“When I spoke at the two Ron Paul events in Tampa, a young man kind enough to pick me up at the airport told me a fascinating story. The vast majority of young Ron volunteers in offices he visited all over the country were paleo. If a kid ordered pizza — which was always the primary or perhaps only campaign food — he was practically booed,” Atossa Araxia Abrahamian writes in The New Inquiry about the paleo diet, libertarianism, and the appealing idea of a healthy, undistorted state of nature to which we can return if we are only pure enough. [more inside]
Promiscuous Males And Choosy Females? While previous studies have poked holes in Bateman's classic experiment, a recent study reveals fundamental methodological flaws. PDF slides with an excellent explanation.
291 diseases and injuries + 67 risk factors + 1,160 non-fatal complications = 650 million estimates of how we age, sicken, and die
As humans live longer, what ails us isn't necessarily what kills us: five data visualizations of how we age, sicken, and die. Causes of death by age, sex, region, and year. Heat map of leading causes and risks by region. Changes in leading causes and risks between 1990 and 2010. Healthy years lost to disability vs. life expectancy in 1990 and 2010. Uncertainties of causes and risks. From the team for the massive Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. [more inside]
"Older parenthood will upend American society." "Is waiting to have kids a big mistake?" "Why do women believe they can delay children for so long?" "Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develops autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age."
The Translucent Jewel Caterpillar, the Nudibranch of the Forest. Gorgeous caterpillar covered in break-off gumdrops that may help it escape predators. Turns into a bright orange furry moth.
Researchers at the National Veterinary School of Alfort in Paris recently carried out a study of the friendliness of different cat breeds, surveying the owners of 129 cats about the cats' interactions with people. The survey determined that pedigree cats are significantly friendlier than crossbreeds, a difference which the researchers put down to pedigree kittens being left with their mothers for longer at a crucial developmental period and/or breeders selecting for friendliness as a genetic trait. The friendliest breed of cat is reportedly the sphynx, an exotic hairless breed, possibly due to its reliance on proximity to humans to keep warm.
"The milk curds were then strained and pressed, yielding unique smelling fresh cheeses" "These cheeses are scientific as well as artistic objects" [more inside]
Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses male mythology, biology and Raymond Chandler's Private Dick
Things I Learned as a Field Biologist #65: "Collecting the fecal matter of your study subject is an art form, and not nearly as simple as one might think. In a perfect world, you would look through your binoculars into the canopy and see the prized excrement emerge freshly from the posterior of the exact animal you’re hoping to sample. This ample and cohesive bolus will fall magically, directly, to the ground at your feet, making for easy and immediate retrieval…"
State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
Hacking the President’s DNA. "The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace."
The Genome Compiler is an IDE for DNA projects for all you DIYbio enthusiasts. Previously. Previously.
"In an effort to outwit raccoons, are we pushing their brain development and perhaps even sending them down a new evolutionary path? Using high-definition, infrared cameras that turn pitch dark into daylight ... Raccoon Nation [alt link] achieves something that has never been done before: it intimately follows a family of urban raccoons over the course of six months as the young – under the watchful eye of their mother – grow, develop, and begin to find their way in the complex world of a big city." "Raccoon populations have grown twenty-fold in North American cities over the last seventy years. And as this documentary will show, city life is changing raccoons in remarkable ways." (45:08 min. video)
When looking for inspiration, most songwriters to go well-used emotional wells – triumph or loss, love or heartbreak. But Peter Larsen, a biologist at Argonne National Laboratory, looked to the microbes of the English Channel. He used seven years’ worth of genetic and environmental data, converting geochemical and microbial abundance measurements into notes, beats, and chords.
With the possible exception of the Nobel awards, physicists seem to get all the press these days, whether they're doing quantum level work at the LHC, or cosmology via the latest satellite data. Biologists, not so much. It's too bad, because Richard Lenski is running one of the great evolutionary experiments of our time, and it's producing interesting results. [more inside]
You're about to be the base doctor at Halley Research Station in Antarctica for a year. For ten months, no one gets in or out. Fourteen lives are in your hands, including your own. What do you put in your medical kit? And how do your choices differ from those of your predecessors (Eric Marshall and Edward Wilson) a century ago?
This is a real life story, with images, that contains the following head turning phrase: "...Hilton's doctors stowed it away inside her stomach..." [more inside]
Pitohui - Lesson and Garnot, 1827 (poisonous New Guinea bird) The name comes from a response to tasting it
In 2005, the Discovery Channel aired Alien Worlds, a fictional documentary based on Wayne Douglas Barlowe's graphic novel, Expedition: Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV." Depicting mankind's first robotic mission to an extrasolar planet that could support life, the show drew from NASA's Origins Program, the NASA/JPL PlanetQuest Mission, and ESA's Darwin Project. It was primarily presented through CGI, but included interviews from a variety of NASA scientists and other experts, including Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, John Craig Venter and Jack Horner. Oh, and George Lucas, too. Official site. Previously on MeFi. [more inside]
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..
