TECHNICOLOR DREAMS AND GENETIC NIGHTMARES – BY TOM CURLEY

A few weeks ago my old friend Ben Taylor sent me a very interesting link to a story about archiving technologies . The story was about how all of our storage media eventually degrades. Film, tape, CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and so on all decay over time. Technicolor, the company that makes films so, technically colorful, has figured out a way to encode and store media on a DNA molecule! Here’s the article.

Basically, it’s not complicated. All of our media is now digital, encoded as a really long string of ones and zeros. DNA is a double helix molecule made up of four proteins CGAT. Cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine.

teravivos.com

teravivos.com

They can combine in an infinite number of combinations, which is why DNA is such a handy way to store all of life’s genetic information. We also have machines called genetic sequencers that can both read a DNA molecule and build one.

DNA-O-MATIC! web.uri.edu

web.uri.edu

So, what the TECHNICOLOR people did was figure out how to encode the ones and zeros onto a DNA molecule, then build that DNA molecule. How do you play back the material? Build a player that reads the DNA molecule and converts it back to ones and zeros. Burn it onto a DVD and put it into your Blue Ray player.

The cool part is that you can store over 700 terabytes of information on one DNA molecule! Which is pretty much every movie and TV show ever made. The other reason they did this was because they say the DNA molecule is stable and won’t degrade.

But here’s the problem.

DNA MUTATES!!!!!!!

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

That’s how evolution works!

If DNA didn’t mutate, we’d still be four-legged lungfish crawling up out of the surf, looking up at the sky, land and saying: “Well, this is different. Hey Phil! Come on up here. You gotta see this!”

land fish

youtube.com

Now at this point you could argue that DNA usually mutates when cells reproduce.  Sometimes the DNA copies aren’t perfect and that’s what causes the mutation. But the Technicolor DNA molecules are just sitting in a test tube. They are not replicating.

Technicolor-DNA-Archive-2

That’s true. However — there are other things that can make DNA mutate, like radiation. A stray alpha, beta, or gamma particle could come along, hit the molecule, and knock out a quinine here, a cytosine there. After a while, things could change. Not immediately, but after a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years?

A thousand years from now a group of historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and movie critics could get together to examine a recently discovered cache of late 20th Century movies and TV shows. They were  found buried in a vault archived with a quaint technology utilizing DNA by a long-forgotten company called Technicolor.

theshoreways.com

theshoreways.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: As you all know the discovery of this cache of ancient media has given us an unprecedented opportunity to measure the accuracy of our historical records against actual recordings of history.  You’ve all had a month to watch and review media from the last millennium. What have you found?

SCIENTIST #1: Well, actually some their movies are quite good.  I just watched two fantastic movies, “Ishtar” and “Waterworld”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: Hmmm. Our records indicate they were two of the worst movies ever made.

SCIENTIST #1: I can’t understand why. Did you know that Ishtar was the movie where Betty Davis said “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.!”  It only makes sense since they were all riding camels.  And Waterworld!  At the end, when Kevin Costner helped ET get back to his spaceship? I have to admit, I cried.

HEAD SCIENTIST: I see.  What about “Star Wars’?

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

SCIENTIST #2: I saw the first three movies starting with “The Phantom Menace”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: And?

SCIENTIST #2: They were really good!  And funny! Casting Groucho Marx as Obi Wan Kenobi and Robin Williams as  young Anakin Skywalker was inspired!

HEAD SCIENTIST: And the next three in the series?

SCIENTIST #3: Not so much. Darth Vader and the Emperor win in the end and destroy the rebellion. It was really depressing.  The only rebel left alive was Jar Jar Binks.

twitter.com

twitter.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Citizen Kane”? Our records show that as being one of the greatest movies of all time.

SCIENTIST #4: I don’t know why sir. In the first place somebody named Jackie Chan played the part of Kane. He spent the whole movie kicking people and riding on a sled. But he did do his own stunts!

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Casablanca?”

