Posts

October 20, 2014

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11:37 AM | Should the government allow scientists to create new super-viruses?
Let's suppose a bunch of scientists proposed to take one of the most infectious human viruses—influenza, say—and turn it into a super-bug. Is this a good idea?Or to put it another way: should scientists be artificially mutating viruses so that they have the potential to become a worldwide pandemic?Right about now you might be asking: is anyone actually doing this, and if so, what on earth are they thinking?And yet, several of the world's most prominent influenza researchers have […]
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9:16 AM | Selection and evolution of causally covarying traits
Michael Morrissey. Evolution 68(6): 1748-1761 DOI:10.1111/evo.12385. Selection and evolution of evolution of causally covarying traits This was not the paper I was expecting, but it was a paper I enjoyed. Morrissey argues that we can use path analysis to tease apart the evolution of different aspects of species’ traits, and I think he makes a very good […]
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7:57 AM | Birdbooker Report 343
SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read […]
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1:57 AM | Second Hand Stress: It’s Real
You are probably aware of the concept of second-hand smoke, which increases the risk of disease and death. You should probably be aware of another deadly scourge: second-hand stress.
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1:08 AM | Complexity and Evolution: A New Synthesis for Economics
The field of economics is undergoing paradigmatic change.

October 19, 2014

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10:31 PM | Kids Microbiology Book Review: Germ Stories
I was going through some kids books today and found quite a few that I thought were wonderful and thought - well - I should post about some of them.  So that is what I am going to do.The first I want to write about is Germ Stories by Arthur Kornberg with Illustrations by Adam Alaniz and Photos by Roberto Kolter.  I used to read it to my daughter all the time (she is two years older than my son) and then sometimes, when she was older, she would read it to my son.  A few […]
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7:10 PM | An opportunity to cooperate
This is not simply a cheap call-back to Episode 6: “Iron Dad,” although if you go to teen inventor Chase Lewis’s YouTube channel, he is indeed a fan of Tony Stark, though his helmet is the movie version, not the animated Armored Adventures version.  Below is a message forwarded to the Greensboro Science Cafe Facebook page from … his mom? *** & [...]
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3:12 PM | Frozen Poo Pills: Continued Trials Are Successful in Treating Recurrent C. Difficile
I remember all too well what it was like for my mother when she had Clostridium difficile infection. Post-surgery for colon cancer, the recovery was a breeze compared to the C. […]
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8:19 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Was the paper proposing that mice can pass their fears onto their offspring and grandchildren via epigenetic mechanisms too good to be true? Neuroskeptic comments (and read the comments to Neuroskeptic’s post).  And my favourite epigenetics statement of the week: “Women too can succeed in business. Because epigenetics.” What are agent based […]

October 18, 2014

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11:04 PM | Fall color finally arrives
Fall has been rather slow developing this year probably because of the ample rain and mild temperatures. Today really felt like fall, a bit cold with a possible frost tonight, and finally fall color is beginning to develop in our gardens. This is a favorite Japanese maple positioned at the north end of the lily pond in a clear line of sight from our breakfast nook. Not only does this tree develop some great fall color, but then it gets reflected in the lily pond when the light is just right. […]
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12:09 PM | Caw vs. Kraa: meaning in the calls of crows and ravens | @GrrlScientist
This short video, by the Cornell Lab of O, discusses the differences between and potential meanings of the sounds made by crows and ravens.Since today is caturday, that wonderful day when the blogosphere takes a breather from hell-raising to celebrate pets, I thought some of my favourite animals: corvids. I ran across this lovely video created by Cornell Universitys Laboratory of Ornithology (more fondly referred to as the Lab of O) that discusses the differences between and potential meanings […]
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4:31 AM | How to write/present science: BABY-WEREWOLF-SILVER BULLET
As an editor, reviewer, supervisor, committee member, and colleague, I have read countless papers and proposals and have seen similarly countless presentations. Some work well and some don’t. Beyond the picky details of slides that are too wordy, speaking that is too fast, sentences that are poorly constructed, and so on – the most critical problem is making clear why the work is interesting and important. Why should we read further rather than moving to the next paper on the pile? […]

