Posts

August 04, 2014

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8:10 PM | BAH! Fest – 2014
Here at Nothing in Biology, we are big fans of making stuff up (but, uh, not on the blog… or in our scientific publications… or on our tax returns… or, well, you get the point). So a few of us are thinking of entering some of our fantastical(ly bad) evolutionary theories to the Festival of Bad […]
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5:03 PM | Birdbooker Report 332
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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3:49 PM | Botany 2014 – Model checking, data cleaning, and phylogenies galore
I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the colloquium on Phylogenetic Comparative Methods organised by John Schenk at Botany this year. I’m not really a botanist (shhh!), but I’m glad I attended: lots of cool talks, and lots of nice people. Stephen Smith‘s talk really impressed me; he addressed the tendency for […]
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1:02 PM | Does Biology Have Laws?
Science is our way of trying to understand the universe, to make sense of the ...
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7:31 AM | Monday morning man of leisure
Just a typical Monday morning here in Tuscany for a man of leisure. It's a foggy morning following a rather rainy day, but some rain must fall upon the olive groves to produce all that oil.  Hmm, how does that work?  Jet lag is still a drag; the chianti is a quite uplifting as a counterpoint. Today's major activity will be to explore the shopping and foraging upon the local fare. Ah, the troops have begun to appear and the fruit, boiled eggs, cheese, and prosciutto are beginning […]
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12:21 AM | Sunday Chess Problem
Last week I introduced the Dombrovskis theme: Black has a certain move which, in one phase of the problem prevents a mate and in a different phase provokes the same mate. Last week’s problem came from the master himself, and coupled two such variations with an astonishing key move, which granted two flights. This week…
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12:09 AM | “Vaccine Encephalopathy” – Autism, Epilepsy, & Age of Onset
“Vaccine Encephalopathy”. Despite the medical-sounding terminology, it’s a very poorly defined term and is used to describe developmental regression, seizures, and sometimes coma in an infant or young child, beginning […]

August 03, 2014

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9:05 PM | South Carolina lawmaker wants to force Creationism down students' throats
Well, it’s happened again. The great state of South Carolina has demonstrated that when it comes to ignorance of science, its legislators take a back seat to no one. They must have been jealous of Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas.Last week, SC legislator Mike Fair, a Republican, proposed a new standard for teaching high school biology that encourages teachers to teach alternatives to evolution, by which he means creationism. He's been working on this for months; last spring he tried to pass a […]
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3:31 PM | Mind-Culture Coevolution: Major Transitions in the Development of Human Culture and Society

This is revised from the introduction to a website I put up in the old days of web 1.0, all in hand-coded HTML. Where I’ve since uploaded downloadable versions of the documents I’ve used those links in this revised introduction, but you’re welcome to access the online versions from the old introduction. Mind and Culture […]
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9:13 AM | Buongiorno
TPP has taken up a new residency for a month. Rent-a-mob, the inlaws, have already descended upon us. After two days of traffic, airports, airplanes, and in some cases, trains, some lost time, an epic grocery shopping stop to get some bread, some butter, some wine, just the necessities, a fun time teaching our GPS a new language, a quick lesson in the local scary driving style, lots of narrow, curvy, walled roads, a very late meal of carbonara, followed by a […]
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4:46 AM | Everyone Likes Cat Pictures!
Assisted suicide is not the happiest topic in the world, so I think it’s time to lighten the mood around here. And what better way to do that than with some cute animal pictures? Let’s start with Emily keeping me company while I am at the computer: I was making revisions to my paper about…

August 02, 2014

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9:42 AM | A tiny hamster in a tiny mansion | @GrrlScientist
Today's glimpse into the fascinating life of Chicken, the dwarf hamster superstar, finds her going about her typical morning routineToday is caturday and that means all of you need something to smile about this morning as you switch gears from working hard to playing hard -- and I sincerely hope you do have the opportunity to play hard on this brilliant weekend, even if only for a few hours! I shared a lot of information and several videos of dwarf hamsters with you a few weeks ago, which made […]
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12:17 AM | Who are the contaminants in your sequencing project? (crosspost from #microBEnet)
This was originally posted on microBEnet: Who are the contaminants in your sequencing project? Well, been having many discussions recently about PCR amplification happening from "negative" controls where no sample DNA was added. Such amplification is alas pretty common - due to contamination occurring in some other material added to the PCR reaction.  Obviously it would be best to eliminate all DNA contamination of all reagents and all PCRs.  But if that does not happen, it is […]

