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biochem poetry – how synthetic dna can make your words immortal



dna bases

favorite videos this week:
-fluorine and caesium

“The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them” William Bragg

Have you ever thought about writing a message that can never be destroyed and lives on even after you are dead? Just recently I came across a very interesting way to make it possible and it might shed a different light on the whole GMO haterade: encoding a text on a synthetic DNA strand. It may sound very Sci-Fi but it’s not even a new approach and has a practical background: to keep synthetic genome apart from a natural one, scientists must use something like a “watermark” on their creations, similar to microchip watermarks they are inscriptions on unused portions (read more). To use this kind of procedure as a medium for your poem or something literal that is important to you excites my torn-between-science-and-art heart.

As far as my web research goes the first one who successfully encoded text parts into a strand of DNA was Eduardo Kac. Yes, that’s the same guy who commissioned a french lab for the creation of Alba, a GFP Bunny that glows in the dark. He used the first lines of the bible’s genesis in the synthetic DNA strand, implanted it into a microbe and stressed the microbe out with UVGI, a biotechnological disinfection method that uses UV light to kill (or stress) microorganisms. This procedure caused mutations in the text as the microbe reproduced and multiplied and, voilà, he has just offended religious conservatives off from his laboratory bench. I’m amused he used something so controversial in his work. There is a multitude of ironic or fun messages that can be implanted, like german-based specialist for plant reproduction Icon Genetics’ idea to make a little transgenic plant recite Virgil’s Georgics every time it reproduces. It says “Nec vero terrae ferre omnes omnia possunt” (“Neither can every soil bear every fruit”) which they must have thought fits just perfectly into sweet little mouse-ear cress. Pak Chung Wong, a computer scientist, had the idea to encode something less controversial than the bible into the genome of tough (cold, dehydration, vacuum, radiation and acid resistent) bacteria Deinoccocus radiodurans: the lyrics of the Disney soundtrack for 1964 World’s Fair called “It’s a Small World (After All)”, how cute is that? You can also make your bacteria do poem on its own, like canadian experimental artist Christian Bök‘s project The Xenotext (click). An article at macleans.com explains his approach “A short stanza enciphered into a strand of DNA and injected into an ‘unkillable’ bacterium, Bök’s poem is designed to trigger the micro-organism to create a corresponding protein that, when decoded, is a verse created by the organism. In other words, the harmless bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans will be a poetic bug.” But as every intervention that reaches out into our most precious root of identity we must handle genetically modified organisms and especially bacteria/viruses with responsibility and professionalism. But the thought of having a meadow flower create a rap text that makes more sense than Kanye West Lyrics makes me grin for at least a week. Amused and up for festive silver garments, Ea

today: synthetic biology


Mora Lubis







mora lubis

“There’s no reality except the one contained within us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself.” Hermann Hesse

It’s been a big while since my last activity and university has been time consuming and life has been rough. But it’s never to late to come back to what you love! Two weeks ago I came across Indonesia-based Mora Lubis’ art and I want to pay tribute to her beautiful black and white photography. I enjoy what she says about her motivation: “A great ocean become my inspiration, I like to see details and be one with environment. I assume photography should speaks with emotion and black and white are perfect media to realize whole my intention”. I can only agree with black and white being a perfect media to concentrate on details. In times where you seek serenity, order in your life and peaceful relations I find photography like this and monochromatic objects quite calming and helpful. Up for comfort black cashmere, Ea

today: the black cashmere sweater


Martinez Lierah




Dissolving Memory



martinez lierah

interesting scientific books on memory and perception:

“Where perception is, there also are pain and pleasure, and where these are, there, of necessity, is desire.” Aristotle

It’s been a while since my last blog entry but a new term in university started and claimed alot of extra work. Things have settled for a short while and I am going to use this time to complete the long promised blog entry on new insights of aging and update with some minimalists’ art and fashion. Anyhow, the story behind today’s entry is short: sometimes when I want to unbind my spirit from science and chemistry I have the habit to rummage in older entries of various other fashion blogs and that’s when I came across Martinez Lierah’s ‘Dissolving Memory’ Collection A/W ’12 (yeah, way too late). As I am fascinated by his approach to materialize cognitive neuroscience’s field of fading memories and “erroneous messages about what happened” (read here) I decided to share my favorites of the designer’s collection.

