Recent Reading 8/30/10

Aug 30 2010 Published by under Recent Reading

Some of my recent reading:

Maggie Koerth-Baker @ BoingBoing: Adorable kitten fails mirror self-recognition test (adorably)

Mr. Science Show: The Sailors' (syphilis detecting) Handshake (you never know when it might come in handy)

Carl Zimmer @ The New York Times: Scientists Square Off on Evolutionary Value of Helping Relatives

Why are worker ants sterile? Why do birds sometimes help their parents raise more chicks, instead of having chicks of their own? Why do bacteria explode with toxins to kill rival colonies? In 1964, the British biologist William Hamilton published a landmark paper to answer these kinds of questions. Sometimes, he argued, helping your relatives can spread your genes faster than having children of your own.

(see also 'Grandmother hypothesis' takes a hit : Nature News)

80 Beats: Is an Ant Colony’s Caste System Determined by Epigenetics?

What does it take to be a long-living queen? Change your gene expression, say researchers who analyzed both worker ant and queen ant genes in two ant species–making the humble bug the second social insect (after the bee) to get sequenced.

Vince LiCata @ The World's Fair: Latisse!

The existence of the drug Latisse is clearly a harbinger of the end of modern civilization, in more ways than one, but it is also intensely fascinating and creepy. When I first heard of it, about a year ago, I really thought it was some sort of satirical article about the current status of big pharma and their slow but steady drift towards more (and more profitable) "lifestyle" medications. But's frickin' real!

Scicurious @ Neurotic Physiology: PCR: when you need to find out who the daddy is.

And if weren’t for a guy studying bacteria in a hot spring, medicine would not be where it is now. I’m sure Dr. Brock never really thought about the potential applications until they happened. But I hope he’s very pleased.
And that’s the thing. You NEVER KNOW where the next breakthrough will come from.

Samia @ 49 percent: radicalism, love and the scientific temperament

To say that most scientists feel discomfort with our own (scientific) ignorance is a bit of an understatement. Indeed, a peculiar, obsessive intellectual unrest seems to propel our adventures through our various specialties. But Medawar also believed scientists possess a "sanguine temperament" that expects to be able to surmount almost any problem given enough time and information. We are not afraid to use the tools at our disposal to increase our knowledge, even if they may be unfamiliar at first.

Daniel Lametti @ Slate Magazine: How bathroom posture affects your health

Shortly before Christmas in 1978, the leader of the free world came down with a severe case of hemorrhoids. The pain was so bad that President Carter had to take a day off from work. A few weeks later, Time Magazine asked a proctologist named Michael Freilich to explain the president's ailment. "We were not meant to sit on toilets," he said, "we were meant to squat in the field." He's probably right.

David Ng @ BoingBoing: Citizen science and why biodiversity is a great portal to discovery

It only takes a single child and a trip outdoors, to realize that it is arguably our planet's richest resource of intellectual query.This is also why I think citizen science projects are particularly wonderful. Many of them do focus on wildlife spotting. And while there's obviously many caveats associated with these projects (i.e. can the non-expert provide valid observation), at their heart, they are a mechanism for people to get involved with science, and in a way which is meant to involve an element of relevancy (i.e. you're collecting data!)

Emily Singer @ Technology Review: A Family Mystery, Solved by a Genome

After sequencing his genome, James Lupski discovered the mutations that led him and three of his siblings to develop a neurological disorder (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease).

Markus Jokela @ University of Helsinki:  Press: ‘Women are getting more beautiful’ – Getting the story right

Having your study publicized by the media is nice. Having your study misrepresented and misinterpreted in the process is not. The media coverage of my paper on physical attractiveness and having children had a bad start and even worse follow-up. The origin of the problem: Times Online news article sexing up the finding a bit too much (I wasn’t interviewed for this article at all and heard about it only after it had been published). Then things got worse . . .
[this is a year old, but it's a telling example of how the main stream media can distort science news]

See also: Times Higher Education - Trial by error

Razib Khan @ Gene Expression: The individual & social risks of cousin marriage

This post was inspired by a recent Channel 4 special, When Cousins Marry: Reporter Feature. ...  But it highlights that the issue is going to be salient in the United Kingdom for a generation or so at a minimum. As I said, in the United States inbreeding is a way to make fun of poor, uneducated, and isolated whites. ... The American perception of inbred people is not particularly positive, and the accusations of being inbred are used to mock and humiliate. But when it comes to the issue in Britain it is different, because consanguineous marriage is a feature of the Muslim community, and there are issues of race, religion and class which are operative

Tara Parker-Pope @ New York Times: Phys Ed: Does Music Make You Exercise Harder?

... it’s music’s dual ability to distract attention (a psychological effect) while simultaneously goosing the heart and the muscles (physiological impacts) that makes it so effective during everyday exercise. Multiple experiments have found that music increases a person’s subjective sense of motivation during a workout, and also concretely affects his or her performance. The resulting interactions between body, brain and music are complex and intertwined.

Mara Grunbaum @ scienceline: Pees and Carrots

They were perfectly lovely, the beets Surendra Pradhan and Helvi Heinonen-Tanski grew: round and hefty, a rich burgundy, their flavor sweet and faintly earthy like the dirt from which they came. Unless someone told you, you’d never know the beets were grown with human urine.

erv: Immunizations: "If your children have been vaccinated against xyz disease, why would you care if others are NOT vaccinated" [no need for a pull quote when the gist of the post is in the title!]

Newscripts: The Chemistry of Stadium Foods

Here at the ACS meeting in Boston, Newscripts was part of an elite group of reporters treated to a quick lesson in popcorn, ballpark hot dogs, and beer before a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. “The Chemistry of Stadium Food,” is part of an ongoing series of events on food chemistry at national meetings hosted by the ACS Office of Public Affairs.

Joe Kloc @ SEED Magazine: Into the Uncanny Valley

New findings shed light on a century’s worth of bizarre explanations for the eerie feeling we get around lifelike robots.

2 responses so far

  • VMartin says:

    "Carl Zimmer @ The New York Times: Scientists Square Off on Evolutionary Value of Helping Relatives "...

  • VMartin says:

    "Carl Zimmer @ The New York Times: Scientists Square Off on Evolutionary Value of Helping Relatives "...

    Carl Zimmer is a hard-core darwinian who doesn't like any critique and bans his opponents from his blog. Only posts that are allowed are all the same: "Congratulation Carl, that's fantastic! Go on!"

    The article deals on eusociality, which according Dawkins' fancy book "The selfish gene" should prove unambiguously the weird conception of "selfish gene" via "inclusive fitness". The clue is haplo-diploidy that is not mentioned in the Zimmer article. The problem is that in some cases due to haplo-diploidy some sisters may share only 25% of genes and it doesn't make sense why they should refrain from profileration.

    Obviously these facts are neglected until some Darwinists start criticise the whole Hamilton-Dawkins speculations in peer-reviewed journals. It is just some creationists "misunderestanding of evolution".