August 25, 2014

11:55 AM | Toyota, WSJ, and Computers: An Update
Back in 2010, I wrote about the sudden unintended acceleration problem (SUAP in the earlier article here, UA in the source I’m about to link) in various Toyota vehicles. Drivers would find their cars accelerating out of their control and braking was unresponsive. People died. Survivors spoke of their unsuccessful attempts to get their car […]
9:07 AM | Classic Italian botany
Here’s some historical Italian botany; an illustration by Jacopo Ligozzi on display in the Palazzo Pitti and photographed without flash in keeping with museum policy.  Always impressed by how well this camera does in low light conditions. The interesting thing is that this lovely illustration (ca. 1577-1567) of mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis – Nightshade family) is pretty accurate (flowers aren't quite right) while illustrations of an earlier era portrayed this famous toxic […]

August 24, 2014

5:00 PM | Extinction Level Events
I spent 5 days in Washington, D.C. last week with my family. We biked the mall to see the various monuments. We selectively toured some Smithsonia (or is it Smithsonians?); check the Facebook page for that album, including the Hall of Human Origins exhibit. We hadn’t really inherited anything recently, so we slept on the floor of one of my wife’s grad school buddies. Oh, and my son attended the World Pokemon Championships, not as a contestant, but as a fanboy […]
2:54 PM | Organisms before questions: a case for restructuring talks at academic conferences
I’m a relatively novice conference-goer, having been to a total of five conferences in my time in academia. Three were when I was an undergrad, and found everything interesting. Two have been as a third/fourth year grad student, where I’ve … Continue reading →

August 23, 2014

10:44 AM | True Facts About Marsupials | @GrrlScientist
A snarky caturday video by ZeFrank, who spoofs Morgan Freeman talking about Australias marsupials Just in time for Caturday! Fans of the talented Morgan Freeman, the witty ZeFrank and of course, all of the worlds amazing animals, can indulge all three passions at the same time in this delightful, and somewhat irreverent, video that shares (some) facts about (some) Australian marsupials. Continue reading...
10:03 AM | Friday Fabulous Fern - A botanical resurrection
Any tourist to Florence Italy will get their fill of resurrection because of the abundance of religious-themed art.  But there’s another kind of resurrection that is very common in these parts; so called “resurrection” plants or desiccation tolerant plants.  Many ferns, clubmosses, mosses, and leafy liverworts are capable of desiccation and rehydration, sometimes quite rapidly.  In this part of Tuscany, the agricultural and urban landscape is composed of […]
9:39 AM | True facts about anglerfish
SUMMARY: To the female anglerfish, the human male is a very loud, annoying and unnecessarily complicated pair of gonads. Antennarius commerson (Latreille), 111 mm SL, UW 20983. Photograph: D. B. Grobecker [doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-58] Caturday has arrived once again, so it is time to watch some animals doing stuff! Today's caturday animal is the anglerfish, an ancient taxonomic order of bony fishes that arose sometime between 100 and 130 million years ago. (In contrast, humans are mere […]

Miya M., James W Orr, Rachel J Arnold, Takashi P Satoh, Andrew M Shedlock, Hsuan-Ching Ho, Mitsuomi Shimazaki, Mamoru Yabe & Mutsumi Nishida (2010). Evolutionary history of anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes): a mitogenomic perspective, BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10 (1) 58. DOI:

Widder E.A. (2010). Bioluminescence in the Ocean: Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity, Science, 328 (5979) 704-708. DOI:

4:43 AM | Arctic Alligators!
After an exciting summer looking for fossils in Wyoming and New Mexico, Matt and Adam are back in action with a Past Time Video! Adam is pretty excited about a study based on fossils from the far northwest of Canada, but Matt thinks Adam is losing his touch and is a little too excited about […]

