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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nautilus, Phi, and Carbon Ion Radiotherapy for Mass Tumours in Colorado

     Who isn't fascinated by Fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio of phi (1.6180339887) in the spiral of the chambered nautilus?

     The nautilus' growth ratios of squares of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on in the successive phi ratios are echoed in cabbage:


   and chamomile buds:

      These famous spirals were on my mind while driving to my annual physical appointment yesterday.  I listened to this Colorado Public Radio piece on a proposal to bring carbon ion radiotherapy to CO.

Carbon Ion Radiotherapy: Equipment the Size of a Large Building

      I shared the salient parts of the research with my doctor. He completely pooh-poohed the idea. [So annoying.]  I was intrigued as impressive survival results were reported in Germany and Japan in patients with tumour masses, especially for those with pancreatic cancer. (The carbon ion radiotherapy does not work in leukemias.)

        This March 2014 article discusses the excellent results as well as the high costs ($120 million for the equipment or gantry) plus $40 million for the accompanying facility:

March 2014 carbon ion radiotherapy results

     Radiation therapy is the medical use of ionizing radiation to treat cancer. In conventional radiation therapy, beams of X-rays (high energy photons) are produced by accelerated electrons and delivered to the patient to destroy tumour cells. Using crossing beams from many angles, radiation oncologists irradiate the tumour while trying to spare the surrounding normal tissues. Inevitably some radiation is deposited in healthy tissues.

     When the irradiating beams are made of charged particles (protons and other ions, such as carbon), radiation therapy is called hadron-therapy. The strength of hadron-therapy lies in the unique physical and radiobiological properties of these particles; they can penetrate the tissues with little diffusion depositing the maximum energy just before stopping. This allows a precise definition of the specific region to be irradiated. The peaked shape of the hadron energy deposition is called the Bragg peak, the "symbol" of hadron-therapy. With the use of hadrons the tumour can be irradiated with less damage to healthy tissues.

     Less damage to healthy tissues is particularly important in pediatric patients as those healthy cells are still developing.

        It is of personal interest to me because my dad survived over four years with pancreatic cancer before his death a decade ago. He had a wonderful positive attitude, drank the special goo my mom made for him daily, and worked out with weights often. I imagine he would have been happy to give carbon ion radiotherapy a go.

      Here's my dad (on the right) in a German beer garden in the early 50's:

    He sure looks hoppy ;-)

     Here's to you, Dad, and your open attitude to exploring new things! (Dad and me):

      I am quite curious about your thoughts on carbon ion radiotherapy and pancreatic cancer; nautilus, flowers, and cabbage; and, of course, the great hops we grow here in Colorado.


(Word Woman)

       Another gardener and I did not marmalade, but plum jammed with stevia and sugar.

Roosters, chickens, ducks and eggs including green eggs (and no ham) and a double yolk egg in front:

       The roosters' plumage was especially wild and fun. . .Sorry about the low light. We had to wait until dark for them to come home to roost from their free range day. 

And, lastly, the Semiotics of Maizie:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

[Satire] New Species of Jamfish Blooms Alongside Jellyfish

     "Satire labeling" is a thought that came to me while peeling The Onion yesterday. There are no jamfish (as far as I know) but there is an abundance of jellyfish this year in several ocean spots near the U. K. and in the Pacific northwest:

      The image above is of a "bloom" of jellyfish six years ago in the Ketchican, Alaska, coastal waters. Swarms of jellyfish are becoming more common due to agricultural runoff which carries fertilizers and other chemicals fueling the growth of algae and plankton, jellyfish’s food source. Overfishing has also wiped out many jellyfish predators. 

     These delicate, indigo (versus indigo, delicate) jellyfish are common on beaches in California this summer. Their features remind me of a cross between spider webs, tree rings and pyramids (in a blueberry-color scheme):

       And then there's the Barrel Jellyfish to echo the Barrel Cactus: 

     These beautiful invertebrates also have a tie to other things in nature via the growth pattern of their tentacles' stings. This fascinating 6- minute video shows the microscopic pattern of the venom ejecting from a jellyfish tentacle (which echoes the pattern of some quartz crystal growth):

 Jellyfish Sting in Slow Mo

    The "real" scientist talking about "real" science is a trip. His enthusiasm about the 1/3 second delay from the splaying pattern from the tentacle to the ejection of the venom could launch "The Wonderful World of Jellies!"
     Speaking of jellyfish >>> jelly beans >>> Tootsie Roll Pops, we'd better start bringing our calculators with us (or whip out our phones' calculator ap) to the grocery store:

     And speaking of rolls >>> roles >>>: One of my favorite roles is being a mom which segues to my daughter who turns 21 this week. Have another great trip around the sun, ZoĆ«!

