Posts

March 14, 2015

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7:26 AM | Pi Day!
Today’s date is March 14, 2015. That’s 3/14/15. That’s the first five digits of pi! And if you’re using 12-hour time, then you have two chances to be reading this at 9:26:53. That’s the first ten digits of pi! Oh happy day! And a welcome chance to stick a thumb in the eye of all…
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3:33 AM | Mating systems
In a new paper, published online in Molecular Ecology, Pannell (2015) reviews the literature on the evolution of mating systems and dispersal in colonizing species as component of a special issue called Invasion Genetics: The Baker and Stebbins Legacy.  This issue is … Continue reading →
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3:32 AM | Days Five and Six – Mojave 2015
No summary available for this post.

March 13, 2015

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9:24 PM | ESC Students Entered in NSERC-CRSNG Video Contest
Two student members of the Entomological Society of Canada have videos entered in the NSERC-CRSNG Science, Action! competition. The contest, open to students across Canada, aims to share NSERC-CRSNG funded research through 60 second videos, and offers a cash prize of $3,000 to the winning entries. The first round of public voting is now open, […]
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9:20 PM | New Technicolor Dream Material Mimics Chameleon Skin
Chameleons are known for their vibrant color changes. While the old wives' tale that they change color to match their surroundings isn't true, they are capable of remarkable shifts in hue, a trait which has fascinated scientists for years. Now, scientists have learned from the little lizards, and have created a material that, like chameleons, can shift its colors seemingly effortlessly. The material was created by Connie Chang-Hasnain, a professor of electrical engineering at Universit
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5:02 PM | Acoustic Fats, Ear Trumpets, and How Whales Hear
Up until a few days ago, I had never heard a blue whale. I wasn’t even aware they …
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11:47 AM | New books party: books that arrived recently | @GrrlScientist
This week’s books include three scholarly works: one examines the language of science and how it changed from Latin to English; another probes the rise of online universities; and a third discusses the use of Victorian fairy-tales to communicate science to public.Scientific Babel: The language of science from the fall of Latin to the rise of English by Professor Michael Gordin [432 pages, Profile Books, 2015; Guardian Bookshop; Amazon UK hardcover/paperback/Kindle UK; Amazon US […]
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8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: A review of Baumeister and Tierney’s Willpower by Scott Alexander (I don’t buy the comparison between exercise, money and willpower – this comment sums up my view). When we act as though all opinions are equal. Some evidence on whether we should be inducing the best and brightest into teaching. (HT: Arnold […]
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6:20 AM | How photosynthesis is inspiring solar power research
SUMMARY: To meet humanity’s growing energy demands, scientists are taking lessons from plants, which perfected the process of capturing the sun’s rays and transforming that into starch. Might scientists be able to adapt the photosynthetic process pioneered by plants and adapt it to meet human demands? The impacts that people have upon the global environment has been a concern to scientists for more than 100 years. These impacts are due, in large part, to the fuels we use. To […]

Barber J. (2007). Biological solar energy, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 365 1007-1023. DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1962

Porter G. (1950). Flash Photolysis and Spectroscopy. A New Method for the Study of Free Radical Reactions, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 200 (1061) 284-300. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1950.0018

Porter G. (1966). Studies of Triplet Chlorophyll by Microbeam Flash Photolysis, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 295 (1440) 1-12. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1966.0222

Porter G. (1978). The Bakerian Lecture, 1977: In Vitro Models for Photosynthesis, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 362 (1710) 281-303. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1978.0134

Tyndall J. (1861). The Bakerian Lecture: On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 151 1-36. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstl.1861.0001

Cogdell R.J., P. I. Molina & L. Cronin (2013). The use and misuse of photosynthesis in the quest for novel methods to harness solar energy to make fuel, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 371 (1996) 20110603-20110603. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2011.0603

