Posts

October 31, 2014

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11:14 PM | latest interviews on the philosophy of religion(s)
“But is the existence of God just a philosophical question, like, say, the definition of knowledge or the existence of Plato’s forms?” Gary Gutting, NYT Although I stopped following The Stone‘s interviews of philosophers about their views on religion, six more took place and Gary Gutting has now closed the series he started a while […]
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6:14 PM | Halloween Post: Parasites That “Zombify” Their Hosts
Zombies may still be a thing of fiction, but some parasites more or less turn their hosts into the walking dead. These masters of mind control manipulate their hosts from within, causing them to act in self-destructive ways that ultimately benefit the parasite. Read my latest National Geographic Weird & Wild post: Meet 5 “Zombie” Parasites That Mind-Control Their Hosts .
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6:14 PM | Halloween Post: Parasites That “Zombify” Their Hosts
Zombies may still be a thing of fiction, but some parasites more or less turn their hosts into the walking dead. These masters of mind control manipulate their hosts from within, causing them to act in self-destructive ways that ultimately benefit the parasite. Read my latest National Geographic Weird & Wild post: Meet 5 “Zombie” Parasites That Mind-Control Their Hosts .
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3:15 PM | The (Zombie-)Toad-in-the-Hole
May 8, 1733 two workers, Anders Halfwarder and Olof Sigräfwer, reported excited to superintendent Johan Gråberg, who was inspecting the quarry of Nybro near the village of Wamlingebo (Gotland,... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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3:15 PM | The (Zombie-)Toad-in-the-Hole
May 8, 1733 two workers, Anders Halfwarder and Olof Sigräfwer, reported excited to superintendent Johan Gråberg, who was inspecting the quarry of Nybro near the village of Wamlingebo (Gotland, Sweden), a very strange discovery. While cutting large blocks of sandstone (of the 419Ma old Silurian Hamra-formation), Halfwarder spotted a frog sitting in the middle of [...]
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3:00 PM | Trick or Treat! – Mullerian Mimicry Edition
You are never to young for a meta-costume*. To the untrained eye, it may look like my daughter is dressed as a monarch butterfly for Halloween. To the trained eye, you will recognize that half of her parental set is … Continue reading →
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1:00 PM | Halloween Horrors: The Ghost Bat (aka the False Vampire Bat)
Something ghostly and hungry flies the skies of northern Australia. Its massive white wings stand out against the darkness as it circles, searching for prey. When it finds something tasty this... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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9:15 AM | A week of links
Links this week: A good Jared Diamond interview. The 10,000 hours rule – the best you can do is find the peak of your own ability. Tinder works because a picture is “worth that fabled thousand words, but your actual words are worth… almost nothing”. (HT: Razib) Dumb incentives, although economists would be the first to point […]

October 30, 2014

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11:25 PM | sticky little lizard feet
Evolutionary change can be fast - Peter and Rosemary Grant's long-term & ongoing research project on the Galapagos finches documented rapid responses to environmental changes, for example, as does the  recent work on cane toads in Australia. And biologists...
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10:06 PM | The Way Architecture Imitates Life, Biology Meets Geometry
Biology can be inspirational.  The spiral ramps in multistory parking garages, the way they are stacked and connecting parallel levels, are replications of helical structures found in a ubiquitous membrane structure in the cells of the body - Terasaki ramps in an organelle called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), a network of membranes found throughout the cell and connected to and surrounding the cell nucleus. A team of researchers have described endoplasmic reticulum geometry using […]
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8:51 PM | Pope No Scientist, but...
The Pope's not a scientist, but...MRT @mashable: Note 2 politicians: Even the pope now on board w/ evolution http://t.co/b0T5NKleLq via @tnr— russwilliamsiii (@russwilliamsiii) October 30, 2014
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6:00 PM | Does Uber-Ancient Earth Water Mean Life Started Earlier?
Just 14 million years after the start of the solar system, Earth and the rest of the inner planets were inundated with water, setting back the clock for when life could have evolved.
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4:22 PM | NEW VIDEO! Why I’m Scared of Spiders In a scientific...
NEW VIDEO! Why I’m Scared of Spiders In a scientific sense, I love spiders. Their intricate webs, their beautiful colors, their glassy little eyes… but I do not love them in the 3-D, actually-in-my-presence sense. I expect some of you are just like me in that regard. According to scientists, insects, spiders, and other creepy-crawlies rank as some of the most commonly reported fears in people of all ages. My rational side tells me that there’s nothing to be scared of. Science […]
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4:02 PM | Fern Frozen in Time by Volcanic Flow Reveals Stunning Detail
It defies belief, but a 180 million year old fern fossil unearthed in Sweden is so exquisitely preserved that it is possible to see its cells dividing. So pristine is the fossil, reported scientists... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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1:05 PM | Astrobiology Roundup: Planets, Moons, and Stinky Comets
Scientific discoveries across all fields just keep coming and coming. Here’s a small assortment of goodies from the past couple of weeks. How do you form planets around stars in triple systems?... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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7:18 AM | Inside the Mysterious World of Carnivorous Plants (Part 1—Pitfall Traps)
Plants are boring. At least that is what I—as well as countless others—thought in school. Animals seemed far more exciting than studying plants. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t find plants interesting. One of the reasons was that I couldn’t see plants moving—with the exception of ‘touch-me-nots’ that rapidly fold inward upon touching—and they […]

