It is time for a come back!

I do not remember the last time I wrote a post for my blog. So many things changed. I moved to a new country, and everything has changed since then.

Personally, I believe Germany is one of the best countries in Europe, and this is one of the reasons that made me come to do my doctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg.

Last year, my new life started at the guesthouse of the institute, where I had the chance to meet new people from all over the world. We shared breakfasts, dinners, and late night chats. Maybe I will tell you more about them in the future.

And later came the serious issues of finding an apartment, fixing my VISA papers, working in the lab, networking with the new colleagues, and basically starting from the zero again.

So many things happened, so many things changed, and so many things were lost. My first year in Freiburg has been a life changing year. Now that I look back at it, I can’t be but grateful for all the chances that it gave me, and all the lessons I’ve learnt.

I am sure more will come in the future.

ANATHEMA – Weather Systems (2012) Music’s healing power

Raed Hmadi:

“There’s plenty of melancholy on there as well, but a philosophical maturity and a new ability to express profound thoughts in a simpler, more direct fashion, and even happiness when appropriate”

Originally posted on Make Your Own Taste:

Even the cover is great!

Over time, as you write a blog site and review a lot of albums, it becomes clear what your favourite topics are, whether you chose ’em or they chose you. For instance, my favourite band for most of my life was/is The Church; hence, there’s a lot of content on this site about that band. I’ve had a long time to listen to and absorb their music, so my thoughts have some currency. Another, more recent phenomenon in my listening life is Liverpudlian band Anathema, of which you will find a summary here. It’s been a couple of years since I “discovered” the band’s music, and now I must say, when I need a pick-me-up, out of the literally thousands of albums I possess, theirs are very often the ones I reach for. And this one in particular. That’s why there is an embarrassingly…

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How Our Brains React to an Incredible Reading Experience

Have you ever felt “taken away” or “overwhelmed” when reading a fictional book? Some people really get lost into the book and lose focus on their surrounding. Personally, I have felt this so many times when reading outstanding fictional work, such as the writings of
J. K. Rowling and Dan brown.

Interestingly, the science behind these feelings is not clear yet, so a group of scientists at the Free University of Berlin decided to decipher and uncover the reasons why the brain reacts this way.

The main findings mentioned that these fictional stories with a lot of emotional content prompt the readers to feel empathy towards the protagonists.  And such feelings are activated by a special neural network located in the anterior insula and mid-cingulate cortex regions of the brain. The participants were given short paragraphs from the Harry Potter book series, and the content from these paragraphs ranged from emotionally neutral or fear-inducing.

This is, of course, no surprise, but what’s interesting is what was going on in the participants’ brains. The fear-inducing passages were actually triggering different neural pathways into action that the emotionless, neutral passages were not.

Google’s Stock Soars 1,293% in First 10 Years

It’s been 10 years since the initial public offering of the dominant search company, and how it’s grown up.

Google’s (GOOG) rise to power has been so swift and breathtaking, it’s shaken up the world order of the advertising industry, disrupted the technology industry and turned into a massive money maker for investors.

While the advertising company first rose to the fore due to its super-secret search algorithm, Google has used its power to collect vast amounts of data about its users and apply it to new areas. Google has pushed into new industries including mobile, where it is dominant, and also software systems.

For investors, the Internet advertising firm’s success has been astounding. Google is the 11th best performing stock in the current Standard & Poor’s 500 since its Aug. 19, 2004, IPO, gaining 30.15% a year on average, says Howard Silverblatt, strategist at S&P Dow Jones Indices. The stock has rocketed 1,293% since its IPO, says Bespoke Investment Group.

Google’s IPO broke the mold from the very start. Advised by academics, Google sold shares using the Dutch Auction model, where all potential buyers used an online system to indicate how many shares they wanted and at what price. The IPO establishment was outraged since they did not get the preferential treatment and power to dole out shares to their own clients.

Interestingly, Google has outlasted several of these banks that normally would have sold shares. Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were two of the top investment banks in 2004, Bespoke says, and both are now gone.

And it’s not just the investment banking industry that’s been rocketed since Google. There are 145 stocks that were in the S&P 500 at the time of the Google IPO that are no longer publicly traded, Bespoke says.

The founders also found themselves in a bit of trouble at the time of the IPO when they appeared in Playboy magazine with an interview prior to the offering. It was quickly resolved with a press release and update to the registration documents.

Recently, the company orchestrated a complex stock split, which created another class of stock. Some declared the move, which concentrates more voting power in the hands of founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as anti-investor. But the company is so profitable, investors can’t resist holding it.

Many people may consider Google to be a technology company, but its secret to success is that it is an advertising company. Google uses its technology products as a way to lure more users from which the company can collect data and sell information about them to the highest bidder. More than 60% of the value of Google’s stock price comes from advertising, delivered both on desktop computers and on mobile devices, says stock information firm Trefis.

