October 22, 2014

3:28 PM | Why I Abandoned Chomskian Linguistics, with Links to 2 FB Discussions with Dan Everett
It wasn’t a matter of deep and well-thought princple. It was simpler than that. Chomsky’s approach to linguistics didn’t have the tools I was looking for. Let me explain. * * * * * Dan Everett’s kicked off two discussions on Facebook about Chomksy. This one takes Christina Behme’s recent review article, A ‘Galilean’ science […]
3:00 PM | Beware the Corporate Takeover of Seed under Many Guises
Protect our humble seeds
2:52 PM | Microbe-themed art of the month: Seung-Hwan Oh portraits w/ mold
OK this is pretty cool (from a microbe-art-science point of view): An Artist Who Paints Portraits With Mold | WIRED.  Seung-Hwan Oh "had to set up a micro-fungus farm in his studio" and he puts film in a warm wet environment (note to self - there could be a new human microbiome aspect of this project depending on what warm wet environment is chosen) and sometimes seeds the system with some mold.  And then he lets nature do its work.See more about his Impermanence works here. […]
2:00 PM | Why women leave academia?
UK Resource Centre for Women in SET recently posted a study that found that only 12% of female late stage PhD students intend to pursue a career in academia. The Guardian does an excellent job summarizing the findings, as well as explaining why this is a terrible thing.  
12:00 PM | Natural selection at the movies: Only the bad guys evolve
It’s almost Halloween, and if you’re anything like me, you celebrate the season by watching scary movies. Although the horror movie marathon is a typical annual tradition of mine, this year I set out with a specific task: to identify as many movies as possible where the villain is somehow associated with evolution by natural […]
12:00 PM | Death By Haunted House
Halloween is a time when fear is invited. The rush of adrenaline in a controlled environment is life-affirming. Not much else to comment on here, except that he seems to have excellent oral hygiene for a chainsaw-wielding maniac.A big man with the chainsaw and the gaping wound on his face jumps out from around the corner and growls. You leap backward and scream, your heart pounding in your ears. You’re ready to either take that power tool and teach him a lesson or to run like the kid from […]

Greek, R. (2012). Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing. By Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers. Knopf Doubleday Publishing: New York, NY, USA, 2012; Hardback, 320 pp; $16.23; ISBN-10: 0307593487, Animals, 2 (4) 559-563. DOI: 10.3390/ani2040559

Volchan, E., Souza, G., Franklin, C., Norte, C., Rocha-Rego, V., Oliveira, J., David, I., Mendlowicz, M., Coutinho, E., Fiszman, A. & Berger, W. (2011). Is there tonic immobility in humans? Biological evidence from victims of traumatic stress, Biological Psychology, 88 (1) 13-19. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.06.002

10:34 AM | ‘Shanklin croc’ and the dawn of the tethysuchian radiation
Hey, Darren, how’s it going with that plan to discuss all the fossil crocodylomorph groups? Huh? Well, ha ha, it ain’t going so well… goddam life getting in the way of my blogging. But the... -- Read more on
4:14 AM | New trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey because yes please
Via io9.

October 21, 2014

11:14 PM | Sex? Sex? Oh, please. It's copulation.
In higher organisms, sex, gender, and copulation are all neatly tied up together such that to the less well informed (read science correspondent) they are one and the same. So when some science reporter says "Sex emerged in an ancient Scottish lake", and it turns out to be fossil fish copulating, it just sends the wrong message.  To be fair it's the headline that's wrong. The article clearly states this is about copulation. Sex is when parents of two different genotypes combine […]
3:13 PM | The Theory of Cultural Ranks at 3QD
Posted at 3 Quarks Daily: Evolving to the Future, the Web of Culture Europeans had been trading with Asian peoples since ancient times. But things began to change in the 15th Century when the Spanish and Portuguese sent ships across the oceans, followed by Northern Europeans in the 17th Century. By the late 19th Century […]
9:59 AM | Workshop on Causality in the Language Sciences
The MPI for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig is hosting a workshop on Causality in the Language Sciences on April 13 – 15, 2015. There is a call for talks and posters here (deadline January 10th, 2015). Invited speakers include Balthasar Bickel, Claire Bowern, Morten Christiansen, Dan Dediu, Michael Dunn, T. Florian Jaeger, Gerhard Jaeger, […]

October 20, 2014

9:04 PM | What Do Whales Taste?
Taste is so important that it's wheedled its way deep into our language. We call...
6:45 PM | Systematic fiscal abuse of public universities
Higher education especially the USA's systems of public state universities has been one area where our country truly excelled, and now this educational success story is being denigrated and gradually being killed by a thousand little cuts. Those of us who have worked in higher education over the past 40 years know this so very well. A recent essay expresses TPP's understanding of the situation quite well.  "Emerging evidence from the Delta Cost Project (as well as other studies) has […]
3:14 PM | Eeek! Dozer blight!
Wow, these developments outside of Las Vegas are so remarkably vile. This is some of the worst dozer blight TPP has ever witnessed. This is what happens when you have government by development speculators, where everything is available for transformation into someone's profit. Of course, no one is going to pay for the environmental cost. You can quite imagine that part of the argument for doing this was "nothing is out there, just desert."  Hard to believe, but Las Vegas […]
11:37 AM | Should the government allow scientists to create new super-viruses?
Let's suppose a bunch of scientists proposed to take one of the most infectious human viruses—influenza, say—and turn it into a super-bug. Is this a good idea?Or to put it another way: should scientists be artificially mutating viruses so that they have the potential to become a worldwide pandemic?Right about now you might be asking: is anyone actually doing this, and if so, what on earth are they thinking?And yet, several of the world's most prominent influenza researchers have […]
9:16 AM | Selection and evolution of causally covarying traits
Michael Morrissey. Evolution 68(6): 1748-1761 DOI:10.1111/evo.12385. Selection and evolution of evolution of causally covarying traits This was not the paper I was expecting, but it was a paper I enjoyed. Morrissey argues that we can use path analysis to tease apart the evolution of different aspects of species’ traits, and I think he makes a very good […]
7:57 AM | Birdbooker Report 343
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 […]
1:57 AM | Second Hand Stress: It’s Real
You are probably aware of the concept of second-hand smoke, which increases the risk of disease and death. You should probably be aware of another deadly scourge: second-hand stress.
1:08 AM | Complexity and Evolution: A New Synthesis for Economics
The field of economics is undergoing paradigmatic change.

