Why should you risk your own life to save another human being? Maybe altruism in innate, like a bird's pretty song, or is it something that must be learned?
The Orienting Stone. "A snowy white stone that gives shape to the universe: as it happens, we all carry within our skulls the vestige of such a thing, a kind of existentially reversed qibla (this one perspectival, the other metaphysical) that gives us our sense of being at the center of things, the sense that we are upright at the origin point of a three-dimensional space..." [Via]
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) is the first video journal for biological research accepted in PubMed, featuring hundreds of peer-reviewed video-protocols demonstrating experimental techniques in the fields of neuroscience, cellular biology, developmental biology, immunology, bioengineering, microbiology and plant biology, free of charge.
"We were looking for pretty animals that have eyes, are coloured, or glow in the dark; instead, the most interesting find was the organism that was blind, brainless, and completely covered in mud." Some of the oldest fossil records may need to be reconsidered: Dr. Mikhail Matz of the University of Texas has discovered Gromia Sphaerica, a species of protist, making tracks.... [more inside]
Pictures and descriptions of sea slugs - an absolutely stunning species of marine life
On Growth and Form (1917) was D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's pioneering effort to explore the mathematical principles that underlie biological form. He studied the similarity between the shapes of a jellyfish and a drop of ink, a splash and a hydroid, between dragonfly wings and bubble froth, the growth of radiolaria and snowflakes, the spirals of nautilus and mollusk shells and sheep horns. More recently, Adrian Bejan's Constructal Theory aims to explain all biological shape from one thermodynamic principle. This month there is an interview with Bejan for the layman. [more inside]
Now: The Rest of the Genome. "Only 1 percent of the genome is made up of classic genes. Scientists are exploring the other 99 percent and uncovering new secrets and new questions."
Hunting the Hidden Dimension. You may be familiar with fractals, but in this PBS Nova episode, divided online into 5 parts, fractals go beyond the impossible zoom of the Mandelbrot set. Scientists are using fractals to describe complex natural occurrences, like lava, capillaries, and rain forests. In part 5, scientists measure one tree in the rain forests, and the distribution of small and large branches mirror the distribution of small and large trees. Fractals, it seems, are nature.
iBioSeminars is a new project from the American Society for Cell Biology to release freely available lectures from leading scientists on the web. It features talks on such diverse areas as stem cells, malaria, HIV, and biofuel production.
Link found between physical and emotional warmth l Metaphors of the Mind: Why Loneliness Feels Cold and Sins Feel Dirty. "Our mental processes are not separate and detached from the body". Sensory metaphors l The Metaphor Observatory, top 10 metaphors of 2007.
How We Evolve: "A growing number of scientists argue that human culture itself has become the foremost agent of biological change, making us — for the past 10,000 years or so — the inadvertent architects of our own future selves." [more inside]
The fungi fire their spores up to 55 miles an hour–which translates to an acceleration of 180,000 g. Research from the lab of Nicholas Money. Music video by Dr. Money's students. (SLYT) via
Cornelia Hesse-Honegger paints watercolours of mutated insects from radioactively contaminated areas in Ukraine, Switzerland, the United States, and Europe. She has recently published a scientific article incorporating these paintings (5 MB PDF). site also available in German
Hundreds of New Reef Creatures Found in Australia. Hundreds of new marine creatures have been discovered in three Australian reefs by CReefs, a census of coral reefs which is part of the Census of Marine Life, a ten-year initiative to assess global ocean diversity.
Rethinking Evolution with Stuart Newman, The New Master Of Evolution? Video Interview: Evolution Politics. A reformulation of the theory of evolution. Susan Mazur presents most of the players in her latest e-book: Will the Real Theory of Evolution Please Stand Up? [more inside]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
Get your learn on. 180+ ways of investigating the human brain = hours of fun for the whole family. Thanks to an innocuous question by a 5 year old, my entire evening is now being spent investigating and discussing the structure and workings of the human brain. This flash site lets you explore the workings of the brain according to 12 subject areas (each with subtopics which are not included in the "180" count), within each of which are 5 levels of organization from social to molecular, within each of which are three levels of explanation (beginner, intermediate, and advanced.) discovered via Wikipedia.
Superbugs. "The new generation of resistant infections is almost impossible to treat."
Scientists report a breakthrough in stem cell production: Stem cells created from ALS patient and used to make neurons. [Via]
EO Wilson believes in
Darwinism group selection: "evolution as a multi-level process1 that can evolve adaptations above the level of individual organisms."
When you first hear of a shrimp breaking out of it's tank, the prospect isn't really frightening. But when you learn that the mantis shrimp has punched through the glass container, it becomes a little more serious. [more inside]
Festooning The Tree Of Life. Carl Zimmer describes new research on lateral gene transfer which makes the Tree of Life look more like a Gordian Knot.
Surtsey was first observed on November 14, 1963, as a pillar of smoke on the water some ways south of Iceland. The very next day lava and tephra broke the surface of the Atlantic and by May, 1964 the formation had grown to 2.4 km². Over the next three years lava eruptions continued, coating the loose debris in a hard shell and protecting it from erosion. An island born. Naturally, Surtsey has been under close scientific observation since its emergence, and courtesy The Surtsey Research Society you can read published reports on the geology and biological colonization of this new earth.
A University of Chicago doctoral candidate has shown that the evolution of the flatfish was much more gradual than previously thought.
Mapping the Structural Core of Human Cerebral Cortex. A new study of the connections in the brain has identified the brain's central hub.
Yale Environment 360 is an online environment magazine from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. It has a lot of great material, like "Biodiversity in the Balance" by Carl Zimmer and "Carbon’s Burden on the World’s Oceans" by Carl Safina and Marah J. Hardt. [Via Zimmer's blog The Loom]
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]
What Is A Species? "To this day, scientists struggle with that question. A better definition can influence which animals make the endangered list."
"The Guardian has been granted exclusive and unfettered access to one of the most controversial research facilities at a British university." Caring or cruel? Inside the primate laboratory. Audio slideshow. A necessary evil - Colin Blakemore. Wise monkeys - Gill Langley.
KnowHow2Go wants you to take on the tough classes - such as Biology, Foreign Languages, and Algebra II - to prepare yourself for college.
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....
The first ever, it is believed, has been produced at Cornell University. The feat was apparently much overlooked, and has many concerned over the lack of public debate of this field of research. Genetically modified human embryos.
West Nile virus and Avian influenza and Chronic wasting disease, oh, my! (and Monkeypox...) Outbreaks of disease in populations of wild and domestic animals, having such a heavy impact on human health, has led the United States Geological Survey and the University of Wisconson to develop a way to track news of disease outbreaks around the planet: The Global Wildlife Disease News Map.
"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.
It's 15:00 UTC. Do you know where your Common Toads are...? World on the Move.
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 and 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."
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.
A new round of genetic tests has confirmed it: The 'big lizards' of our childhood fantasies were more likely 'big birds.' In fact, they probably even had feathers, and looked more like this than this. Mind blowing, I know, but I guess this demonstrates that, despite what some may think, science really doesn't have a problem admitting that it got something wrong when new evidence comes to light.
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.
Suspending Life. "If almost every species on Earth was killed some 250 million years ago, how did our ancient ancestors survive and evolve into us?"
Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium - "Underneath their sober lab coats and flannel shirts, scientists hide images of their scientific passions. Here they are revealed to all." From the science journalist and writer responsible for The Loom and numerous other published works.
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.
The little windows in the walls of time amber provides aren't always open. Opaque amber is common and, until now, has hidden away many fossil creatures. 100,000,000 years.... via bbc [more inside]