Posts

September 28, 2014

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1:00 PM | Does a standing desk lengthen your lifespan?
Standing desks are all the rage lately. These desks allow you to stand up while working on your computer. Some standing desks can be raised and lowered, so you can alternate during the course of the day between sitting and standing. The principal argument for these desks is that they provide health benefits.Proponents of standing desks claim, plausibly, that they give you more energy and improve posture. The CDC has found that standing desks (or “sit-stand” desks) reduce upper […]

September 27, 2014

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6:25 PM | Manhattan is a great drama about the problems of science careers
Some of the best dramatic fantasies project otherwise commonplace struggles and worries into extraordinary circumstances. Make that awkward teenage girl a vampire slayer, and put her in a high school that is literally built over a gateway to Hell. How … Continue reading →
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5:24 PM | Wooster Geologist over the Andes
MENDOZA, ARGENTINA–I have just arrived in Argentina for the Fourth International Palaeontological Congress to be held in this city all next week. I thank me colleagues at Wooster for making this possible, especially Shelley Judge who is teaching my History of Life class in my absence. I also thank the Faculty Development Fund at Wooster. […]
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4:48 PM | Democracy, predictability and the worrying state of international affairs
I usually consider myself an optimist, but I am scared, scared sh*tless, to be precise. Why? Because the responses of Western democracies to the threats posed by Putin and IS have been, are and predictably will be mindbogglingly stupid. The…Read more ›
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4:12 PM | Being Wrong is a Good Thing (as long as we learn from it)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started up again last night (at least, on my DVR it did).  The baddie du jour was Carl “Crusher” Creel, the Absorbing Man.  Like Colossus becomes solid metal, Creel can become whatever he touches.  In the comics, he’s an Avengers-level badass, like DC’s Metamorpho but dumber.  Metamorpho at least took high school chemistry and knows how to apply it.  Creel just bulks up and punches things.  In the show […]
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3:51 PM | Counter productive health care plans
If you need any evidence about why the USA needs more stream-lined, efficient health care plans, today's mail brought a datum, actually data. Yes, the Phactors needed a new post-65, post-retirement (for TPP) health care plan, and this required a considerable amount of paper work. Today's mail delivery consisted of two huge packages, one for each Phactor, a couple of booklets, or rather health care catalogs that would have made Sears & Roebuck proud, a total of almost 10 lbs of […]
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9:50 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Is your body mostly microbes? A nice take-down of  another trail of citations dead-ends. One thing I have learnt from my PhD research is that when it comes to citations, academics are lazy. A good piece on Peter Thiel. Curing death is on the agenda. Fixing gender bias in research subjects – because men and […]
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1:45 AM | Matching steps
My latest feature piece for The Hindu BLink, on the different ways to watch nature.

September 26, 2014

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6:38 PM | How Dinosaurs Set Up an Avian Explosion
If you were to take a stroll through the Late Jurassic forest, roundabout 150 million years ago, you …
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5:54 PM | Re-unite Pangaea
With all of this secessionist politics in the news, you might want a t-shirt like this to voice a more united position.  A number of years ago the paleobotanists had a button that said "give Pangaea a break", and this is the same joke just from a different perspective. Of course it would be more appealing if they had spelled Pangaea correctly. After all you wear such a shirt to look a bit clever, but in this case, not. 
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1:00 PM | Stuff online, bad algorithms edition
But with airplanes. The movement of lizard species introduced to new habitats by human travel follows the classic model of island biogeography. From Margaret Sanger to the lie detector. The real origin story for Wonder Woman. Perspective. How science should … Continue reading →
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1:00 PM | What we’re reading: A guide to Bioconductor, Latin American admixture, and the sordid truth about academic job hunting
In the journals Lawrence M., M. Morgan. 2014. Scalable genomics with R and Bioconductor. arXiv:1409.2864. This paper reviews strategies for solving problems encountered when analyzing large genomic data sets and describes the implementation of those strategies in R by packages … Continue reading →
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5:52 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A crinoid calyx from the Upper Ordovician of southern Ohio
This week’s contribution from the Wooster collections will be short. If all is going well, as this is posted I’m on my way to the Fourth International Palaeontological Congress in Mendoza, Argentina. I hope to have a few posts from that exotic place! The fossil above is the crown of a monobathrid crinoid called Xenocrinus […]
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2:50 AM | Thanks, Bush and Obama!
President Obama is expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument today from the wonderful 86,888 square miles President George W. Bush set up in 2009, to about 490,000 square miles. I gotta love anything involving ocean conservation. Thanks, Bush and Obama! “This is a great moment,” said Greg Stone, chief scientist for Conservation International. […]

