Posts

January 14, 2015

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10:23 AM | Seratonin and short-term/long-term orientation
This week I discovered that an analysis using Causal Graphs that James and I did in 2013 has been backed up by more recent data.  This demonstrates the power of Causal Graph analysis, which we’ll be discussing in our workshop on Causality in the Language Sciences (submission deadline extended!) A recent paper demonstrates a correlation […]
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8:00 AM | That chart doesn’t match your headline – fertility edition
Under the heading “Japan’s birth rate problem is way worse than anyone imagined“, Ana Swanson at The Washington Post’s Wonkblog shows the following chart: So, the birth rate problem is worse than forecast in 1976, 1986, 1992 and 1997. However, the birth rate is higher than was forecast in 2002 and 2006 – so has surprised on […]
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5:55 AM | Muslims, Football, and Gun Nuts
I wasn’t originally going to say anything about t […]
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4:56 AM | Final Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo
I don’t have much to add to what I have already said about the Charlie Hebdo killings. However, having had some time to think about things a little more, and to read what other people have said, I do feel inclined to change my mind about one aspect of this. First, Charlie Hebdo put out…
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1:42 AM | Electric mushrooms
Fungi illuminated; this is one great photo essay of mushrooms. While TPP admires these photos he's quite envious about those little LED lights. Several years ago, one of my students had a nifty idea about using tiny lights to illuminate white flowers that appeared to have other adaptations for hawkmoth pollination. A lot of these flowers open in the early evening, and she wondered if flowers that were more conspicuous by illumination if they would get more visits and set more fruit. […]
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1:11 AM | ‘Strange bedfellow frogs’ (part I): rotund, adorable brevicipitids
Suddenly and unexpectedly, I have the urge to write about frogs. Today we look briefly at the first of two behaviourally peculiar, anatomically surprising groups, both of which are endemic to... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

January 13, 2015

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10:36 PM | Infectiously Fun Science
Science is sometimes frustrating. The work is often repetitive and even tedious. It can be hard to explain to our friends and families—and sometimes even to peers—what we’re doing and why we think it’s important and interesting. The current state of … Continue reading →
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9:18 PM | Give your subconscious a chance to be creative
A discussion on NPR the other day gave TPP pause, yes, it was about cell phones, and similar devices, robbing you of your creativity, and it most certainly is true.  Many years ago a book told a story about how Linus Pauling liked to think about a problem he was trying to solve a night before he went to bed, and how in the morning he often had a new thought about the problem. Hey, it sounded easy enough, so what the heck.  And it works, but there's a catch.  Your […]
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8:15 PM | Great Galloping Crocodiles!
Crocodiles are masters of deception. I’m not talking about their ability to perfectly conceal themselves until the moment …
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4:32 PM | Scrupulosity
Yesterday I heard this great interview on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) on NPR.  It’s become common, especially among young people, to use the label to describe healthy, high-performing individuals who display higher-than-average anxiety — about their grades, for instance.  I teach at Governor’s School, and I taught Early College high school students last fall, and they use the phrase commonly.  It’s true that every single one of us has […]
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3:11 PM | [#2015PostPubRev] #365papers digest 2
With apologies to the many I have missed, and for having to restrict my selection to papers that belong to this blog, here’s the second round of #365papers digest. Please feel free to add/comment!   editorial about RSC efforts to advance chem … Continue reading →
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12:38 PM | Whip it. Population structure and cross-species transmission of Whipworms
This may be my second worm-related post, but it comes from the PLoS journal that is first in my heart: PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. And, as the journal name suggests, it is about a neglected tropical disease: the Whipworm (Trichuris … Continue reading →
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8:13 AM | Ice Breaker Card Tricks
Today was the first day of classes for the spring semester. I have a light teaching load this term, which is my reward for having an especially heavy teaching load last term. Just two classes, and they both meet in the afternoon, no less. For a night-owl like me that’s a good deal. One of…