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5:50 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A new crinoid genus from the Silurian of Estonia
It is my pleasure to introduce a new Silurian crinoid genus and species: Velocrinus coniculus Ausich, Wilson & Vinn, 2015. The image above is a CD-interray lateral view of the calyx (or head), with the small anal plate in the middle-top. (This will make more sense below.) The scale bar is 2.0 mm, so this […]
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4:18 AM | For Our Wooster Family
Here’s a photo of a peaceful sunrise at the Desert Studies Center to let our WOODS friends know that our thoughts are with them.  
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3:49 AM | In Praise of Verbs
"I am not told. I am the verb, sir, not the object," —Alan Bennett, The Madness of King George One of the regular frustrations of studying for this blog comes from the number of papers I read by people who...
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12:22 AM | Horizontal gene transfer into humans? I am not convinced. Full text of my comments to reporters here
Some news stories about a new paper claiming evidence for horizontal gene transfer into humans and other chordates. I got asked by many reporters about it and some used some of my email comments in their articles.See for exampleHorizontal Gene Transfer a Hallmark of Animal Genomes? in The Scientist by Jyoti MadhusoodananHumans may harbor more than 100 genes from other organisms by Sarah Williams in Science Here is the full text of my responses:"got asked by another reporter to […]

March 12, 2015

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8:10 PM | Strange Fossil Filter Feeder Was an Ancient Survivor
Paleontologist Jakob Vinther pointed to a rust-colored boulder sitting on the black lab table. “What do you think …
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3:08 PM | Colourful Chameleons and Stripy Zebras – The Coolest Animals in Africa
You can say all you like about lions or elephants being the coolest animals in Africa. They are awesome for sure but they’re not quite the top. I suggest that that title goes to the chameleon and the zebra. Why? They are just so unique: one changes colour as much as a fashion model, and […]
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2:00 PM | Exploring color palettes in R
How often have you had to squint at figures with unpleasant color palettes in a manuscript online or in print, and ultimately given up on distinguishing between fifty (or maybe just around 30) shades of gray? I found the RColorBrewer … Continue reading →
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1:01 PM | How photosynthesis inspires solar power research | @GrrlScientist
Plants capture sunlight and turn it into starch. Scientists are now adapting the photosynthetic process to improve the way we harness solar energyThe impacts that people have upon the global environment has been a concern to scientists for more than 100 years. These impacts are due, in large part, to the fuels we use. To reduce environmental damage, people must develop and use alternative fuel sources.“The one source of energy that is abundant across the developed and the developing world […]
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8:00 AM | The patience of economists
Over four years since release of the working paper (and two and half years since I posted about it), Henrik Cronqvist and Stephan Siegel’s paper The Origin of Savings Behavior has been published in the Journal of Political Economy (follow the working paper link for an ungated copy). The abstract is as follows:  Analyzing the savings behavior of a large […]
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6:54 AM | Science, climate change and controversy
SUMMARY: It’s inevitable: as science progresses, controversy happens. But sometimes, the public sees controversy where none exists. How to remedy that? “Science is often thought of as simply a collection of facts which has been handed down to us by some great authority in the past”, says meteorologist Paul Williams, a Royal Society university research fellow at the University of Reading. “But of course, the reality is a lot more complicated than that.” Science is a […]

Darwin C. (1839). Observations on the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, and of Other Parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an Attempt to Prove That They Are of Marine Origin, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 129 39-81. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstl.1839.0005

