Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Star Trek live action role playing in italian: awesome or super-awesome?


You can now follow our antics on twitter, if you're into that. Also check out SynBioNauts for slightly more serious twittering from the extended Silver lab.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Watch Out Humanity! We're SCIENTISTS

Ok dudes, sometimes, science is bad. Sometimes people think that you can use science to make the human race better and then oops! you got sterilized! Sometimes chemicals are poured all over everything and then oops! you got cancer! But sometimes, the way science, and particularly synthetic biology is perceived is WAY scarier (and competent) than it actually is. Our favorite prediction is too good to paraphrase:

"Imagine an artfully designed fungus that looks like a hat; when you put it on, it digests your head and turns it into a still-conscious, rubbery Super Ball an inch across, suitable for easy launch into space. Once there, another fungus might then reconstitute your head and form a protective life-sustaining bubble around it."

He does qualify this a bit, and the rest of the article actually has some good points, so you should read it after you stop laughing about the fungus hats. The point I'm trying to make is that there are limits to what science can do that are grounded in real facts. Most people don't know a lot of facts about science so it's not that surprising that someone would hear "synthetic biology" and think of the worst. From now on, can we try to be as non-threatening as possible? Let's rename synthetic biology to "trying out new things and seeing what happens biology" or "unicorns and rainbows biology."

Maybe then there wouldn't be any more TV shows about evil scientists ruining everything.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Special Team Mission Recap

We recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong to attend SB 4.0 the fourth international conference on Synthetic Biology. While there we learned many things about synthetic biology, about circadian rhythms, and about our western prejudices about food preparation.

Re: Synthetic Biology, if there are new ideas out there, no one's talking about them because half the attendees were there to steal other people's ideas. There were even actual industrial spies there, although no one as dangerously beautiful Elena Sandoval from The Green Trap. Seriously, guy from Monsanto taking pictures of posters and not talking to anyone? Douchebag.

Re: food

We're Back

We're actually going to start blogging more, for real.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Unicorns do Science in the News

Science in the News is a seminar series where smartypants Harvard grad students talk to people in the community about science. We're going to be giving a presentation on biofuels on September 24th, so check it out if you're in Boston! I wanted to title the talk "Balls Out for Biofuels," but we had to settle for the less in-your-face (but still alliterative) "Fuels of the Future."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Unicorn Justice

UotH is back after a long summer hiatus with some disturbing news. A number of recent thefts in our building has led the Unicorns to take the law into our own hands. Since the thefts have occurred during lab meetings, I set up my webcam (with motion detection software, of course) to catch the thief red-handed. An old wallet with a tasty dollar bill sticking out was the bait.

The result:

Thanks a bunch D-train. Can I have my dollar back now? The real thief remains at large, so I may have to try hiding in the ceiling next time.

Stay tuned for more posts, including:
  • The Unicorns take on Hong Kong for SB 4.0
  • Michael's deportation to the Netherlands
  • Pimp my Bench
  • and more balls out stuff...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

'08 Mission Patch

The second calendar year of the UotH has now officially been opened with the presentation of the new mission patch! The awesomest UotH mission patch ever! so throw out all your '07 UotH merchandise and buy everything with the new logo!!!!!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

UotH Webshop now open!

Once in awhile scientist have to go look for funds. Now it's my turn. As my stipend is running to its end, I need money OR go back home. Seeing as I do not wish to return to the middle ages in Europe, where I have to wear my wooden shoes while I'm picking tulips and being careful not to get hit by windmills, the only possibility is generating my own income: awesome Unicorns of the Hydrocalypse (UotH) apparel! So without further delay, I am proud to present to you some snazzy stuff, for him.
Support this good cause @ underwear: $49.95 t-shirts: $69.95

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Our benches

People on the internet love posting pictures of their desks online. Instead of posting real content, we thought we'd show you our benches so you can get to know us a little bit better. Remember--this is what real science looks like. And now, in no particular order, our benches:





Tuesday, April 1, 2008

We did it

After months of work, we Unicorns are proud to announce that we have created a yeast strain capable of generating hydrogen from sunlight or waste biomass (as long as it isn't corn). We're in the process of revising the paper we submitted to Nature, but as of this morning we already got the attention of CNN. More details to come, in the mean time check out our CNN interview.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Corn Sucks

Friday, March 21, 2008

UotH Book Review: The Green Trap

The boss came in the other day with three copies of Ben Bova's "The Green Trap." It seemed pretty relevant to us; a scientist is killed, ostensibly by oil company thugs, for his research on hydrogen producing cyanobacteria. His brother, Paul Cochrane, gets all bent out of shape and becomes determined to solve the crime. Through twists and turns, swordfighting (not kidding), and sexy time with Elena Sandoval ("No student, he immediately realized. Too well dressed. She was wearing a tailored white blouse and a midthigh skirt of deep green. Her face was oval. with lustrous dark hair pulled back tightly. Green eyes, almond-shaped, almost Oriental. Good figure. Nice legs" (p. 19).) our protagonist discovers the secrets to his brother's research.

