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George C Williams

Influential evolutionary biologist George C. Williams (1926-2010) has passed away. [more inside]
posted by AceRock on Sep 10, 2010 - 10 comments

Theocracy at the end of a Pipetman

With the passing of Executive Order 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells, in 2009 President Obama expanded federal funding and rescinded George W. Bush's policies that eliminated most federal funding and restricted human embryonic stem cell research to the use of existing, contaminated cell lines. On Monday, federal judge Royce C. Lamberth blocked this new order after protestations from James L. Sherley, a former scientist with the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, who operates the Ave Maria Biotechnology Company, which aims to do "pro-life" therapeutic research without the "taint of embryonic or electively aborted fetal materials". [more inside]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Aug 25, 2010 - 45 comments

nom nom nom OH MY GOD

You know what's great about Hawaii? Its isolation can produce interesting forms of life, such as Eupethecia staurophragma i.e. carnivorous caterpillars! Don't believe it? Watch the video or view the photos (via boingboing).

Aww, are you giant carnivorous centipede lovers feeling neglected? No, problem Mefi has covered that.
posted by nomadicink on Aug 18, 2010 - 21 comments

Kurzweil vs. Myers

Ray Kurzweil: Reverse-Engineering of Human Brain Likely by 2030. PZ Myers: Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain.
posted by homunculus on Aug 18, 2010 - 195 comments

You Dirty Chicken Plucker

Howard Bloom: Exercising the Animals in the Brain [more inside]
posted by nola on Aug 9, 2010 - 25 comments

Gamers Are Credit To Team!

Today's issue of Nature contains a paper with a rather unusual author list. Read past the standard collection of academics, and the final author credited is... the FoldIt multiplayer online gaming community. Even though most of them had no biochemistry experience, the human players of FoldIt turned out to be better at identifying three-dimensional protein structure patterns than the algorithms of Rosetta@Home. (Previously on MeFi)
posted by zarq on Aug 5, 2010 - 12 comments

Die Young, Live Fast: The Evolution of an Underclass

Die young, live fast: the evolution of an underclass [more inside]
posted by modernnomad on Jul 23, 2010 - 78 comments

The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin

New Adventures in Recent Evolution - In the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome have found evidence of recent natural selection. cf. Social Darwinism: 21st century edition [previously] (via ip) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 20, 2010 - 19 comments

What, if Anything, Is Big Bird?

Paedomorphic flightlessness and taxonomic affinities of an enormous Recent bird is a talk on the anatomy and evolutionary history of a certain flightless bird indigenous to New York City.
posted by CrunchyFrog on Jul 14, 2010 - 16 comments

But will I be able to build my very own Milla Jovovich?

Sir, Your Liver Is Ready: Behind the Scenes of Bioprinting (Previously on MeFi)
posted by zarq on Jul 12, 2010 - 9 comments

Free will vs. Modern-day Criminal Justice System

The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system
As de Duve has written, “If … neuronal events in the brain determine behavior, irrespective of whether they are conscious or unconscious, it is hard to find room for free will. But if free will does not exist, there can be no responsibility, and the structure of human societies must be revised”.
Ben Libet & free will, previously on metafilter. (And more on: Lucretius, Dualism, Philosophy of mind, and Free Will 1, 2.)
posted by scalespace on Jul 6, 2010 - 100 comments

Adaptation to High Altitude in Tibet

Tibetans May Be Fastest Evolutionary Adapters Ever. "A group of scientists in China, Denmark and the U.S. recently documented the fastest genetic change observed in humans. According to their findings, Tibetan adaption to high altitude might have taken just 3,000 years. That's a flash, in terms of evolutionary time, but it's one that's in dispute."
posted by homunculus on Jul 2, 2010 - 12 comments

Nature / Nurture / Talent

Vanessa Mae Nicholson is one of Britain’s most successful young musicians. A classical violinist and former child prodigy who self-describes her crossover style as "violin techno-acoustic fusion," her fans praise her modern creativity and frenetic, lightning-fast riffs. But is her talent learned or genetic? Documentary from BBC1 in 2008: Vanessa Mae - The Making of Me: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jun 21, 2010 - 18 comments

