Daily Archives: September 20, 2010

The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach

The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach — the new journal aspiring to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience — is now published. Devoted to human evolution and edited by William E. H. Harcourt Smith, the issue (volume 3, number 3) features Tom Gundling on “Human Origins Studies: A Historical Perspective”; Kieran P. McNulty on “Apes and Tricksters: The Evolution of Diversification of Humans’ Closest Relatives”; Harcourt-Smith on “The First Hominins and the Origins of Bipedalism”; David S. Strait on “The Evolutionary History of the Australopiths”; Holly M. Dunsworth on “Origin of the Genus Homo”; Katerina Harvati on “Neanderthals”; Jason A. Hodgson and Todd R. Disotell on “Anthropological Genetics: Inferring the History of Our Species Through the Analysis of DNA”; Ian Tattersall on “The Rise of Modern Humans”; Monique Scott on “The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Teaching Human Evolution in the Museum” — and much more besides!

Stick Sci Cartoon Winners Announced

The winners of the Stick Science cartoon contest, sponsored by Florida Citizens for Science, were announced on September 19, 2010. “The basic concept here,” as FCFS’s Brandon Haught explained in announcing the contest, “is to draw a cartoon that educates the public about misconceptions the average person has about science.” And lack of artistic ability was no barrier: “all entries must be drawn using stick figures. This is about creative ideas, not artistic ability.”

Story here

Today’s Hurricane Observations; Is the season half over?

There is a reasonably high probability that tropical storm force winds from what is now Hurricane Igor will affect the Maritime provinces in Canada. Look for that to start happening Tuesday and later. Igor could actually be weaker than a hurricane is supposed to be (or close to it) over the next few hours, technically, but is still organized like a hurricane and is expected to restrengthen one more time before being absorbed into the extrapolar system.

Meanwhile, say hi to Lisa.
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Black Bodies and Quantum Cats

i-dd3f3eddbbe7739dca22669a1e2b561f-black_bodies_quantum_cats.jpgBlack Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics, by Jennifer Ouellette, is an exploration of popular culture, including literature, movies, TV shows, and so on. Ouellette demonstrates a well studied knowledge of these areas of human endeavor, and she is an excellent writer. This means that when you have explored these aspects of day to day life, you will at the end have a reasonably good understanding…

… of quantum physics.

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Selection of a DNA aptamer for homocysteine using systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment

There is an old joke motif the origin of which is obscure (to me, perhaps you can inform us): A highly technical, or perhaps mundanely boring, or perhaps very formal or conventional thing … a police report, the new HR guidebook for a large company, the manual for your new programmable graphing calculator … is being discussed, and someone suggests doing it as an “interpretive dance.” I know I first heard that joke a very long tie ago. Since it probably predates Wikipedia, it is unlikely that we will ever know who first used this theme.

An aptamer is a molecular tool that is used to find, grab, affect through contact, a particular tiny thing, like another molecule (but even perhaps a whole cell or even a tiny organism). The process of probing around in the microscopic world for research, engineering proteins or molecular interactions, pharmacology, etc. might use aptamer molecules in a number of different ways. The trick with using aptamers is to find them either from natural sources (rare) or from a large pool of diverse semi-randomly tossed together molecules. A method used to put a large number of different candidate molecules to the test in order to identify an aptamer for a particular tiny thing (like a bit of DNA, for instance) is SELEX.

The SELEX method is complex, perhaps even boring, and certainly has the potential of becoming mundane to Maureen McKeague, who has developed a SELEX for targeting homocysteine. So, let’s see how Maureen does this in the form of Interpretive Dance! And since the target molecule is a HOMOcysteine, we hope and expect there will be a homo-erotic aspect to the performance.
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Drs Myers and Decker: Advice on Teaching Evolution

i-68efa548cdb44e33126c5936c96fe3ed-evolution_2008.jpgContinuing with our discussion of the Evolution 2008 conference … many things have been going on and I have more to report than time to report it. But I will get to all of it, I assure you. Tonight, I just want to cover part of today’s Education Symposium (moderated by your’s truly) … not all of it at once, thought, as it is kind of complex.

If you happen to work for the University of Minnesota or know anyone who does, best to not read this or let anyone know about it. This is a little to heavy to be spoken of openly. (Since there are only 11 of you who read my blog, I think we’ll be safe.)

I want to comment briefly on two of the talks, one by PZ Myers and one by Mark Decker. The other talks in the symposium were excellent, but I want to address them separately.

First, to dispel rumors that PZ Myers passed out on he lawn in the middle of the campus; This is simply not true. It is true that he had slept only four hours over the previous two and a half days, and had just flown in that morning from Vegas, but he did not pass out on the lawn. In fact, we were able to wire him up quite nicely. Here are before and after photos of a little treatment we applied to get him through the afternoon (This is me on the right and our techie in the middle, in the first photo).



Continue reading Drs Myers and Decker: Advice on Teaching Evolution