“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”
With this famous sentence, Jean-Jacques Rousseau begins his masterful critique of political power. Less well known is another sentence from The Social Contract (1762): “No State has ever been founded without Religion serving as its base.”
My reading of history is that Rousseau was right. State-formation [...]... Read more »
Briquel, Dominique. (2007) Tages Against Jesus: Etruscan Religion in Late Roman Empire. Etruscan Studies, 10(1), 153-161. info:/
Researchers have discovered a dwarf-sized cousin of the giant ground sloth in 17-million-year-old rock. Paleontology blogger Brian Switek reports.... Read more »
Pujos, F., De Iuliis, G., & Quispe, B. (2011) , gen. et sp. nov.: an unusual sloth from the Santacrucian of Quebrada Honda (Bolivia) and an overview of middle Miocene, small megatherioids . Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 31(5), 1131-1149. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2011.599463
Inspired by the growing body of literature linking natural resource scarcity to conflict, dating back at least to the 1960s but gaining momentum in recent years, Norwegian Ole Magnus Theisen published a review of the statistical literature on this link in 2008. In short, his conclusion was that large scale violence was generally not linked to scarcity of natural resources; but in stead to poverty... Read more »
Magnus Theisen, O. (2008) Blood and Soil? Resource Scarcity and Internal Armed Conflict Revisited. Journal of Peace Research, 45(6), 801-818. DOI: 10.1177/0022343308096157
Seen Contagion yet?It's pretty scary. A new epidemic disease comes out of nowhere and starts killing everyone. It infects the brain - victims suffer seizures, or fall into a coma, and die. It spreads like wildfire. Humanity's only hope lies in Lawrence Fishburne and Kate Winslet.Luckily, that's fiction. But only just.In the movie, the killer bug is called "MEV-1", but it might as well have been called the Nipah virus, because it was closely based on a real disease of the same name. So much so th........ Read more »
Lo, M., & Rota, P. (2008) The emergence of Nipah virus, a highly pathogenic paramyxovirus. Journal of Clinical Virology, 43(4), 396-400. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcv.2008.08.007
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a lot in common between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and dementia. ALS affects motor neurones, leading to muscle twitching, weakness and paralysis. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD; also known as Pick’s disease) is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, and causes disinhibition (inappropriate behaviour) and cognitive problems. However, two groups of scientists have (independently) discovered a genetic link........ Read more »
Vance, C. (2006) Familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with frontotemporal dementia is linked to a locus on chromosome 9p13.2-21.3. Brain, 129(4), 868-876. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awl030
Neumann, M., Sampathu, D., Kwong, L., Truax, A., Micsenyi, M., Chou, T., Bruce, J., Schuck, T., Grossman, M., Clark, C.... (2006) Ubiquitinated TDP-43 in Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Science, 314(5796), 130-133. DOI: 10.1126/science.1134108
Renton, A., Majounie, E., Waite, A., Simón-Sánchez, J., Rollinson, S., Gibbs, J., Schymick, J., Laaksovirta, H., van Swieten, J., Myllykangas, L.... (2011) A Hexanucleotide Repeat Expansion in C9ORF72 Is the Cause of Chromosome 9p21-Linked ALS-FTD. Neuron. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.09.010
DeJesus-Hernandez, M., Mackenzie, I., Boeve, B., Boxer, A., Baker, M., Rutherford, N., Nicholson, A., Finch, N., Flynn, H., Adamson, J.... (2011) Expanded GGGGCC Hexanucleotide Repeat in Noncoding Region of C9ORF72 Causes Chromosome 9p-Linked FTD and ALS. Neuron. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.09.011
The Critical Window, Epigenetics and Stress - and Maybe Mental Health Too... Read more »
# Christopher P. Morgan, & # Tracy L. Bale. (2011) Early Prenatal Stress Epigenetically Programs Dysmasculinization in Second-Generation Offspring via the Paternal Lineage. Journal of Neuroscience. info:/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1887-11.2011
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard about the neutrinos that turned up at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy a few nanoseconds earlier than they were supposed to, in a feat that would have required them to travel faster than the speed of light.... Read more »
The OPERA Collaboraton. (2011) Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam. . arXiv: 1109.4897v1
What factors govern the daily decisions we make about food, exercise, and other health behaviours? As my colleague Megan noted in a recent post on Behavioural Economics on her blog Verdant Nation, “our choices arise from opportunities or barriers that … Continue reading →... Read more »
Baumeister, R., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. (1998) Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252-1265. DOI: 10.1037//0022-3522.214.171.1242
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So a neutrino runs into a tachyon in a bar.... HHere's a collection of interesting twitter snippets from physicists I follow on twitter about today's neutrino webcast announcing the surprising, and frankly unbelievable, results that the OPERA collaboration observed superluminal neutrinos. I haven't watched the webcast myself, nor read the paper beyond the abstract yet so can only comment that I believe it must be systematics. That said it would be insanely interesting to be proven otherwise. Fin........ Read more »
The OPERA Collaboraton: T. Adam, N. Agafonova, A. Aleksandrov, O. Altinok, P. Alvarez Sanchez, S. Aoki, A. Ariga, T. Ariga, D. Autiero, A. Badertscher.... (2011) Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam. CERN. arXiv: 1109.4897v1
Well, it looks like the future is finally here. I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to present itself, but it seems to have come in the form of UC Berkeley scientists who have developed a “decoder” that can measure our brain activity and reconstruct our visual experiences. In other words, 20 years from now we might not ask eye-witnesses to describe a suspect…we’ll just analyze their brain activity and reconstruct the suspect’s image for ourselves.