January 12, 2015

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9:00 PM | Science Word of the Day: Super-weaner
There are some technical terms that make me think “Hah, that’s funny”, but not actually laugh out loud. …
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4:02 PM | Betting with flat Earthers - Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace has always been a favorite historical figure of TPP's.  He independently arrived at the idea of natural selection, much to Charles Darwin's dismay. Here is a link to an episode in his life that teaches an interesting lesson about science. Wallace took up a wager to anyone who could prove the Earth wasn't flat. Wallace's approach was quite interesting in that it offered direct observational evidence of the Earth's curvature, but he still "lost" the wager. This is […]
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3:00 PM | Collective Personality and Our Environment
We are all familiar with the concept of the personality of an individual. We a...
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1:38 PM | Linking gene expression and phenotype in an emerging model organism
Last week in his post “Transcriptomics in the wild (populations),” TME contributor Noah Snyder-Mackler focused on a recent paper by Alvarez et al. that reviews the last decade of transcriptomic research including the goal of linking gene expression and phenotype. Researchers today routinely collect transcriptomic data for non-model … Continue reading →
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1:00 PM | Research on artificially engineered flu strains expected to kill 2000 people per year
2,000 deaths expected for each year of research on how to turn avian flu into a more deadly virus. That’s the estimate in a new analysis by Harvard University’s Marc Lipsitch, professor and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics in the Harvard School of Public Health.I heard Lipsitch present his results at an invitation-only hearing held at the National Academy of Sciences on December 15. The purpose of the two-day meeting, which was organized by the […]
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8:00 AM | Bad statistics – cancer edition
Are two-thirds of cancer due to bad luck as many recent headlines have stated? Well, we don’t really know. The paper that triggered these headlines found that two-thirds of the variation in log of cancer risk can be explained by the number of cell divisions. More cell divisions – more opportunity for “bad luck”. But, […]
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12:32 AM | There is so much more to flying frogs than flying frogs
Episode 2 of David Attenborough’s Conquest of the Skies appeared on TV the other day, and I watched it (in fact, I livetweeted throughout, mostly because I wanted to talk about their portrayal of... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

January 11, 2015

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9:01 PM | What do gardeners do when they can't garden?
When gardeners can't garden they cook. Nothing on TV but foot/basketball and old movies, so that leaves the kitchen to keep us winter gardeners amused. Even then it's been nothing too amibitious. The last of the northern spys were made into apple sauce. They normally would keep much longer and much better, but they were not in best shape when picked and it shortened their useful life. They were browning up rather quickly, so a bit of ascorbic acid helped lighten the color. Having gotten […]
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11:09 AM | Sunday Chess Problem
The last two installments of this series have seen some pretty heavy problems. So, this week I’d like to lighten the mood. The problem below calls for selfmate in two, and it was composed by me! It was published in the May 2014 issue of The Problemist. Recall that white is always moving up the…
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5:50 AM | Adventures in Air Travel
Today has been a rough day.  It’s a Saturday and […]
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3:15 AM | An Elegant Proof Of the Pythagorean Theorem
The Pythagorean theorem made a big impression on me when I first saw it in middle school. It was probably the first genuinely non-trivial theorem that I learned. The theorem is simple to state and to understand, but it is not at all obvious. I have a clear memory of my sixth grade math teacher,…

January 10, 2015

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9:49 AM | Panda-mania | @GrrlScientist
Helping you observe “Caturday” and to help you get into the proper mood for the weekend, I must share some short videos of pandas doing what I wish I could do right now: enjoy the snow.Let’s face it: I miss the snow. After a few teasing moments outside my windows, it finally arrived during the holidays, coating my drab, dirty little town in magic. Alas, it stayed for only 36 hours (give or take an hour), before melting out of sight. If history is any indication, it’ll […]
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6:08 AM | Reality Is That Which, When You Stop Believing In It, Doesn’t Go Away
I’m sure we all remember Pascal’s Wager. Though it is often wrongly presented as an argument for God’s existence, it was really intended as an argument for why we should act as though we believe in God. Roughly, the idea was that if you believe in God and you’re wrong then, well, no big deal.…

January 09, 2015

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11:46 PM | How to Run on Water…
Throughout history, there are tales of people walking o […]
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11:03 PM | Garden sculpture - kinetic and komfortable
Oooo!  TPP has got to get himself one of these Kate Brown garden sculptures/seats. They look really cool, and at first glance it did not occur to TPP that these were anything but art. But they are seats too, so you don't have to be gauche and sit on some d'objet d'art. And they spin! A complete 360 degree 3-fer. Hmm, the only thing that may be missing is the holder for your margarita cup.  HT to Treehugger. 
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10:48 PM | Do bananas have seeds?
A curious reader has submitted a question?  So TPP will give this curious primate an answer. Yes, bananas have seeds because they are seed plants. Now you've all eaten bananas and you probably did not seeds; nothing to eat around as in a watermelon. All varieties of standard banana cultivars are sterile; the fruit develop and mature, but the seeds don't. If you look closely inside your banana you'll see that it consists of 3 units (carpels) and near the point where the 3 units meet, you […]
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10:43 PM | Deconstructing a Crocodile
The skeleton was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Propped up on a table in the …
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