Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Football and science

This evening, I was waiting for a gel to run and decided to check out the online NFL coverage. I started reading this article on ESPN.com, and I mostly agreed with the assessment of the Charges-Patriots game. Despite the turnovers, Tom Brady is an excellent quarterback, and appears to thrive on the stress of playoffs. The Patriots can fall behind, but as long as there’s time on the clock, they know that the game is not yet over. My MVP for the day was Troy Brown- a true team player who forced the crucial fumble. Although I do adore LDT, he lost his cool, and all the griping about the Patriots’ celebrations made the Chargers look like sore losers. Oh, they made fun of your teammate’s dance? What are you going to do about it, challenge them to a dance-off at the mall? Anyways, on to science…. early in the article, the author comments on how a recent Science article had 67 authors, which is common when a genome sequence is published. Reading this, I thought “Huh, it’s really odd to see Science (arguably the most important publication in scientific research) mentioned in an article about the NFL.” Then, I hit this section of the article:

Coming Soon -- Drive-Through DNA: "RheoSwitch -- precise, variable control of mammalian gene expression." Haven't you always dreamed of precise control of mammalian gene expression? Buy it here. Hmmm, wonder if they will send me a free sample of this pMYB5 control plasmid so I can try manipulating a little E. coli at home. Welcome to the world of the gene-device ads in Science magazine, which has been taken over by advertising for genetic materials and gene-manipulation laboratory devices. All of the full-page ads in the front of the magazine in a recent issue were for such products. (Advertising in the front of a magazine costs more than in the middle.) "Ambion's MagMAX delivers high-quality RNA to maximize the success of your gene expression studies," one ad says. "Achieve excellent transfection efficiency in some cell lines," a Roche ad promises. "One reagent convenience for DNA and RNAi transfection," an ad for Invitrogen proclaimed. "SpeedStar DNA Polymerase is a convenient, efficient DNA polymerase specifically
designed for fast PCR," Takara Bio promised. I liked my polymerase convenient! "Enter the world of reliable gene silencing," Qiagen's ad headlined. "Our next generation of high-fidelity Pfu-based fusion enzymes sets a new standard for PCR performance," Stratagene's inside-cover ad proclaims. OK, medical laboratories need to shop for products just like everybody else does. What's spooky is that these are slick ad-agency ads with graphics and sell lines. "MessageAmp II -- Biotin Enhanced!" cries an ad for Ambion, whose Web site promises, "Scale up easily to acquire more RNA." The magazine ad for Ambion has flowers and looks for all the world like a prescription-drug sales pitch. "DNA Sequencing for $2.50 per reaction," with "plasmid and PCR purification available" and "no charge for standard sequencing primers" proclaimed a recent ad in Science, while "Simplify Gene Silencing Experiments with Pre-Designed RNA -- Fast! Easy! Guaranteed!" declared another.

Looks like the author was totally freaked out by the biotechnology ads. It’s weird to think that something so commonplace and boring (polymerases? biotin? I use that shit every day.) is so strange and fascinating to someone outside the field. I don’t mean to be all “silly laypeople,” but Science is a trade magazine. If you were reading Auto Mechanics Weekly, you would expect to find ads like “Most Efficient Carburetor!” and “Smooth-gliding fan belt!” The products he listed are all standard tools of the trade, not used for creating fantasy hybrid organisms. And $2.50 isn’t even a good price for DNA sequencing.


Mrs. V said...

Scary thing is I understood every word, but maybe 99% of the readers at ESPN.com did not, huh?

CDC is having a pandemic flu exercise to test our emergency preparedness along with pre-exercise informational messaging for two weeks before the event in order to help set the stage for the beginning of the exercise. My husband says only a geek would think this was a cool event. Oops, I'm a geek!

eileen said...

Cool, sounds like fun! I guess that makes me a geek, too.

Anonymous said...

Careful, you are coming dangerously close to mocking Easterbrook -- something that will loose you one reader. I think he is right on the money - can't ad agencies come up with slightly less tin copy.

eileen said...

Nah, I like Easterbrook's stuff on football, it was just totally unexpected to find a whole section about biotech in the article.

Besides, I'd hate to "loose" an anonymous reader. Now THAT's mocking :)

Anonymous said...