Do you like biology? Do you like numbers? Like, actual numbers and not the television show? Take a look at BioNumbers. [more inside]
Nature constantly engineers new and creative solutions to all sorts of problems—turning our stereotypes about sex upside-down along the way.
Icky face-pooping flesh mites are only the tip of the iceberg. You've heard that your gut bacteria are necessary to help you digest, meaning not all germs are bad. Without them, we couldn't digest healthily. But stop and look at how far our interconnectedness with other forms of life goes: 1. Human DNA itself is at least 8.3% ancient viruses; without one of these viruses you could never have been born. 2. Mitochondria in human cells originated when the same type of bacteria that causes typhus disease raided one of our cellular ancestors and instead of hijacking it was pressed into service. (The same origin as chloroplasts in plants from cyanobacteria). 3. Far more of the cells in your body are non-human microorganisms than actual human cells. This relationship is not just interconnectedness. This is integration. [more inside]
"A spectacular African fruit is more intensely coloured than any previously known biological substance. The fruit's metallic blue hue is produced not by a pigment, but by specialized structures in its cells, concludes a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." Scientists believe the shininess of the fruit evolved to attract birds to it, as it holds no nutritional value.
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]
Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides from Radiolab's morality episode: "try to answer tough moral quandaries. The questions--which force you to decide between homicidal scenarios--are the same ones being asked by Dr. Joshua Greene. He'll tell us about using modern brain scanning techniques to take snapshots of the brain as it struggles to resolve these moral conflicts. And he'll describe what he sees in these images: quite literally, a battle taking place in the brain. It's 'inner chimp' versus a calculator-wielding rationale."
Science is Rewriting the Rules of Reproduction Aarathi Prasad's new book investigates taking sex out of the reproduction equation. [more inside]
"This study is important and overwhelming in its implications for both the human and biological communities living in Fukushima." . . . "These observations of mutations and morphological abnormalities can only be explained as having resulted from exposure to radioactive contaminants." Severe abnormalities found in Fukushima butterflies. Full report here.
Researchers sneak up on sleeping sperm whales (.mpg video, hosted by Current Biology.) Matt Kaplan, writing in Nature, summarizes 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]
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.
"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." -Excerpt from To the Last Breath: A Journey of Going to Extremes
Computer Simulates Full Organism for First Time "Maybe they'll computerize an entire human brain one day—or even just a couple of cells. For now, Stanford scientists have created the first-ever software simulation of a full single-cell organism, the New York Times reports."
"...by persisting in the false belief that coral reefs have a future, we grossly misallocate the funds needed to cope with the fallout from their collapse." In the New York Times, ecologist Roger Bradbury argues that it's too late to save a big chunk of the Earth's environment, and that we should instead spend our resources getting ready for the challenges we'll face once that part of the world is destroyed. Marine scientists offer varying opinions on how doomed the reefs are, ranging from "Yep, they're doomed" to "If we stopped increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere today, they would probably stick around in some more or less degraded form" to "it’s clear to me that corals as a group of living things will almost assuredly* construct glorious reefs in millenniums to come of unimaginable richness."
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 & Previously) [cortex, is that you?]
The U.S. National Institute of Heath has urged steps to curb growth in "training" positions in biomedical research (report). [more inside]
SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks about the future of "big idea" Science Fiction: If SF's core message (to the extent that it ever had one) is obsolete, what do we do next?
A museum exhibit called Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition is drawing controversy. After running in Montreal and Regina with no complaints, the exhibit was criticised by the Heritage Minister when it came to Ottawa for being too lurid and being outside the mandate of the Science and Technology Museum. [more inside]
Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi [scientific paper]. Pestalotiopsis microspora lives in dark, damp and anaerobic conditions in the Amazon, is a candidate for introduction to landfills, can survive on only polyurethane, and may solve the plastic 100-400 year decomposition issue [non-technical summary].
Omes have a long history and describe general interactions of biological information objects in various omes. But not all omes are real omes. Some have a problem with omes as neologisms.
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.
What's inside an elephant (Not safe for the squeamish)? A pictorial retrospective from Inside Nature's Giants.
In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Al Jazeera reports on large-scale deformities and mutations in the Gulf of Mexico seafood catch.
A Death in Yellowstone: On the Trail of a Grizzly Bear. a gripping story and a well written article in Slate, by Jessica Grose. Includes a similarly remarkable photo feature. [more inside]
Microworlds is the blog of biology student Daniel Stoupin, and he also has a photography website as well. His chosen subject is microphotography, especially of living things. Perhaps the best place to start is his latest post, where he uses fluorescent dyes to take pictures of a rotting flea embryo. Other favorites are shells of microscopic crustaceans, colorful plant seed fluorescence and mosquito larva in polarized light. He has also made a video, and explains the process here.