September 25, 2014

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7:32 PM | Ziapelta – New Mexico’s Newest Dinosaur
Another day, another dinosaur. The last to trundle out into public view was Rhinorex, a shovel-beaked herbivore that …
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6:35 PM | TALL grass prairie vegetation
One obvious aspect of field research is that you cannot apply treatments or gather data if you cannot find your permanent plots. Now least you think TPP is careless or an amateur, several precautions were taken this spring, and in prior springs, to mark and map the 100 or so meter square plots out there on our research prairie. There is a permanent spike in the SE corner and smaller markers in the other corners, and in the late spring a 30" piece of white pvc pipe is pushed in over the […]
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6:27 PM | The American White Pelican
The American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchus) are in the midst of their southerly migration from their breeding grounds in the Dakotas and Minnesota. I saw some myself at Long Meadow Lake near the Mall of America two weekends ago, in which 15-20 were participating in this slightly discomforting but elegant synchronized fishing/swimming activity: Seeing them, I decided to take some time […]
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4:22 AM | #YAMMM Alert: Drug Discovery and Therapy World Congress, a meeting made for @realDonaldTrump & other men
Elizabeth Bik sent me a link to this meeintg: DRUG DISCOVERY & THERAPY WORLD CONGRESS 2015 with a comment about the ratio of males to females in the keynote speakers.  And it is painful.  Of the plenary and keynote speakers, 15 are male and 1 is female.  Below I show pics of the plenary and keynote speakers:Plenary and Keynote Speakers at Drug Discovery and Thearpy World CongressFemale Plenary and Keynote Speakers at Drug Discovery and Thearpy World CongressTwo […]

September 24, 2014

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9:46 PM | Sex, the Early Years
Sex is an ancient tradition. It’s older than today’s continents, older than dinosaurs, older than trees, dating back …
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5:38 PM | Aren’t Adaptations Special?
We just passed the 35th anniversary of the publication of Gould and Lewontin’s classic, highly cited, highly controversial essay (diatribe?), “The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme.” The 21st of September 1979 was the fateful date. Every PhD student in biology should read it (you can find […]
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4:27 PM | Postdoc: Aspergillus Pathogenesis and Immune Activation Dartmouth
A postdoctoral position is available to study the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis and host defense during Aspergillus fumigatus infection. The project will focus on fungal and host factors that are responsive to in vivo oxygen levels which subsequently modulate virulence and host inflammatory responses in clinically relevant models of aspergillosis. Two years of initial funding are guaranteed for generating […]
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4:15 PM | Job: Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, Tenn State Univ
Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology at Tennessee State University. The position is a 12-month, tenure-track position and includes a technician and internal funding.  The position is located at the Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center, McMinnville, TN (http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/nrc/). Applicants interested in applying for the position should visit jobs.tnstate.edu and enter the position description number 092775, which will take […]
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3:53 PM | Back from Bayes IV
As announced a while ago, we had moved our now already traditional summer school in Bayesian Statistics to Bergen, Norway this year. Maybe fitting for such a course, the weather turned out to be very different from the long-term frequency, in what must be the upper 1% quantile of sun intensity for the region at…
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2:53 PM | 2014, an amazing year for pterosaurs
I’m still not sure whether I blog about Mesozoic archosaurs – specifically dinosaurs and pterosaurs – too often, or too infrequently. As I always say, the problem as I see it is that dinosaurs and... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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2:50 PM | Poor taste marketing
TPP is late to this issue; so what?  In one sense Urban Outfitters marketing a bloodied Kent State University sweatshirt almost deserved no comment, so utterly tasteless is this idea. Who in bloody hell would order one?  If you actually remember the event at Kent State that spurred this product then you are over 60, and if you think such a shirt if clever, then you never gunna grow up. It does occur to TPP that all discussion about militarization of the police, Kent State is what […]
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2:00 PM | Grumpy Cat: Frog Version
If there is one internet meme that I’d like to see last forever it’s grumpy cat. And, as WTF Evolution has noted, if we dream it up, evolution can provide. I give you: grumpy frog. Not only are these guys adorably grumpy (new meme anyone?) but they are also have a really interesting physiological traits! […]
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11:22 AM | Kahneman’s optimistic view of the mind
In the Gerd Gigerenzer versus Daniel Kahneman wars, most of the projectiles seem to fly one way. Gigerenzer attacks directly, Kahneman expends little effort in defence. As one test of whether my impression was correct, I searched Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow for how many times Kahneman directly mentions Gigerenzer. The answer is six, once […]
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10:00 AM | Chase The Good, Evade The Bad
Biology concepts – motility, flagella, bacteria, chemotaxis, magnetotactic, monotrichous, amphitrichous, lophotrichous, peritrichous, run and tumble, coccusThe Princess Bride had everything – good guys, bad guys, rodents of unusual size, ex-professional wrestlers. Vizzini was supposed to be brilliant, so why didn’t he cure his own speech impediment? Inconceivable!Proximity is a good relative indicator of danger or benefit. As Vizzini said to Wesley in The Princess Bride, […]
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1:36 AM | Triassic Bites and a Carnivore Conundrum
The Triassic was one of the strangest times in the history of the planet. Rebounding from the worst …

September 23, 2014

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3:35 PM | Spurious correlations at Occham’s Beard festival
Mark Dingemanse and I will be appearing the Discovery Festival in Amsterdam on Friday.  We’ll be talking about spurious correlations in language and culture as part of the Occam’s Beard symposium. The idea is to take some real data, then throw away Occam’s razor and go after the most complicated explanation possible. I foresee no […]
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