The Authors Forgot About Rock and Roll

An article in the June issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society of the Biological Sciences finds that "differences in reproductive strategies are driving individuals' different views on recreational drugs": namely, that views on sexual promiscuity are more closely related to views on recreational drug use than religion, political affiliation or other predictors. The study suggests attitudes against recreational drug use are an evolutionary attempt to promote reproductive stability.
posted by l33tpolicywonk on Jun 16, 2010 - 21 comments

Man As Industrial Palace

Artist Henning Lederer has adapted Fritz Kahn's illustration "Man As Industrial Palace" [previously] as an interactive installation. [via SciencePunk]
posted by brundlefly on Jun 14, 2010 - 2 comments

false eyes

Fake Eyes "To small tropical birds foraging on the rainforest floor, those two scowling eyes peering back at them from between the leaves could be a predator. But they also could belong to one of the hundreds of caterpillar species that have evolved eyelike spots and patterns to trick feasting birds."
posted by dhruva on Jun 14, 2010 - 43 comments

Parasite Parade

The parasite Toxoplasma makes rats lust for cat pee and people drive motorbikes. Other behaviour-modifying parasites include Cordyceps (YouTube) and Sacculina. (Warning: Icky.)
posted by Zarkonnen on Jun 4, 2010 - 33 comments

Venter creates spiraling coils of self-replicating DNA.

"The ability to design and create new forms of life marks a turning-point in the history of our species and our planet." - Freeman Dyson, on the J.C. Venter Institute's creation of a cell controlled by a synthetic genome. We are now in the business of engineering life.
posted by BoatMeme on May 20, 2010 - 62 comments

DrosophApocalypse Now

Circus of the Spineless #50 - the 50th in a series of collections of scientists' favorite disgusting, glorious, and gloriously disgusting invertebrates. Previously
posted by Burhanistan on May 7, 2010 - 7 comments

Sequencing of the Neandertal genome completed

Neandertals are the closest ancestral relatives to modern humans. Today, Nature published a special report on the Neandertal genome, for which a draft sequencing of three billion nucleotides has been completed. This high-throughput sequencing project shows how the genetic relationship between Neandertals and modern Europeans and Asians suggests localized interbreeding between the two species roughly 40-80,000 years ago, complicating the common "out-of-Africa" story of how modern humans originated. Additional research extends this low-coverage, first-pass sequencing with a microarray approach that uncovers specific differences between the human and Neandertal genomes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on May 6, 2010 - 75 comments

The Linux Gene Network

Yale scientists analogize the Linux call graph with the E. coli gene regulatory network in an open access PNAS article. Carl Zimmer explores the implications of network design versus evolution, suggesting that a more modular architecture in bacteria leads to a rugged (i.e. robust) system that does not "crash" like a computer.
posted by jjray on May 5, 2010 - 26 comments

A general theory of individuality

We Need a General Theory of Individuality : "One of the unspoken secrets in basic scientific research, from anthropology to zoology (with intervening stops at physiology, political science, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology) is that, nearly always, individuals turn out to be different from one another, and that—to an extent rarely admitted and virtually never pursued—scientific generalizations tend to hush up those differences"
posted by dhruva on May 5, 2010 - 75 comments

Life, rekindled.

How does an ecosystem rebound from catastrophe? Thirty years after the blast, Mount St. Helens is reborn again. Interactive Graphic: Blast Zone. Also see National Geographic's feature article from 1981, chronicling that year's eruption. Previously on MeFi [more inside]
posted by zarq on Apr 20, 2010 - 18 comments

A new branch of animal life is discovered

Meet three new species of Loricifera, the first multicellular forms of life found that can live entirely without oxygen (figures and full article, PDF). [more inside]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 8, 2010 - 30 comments

You can never win a game of slaps with a squid

I am a giant squid. I swam up from the briny ocean depths. I have a computer, with a specially-modified tentacle-friendly interface. I have a fast internet connection. I seek to learn about humans and about the world. I have read much on the internet. Yet still, I have many unanswered questions. And you must have questions of me. We have much to learn from one another. To this end, I have developed the assortment of quizzes, games and activities you find before you. They form part of my ongoing campaign to facilitate improved human-squid relations. Try them out, you will most certainly learn something about squid.
posted by Rhaomi on Apr 5, 2010 - 42 comments

"You Can't Patent Nature"

