Science for Non-Majors

Cutting-edge science and long-pondered questions explained in plain English. Bad science gutted. Great science extolled.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where to Connect with TK Kenyon -- Google+ and Goodreads and Twitter, oh my!

Google+ is the hottest new site, right? 
If you’re into science, connect with me here:
Great blog for creative writing tips.
I even MySpace, occasionally.
Tweet with me! I tweet links to free e-fiction on the web and happy thoughts!!/TKKenyon
A great place to see what I’m up to, writing-wise.
Shelfari is another great book site:
Connect with me on Goodreads: A great site for readers:
All my blogs: Gluten-Free, creative writing, other stuff.
Like to blow things up? Here’s a guy who did it for a living. Now that’s job satisfaction!
Having trouble with your overprotective parents? Try being Indian, in the theater, and lesbian.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

FDA Impersonators Scam

FDA Impersonators just get my dander up. Be aware, and don't fall for this stupid scam.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning the public about criminals posing as FDA special agents and other law enforcement personnel as part of an international extortion scam.
The criminals call the victims -- who in most cases previously purchased drugs over the Internet or via "telepharmacies" -- and identify themselves as FDA special agents or other law enforcement officials. The criminals inform the victims that purchasing drugs over the Internet or the telephone is illegal, and that law enforcement action will be pursued unless a fine or fee ranging from $100 to $250,000 is paid. Victims often also have fraudulent transactions placed against their credit cards.
The criminals always request the money be sent by wire transfer to a designated location, usually in the Dominican Republic. If victims refuse to send money, they are often threatened with a search of their property, arrest, deportation, physical harm, and or incarceration.
"Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law," said Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. "The public should note that no FDA official will ever contact a consumer by phone demanding money or any other form of payment.”
FDA special agents and other law enforcement officials are not authorized to impose or collect criminal fines. Only a court can take such action, with fines payable to the U.S. Treasury.
Anyone receiving a telephone call from a person purporting to be an FDA or other law enforcement official who is seeking money to settle a law enforcement action for the illegal purchase of drugs over the Internet should refuse the demand and call the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office at (800) 521-5783 to report the crime.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

White House, White House, How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have been pleased to be part of the "Eat the View" Campaign, a petition asking the Obamas to plant a garden at the White House to showcase the many benefits of gardening: economic, nutritious, physical, emotional, and environmental. 

Michelle Obama is going to break ground at the White House on the South Lawn for the first formal vegetable garden in decades. 

Bravissimo, Michelle! 


Monday, February 09, 2009


Peanuts contaminated with Salmonella typhimurium have made us all a little peanut-phobic. Yesterday, my favorite lo-carb bars were recalled. 

Sadness and woe.

Hundreds, if not thousands of peanut-containing products have been recalled. This handy little widget below will help you determine if your favorite nutrition bar might now be deadly biohazard waste. 

This widget will also be on the left-hand tool bar for the foreseeable future. 

FDA Salmonella <span class=Typhimurium Outbreak 2009. Flash Player 9 is required.">

The good news is that most peanut butter, like Skippy or Jif, is safe. If you're craving peanut consumables, try these easy Peanut Butter Cookies

Good luck out there. 

TK Kenyon

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Autism / Vaccination Link: Research May Have Been Fake

TK Kenyon, your intrepid scientist for non-majors, is not surprised to tell you that The Times of London has reported that the doctor who originally reporting in 1998 that he found a link between the MMR vaccine and sudden onset of autism may have faked his data. 

If so, this is a huge case of medical fraud. 

The Times of London reports:  

[The original Lancet paper] claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.
However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

This is damning evidence. I mean, seriously. This is far worse than the fact that some other reports have not found the same conclusion. Autism is clearly a spectrum of conditions with similar behavioral and physiological symptoms. Not finding exactly the same results could be accounted for. 
However, in this case, ToL reviewed the kids' charts and found that the original doctor, Andrew Wakefield, misstated what was in these kids' records. Wakefield either lied or was terribly mistaken. 
Instead of 8/12 children having an onset of autism after the MMR vaccine, only 1 did. That's just a terrible error. 
While Wakefield said that he identified a bowel pathology associated with autism, pathologists could not find evidence of this in the original kids' original slides. That's gross negligence. 
This is just another nail in the vaccine-autism coffin. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bleed a Cold, Purge a Fever

The medical community is sluggish to embrace new, even well-supported, therapies that are at odds with established medical dogma.

