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Around the Web

Yes, yes, I know you’ve all been tormented by my week-long absence. I apologize for depriving you. To make up for it, a batch of interesting (to me, at least), links:

–At last, the answer to the question that’s been nagging at you: Can a Jedi lightsaber cut through Superman?

Reality check: nearly 25 percent of Brits think Winston Churchill was a myth, while 58 percent think Sherlock Holmes was real. Um, yeah, ok.

–This will warm the heart of any true Kentucky basketball fan: about a week ago, Duke’s entire starting lineup fouled out of a game. Nicely done.

–The Top 10 Smartest TV Shows of All Time, as chosen by Mensa. Number one was M.A.S.H. I’ve seen large parts of about four of the top ten series. You?

–Narnia beats out Harry Potter. Surprised?

–I kinda like France’s new president. From the Dallas Morning News:

PARIS – President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell this week: Beginning next fall, he said, every fifth-grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis.

“Nothing is more moving, for a child, than the story of a child his own age, who has the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as he, but who, in the dawn of the 1940s, had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew,” Mr. Sarkozy said Wednesday.

Mr. Sarkozy wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion, placing blame for the wars and violence of the last century on an “absence of God.”

The Holocaust is already taught in French schools, but some psychiatrists and educators predicted that requiring students to identify with a specific victim could traumatize them.

Secularists accused Mr. Sarkozy, who is already under fire for his frequent praise of God and religion, of subverting the country’s iron-clad separation of church and state.

–As a biology major, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point this out from today’s Writer’s Almanac. It’s a good story — you can see it in a movie called Race for the Double Helix. It stars Brad Blakeman (aka Jeff Goldblum).

It was on this day in 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, which became the key to understanding how all organisms pass genetic information on to their offspring. James Watson was only 23 years old at the time. Crick was older, but he hadn’t even finished his Ph.D. They were working in a lab in Cambridge, England, where they didn’t even have the right equipment to examine DNA. That equipment was located at King’s College in London. Watson tried to get a job there by setting his sister up with one of the King’s College scientists, but it didn’t work out.

They were devastated when the world-renowned scientist Linus Pauling published a paper proposing a structure for DNA. But they immediately realized that his structure was wrong, and they vowed to beat him in the race to the answer. They learned that a woman named Rosalind Franklin was taking X-Ray pictures of DNA, and they decided that the only way to discover the structure was to look at those pictures.

Watson got to know Rosalind Franklin’s lab partner, Maurice Wilkins, and one night he persuaded Wilkins to show him one of the X-ray pictures that Franklin had taken of a DNA molecule. On the train ride back to Cambridge, Watson sketched the picture on a newspaper. When he got back to his lab, he and Crick spent several days building theoretical models of the molecule. They hit on the correct structure on this day in 1953. Once they realized what they had accomplished, they went to the local bar to celebrate. Toasting their discovery, Watson shouted, “We have discovered the secret of life!” They would go on to win the Nobel Prize for their discovery. Rosalind Franklin would also have gotten credit, but she had died of cancer by the time the prize was awarded.

–And finally (as if this post isn’t long enough), since spring training is now in full swing, a collection of photographs of old baseballs. It looks much cooler than it sounds, trust me:

baseball.jpg  

Photograph by Don Hamerman, “Rawlings,” 2005

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