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3:14 AM | Days Three and Four – Mojave 2015
Day three was spent examining the sedimentology, structure and paleontology, and a bit of the wildlife biology at Owl Canyon. We even stopped at the Payless Shoestore in nearby Barstow (Dr. Wilson’s hometown).  At the Owl Canyon site students examined the geology along a wash (or it is a draw, maybe a wadi?). The big find […]
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2:21 AM | Politicization of the Nones
The Nones, those of no religious affiliation (including […]
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1:17 AM | Probiotics for athletes? Possible someday, but right now - I (and others) don't think so
Nice article in Outside Magazine by David Despain: Should You Be Taking Probiotics? | Performance Plate | OutsideOnline.com.  The article has comments from me, Peter Turnbaugh and Ellen Silbergeld.  The article discusses some of the overhyped claims about probiotics and athletic performance and even mentions my Overselling the Microbiome award.  I like in particular the following paragraph:The biggest issue scientists currently have with probiotics, however, […]
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12:00 AM | The Atomic Worm-Lizard and Other Aprasia Flapfoots
I’m feeling the urge to blog about lizards. So, today I’d like to talk about the Aprasia species, a group of short-tailed, near-limbless gekkotans that belong to the Australian Pygopodidae family,... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

March 11, 2015

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9:04 PM | The Human Epoch: when did it start? | @BobOHara & @GrrlScientist
A new paper investigates when humans started screwing up the environment, and uses this as the symbol for the beginning of a new geologic age: the Anthropocene, or the Age of Humans.Humans, and scientists in particular, love classifying things. Biologists devised the Linnean system for stuffing species into neat boxes, and a Red List to classify species according to whether we’re killing them off (and to tabulate how we’re doing that). Geologists worked out the passage of time on […]
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8:58 PM | Best new plant species of 2014
Don't know how you rank the best new species of plant for a year, any year, but for 2014 it's a Dracaena from Thailand, a damned big, rare Dracaena. There are only about 2500 of them alive.  How does science miss something as big (40 feet or 12 m tall) as this for so long? First, it's not particularly easily accessible, which is often the case for new species finds, but in this case not small and insignificant. Second, the genus is not hard to recognize, and people who saw it […]
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6:45 PM | SCOTUS to decide case: Partisan Hackery vs. Obvious Intent
Once again Tom Tomorrow depicts the USA's real exceptionalism, which isn't partisan politics above the best interests of citizens, but is actually the cartoon itself. The only thing that keeps TPP from despair is that cartoons like this are still allowed. Of course, stupidly, some of us thought the GnOPe can stoop no lower in its irrational partisan behavior toward the Obama administration. But nooo! The Iran letter from GnOPe senators intended to undercut nuclear negotiations […]
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4:40 PM | Wordless Wednesday: #DNLeeLab experience with Crystal Violet Vaginal Cytology
I recently took a look*  at these slides where vaginal epithelial cells from my pouched rats were collected in Summer 2013. One of our goals is to decipher the reproductive mysteries of pouched rat:... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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2:33 PM | Phylogenetic dispersion aversion
How biological communities form and are maintained is a complex and fascinating area of molecular ecology. Gerhold et al. offer up an interesting take on community phylogenetics in a recent Functional Ecology paper that argues against the use of phylogenetic dispersion as … Continue reading →
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2:14 PM | Citizen science is making scientists of everyone
SUMMARY: Citizen science is getting a lot of attention these days, which might make you think it is a new social phenomenon. But in fact, nothing is further from the truth: citizen science has been around much longer than any of us. . . Citizen science is getting a lot of attention these days, which might make you think it is a new social phenomenon. But in fact, nothing could be further from the truth: citizen science has been around... Read more

Blackawton P.S., Airzee S., Allen A., Baker S., Berrow A., Blair C., Churchill M., Coles J., Cumming R.F.J. & Fraquelli L. & (2011). Blackawton bees, Biology Letters, 7 168-172. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1056

Silvertown J. (2009). A new dawn for citizen science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 24 (9) 467-471. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.017

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12:39 PM | Science, climate change and controversy | @GrrlScientist
It’s inevitable: as science progresses, controversy happens. But sometimes, the public sees controversy where none exists. How to remedy that?“Science is often thought of as simply a collection of facts which has been handed down to us by some great authority in the past”, says meteorologist Paul Williams, a Royal Society university research fellow at the University of Reading.“But of course, the reality is a lot more complicated than that.” Continue reading...
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