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Fat Chance

[whitespace] One more thin pill to shrink your wallet

By Bob Harris

YOU'VE SEEN those TV ads promising miracle products that block your body's ability to absorb fat, magically transforming your figure from Wilson Phillips to Peta Wilson to a Phillips screwdriver, and all in even less time than it takes Jerry Seinfeld to hit on a prom queen.

Y'know what? They all work, every single one.

By taking your money and making you poorer, instant weight loss products have the definite effect of making it harder to buy food, so if you buy enough of them--bingo!-- you lose weight.

That said, scientists up at UC San Francisco have discovered a key enzyme that your body uses to produce fat molecules, and coming up with a way to block that enzyme may not be far behind.

The enzyme is called DGAT, which stands for a chemical name that contains every letter of the alphabet, two bird calls, and a wide range of high-pitched clicking sounds. For weight-loss purposes, let's assume DGAT stands for Don't Get Another Taco, and we'll be just fine.

DGAT normally combines with other molecules to form compounds called triglycerides, which make up about 95 percent of your excess flesh and 100 percent of Lawrence Taylor's head.

So blocking DGAT would make it impossible for your body to manufacture fat.

What would come out of you instead isn't exactly clear yet, although I strongly suspect it'll show up in the next John Waters movie, possibly wearing eye shadow.

Anyway, actual skinny pills may only be five years away.

Which means side effects, mutations, and premature deaths are only 10 years out. Lawsuits are 15 years away, and self-help books for relatives in recovery should pop out around 2020.

By which time, John Waters will receive a lifetime achievement Oscar, Lawrence Taylor will be out of prison, and Jerry Seinfeld will be dating a 30-year-old.

Never let it be said that this space won't predict a long shot.

ACCORDING to a new study from Washington University in St. Louis, some depressed folks are simply missing a few brain cells.

That doesn't mean the converse is true: not everyone with missing gray matter is necessarily depressed. Otherwise there wouldn't be so much cheering at tractor pulls.

But doctors have known for a while that some cases of inherited depression may be caused by getting shortchanged in your subgenual prefrontal cortex, a dime-sized piece of brain behind the center of your forehead--right where you'd put a bull's-eye on someone else, assuming you got one of the small ones.

And the new study indicates that in many people with manic depression, there's a shortage of glia, which are cells that schlep around and get coffee for your thinking neuron cells, and whose response to the neurotransmitter serotonin is a major factor in whether you feel like hugging that Jehovah's Witness or scoring his aorta with a steak knife.

So there's a definite genetic component to some forms of depression, and it's one that many current drug therapies simply aren't yet designed to cope with.

Not that this is all such a surprise. I mean, look: Aaron Spelling. Tori Spelling. See? Obviously, the cause of depression can be reproduced.

Except we're the ones getting depressed.

FINALLY: computers cannot possibly get any smaller. Probably.

You already know how annoying it is that absolutely any computer thing you ever buy is completely obsolete within a matter of months, and whatever replaces it is newer, half the size, and much more attractively packaged.

A lot like Donald Trump's wives.

I once spent over a thousand dollars on a Commodore 64 computer, which was really exciting because it had enough memory to contain ... a graphic. Singular.

The entire processing power of that thousand-dollar computer is now contained in an ordinary pager that they give away free just to sell you the service. Nothing in the world loses value as fast as technology. Other than an NBA season ticket, Godzilla merchandise, and Whoopi Goldberg's film career.

Anyway, scientists in Copenhagen have created literally the smallest microprocessor possible: a computer chip where a single atom jumps back and forth to generate binary code, much the same way Anne Heche generates publicity.

The four-man team of goggleheads who accomplished this used a scanning-tunneling microscope to remove one of a single pair of hydrogen atoms from the surface of a silicon chip, leaving the remaining hydrogen atom available for further use.

Not surprisingly, not one of them has ever touched a girl.

What this means is that in 10 years, storage density will increase by a factor of over a million. Within our lifetimes, it's actually possible that the entire sum of literature, art, music, and literally all human expression might eventually be stored on a single disc.

Which Bill Gates will own.

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From the November 5-11, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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