Kris Carlson

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Nobel Prize controversy over Mendeleev in 1905, 1906

From World Scientific, a superb publisher based in Singapore:


4. The Periodic Table and the Missed Nobel Prize
by Ulf Lagerkvist (Gothenburg University, Sweden) & edited by Erling Norrby (The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)

A centrepiece of this newly released book is Lagerkvist’s account of what he believes was a gross injustice done to Mendeleev in his being denied the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1905 and again in 1906.
Delving into the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ detailed records concerning the nominations, Lagerkvist reveals the judging criteria and the often heated and prejudicial arguments favoring and demeaning the contributions of the competing contenders of those years.
The book has received commendable reviews from Nobel laureates, Prof. Sir Alan Klug, Prof. Emeritus Paul Berg and Prof. Hideki Shirakawa.

The Periodic Table and a Missed Nobel Prize will be available from October.


September 26, 2012 Posted by | Biography, History of Science | Leave a comment

My favorite passage by Dave Waltz

Dave Waltz was a friend and a mentor. He passed away in March 2012 from a glioblastoma. There was a wonderful symposium in his honor held over the weekend at Brandeis University and ably organized by Prof. Jordan Pollack. I send the following excerpt from Dave’s writings to a few friends who knew him last week.

…I dispute the heuristic search metaphor, the relationship between physical symbol systems and human cognition, and the nature and “granularity” of the units of thought. The physical symbol system hypothesis, also long shared by AI researchers, is that a vocabulary close to natural language (English, for example, perhaps supplemented by previously unnamed categories and concepts) would be sufficient to express all concepts that eve need to be expressed. My belief is that natural-language-like terms are, for some concepts, hopelessly coarse and vague, and that much finer, “subsymbolic” distinctions must be made, especially for encoding sensory inputs. At the same time, some mental units (for example, whole situations or events—often remembered as mental images) seem to be important carriers of meaning that may not be reducible to tractable structure of words or wordlike entities. Even worse, I believe that words are not in any case carriers of complete meanings but are instead more like index terms or cues that a speaker uses to induce e listener to extract shared memories and knowledge. The degree of detail and number of units needed to express the speaker’s knowledge and intent and the hearer’s understanding are vastly greater than the number of words used to communicate. In this sense language may be like the game of charades: the speaker transmits relatively little, and the listener generates understanding through the synthesis of the memory  items evoked by the speaker’s clues. Similarly, I believe that the words that seem widely characteristic of human streams of consciousness do not themselves constitute thought; rather, they represent a projection of our thoughts onto our speech-production faculties. Thus, for example, we may feel happy or embarrassed without ever forming those words, or we may solve a problem by imagining a diagram without words or with far too few words to specify the diagram.

Waltz, David L., The Prospects for Building Truly Intelligent Machines, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Daedalus, Winter 1988), V 117 N 1, pg 197.

September 24, 2012 Posted by | Artificial Intelligence, Neuroscience | Leave a comment

Tumor-treating fields for glioblastoma and lung cancer

I have recently lost a friend, Dave Waltz, to glioblastoma, and a few years ago lost a friend of our family, Colby Hewitt, to the same cancer. Tumor-treating fields (TTF) have brought to fruition the ingenious idea of Dr. Yoram Palti to use alternating electric fields to disrupt the delicate orchestration of mitotic spindle formation during cell divisions. So the fast-growing cells in the brain, i.e. the cancer cells, are the ones affected, and since most other cells in the brain either do not reproduce or do so slowly, normal brain function is not disrupted in the period of treatment time.

There are several types of ions involved in mitotic spindle formation, including the spindle, helper cells that form the spindle, and the chromosomes. TTF could affect one or more of these necessary participants.

According to the company, the disruption of cell division leads to apoptotis (programmed cell death) of the cancer cells–i.e. I gather other cell processes designed to be trigger apoptosis when abnormalities are detected are signaled by the inability of the cell to complete spindle formation.

Here is the overview from the company, Novocure, a key paper, and an excellent, lucid exposition of the physics underlying TTF.

Kirson et al-Alternating electric fields arrest cell proliferation in animal models and human brain tumors-PNAS-2007.pdf

Jones-Basic theory of dielectrophoresis and electrorotation-IEEE EngMedMag2003.pdf


May 28, 2012 Posted by | CNS Disorders, Disease and Disorder, Neuroscience | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abstract | Transgenic Mouse Model for the Formation of Hirano Bodies


Mice with Hirano bodies appear healthy and fertile, but exhibited some alterations in both short-term and long-term synaptic plasticity, including paired-pulse depression rather than facilitation, and decreased magnitude of early LTP.


Hirano bodies are not lethal and appear to have little or no effect on histology and tissue organization. Hirano bodies do modulate synaptic plasticity and exert clearly discernable effects on LTP and paired-pulse paradigms. This model system will allow us to investigate the impact of Hirano bodies in vivo, the pathways for formation and degradation of Hirano bodies, and whether Hirano bodies promote or modulate development of pathology and disease progression.

Abstract | Transgenic Mouse Model for the Formation of Hirano Bodies.

October 18, 2011 Posted by | Biogerontology, CNS Disorders, Disease and Disorder | Leave a comment

New clue to causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)




I am curious how many varieties of ALS there are.

BioMed Central | Full text | A comparison of in vitro properties of resting SOD1 transgenic microglia reveals evidence of reduced neuroprotective function.

October 18, 2011 Posted by | CNS Disorders, Disease and Disorder | Leave a comment


Yanyang asked Zhaozhou, “I don’t bring a single thing.”

Zhaozhou said, “Put it down.”

Yanyang said, “Put what down?”

Zhaozhou said, “Then pick it up.”

–Quoted in Cleary, Meditating with Koans

October 10, 2011 Posted by | Zen | , , , , , | Leave a comment


A student asks a Teacher, “When will I have enlightenment?”

The Teacher replies, “When you understand it is Today.”

October 10, 2011 Posted by | Zen | , , , | Leave a comment


Liang Wudi, Emperor of South China, asked Bodhidharma, “What is the highest meaning of the holy truths?”

Bodhidharma said, “That they are without holiness.”

–Quoted in Cleary, Meditating with Koans.

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Zen | , , , , | Leave a comment


Zhaozhou said, “Finding the Ultimate Path is not difficult. Just avoid picking and choosing.”

–Quoted in Cleary, Meditating with Koans.

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Zen | , , , , | Leave a comment


A monk named Huichao asked Fayan, “What is Buddha?”

Fayan replied, “You are Huichao.”

–Quoted in Cleary, Meditating with Koans.

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Zen | , , , , | Leave a comment

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