I could........ Read more »
Scientists made the startling assertion this week that RNA from our food can survive digestion, sneak into our cells, and control our genes. Tiny molecular messengers made inside other species--even other kingdoms of species--work just fine in our bodies, latching onto our genetic material and causing system-wide change. Our understanding of diet and nutrition may be in for a shake-up.
A group of researchers in China has been studying microRNAs (abbreviated miRNAs). These stunted nucleotide cha........ Read more »
Zhang, L., Hou, D., Chen, X., Li, D., Zhu, L., Zhang, Y., Li, J., Bian, Z., Liang, X., Cai, X.... (2011) Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA. Cell Research. DOI: 10.1038/cr.2011.158
We are physical beings in a physical world. This is the thesis of physicalism, the view that reality is made up of one kind of ‘stuff,’ and that stuff is physical. ... Read more »
One of the bugbears of direct perception is the fact of neural delays. The transmission of signals through the nervous system takes time, and this means that there is a lag between something happening (at, say, the retina) and that event having consequences in cortex, let alone behaviour. In control theory terms, delays in a system can lead to instability in that system's behaviour as you are forced to make corrections that are then incorrect and must themselves be corrected. It's typically sugg........ Read more »
Vicente, R., Gollo, L., Mirasso, C., Fischer, I., & Pipa, G. (2008) Dynamical relaying can yield zero time lag neuronal synchrony despite long conduction delays. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(44), 17157-17162. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0809353105
People don’t like changing their minds (for an extreme example see: Bachmann, Michele). Most research ties this tendency to things like status quo biases, sunk cost effects, and inaction inertia, but a new study by researchers at the University of Oslo investigates whether there is a connection between changing our minds and feelings of regret. Through a series of experiments they discovered that people who change their minds experience more regret than those who don’t even when the ........ Read more »
Kirkebøen, G., Vasaasen, E., & Halvor Teigen, K. (2011) Revisions and Regret: The Cost of Changing your Mind. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. DOI: 10.1002/bdm.756
If you were a squirrel living in Southeastern Wisconsin, you’d be pleasantly surprised by the state of things. In many places, there are as many—if not more—trees than there were 200 years ago. But that rosy image doesn’t tell the entire story. Comparing the forests that cover the cities and suburbs around Milwaukee—and likely in [...]... Read more »
Sharpe, D., Stearns, F., Leitner, L., & Dorney, J. (1986) Fate of natural vegetation during urban development of rural landscapes in Southeastern Wisconsin☆. Urban Ecology, 9(3-4), 267-287. DOI: 10.1016/0304-4009(86)90004-5
The acute effects of a warm-up including static or dynamic stretching on countermovement jump height, reaction time, and flexibility
Perrier ET, Pavol MJ, Hoffman MA. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1925-31.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21701282 ... Read more »
Perrier ET, Pavol MJ, & Hoffman MA. (2011) The acute effects of a warm-up including static or dynamic stretching on countermovement jump height, reaction time, and flexibility. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1925-31. PMID: 21701282
Antibiotic resistance is often seen as a modern phenomenon – an ability generated by bacteria in order to defend against the challenges of modern medicine. This is supported by the fact that bacteria from before the era of antibiotics are often more susceptible to their use. Which is why I found it intriguing that recent studies (ref below) have unearthed bacteria from 30 000-year old permafrost sediment and have found evidence of genes that provide resistance against three of the most com........ Read more »
As humans, we like to think of ourselves as highly civilized, intelligent beings, clearly distinct from our animal relatives. And we are. But in some ways we are also quite similar, especially when it comes to our social behaviors.
Read More-... Read more »
In the beginning, the only elements that existed were hydrogen, helium and very small amounts of lithium...... Read more »
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