Equilibrium and Trapping

This was the last day of my visit to UT.  Over the course of the week, I had wanted to schedule some hikes with the pups over to Barton Springs, more art and music, and maybe some nightlife, more time in the nursing home, a visit to the local synagogue.  The budget was tight though ($380 for lodging, parking, gas, and food).  I was tempted enough by a proposed backyard talk on the geometry of quantum space, but I never heard back from the math department for directions to the house, and I would not have had anywhere to stay anyway, so I finished the day and stay with a talk on aptamers in the natural science building, and a talk on metaethics from a relativist perspective in the philosophy building.  There would have also been an anthropology talk, but with moving out, and problems finding parking, an insulin reaction right as I walked into the building, and losing the piece of paper that had the room numbers on it, I was 30 minutes late.  It didn’t happen.

So, first the aptamer talk in the Biochemistry department.  I had never heard of aptamers, but they are apparently used in sensors to detect small molecules.  The first ones developed were to detect cocaine and ATP.  Now, I think that they can detect a lot of other things too, like glucose and toxins, and vitamins.  What is nice, is that it is a covalent synthetic chemistry that can replace what is currently done with antibodies that are grown in animals who otherwise have to be maintained in cages, and are then sacrificed for their antibodies.  This chemical, as opposed to animal, synthesis works for detection.  They also seem to have therapeutic use, and here, some animal testing is done, presumably with a view toward healing animals that have certain diseases. and scaling their use up to humans.  The aptamers seem to have a short half-life, and can be selected to target clotting factors to areas that are hemorrhaging, or chemotherapy to cells that are cancerous.  The talk focused on the applied side of the science, explaining how an initial 3 molecule reversible assembly event, brings 2 molecular tags on the ends close enough to one another, and in precisely the correct orientation to induce a covalent reaction between the 2, thereby trapping the 3rd small molecule that initially bound.  They were, I think, trying to develop a more rational theoretical approach using thermodynamic and kinetic theory, to what has thusfar been an empirical selection of molecules from a pool.  It is a little difficult though because you have a reversible reaction coupled to an irreversible reaction.  It might, under certain circumstances, conceptually reduce to a Michaelis-Menten kinetic theoretical formulation (without the regeneration of free enzyme), but I would have wanted to see this in more detail.

The last talk in the philosophy department discussed perspectivism and absolutism in the context of ethics.

Again the scientist hat, the animal advocate hat, and the philosopher hat.

I’ll summarize that if I were to give a gift to my nephews, godsons, and other kids and adults considering going to college, it would be this week away from home at a local school of their choice.  Maybe their junior year in high school – spring break (for high school and not college).  Explore the departments, and talks.  Ask questions.  Wear different hats.  Write about it.  If possible, get 1-3 random roommates for the week to split the cost.  Use a bike.  Let this be most of your application process to college.  Then pick 3 schools that interest you, and apply.

I originally said state schools, because they are generally more affordable, and I wanted to highlight the point that, although I think that a proletarian socialization is interesting, it should not be incompatible with education.  That said, many state schools have different pay rates for in-state and out-of-state tuition, and I am not sure how comfortable I would really be taking advantage of this.  It seems more egalitarian not to.  But then again, there are  differences in non-loan federal investment in education by state (for example $432 per capita per year in AK, $250  in IL, $227 in KY, $169 in MD, $312 in NM, $236 in Ny, and $218 in OR, $215 in TX), and also in states’ investment in their own education. Some of this reflects relative wealth, and some of it reflects priorities, but schools can also use the money more or less resourcefully.  Grants and private donations also heavily influence the relative opportunities offered by a school, so a taxation argument would not be an entirely valid one to justify access.

I would pick a larger school to do the one week “find your interest/aptitude” experiment, and then based on the results of this, find the right school and environment for what you want to study.  On some level, depending on family needs, a student may need to be closer or farther away from their family to develop.  Keeping things local is greener, but some people like to explore, and may have other interests in developing attachments to other geographical areas.

Above was a little of my educator hat.

The week in summary.

1 art event

2 philosophy events

1 engineering event

1 anthropology event

1 political science event

1 language and geography event

2 science events

1 writing/international studies event

2 activist activities

2 nursing home visits

2 beers

4 visits to the dog park

a movie

a little writing and computer programming

about 5 miles of walking

a doctor’s visit and more medicine


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