So another cow has gone mad, the stock market is beating McDonald's and IBP, the US is blaming Canada, Canada is trying to look innocent, and the rest of the world doesn't want to have anything to do with cows from either of us.
Mad Cow Disease seems to be caused by prions, normal proteins that are folded into abnormal conformations, and have the highly unusual property of catalyzing the folding of other proteins into the same abnormal conformation. I.e., they can reproduce themselves, even though they contain no genetic material.
It has recently been discovered that there are prions in the normal human brain. It seems that prions form a part of the system the brain uses to generate memories. Details here, via Carl Zimmer's The Loom, a very cool blog about science and society. So there are good prions as well as bad prions. Fascinating.
This reminds me of Conway's Life and its glider guns. It also reminds me of the nanotech bogyman gray goo: the prions are like nanotech assemblers, creating ever more copies of themselves to the point that they overwhelm everything else.
'Blue goo' , i.e., 'police' nanobots, have been proposed as a solution to gray goo.* Maybe we need 'blue cow disease' to keep mad cow disease in line: proteins that convert pathological prions back into their normal conformation.
<ramble>This also reminds me of the episode a few months ago when shortly after the Blaster worm appeared someone released another worm, named 'Welchia', that downloaded the anti-Blaster patch from Microsoft and installed it for you. Worm vs. worm. Is this the future? A continuous low-level war in meatspace and infospace of quasi-living, self-propagating organisms. Sort of like Neal Stephenson's 'toner wars' but without the toner.</ramble>
Anyway, I think the whole prion business is just fascinating. I've got some ideas for a prion story, but it hasn't settled into its, um, final conformation yet.
== gishi == engineer
|Right radical is 'support' (支), used both in its literal meaning of 'hand', and phonetically to express 'work'. The left radical is the radical form of 'hand', thus this character originally meant 'work with both hands', giving rise to its current meanings of 'craft'. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Support from skilled hands facilitates craft.'|