Posts

January 05, 2015

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5:05 PM | Halfsider: a bizarre half-male half-female bird | @GrrlScientist
A rare half male and half female – “halfsider” – bird won the intertööbz over the holidays. This unusual bird is comprised of two genetically distinct individuals – twins – fused into one being. But what is it like to be such an individual? A recently published paper shares observations of the behaviour and social life of one such bird living in the wildImagine looking out your window one morning and seeing a bird at your feeding table that looks as […]
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4:03 PM | Dispersal capacity predicts both population genetic structure and species richness in reef fishes
Riginos et al. 2014 Dispersal capacity predicts both population genetic structure and species richness in reef fishes American Naturalist 184:52-64 This was a strange paper for me to read in some ways, because it harks back to some things that I probably should know something about: fish dispersal (honestly!), diversification, and phylogenetic analyses. The basic idea is that fish […]
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3:28 PM | One year’s worth of references for Creature Feature
I’ve gotten into the bad habit of not posting links to the scientific publications upon which my Creature Feature columns are based. Unfortunately, the length and format of the column are incompatible with including references in the pieces themselves, but … Continue reading →
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2:27 PM | The Vocal Iconicity Challenge!
Do you fancy the prospect of putting your communication skills to the test and winning $1000? If so, you should probably go and check out The Vocal Iconicity Challenge: http://sapir.psych.wisc.edu/vocal-iconicity-challenge/ Devised by Gary Lupyan and Marcus Perlman, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the aim of the game is to devise a system of vocalizations to communicate a […]
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8:00 AM | Self evident but unexplored – how genetic effects vary over time
A new paper in PNAS reports on how the effect of a variant of a gene called FTO varies over time. Previous research has shown that people with two copies of a particular FTO variant are on average three kilograms heavier than those with none. But this was not always the case. I’ll let Carl Zimmer provide the background: In 1948, […]

January 04, 2015

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11:52 PM | Why Does Regressive Autism Occur When It Does?
“We took my son on a pilgrimage to the Bronx for an evaluation three months after he had a frightening regression in March. He had been receiving early-intervention services for […]
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7:46 PM | Monikers Only Matter for Vertebrates
In the latest issue of Scientific American, David Shiffman has a short article titled “Monikers Matter“, on the potential importance of common names for the conservation of species. He highlights the case of Charopa lafargei Vermeulen & Marzuki, a species of recently discovered snail only known from a single hill in Malaysia which is slated for demolition [...]
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7:21 PM | Signaling the Intent to Signal
Before I get distracted by too much nit-picking, let me get to the summary paragraph: Thomas Scott-Phillips' book, Speaking Our Minds, contributes seriously to the study of language origins. First and foremost, it demands that pragmatics—the study of language in...
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5:18 PM | Outstanding trees! Outstanding photography!
Here's a teaser photoessay of some amazing trees, mostly massive old things, truly great trees, "behemoths of biomass and beauty" (the quoted phrase is not TPP's, but he doesn't remember where he saw it). The photographer is Beth Moon and the coffee table book must be amazing.  TPP is tempted even though he swore off coffee table books a few years back. TPP has attempted to photograph a number of pretty amazing trees over the years and it isn't easy especially in the tropics where you […]
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7:57 AM | Sunday Chess Problem
When I started this series, one of the first topics I highlighted was the idea of a logical problem. The idea is this: White has a main plan for achieving his objective. However, if he tries to play it immediately black has a defense that will defeat him. So white must first play a foreplan,…
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3:03 AM | Cuomo on Church and State
Mario Cuomo, governor of New York from 1983-1994, died on New Year’s day. He is a throwback to a time when Democrats weren’t cowards, and were actually capable of articulating a compelling and humane vision of how society should be. Consider this speech, delivered at the University of Notre Dame in 1984. Cuomo was a…
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1:15 AM | Tadpole nests, past and present
Thanks to that recent Tet Zoo article about American spadefoot toads and their tadpoles, I’ve had visions in my mind of drying ephemeral pools in hot, arid environments, crammed with crowded, gasping... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

January 03, 2015

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10:10 PM | How to do statistics
This fall, I wrote a series of “How to” blog posts that proved somewhat popular, or at least well-read:How to write/present science – 2700+ viewsHow to be a reviewer/editor – 2600+ viewsWhere to submit your paper – 4000+ viewsI hadn't initially planned a series like this, it just kind of emerged. However, I had long planned one particular “How to” post. Ironically, that post was the one I still hadn’t written. Now that it is 2015, the time seems […]
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5:46 PM | It's a cat's life
Our cats really have it made. Being home for several days during the holidays you get to see the extraordinary activity level of the typical domestic cat first hand. Yes, if ever one of those cat-cams were afixed to our kitty-girls, the resulting video would only be slightly more exciting than one obtained from a 3-toed sloth. First, be it noted that both cats sleep on our bed, mostly, confining the smaller of us to much less than half the bed, and on occasion actually claiming the entire […]
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3:25 PM | Thomas Paine and Christianity
Some time ago, a person on G+ challenged me with the cl […]
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10:30 AM | The Squirrel Grand Nutional | @GrrlScientist
Enjoy a hawk’s-eye view of the squirrel Grand Nutional Steeplechase, which was run a few days ago at Faintree racecourse.I’ve recently been sharing cute hamster and squirrel videos for “Caturday” (the weekly animal appreciation day on the intertööbz), so imagine my delight when I noticed that Steve “the Squirrel Man of Hitchin’” Barley uploaded a new squirrel video onto his YouTube channel a couple days ago -- just in time for the first […]