October 19, 2014

10:31 PM | Kids Microbiology Book Review: Germ Stories
I was going through some kids books today and found quite a few that I thought were wonderful and thought - well - I should post about some of them.  So that is what I am going to do.The first I want to write about is Germ Stories by Arthur Kornberg with Illustrations by Adam Alaniz and Photos by Roberto Kolter.  I used to read it to my daughter all the time (she is two years older than my son) and then sometimes, when she was older, she would read it to my son.  A few […]
7:10 PM | An opportunity to cooperate
This is not simply a cheap call-back to Episode 6: “Iron Dad,” although if you go to teen inventor Chase Lewis’s YouTube channel, he is indeed a fan of Tony Stark, though his helmet is the movie version, not the animated Armored Adventures version.  Below is a message forwarded to the Greensboro Science Cafe Facebook page from … his mom? *** & [...]
3:12 PM | Frozen Poo Pills: Continued Trials Are Successful in Treating Recurrent C. Difficile
I remember all too well what it was like for my mother when she had Clostridium difficile infection. Post-surgery for colon cancer, the recovery was a breeze compared to the C. […]
8:19 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Was the paper proposing that mice can pass their fears onto their offspring and grandchildren via epigenetic mechanisms too good to be true? Neuroskeptic comments (and read the comments to Neuroskeptic’s post).  And my favourite epigenetics statement of the week: “Women too can succeed in business. Because epigenetics.” What are agent based […]

October 18, 2014

11:04 PM | Fall color finally arrives
Fall has been rather slow developing this year probably because of the ample rain and mild temperatures. Today really felt like fall, a bit cold with a possible frost tonight, and finally fall color is beginning to develop in our gardens. This is a favorite Japanese maple positioned at the north end of the lily pond in a clear line of sight from our breakfast nook. Not only does this tree develop some great fall color, but then it gets reflected in the lily pond when the light is just right. […]
12:09 PM | Caw vs. Kraa: meaning in the calls of crows and ravens | @GrrlScientist
This short video, by the Cornell Lab of O, discusses the differences between and potential meanings of the sounds made by crows and ravens.Since today is caturday, that wonderful day when the blogosphere takes a breather from hell-raising to celebrate pets, I thought some of my favourite animals: corvids. I ran across this lovely video created by Cornell Universitys Laboratory of Ornithology (more fondly referred to as the Lab of O) that discusses the differences between and potential meanings […]
4:31 AM | How to write/present science: BABY-WEREWOLF-SILVER BULLET
As an editor, reviewer, supervisor, committee member, and colleague, I have read countless papers and proposals and have seen similarly countless presentations. Some work well and some don’t. Beyond the picky details of slides that are too wordy, speaking that is too fast, sentences that are poorly constructed, and so on – the most critical problem is making clear why the work is interesting and important. Why should we read further rather than moving to the next paper on the pile? […]

October 17, 2014

9:51 PM | Life, um, finds a way—except when it doesn’t
This week the LA Review of Books has my review of Unnatural Selection, a nifty new book in which ecological toxicologist Emily Monosson describes how living things evolve their way around the things we humans do to try and contain them. … the introduction of the insecticide DDT rapidly led to the evolution of resistant […]
6:46 PM | Sport and violence. Why some athletes behave aggressively?
“Titushky” (“титушки”) is a word which came thundering into the socio-political vocabulary of the former Soviet Union countries. In Ukraine, this word labeled young boxers and fighters, who were recruited from various sports around the country and were later mobilized and incited against opposition during the EuroMaidan, January 2014. These athletes were named “titushky” after […] The post Sport and violence. […]
4:29 PM | Prehistoric climate – wish you were there?
Last week I wrote about how cyclical variation in Earth’s orbit influences the long-term climate here on the surface. I also left you on a cliff-hanger promising knowledge of how we know what we know regarding climate in the deep past. This week, I give you the answer: oxygen. Atoms or isotopes? A very quick […]
3:04 PM | Friday Fabulous Fungus - Oyster mushroom
It's been a wet, cool fall, a great season for fungi, and this is just the right time of year to spot oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus. And you urban dwellers don't need to miss out, a walk around almost any well-treed neighborhood should result in success. Oyster mushrooms grow on wood and they are pretty easy to identify, especially given the season, and they are very tasty, very choice, highly recommended by many. The caps are asymmetrical and around here sort of a pale silvery gray […]
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