The Encyclopedia of Life project will create a compendium of every aspect of the biosphere. It aims to compile data on all of Earth's 1.8 million known species on one Web site, and will include species descriptions, pictures, maps, videos, sound, sightings by amateurs, and links to entire genomes and scientific journal papers. E. O. Wilson is getting his wish. [Via BB.]
How Do You Get Crabs From A Gorilla? One of many little evolutionary cases Carl Zimmer tackles in The Parasite Files.
In their own words... Researchers at the National Institutes of Health recall the early years of AIDS, from diagnosis of the then-unknown disease, to discovering the viral cause, and from there to the search for treatments. The site features interviews (including several with virologist Robert Gallo), early publications, and a collection of archived image materials.
Are you annoyed that there is no species of blind cave spider named Sinopoda metafilteris or worm salamander named Oedipina bluepepsi? You can fix that for 3,000 Euros at the controversal BIOPAT. For inspiration, the Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature site collects the puns, insults, and other weirdnesses that can be found in the scientific names of various plants and animals [prev.]. Genes are not immune to weird names, especially in the case of the fruitfly, where clever naming is normal; but even better are the world's strangest dinosaur names, which allow you to tremble in fear in front of the bambiraptor and meet the Dragon King of Hogwarts.
A British research team led by the world's leading heart surgeon has grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time.
For the first time, researchers have used adult bone marrow stem cells to regenerate healthy human liver tissue, according to a study published in the April issue of the journal Radiology.
Nerve pulses are sound pulses. The membrane of the nerve is composed of lipids, a material that is similar to olive oil. This material can change its state from liquid to solid with temperature. Molecules that dissolve in membranes can lower the freezing point of membranes. The scientists found that the nerve membrane has a freezing point, which is precisely suited to the propagation of these concentrated sound pulses. Their theoretical calculations lead them to the same conclusion: Nerve pulses are sound pulses. This comes from their work on the Thermodynamics of General Anesthesia (pdf). (via Stereophile?)
We, the observers: an-entirely-nother approach angle to 'intelligent' design? Robert Lanza, a researcher at Advanced Cell Technology and a professor at Wake Forest, thinks scientists need to privilege life in order to understand the universe (and everything :) by placing the observer at the center (or end?) of it all.
Sea Squirt Regrows Entire Body from One Blood Vessel. Most famous as the creature that settles down and eats its own brain (though that is not exactly correct), it appears the humble sea squirt has spectacular regenerative abilities as well, thanks to regeneration niches packed with stem cells. All glory to the sea squirt!
"Molecular scientists . . . have developed a new procedure for the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells, with which they have created the first transplantable source of lung epithelial cells."
Ask a Biologist. "We think that kids don't always get the access to real scientific information (or real scientists!) outside of the classroom so we are here to do just that." One of the newest in a line of question-and-answer sites, this one is run by fifty professional scientists and directed toward school kids. Is is possible to clone dinosaurs? Why do I sneeze when I look at the sun? How many mutations do I have? How do polar bears keep their feet warm?
After two big Antarctic ice shelves broke off several years ago, a world of new species was found underneath. Pictures and a press release came out yesterday, showing spindly orange starfish among other interesting creatures. Here is some more information on the expedition. The fact that the shelves melted when they did is most likely a result of global warming, but having them out of the way gave researchers a golden opportunity to study what lives beneath the ice. Other occassions where a disaster has simultaneously been a great research opportunity include radioactive fallouts: at Chernobyl the evacuated area has been monitored for the past decades to see which species move in and how they thrive (previously on Metafilter)
Dictionary of Disorder - shaping the DSM
Cancer Cure Patented A group of researchers claim that they are patenting a possible cure for cancer involving nothing more than sugar and short-chain fatty acid combination.
Birds that rap and cows with accents. The big picture is urban adaptation, which is pretty cool. (...and the egg wins.)
Obesity and Diabetes - another free supplement by Nature
Innocentive.com is a place where a bounty is placed upon biology and chemistry problems, and any roving freelance scientist can get paid to offer a solution.
Journal of Visualized Experiments is an online research journal for publishing visualized (video-based) biological experiments
The latest on the so-called "Red Rain of Kerala." The authors of this study suggest the mysterious red biological material provides evidence of Panspermia. The BBC offers this updated look at the topic. (Previously discussed here on MeFi.)
Neanderthal Lovin’! New research from evolutionary scientist Bruce Lahn suggests that humans and the now extinct Neanderthal species mixed, and humans snatched up a valuable brain gene in the process. (The gene, MCPH1, and Lahn, discussed last year on MeFi) This comes on the tails of yet another new study providing morphological evidence that there was nontrivial interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals in Eurasia, despite the fact that Neanderthals may have been genetically closer to chimps than humans. Contrary to popular imagination, though, the Neanderthal species had bigger brains and sophisticated intellects, at least roughly on par with that of human beings. The gene regulates brain size during development, but its exact utility to humans is still unknown (and controversial). The origin of this gene and the question of Neanderthal mixing will soon be answered more definitively by the, just launched, 2 year project to map the Neanderthal genome, headed by Svante Pääbo (profiled in recent Smithsonian and Wired articles). Pääbo calls Lahn’s study "the most compelling case to date for a genetic contribution of Neandertals to modern humans."
Body of art "Viruses, blood, and x-rays of bones and viscera can be at once unsettling and enticing." [via]
The Institute for the Promotion of the Less than One Millimeter proudly presents The Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms. [via]
Elephant Rage might just tell us a lot about ourselves. There are rehab programs for elephants [mefi thread], and perhaps the ones for human victims can paired . This would be a pretty big step in acknowledging the trans-species psyche. Could this lead to a scientific revultion? Should it lead to an ethical one?
