This summer may see first ice-free North Pole from
(AP) — There’s a 50-50 chance that the North Pole will be ice-free this summer, which would be a first in recorded history, a leading ice scientist says.

Climate change causing significant shift in the species composition of coastal fish communities from
A detailed analysis of data from nearly 50 years of weekly fish-trawl surveys in Narragansett Bay and adjacent Rhode Island Sound has revealed a long-term shift in species composition, which scientists attribute primarily to the effects of global warming.

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I am not entirely sure that the FDA has actually identified a tomato with Salmonella on it. The tomato hypothesis was based on recall data, which is notoriously iffy. Not totally useless, but iffy.The FDA, gutted by years of uncaring neglect by evil Republicans, today finds itself incapable of addressing the food safety issue, it would seem. Over 800 cases of food poisoning since April 10th is apparently considered a bit high. And there seems to be no reasonable explanation or anything close to an explanation as tomatoes become increasingly innocent looking. Continue reading

A study just out in PLoS Medicine suggests that an increasing trend of delaying childbirth is associated wiht a rising rate of the use of cesarean delivery. The explanation appears to be impared uterine function.From the editor’s summary:

Though it was not studied here, the researchers hypothesize that impaired uterine contractility may be a consequence of prolonged stimulation of the uterus by estrogen and progesterone, resulting from a prolonged interval between menarche and first birth. Further research is needed to understand the determinants and management of dysfunctional labor in older women to help design strategies for reducing population cesarean delivery rates without adversely affecting maternal and infant outcomes.

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A study released today in PLoS Medicine compares alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use across seventeen different countries participating in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Survey Initiative.Alcohol seems to be widely used in the studied countries, tobacco less so but fairly evenly used. Major variation was found with marijuana and cocaine use, with the US and New Zealand at the top of the list for pot, and the US as a significant outlier with cocaine use, to the extent that if cocaine was not used in the US, it seems unlikely that it would even be a major part of a study such as this one. Continue reading

I find it hard to believe that the government has ignored the need for solar energy to the extent that it seems surprised that anyone wants to build new solar plants. From the New York Times:

Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.

Do you drink bottled water or tap water? Water from a cooler (which is a big giant bottle) or from a filter built into a refrigerator or sink? Or do you Britta?(Yes, let me be the first to verb that noun …. )Increasingly we see resistance to bottled water. The Britta ads (one hour in a meeting, forever in a landfill) … even if they are inaccurate, as most bottles are probably recycled … may have an effect. I have seen, heard of, and even experienced the admonishment of anti-bottle activists (though I quickly add: I almost never drink bottled water. But I do occasionally. But probably, the bottle you see me drinking out of contains water I just put in there to refill it.)Anyhow, there is a sea change in the air. Continue reading

Microsoft to stop selling Windows XP on Monday from
(AP) — Microsoft Corp. is scheduled to stop selling its Windows XP operating system to retailers and major computer makers Monday, despite protests from a slice of PC users who don’t want to be forced into using XP’s successor, Vista.

Synchronize directories with Komparator and KDiff3

f you work some of the time on your laptop and some of the time on your desktop box, making sure that your work is updated on both machines is a must. Many tools can help you accomplish this, from command-line tools such as scp and rsync to generic graphical applications like Konqueror or Krusader, to more specific tools like Unison. Komparator and KDiff3, a couple of KDE applications with interesting features, may offer better ways of syncing your work.Komparator can search and synchronize any two directories. It uses KIO slaves, which lets you compare not only standard directories, but also protocol-based pseudofolders such as smb:// (Samba folders), ssh:// and ftp:// (remote directories via SSH and FTP), and fonts:// (local fonts). Its latest version is 0.8, dated from October 2007, and it’s available under the GPLv2. ..KDiff3 provides more functions than Komparator, but not all are relevant to synchronization. Working with directories, KDiff3 goes further than Komparator — it can compare as many as three directories at the same time (instead of two), simulate the merge operations, do the synchronization in a more “hands-off” way, and even produce backups. More importantly, it can also help you compare specific files (think source files, if you’re a programmer) by highlighting their differences, then merging them. In KDiff3, a merge need not be simply one file overwriting another. If you’ve ever modified a file on one machine and then carelessly made another change to a copy of the file on a different machine, common merging procedures would opt for one of the files, making you lose the changes on the other one. With KDiff3, you could get to keep both changes.