First of all it is obvious that I am quite fond of the dominant presence of white and the arch-like, structral designs. “Influenced by the work of architect Daniel Libeskind and the Photographs of flooded damns by Toshio Shibata, in this collection Martinez Lierah continues the search for a balance between structure and fluidity, with desintegration as a reference point.” (read more at afflante.com). If you liked the pieces above I suggest a look the marvellous newer collection, too! Best, Ea

today: beige cashmere and jeans


Holistic Skincare from Australia: Be Genki






be genki


“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions, and into actions which bring results.” Florence Nightingale

Just a few days ago I received a package from Down Under with probably the most exciting content: minimalistic, holistic bath products and a special tea. I am a big fan of skincare brands which offer a tea to go with, e.g. super cute facecare brand MIYU and organic henna guru Night Blooming. Be Genki however offers a Herbal Tea complimenting every conceptual line they have: Be Sensual, Be Serene, Be Tranquil and Be Vital. Let’s take a look at the tea and bath products I chose:

First off I chose Be Genki Be Sensual Tea instead of the Be Serene Tea (which would fit the rest of my products) since it caught my attention with the most wicked and secret, ancient ingredients for intensifying sensuality and lust. Plenty of the ingredients were used to cure, let’s call it, not-now’s. The Lemongrass, Ginseng and Ginger base is both delicious and vitalizing. Jasmine buds and Rose petals add a delicate flower bouquet to it. The rest of the ingredients combine to a super potion of aphrodisiacs: Horny Goat Weed, Damiana, Maca and Tribulus. I found a fun-to-read abstract on Maca to significally have increased the amount of orgasms in mice (here). Horny Goat Weed aka Epimedium contains some Icariin (in standardized extracts 5 to 60 percent), a flavonoid which shares several mechanisms of action with compounds like sildenafil (Viagra) and vardenafil (Levitra, read 1, 2, 3) and has shown to have antidepressant-like effects on mice (see 1, 2, 3). Damiana has long been claimed to have a sexually stimulating effect and its use as an aphrodisiac originated way back in ancient mexico. There is a study of increased sexual activity in rats, male and female (here). In the end it is up to you if you make this tea work like this. There are plenty studies on the aphrodisiac effects of the ingredients but since it has only verifiable effects on rodents I would not rely too much on it alone and combine it with a romantic bath to get things really going. This tea is perfect for you if you like flowery-herbaceous teas and love potions.

Next we have the amazing bath products, face mist and candle. The overall minimal product design wrapped in thick, wavy paper is enchanting and deserves a special mention as it feels really luxurious. My academic studies can cause a lot of tension and stress and the possibility to lose the plot or fail the next test puts me into an all-anxious and depressing mood sometimes. This is why I chose the Be Serene Line with its uplifting and relaxing fragrances of Palmarosa, Rosewood, Patchouli, Neroli and Rosa damascena. Most of the oils are organic, which make it even more likeable. For a big bath I only needed 4 drops of the Oil Blend and the warm steams made my bathwater smell like a fairy forest and flower meadow. It was absolutely impossible to have negative thoughts in an environment like this. Applying the quickly absorbed, golden body oil (see above) I literally went to bed with this kind of fantasy. I am not able to pick a favorite in this line as I am pretty convinced they work best as a team. The amazing organic candle burns when I take a bath, study and before I sleep. Oh, and I pumped the face splash onto my face in the minute I first saw it and since then it is my everlasting company to university if I need a stress relief but a refreshing kick after lectures. It accompanies me right next to my favorite sunglasses for this year’s golden autumnal sunrays. So all in all, if you are looking for a minimalistic, holistic bath and body routine you should definitely check out this and the rest of Samantha’s great brand Be Genki! Australia must be a birth place for organic beauty brands like this with Leif and Aesop. Relaxed and a little sensual today, Ea Birkkam


today: monochromatic balneology


simple black ankle boots for autumn/winter 2014


pine fragranced candles:

“What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world-and defines himself afterward.” Jean-Paul Sartre

