Archive for August, 2011

The Schiensh of Bond: Live and Let Die

So Connery is no more. BlogalongaBond lurches forward to the Roger Moore era with Live and Let Die

I thought I’d never seen a Roger Mole Moore Bond film before, but I was reminded that I had previously seen a special screening of The Spy Who Loved Me introduced by Richard “Jaws” Kiel. I have totally erased this from my memory. I have discovered a heretofore unknown skill; the ability to remove a Roger Mole Moore film from my mind. It’s going to be a long 7 months ’til we get to Dalton…

First off, there’s the MI6 officer who dies when his earpiece is swapped, someone who dies from a plastic snake bite and Roger Mole Moore is given a magnetic watch that can deflect bullets and can be used as a rotatey saw thing… What else happens? Mole Bond has a bug detector- it’s no use! I have no idea what’s going on! My attention is being moley wholly absorbed by this monstrosity:

Let’s take a look at that mole in detail:

On his FACE!

Moley Moley Moley

What causes such a vile abomination? Well, perhaps it is time that I discuss the science of moles.

Moles – most of us have them. Medically, they are called melanocytic naevi. They contain groups of melanocytes. Melanocytes are the skin cells that contain the dark pigment, melanin. They can be raised, flat, small, large, round, with a smooth or rough edge, and may have hair growing out of them. Some moles appear shortly after birth, but most of them will appear sometime during the first 30 years of life. Curiously, moles start to disappear later in life.

This is a picture through a mole as seen with a microscope

In the top picture, the clusters of brown cells indicated by the arrowheads are melanocytes. From Kittler et al 2000, Archives of Dermatology. The diagram underneath shows the layers of the skin. Normally, moles result from the presence of groups of melanocytes in the skin – the epidermis (top layer) or the dermis (lower layer) or both. Freckles, on the other hand, are just patches of skin where there is more melanin, whereas moles are clusters of melanocyte cells. There’s some nice info here. Your moleage is genetic, and is dependent on how many moles your parents have.

Moles and Cancer

Malignant melanoma (the cancer of moles) is the 6th most common cancer diagnosed in the UK. Although it’s not the most common form of skin cancer, it is the most deadly. Of the approximately 2500 people who died of skin cancer in 2008, around 2000 died of skin cancer. Stats from Cancer Research UK.

During melanoma, changes in the DNA of melanocytes in the skin (which can be caused by UV rays from sunlight), cause them to multiply in an uncontrolled manner. The growing population of melanocytes spread, causing  damage to surrounding tissue. If the  spreading mass of cells reach a blood vessel or a lymph node, the cancer can spread. If spotted early, treatment by removing the dubious mole will prevent spread of the melanoma. Skin that is sensitive to sunburn is more susceptible to skin cancer. Pale and pasties, as well as redheads are therefore at a higher risk. And if you have more than 50 moles, there is a greater chance that you may have a mole that is more likely to become cancerous.  However, many melanomas do not develop from existing moles.

Roger Moore had better be putting sunblock on that thing.

My moley arm

My arm (OK, I’m worried now).

Magical Moles

I stumbled across a website on “moleosophy” – the shape, size, colour and location of one’s moles can allegedly be used to tell a person’s future and identify personality characteristics – which is about as believable as being killed by a plastic snake bite, Solitaire having magical fortunetelling powers and voodoo. It’s all bollocks.

Moles and Longevity

It’s not all bad news though, I stumbled across a couple of press releases for a paper declaring that people with more moles may live longer. Intrigued by my potential immortality (seriously, I have a lot of moles) I dug a little deeper. Anyone can access freely access the paper here. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes that protect them from damage during ageing. The telomeres shorten with age and are thought by some scientists to perhaps cause the physical signs of ageing. But it would seem that women with more moles have longer telomeres. Which is rather interesting. Moleyness, however will do nothing for your longevity if you get fed to sharks via an unnecessarily slow dipping mechanism.

Assuming Roger Moore avoids skin cancer and sharks, he will return in The Man With The Golden Gun, where we will continue to discuss why he is rubbish.

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The Sharks Got Smarter

A common trope in many films of a particular type is science going bad. Although this can happen because the scientist are especially evil, however, it often occurs that the scientist does something brilliantly clever, with benevolent intent, that goes horribly wrong. Coincidentally Rise of the Planet of the Apes has just been released.

