The Tangled Bank

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This is the February 20, 2008 edition of The Tangled Bank web carnival. The next edition will be hosted at Archaeoporn.Behavioral Ecology BlogThinking like an economist (about Parent-Offspring Conflict)

Published in 1974, this paper is arguably Bob Trivers 2nd most influential paper behind the paper describing reciprocal altruism… Because very few people read long blog posts, and the idea is to introduce these ideas to people that might not already be familiar, I’l go ahead and list the main points/finding, and then go into some brief discussion about …

PodBlack BlogShe’s Already Got Science – Women, Skepticism And The Need For More Research

Earlier on in the year, I discussed how there are plenty of respectable, long-term, organised not-for-profit organisations that promote women and science. Recently, I learned of a new one….As a program,…it’s aiming at a broad range of issues, not just the area of students. Its overview reflects how the science program is taking steps to address an area of need and supporting out-of-school…

Highlight HEALTH 2.0YouTube as a Source of Health

The Internet is rapidly transforming healthcare. Not only is it creating new connections for the access, sharing and exchange of information, it is cultivating a new level of knowledge among patients, enabling them to have input into decisions about their healthcare. Indeed, 80% of adult Americans say they have researched at least one specific health topic, either information on exercise and fitness, or information about immunizations or vaccines, online at some point … A 2003 WebMD study found that consumers spent more time researching health information online than any other media source

Luigi at BiodiversityPussy Galore

A paper appeared in Science last year which used mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites to determine the geographic origin of the domesticated cat. We blogged about it back in June, albeit briefly. The major conclusion was that the cat was domesticated once, in the Fertile Crescent, about 9000 years ago, at about the time that agriculture started to take off. A paper just out in Genomics now takes the story on from there, by looking in more detail at the relationship among pure breeds and random-bred local populations from all over the world…

i-9551e5e13f939080c0a36a262ee657a1-tangled01.jpgLiving the Scientific LifeOceanic Dead Zones Off West Coast are the ‘New Normal’

Ever since it was first noticed by crab fishermen who hauled up hundreds of dead and dying crabs in 2002, the “dead zone” that popped up in the waters along the northwestern coastal shelf just off the coast of Oregon has claimed unknown millions of lives. This oxygen-depleted region has transformed formerly rich seafloor communities teeming with life into vast graveyards filled with the bodies of crabs, echinoderms, molluscs, sea worms and other creatures.

i-6df19371c42711fd67c34ab6f4aa11d1-tangled02.jpgPure PedantryVisualizing the Cell

Sakaue-Sawano et al. may have created the coolest molecular biology video I have ever seen. They developed a system of reporters to watch the cells transition between the different stages of the cell cycle.

Sharp BrainsStress and Neural Wreckage: Part of the Brain Plasticity Puzzle

“My brain is…fried, toast, frazzled, burnt out.” How many times have you said or heard one version or another of these statements. Most of us think we are being figurative when we utter such phrases, but research shows that the biological consequences of sustained high levels of stress may have us being more accurate than we would like to think.

Angry by ChoicepH: it actually matters outside of chemistry lab

pH is better known as how acidic or basic something is. Acid has a low pH and base has a high pH. pH is really a mathematical term meaning -log[H+] or -log of the concentration of hydrogen ions. pH is something you learn about in general chemistry in high school and college. You find yourself doing some math problems and using acids and bases to bring some solution to a given pH or adding acid and bases to a solution and taking a plethora of measurements to determine the buffering capacity. (This latter procedure involves opening the spigot on the acid/base solution and trying to hit the pH you’re looking for as quickly as possible, usually you overshoot, have to add the opposite acid/base, and repeat). So why do we care?

De Rerum NaturaThe History of Hothead

What strikes me in all the discussions about HOTHEAD is that most of the geneticists quoted appear to have not studied population genetics beyond classical, Mendelian work. The way they frame the discussion makes me think that they’ve never studied well known phenomena like meiotic drive. (I’m currently participating in a seminar class, which is reading Burt and Trivers’s Genes in Conflict and meiotic drive gets first billing. It is very refreshing to be participating in popgen discussions again.)