In addition to the outright hostility that the discoverers of H. pylori experienced, other examples of medical foot-dragging abound.

In fact, speaking of slugs, leeches come to mind.

Dr. V. Dracula, M.D.

One historical case of this provincial reluctance involves the practice of bleeding sick people to cure disease. Various methods of exsanguinations were utilized to withdraw blood from the body, from leeches to deep cuts to shallow lacerations with vacuum to draw the blood from the body.

Bloodletting was practiced in ancient times. The practice is a sordid mimicry of menstruation, as Hippocrates noted that women seemed overcome with bad humours, perhaps referring to hormonal mood swings but more likely a reference to headache, cramps, and bloating. The bleeding of menstruation relieved the symptoms.

Thus, the theory of therapeutic bleeding extended by analogy the idea that excess blood causes disease, and removing excess blood must cure disease.

Bloodletting, medical purges (induced vomiting,) rigorous enemas, and fasting with restriction of fluids were primary medical interventions for millennia.

Patients were often bled to the point where they fainted from blood loss, as that was thought to be the natural endpoint of the therapy. Before an amputation, doctors generally removed a quantity of blood equal to the volume of the limb to be amputated, lest the person be burdened with an excess of blood afterward. Then they cut off the limb.


In 1835, Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis wrote a scathing polemic on bloodletting to treat disease (Récherches sur les Effets de la Saignée), which conclusively proved that far from benefiting patients, this fashionable, standard procedure harmed and sometimes killed them.

Louis studied 78 patients with pneumonia and noted that bloodletting in the first two days doubled the risk of death.
Louis was astonished by his own results and found his conclusion frightening and absurd on its face: “R´esultat effrayant, absurde en apparence.”

Doctors, however, refused to believe Louis’s methodically researched results, and therapeutic bloodletting persisted nearly a century into the early 1900’s.

Modern Day Bleeding

Surely, you think, such ineffective medical interventions are far behind us. Surely, all medicine is now evidence-based. If a doctor gives me a drug, it will work.

Nope. I’ll explore that more in my next post.

TK Kenyon
Author of RABID: A Novel, a novel of autoexperimentation, unwitting guinea pigs, and green-glowing rabies virus, and CALLOUS: A Novel, a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, the nature of memory, and the End of Days.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Give Us This Day, Our Daily Multivitamin, Or Not

TK Kenyon, your intrepid scientist for non-majors, is not surprised to tell you if there’s one decently healthy thing that a lot of people do, it’s taking a basic multivitamin. Good grief, taking a little pill with decent amounts of the essential micronutrients and minerals keeps you from getting scurvy, right?

Right. Most people don’t eat sufficient fruits and vegetables. Most people don’t get enough vitamin C over the course of a week to keep them from getting low-grade scurvy, unless you’re one of the smart few who toss back an orange juice shot in the morning.

(Just for the record, I’m not getting up on my high elliptical strider and being healthier-than-thou. I imbibe espresso shooters in the morning. We’re all on the same dusty rowing machine, here.)

However, you should consider your special circumstances before you even decide whether or not to swallow that vitamin pill.

There are also some very interesting studies relating the regular use of vitamin pills with an increased risk of cancer. Contrary to the expectations of the researchers, one study linked Vitamin A supplementation with an increased risk of lung cancers in male smokers.

In addition, taking a multivitamin increased the possibility of deaths from prostate cancer in men. Why would that be?

The multivitamin-cancer correlation suggests an interesting hypothesis.

In the past, our ancestors, probably even our relatively recent ancestors in the 1900’s, likely experienced transient malnutrition. In the winters, especially, they had less access to fresh, nutritious produce and almost certainly experienced cyclical vitamin deficiencies.
Thus in the winter, a budding cancer cell with its blazing metabolic furnaces would probably starve to death for the lack of vitamin C and vitamin K, which would manifest itself as only a very mild case of scurvy or a few nosebleeds in an adult and would be rectified when tender spring greens appeared.

