Daily Archives: March 25, 2009

Finches Determine Sex of Offspring

As you know if you read my blog, Trivers Willard is an important theoretical construct which has been tested numerous times. TW works in some species, not in others, and overall, that should be predictable (accroding to TW).

It turns out that finches control the sex of their offspring, and do so in a way that TW would predict, apparently. There is a paper in Science that I’ll probably eventually get to writing up for you, and in the mean time, here’s a quick news report from Scientific American.

See if you can figure out how Trivers Willard is working here, and why the important theoretical aspect of this research is glossed in this news report.

A new blog that could be good

…I am trying to rid the word dilettante of its negative connotations and use it to highlight my interest in scientific research of all kinds. My area of expertise is chemical engineering and food science, however this does not prevent my interest in any other research.

I like any and all science, so this is my playground where I can properly discuss other areas outside my expertise without getting a bad formal peer review!

We like dilettantes. So let’s see how The Science Dilettante develops!

Squirrel Nut Zippers at the Varsity

A small group of us, including at least two IT workers who are not homophobic, went to the Varsity, which is one of the oft’ used venues of Cafe Scientific, to see the revitalized Squirrel Nut Zippers. Ben Zvan, who is the only photographer I’ve ever heard compared to Jesus Christ (who apparently was one kick ass photographer, to the extend that he existed) was on the scene. You can see a sampling of his shots here. And here’s one:


I recognized about a dozen faces in the crowd, but the only person I really had a chance to speak with was blog commenter Serena. Nice to see you Serena!

PZ Myers Car Wrecked in Accident: Myers Suffers Minor Injuries (updated)

UPDATE: Read it in his own words! Relive the horror of the road! Cringe as you hear all the gory details of near death and automotive crunchiness, here at Pharyngula!

Myers, trapped in remote region, unable to blog.

UPDATE: Myers has been picked up from the scene by rescue vehicle dispatched from Morris, and is now en route to Saint Cloud airport. where he will take flight to Michigan. Pharyngula readers await direct word from Myers, who may be able to blog from airport.


Approximate Location of Car Wreck
University of Minnesota, Morris, Biology Professor and Science Blogger (Pharyngula) PZ Myers was in a car accident this morning while traveling across a remote prairie region of Minnesota heading for an airport. The wreck was apparently caused by snowy conditions. Myers suffered only minor injuries from flying glass, but his car seems to be totaled. As of this writing, Myers is waiting to be rescued by his wife. Myers has taken refuge in a diner in Glenwood Minnesota. This Glenwood diner, and it would seem likely, other venues in Glenwood, do not have wireless internet connections, so Myers, who has been reporting his plight on his twitter account, has been unable to blog.

There were no major storms in the region at the time of the accident, but several freak snow squalls were reported in the area and can be seen on radar records. From an insurance perspective, this will probably be considered an Act of God. Which is funny.


Preliminary artist’s reconstruction of Myers wreck

Myers reports consternation over the cost of replacement of his vehicle, and ennui owing to his disconnection from the internet.

We can only hope that this diner has some kick-ass biscuits and gravy.

The initial tweets:

At about 7:30: pzmyersDisaster. Trying to get to the airport it’s snowing, totaled the car in a crash. Now stranded in Glenwood.

At about 8:20: Yeah, car is totaled-wheels pointing in diff directions. I’m OK, except for little cuts from a broken glass shower.

8:20: Now stuck in a tiny town with no way tothe airport. Waiting for my wife to pick me up…but she has to drive slowly, too.

Glenwood, Minnesota is about 60 miles or so west of Saint Cloud.

The Bachmann Effect

“The Bachmann Effect” is now officially a phenomenon.

Danny Thomas made the spit take famous, in his TV show Make Room for Daddy. He’s always be drinking a cup of coffee when someone would say something to which he would react with such great and sudden incredulity as to suffer a visceral reaction making it impossible for him to do anything other than spit the coffee out in an impressive atomized spray. An excellent example of a spit take is in the following video, which is a promo form the re-make of Make Room for Daddy, called Make Room for Granddaddy. It’s at 30 to 32 seconds, and it is not Danny Thomas who pulls the spit take. Which in this case, makes it even better for various reasons.

The Dump Michele Bachmann web site documents Eric Kleefeld’s description of the Minnesota version of the Danny Thomas Spit Take. This is now called The Bachmann Effect, and it is different for two reasons. First, it is not Bachmann that does the take, but rather, Bachmann induces the take in another person. Second, only sometimes does coffee or some other liquid get atomized into the atmosphere. Usually, the person being Bachmanned is not taking a drink at the moment, so the spit take is something we see in the eyes and other aspects of facial expression.

This is so regular that I think it may in fact be a freshly discovered limbic response … a new emotion, as it were.

Check out the following video. First we have Michele Bachmann questioning Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. It is rather amazing that they would let her in the same room with actual cabinet officials, but they did. Watch Geithner’s facial expression when he realizes what she is really asking. This is the eyebrow drop at 24.5 to 25 seconds. Geithner is quick.

Then, we have the classic moment during a public discussion of immigration during the last election campaign. At 59 Seconds, El Tinklenberg, the Democratic Candidate running against Bachmann, gives us one of the greatest spit-takes ever seen in a national-level election, in reaction to Michele Bachmann’s statement characterizing Tinklenberg’s position in the exact opposite way he had characterized it moments earlier.

Now, to be fair, this is an edited tape. The truth is that Tinklenberg had articulated his position several minutes, not several seconds, earlier. We may be asking too much for Congresswoman Bachmann to remember that far into the past.

In the next bit, it is hard to pinpoint exactly when James Carville’s brain gets around the fact that Michele Bachmann is telling him that he ought to start supporting women who are running for office. But it does, seemingly in stages. Actually, it might be the case that the Bachmann Effect kicks in 1:38 and the rest of the facial contortions are minor strokes.

The Bachmann Effect.