a university or other research institutes. In this lecture, Dr. Wilkins will share his motivation to found the institute, his long term vision, and how the Ronin Institute fits in the current academic ecosystem.
About the Speaker: Dr. Wilkins is an external professor at the Santa Fe institute and founder of the Ronin Institute. He received an A.B. degree in Physics from Harvard College in 1993, an M.S. degree in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1998 and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard University in 2002. His interests are in evolutionary theory, broadly defined. His prior work has focused on coalescent theory and genomic imprinting. His current research has continued in those areas, and has expanded into areas like human language and demographic history, altruism, cultural evolution, and statistical inference.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Faster-than-light neutrinos and faulty wiring

So, the latest on the faster-than-light neutrino saga is that the discovery may have been the result of measurement bias resulting from faulty wiring. Which is sort of sad. As Jason Kottke noted, "Neutrinos? More like Nintendo . . . they forgot to blow in the cartridge."

Anyway, Dev made an effort to explain the situation to Guillaume, and I thought that I would share their conversation with you:

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship Incorporated

So, here's an update for you on the development of the Ronin Institute. I've written about the concept and motivation for Ronin previously (e.g., here, here, and here). Briefly, the goal is to establish an institute to support scholarly research outside of the traditional (university / government lab / research institute) environment.

Well, the Ronin Institute is now incorporated in the State of New Jersey. The official name of the corporation is "The Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship Incorporated." That's obviously a mouthful. As it turns out, having something like "Incorporated" or "Corporation" is a requirement for an official corporation name in New Jersey. It seems, then, that the standard practice is to have two names for your corporation. One is the official, legal name. Then, you file additional paperwork to establish a legal alias (like, "The Ronin Institute"), which you can put on your checks, letterhead, etc.

Now, some of you may be reading this and saying, "Why the heck are you forming a corporation?" After all, the whole concept here is that independent scholars want and need is independence, not a corporate overlord. In fact, a "corporation" may sound worse than a university when you think about issues like academic freedom.

Well, it turns out that incorporating is the first step in establishing a non-profit. For the Ronin Institute, the incorporation paperwork was filed on February 13. I have just finished working with the other people who will form the initial board of directors to iron out the bylaws for the institute. The next step will be to submit the federal application for tax-exempt status. At that point, we will have a fully formed non-profit, and we can begin in earnest the work of changing the way that research is done in the country and in the world.

Why am I telling you all of this? For those of you who are interested specifically in the Ronin Institute and its mission – and especially those among you who may eventually be interested in joining up – I want to keep you up to date on our progress.

There may also be some of you out there who are interested in the idea of independent scholarship, and are thinking about forming your own non-profit research institute. For you, I want to provide a sense of how the process works. Over the next couple of weeks, I hope to post information about creating bylaws, establishing a board of directors, and preparing the federal application documents.

In the meantime,here's an adorable video of an adorable baby aardvark!

Video via Jezebel.

This post cross-posted at the Ronin Blog.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Latest from Darwin Eats Cake: The Comatose

So, you know that meme that's been going around, where there's some profession, or group of people, and then a series of pictures showing how different people perceive them?

Are you tired of it yet? No? Well, then, bookmark this page, and come back when you are. Just remember, the first one to go meta wins!!

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Infringing on Fallopitarian Religious Freedom!

So, I really have nothing to add to this. (Via Daily Kos)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day videos from BarfQuestion

So, this guy BarfQuestion (real name, not BarfQuestion) makes these awesome little animations each year on Valentine's Day for Danielle, his once girlfriend, then fiancée. There does not seem to be one up yet for 2012, which hopefully means that she is getting a private screening on their honeymoon.

That came out nastier than I intended.

Here are the videos from 2009 and 2010, which sort of tie together. Check out the whole series from 2007-2011 here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Darwin Eats Cake Valentine's Day Cards

So, it's almost Valentine's Day here in the States, and you've forgotten to buy something for your spouse / fiancé(e) / boy- and/or girl-friend. Fortunately, we've got you covered. Just print out these handy-dandy Valentine's Day cards, and you're all set.

If you're in Australia, Valentine's Day is already half over, and while you also forgot to buy anything for your special someone, you'll get away with it, because sheep never know what day it is.

Higher-resolution versions can be found over at Darwin Eats Cake.

The Fly from SMBC

So, have you ever wondered what would actually happen if you spliced fly genes into the human genome?

It would actually probably work out something like this. (SMBC)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Australopithecine Morphology

So, this is how to study for a test. Here's a highlight:
Australopithecus africanus
No offense to you and your genus
But you must have been pretty dumb
Australopithecus africanus
Your only redeeming feature is
South African accents can be pretty hot
Actually, nevermind. It's all highlights.

via Daniel Lende.

Thursday, February 2, 2012