Now, with our year-round produce and megavitamin pills, we do not experience these cyclical, transient vitamin deficiencies. We are super-nourished, and thus our cancer cells grow robustly in this rich stew of essential nutrients.

Before you give up your daily multi, however, there are some very important things to consider.

People with the highest levels of vitamin D (available in supplemented milk, pill form, and sunshine,) had lower levels of cancer and osteoporosis.

If you’re a woman of childbearing age, taking a daily multivitamin during any trimester of pregnancy or in the month before pregnancy decreases the risk of neuroblastoma in the infant by 30% to 40%. Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer seen in infants and accounts for about 10% of all pediatric cancers. Not to mention that whole folic acid—neural tube defect thing. Taking a big preggers prenatal multi during pregnancy is very, very likely the best course of action.

Also, non-smokers who do not have heart disease who use multivitamins that include A, C, or E reduced risk of dying from heart disease by 15 to 18%, and heart disease kills far more people than cancer does.

So, for a general rule of a healthy thumb, if you’re a smoker, avoid vitamin A, even if you have to take a handful of single-vitamin pills instead of a general multi.

If you have prostate cancer, stop taking your multi.

If you don’t smoke and you don’t have prostate cancer, a multivitamin is probably the best course of action.

If you want hedge your chances, however, here’s an idea: there’s some very good research that supports the hypothesis that eating 300-500 fewer calories per day extends lifetime and, more importantly, extends robust lifetime. That’s right. Eat less.

Some good research came up lately that showed that mice that ate normally every other day and semi-fasted (eating 15% of normal calories) on the off days had essentially the same life extension and reductions in heart disease, cancer, and inflammation. If you try alternate-day semi-fasting, don’t take a vitamin on those days. Taking a megavitamin on feasting days will nourish your body well.

Fasting is associated with life extension and with reducing the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.

TK Kenyon
Author of RABID: A Novel, a novel of autoexperimentation, unwitting guinea pigs, and green-glowing rabies virus, and CALLOUS: A Novel, a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, the nature of memory, and the End of Days.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Great Fat Prize!

Osamu Shimomura of Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, MA, USA; Martin Chalfie of Columbia University, New York, NY, USA, and Roger Y. Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, CA, USA have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery and development of Green Florescent Protein from jellyfish, GFP.

Osamu Shimomura first isolated GFP from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, which drifts with the currents off the west coast of North America. He discovered that this protein glowed bright green under ultraviolet light.

Martin Chalfie demonstrated the value of GFP as a luminous genetic tag for various biological phenomena. In one of his first experiments, he coloured six individual cells in the transparent roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans with the aid of GFP. While the discovery of the protein was indeed important, Chalfie made the enormous mental leap that took GFP from being a nifty protein to being one of the most important biological tools in use today.

Roger Y. Tsien contributed to our general understanding of how GFP fluoresces. He also extended the color palette beyond green (by mutating the gene very subtly so the emitted wavelength of light is slightly different, which means it’s a different color,) allowing researchers to give various proteins and cells different colors. This enables scientists to follow several different biological processes at the same time.

One of the really great things about GFP is that it fluoresces in living cells, thus allowing scientists to study cells while they are still alive. Most other microscopic tools are predicated on the cell being dead, fixed with formaldehyde, and the cell membrane made permeable with a detergent. This denatures all the proteins in the cell and changes the morphology of many of the cell structures.

It must be noted by this bitter little polymath that the snooty, parochial Swedes don’t yet consider American scientists to be “too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue,” as they erroneously believe American writers are, according to the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary, Horace Engdahl.

TK Kenyon
Author of RABID: A Novel, a novel about Catholicism, evil, and GFP-tagged rabiesviruses, and CALLOUS: A Novel, a story about free will, neuroscience, the nature of memory, and the End of Days.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Autoexperimentation for Prizes and Profit

As a scientist, sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands.

Or into your own arm, and occasionally, your own heart.

Autoexperimentation is the very risky practice of wildcat science. If you can’t find an animal model for a virus, inoculate yourself. If you can’t find a volunteer, step up.

Several autoexperimenting scientists have won the Nobel Prize.