Followup to this post: A US District Court has ruled that Myriad Genetic's patents on breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which allow them to hold exclusive rights to a widely used genetic test for inherited breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility, are invalid. Genomics Law Report analyzes the ruling in two posts. The decision is likely to be challenged in a legal appeal — but if upheld, it could have huge implications for the biotechnology industry. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 31, 2010 - 51 comments

I'll have a glass of sea water, hold the salt

Researchers at MIT and in Korea have developed a new, efficient desalinization nanotechnology that could theoretically lead to small, portable units powered by solar cells or batteries, yet deliver enough potable fresh water from seawater to supply the needs of a family or small village. As an added bonus, the system would simultaneously remove many contaminants, viruses and bacteria. MIT Press Release. Abstract and Supplementary Information from Nature Nanotechnology. (pdf) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 24, 2010 - 32 comments

Whence Altruism?

A new study suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion in human history, as well as more complex economies. (Via). [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 22, 2010 - 49 comments

Misunderstanding Darwin

Misunderstanding Darwin: Natural selection’s secular critics get it wrong. Ned Block and Philip Kitcher review Jerry Fodor's (previously) and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini's book What Darwin Got Wrong. Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini respond: “Misunderstanding Darwin”: An Exchange.
posted by homunculus on Mar 20, 2010 - 62 comments

Dosin' the 'tocin

It may increase schadenfreude. It's an assistant to abortifacients and it's produced by stimulating the nipples. Got a clogged lizard? Your mom used it to turn off your brain for your own good. In women, it peaks at orgasm, but in men, it might be elevated throughout sex without peaking. And what do you mean "social" monogamy!? Is it the love 'em and leave 'em hormone?? Well, it's NOT Vasopressin For Her, contrary to what some people think. Is it an impedance to feminism? Could it be the key to treating Autism? Ism... ism... jism? YEP. It's in the jism! Its synthesis was the end of A Trail of Sulfa Research, and its master was awarded the Nobel Prize. (Chemistry, not Peace.) You can scent your loveletters with it, but sorry, peaches... you can't huff a good cuddle, but you might like to huff while you cuddle. Previously.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur on Mar 14, 2010 - 48 comments

Targeting the Good Cell

Targeting the Good Cell: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covers the latest stem cell advances, built around a gripping 2008 series (1, 2, 3) about the competitive race to reprogram mature cells into functionally embryonic stem cells. [more inside]
posted by jjray on Mar 11, 2010 - 2 comments

I'm sure this'll end well....

We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 22, 2010 - 207 comments

"People are trying things; kettles are exploding. Everyone’s attempting magic right and left."

Do-It-Yourself Genetic Engineering at iGEM [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Feb 12, 2010 - 23 comments

Roger Penrose is looking more credible

Quantum processes involved in photosynthesis? "[A]lgae and bacteria may have been performing quantum calculations at life-friendly temperatures for billions of years. The evidence comes from a study of how energy travels across the light-harvesting molecules involved in photosynthesis. The work has culminated this week in the extraordinary announcement that these molecules in a marine alga may exploit quantum processes at room temperature to transfer energy without loss. Physicists had previously ruled out quantum processes, arguing that they could not persist for long enough at such temperatures to achieve anything useful." (via mr)
posted by kliuless on Feb 10, 2010 - 43 comments

I have no eyes and I must see!

Sea urchins do not have eyes, yet appear to be able to see where they are going. One posible answer: they may use the entire surface of their bodies as a compound eye.
posted by Artw on Feb 7, 2010 - 31 comments

A Cubic Foot

How much life could you find in one cubic foot? With a 12-inch green metal-framed cube, photographer David Liittschwager (of the Endangered Species Project) surveyed biodiversity in land, water, tropical and temperate environments around the globe for National Geographic. At each locale he set down the cube and started watching, counting, and photographing with the help of his assistant and many biologists. The goal: to represent the creatures that lived in or moved through that space. The team then sorted through their habitat cubes and tallied every inhabitant, down to a size of about a millimeter. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 2, 2010 - 25 comments

The Encyclopedia of Life

The Encyclopedia of Life [previously] is E.O. Wilson's dream become reality. It has been online since February of 2008, aiming to catalog the currently known 1.9 million species on our planet. You can also add text, images, video, comments, and tags. [ FAQVideo IntroductionTutorials ]
posted by not_on_display on Jan 30, 2010 - 10 comments

Dolphins doing donuts on the front lawn

Dolphins are so smart that they can convince fish to leap out of the water and into their mouths. (slyt)
posted by ardgedee on Jan 25, 2010 - 50 comments

Do you kind of wish Pokemon cards had REAL creatures not FAKE creatures?