How do these cyanobacteria make hydrogen, you ask? Well according to "The Green Trap," "'They split it out of the water molecules!' Cochrane was so excited he started bouncing up and down on the sofa. 'Water is haitch-two-oh! Two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen atom!'" (p. 132). Unicorns! We've been wasting our time! H2O!!! Helloooo!?!

Needless to say, like Tulius's staff we're "working balls-out to reproduce the murdered man's work" (p. 218).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Work at the Endy lab

While surfing youtube/doing work, I happened to come across this little gem:

It looks like they've been busy in the Endy lab.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

GDoS: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko

Possibly the best known Russian Douchebag of Science outside of Russia, Trofim Lysenko spent his entire life studying biology without getting the first clue about anything. He came to prominence in the early 1930's, rising through the ranks of the Soviet Doucheocracy through political backbiting, calumny, slander, libel and general bitchiness. By 1940 he was director of the Institute of Genetics at the USSR's Academy of Sciences, charged with improving the productivity of Soviet agriculture. By 1948, this is true, it was illegal to scientifically dissent from the crackpot patchwork of scientific hoo-ha that came to be known as Lysenkoism.

So what was Lysenkoism? Lysenko rejected not only Darwinian evolution, which was obviously true even in those days, but also Mendelian genetics. To put this in perspective for non-biologists, that is roughly equivalent to a doctor believing that sick people do not exist. Also, the doctor sentences his enemies to death by starvation.

Lysenko believed instead in a variant of Lamarkian evolution. This was more or less the idea that you can make crops grow better by yelling at them. There was also something about soaking seeds in snow to make them grow better in the winter. Lysenko was given his own journal, The Bulletin of Vernalization, to publish his breakthrough research. In later years, presumably, many Soviet citizens would try to eat the pages of that journal.

Anyhoo, the world learned its lesson from Lysenko, and to this day there has never again been political interference in the scientific process. But we shall remember him forevermore as - a Great Douchebag of Science.

This man had no clue.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hot Haploid on Haploid Action

For those of you that don't think science is sexy or glamorous, feast your eyes on this video.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sassy Bitches of Science: Marie Curie

Marie Curie is perhaps the quintessential sassy bitch of science. She, along with her husband Pierre, discovered two radioactive elements, polonium, and radium, named for radiation, a word she also coined. For her work, she earned two (!) Nobel Prizes, one in Chemistry and one in Physics. She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes, and she remains the only person to have received two Prizes in two different scientific fields. Her husband shared the first Nobel Prize and her daughter, Irene, also won a Nobel in chemistry for her work on radioactivity. Wow.

She died in 1934 from aplastic anemia, having fried all of her bone marrow with radiation, since she did almost all of her experiments in a shed with no safety precautions. Some may think that this is badass, but please, don't try it at home.

Also, she is just totally HOT!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Biofuels in Unlikely Places

For more hilarity with T-rex, click here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fictional Douchebags of Science™: Peter Parker a.k.a. “Spiderman”

The franchise bandwagon of UotH thunders on as we bring you yet another succulent offshoot in the Douchebags of Science™ tree: “Fictional Douchebags of Science™" (FDoS). The mix of scientific progress and popular culture has lead to many exciting and enticing stories, but sometimes it leads to catastrophe, raising false hopes and unrealistic expectations with the general public, i.e. ignorant laymen.

This first edition focuses on the exploits of Peter Parker, also known as the smart mouthed webslinging, wall-hugging Spiderman. Nerdy by nature, Spiderman gets his science on on a regular basis. Ranging from physics to biology Peter is as “homo universalis” as they come. And he has a nice girlfriend. I mean getting your powers from a radioactive spider is one thing, but a scientist with a hot girlfriend? Oh and he sees pure DNA. Douche.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sassy Bitches of Science: Hypatia

Hypatia is considered the first notable woman in mathematics, living in Alexandria circa. 350-415 CE. She wrote and taught about philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, and is credited with several inventions. What little information about her life survives indicates that she was an extremely sassy lady.

Though she was herself a pagan, early Christian authors held her as a symbol of virtue. She once even repelled a would-be suitor by showing him her used maxi pads. Despite her reputation, she came to an untimely and violent end at the hands of an angry Christian mob, convinced that she was causing the Egyptian Prefect to reject the Archbishop with her feminine wiles. Whether she was the first "witch" burned at the stake or actually involved in the strained relationship between the church and the state is still discussed, but there is little debate that she is one of the great Sassy Bitches of Science.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008


UotH welcomes our fourth Unicorn, Michael. Being from the Netherlands, he will head up our European bureau. We hear that there are a lot of douchebags over there.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Adventures in Synthetic Biology

From Nick via a blog via Nature I found a comic book about synthetic biology by the people over at the MIT synthetic biology working group. The comic depicts the adventures of a child learning how to make biological devices with the help of a good looking lady in a lab-coat. I sort of wish I had that awesome DNA injector for my own adventures in synthetic biology, but I'm glad my bacteria don't have eyes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

UotH: The Mission Patch

Michael, our Dutch ambassador here at UotH, has designed a jawsome NASA-style patch for our ongoing mission to design hydrogen-producing microbes. Coming soon the lab coat and flame-retardant jumpsuit of a Unicorn near you.