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.
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.
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]
The amazing story of the coelacanth is one of the wonders of the living world that inspires marine biologists such myself. Coelacanths, part of the offshoot lineage of fishes known as "lobed finned ", are very different from typical "ray finned" fishes that you usually think of. Their bizarre lobed fins are thought to be an intermediate step between fish fins and amphibian legs. Scientists had known that these weird fish existed because of fossils for over a century, but we believed that they went extinct 65 million years ago... until a South African fisherman caught one in 1938. [more inside]
What bleeds [Flash], grows babies [possibly NSFW], and "functions so efficiently that a full understanding of its processes may lead to novel treatments for a plethora of medical disorders?" The Uterus! Jacqueline Maybin, a PhD student at the Centre For Reproductive Biology at Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, discusses her research into "the secrets of the womb" and its incredible ability to heal and repair in her essay, "The Best A Man Can't Get."
Possibly NSFW: The human penis, its life cycle, size and myths about it, why it looks like that, what can go wrong with it and last but not least, the anatomy.
An Outsider's View "Over the past fifty years, factions of biologists have had a complex relationship. Some scientists have continued to carry out relatively traditional natural history work, with little need to delve into molecular (or computational) biology. Others have given little attention to natural history, focusing their efforts instead on deciphering the complexities of a membrane channel, or building new algorithms for identifying open reading frames. In some cases, biologists have bridged this divide, and the result has been a fruitful collaboration. But in other cases—such as the DNA studies on whales and hippos—one group moves into the other's traditional territory, sparking new conflict."[via]
North American Insects and Spiders - 7000+ close-ups of wolf spiders, black widows, honeybees, a ladybug eating an aphid, gulf fritillary butterflies, praying mantises, and much, much more
DNA Not The Same In Every Cell Of Body. "...calls into question one of the most basic assumptions of human genetics: that when it comes to DNA, every cell in the body is essentially identical to every other cell... if it turns out that blood and tissue cells do not match genetically, these ambitious and expensive genome-wide association studies may prove to have been essentially flawed from the outset"
"Algae is the ultimate biological system using sunlight to capture and convert carbon dioxide into fuel... I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more [fuel] out." Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics partners with ExxonMobil in a $600M project to harvest biofuels from genetically engineered algae. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry." [previously] [more inside]
By popular demand, your new resident marine biology nerd has compiled some cool information about the Giant Pacific Octopus.The Giant Pacific Octopus (Octopus dofleini) is one of the strangest animals in the sea- and one of the smartest. Though it is commonly believed that vertebrates are always "smarter" than invertebrates, these guys defy that convention. As this video shows, they are able to easily open jars and retrieve food from inside. They are also, as the "Giant" implies, enormous- the biggest one on record was 30 feet across (according to National Geographic) [more inside]
The Village Dog Project is an ongoing research project to document genetic diversity in pariah dogs. These dogs haven't been subject to breed pressure, and may be able to help researchers learn more about the transition from wolf to dog. (via)
Genesis Revisited scientifically summarises the scientific field of Creation Science (warning: science) [transcript]
Imagine nature's most elegant ideas organized by design and engineering function, so you can enter "filter salt from water" and see how mangroves, penguins, and shorebirds desalinate without fossil fuels. That's the idea behind AskNature, the online inspiration source for the biomimicry community. The featured pages are a good starting point. Cross-pollinating biology with design. [more inside]
"In Massachusetts, a young woman makes genetically modified E. coli in a closet she converted into a home lab. A part-time DJ in Berkeley, Calif., works in his attic to cultivate viruses extracted from sewage. In Seattle, a grad-school dropout wants to breed algae in a personal biology lab. These hobbyists represent a growing strain of geekdom known as biohacking, in which do-it-yourselfers tinker with the building blocks of life in the comfort of their own homes." They might be discovering cures for diseases or developing new biofuels, but are their experiments too risky? Via. [more inside]
Timepieces! Ancient calendars, ancient clocks, beautiful clocks, atomic clocks and the clocks built into your brain that determine how you perceive time and form memories. All the good stuff is inside: [more inside]
On behalf of medical organizations, universities, & individual patients, pathologists and genetics researchers, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Myriad holds the US patents to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, associated with hereditary causes of breast and ovarian cancers. Their patents guarantee the company the right to prevent anyone else from testing or studying those genes, which the ACLU says is unconstitutional and inhibits researchers from finding treatments and cures. [more inside]
The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? In the view of paleontologist Peter Ward life on Earth is intrinsically poisonous. [more inside]
Why is the penis shaped like that? [T]he human penis is actually an impressive “tool” in the truest sense of the word, one manufactured by nature over hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution. You may be surprised to discover just how highly specialized a tool it is. Furthermore, you’d be amazed at what its appearance can tell us about the nature of our sexuality.
