Daily Archives: September 9, 2009

Pax Flu Outbreak Near 100 cases

Is that a lot or a little?

PAX organizers say they have confirmed nearly 100 cases of H1N1 virus infections, or swine flu, in the wake of the Seattle videogame convention, which drew approximately 75,000 gamers to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center between Sept. 4 and 6.


So, that’s about one tenth of one percent of the people reporting likely swine flue (H1N1). That would be a very mild flu season, but since its a weekend and not a season, it may be a large number. On the other hand, small samples are highly variable. What you’d need to do is to find ten or twenty conventions of 20 or more thousand people and count the flu cases across that sample, and from that perhaps extrapolate rates. (I’m just estimating these numbers …. my point is that I’m not convinced this is a large number.)

This is, however, the beginning of the season of school and other changes in behavior that enhance flu transmission, and we are hearing reports like this one from Pax as well as various colleges that have started to report large numbers of cases.

Well, wash your hands, get plenty of bed rest, and I’ll see you in the morning.

How do you feel about genetic testing for psychiatric diseases?

My friend Virginia Hughes is asking this question on her blog pursuant to a conference she is going to. She has a survey she’d like people to take. The survey takes about 15 seconds so please go and help her out.

For background: Virginia was the blog herder for Scienceblogs.com for a while. She’s quite a good science writer and has a blog you should put on your RSS thingie.

The Day the Right Wing Lost Its Last Shred of Moral Standing

Did you need proof that the Right Wing is stocked with nefarious morons? And I’m not sure which word to emphasize, nefarious or moron. Both, I guess.

About a year ago today was the Republican National Convention, and at that time (and prior, during, and after) numerous arrests were made under Patriot-Act spawn laws of people who did little more than attempt vigorous protest, plan vigorous protest, or in some cases, randomly blunder into town at the wrong moment.

Most charges were dropped (but not all … we hopefully await that event in about a month) and law suits that have great promise have advanced. And now, owing to some excellent reporting based on recently obtained materials, we now know the following:

The Saint Paul Police and their allies in law enforcement are pigs. And, they are stupid pigs. And I’ll throw the mayor of Saint Paul in that category as well, at least until he publicly and formally apologizes for what happened. And then there are the judges that let this travesty happen.

Hey, listen. I’ve pointed you to a lot of posts on Quiche Moraine. This time, I mean it. I really really want you to read “The Day the Right Wing Lost Its Last Shred of Moral Standing.” This is important to me. Please do it.

Aerosteon riocoloradensis: A Very Cool Dinosaur from Argentina

a repost

Fossils of a newly discovered species of dinosaur — a 10-meter-long, elephant-weight predator — were discovered in 1996 along the banks of Argentina’s Rio Colorado, and are now being reported after a long period of careful study. This dinosaur dates to about 85 million years (which falls within the Cretaceous period).

Perhaps the most interesting feature of Aerosteon riocoloradensis is that it demonstrates the evolution of a bird-like respiratory system in an animal that is definitely not bird-like in most other ways. Indeed, the authors of this paper imply that this dinosaur’s respiratory system represents an early phase in the evolution of the bird’s respiratory system. This is a case of an adaptation arising in one context and later being used in an entirely different context.

This is how evolution often works: An adaptation arises for one reason, and then that adaptation is employed in a similar way but for a very different purpose (it is “exapted” as Stephen Gould would say) in a later organism. In this case, we see a lung adapted for a certain kind of efficiency in a terrestrial organism. Later, if the authors are correct, this same efficiency-enhancing adaptation is used in birds as an adaptation related to flight, an entirely different reason.

This diagram shows a reconstruction of the dinosaur Aerosteon riocoloradensis in outline, with the features identified as related to the pneumatic (breathing-related) adaptations indicated. You can access the original paper on line if you wish to study these features in more detail. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of pneumatic features of interest!

In order to understand the significance of this find, it may be helpful to first discuss some interesting things about tetrapod lungs, and bird lungs in particular.

Continue reading Aerosteon riocoloradensis: A Very Cool Dinosaur from Argentina