Nobel Hearts

Werner Forssmann won the Nobel in 1956 for performing the first cardiac catheterization. In 1929, he hog-tied his assistant to an operating table to prevent him from intervening, inserted a urethral catheter into a vein in his own arm, threaded it 65 cm into the right atrium of his own heart, then walked down a flight of stairs to the radiology department of the hospital in which he was employed to have a confirmatory X-ray taken, showing the catheter indeed lodged in his own heart.

It’s What’s Eating You

Barry J. Marshall and J Robin Warren also won the Nobel Prize in 2005 for their work on Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes ulcers.

Before Marshall and Warren’s work, ulcers were thought to be caused by stomach acid and stress. As I was told by more than one doctor: “it’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you.”

As it turns out, what was eating me was Helicobacter pylori.

(By some coincidence, the doctors were wrong on both counts: it was also what I was eating. See the blog:

Marshall and Warren had great trouble publishing their seminal, well-researched, statistically relevant paper in any journal. Even the tabloid rag of the science world, The Lancet, was leery and delayed publication of their work because it contradicted medical dogma on many levels.

Marshall, frustrated with his lack of success in developing an animal model for H. pylori infection and the procrastination of publishing his results, swallowed a concentrated culture of the bacteria. After five days, he got sick, very sick, with gastritis and vomited acid-free gastric juice.

His wife demanded he get antibiotic treatment or else he would be “evicted from the household to sleep under a bridge.”

His tactic worked, and the paper with Marshall’s human trial data on himself was published and later widely confirmed.


Some autoexperimentation, however, has been fatal.

In 1885, a medical student named Daniel Carrion, determined to prove that “Peruvian warts” disease was caused by bacteria rather than bad water as commonly thought, inoculated himself with the blood a sick person. He died of the deadly disease a few weeks later.

His death accelerated research into the dread disease, and he is still a heroic figure in Peru, albeit a tragic one. The disease, bartonellosis, is also known as Carrion’s Disease.

Using Kids as Guinea Pigs

Some people experiment upon their own children.

When their son was diagnosed with ALD, adrenoleukodystrophy, a fatal disorder, Augusto and Michaela Odone studied biochemistry because all ALD treatments available at the time were ineffective. They formulated a treatment, a combination of the triglyceride forms of oleic and erucic fatty acids, for their son Lorenzo and tried it while doctors begged them not to, culminating in the famous line from the movie: “And nobody can tell me what dressing I put on my kid’s salad, OK?”

While clinical studies’ results with Lorenzo’s oil are contradictory, some parents have found that it delays onset of symptoms. Lorenzo Odone lived twenty years longer than is average for ALD patients.

Some people are currently experimenting on their autistic children as, like the Odone’s experience, standard treatments for autism appear less than effective. A massive array of drugs, chelation therapies, nutritional interventions, and special diets (usually elimination) have been compiled here, the cumulative result of thousands of individuals’ experiences.

Note that these results are not the results of double-blind clinical studies. However, many therapies in this list have been found by these anecdotal compilations to be ineffective (like Klonapin, an anti-seizure drug,) or downright harmful (like amphetamines,) so beneficial results cannot be entirely chalked up to placebo effect.

“Not My Kid.”

However, not every doctor or scientist with a bright idea rolls up his own sleeve or his child’s to dedicate his body to science. Edward Jenner, renowned as the “father of smallpox vaccination,” a vaccination that has saved millions of lives and exterminated the terrible virus itself in the wild, dedicated his life, money, and reputation to promoting the use of the cowpox vaccine for smallpox.

However, in 1796, when Jenner had his flash of genius, he did not roll up his own sleeve, scratch his own skin, and smear on some pus from a suppurating cow udder, nor did he risk a family member. He enrolled the child of a peasant family, James Phipps, in his clinical trial of n=1 to test his possibly lethal technique.

Someone had to go first, but it wasn’t someone from Jenner’s family.

TK Kenyon
Author of RABID: A Novel, a novel of autoexperimentation, unwitting guinea pigs, and green-glowing rabies virus, and CALLOUS: A Novel, a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, the nature of memory, and the End of Days.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fasting Reduces Chemotherapy Side Effects

Listen to me. These starved little mice could save your life.