Do you kind of wish Pokemon cards had REAL creatures not FAKE creatures? [more inside]
posted by jonesor on Jan 21, 2010 - 34 comments

(glowing) prairie voles illuminate the human condition

Monogamouse
Prairie voles have many vasopressin receptors in the reward centres of their brains. It seems as though these are wired up in a way that causes the animal to take pleasure from monogamy. (previously 1|2)
posted by kliuless on Jan 9, 2010 - 20 comments

The duck's penis

Carl Zimmer on the duck's incredibly long, corkscrew-shaped, ballistic penis.
My tale is rich with deep scientific significance, resplendent with surprising insights into how evolution works, far beyond the banalities of “survival of the fittest,” off in a realm of life where sexual selection and sexual conflict work like a pair sculptors drunk on absinthe, transforming biology into forms unimaginable. But this story is also accompanied with video. High-definition, slow-motion duck sex video. And I would imagine that the sight of spiral-shaped penises inflating in less than a third of second might be considered in some quarters to be not exactly safe for work. It’s certainly not appropriate for ducklings.
[As Carl says, video links are possibly NSFW.] [more inside]
posted by chorltonmeateater on Dec 23, 2009 - 59 comments

he of the weird al hair and santa claus beard

R.Sapolsky on the uniqueness of humans in relation to the rest of the animal world (via)
posted by kliuless on Dec 20, 2009 - 28 comments

Cracking the Cancer Code

Cracking the Cancer Code: We already know that all cancers are caused by DNA mutations acquired during a person's lifetime. But what mutations actually cause cancer? We may be one step closer to finding out. International research teams led by the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have now mapped the entire genetic code of two of the most common human cancers: lung and skin (malignant melanoma). Their findings have the potential to revolutionize preventative and treatment therapies as well as pave the way for new early detection tests. More. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 17, 2009 - 36 comments

Pixar Meets Molecular Biology

The crowded, complex environment inside living cells makes understanding spatial relationships difficult for biologists. Now, 3D animation software Maya is being used not just for illustration, but to see how our intuition holds up. [more inside]
posted by jjray on Dec 15, 2009 - 13 comments

The amazingly exciting intersection of construction materials and bacteria.

Self-healing bio-concrete.
posted by lazaruslong on Nov 20, 2009 - 30 comments

Expeditions to the Polar Regions

The Polar Discovery team has documented science in action from pole to pole during the historic 2007-2009 International Polar Year, and covered five scientific expeditions. The science projects explored a range of topics from climate change and glaciers, to Earth’s geology, biology, ocean chemistry, circulation, and technology at the icy ends of the earth. Through photo essays and other multimedia, they explain how scientists collected data and what they discovered about the rapidly changing polar regions. From the awesome folks at WHOI.
posted by netbros on Nov 9, 2009 - 4 comments

Sami reports about golden eagles hunting reindeer calves confirmed by BBC

The BBC has captured footage of golden eagles hunting reindeer calves in northern Finland, confirming Sami reports. For more about the Sami, you can watch this series of videos, which cover a wide range of subjects, among them the language, arts and crafts, religion and music. And here is more about Sami reindeer folklore.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 21, 2009 - 38 comments

Predator Appreciation Month

-Where Tasty Morsels Fear to Tread
-'Leopard Behind You!'
-A Long, Melancholy Roar

posted by kliuless on Oct 17, 2009 - 6 comments

synthetic biology

Our biotech century: the noocytes are coming... (previously)
posted by kliuless on Oct 4, 2009 - 25 comments

Cancer Causing Viruses

Paul Ewald, an evolutionary biologist at University of Louisville in Kentucky states his conviction, in one interview with Discover Magazine that, that by 2050 the human species will have found that between 80% and as high as 95% of cancers are caused by viruses. [more inside]
posted by mdpatrick on Sep 30, 2009 - 19 comments

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