Dolphin intelligence is under fire, but are these arguments over brain size relevant in the face of overwhelming behavioral evidence? Dolphins have been known to display almost all of the qualities which we would consider uniquely human, qualities that we would consider a mark of ‘higher’ intelligence. They are tool users, they are highly creative (perhaps even artistic), they enjoy recreational and social activities, from surfing (either on waves or around the prow of boats) to sex, and they have proven time and time again that they are self-aware. They’ve also formed symbiotic relationships with fisherman, and recent reports suggest that dolphins even have names for each other. But perhaps Douglas Adams said it best in the Hitchhiker’s Guide: “Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much... the wheel, New York, wars, and so on, whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely the dolphins believed themselves to be more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons.”
Historical anatomy models were a marriage of art and science. From about the 13th to the 19th centuries, exquisite wax models were the state of the art. Florence's La Specola anatomical wax museum houses the works of master artists, such as Ercole Lelli, Anna Morandi, and Clemente Susini. The later years of wax models tended towards the grotesque: moulage and depictions of pathological conditions and physical anomalies. Due to the labor required and delicacy of wax models, papier-mâché became the favored production method in the 19th century, partly due to the ability to dissect the models. Over time, models became more stylized to protect the delicate sensibilities of the public. Today, models are again shocking the public with extreme realism.
Enzyme reactions use quantum tunneling. British scientists have apparently solved the question of how enzymes speed up atomic reactions -- through a quantum tunneling effect at the reaction site. Just when you thought biology couldn't get any cooler. [via]
Psychiatry by Prescription - Do psychotropic drugs blur the boundaries between illness and health?
Bacteria Roll Out Carpet Of Goo That Converts Deadly Heavy Metal Into Less Threatening Nano-spheres. This microbe joins another reported not too long ago. We certainly could use their help.
The University of Washington CSE Colloquium features accessible talks by leading computer scientists and computer engineers from the University of Washington, the region, the nation, and the world, most of which are available as MP3 audio and/or Real/Windows Media video online for free. Personal favorites include talks on quantum computing, de novo protein design, and in silico biology as a smarter way to learn how our genes work.
Whales are ridiculous, thanks to their evolutionary origins as
coyote-like mammals moved into the water about 45 million years ago and became more and more adapted to the marine life.
Among his collected works, in the few, short years before mathematician Alan Turing was driven to suicide, he published "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis", theorizing how a standing wave-like distribution of "cannibal" and "missionary" chemicals might explain how plants and animals develop their shape and pigmentation. Blogger Jonathan Swinton focuses on this more obscure aspect of Turing's research, and reviews some of his posthumous and unpublished efforts — including one of the earliest known examples of digital computation applied to the field of biology.
Altered Oceans: A Primeval Tide of Toxins The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour. When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos.
The Human Speechome Project - "A baby is to be monitored by a network of microphones and video cameras for 14 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an effort to unravel the seemingly miraculous process by which children acquire language.". Selected video clips. Paper (PDF, 750KB). To test hypotheses of how children learn, Prof Deb Roy's team at MIT will develop machine learning systems that “step into the shoes” of his son by processing the sights and sounds of three years of life at home. Total storage required: 1.4 petabytes.
Against Pandas: "Pandas are endangered because they are utterly incompetent... Pandas are badly designed, undersexed, overpaid and overprotected. They went up an evolutionary cul-de-sac and it is too late to reverse."
Nature has a somewhat technical but free supplement on stem cells (alongwith a podcast and related blog).
Living with half a brain - hemispherectomy, probably the most radical procedure in neurosurgery
Science sites of all kinds for kids. Archeology. Entomology. Natural Symphony. Baseball in Space. Philosophy. Process or Content. Science songs. Physics songs, relativity. String theory. Science and Art.
Researchers discover that lactic acid is more than just a byproduct. According to George A. Brooks, "lactate is the link between oxidative and glycolytic, or anaerobic, metabolism." You can read the abstract of the paper at the American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Today in weird animals : An international group of scientists has described an animal that provides nutrition for its young by letting them peel off and eat its skin.
Mitosis reversed. Incompletely, but still... Here's the Nature paper(PDF). Here's the video (direct link to QT). Oh, and we can print organs now. O brave new world! (via, via)
Owls are rad. Sometimes they look kind of metallic and scary, sometimes wise, sometimes puzzled, and sometimes like skulls, (Index); sometimes they sound like dogs or pigs, sometimes they sound like a little train, sometimes they sound alarmed, (Index of MP3s); sometimes you come across an extensive gallery of Central and North American owls with pictures, ranges, video, and even a description of the '04-'05 Northern Owl Invasion; sometimes it's a dynamic range map of Owls of the Western Hemisphere; sometimes it's the OwlCam homepage with downloadable owl movies, sometimes it's a series of articles on all things owl; sometimes at BiologyBase it's a printable owl sighting lifelist, sometimes it's Ruru, the morepork, New Zealand's native owl at NZBirds. Or, w0t! w0t!, it's attracting barn owls and building nest boxes at World Owl Trust. Previous MeFi birding FPP.
Nectivorous!!! Those that eat nectar: hummingbirds, honeyeaters, miners, honeycreepers, spinebills, wattlebirds, friarbirds, lorikeets, warblers, some parrots, and of course some bats!!! Many plants are adapted to such creatures!
ARTnatomy: Anatomical Basis of Facial Expression Learning Tool. See how all the different muscles in your face work. Flash interface; via Drawn!