Recently, an article appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a prestigious scholarly journal, about fasting and chemotherapy. The author, Dr. Valter Longo, studied mice that were denied food for two days (but had ready access to water) or had eaten normally. The two groups were then given a high dose of chemotherapy (three times the maximum allowable dose in humans.)

The fasted mice survived and experienced few side effects from the toxic levels of the chemotherapy drug.

Almost half of the mice that ate normally died from the high dose of the chemotherapy drug itself.

Though the fasting mice lost about 20% of their body weight while fasting before the chemotherapy treatment, they steadily gained the weight back in about four days after the treatment.

That’s right, the fasting mice gained weight right after chemotherapy.

The feasting mice, on the other hand, lost about 20% of their body weight following the chemotherapy treatment, from the usual effects of chemotherapy that any cancer patient can expound upon.

More Fasting, More Chemo

To further confirm their results, the scientists tried an even more stringent protocol on another strain of mice. Lab mice are notoriously inbred, and different genetic strains can produce contradictory results. Good results can be confirmed in several mouse types.

These mice were starved for 60 hours (2 1/2 days,) which is the amount of time that the researchers found to be optimal in other tests. Fasting for longer than 60 hours weakens the mice more than it helps them resist the chemotherapy and makes them die more. Then, the scientists dosed these mice with an even higher dose of the chemotherapy drug, almost four times the human maximum allowable dose.

This very high dose of the chemotherapy drug killed all the feasting mice within five days but none of the fasting mice (60 hours of fasting) in the next twenty days. The fasting mice lost 40% of their body weight before the chemotherapy treatment but gained it back within a week after the treatment with, in the words of the authors, “no visible signs of toxicity.”

Let me put it thusly: The exceedingly high dose of chemotherapy killed all the normally eating mice, but if the mice were fasting, it didn’t even make them sick.

Naked Data

Longo also repeated these results in Nude mice, a hairless strain of mice without thymus glands and thus little immune function. They are used extensively in cancer research as they have no immune system to fight the introduced cancer, and thus all the effect of cancer reduction can be attributed to the tested chemotherapy drug.

His results were essentially the same: starved Nude mice survived. Non-starved Nude mice died from the high-dose chemotherapy drug.

Starving Mice with Cancer

Longo then injected mice with virulent cancer cells, a neuroblastoma cell line, using a protocol that mimics the conditions of aggressive, metastatic pediatric cancers, which are some of the most deathly cancers.

Not only did the fasted mice survive the subsequent chemotherapy with fewer side effects, but it appeared that the cancer cells were more susceptible to the chemotherapy than normal cells. The fasted mice survived the metastatic cancer protocol almost three times as long as normally eating mice and around five times as long as untreated mice.

This suggests that the fasted state did not protect cancer cells nearly as much as normal cells were shielded from the effects of chemotherapy, thus suggesting that longer or higher-dose chemotherapy protocols might be devised with fewer side effects but better results.

Longo hypothesized about the reasons for the effect of fasting. He surmised that, as any dieter knows, fasting slows cellular metabolism in normal cells. Thus, after fasting, the normal cells in their state of semi-suspended animation took up less of the toxic chemotherapy drug and thus were less affected by it.

Cancer cells, however, are relentlessly driven by oncogenic growth factors to be fruitful and multiply, no matter what the metabolic cost. Thus, fasting did not lower the metabolic rate of cancer cells. The cancer cells, with their metabolic afterburners still lit, sucked in the chemotherapy drug and were killed by it.

It’s a great mouse study.

Clinical Trials: Starving Cancer Patients

Longo is currently enrolling lung and bladder cancer patients for a clinical trial to fast before receiving their standard chemotherapy.

The lung and bladder cancer patients in the control group (people given standard treatment only and allowed to eat normally, to compare the effectiveness of fasting vs. not-fasting,) will be told what cancer patients are currently told: eat to keep your strength up. You need all your strength to survive chemotherapy.

The fasting group will be asked, first, to fast for 24 hours before treatment. If that is determined to be safe, they will be asked to fast for 48, then 72, hours before treatment.

Now, given what I’ve just told you, if you had cancer and were scheduled for chemo next week, what would you do?