Further ThoughtsGuardian of the

Anoop Sindhu and colleagues report on a gene that may have played a key role in the evolution of grasses. The gene, Hm1, provides resistance against Cochliobolus carbonum race 1 (CCR1), a fungus that is capable of attacking and killing corn at any stage of its development (images of CCR1 infection). While CCR1 is only known to affect corn, the gene Hm1 and its relatives are present throughout the grass family, but are absent from other lineages.

Bad Astronomyi-6c5ff18555311e20d63f74f9c8f295cf-tangled03.jpgDid salt lick Martian life?

Scientists working to see if Mars ever had life have concentrated, of course, on looking for water. It appears to have been abundant on Mars a long time ago, but what was it like?

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the DayJourney of Mankind

Journey of Mankind (I personally would have preferred the title “Journey of Humanity”) from the Bradshaw Foundation is an animation showing the geographic migration of humans during ancient times.

Life Before Deathi-ea0a81de61943391bf1c515f3b9cc7b5-tangled04.jpgAlarmist Bee Bee Cee

In a depressingly alarmist article on BBC News UK, Finlo Rohrer encourages us to imagine an idyllic image of British countryside, complete with the harmonious buzzing of busy bees, and then asks us to fast forward ten years to this desolate vision: “The hedgerow is deteriorating, the birds are silent, the orchard is disappearing and the countryside is changed. Why? The hives are empty. Their once-buzzing occupants mysteriously vanished.” … Excuse me?

…And from the same corner of the blogosphere: Friday Pic #4: Princess (a bee with a number on it) and More on Bees

Science Made CoolThe Importance of Being Visual

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but only because humans are acutely visual animals. Large portions of our brains are devoted to making sense of the information we pick up with our eyes, processing changes in light and shadow, movement, and finding faces in everything we look at. … Visuals become particularly important in the sciences, where a well-drawn figure can be the difference between clarity and a confusing morass of conflicting data.

The Beagle Project Blogi-e0d6249706784b0fa8085b047de2eff8-beagleproject.jpgWould that which we call a rose, by a DNA barcode, smell as sweet?

For my second post on peer-reviewed research (I suppose I’ll have to stop introducing it like that after three or four), I’ve chosen a paper that gets right to the beating heart of my own tiny little corner of science geek-dom: DNA barcoding in plants. … To make things more interesting, the science press worked themselves into a premature and, as I will argue here, seriously specious frenzy last week when they collectively oohed and ahhed about the paper in terms that were well, let’s just say, um, how do I put this delicately …flat wrong.

Data Not ShownCuring the disease of human self-importance

Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire* changed my life. More specifically, it changed my lazy, conceited assumptions about the primacy of human consciousness. … Sure, I’d known for a long time that the Great Chain of Being (and its counterpart in evolutionary language, the concept of “higher” species the highest being Homo sapiens) is a load of anthropocentric hogwash. And I’ve known for slightly less time that there are several simple but earth-shaking ways to visualise the specific truth and putridity of said hogwash.

Science And ReasonWnt signaling

Wnt refers to a family of proteins now numbering perhaps 20 or more, which have been found in a wide range of multicellular animals, from fruit flies, to fish, to mice and humans. Wnt proteins carry messages between cells, and are especially important in embryogenesis. They are known to play a large role in the control of stem cells and regeneration of body parts (in species where this occurs). In mammals, including humans, Wnt signaling, when it malfunctions, also seems to be involved in many types of cancer, degenerative diseases of aging, and other aging-related problems such as insulin resistance. It may be possible to ameliorate a number of these disease conditions once we have a better understanding of the details of Wnt signaling.

