Daily Archives: February 7, 2009

For the love of ancient chocolate

A fresh look at ornate 1000-year-old vases from New Mexico’s canyons has unearthed a surprise: They were used as mugs to drink chocolate. The findings are the first record of the food in North America, long before its introduction in colonial times. They also reveal that chocolate was an expensive delicacy enjoyed by few during elaborate rituals.


Yet Another Research Project on Color and Human Brains

I heard these folks talking on the radio. It is all very interesting. Here’s a piece in Science by Greg Miller:

If you’re thinking of hiring a tax accountant, you might want to note the color of his office. According to a new study, the color red can improve performance on detail-oriented tasks–a desirable thing if your goal is an accurate return. However, if you’re hoping to pare down your tax bill with any possible deductions, no matter how far-fetched, you might look for an accountant with a blue office–that color boosts creativity, the researchers report.

Previous research on how color affects cognition has yielded inconsistent findings, says Rui (Juliet) Zhu, a consumer psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Some studies find that red enhances cognition, for example, while other studies suggest the opposite. Zhu suspected this might be because the work didn’t pay enough attention to which types of cognition were being affected. Red might enhance performance on some tasks, she reasoned, while impairing performance on others. …

Read the rest here.

Borrowed Gene Blackens Wolves

North American gray wolves that crisscross the frozen tundra after migrating caribou tend to be light colored, blending in with snow and ice. But dark wolves are common in forests, possibly because there they can slink through the woods unnoticed. Geneticists have pinpointed the gene variant that imparts this black fur and determined that it comes from domestic dogs that interbred with their wily cousins thousands of years ago.

cool. more here.

Important Information on the MMR Vaccine-Autism Link

An investigation by the Sunday Times (UK) indicates that the doctor who reported information suggesting a link between MMR vaccine and autism may have “misreproted results in his research.” The investigation purpots to show that …

…Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research [originally] claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the [vaccinatoi]. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

(Emphasis added)

The story is here.

See also:
A Quick Note to Huffington Post

Did the founder of the antivax movement fake autism-vaccine link?

Anti-vax study a case of scientific fraud?
The anti-vaccination movement—rotten to the core

Maddow on the Stimulus Bill

Book Banning in Florida

Miami school officials can remove from library shelves a book about Cuba that depicts smiling children in communist uniforms but avoids mention of problems in the country, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Miami-Dade County School District wouldn’t be infringing freedom of speech rights by removing 49 copies of “Vamos a Cuba” and its English-language version, “A Visit to Cuba,” from its libraries. The board has argued that the books, for children ages 5 to 8, present an inaccurate view of life in Cuba.

.. so, the court decides the accuracy (value? legitimacy? truthiness?) of the contents of an arbitrary book AND these values are determined to be the determining factor in whether or not a book should be in a library? Holy crap.

So what about all the other books in the library?

Hat tip CMF