These data and Google’s dominant position on the Web with its services gives it so much power, it’s very difficult to compete against. Media magnate Rupert Murdock this weekend again groused at how powerful Google has become with a post on Twitter.

Google’s business model might be difficult for consumers to understand. But it allows the company to offer products at no cost that a traditional software company would charge money for. And those data, it seems, are worth more than the price of the software and services being given away for free.

Raspberry and Blueberry Muffins

Sunday night and my friend was preparing some raspberry muffins. So I thought you would join us and prepare some for your family or friends. In the end, good food means good gatherings.

Hope you will like it.


  • 300g (2 cups) self-raising flour
  • 155g (3/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 150g frozen blueberries
  • 150g frozen raspberries
  • 250ml (1 cup) buttermilk
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked


  1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Cut out eight 13cm-square pieces of non-stick baking paper. Line eight 80ml (1/3-cup) capacity muffin pans with paper squares.

  2. Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add blueberries and raspberries, and stir to combine. Add the buttermilk, oil and egg, and stir with a metal spoon until just combined (do not overmix).

  3. Spoon batter among prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Bonn apetitte <3

Anathema Distant Satellites Review

Anathema formed long time ago in a galaxy far away as a metal band, initially dubbed Pagan Angel. They used to tour with bands like Cannibal Corpse. Then some things began to change. They started using exclusively clean vocals, and had a few lineup changes (though the core members of the Cavanagh brothers is somehow intact today), and now today that finds me reviewing a fairly tame progressive rock album – with more emphasis on the “progressive” than on the “rock,” even. The current lineup of the band includes 4 of the 5 founding members. This includes the 3 Cavanagh brothers (Vince and Daniel playing guitar and vocals, Jamie on bass), and John Douglas on drums. John Douglas‘ sister, Lee Douglas, has been with the band since 2006 providing additional vocals. Lastly, Daniel Cardoso, the touring keyboardist, has recently been made a permanent member of the band. While all accounts show Jamie Cavanagh as a current member of the band, it appears that the bass duties on the album were fulfilled by producer, Christer-André Cederberg. Some songs were mixed by Steven Wilson ofPorcupine Tree. The album contains 10 tracks with a runtime of 56 minutes and released by Kscope Records.

The album opens with “The Lost Song Part 1,” which is followed by “The Lost Song Part 2.” Both of these tracks are fairly straightforward modern prog rock tracks, with conventional instrumentation and vocals (except with the two and three voice harmonies that occur in Anathema). “The Lost Song Part 2” is a much slower track than “Part 1.” “Dusk (Dark Is Descending)” is up next with a weird little guitar part that is definitely saturated with a certain type of vibe. “Ariel” is up next, which is primarily a keyboard/piano track and depends heavily on solo vocals by Lee Douglas. Later in the track more instrumentation comes in, and the Cavanagh brothers provide some vocal harmonization, but Lee‘s voice and the keyboard stay as the central theme of the track. “The Lost Song Part 3” is up next, oddly enough, and this is where the melancholy vibe of the album started to get a little heavy for me. The bass guitar on this track really shines. The next track is named “Anathema,” with the best part of the song being the awesome guitar solo that probably takes up a fourth of the track. “You’re Not Alone” is a very repetitive song which utilizes chanted repetitious lyrics, as well. While the track does build up some, it is mainly electronic except for having some heavy guitar briefly in the second half of the track. “Firelight” is basically an instrumental track, really more of a keyboard and synth solo piece, and honestly unless you look at it as an intermission in the album, it is basically a waste of space on the album. The title track, “Distant Satellites,” is over eight minutes long, and is another song that is full of electronic elements more than anything else. The album closes out with “Take Shelter,” which (guess what?) is pretty much an electronic music track.

Vocals are provided by Vincent Cavanagh, Daniel Cavanagh, and Lee Douglas.Vincent and Daniel are both competent vocalists with their own unique sound, but Lee is who makes the band shine with her almost haunting vocals. The three vocalists together create a lot of variety in the sound on the album. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the track “You Are Not Alone“: “never could be what you want to be/ never could say what you want to say/ never could be what you want to be/ never could see you’re not alone/ you’re not alone.” Then from the track, “Ariel” you have: “I found you in the dark/ I found you in the dark/ don’t leave me here, love/ don’t leave me staring at the sun/ love’s so strong it hurts/ staring at the sun/ love’s so strong it hurts.

Their sound is significantly different than the old Anathema I remember, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you don’t think of them as the same band, because they really aren’t. The ’90s Anathema was a metal band, though sometimes they strayed into more of a hard rock sound. The current Anathema isn’t even remotely metal or even hard rock – they are purely prog rock – except for a few brief moments of heaviness and then a lot of electronic elements that is an even newer addition to their sound. With that being said, the songwriting and composition on the album was impressive, and while this isn’t one of my favorite prog albums released this year (sorry, this has been a good year for prog releases), it is definitely a decent album if you stop listening after the track “Anathema.” I’m not sure what was going on after that point in the album, but there is definitely a sudden change into a much more electronic music type of sound after that track, which I just wasn’t feeling.