August 01, 2014

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3:34 PM | The owl who liked sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow – review
SUMMARY: a gentle and moving memoir by a man who shared his seventh-floor London flat with an unlikely companion; a tawny owl. Unless you are Harry Potter, you probably don't live with an owl in your house. But writer Martin Windrow lived with his "one true owl" long before Harry met Hedwig, as we discover in the charming book, The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar [Bantam Press, 2014; Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US]. Written by a British historian and... Read more
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1:44 PM | A week of links
Links this week: Some gold from Robert Sapolsky – what is going on in teenage brains? Plus a bonus interview. The latest issue of Nautilus (the source of the Sapolsky material) contains a lot of other good material – fruit and vegetables trying to kill you and chaos in the brain among them. I recommend scanning the table of contents. […]
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1:00 PM | What we’re reading resurrected rodent teeth, the genetic origin of sex, and what’s in your ANOVA?
In the journals Harjunmaa E, K Seidel, T Häkkinen, E Renvoisé, IJ Corfe, A Kallonen, Z-Q Zhang, Alistair R. Evans, ML Mikkola, I Salazar-Ciudad, OD Klein, and & J Jernvall. 2014. Replaying evolutionary transitions from the dental fossil record. Nature. … Continue reading →
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1:00 PM | Pangolins are weird, adorable … and very endangered
Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are delightfully weird. They have many of the adaptations we associate with anteaters—powerful front claws for breaking into anthills, a narrow snout for nosing into broken-open anthills, long tongues and sticky saliva for slurping up ants*—plus a sleek coat of overlapping scales. And, as you’ll see in this clip from the […]
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1:00 PM | Stuff online, LED at the end of the tunnel edition
This week, at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! The vital importance (to a grass) of fungal infection, and the results of a quick poll about that unfortunate Science cover. In the form of a “satire” about scientists on Twitter. Your … Continue reading →
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8:16 AM | Evolving Our Towns and Cities
A renaissance of research rooted in evolutionary theory can improve the quality of life in groups of any size, from the smallest hamlet to the largest city.
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6:40 AM | MacDonald on Assisted Dying
I hadn’t intended to turn this into assisted dying week, but that’s how it’s turning out. After his recent debate with Christian apologist William Lane Craig, Sean Carroll expressed frustration that the debate followed a certain pattern. Craig would make an argument, then Carroll would rebut it, then Craig would simply repeat the same argument…
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5:50 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: An Ordovician hardground with a bryozoan and borings — and an unexpected twist
The view above, one quite familiar to me, is of a carbonate hardground from the Upper Ordovician Grant Lake Formation exposed near Washington, Mason County, Kentucky. We are looking directly at the bedding plane of this limestone. The lumpy, spotted fossil covering about half the surface is a trepostome bryozoan. It looks like a dollop […]
Editor's Pick
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5:49 AM | Vyv Evans: The Human Meaning-Making Engine
If you read my last post here at Replicated Typo to the very end, you may remember that I promised to recommend a book and to return to one of the topics of this previous post. I won’t do this today, but I promise I will catch up on it in due time. What I […]

July 31, 2014

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8:24 PM | Friday Fabulous Flower - Maackia
Since there won't be a new blog posted for a couple of days at least, here's a FFF a bit early.  This is the first time this tree has flowered on our campus, a bit of a new addition, and it's sort of a surprise in that TPP was told it wasn't very handsome even in flower.  This is Maackia amurensis, the Amur maackia, quite obviously a legume, and based on all description a very tough tree tolerant of dry, poor soil conditions, and is hardy to zone 3 to boot. While not spectacular […]
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7:13 PM | Torvosaurus gurneyi, The European T-rex
A Portuguese fossil find belongs to a new species related to T. rex: Torvosaurus gurney.
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6:01 PM | 50 million years of incredible shrinking theropod dinosaurs
Some time round about 165 million years ago, the group of small, feathered dinosaurs that we call birds evolved from within the theropod radiation (theropods are the so-called ‘predatory dinosaurs’:... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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5:28 PM | Officially official retirement
TPP's academic alter ego retires - today, although there was a long, unpleasant discussion about that date with the university that eventually confirmed the faculty member could indeed retire on this date, but that's a rather long and boring story of administrative SNAFUs.  Hmm, just checked some online records and the long, boring record of administrative SNAFUs continues because a sum of money was to be deposited in my account today, and it has NOT!  Great, HR has a […]
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2:57 PM | Dinosaurs Had the Worst Luck
Dinosaurs aren’t dead. Not completely. Birds carry on their Mesozoic legacy. But all the forms that inspire our …
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1:00 PM | RESULTS from SURVEY: How bad was that Science cover and do you care?
Apparently, that Science cover was pretty bad and plenty of people cared. I got 75 responses in time to make the above figure (where the width of the blocks are proportional to the number of responses in each category)- 80% said the cover image was either very or kind of poorly chosen and 55% said […]
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9:31 AM | Freaky Evonomic Calculations Drive America’s Border Problems
Why are all the really poor people in the Unites States and Central American making lots of babies and migrating?
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7:45 AM | How to get a spider to drink blood
Spiders may not bite, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them to drink your blood! All you need is a sunset at the beach, hordes of mosquitoes, a spider, and some frustration to take out.
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