SCIENTIST #5: Horrible! Ronald Reagan as Rick and Joan Rivers as Ilsa? What were they thinking? No chemistry!

HEAD SCIENTIST: OK, what about television?

SCIENTIST #6: Quite frankly only one show stood out and it was brilliant.

HEAD SCIENTIST: What was it?

SCIENTIST #6: “Gilligan’s Island.”  Orson Welles as the Skipper, Brad Pitt as Gilligan, Marilyn Monroe as Ginger,  Sally Field as Mary Ann, Helen Mirren and John Barrymore as the Howells and  John Wayne as the professor.! Brilliant casting. And who knew Arthur Miller could write comedy!

sitcomsonline.com

sitcomsonline.com

What have you done Technicolor?  What have you done?

THE PELLETS WITH THE POISON ARE ON THE BENCH IN THE SHOP …

The ants have returned. It’s an annual event all over New England. They usually don’t show up in April. Typically, they wait for May or even June. This year, they’re here. In force. Everywhere.

Being as I don’t feel inclined to kill the birds, the dogs, and us, I have to find solutions that aren’t going to do serious damage. I also have to be careful since the water table is high and we have a well. Not poisoning our own well is always a good thing.

poison eco-smart

I bought two big spray bottles of Scott’s Eco-Smart Home Pest Control Spray for Crawling Insects (it works as well as the horribly lethal stuff) and a 10-lb bag of Scott’s Eco-Smart poison pellets for the yard. Because not only are the ants back, but so are the ticks. I can’t prevent them entirely, but maybe I can reduce their presence.

All of this reminds me of …

Have a great day!

MEMORY, MEMORIES AND WHERE THE HELL ARE MY KEYS? – by TOM CURLEY

First off, this isn’t a blog about “Senior Moments”. You know, like when you get up and go into another room and the second you enter the other room you can’t for the life of you remember why you’re there.

drz.org

drz.org

The annoying part is that the only way to remember why you went in there is to go back to the room you started in. As soon as you do, you immediately remember why you got up in the first place.

“Oh right. I really have to pee.”

No, this blog is about memory and memories. Why does my brain work the way it does? Why do I remember some things and not others?

Let me explain.

I went to college. I was a biology major and pre-med. I took lots and lots of science courses; biology, physics, math, and chemistry. I got good grades. All A’s or B’s.

I learned lots of stuff. I knew calculus. I knew what a derivative was. No, not the financial thingies that caused the global crash of 2008. But equations that started with dy/dx, or something like that.

Notice the past tense in these last sentences? I “knew” all these things. Today, all that information is gone! Vanished, like I never took any of those courses. Actually, I do remember that there was something called the “Krebs Cycle.” It had to do with respiration or metabolism. I know it’s something we all do that’s very important. If we don’t do it, we die. But that’s all I remember.

Yet, with no effort at all, I can recite all the words to the theme song to the 1960’s TV show Mr. Ed!!!

mr ed

Youtube.com

“A horse is a horse of course of course, and nobody can talk to a horse of course. That is of course, unless the horse, is the famous Mr. Ed.” I could go on to the second verse.

But I won’t.

Hell, I can even recite the words to “Car 54 Where Are You?” And I didn’t really watch the show that often!

Youtube.com

Youtube.com

“There’s a hold up in the Bronx,

Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.

There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.

There’s a scout troop short a child.

Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.

Car 54 where are you?”

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I swear I wrote those from memory. They flowed effortlessly from my brain, like crap through a goose. I didn’t Google them.

Which brings me to my next point.

We live in an amazing age. We have all the knowledge of the world literally at our fingertips. Any question you could possibly think of can be googled. It’s gotten so easy that you can type the most rambling of questions and still get the right answer.

For example, a while ago I got into a conversation about time travel and it reminded me of a movie I’d seen a long time ago. It was about an aircraft carrier that went back in time to just before Pearl Harbor. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name so I typed the following sentence into Google:

“There was this movie a long time ago about an aircraft carrier that goes back in time to just before Pearl Harbor and ….”

google-search-screen

At this point Google popped up “The Final Countdown.” It listed the cast, the plot, and where I could buy it. All before I could finish typing a full sentence! Wow!

imdb.com

imdb.com

It made me realize something. I could use the internet to bring back all that science knowledge I once had!

