Post List

  • November 1, 2010
  • 10:11 PM
  • 856 views

5 ways to gain a lover

by aimee in misc.ience

Yes, it is a shameful, shameful misappropriation of a great song, but I couldn’t help myself.

Not even a little bit.
And seriously, there are, apparently, five different styles of flirting.  An ‘inventory’*, if you will.  And what, pray (or, possibly, prey) are they?  Read on, dear reader!
Traditional
This is based very much in traditional gender roles.  You [...]

[Click on the hyperlinked headline for more of the goodness]... Read more »

Jeffrey A. Hall, Steve Carter, Michael J. Cody, . (2010) Individual Differences in the Communication of Romantic Interest: Development of the Flirting Styles Inventory. Communication Quarterly. info:/10.1080/01463373.2010.524874

  • November 1, 2010
  • 08:35 PM
  • 874 views

The diversity of values held by conservation scientists and why this matters

by Phil Camill in Global Change: Intersection of Nature and Culture


Right up there with climate change, biodiversity conservation is one of the most challenging issues at the intersection of nature and culture.  Part of this challenge arises because of genuine differences in how people value other species.
In an interesting forthcoming article in Conservation Biology, Chris Sandbrook and colleagues at Cambridge University argue that these value [...]... Read more »

SANDBROOK, C., SCALES, I., VIRA, B., & ADAMS, W. (2010) Value Plurality among Conservation Professionals. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01592.x  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 07:46 PM
  • 1,155 views

Evolution: A Game Of Chance?

by Christie Wilcox in Observations of a Nerd

One of the toughest concepts to grasp about evolution is its lack of direction. Take the classic image of the evolution of man, from knuckle-walking ape to strong, smart hunter:

We view this as the natural progression of life. Truth is, there was no guarantee that some big brained apes in Africa would end up like we are now. It wasn't inevitable that we grew taller, less hairy, and smarter than our relatives. And it certainly wasn't guaranteed that single celled bacteria-like critters ended up joining forces into multicellular organisms, eventually leading to big brained apes!

Evolution isn't predictable, and randomness is key in determining how things change. But that's not the same as saying life evolves by chance. That's because while the cause of evolution is random (mutations in our genes) the processes of evolution (selection) is not. It's kind of like playing poker - the hand you receive is random, but the odds of you winning with it aren't. And like poker, it's about much more than just what you're dealt. Outside factors - your friend's ability to bluff you in your poker game, or changing environmental conditions in the game of life - also come into play. So while evolution isn't random, it is a game of chance, and given how many species go extinct, it's one where the house almost always wins. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

XU Xing, & GUO Yu. (2009) THE ORIGIN AND EARLY EVOLUTION OF FEATHERS: INSIGHTS FROM RECENT PALEONTOLOGICAL AND NEONTOLOGICAL DATA. Verbrata PalAsiatica, 47(4), 311-329. info:/

Perrichot, V., Marion, L., Neraudeau, D., Vullo, R., & Tafforeau, P. (2008) The early evolution of feathers: fossil evidence from Cretaceous amber of France. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275(1639), 1197-1202. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0003  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 07:46 PM
  • 457 views

Evolution: A Game Of Chance? [Observations of a Nerd]

by Christie Wilcox none@example.com in Food Matters

One of the toughest concepts to grasp about evolution is its lack of direction. Take the classic image of the evolution of man, from knuckle-walking ape to strong, smart hunter:

We view this as the natural progression of life. Truth is, there was no guarantee that some big brained primates in Africa would end up like we are now. It wasn't inevitable that we grew taller, less hairy, and smarter than our relatives. And it certainly wasn't guaranteed that single celled bacteria-like critters ended up joining forces into multicellular organisms, eventually leading to big brained primates!

Evolution isn't predictable, and randomness is key in determining how things change. But that's not the same as saying life evolves by chance. That's because while the cause of evolution is random (mutations in our genes) the processes of evolution (selection) is not. It's kind of like playing poker - the hand you receive is random, but the odds of you winning with it aren't. And like poker, it's about much more than just what you're dealt. Outside factors - your friend's ability to bluff you in your poker game, or changing environmental conditions in the game of life - also come into play. So while evolution isn't random, it is a game of chance, and given how many species go extinct, it's one where the house almost always wins. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...