October 29, 2014

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10:20 PM | Could Biological Life Be Just A Passing Phase In The Universe?
Steven Dick, a famed astronomer and historian, has completed a one-year residency at the Library of Congress, researching his next book, How the Discovery of Life Will Transform Our Thinking. In an exclusive interview posted on the Library's blog, he discusses such provocative issues as evolution on a cosmic scale.Read more...
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6:03 PM | Pope says evolution and Big Bang are A-OK routes when God still drives the bus
Pope Frank breaks with former Pope Benny in embracing scientific concepts of the origin of the universe and the process of evolution as being not inconsistent with faith. Meh. Nothing new. Catholicism is in desperate need to look relevant in the modern world and to distance themselves from clearly wrong and ridiculous ideas about how… Source: Doubtful News
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6:03 PM | Pope says evolution and Big Bang are A-OK routes when God still drives the bus
Pope Frank breaks with former Pope Benny in embracing scientific concepts of the origin of the universe and the process of evolution as being not inconsistent with faith. Meh. Nothing new. Catholicism is in desperate need to look relevant in the modern world and to distance themselves from clearly wrong and ridiculous ideas about how… Source: Doubtful News
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5:53 PM | Homo Floresiensis: Hobbit Species Continues To Provoke Questions About Human Evolution
By Sarah King, Genetic Literacy ProjectSince the discovery in 2004 of Homo floresiensis, an ancient hominid nicknamed “Flo” and also “hobbit”, after the diminutive villagers from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, due to her small size relative to modern humans, much debate has been raised over the origins of the species. read more
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1:39 PM | New Octopus Disguise Material for the Human World [Video]
It’s no doubt that, with a repertoire of everything from colorful coral to a poisonous sea snake, the octopus could win any costume contest handily. But while most of us are picking our way... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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1:30 PM | Pope Rails Against Intelligent Design, Says God Isn't "A Magician"
Pope Francis has declared evolution and the Big Bang theory to be real, while adding that God isn't "a magician with a magic wand." The comments, while not completely unprecedented for the Catholic Church, goes against the "pseudo theory" of intelligent design encouraged by the previous pope, Benedict XVI. Read more...
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1:04 PM | Bat signals: genomic traces of sensory rewiring
How does evolution rewire an animal’s sensory system? In time for both National Bat Week and Halloween, new research in G3 investigates this question by comparing the genomes of bat species that “see” the world in different ways. The black … Read More The post Bat signals: genomic traces of sensory rewiring appeared first on Genes to Genomes.
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1:04 PM | Bat signals: genomic traces of sensory rewiring
How does evolution rewire an animal’s sensory system? In time for both National Bat Week and Halloween, new research in G3 investigates this question by comparing the genomes of bat species that “see” the world in different ways. The black … Read More The post Bat signals: genomic traces of sensory rewiring appeared first on Genes to Genomes.
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12:00 PM | Lizards’ feet adapt rapidly following ecological changes
Evolution is an experiment played over millions of years, with endless failures, dead-ends, obstacles, impasses, and the occasional success. Species come and species go, wiped out by disaster, drought, famine, and sometimes-overzealous predators. Others simply miss out on a few too many mating opportunities, perhaps because populations of individuals are scattered too widely for potential
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9:41 AM | Say “the rise of the age of mammals” again, I double dare you!
In biology and among biologists, we like to use terms that we know are not correct but that still come in handy when you’re confident that your interlocutor understands them the way you do. I’m thinking of terms such as “key adaptations”, “living fossils”, etc… However, among them, there is one that particularly bugs me and makes me feel like Samuel L. Jackson in the iconic Pulp Fiction scene and that is: “the rise of the age of mammals”. […]
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9:39 AM | Improving behavioural economics
A neat new paper has appeared on SSRN from Owen Jones – Why Behavioral Economics Isn’t Better, and How it Could Be (HT: Emanuel Derman via Dennis Dittrich). My favourite part is below. As I have said many times before, giving a bias a name is not theory. [S]aying that the endowment effect is caused by Loss […]
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3:03 AM | The Raft of the Medusa
There is really no way of knowing what the media, scientific or otherwise, will grab onto. A week ago, at the Geological Society of America meeting in Vancouver, I presented a descriptive talk that may well have been the simplest I had ever given to a scientific audience. We had just listened to a series of presentations, […]

October 28, 2014

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10:35 PM | Pope reminds Catholics: evolution, Big Bang are true
God is not a "magician."
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8:34 PM | The Making of the Mammalian Nose
As far as anatomical ventilation systems go, our noses are pretty impressive. Scrolled sheets of bone called turbinates …
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