     The photo was taken right after our son's barber, Sterling, 88-years-young at the time, gave her a free haircut to lessen the "sting" of her cutting her own hair ;-).

      If you're ever in a jam, here i am.

Stood-irely and joyfully,

Steph (aka mom)

Word Woman

     Nine-foot-tall petrified tree trunk from China newly on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Guess where I'm going this weekend!

     So, on a day when we were experimenting with half-life, synchronicity is sometimes just too good:

         Is your uranium ore container half-empty or half-full?   
          I went for my annual physical today and my doctor has changed floors in the medical building. This sign was next to a Fertility Clinic. Do you see EGG also?! I laughed aloud.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dendrochronology and Bristlecone Pines, POETS and PEOTS

      Bristlecone pines have held a bit of magic and poetry for me since spending junior year "abroad" at the University of Arizona. The tree ring class at the Dendrochronology Center in Tucson introduced me to taking a closer look at how much the rings say about annual changes in rainfall and growth conditions:

     The rings have both earlywood and latewood parts to each annual ring, with the center core or pith (Pith helmets are made from the wood of African trees, often covered with cloth):

      The ring patterns can be overlapped and matched to map patterns back to over 5000 years in bristlecone pines:

     These majestic ancient beauties have survived in the high White Mountains of Inyo County, CA, in very harsh conditions so that the trees grow minimally every year.


     Cores of trees taken with a drill or auger enable dendrochronologists to study pencil-width cores of trees without destroying them.

      Methuselah Grove in eastern CA is home to these windswept bristlecones which are the oldest non-clonal organisms in the world. I was witness to "Methuselah," the then-oldest known tree. 

It was quite humbling to stand before a tree that had its start in its original pith neary 4900 years ago. . . (In 2013, a slightly older tree was discovered in the same grove):

       Dendrochronology is also used to date wood in buildings, paintings, furniture, tools, shoes, and other wooden structures.

      As to the PEOTS and POETS part of this week's post, every time I write PEOTS, I think of one of my favorite films, Dead POETS Society, and of course, Robin Williams:

       Thank you for all the laughter, tears, and joy, Robin. You were, at your pith, as beautiful and majestic as Methuselah in the harsh, windy mountains. . .

      Carpe Diem,

(Word Woman)

Throwback to SEMIOTICS: How about Bolivian Ametrine for a mineral to place around nuclear waste as a warning sign:

SMITH COLLEGE KNOTTY SHRUB-BERY: What's the under/over semiotics here?


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SEMantics and SEMiotics: A Lousy View from Different Perspectives

    Juxtaposing close-up views from a Scanning Electron Microsope (SEM) with views from space is this week's Partial Ellipsis of the Sun topic. Throw in some SEMantics or semANTICS and we've got some fun words to go with those images. And, a little venture into SEMiotics will round out today's blog.

     Firstly, guess what's in this SEM image:

    Hint: Hair is involved. Yes, it's a louse egg or nit clinging to a human hair. No wonder nit-picking takes so much focused time and energy!

     Here are eyelashes and human skin:

     How about this SEM image?

     It is an image of the surface of a strawberry.

     Lego brought up the surface of a tongue last week. Here's a human tongue in a SEM:

     And lastly,

    Any ideas? Hair? Fur? Origami? Fiber optics? Wild psychedelic drug images? 

     It's an SEM image of a caffeine crystal(!). . .which should provide enough energy to rocket into space via NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to view this Pacific Coast sunset: 

    How about this image? Are we looking at a close-up of a spider on the right side of the image or is this an image of solar flares . . .or something else?  Not always easy to tell from what perspective you are seeing, is it?

     I promised semANTICS. Here you go:

    It's an SEM image of a wood ant with a microchip. Wonder what sort of semiotic message this image is sending? 

    According to Wikipedia "Semiotics is the study of meaning-making, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols. This includes the study of signs and sign processes of indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics also studies non-linguistic signs and symbols."

       In semiotics news last month, New York state announced that is will be updating the handicapped symbol (and accompanying verbiage to read "Access") on signs to reflect a more active, moving person in a wheelchair. It's the first major symbol update in over 45 years:

Semiotic update to handicapped sign

       I'd relish hearing your perspective on these images and words from SEMantics to SEMiotics.

It's a small (and large) world after all.

Signed ;-),


(Word Woman)

Here's the mystery sign. What does it mean?

Semiotic shoes at the edge of the Blue Danube (see description in comments section from 08/06/14):