For a little light relief, a short collection of talking points that I wrote some time ago but for some reason never published. (I’ve no idea why.)

More genomes than you can shake a stick at

This summary of a news report from Science headlines how BGI aims to dominate the world of genome sequencing, including setting up centres outside of China and plans to sequence a million human genomes. Not to mention a million plant and animal genomes and a million microbial genomes. (The full report is subscription-only.)

More microbes that you might think

Food for thought via twitter:

Sandra Porter @digitalbio

Uncultured microbe session #AAASmtg There are more [oceanic] microbes than stars in known universe.

When animals binge.[1a] Not something you see everyday: an elk stuck up a tree. Admittedly not very far up a tree. It’s not so much that this elk has climbed the tree, so much as drunkenly tangled itself up in it. Some of the comments are entertaining too:

that moose is so drunk it thinks it’s an elk (ooh456)

Hello…my name is Barney and I’m an ELKaholic. (ashays)

Accounts of drunken animals abound,[1b] including this more scientific-based account of alcoholic intake by Malaysian shrew who apparently don’t suffer much for it.

Would abandoning useless ‘natural’ health remedies save money? Reports put the value[2] of the natural products industry at approximately $NZ760 million per annum, for example:

There are more than 6000 natural health products on sale in New Zealand and over 450 natural health companies. Those companies have an estimated annual turnover of $760 million.

This would put the natural products industry in roughly the same ballpark as New Zealand’s wool industry.

We have a fair financial burden in New Zealand. (Some would say much more than fair.)

The government is looking to ways of curbing the national debt.

Hypothetically speaking–stirring the rod a little here–how much would be saved if punters abandoned useless ‘natural’ remedies? No homeopathic remedies. Ignore herbal remedies that lacked substantive evidence backing their use. Stop taking unneeded vitamin supplements. And so on.

I’ve no idea what specific fraction of these remedies have no substantive evidence backing their remedial use, or what fraction of the total have evidence showing they have no remedial value. Even if ineffective ‘natural’ remedies were a minority of the total, it’d be a substantial amount of money.

Seeing earthquake waves. I reported on this Canterbury earthquake tweet:

Out walking dogs at Gov bay for that last one. Saw black shadows streaking across the mudflats. Imagined millions of startled crabs.

It reminded me of looking up and seeing the force from the Boxing Day (2010) aftershock ripple from west to east ripping out the western ends of all the strip lights (fluorescent tube lights) in the store I was in.



a. Before anyone points it out, there are moose and there elk; it’s a word usage issue that differs in different parts of the world. To confuse matters further, there is also Wapiti… If you want to debate this, go right ahead – just don’t expect me to care much! (I suggest you read the comments in the article I linked to first – it’ll save you some time…)

b. Some on-line accounts about drunk animals strike me as needing a little skeptical verification.

c. I’ve two minds about adding this, but if you’re into heavy-drinking parties and you think drunk animals look stupid – so do you. Last night taking a (sober) couple home, I had some morons–hard to describe them any other way–try hitch a ride by extending arms with raised thumbs and stepping out on the road in front of the car. Fortunately for their sakes I was well on top events and was aware that the lane to the left was empty and that I could rapidly move to the left…


a. Cynics might write: value (sic) for at least some of the products.

b. Note that’s natural health products, which you’d think covers more than just ‘natural’ health remedies.