More on autoexperimentation soon.
TK Kenyon
Author of RABID: A Novel and CALLOUS: A Novel, a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, the nature of memory, and the End of Days.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Congress Debates Silencing NIH

For the last couple years, the number of scientific papers accessible to the public for free has been steadily rising because NIH has required (or at least actively solicited) grantees to allow free access to grant-supported papers one year after their initial publication.

This access is crucial for journalists and for citizen scientists who want to read the primary literature and judge results on their merit rather than relying on brief abstracts. Most researchers have little access outside of their narrow field. For instance, a virologist might have subscriptions to major virology journals but might have a hard time gaining access to a paper in a cell or molecular biology journal, even though that paper might be quite similar to what s/he is working on.

The free access of information, especially information based on research funded by taxpayer money, is essential to research and to society. I hope Congress does not stymie the NIH's gallant attempt to spread knowledge.

Original article from Science Magazine:

Some members of Congress would like to overturn a controversial new policy
that requires scientists with grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health
(NIH) to post their papers in a free online database. Today, an important House
committee grilled NIH about the policy and floated a proposal that scientific
publishers say is needed to protect their products.

Three years ago, NIH began asking grantees to send the agency a copy of their accepted, peer-reviewed papers so that it can make them freely accessible in its PubMed Central archive within 12 months after they are published. But compliance was so poor that proponents of the idea persuaded the House and Senate panels that set NIH's budget to tell the agency to make the policy mandatory (ScienceNOW,
11 January).

NIH says compliance has risen to 56%, or about 3300 papers
submitted each month, since the rule took effect in April. (The agency could
potentially suspend the grant of an investigator who ignores the policy but is
so far relying on less punitive measures, such as reminders). Meanwhile, some
commercial and society publishers, such as the American Physiological Society
(APS), have complained that the policy infringes on their copyrights and will
put them out of business by cutting into their subscription base.

Now the
publishers have found allies on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, chaired
by Representative John Conyers (D–MI). At a 2-hour hearing of the Subcommittee
on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, Conyers and others
questioned the need for the policy when the public can already obtain the papers
through a subscription or at a library. Moreover, most journals make their
content free after 12 months.

NIH Director Elias Zerhouni defended the
policy. He argued that PubMed Central is enhancing the papers by linking to
molecular databases and other papers. "The real value is the connectivity,"
Zerhouni said. He also claimed that "there is no evidence that this has been
harmful" to publishers. In response, APS Executive Director Martin Frank, whose
society publishes 14 journals, disagrees, telling Science that some journal
editors believe the new policy is leading to "fewer eyeballs coming to their

A bill introduced today by Conyers and two other members would bar
any federal agency from requiring "the transfer or license" to the government of
a paper that has been produced in part with nongovernment funds--a reference to
the publisher's costs for peer review and production. The Fair Copyright in
Research Works Act (HR 6845) would mean that neither NIH nor any other federal
agency could require grantees to submit accepted papers to a free archive.

There is no companion bill in the Senate, and Congress is not expected to
act on the legislation before it adjourns later this month. Jonathan Band, a
Washington, D.C., attorney who represents the American Library Association,
which favors open access, says the bill's sweeping provisions are a fatal flaw.
"It goes far beyond the NIH policy. It limits a lot of what the federal
government can do," he says. But the keen interest the House Judiciary Committee
showed today in the topic suggests that the debate is not over.

TK Kenyon,
Author of RABID and CALLOUS: Two novels about science, faith, and humanity, with some sex and murder.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Contest: Mock the Book Reviewers

Over at my author blog, I'm holding a contest for the best mock review that mocks book reviews. Enter by leaving your own mock review in the comments.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kunati Wins Huge Award

The publisher that published my two novels, RABID and CALLOUS, has won one of the largest awards that an indie publisher can win.

Kunati Book Publishers was honored with INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR AWARD at BookExpo America in Los Angeles, California on May 30, 2008, by FOREWORD MAGAZINE, one of the five dominant trade magazines in the book publishing field. Joshua Corin, a Kunati author, accepted at BEA on Kunati's behalf.

The new honor was created to celebrate ForeWord's tenth anniversary and to recognize Kunati's innovation and fearlessness.