January 02, 2015

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8:36 PM | North American spadefoot toads and their incredible fast-metamorphosing, polymorphic tadpoles
Time for more spadefoot toads (that is, members of the anuran clade Pelobatoidea or Anomocoela). This time, we’re going to look at the two North American spadefoot toad genera (Spea and Scaphiopus).... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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5:59 PM | Of Mice and Milk, Mind and Memory
Among animal models, C. elegansand Drosophila melanogaster are the heavyweight champions in this domain, but when it comes to lactation, as non-mammals they are of limited use. Enter the lab rat, or mouse in this case. Mice allow researchers to systematically investigate mechanistic pathways through which mother’s milk influences offspring neurobiology, immune function, and behavior. Liu and colleagues (2013) investigated these in concert with the precision and dedication of a […]
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5:52 PM | 2015 Gardening Resolutions
Here's all the resolutions that came to mind.  Probably  have forgotten a couple, but these are enough to try to avoid breaking for now.  The main resolution is to take time to enjoy the process and the results. No Onesies – This remains a problem in our gardens, too many single plants especially herbaceous perennials.  This happens because of experimentation with new plants to see if they can survive the particular rigors of our gardens. Planting in groups makes […]
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5:42 PM | Bad luck, bad journalism and cancer rates | @BobOHara @GrrlScientist
Please, journalists, get a clue before you write about scienceThe big science/health news story this week is about cancer rates, with news outlets splashing headlines like “Two-thirds of adult cancers largely ‘down to bad luck’ rather than genes” (for example, here) or “Most cancer types ‘just bad luck’” (here). (I’m not even going to look to see what the Daily Mail has to say about this.) But these headlines, and the stories, are just […]
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4:25 PM | Haloferax volcanii, model archaea, and me
When I was a graduate student I was looking around for an extremophile - especially an evolutionarily novel one.  And I settled on this species Haloferax volcanii - a model halophilic archaeon largely because Ford Doolittle and colleagues had started to turn it into a genetic model organism (and because Patrick Keeling, from Ford's lab convinced me it was a good thing to do).  So I started work on this species - doing DNA repair studies in the lab.  See my PhD thesis for some of […]
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3:37 PM | New books party: the BES edition | @GrrlScientist
Thanks to the British Ecological Society, I am sharing some scholarly and academic-type books about all sorts of interesting biological topics, including ecological speciation, emerging infections, scientific writing and even a monograph of the domestic cat.I was most honoured to be invited to attend the British Ecological Society’s annual meeting, jointly held with the French Ecological Society, in Lille, France this past December. Whilst there, I managed to attract quite a flock of […]
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8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: In praise of complexity economics. Books coming out in 2015. Two links from the world of intellectual property madness – what would have entered the public domain on 1 January under the old copyright regime (HT: John Bergmayer), and Uber seeks to patent the idea of pricing based on supply and demand (HT: Ben […]
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5:04 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: An encrusted scallop from the Pliocene of Cyprus
One of the very best paleontological sites I had the pleasure of collecting was on the hot Mesaoria Plain near the center of the island of Cyprus. It was the summer of 1996 and Steve Dornbos (’97) and I were pursuing research as part of a Keck Geology Consortium project. We were exploring the Nicosia […]
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2:46 AM | Really shameful overselling the microbiome from the American Society for Microbiology regarding lupus
Well, this press release is from October:Study Suggests Altering Gut Bacteria Might Mitigate Lupus But I just discovered it and it definitely deserves an award.  An Overselling the Microbiome Award.  The PR, sadly and amazingly from the American Society for Microbiology which should know better, discusses a paper from the ASM Published journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.  The PR does an OK job discussing what was in the paper - a study of the microbiome in […]

January 01, 2015

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11:08 PM | New Frog Species Reproduces Like No Other
There’s not really a good time to bring up amphibian mating habits at the dinner table. I figured …
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1:00 PM | Women in STEM 2014
The New Year is always a great time for reflection – Science, I Choose You! has put together an extremely link-tastic review of how 2014 went in terms of women in science. It reminds us of both the good (a woman won a Fields Medal in mathematics for the first time ever!) and the bad […]
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2:45 AM | Science Sushi: 2014 In Review
It's that time of the year again where I look back and see what has happened over the past 365 days in the life of this blog. So far in 2014... ...I have posted 33 posts ...that received over four hundred thousand views ...from 218 countries/territories ...with 595 comments The most popular post of the year was my scathing interrogation of Discovery Channel's nefarious tactics, with my complete shredding of Sharkageddon not far behind.  Second most popular was […]

December 31, 2014

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10:43 PM | Reflecting on 2014
It’s that time of year when people look back on the year that was and reflect on what they’ve done, or not done, and begin planning on how to fill up the blank slate that comes with the new year. For myself, 2014 was arguably one of my most successful to date: I was awarded more [...]
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8:02 PM | 2014 retrospective - Blog #323
The past 12 months have been pretty good for TPP personally. Things have gone very well although not without some aggravating episodes, e.g., getting you retirement money out of Lincolnland's clutches. The F1 had a good year, new job, higher salary, engagement, and nothing makes parents happier than to see good things happen to their offspring. The Phactors had a good year; anytime you can spend a month in Tuscany, you've had a good year. And how did our gardens grow? Pretty well […]
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