I’m not vouching for either of these as I have not tried them for this purpose, but it looks worthy of consideration.See Also:Keyboard Shortcuts in


Proto Stephen Jay Gould
OMFSM you are not going to believe this. Over at the University of Chicago, someone is making a terrible fool of themselves. It is hard to say if this is Shankar Vedantam, the Washing Post Staff Writer, or Patterson Clark of the Washington Post or someone else.The title of the piece is “And the evolutionary beat goes on…”The piece contains a flash multimedia item that shows the face of a lemur evolving, through a series of other primates, into the face of Stpehen Jay Gould, White Anglo Male. Is there a moment in which he resembles an African person? Maybe. You be the judge. It doesn’t matter, really, the whole thing is so totally wrong that it is astounding.This is the caption of the morphing animation:
A morphing demonstration of human evolution shows the transformation from a small lemur, up the evolutionary ladder into a human: seen here as legendary evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

Up. The evolutionary. Ladder. Continue reading

I find myself using a basic text editor more and more often. Even the relatively well behaved openoffice.or Writer had a tendency to do stuff I don’t necessarily want to do with a simple text file, and certainly, something like Word is the work of Satan.For instance, have you ever noticed strange goofy characters that are not supposed to be there in the title of the posts on this blog or elsewhere? That comes from using a text editor. What looks like “Hello World” in both a text editor and a word processor may not really be the same thing, when copied and pasted. Character encodings and all.Anyway, text editors are important, and they are not just for coders. In fact, bloggers need an excellent text editor, as do many normal people.Here is an overview of Linux text editors. I’ll make just a few comments.As the review says, vi (or Vim or Elvis … variants of vi) is installed on virtually every *nix computer. Therefore, if you are a system administrator, you will find …. wait, wait, if you are a system administrator you do not need to learn anything from me about text editors. Move along. northing to see here.OK, the review also discusses Gedit and Kate. I’ve written recently about Gedit, HERE, in what I think is my most under appreciated post … lots of work, good stuff, funny jokes, nobody read it. Go read that to find out more about Gedit. And spornography. And other stuff. Continue reading

On this day in 1895, T. H. Huxley died at the age of 70. Huxley was known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” because of his defense of Darwin’s important work in evolution. He debated Samuel Wilberforce in 1860, and people have been debating creationists since.Huxley invented the term “agnostic” and described himself as one.

Our local paper, the Star Tribune is re-printing a New York Times story on the Philidelphia “Year of Evolution” …. Which is just fine. But the story has a comment section and it would sure be nice to have a few more pro-evolution comments on it. Please consider contributing to it, here.Hope you get a chance to do it and that the Strib does not make it too difficult.


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Scientists have determined that human cells are able to shift important gene products into their own mitochondria, considered the power plants of cells. The finding could eventually lead to therapies for dozens of diseases.The gene products, known as tRNAs, assemble amino acids for the production of proteins within mitochondria. If the mitochondrial tRNA genes are defective or missing, and proteins are not manufactured, the mitochondria are unable to generate adequate energy.Defective tRNAs are believed to be the cause of about 60 percent of conditions traced to malfunctions in the mitochondria. The range of related conditions includes diabetes, hearing loss and a number of neurological disorders, depending on which kinds of cells are affected….

New study identifies occupations with highest suicide mortality

Suicide mortality in England and Wales is highest in skilled trades and elementary occupations, which include agricultural workers, construction workers, and plant and machine operators, a new study has found.A higher proportion of deaths due to suicide was also recorded among health professionals compared to the population as a whole.Published in the July 2008 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study used mortality data collected by the Office for National Statistics to examine suicide by occupation between 2001 and 2005. Howard Meltzer, Professor of Mental Health and Disability in the Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, was one of the authors of the study.Among men, skilled trades and elementary occupations have the highest suicide mortality, with construction trades, agricultural trades, elementary construction and elementary process plant occupations contributing most to this result. This is consistent with previous Social Class studies of suicide, which show suicide risk to be higher in manual workers. Among women, those with any occupation have lower suicide mortality than those who do not have an occupation, suggesting a protective effect of employment.

