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This Week: The Original Motto Project

Nearly Live at TCC

Sam, Mike, and Becky join the Science & Inquiry Club of Tacoma Community college to respond to talk Star Wars, the News, and answer a particularly pernicious email regarding vaccinations.

A few notes:

  • The painting that Sam used as his background image for some time is from Jon McNaughton, who is has weird ideas about religion and politics.  You can see the crazy here.
  • The “syndrome” Sam talked about (which is not at all a syndrome) is called the Dunning-Kruger effect. We think.
  • Case mentioned that he didn’t mean to say isotope in the Q&A in the third segment.  We think he means “isomer,” but honestly, we’re not biology people.

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Feedback and Commentary

3 Comments 0 Trackbacks
Godless Poutine February 3, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Great show!

An update from Canada!

You guys may be interested in the situation with Jenny McCarthy and the Ottawa Cancer Foundation:

It was from pressure put on by the skeptical movement that got the foundation to drop her. (twitter tag #dropjenny)

Also take a look at this campaign a fellow blogger is working on:

My coverage of this:

Finally, this good story from Globe &Mail:

Quintin February 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Yep, it’s an isomer that Case ment. An isomer of a given compound has the same molecular formula, but a different structure. The difference can be massive, like the difference between benzene, which is incredibly unreactive and thermodynamically stable, and such isomers as “Dewar benzene”, which turns itself into benzene over time, or prismane, which can barely be synthesized. In the case of thalidomide, it’s much more subtle, coming down to the orientation of different groups the same carbon atom, a phenomenon known as stereoisomerism, in this case four: two ends of the same ring, one other large system of two rings, and a himblr hydtogen atom. Depending on which orientation the hydrogen atom on that carbon atom has relative to the other groups, the molecule is one of two exact miror images. Usually it’s possible to separate these mirrored isomers, called enantiomers, but thalidomide poses a problem. You see, this hydrogen atom is a so called α-hydrogen to a carbonyl group of one of the imide groups that give thalidomide part of its name, meaning that its attached to the next carbon atom from the carbonyl group. The problem being that this hydrogen atom is slightly acidic. In other words, once in a while some other molecule or anion (a negatively charged particle if you didn’t know already) might come along and pick that hydrogen atom up, thereby increasing its charge by one unit and reducing that of thalidomide by one as well, and later on another molecule or cation (positively charged particle) would attach a hydrogen atom back. In the mean time those groups have had plenty time to move around giving them perhaps a different orientation. Because of this process, known as keto-enol tautomerization, or racemization more generally, the two enantiomers of thalidomide can’t permanently be separated. For most drugs, this just means double doses or half effects, witg perhaps some extra side effects, but in case of thalidomide, the evil twin really is evil.

Anne C. Hanna February 7, 2013 at 6:55 am

Becky’s reponse to the female student who said she doesn’t get the flu vaccine made me want to stand up and cheer. Herd immunity is, IMO, the most important issue of all in vaccination, and it was really great to hear Becky give such a clear and sharp explanation of it as the immediate response. The other hosts and audience members chiming in afterward pretty much covered all the rest of the bases, but I really liked to hear the most important issue emphasized so strongly right at the beginning.

I also think it’s especially important to talk about this in regard to the flu vaccine. Even many people who take MMR and DPT seriously (and now chickenpox too — it’s still weird to me to think that there’s a vaccine for that, as I was a member of the last generation to get the disease before the vaccine came out) are dismissive of flu out of a sort of misplaced machismo, like they think the only reason to get a flu shot is if you’re too much of a wuss to deal with the flu. I’ve even had to explain this to folks who are primary caregivers for elderly relatives.

I think this was definitely one of your best episodes overall, but this particular exchange stood out for me as particularly excellent.


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