In 2003, the BBC reported that a population explosion of Great Gerbils
had destroyed more than 4 million hectares of grasslands in China's north-western Xinjiang region
-- an area about the size of Switzerland. By 2005 the damage covered 5
million hectares, and the Xinjuang Regional Headquarters for Controlling Locusts and Rodents were reported to be breeding and attracting pairs of golden eagles to curb the gerbil population. So McSweeney's Joshuah Bearman was assigned to the story. His report: An Investigation Into Xinjiang's Growing Swarm of Great Gerbils, Which May or May Not be Locked in a Death-Struggle With the Golden Eagle, With Important Parallels and/or Implications Regarding Koala Bears, The Pied Piper, Spongmonkeys, Cane Toads, Black Death, [and] Text-Messaging.
posted by zarq
on Sep 18, 2012 -
In 2001, we learned the sequence of our genome; now, we have amassed a vast amount of knowledge about what those sequences actually do
. Yesterday, the data from the ENCODE
project went live. [more inside]
posted by Westringia F.
on Sep 6, 2012 -
Researchers sneak up on sleeping sperm whales
(.mpg video, hosted by Current Biology.
Matt Kaplan, writing in Nature
a 2008 article in Current Biology
"An accidental encounter with a pod of sleeping sperm whales has opened researchers’ eyes to some unknown sleep behaviours of these giant sea creatures . . . A team led by Luke Rendell at the University of St Andrew’s, UK, were monitoring calls and behaviour in sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) off the northern Chile coast when they accidentally drifted into the middle of a pod of whales hanging vertically in the water, their noses poking out of the surface. At least two of the whales were facing the boat, but not a single animal responded." [more inside]
posted by spitbull
on Aug 12, 2012 -
These days, it's easy to take visualizations of biological molecules for granted, what with the easy availability
of an ever-increasing supply of high-resolution X-ray
and neutron crystallography data, as well as freely available software
that render them into beautiful and useful images that help us understand how life works. The lack of computers and computer networks in the mid-1950s made creating these illustrations a painstaking collaboration, requiring an artist's craftsmanship and aesthetic sense, as well as, most importantly, the critical ability to visualize the concepts that scientists wish to communicate. One such scientific artist was Irving Geis
, who painted the first biological macromolecule obtained through X-ray data: an iconic watercolor representation of the structure of sperm whale myoglobin, as seen in the third slide of this slideshow of selected pieces
. His first effort was a revolutionary
work of informatics, including coloring and shading effects that emphasized important structural and functional features of the myoglobin protein, simultaneously moving the less-important aspects into the background, all while stressing simplicity and beauty throughout. The techniques that Geis developed in this and subsequent works
influenced the standards for basic 2D protein visualization that are used today.
posted by Blazecock Pileon
on Aug 8, 2012 -
"As a climber goes up even higher in altitude, into the so-called death zone, the dangerously thin air above 26,000 feet, there is so little oxygen available that the body makes a desperate decision: it cuts off the digestive system. The body can no longer afford to direct oxygen to the stomach to help digest food because that would divert what precious little oxygen is available away from the brain. The body will retch back up anything the climber tries to eat, even if it’s as small as an M&M."
from To the Last Breath: A Journey of Going to Extremes
posted by Brandon Blatcher
on Aug 7, 2012 -
Wellcome Image Awards 2012
"Wellcome Images is the world's leading source of images of medicine and its history, from ancient civilisation and social history to contemporary healthcare, biomedical science and clinical medicine. More than 180 000 images ranging from manuscripts, rare books, archives and paintings to X-rays, clinical photography and scanning electron micrographs are available on the Wellcome Images website." (Previously
) [cortex, is that you
posted by OmieWise
on Jun 22, 2012 -
A chronic public health disaster.
Complex trauma and toxic stress puts children into a state of reflexive fight, flight, or freeze responses to a perpetually threatening world. The traditional authoritative response only serves to reinforce those behaviours and, perhaps worse, has long-term health consequences:
With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; suicide, 1,220 percent.
One doctor describes it as “a chronic public health disaster”. Remediating this problem is going to require listening, kindness, and parachutes.
posted by davidpriest.ca
on May 1, 2012 -
is an open database of life form silhouettes. All images are available for reuse under a Public Domain or Creative Commons license. [more inside]
posted by brundlefly
on Feb 4, 2012 -
Theory of the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life
, in which the author, Erik Andrulis, proposes an "axiomatic, experimentally testable, empirically consistent, heuristic, and unified theory of life." He also claims to be able to unify physics.....ahem. All this is done using the chemistry notation you learned in highschool. [more inside]
posted by AElfwine Evenstar
on Jan 27, 2012 -
How can we better understand the interplay of nature and nurture in determining our personalities, behavior, and vulnerability to disease? Perhaps we should be looking at identical twins
. (National Geographic January 2012 cover story) [more inside]
posted by zarq
on Dec 19, 2011 -
American biologist Lynn Margulis has died.
Prolific and determined, Margulis was best known for her development of Endosymbiotic Theory
, the now widely-accepted idea that complex cells began as a combination of simpler, prokaryotic ones, and the Gaia Hypothesis
, which posited the Earth as a type of living organism. Some of her later ideas, including the claim that HIV is not the cause of AIDS
or that caterpillers and butterflies were once separate organisms, received less support, but Endosymbiotic Theory, in the words of Richard Dawkins, remains "one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology."
posted by Tubalcain
on Nov 23, 2011 -
Split Family Faces.
"How much do you and members of your family really look alike? Quebec, Canada-based graphic designer and photographer Ulric Collette has created a shockingly cool project where he's exploring the genetic similarities between different members of the same family. By splitting their faces in half and then melding them together, he creates interesting new people that are sometimes quite normal looking and other times far from it. He calls this series Genetic Portraits."
posted by Bunny Ultramod
on Aug 17, 2011 -