Sunday, 28 November 2010

A taste of the un-dead?

Thanksgiving was splendid. Spending the auspicious occasion at Peter Dodson's house was possibly the best way to experience my first 'complete' Thanksgiving. Last year, I spent the said Holiday in Dulles Airport in Washington, a function of a very foggy day....not very festive. The avian theropod was suitably vast and the accompanying cuisine wonderfully filling. By now you must be asking, why the title to this particular blog? Well, it has nothing to do with Dodson family hospitality and more to do with the past few days. I have picked up a virus from someone...having just been on a transatlantic flight, this is possibly the most logical source.

I feel like this.......

What is curious about my virus, is that it reminds me of a rather big question, how did life start on Earth? Defining life can be tricky sometimes, as some ‘life’ forms are a tad fussy on being dead or alive, for example, my 'lovely' virus. A virus is happy as Larry when causing mayhem and replicating at will in their host, a virulent common cold is a perfect example, but outside the host is another story. A virus is composed of a smatterings of genetic material enclosed in a protein capsule, when outside a host, they are for all intense purposes, non-living. So defining life is not so clear-cut. If your kids are into stories of zombies and the 'un-dead' accurate and just as chilling bedtime story is one of the humble, but potent virus...from such a microscopic fellon, we too can get a feeling of being living dead...albeit until our immune systems regains control.

It was thanks to my own virulent virus that I did not make it to the Academy of Natural Sciences to give my talk on Friday....a heinous crime on my part, as I hate letting folks down. However, spreading my virus to a public audience would earn me few friends. For those who turned-up, all was far from lost, as Jason 'Chewie' Poole gave a stunning talk (which has been reported back to me by many folks) a large public thank you to Jason! is time for me to sleep again, as I have to be well for Monday...when I fly to China!
Shandong Province, south of Beijing. Qingdao and Zhucheng is where I'll be on Monday

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