Winter is coming and if you want to keep your footwear simple and purchase quality over quantity black chelsea ankle boots are your best bet. This year I came across alot of nice, super simplistic options with a nice twist in each and every pair. I am very enticed by the Asos Emperor Boots with a wedge plateau and Stella McCartney’s recently often copied cleated boots. Robert Clergerie’s version of a black ankle boot gives me daydreams of futuristic geishas and when in doubt Alexander Wang makes the most classic version of 2014. If you consider the nice quality I think the price tag is justified. You can never go wrong with black chelsea boots, they fit every wardrobe and last more than one season. This year it’s a bliss to find black essentials. Almost every brand tributes a minimalist option to my favorite footwear. Best, Ea Birkkam


today: black jeggings

1 Comment

Giveaway: Illustrationist x The Silent White








to enter follow:
the illustrationist
the silent white

and leave a comment here

“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Katja de Vries, a young jewelry designer and talented illustrator from Gent in Belgium makes possibly one of the most interesting yet simple jewelry on Etsy. Her pieces come in different states of oxidation and sometimes with thin threads wrapped around. The rings have a very clean-cut thin design and her Herkimer Diamonds come both with and without inclusions (tiny, natural drops of oil or water inside the crystal which make him unique, read more). You won’t find any unnecessary embellishment in her whole collection but a nice, subtle trace of raw manufacturing. It didn’t take long to fall in love with her minimalistic, simplistic jewelry and I bought myself my favorite pieces: the Herkimer Diamond Mini Loop Earrings and necklace. I decided to team up with her and this is how this giveaway was born! Additionally if you want to check out Katja’s etsy store (here), she offers a 10 percent discount for all readers (valid until the 17th of october). Just use the code: TSW10

One lucky winner (worldwide!) will be chosen to receive a Illustrationist Herkimer set with necklace and loop earrings along with a set of illustrations from Katja and my 3 Top Beauty Favorites (Embryolisse, Lush It Started with a Kiss tint and H’Suan Wen Hua hair conditioner, basically my holy grail)

To enter the sweepstake all you have to do is:
– “Like” Katja and me on our Facebook Fan Page (click here and here)
– Leave a comment on this post with your preferences (Herkimer with or without inclusions), correct email address and Facebook name/handle
– Please be sure that your email address is correct in the email field so I can contact you to claim the prize

Giveaway Starts: Thursday October 9, 2014 – Now
Giveaway Ends: Thursday October 23, 2014 – 11:59pm EST

closed! winner is: Franziska Laura


Please reply to the mail I sent you within 2 weeks to claim your prize!

Best, Ea


today: Autumnal Antwerp Six


science of raspberries and DIY antioxidant facial treatment




my instagram

similar antioxidant facecare:

“In the natural sciences, and particularly in chemistry, generalities must come after the detailed knowledge of each fact and not before it.” Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac

Exfoliation is the foundation of a good skincare routine. The removal of the oldest skin cells enables the regulation of your sebum flow and therefore prevents acne and blemishes (read here). Basically you have two options: mechanical and chemical exfoliation. Most people know scrub or peeling in form of grains or a simple loofah (mechanical scrub) and I get increasingly often asked about the chemical alternative. Well-established chemical exfoliating agents are AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy-Acid) and BHA (Beta-Hydroxy-Acid) often in formulation strengths from 1 per cent to 10. Once applied they react with the upper layer of the epidermis and disintegrate the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together which allows the stratum corneum to be exfoliated, exposing live skin cells. So if you seek a dermatologist for an acne or juvenescent treatment, this is their go-to therapy. If you ask me for a cheap alternative I have a simple DIY recipe: fresh raspberries.

Not only is a raspberry (e.g. Rubus idaeus) a delicious treat, but also a little biochemical powerhouse which shows a notible amount of vitally important vitamins and potent antioxidants. I must admit, I knew about the vitamin C and antioxidants like anthocyanins but they additionally contain a nice blend of ellagitannins (hydrolyzable tannins, you might have heard about tannins from wine tastings), antioxidant flavonols and other phenols like ellagic acid (see pretty, symmetric molecule above). Research about topical application of vitamin C points out its photoprotective and signs-of-aging reducing properties (read here and here). The antioxidative characteristics of ellagitannins, flavonols and phenols are also well-studied and you find a great amount of interesting reviews and articles on this topic (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Something a little less probed may be the efficacy of Raspberry ketones, which presumably stimulate hair growth and skin elasticity by increasing skin cell-produced growth factors like IGF-1 and EGF (epidermal growth factor; read here) next to anti-obese action (click). I already saw supplements sold in US drugstores with big promises on this topic but personally I would not make an effort to search for the next chance to buy pure raspberry ketone powder or consider fresh raspberries the general holy grail of skincare, but a homemade facial treatment with approximately 2 Rubus idaeus every now and then (instructional video here) did improve my complexion quite comparable to regular chemical exfoliation products. It’s not as potent as a dermatologist’s solution but minimalistic, low-budget and refreshing. Given the nutritional facts I mentioned above, you should have great joy to eat the rest of the raspberry basket, too. Like every natural treatment I would advice a patch test first, maybe you are a little sensitive to the acids! Hope you have as great skin results with this treatment as I do, Ea Birkkam


today: berry sorbet


Eric Marrian







eric marrian

“There is the photography which seeks to translate into pattern and design the magic of a detail of growth and deterioration. Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created.” Edward Steichen

