Daily Archives: May 17, 2008

Americans: Superior because of our DNA (Sorry, everyone else, but it is what it is…)

… or at least, according to the Discovery Institutes’s own Michael Medved.

The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide – between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here [the source of the distinctive american DNA signal], and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits. Among contemporary African-Americans, however, this very different historical background exerts a less decisive influence, because of vast waves of post-slavery black immigration. Some three million black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean arrived since 1980 alone and in big cities like New York, Boston and Miami close to half of the African-American population consists of immigrants, their children or grandchildren. The entrepreneurial energy of these newcomer communities indicates that their members display the same adventurous instincts associated with American DNA.

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The Phalarope: Not just another polyandrous bird…


MIT researchers found that phalaropes depend on a surface interaction known as contact angle hysteresis to propel drops of water containing prey upward to their throats. Photo by Robert Lewis
The Phalarope starts out as an interesting bird because of its “reversed” sex-role mating behavior. For at least some species of Phalarope, females dominate males, forcing them to build nests and to care for the eggs that the females place there after mating. If a female suspects that a male is caring for eggs of another female, she may destroy the eggs and force the male to copulate with her a few times, after which she places the newly fertilized eggs in his nest. This polyandrous behavior is probably facilitated by the fact that the lady phalaropes, denizens of extreme climates with short breeding seasons, are capable of rapid egg production … so their egg production converges, kinda, on sperm production … thus allowing them to exploit multiple males for their parenting behavior.Well, it turns out that these birds are interesting in another way: They defy gravity! … sort of … read on:

As Charles Darwin showed nearly 150 years ago, bird beaks are exquisitely adapted to the birds’ feeding strategy. A team of MIT mathematicians and engineers has now explained exactly how some shorebirds use their long, thin beaks to defy gravity and transport food into their mouths.The phalarope, commonly found in western North America, takes advantage of surface interactions between its beak and water droplets to propel bits of food from the tip of its long beak to its mouth, the research team reports in the May 16 issue of Science.These surface interactions depend on the chemical properties of the liquid involved, so phalaropes and about 20 other birds species that use this mechanism are extremely sensitive to anything that contaminates the water surface, especially detergents or oil.

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