In each of these films, there is a point at which the scientists realise that in crossing a line they weren’t meant to cross, they’ve done something incredibly dumb. The site tvtropes refers to this as a “Gone Horribly Wrong” Here are some examples of such hubris:

Deep Blue Sea

I have a certain fondness for this particular B-movie. A bunch of scientists discover a protein in the brains of mako sharks that can cure Alzheimer’s disease:

Their brains weren’t large enough to harvest sufficient amounts of the protein. So we violated the Harvard Compact. Jim and I used gene therapies to increase their brain mass. Larger brain means more protein. As a side effect, the sharks got smarter.

Deep Blue Sea

Utterly hilarious. The sharks are trying to escape, the humans are trying to escape, but the sharks are trying to eat the humans. Here’s a spoilerific clip.

Get these muthefucking sharks out of my mutherfucking research facility.

Jurassic Park

A bunch of scientists (you see where this is going, right?) resurrect dinosaurs from a few specks of blood. John Hammond, who clearly has more money than sense, and his company InGen isolate dinosaur DNA from blood found in a mosquito trapped in fossilised amber. They fill in the gaps with frog DNA. They prevent the dinosaurs breeding by only creating females, without realising that the DNA is from an amphibian that can change sex if there is a female/male population imbalance. Their other fail-safes also fail. FAIL. The dinosaurs are made to be lysine deficient – supposedly, if this isn’t given to them by the scientists, the dinosaurs should die – this doesn’t work either. EVERYTHING goes wrong.

John, the kind of control you’re attempting is not possible. If there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands to new territories. It crashes through barriers. Painfully, maybe even.. dangerously, but and…well, there it is.

Jurassic Park

It’s a good job dinosaurs can’t use door handles because then we’d be in real trouble…

The Fly

Dorky but enthusiastic scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is trying to develop matter transport, but he’s running low on monkeys and goodwill from his corporate backers. Plus he’s trying to impress Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) by telling her about his research. In my experience THIS DOSE NOT WORK as a pick up technique.

While sad, alone and drunk, Brundle tries the transportation device on himself. Unbeknownst to Brundle, a housefly also enters the chamber. The experiment smushes up his DNA with the fly’s. Consequently, he develops into a half man-half fly with dissolving enzyme drool, the ability to walk up walls and massive skin grossness. He loses all his human personality traits, and truly becomes a monster.

This is why you do not drink and science at the same time.

Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein is the grandpappy of “Oh shit, my experiment’s gone wrong, we’re all going to die”. The Doctor has been portrayed numerous times, notably by Kenneth Brannagh in his 1994 adaptation (You may notice that’s not Ken Brannagh or Robert DeNiro pictured). During his studies in medicine, Frankenstein becomes aware of the importance of electricity or “galvanisation” in living beings. It is indeed electricity that keeps our hearts beating, muscles moving and brains thinking. Frankenstein becomes obsessed with it being the stuff of life, and begins patching people together and bringing them to life with electricity. Like all of the scientists in this list, he crosses a line that isn’t meant to be crossed; the dead should stay dead. His beautiful and wondrous creation becomes intelligent, is self-aware but is beholden to his own grotesque appearance. The world will never see him as person, and once he witnesses people’s hatred, he goes nuts and swears bloody vengeance on his creator. People die. It’s messy.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

So, you all know that it was Earth all along, but RotPotA sets out to show how Earth became the Planet of the Apes. While testing an experimental gene therapy on a cohort of chimpanzees, a group of scientists realise that their novel treatment for Alzheimer’s disease promotes growth of new brain cells, as a side effect, the chimps got smarter. Wait, did that sound familiar to you? Will Rodman (James Franco) is desperate to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, I mean if John Lithgow was your dad, you would too. Through a convoluted series of events Will ends up taking home a baby chimp; the offspring of one of the test subject chimps. Having received the gene therapy in utero, this baby chimp, named Cesar, becomes smart. He learns well and becomes almost human, but he is also a chimpanzee with no concept of his own strength. He gets imprisoned with other apes, is mistreated, learns that he isn’t human and will never be human. A bitter, smart ape can only mean trouble, especially when joined by other bitter, smart apes…

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