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There is new information from an older idea (from about 2000) by Paul Sherman and colleagues. The idea underlying this research is simple: Symptoms of illnesses may be adaptive. Indeed, this may be true to the extent that we should not call certain things illnesses. Like “morning sickness.”ResearchBlogging.orgBroadly speaking, there are two different kinds of reasons that a woman may experience nausea in association with pregnancy. 1) This pregnancy thing is a complicated mess with all kinds of hormonal (and other) things going on, so you puke; or 2) a woman who is pregnant feels nauseous for good evolutionary reasons. Continue reading

For your iPod Touch:The Phoenix Mars Mission thingie. Gives you two RSS feeds (one for news one for blog) and the weather report on mars. A widget displays the elapsed mission time on mars. I’d like to see this application give us more. Like real time images and possibly the ability to control the Phoenix craft (during time they are otherwise not using it, of course). Here.NASA Photograph of the Day. This is potentially cool. When I went to look at it the first time, it was the lamest photograph I’ve ever seen from NASA. (The street somewhere around the Smithsonian with people waking around and stuff.) But this could be fun. Here.


Perhaps judging a man by his cologne isn’t as superficial as it seems.Duke University researchers, using sophisticated machinery to analyze hundreds of chemical components in a ringtailed lemur’s distinctive scent, have found that individual males are not only advertising their fitness for fatherhood, but also a bit about their family tree as well.”We now know that there’s information about genetic quality and relatedness in scent,” said Christine Drea, a Duke associate professor of biological anthropology and biology. The male’s scent can reflect his mixture of genes, and to which animals he’s most closely related. “It’s an honest indicator of individual quality that both sexes can recognize,” she said.Lemurs, distant primate cousins of ours who split from the family tree before the monkeys and apes parted ways, have a complex and elaborate scent language that until recently was completely undiscovered by humans. Drea said it’s language that is undoubtedly richer than we can imagine.”All lemurs make use of scent,” she said. “The diversity of glands is just amazing.”Ringtailed males have scent glands on their genitals, shoulders and wrists, each of which makes different scents. Other lemur species also have glands on their heads, chests and hands. Add to these scents the signals that can be conveyed in feces and urine, and there’s a lot of silent, cryptic communication going on in lemur society.Wearing a scent-based nametag declaring one’s genetics is probably useful in avoiding aggression with closely related males, Drea said. It’s also quite likely to help prevent inbreeding by signaling family relationships to females, but the research to prove that is still ongoing.For this study, Drea and postdoctoral fellows Marie Charpentier and Marylène Boulet focused solely on male ringtailed lemurs living at the Duke Lemur Center.The males have a gland and spike on each wrist that is used to scratch and mark saplings with highly aromatic scents. A pair of glands on the shoulders “like misplaced nipples” manufacture squalene, a scent molecule that works like glue to keep the more aromatic compounds in place longer. Males can be seen dabbing the wrist gland on the chest gland and then scratch-marking. The wrist glands are also central to the “stink fighting” of ringtails, in which they rub the glands along the length of their bushy tails, and then foist them into each others’ face to express dominance.Most importantly, the male also has a scent gland on his scrotum that becomes critical to marking territory and advertising fitness during mating season. He does a handstand and rubs this gland directly onto a tree trunk to let any interested lemurs know who he is and what he’s made of.Scent not only speaks volumes, it’s physiologically expensive to make, Drea said. When a lemur is ill or socially stressed, its scent changes dramatically. “If he loses his signals, it’s quite likely its because he’s less genetically fit,” Drea said. “And his sexual or social partners can know that.”Female ringtailed lemurs have just one scent gland in the genital area, but their scent is more complex than the males’. Via scent, females may advertise not only their fertility, but the presence of a pregnancy and how far along it is, Drea said….source and more