August 22, 2014

9:12 PM | Don’t Call Me Tarpan: Seeking the Origin of Elusive Horses
Where did the tarpans - wild horses - really come from?
3:18 PM | Want to prevent someone from taking copyright on something- have it be made by a monkey
Well, this is both strange and surreal and fascinating: Who Owns A Monkey's Selfie? No One Can, U.S. Says : The Two-Way : NPR.  Turns out the UC Copyright office says a photo taken by a monkey cannot by copyrighted because apparently copyright is reserved for humans (and I guess human corporations).  NPR implies that an Ars Technica article by David Kravets is what caught their attention as well as that of others.I wonder - if one could teach a monkey to type maybe one could […]
3:00 PM | This spider is doing very well in an urbanized environment, thanks for asking
Urbanization is one of the most dramatic changes humans make to natural habitats. Cities are concentrations of tall buildings, paved landscape, air pollution, and everything else that we do to make life easier for ourselves. But some living things do quite well in these highly altered conditions—think rats and cockroaches, but also red foxes and […]
1:35 PM | Fiat - now and days of yore
The Phactors rented a Fiat 500L diesel, and it's been an impressive car to drive, not at all what TPP expected, but then he hadn't driven a Fiat since a friend had a Spider way back in the mid-1970s there abouts. While parking the rental, TPP was surprised to notice that the tiny car parked in the next space was also a Fiat 500L from about the late 1960s (sorry, really don't know Fiats well at all).  It looked to be in very good shape and probably had the classic, whomping, stomping […]
1:00 PM | Stuff online, rare genetics and bees edition
Essential reading on Ferguson: Jamelle Bouie’s detailed recounting of the events following Michael Brown’s killing, and just how much it would take to make things right; Ta-Nehisi Coates on the historical historical context; Dahlia Lithwick on the laundry list of … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | What we’re reading: Genetic diversity and life history, evolutionary rescue, and scientists on social media
In the journals Romiguier, J., P. Gayral, M. Ballenghien, A. Bernard, V. Cahais, A. Chenuil, Y. Chiari, R. Dernat, L. Duret, N. Faivre, E. Loire, J. M. Lourenco, B. Nabholz, C. Roux, G. Tsagkogeorga, A. A.-T. Weber, L. A. Weinert, … Continue reading →
10:44 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Side effect warnings increase sales by building trust. Similar effects for disclosing conflicts of interest (ungated pdf). Absorbing information on paper versus kindle. Even without digital search, I often find it easier to find favourite passages in the physical form. Humans aren’t the only ones fighting wars. I pointed out a couple […]
5:55 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Remanié fossils in the Lower Cretaceous of south-central England
The last two editions were about a bryozoan and borings from the Faringdon Sponge Gravels (Lower Cretaceous, Upper Aptian) of south-central England. This week we have some Jurassic fossils from the same unit. That sounds a bit daft at first — Jurassic fossils in a Cretaceous unit? — until it becomes obvious that these are […]

August 21, 2014

9:51 PM | Shark Week loses nine million viewers, but Discovery says “everyone is absolutely thrilled”
Shark Week is over, and as the week has progressed, the flood of negative press about Discovery’s favorite time of the year has weakened to a trickle. Instead, news organizations are talking about how well Discovery did this year in spite of the backlash. Shark Week “set records” say the headlines, and it’s no shock: […]The post Shark Week loses nine million viewers, but Discovery says “everyone is absolutely thrilled” appeared first on Science Sushi.
7:51 PM | A Home for Ontogeny and Phylogeny
Construction of the Phyletisches Museum in Jena, Germany began on Goethe’s birthday on August 28, 1907. The Art Nouveau-styled museum was devised by the great evolutionary biologist, embryologist and artist/howthefuckdoyousummarizehowcoolhewas Ernst Haeckel, who by that time had earned fame in many areas of research (and art), including coining the terms ontogeny and phylogeny which feature prominently in the […]
3:18 PM | Death by Vespa
The most dangerous thing in Italy other than the narrow mountain roads enclosed by rocky walls are Vespas. There are two ways to die by Vespa, at least as TPP sees it. Death of the first kind deals strictly with Vespa drivers who dart in and out of traffic, even if the bother to throw out a hand signal before cutting into your lane, or cutting between buses and trucks at the rare stop sign, or zipping to the front of traffic lines. Even with reasonable vigilance TPP has almost creamed a couple […]
2:38 PM | No Ovaries? Well this Ovarian Club Conference is For You (YAMMMs for everyone)
Well, I just got an email invitation to attend CME - OVARIAN CLUB 4.  And alas, rather than just dumping it into SPAM (which I did do) I clicked on one of the links.  I had to know - what was the gender balance at this meeting.  Was there any chance that the organizers would see that it would be ironic to not have a decent number of female speakers?  Alas, nope.The organizing committee is 17:1 males to females.And the speaker balance is not much better something like […]
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