Kunati, a year-old publisher, produces book trailers for every new release, maintains a blog, and encourages its authors to blog and actively participate in marketing their books. The publisher currently has several movie deals in the works, and its roster of authors includes Pulitzer Prize winner John E. Mack.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Toyota Prius is Destroying the World

TK Kenyon, your intrepid scientist for non-majors, is not surprised to tell you that if you're thinking about buying a Toyota Prius because you think it will help the environment or halt global warming, STOP!

Because a Prius guzzles the equivalent of 1000 gallons of gas in its manufacture (because its Ni batteries are very energy-consuming to make), you have to save 1000 gallons of gas to break even on the "carbon expense" of its manufacture.

A Prius supposedly gets about 45 mpg, but that number is greatly disputed and more like 38 mpg.

Most cars get 30 mpg, so you're saving 8 mpg. At 10,000 miles per year, you save 70 gallons of gas with a Prius than if you drive your old car. "Paying off" the carbon debt to manufacture the Prius would thus take 14 years, 3 1/2 months to break even.

If you accept Toyota's vastly fudged MPG figures, a Prius burns 222 gallons per year, versus your old car's 333 gallons per year, to go 10,000 miles. At that difference of 111 gallons per year, it will take 9 years to break even on the carbon debt.

So, to save the planet, keep your old guzzler. You've already paid off the carbon debt of its manufacture; plus, junking it will fill up a landfill and create solid waste pollution.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. You can't shop your way to environmentalism.

Global warming vs. traditional environmentalism trade-off article:

TK Kenyon

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

AIDS Vaccine: Should We Stop Looking?

Recently, The Independent asked the provoking question: Should we end the quest for an HIV vaccine?

A vaccine for HIV will certainly be based on a revolutionary idea.

The Problem

One of the major problems with HIV-vaccine research is that CD4+ cells like monocytes and macrophage express an IgG Fc receptor. Thus, any antibody that sticks to HIV is internalized via the FcR into the CD4+ WBC, and thus the WBC are infected by the tagalong HIV. Even antibodies that are "neutralizing" in a Petri dish increase infectivity.

Thus, I was not surprised when the recent Merck HIV vaccine study went terribly, horribly awry, actually increasing the likelihood of infection and leading to earlier death in vaccinated individuals.

No Solution?

Any antibody-stimulating vaccine will have this problem, assuming an IgG response. Passive immunization with F(ab') fragments might meet with a better result.

Should We Stop?

Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said in The Independent's survey: “Most people’s immune systems hold HIV in check for years before they develop AIDS. A small number of HIV-infected people seem never to develop the disease. There are also documented cases of individuals who have been repeatedly exposed to HIV, but have not become infected. If scientists can work out the type of immune responses that protect these individuals, it might provide vital clues about how to create a vaccine.”

The above data that Berkley notes is indeed reason for hope. However, a traditional vaccine will not evoke the anomalous immune responses that are so rarely observed.

TK Kenyon
Author of CALLOUS: A Novel, ( ) a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, Schrodinger's Cat, and the End of Days.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Amazon Oops Again!

Amazon has jumped the gun and is offering my new novel, CALLOUS, for sale ahead of its May publication date ( ) . When RABID was released last year, Amazon sold out and even sucked dry its wholesaler, so they had to backorder the book from the distributer and it took a couple weeks to get the fresh meat.

If you want to read CALLOUS any time soon, muscle your way to the head of the line and snatch a copy from some milquetoast's virtual shopping cart now!

TK Kenyon

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NPR Interview of Kristen Byrnes, Global Warming Denier

Morning Edition on NPR recently produced a puff piece about Kristen Bynes, blogger of Ponder the Maunder, a blog dedicated to refuting the idea that global warming is a man-made phenomenon.

While the issue of a 16 yo kid becoming a leading global warming contrarian is devastating for the contrary view's validity as a scientific theory, and it seems that she indeed attended a short course at UGoog in Climate Science to arrive at her pre-ordained conclusions (which is the complete antithesis of how science should be conducted,) and that NPR is succumbing to natural selection by lowest common denominator, it seems that there is more to this story.

