Saturday, March 27, 2010

And more, and more, and more.

It's been a while since my last "post featuring silly numbers of car photos", so here you go. Those bored stiff by this sort of thing, feel free to look away.

I've taken some shots at a couple of recent events - first, the Canadian Motorsports Expo, back on an unseasonably warm day in late January, and then at the annual Canadian International AutoShow in February.

The Motorsports Expo was rather modest in size, and was held at the somewhat grandly named International Centre, out near Toronto airport. The stars of the show were found at a booth celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mosport International Raceway, another of my favourite photographic haunts. First off, a stunning, but never terribly successful, Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S. Unusually for this kind of car, it had a front-mounted engine.

Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S

The other real stunner at this show was a Frissbee KR4 Can-Am car. From the last gasp of Can-Am in 1986, long after its glory days were over, this is basically a Lola T400 Formula 1 chassis with full bodywork and a Chevy engine in the back. Up-and-coming driver Paul Tracy would win the last ever SCCA Can-Am race in this car, at Mosport.

Frissbee KR4 Can-Am - grunge-ified

At the AutoShow, the usual bombardment of generic-looking new models was in evidence, along with a disappointing lack of exotics. But there were a few, including the astonishing presence of a Ferrari 599XX, the biggest, baddest, craziest front-engined sports racer the Scuderia has ever built. Unfortunately, it was hidden in a back corner behind a concrete post, but here it is anyway.

Ferrari 599XX

There was plenty more to look at, but the highlight had to be a tribute to motorsports legend Carroll Shelby, including some cars that are real legends, such as this rather pretty Shelby Cobra Daytona coupe, one of only six ever built.

1964/1965 Cobra "Daytona Coupe" CSX 2299

And, of course, among the selection of stunning Cobras, Mustangs and the like, a few Ford GT40 race cars, including this absolute beauty, memorably crashed by one Mario Andretti at the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans. Its sister car won the race, prompting driver Dan Gurney to spray the assembled multitude with champagne, thus starting a new racing tradition.

1967 Ford GT40 Mark IV

So there you go... more cars, more photos, more hours on Photoshop. And more Motorsports and AutoShow photos over at Flickr, as usual.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

DNA Sequencing, Not Really Explained (with pictures)

For fun, and because we needed a few shots for some publicity materials, I hauled the Sony Monster in to the lab last week. Apart from a few arty shots of my colleagues, which I won't post here, I spent most of the time taking photos of interesting equipment, at strange angles. As one does. And then processing the heck out of them, a task made easier, more enjoyable, and much, much faster by the combined virtues of (a) a new laptop with Intel Core i7 processors (what?), and (b) an upgrade to Photoshop CS4, all the way from the now-stodgy-looking CS2.

Honestly, I know what it all does, really.

Anyway, in lieu of a "real" blog post full of pithy and insightful commentary (yes, yes, I know, that's definitely not what you've come to expect here, is it?), I give you: a quick guide to some of the lab widgets. In one part. With captions. Do feel free to clickety-click on the photos, if you'd like to see them a little bit larger.

Here's part of the lab - for reference, the whole operation is about 15 times the size of this aisle:


Right. First, we have an Applied Biosystems 9700 thermocycler, essentially a programmable machine that changes the temperature of teeny, tiny test tubes in a predictable way. Its primary use is for taking vanishingly small amounts of DNA, and making "carbon copies" of them via the famous, Nobel-Prize-Winning technique known as the Polymerase Chain Reaction. One application is "cycle sequencing", by which we take a piece of DNA and make copies of it in such a way that we can figure out its "genetic code" of those (warning - hackneyed description alert!) "building blocks of life", the nucleotide bases A, C, G and T.


Now, a pair of mighty Beckman Coulter BioMek NXP robots, used for pipetting 96 tiny volumes of liquid at a time:

Biomek NXP times two

One thing we use those for is to "clean up" DNA sequencing reactions that come out of the aforementioned thermocyclers. These buffed, polished and waxed reactions then get loaded into an instrument that separates each reaction down a teeny, tiny, skinny little capillary filled with a gel substance. Count carefully, there really are 96 of them:

Capillary Array

This is fabulous technology, and similar in many respects to the methods used to complete the Human Genome Project. Nowadays, we have higher-throughput instruments, that generate DNA sequence at rates approaching a million times faster, such as this rather unprepossessing looking Applied Biosystems SOLiD (version "3 plus", in case you were wondering):

Applied Biosystems SOLiD

Yes, it really is big, and yes, it really does have its own computer nodes underneath it - the panels are off to allow some of the heat to escape.

So there you go, the cook's tour around a part of the lab, conveniently located across the hall from my office, just far enough away that the people who work in it don't have to worry about me actually pressing any buttons or tripping over anything. The sharp-eyed among you will also notice that in the first photo, everybody was clearly hiding from me. I like to believe it was because I was holding a camera, but you never know.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Time to brag a little.

Despite taking hundreds and hundreds of photographs of cars, some of which I'm very proud of, it turns out that the very first photograph I've licensed for commercial use is of a downtown building.

This building, in fact:

RBC Dominion Securities building, in Brookfield Place, Toronto
Dominion Securities Building, with blurry person.

That photo will appear, in due course, in a fine publication about Canadian Business and the Law - at least, I presume it will, since today they sent me the cheque. Quite by coincidence, as yesterday I emailed the person who solicited it in the first place, finding that her website and email address have since disappeared off the face of the internet.

Now, that's not the first photo I've licensed - in a sense, I've granted various people "licenses" of one sort or another to use my photos in various places, such as NowPublic, Schmap, or in school or university projects. And the first written license was between myself and a company that employs a fairly regular reader of this blog, to use a couple of photos on some promotional literature. Those, I exchanged for a very spiffy iPod.

Roche/454 sequence
Some artistic DNA sequences.

Illumina DNA sequencers
Some DNA sequencers, last year.

But today's cheque - well, that seems like some kind of milestone. A sale! A palpable sale!

Now, I just need to shove the guilt aside, and put the fee towards the "get Richard a new DSLR camera" fund, instead of doing something useful with it, like buying retirement savings, or putting it in the kids' education fund, or something.