But I don’t.

I use it for far more important stuff. Mostly, finding out the name of the actor my wife and I are currently watching on TV. We know we’ve seen him or her on some other show. But we can’t for the life of us remember either his/her name or the show’s name. Google it! Go to IMDB!

“Oh, right! She was the head doctor on that show we used to watch back in the 90’s!”

“Right! She was married to … what’s his name?  He was on … what was the name of that show?”

Back to Google.

So in the end, I still don’t know why my brain works the way it does. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Kreb’s Cycle.

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

When I started reading it, I actually remembered most of it. Although I gotta admit. It was pretty dull. Mr. Ed was a lot more fun.

Hmm, maybe I do know why my brain works the way it does.

MOSES, MEL, AND ME

Before I put a finger on the keyboard, I admit this is probably heresy, at least to some people. On this day of days, one simply doesn’t make fun of religious movies.

But I do.

Last night, Marilyn and I had our traditional viewing of “The Ten Commandments.” Cecil B was, again, going for life-altering moments. But really, he gave us much-needed laughter. It isn’t a movie that has stood up well to the years. Time tested it — and found it wanting.

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

Today’s lineup of movies on our favorite cable station includes almost all of the familiar biblical movies. Few stand the test of time. Some are really well intended like George Stevens’, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. But the man who gave us classics like “Shane”, “A Place In The Sun” and “Giant”, wound up with a ponderous and static film in “The Greatest Story”. It’s biggest sin? Boring.

As I write, we are watching Mel Brooks’, “History of the World-Part One” which is the perfect antidote to historical films that have become parodies or that were really never good. We probably have a greater appreciation of history because of Mel’s equal opportunity insults rather than the cardboard epics which play fast and loose with facts.

Mel Brooks last supper

I must admit I love watching gladiator movies. It’s a guy thing like war films.  I also enjoy seeing semi clad (or even less clad) young women engaging us in erotic dances before evil monarchs who are not playing with a full deck. But we’re not talking about great cinema here.

Charlton “call me Chuck” Heston was really honest when he talked about playing Moses. He told me it was a good gig. Working with Cecil B. DeMille (for a second time) was nice for his résumé. It actually gave him a boost for a religious film he really wanted to do.

“Ben Hur” is one of the best religious films out of Hollywood. It stands the test of time because of William Wyler’s fine direction. And, yes, the chariot race alone is still worth the price of admission.

history-of-the-world--part-1

This is obviously subjective stuff. If you love Cecil B’s heavy-handed narration of his version of the Old Testament, so let it be written. So let it be done,

We’re back with Mel. Now, it’s the French Revolution and those generously endowed girls are displaying their charms. It’s good to be the king!

OH MOSES, MOSES!

Tonight was our annual viewing of Demille’s “The Ten Commandments.” It’s one of those epic movies that hasn’t held up well to time.

10 commandments

That being said, it’s always fun to watch. We know the lines. Our favorite moment of the evening was when Moses is coming back from seeing God as The Burning Bush on Mt. Sinai. Precisely as I was commenting that God had taken Chuck’s nice hair and given him a bad rug — at the same moment, his wife sees him and cries out: “OH MOSES! Your HAIR!”

Garry and I haven’t had such a good laugh in a while.

Oh Moses, Moses. In their cruelty, they made you wear a bad rug and always say your name twice. Oh Moses, Moses …

So shall it be written. So shall it be done.

HIS HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS …

LIFE IMITATES ART (OR VICE VERSA) – THE WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

His heroes have always been cowboys. Garry loved them all from Randolph Scott, to The Duke. Being in Arizona, the place where so many of his heroes rode the dusty trail to greatness in their classic movies was a special time.