Personally, I’m not sold on the whole idea of global warming, man-made or not. I used to be. I was upset by the enormous amounts of CO2 that we humans were venting into the atmosphere, just like we exhaust raw sewage into our oceans, etc., etc., etc. And, you know, it seemed warmer, discounting that horrendous Iowa winter of 1995 when temps hit -40F and the Iowa River froze over. You can eliminate outliers in your data, as long as you can account for them, or at least make a nice statistical argument for ignoring them. It seemed that the consensus of the scientific community is that man-made global warming is a threat, and I generally go along with scientific consensus unless there’s a valid reason to doubt, and it had better be a good one. I don’t like the contrarian position.

I do, however, like data. Hard data. Preferably raw, pre-crunched data.

Here’s what changed my mind on global warming: I read that horrible anti-GW novel by Michael Crichton, which so sticks in my mind that I can’t recall the title, and I thought that his novel was so badly written that surely its conclusions can be tossed aside with great force. Crichton is both a horrid novelist and merely an MD.

(Yes, I am arrogant to snark so widely. I hold a fiction MFA from Iowa, where I received many prizes, and have published two well-received novels. During my PhD work in microbiology, I taught medical students in a Midwestern medical school. They’re great at memorizing things but, let’s face it, medical school does not reward original thought nor critical thinking. Their exams are multiple-guess. So, I’m snarky and arrogant. Crichton has loads more money than I have and a huge house on Kauai. He can take the shot.)

So, I set out on my own course of study at UGoog. I expected to quickly dismiss Crichton’s objections with data and confirm the majority opinion. It seems like an overwhelming opinion. I figured it would take an hour.

Here’s what I found: the global warming data is terrible. The methods that collected the data that produced the scary graph that we’ve all seen (where temperature spikes up in the 1970’s) are beyond shaky. It’s really bad science.

I read the whole UN report, and the data that is cited in the prologue, which everyone reads, is a minor part of the whole report. Only surface temps, and only those in major urban areas, are going up. Atmospheric temperatures are not. This is to be expected by the “heat island” effect, where asphalt retains more heat than soil and re-radiates this heat at night.

Personally, I’m on the fence. The data behind GW, whether man-made or not, sucks.

Here’s the problem: whenever you say that the data sucks, people jump on you like you insulted Jesus. They label you a “denialist” and, rather than debate the data, accuse you of wanting to rape the planet.

The global warming debate has moved from the arena of science, where one is free to debate data, methods, and conclusions, and into the area of religion, where one must adhere to dogma or else risk retribution.

That’s a huge problem.

When I published a short blog post about this ( ), I got hate mail. Not refute mail. Not argue mail. Hate mail.

Even though my blog post encouraged recycling and conservation, people accused me of trying to destroy the planet.

The debate about global warming must return to being a debate, not a tirade, not a crusade, and not a sermon.

TK Kenyon

Author of RABID ( ) and CALLOUS ( ): Two novels about science and religion, with some sex and murder.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Science Debate 2008

Science Debate 2008 is a coalition of scientists and science supporters who are asking the three presidential candidates to engage in a debate concerning the future of America as the world's scientific powerhouse.

Please join and donate to this important cause. The democratic candidates have had a debate about their religious views. Surely, we deserve to know, in detail, what the plans of the candidates are for the scientific community, funding, and regulation.

John F. Kennedy dared us to dream of the moon. Our next president should inspire us, too.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Antarctica: Giant Sea Stars and Carnivorous Sponges

Giant sea stars and carnivorous sponges are among the hundreds of new animals discovered by a research mission in the Antarctic Ocean.

See more nifty pics at this National Geographic site.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

AIDS Vaccine Failures: A Return To Basic Research

After the Merck's disastrous HIV vaccine trial was halted because it made people more susceptible to HIV infection and increased the severity of the course of AIDS in vaccinated people, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) called a conference this week to discuss a new plan for HIV vaccine research.

After an AIDS activist group called for a halt on all vaccine research, the NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, rebutted, "Not only will we will not cut it; wherever possible, we will increase" funding for vaccine research.

AIDS vaccine research is funded by an $476 million extramural portfolio, which will shift away from product development and toward "discovery research." Right now, the share of vaccine research money that goes for "discovery," or basic research, is 47%. The NIAID will spend less on testing candidate vaccines in the lab and in clinical trials and more on the basic biology of the virus to generate ideas.