Adapted from “Ultimate Guitar”

Stem Cells: Where Are We Going?


We run too hard, we fall down, we’re sick — all of this puts stress on the cells in our bodies. But in what’s being called a breakthrough in regenerative medicine, researchers have found a way to make stem cells by purposely putting mature cells under stress.

Two new studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature describe a method of taking mature cells from mice and turning them into embryonic-like stem cells, which can be coaxed into becoming any other kind of cell possible. One method effectively boils down to this: Put the cells in an acidic environment.

“I think the process we’ve described mimics Mother Nature,” said Dr. Charles Vacanti, director of the laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and senior author on one of the studies. “It’s a natural process that cells normally respond to.”

Both studies represent a new step in the thriving science of stem cell research, which seeks to develop therapies to repair bodily damage and cure disease by being able to insert cells that can grow into whatever tissues or organs are needed. If you take an organ that’s functioning at 10% of normal and bring it up to 25% functionality, that could greatly reduce the likelihood of fatality in that particular disease, Vacanti said.

This method by Vacanti and his colleagues “is truly the simplest, cheapest, fastest method ever achieved for reprogramming [cells],” said Jeff Karp, associate professor of medicine at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. He was not involved in the study.

Scientists grow minibrains from stem cells

Before the technique described in Nature, the leading candidates for creating stem cells artificially were those derived from embryos and stem cells from adult cells that require the insertion of DNA to become reprogrammable.

Stem cells are created the natural way every time an egg that is fertilized begins to divide. During the first four to five days of cell division, so-called pluripotent stem cells develop. They have the ability to turn into any cell in the body. Removing stem cells from the embryo destroys it, which is why this type of research is controversial.

Researchers have also developed a method of producing embryonic-like stem cells by taking a skin cell from a patient, for example, and adding a few bits of foreign DNA to reprogram the skin cell to become like an embryo and produce pluripotent cells, too. However, these cells are usually used for research because researchers do not want to give patients cells with extra DNA.

The new method does not involve the destruction of embryos or inserting new genetic material into cells, Vacanti said. It also avoids the problem of rejection: The body may reject stem cells that came from other people, but this method uses an individual’s own mature cells.

“It was really surprising to see that such a remarkable transformation could be triggered simply by stimuli from outside of the cell,” said Haruko Obokata of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Japan in a news conference this week.

The process is called STAP, which stands for “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency.” Karp estimates that the method is five to 10 times faster than other means of reprogramming cells.

Have a taste of the world’s first stem cell burger

Researchers used mice to study the STAP cell phenomenon. They genetically altered the mice donating stem cells to “label” those cells with the color green. For instance, they modified mice such that their cells would light up green in response to a particular wavelength of light.

The scientists exposed blood cells from these genetically altered mice to an acidic environment. A few days later, they saw that these cells turned into the embryonic-like state and grew in spherical clusters.

Scientists put the cell clusters into a mouse embryo that had not been genetically modified. It turned out, the implanted clusters could form tissues in all of the organs that the researchers tested. The scientists knew that the cells came from the original mouse because they turned green when exposed to a particular light.

Besides modifying acidity, researchers also stressed the cells in other ways, such as lowering the oxygen environment and disrupting the cell membrane. Increasing acidity was one of the most effective methods of turning mouse blood cells into STAP cells.

There are, of course, some caveats.

For now, the STAP cell procedure has only been demonstrated in cells from young mice. The effectiveness in humans, and the risks, are unknown.

Researchers have not yet shown how STAP embryonic-like stem cells compare with bona fide embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells, Karp said.

Also, although the study was “rigorous” and “well-controlled,” it did not demonstrate exactly why the stress on the cells caused them to become STAP cells, Karp said.

As with everything in science, more research is required to confirm the findings and learn more about the implications.

Vacanti hopes the process could get tested clinically in humans within three years. He noted that induced pluripotent stem cells are already being explored in Japan in humans and the same “platforms” could be utilized for STAP cells.

STAP cells also have an additional property that embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells do not: They can become placental cells. Scientists can manipulate them to contribute to tissues of either the embryo or the placenta.

What therapeutic purpose growing more placenta could serve, Vacanti isn’t sure — unless, that is, you wanted to create an embryo and bring it to term.

Cloning stem cells: What does it mean?

But that’s not the goal of this research. Vacanti and colleagues want to explore possible ties to cancer from the STAP cell process; it could potentially help to model the process by which cells become cancerous and explore if there is a way to reverse the process.

Stem cell research as a field has been growing at “lightning speed,” Karp said.

New reprogramming approaches to stem cells are emerging all the time, he said, and this one in particular “looks incredibly promising.”

Source: CNN