Slime Molds Show Surprising Degree of Intelligence - A creature with no brain can learn from and even anticipate events. (via)
The secret, social lives of bacteria. "Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria 'talk' to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves." [Via]
Why would an evolutionary biologist study words? It turns out there is an astonishing parallel between the evolution of words in a lexicon and the evolution of genes in an organism. The word two, for example, has been around much longer than most, and will likely be with us for millennia, whereas the comparatively rare and recent word dirty has undergone many mutations, and will probably be extinct in a few hundred years. Professor Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading, UK, tells us why on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's program As It Happens. Pull slider to 16:00 to start the seven minute interview.
Sparks of Life. "That the electric 'spark of life' figured prominently in debates over the nature of life in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is well known. Less well known is the fact that prior to this period, gunpowder was often identified with the substances that were necessary to life, if not as a vitalistic spirit, then as an essential element in the animation of the body. The idea of a spark of life went back to ancient times, likening living beings to the glowing embers of a fire. In the Old Testament, for example, the wise woman of Tekoah begs for the life of her son, pleading 'they will stamp out my last live ember.' But from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, this vital flame was often equated with gunpowder. There was fire in the blood: not electric, but pyrotechnic fire."
Dr. Aric Sigman has told us that TV is literally killing us, that it makes children pregnant, that Batman makes our kids violent and that multitasking ruins children's attention span. Now he says that social networking can cause cancer, strokes, and dementia. (PDF of press release)
Juan Enriquez: Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis. "Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don't look for it on your ballot -- or in the stock exchange. It'll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be ... different."
What Invasive Species Are Trying to Tell Us. "Walking snakeheads, carnivorous snails, and the superpredator from the reef: The invasion has begun." [Via]
Why music? Music is a human universal, but why did we evolve a desire to create, perform, and enjoy it? From a biological standpoint, does it contribute to survival or, more likely, mate selection and reproduction?
"This is a regular Russian school biology textbook owned by some Russian school. He has modified some illustrations so now it’s hard to say sometimes what was there originally and what has appeared as a result of his imagination."
30 years ago the BBC celebrated the anniversary of Charles Darwin with the drama series The Voyage of Charles Darwin depicting his life. The whole thing is now on Youtube. ) [more inside]
Darwin the abolitionist. "The theory of evolution is regarded as a triumph of disinterested scientific reason. Yet, on the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, new research reveals that Darwin was driven to the idea of common descent by a great moral cause." [Via]
Molecular Movies features cell and molecular animations, along with animation tutorials. [more inside]
"Because competent mating did not occur," the zoo statement said, veterinarians anesthetized both pandas on Saturday, collected semen from Tian Tian and inserted it into Mei Xiang's uterus. [previously 1 2 3]
My Genome, My Self: Steven Pinker considers what we can expect from personal genomics. Searching for Intelligence in Our Genes: Carl Zimmer looks at the hunt to learn about the role of genes in intelligence.
Although the evolution of the eye is often pointed to by evolution's skeptics as evidence of design, biologists have been quick to point out evidence to the contrary. Today, Julian Partridge of Bristol University's Ecology of Vision Research Unit has brought to light evidence of a Pacific fish that has evolved biological mirrors for navigating murky water.
Scientists at the Auckland Museum will be performing a necropsy of a great white Shark between 11am and 1pm New Zealand time on Thursday. Though they will be examining the contents of its gut, they will also, among other things, look at its sex organs (female) and jaw. The necropsy will be viewable on the web from 2pm NZ time (when's that?). [more inside]
Mushrooms Save the World (long form) -- Paul Stamets on mycelia. Previously: 1 2 3 [bonus: slime molds]
British scientists discover hundreds of new species in a remote forest in Mozambique using Google Earth. The pictures are the best part.
Bracing for Islamic Creationism (PDF). "To avoid a vast rejection of evolution in the Muslim world, scientists can present the theory as the bedrock of biology and can stress its practical applications." [Via]
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]