October 17, 2014

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9:51 PM | Life, um, finds a way—except when it doesn’t
This week the LA Review of Books has my review of Unnatural Selection, a nifty new book in which ecological toxicologist Emily Monosson describes how living things evolve their way around the things we humans do to try and contain them. … the introduction of the insecticide DDT rapidly led to the evolution of resistant […]
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4:29 PM | Prehistoric climate – wish you were there?
Last week I wrote about how cyclical variation in Earth’s orbit influences the long-term climate here on the surface. I also left you on a cliff-hanger promising knowledge of how we know what we know regarding climate in the deep past. This week, I give you the answer: oxygen. Atoms or isotopes? A very quick […]
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3:04 PM | Friday Fabulous Fungus - Oyster mushroom
It's been a wet, cool fall, a great season for fungi, and this is just the right time of year to spot oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus. And you urban dwellers don't need to miss out, a walk around almost any well-treed neighborhood should result in success. Oyster mushrooms grow on wood and they are pretty easy to identify, especially given the season, and they are very tasty, very choice, highly recommended by many. The caps are asymmetrical and around here sort of a pale silvery gray […]
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2:25 PM | New books party: Books that arrived recently | @GrrlScientist
After my bookgasm (book-buying binge) at last weeks Frankfurt Book Fair, Ive got a mountain of wonderful books to share with you -- a project that will take place over the next few weeks.When I get new books, I like to share them with people. Unfortunately, since you all are so far away, I cannot host a book party in my crib where you can look over them, so Ill do the next best thing. Ill host a book party on my blog each Friday of the week when I either purchase books, they are given to me or […]
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1:45 PM | Creature Feature IX: Bagworms
Here is my next piece for The Hindu BLink, on the central role of wind in shaping the life of the bagworm.
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1:00 PM | What we’re reading: A meta-analysis of meta-analyses, plants’ cytoplasmic genomes, and science under political attack
In the journals Koricheva, J. and J. Gurevitch. 2014. Uses and misuses of meta-analysis in plant ecology. Journal of Ecology, 102: 828–844. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12224. We found many cases of imprecise and inaccurate usage of the term ‘meta-analysis’ in plant ecology, … Continue reading →
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1:00 PM | Stuff online, grass of the field edition
My latest in the LA Review of Books: How living things are evolving (or not) in response to human activity. From the front lines of the outbreak: The cultural links between ebola and zombies; how useful airport screening will probably … Continue reading →
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5:36 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Bivalve borings, bioclaustrations and symbiosis in corals from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian) of southern Israel
The stark black-and-white of these images are a clue that the fossil this week has been described in a paper. Above is the scleractinian coral Aspidiscus cristatus (Lamarck, 1801) from the En Yorqe’am Formation (Cenomanian, Upper Cretaceous) of southern Israel. The holes are developed by and around tiny bivalves and given the trace fossil name […]
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4:17 AM | An Overthinker’s Thoughts on Dealing with Unkindness
Do you know what a Necker Cube is? It’s nothing fancy, just a line drawing of a cube that, if you look at for long enough, suddenly and disorientingly switches to inhabiting a new perspective: Nothing about the cube has … Continue reading →
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12:29 AM | Terror skinks, social skinks, crocodile skinks, monkey-tailed skinks… it’s about skinks (skinks part II)
October 2014 continues – for no particular reason at all – to be Lizard Month here at Tet Zoo and right now it’s time for more skinks. The previous article is a sort of general introduction to the... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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12:15 AM | Beauty is in the In-Group of the Beholden
Attraction is more than physical traits. Find out what else counts.

October 16, 2014

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7:47 PM | Nothing to fear but the daily news keeps trying
Our morning newspaper led off with a headline "Ebola crisis in USA continues". Yes, the number of cases of ebola in the USA doubled, a 100% increase; now there are two. Now in west Africa there is a crisis, but here in the USA?  Not so much. To put this in some perspective, you have a better chance of getting bubonic plague than ebola at present, especially if you go camping in the western USA.  Yet you don't hear alarmist headlines, "Black death still alive".  If this is naught […]
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3:14 PM | Durian - Love it or leave it
Unless you have traveled and delved into the culture of SE Asia, you probably don't know a thing about durian. Durian is often called the stinkiest fruit in the world and my Thai friends tell me durian "tastes like heaven, but smells like hell".  Here's what TPP knows based on his experiences with durian. It is true the fruit has an odor that can best be described as similar to the smells wafting out of a sewer, a not uncommon smell in SE Asia. The fruit is a big spiny capsule about the […]
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3:05 PM | You're all wet
There's a lot of stuff out there that TPP doesn't think about very much if at all. But every now and again something gives you pause, and so it's a very good question to ask, "Why does wet feel wet?"  You would think a long time rain forest biologist would have thought about this, but no. TPP can say that you just don't know wet until you've done rain forest work, but just the other morning, as the Phactors were leaving their house, the exceptional dampness from a night of rain and […]
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2:09 PM | President’s Prize winners and runners-up
In my last post, I shared some thoughts about the value of the President’s Prize at Annual Meetings of the Entomological Society of Canada. This time, with the help of Tyler Wist, I present the names and categories for each of the winners and runners-up. I would like to congratulate all of these fine scientists, and […]
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10:31 AM | Nick and Teslas Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove | book review | @GrrlScientist
The newest instalment in the Nick and Tesla science mysteries series, where young people learn to use their scientific and electronics knowledge to solve mysteries around them.Only a week or so has passed in the Nick and Tesla story arc, so as you might expect, things havent changed much from the last book. In the newest instalment to be published, Nick and Teslas Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove: A Mystery with a Blinking, Beeping, Voice-Recording Gadget Glove You Can Build Yourself by Bob […]
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9:10 AM | Selfie from space!
Hello again, Rosetta! After a ten year journey, the spacecraft is only 16km from the comet it’s been sent to …Continue reading →
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3:38 AM | Harvard, hope and hype: the sad reason behind overselling diabetes stem cell work - raising money
Earlier in the week I got all fired up - not in a good way - about a press release and news stories relating to a new paper from Doug Melton on a insulin producing STEM cell studyExceptionally disappointed in Doug Melton of @HHMI for publishing new important diabetes paper as #closedaccess pic.twitter.com/DefoWwmiBR— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) October 10, 2014 With a little more discussion I just got more angry .@HHMINEWS and publishes the groundbreaking paper behind a paywall so […]
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