21 February 2012

Vegan Black Scientist History Month

February is Black History month, and what better way to celebrate than to shoehorn my blog in there somehow.  While I was not able to find many Black vegan scientists (the best I did with my half-assed web searching was Nduka Okoh, so let me know of others), here are a couple of African-American scientists who made life better for vegans.
Percy Lavon Julian
Percy Julian was an American biochemist who synthesized drugs from plants such as our old friend, Glycine max. Julian capitalized on soybean's flexibility and push the boundaries of it as a chemical factory.  He also opened the first factory for isolated soy protein (though for industrial and not food use).  This is all despite losing jobs because they thought he was white.  Though the job was in a sundown town, so Julian dodged a bullet there, metaphorically and likely literally.

George Washington Carver-crop
George W. Carver
No discussion of African-American History Month is complete without mentioning George Washington Carver.  I know, we all love peanuts and peanut butter and are glad for a man born into slavery elevating this humble African staple, but have you actually looked at his recipes?  Most are easily veganizable, and many others such as peanut sausage (number 42 of 105), are already vegan.  So a good source of ideas for February potlucks.  Carver also applied his steampunk molecular gastronimic wizardry to cow peas (Vigna unguiculata, as in #36 cow pea loaf No. 2), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum, #30 fried green), and sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato biscuits).  Now I want to have a George Washington Carver potluck.

I'm sure this is just dipping a toe into the pool here.  Let me know who I missed.

16 February 2012

Vegan Stem Cells and Neurons

Induction of iPS cells
The generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells
Just a quick post today:  You can now make/use vegan neurons and stem cells from skin cells.  Well, the process is vegan, atleast.  This was not the work (as far as I can tell) by an elite cabal of underground vegan scientists, but just researchers trying to make cells that meet standards for safe use in humans.  This doesn't mean that it's free of all those mysterious unnamed 'toxins' from animal flesh as much as free from allergens and crude variable (and unpredictable) animal extracts. 

06 February 2012

A Scientist up in Arm(chair)s

A pig in a poke for only $42!
I have a confession.  I am not a professional scientist at the moment.  I am, as they say, between jobs.  But all the world's a lab and all the people are scientists, or so it says in my Shakespeare fan fiction.  We all do experiments in our lives, some with more rigor than others, and part of my regimen to keep my mind sharp is to maintain this blog.

However, one major problem with a move from a lab stool to an armchair is journal access.  Perennially a problem, even for scientists at major universities, it is exceedingly so once one looses affiliation.  I feel it is one of the biggest problems with the field today.

For those lay-folk who are not familiar, journal access is online access to articles in scientific journals.  Besides a few scattered open-source titles, the majority of publications are behind huge paywalls. As in, you have to pay US $35.00 or so to see one article, if you're not fortunate enough to have access through your university's or institution's subscription.

Typically the most one can get for free is the abstract, which is like the movie description on your DVR, and about as useful.  Also, each article is only published in a single journal, so even if you have some journal access there are usually articles out there you can't access.  Just like all those movies you want to stream but you can't.

Also the obvious refuges one would think would have access have poor to no access:  Public libraries have superficial access if any, and alumni have little or no access (or atleast my Ivy League diploma doesn't get me anywhere).

And before you ask why I don't bother my old coworkers, it's because they're either too busy working 14 hour days, or they will run into the same nonsense as I do.

So this is a problem, but is it really that big of a deal?  I think so, because we need the public to know what we do.  We must have our results and methods be transparent and accessible to all.  We can complain all we want about how a newspaper article exaggerated, misrepresented, or otherwise misinformed the public.  Yet if the public has no other source of information and cannot go to the source, should we be surprised?  This is but an extension of the ivory tower, and although it may not be entirely to blame for distrust and ignorance of evolution or global climate change, it certainly cannot be helping.