Just today I came across french photographer Eric Marrian. Especially his eerily beautiful photographs from ‘Carré Blanc’ (2005) point out what I like most about him. It reminds me of organic figures which turned to white marble. The composition of each carré puts the focus on the human body’s convolutions both with sharp and soft edges in a very not habitual way and it makes you a little uncomfortable.

I can’t help myself considering these photographs the organic equivalent of architectual photography. Marian’s initial study of architecture and 15 years of designing buildings may explain the heavy influences to this department. Check out the rest of his work here. Best, Ea Birkkam


today: sharp edges, soft edges


update and pale pink for fall ’14


read on olfaction:

dark ambience

“What you burnt, broke, and tore is still in my hands. I am the keeper of fragile things and I have kept of you what is indissoluble.”
Anaïs Nin

The beauty of pale, almost grey, colors. I have always loved washed out pink and I consider it the maximum of color I want to wear right now. Somehow it reminisce me of modern femininity and paper-dried rosebuds. It was great fun to find my favorite nine pieces for this fall which resemble this exact feeling (see above) and I have a strong wish to see especially these pink coats in my closet. This blog entry may seem a little less abundant and scientifically interesting than the last one but that’s only because I am in the middle of an elaborate new one and my academic work consumes a little time right now. Anyways, I found some interesting new books on the Biology of Aging, the Chemistry of Senses and especially human olfactory ‘psychophysics’, so there definitely waits a scientific post about cellular aging to look forward to.

Fashionwise I have a hard time not being distracted too much, but I could equally spend as much time as with my academics swooning over this seasons top minimalists of Spring 2015 Ready-to-wear: Stella McCartney, Akris (as always) and Haider Ackermann (click here, here and here for the gallery). I am more than surprised about the switch of styles, how come Céline, Mugler and Acne Studios have less simple and minimalistic designs than usually super colorful Sonia Rykiel and Lanvin? I am confused. Anyways, I decided to point out my (and apparently Issey Miyake’s) favorite color palette: the pale pink pastels. Best in combination with an almost-only-foundation and subtle make-up. See you soon, Ea Birkkam


today: sheer academic makeup – full look


molecular switch manicure



shop thermal polish:

my instagram

“The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural… The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.”
Wassily Kandinsky

Last week I witnessed two young girls infront of the local drugstore’s nail polish rack. They were cautiously discussing the ‘magic’ behind new nail polishes that change color with different temperature. Neither of them really knew how it worked and it made me a little contemplative. Is astonishment a product of inconceivability or enlightenment over the unknown? Are you a person that prefers the answer or do you like to keep things mysterious to yourself? There is a great chance you have already come across at least one object that amazes with colour-changing properties (e.g. ‘mood rings’, optical glasses that darken in the sun, fun mugs that reveal hidden messages when hot water poured in etc.) and for those of you who want to know the basic science of common color-changing products I try to explain it easily:

The trick behind the girls’ beautiful color-changing nail polishes is the use of thermochromic dyes. Chromism is described by a process that induces a (sometimes reversible) change in the colors of compounds. Thermochromatic dyes react to the temperature they are exposed to and can be based on either Leuco dyes (see example here), where molecules can acquire two forms, a colorless and colorful one, and Thermochromatic liquid crystals. Here the color-change comes from the molecules’ ability to leave different spaces between their alignment and layers. With different sizes of the ‘voids’ the light passing through the crystals is perceived as a different spectral color. Same changes of ‘arrangement’ in your dye can be achieved by photo exposure (photochromism, e.g. the uv-tinted optical glasses). A very different but exciting way to achieve a change of color is by the help of solvent polarity (solvatochromism). This will make your nail polish change colors with the contact of something polar, like water. I can get all excited with the aesthetic uses of molecular switches, there are already highly interesting approaches to use them in future (check here, here, here and here). Having a molecular switch manicure, Ea Birkkam


today: monochromatic seasonal transition