OuroborosToo much of a good thing? Composition of the nuclear lamina in Hutchinson-Gilford progeria

Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) is caused by a mutation in the lamin A/C gene (LMNA); the mutant allele produces a truncated lamin A (“progerin”) that disrupts the nuclear architecture, interferes with cell cycle progression, and may accelerate cellular senescence.And, see also this: A bridge between sirtuins and Werner’s

Agricultural Biodiversity Weblogi-f0185e7d510f1a340294087851e89888-tangled05.jpgRoman agrobiodiversity on show

So I was at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme to catch the Rosso Pompeiano exhibition, which was fine, and which I may blog about later, but details of two statues caught my eye among the permanent stuff on show — representing agrobiodiversity, of course. The statues are meant to symbolize different provinces of the empire.

The Digital CuttlefishStop The Presses!

Randall tells me, as does “The Loom” over on science blogs, that there is a wonderful article about me in the New York Times! Ok, it’s not about me. It is, however, about some other cuttlefish–some at the Woods Hole lab, some in Australia, but all wonderful cuttlefish, the most remarkable quick-change artists in the world! The Times site also has video of some of the experiments that Dr. Hanlon has been performing with these adorable creatures.

Laelapsi-30b0bd9994972aa2dbf378c8c0a58cc8-tangled06.jpgI like elephants, I just don’t want one in my backyard

Over the last several hundred years, humans in North America have unwittingly selected the species that are going to be coexisting with humanity in the future. Rare native flora and fauna have disappeared, but some organisms have flourished in the modified landscape. White-tailed deer, coyotes, black bear, cowbirds, and other familiar (if somewhat “plain”) animals are just a few of the native species that have adapted and even benefited from the presence of people while other species have been driven into extinction.

Discount thoughtsWhat’s that appendix for, anyway?

Well, it keeps coming up, doesn’t it? Famous cdesign proponentsist Dembski brought it up again recently in his list of ID “predictions” (click for epic fail). While his point was nicely deconstructed by Afarensis, I think it’s worth examining the paper that attributed a function to the appendix. Just what did Bollinger et al. say about its function? On what basis did they draw their conclusions? And, I suppose most exasperatingly, what does the paper mean for evolution? Is the appendix vestigial or not, and if not, does that vindicate ID, evolution, or both?

The Inoculated MindNeil Shubin talk from Saturday

Yesterday, UW-Madison had its Darwin Day 2008 celebration, and the keynote speaker was Neil Shubin, co-discoverer of Tiktaalik roseae, the Darwin Fish itself. I recorded his talk so everyone can enjoy it.And have a look at this: Episode 76 of the Mindcast

10,000 Birdsi-6b1b4998c829b15fc2cc0b54ab812ba9-tangled07.jpgA Great Backyard Bird Count Miracle

So, how was your Great Backyard Bird Count? If you live in North America and pay any attention at all to avifauna, you probably did your part over the last four days to advance the cause of citizen science. To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about the GBBC this year. I strive to observe the local birding holidays religiously but the prospect of counting starlings and pigeons bores me to tears. I try to respect every species for the unique genetic snowflake that it is, really I do. But I live in a Bronx apartment with the nearest tree of any stature at least 400 feet away. With due respect to the immortal Albert King, if it weren’t for trash birds, I wouldn’t have no birds at all.

ArchaeopornMoral Dilemmas in Teaching Anthropology

This semester, I am assigned to a class on medical anthropology, and in some respects it could be an interesting and productive experience. I certainly have no problem looking at modern biomedicine as being comparable to non-western ethnomedicine or cult medicine. Clearly there are functional and cultural levels of comparison that can be made, it’s simply the methodology (and obviously the success rates) that differ. I will even sway to postmodernism far enough to say that modern medicine has been and will always be influenced by the biases and culture, though I think it important to point out that unlike religious and mystical beliefs modern science attempts to step past these issues through processes of evaluation, review, testing, and revision. … My problem comes when students are told that non-western medicines “work” or are “effective” in comparable ways to Western medicine….

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
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1 thought on “The Tangled Bank

  1. Journey of Mankind (I personally would have preferred the title “Journey of Humanity”) from the Bradshaw Foundation is an animation showing the geographic migration of humans during ancient times.

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