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HIS HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS … AND THEY STILL ARE, IT SEEMS

72-BW-Iron-Cowboy-Garry-010816_033

THE TRAIL TO THE SUPERSTITION MOUNTAINS

We set out early from Phoenix, heading due east for the Superstition Mountains. We hoped to find the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, see if we could discover the secrets behind the legend.

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I’d seen movies about the legendary mine and the souls lost by their lust for gold.

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It was a good day for our trip. Sunny and mild. The air was fresh, crisp, clean. For a moment, I thought I smelled honeysuckle on the breeze.

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72-Lost-Dutchman-MonumentGAR-Superstition-011316_028

Along the way, the spans of cactus covered desert shadowed by mountains were constant but not deadly companions. They seemed more like nature’s patrol, riding point and drag, to make sure we wouldn’t lose our way. A pilgrim’s awe of God’s country can sometimes lead to disaster.

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We made a stop in Tonto National Park. That’s right, Kemo Sabe. Things have changed. Guess the Great White Father in Washington knows change is blowin’ in the wind.

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No sign of Tonto, the Masked Man, Dan Reed, Silver, Scout, or Victor. Maybe there were off chasing the Cavendish Gang again. Those guys never seem to really die.

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Tonto’s land was beautiful, a fitting legacy to the faithful companion who did most of the work but received little respect or credit. Then, we were back on the trail again, heading higher and higher with majestic mountains all around us.

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Growling bellies were a sign for a stop. Turned out to be part of the vast Lost Dutchman’s Mine country. A town for Pilgrims.

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Midday, and the dudes were everywhere. Shops, stores and remnants of the past loomed all around us. Fool’s gold? I’m sure the ghosts of some miners were smiling at all this stuff.

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We pushed on to another picturesque stop as the road climbed higher and higher, seemingly to the sky.

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A stage-coach way station beckoned. Could have been one of Jim Hardie’s drivers who worked for Wells Fargo. He seemed impatient to get moving. His horses needed water and cooling down but had to wait with all those damn Pilgrims getting in the way again.

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Our attention was diverted by a familiar face. His voice and speech pattern gave him away. Unmistakable. Pure frontier gibberish filled the air. Yes, it was Gabby Johnson!! Late of Rock Ridge, Gabby was plying his trade now at this way station.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Photo by Ben Taylor

Gabby was glad to see us. I think he was happy we didn’t mention anything about how he and Rock Ridge had initially treated their new sheriff. Past is past, we figured.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Photo by Ben Taylor

Marilyn and I took turns on Gabby’s Donkey. Photo op time for Pilgrims who secretly think they’re not really dudes.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Clementiny – Photo by Ben Taylor

Clementiny, Gabby’s younger pal, looked on with bemusement. Probably a dawning awareness of what the future held with more Pilgrims looking for their fifteen minutes of cowboy fame.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Photo by Ben Taylor

We were burning daylight as we pushed up the mountain road. Lunch still rested unsteadily with us. The chow had been good but our guts are not what they used to be.

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We found Superstition Mountain and the land surrounding the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. Nice scenery, certainly evocative of the movies of my youth. Nature provided a clean, pristine, multi-hued vista contrasted with the grainy black and white images of those old movies.

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We sighed in the silent satisfaction you get from seeing those fabled images up close. In my sense memory, scenes from the movies played out in a seamless juxtaposition with all that our eyes now saw and recorded. If you love westerns, it doesn’t get any better than this!!

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Daylight was draining as we rode back down the road, stopping here and there to savor the endless scenes of wonder.

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One last sunset beckoned. We found our spot. Our host and old pal, Ben was off somewhere. I spied him lurking amid the tumbleweed and cactus. He had a strange look on his face. Too familiar and scary. Ben reminded me of Fred C. Dobbs in his last moments of sanity in the Sierra Madre mountains.

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Maybe we had spent too much time around the ghost of the Lost Dutchman.

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Maybe the sun had gotten to us. Maybe it figured to end this way, as sure as the turning of the earth.