The Cosmic Womb:
Recently published findings from researchers with the Imperial College
London’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering seem to bolster the case for
extra-terrestrial sources for the origins of life on Earth. (A PDF of the published results can be downloaded here
, if you want the technical specifics.) [more inside]
posted by saulgoodman
on Jun 13, 2008 -
What Is A Species?
"To this day, scientists struggle with that question. A better definition can influence which animals make the endangered list."
posted by homunculus
on Jun 8, 2008 -
Tens of millions of brittlestars
have been discovered
inhabiting the peak of a sea mount in the Macquarie Ridge south of New Zealand. Strong currents are believed to be responsible for sweeping their predators away, more or less recreating their home
300 million years gone
posted by Kronos_to_Earth
on May 19, 2008 -
"With most animals, males duke it out and the winner gets the girls," says Holekamp. "But with hyenas, females have 100 percent say." They decide when and under what conditions they will tolerate deferential sperm donors. At age 2 or 3 a male leaves his natal clan and wanders off to beg acceptance into another clan. After vicious rejections, he eventually succeeds and reaps his reward: brutal harassment as the clan's nadir, one of the last in line for food and sex. This probation, which biologists call "endurance rivalry," is a test, Holekamp explains: "The guy who can stick it out the longest wins." The trial lasts about two years, after which some females may grant him access. "You do not want to be a male hyena," Holekamp says.
-From an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Who's Laughing Now?
Professor Holekamp's hyena site
. Also, hyena pictures
and The Hyena Pages
, a fine site about this fascinating animal.
posted by Kattullus
on May 7, 2008 -
Rutgers professor of philosophy Jerry Fodor created a bit of a stir
last October when he wrote an article for the London Review of Books arguing that natural selection may not be such a great theory after all, and that a "major revision of evolutionary theory... is in the offing." Not many fellow philosophers and academics agree
, it seems. Fodor responds to his critics here
. Six months later, it's still not entirely clear whether his argument is, as Justin E.H. Smith put it
, "irresponsible and stupid or so subtle that none of his adversaries, defending a status quo interpretation of the theory of natural selection, have been able to get it yet."
posted by decoherence
on May 6, 2008 -
Well, that's one less Carolina flying squirrel, but having it for dinner might actually help keep them around. A list of endangered American species once common on the dinner table has become a book
, its author, Gary Paul Nabham, encouraging the reader to keep disappearing
local culinary traditions alive
. Endangered Dinners
posted by Kronos_to_Earth
on Apr 30, 2008 -
Light makes a comeback.
“New technologies — more sophisticated imaging techniques, fluorescent molecules that act as beacons of light in the cell, and the computing power to gather and stitch together multiple images and create videos from high-powered microscopes — make it possible to harness one of light’s key advantages: gentleness. Unlike higher-resolution techniques, light microscopes can image biological structures without killing them or chemically fixing them. At Harvard, the resurgence of light microscopy is making it possible to see structures and events that have never before been seen in the context of living cells and organisms.” Also don't miss the video samples
of “in vivo” imagining.
posted by Frankieist
on Apr 19, 2008 -
Bioculture critiques Cultural Critique Until literature departments take into account that humans are not just cultural or textual phenomena but something more complex, English and related disciplines will continue to be the laughingstock of the academic world that they have been for years because of their obscurantist dogmatism and their coddled and preening pseudo-radicalism. Until they listen to searching criticism of their doctrine, rather than dismissing it as the language of the devil, literature will continue to be betrayed in academe, and academic literary departments will continue to lose students and to isolate themselves from the intellectual advances of our time.
posted by jason's_planet
on Apr 7, 2008 -
Public concern over ecological damage inflicted by human activity has led to growing recognition of the general importance of issues relating to biological science. Unfortunately, the dispute between creationists and upholders of the theory of evolution tends to overshadow public discussion of other more pertinent matters. Specifically, there are significant but relatively unpublicized initiatives underway to promote holistic approaches to biology. The Nature Institute
in New York is one such initiative... [more inside]
posted by No Robots
on Mar 31, 2008 -
While the dream of immortality might be as old as mankind, the jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula (image)
seems to be living it
The hydrozoan Turritopsis nutricula has evolved a remarkable variation on this theme, and in so doing appears to have achieved immortality. The solitary medusa of this species can revert to its polyp stage after becoming sexually mature (Bavestrello et al., 1992; Piraino et al., 1996). In the laboratory, 100% of these medusae regularly undergo this change. Thus, it is possible that organismic death does not occur in this species!An in-depth research paper
posted by Foci for Analysis
on Jan 30, 2008 -
"There may be no biological process more complicated than the relationships that viruses have with their hosts. Could it be that their persistence made it possible for humans to thrive?" [Via Disinformation.]
posted by homunculus
on Nov 27, 2007 -
Devil facial tumor disease
has ravaged the population of Tasmanian Devils in the last decade. DFTD is a transmissible cancer
, i.e. the tumor cells themselves (which differ genetically from their host animal) are the agent responsible. The disease is spread by biting and other contact, and the resulting grotesque tumors interfere with feeding and lead to starvation. Poor immune response
may be partially responsible. This is actually not the only such disease: canine transmissible venereal tumor is an analogue
that has been known to be contagious since the 19th century. (CTVT, however, gets a proper immune response.) [more inside]
posted by parudox
on Oct 29, 2007 -