... Read more »

XU Xing, & GUO Yu. (2009) THE ORIGIN AND EARLY EVOLUTION OF FEATHERS: INSIGHTS FROM RECENT PALEONTOLOGICAL AND NEONTOLOGICAL DATA. Verbrata PalAsiatica, 47(4), 311-329. info:/

Perrichot, V., Marion, L., Neraudeau, D., Vullo, R., & Tafforeau, P. (2008) The early evolution of feathers: fossil evidence from Cretaceous amber of France. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275(1639), 1197-1202. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0003  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 06:31 PM
  • 1,050 views

The Fruits of a Thousand Genomes

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

Last week saw the publication of the 1,000 Genomes Project, which has characterized ~15 million SNPs, 1 million short insertions/deletions (indels), and 20,000 structural variants in seven human populations. This is discovery and genotyping at unprecedented scale, with an astonishing 4.9 terabases (trillion bases) sequenced - the equivalent of about 1,500 human genomes - across [...]... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 06:00 PM
  • 919 views

Copulatory Plugs: Was it As Good for You As It Was For Me?

by Allie Wilkinson in OH, FOR THE LOVE OF SCIENCE!

Just who exactly benefits from copulatory plugs, anyway?  Mating plugs have been documented in a broad range of animal groups, including insects, arachnids, reptiles and rodents and range from a gelatinous substance in bees and nematodes, to a more solid, coagulated protein mixture in primates, or even the whole appendage breaking off in the vagina. [...]... Read more »

Nadine Timmermeyer, Tobias Gerlach, Christian Guempel, Johanna Knoche, Jens F Pfann, Daniel Schliessmann, & Nico K Michiels. (2010) The function of copulatory plugs in Caenorhabditis remanei: hints for female benefits. Frontiers in Zoology, 7(28). info:/10.1186/1742-9994-7-28

  • November 1, 2010
  • 04:34 PM
  • 1,937 views

Phiten Aqua-Titanium Necklaces: Sound Science or Hype?

by Brian Mossop in The Decision Tree

My latest post on Wired Playbook went up today, “Titanium Baseball Neckwear Big on Hype, Short on Science“, which looks at the science & tech behind the popular rope necklaces that many Major League Baseball players are wearing: During these 2010 Major League Baseball playoffs, you didn’t have to spend money on pricey playoff tickets, [...]... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 03:12 PM
  • 856 views

The BIG picture: Ecological effectiveness

by DeLene Beeland in Wild Muse

In an age when endangered species are often recovered just as much by force of legislation, á la the Endangered Species Act, as they are by scientific principles, I often find myself weighing the Big Picture of ecological effectiveness against the minutae of things like genes and mere numbers. Let me explain. I’m not knocking [...]... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 03:01 PM
  • 1,535 views

Enrichment in Captive Cephalopods

by Mike Mike in Cephalove

To get things started, here’s a video of an octopus with a Mr. Potato Head Toy (and other things): You’ll see why this is relevant in a minute. Now on to the post! “Enrichment” is a psychological term that’s been thrown around a lot. It’s become a buzzword in publications about education, perhaps rightly so [...]... Read more »

Anderson, R., & Wood, J. (2001) Enrichment for Giant Pacific Octopuses: Happy as a Clam?. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 4(2), 157-168. DOI: 10.1207/S15327604JAWS0402_10  

van Praag H, Kempermann G, & Gage FH. (2000) Neural consequences of environmental enrichment. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 1(3), 191-8. PMID: 11257907  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 01:55 PM
  • 837 views

Repost: Shark Mystery Solved! – How Thresher Sharks Use Their Tails

by Laelaps in Laelaps


Thanks to sensational documentaries and summer blockbusters, we are all familiar with the anatomy of a shark attack. The victim, unaware that they are in peril, is struck from below and behind with such speed and violence that, if they are not actually killed during the first strike, they soon find themselves a few pounds [...]... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 01:42 PM
  • 963 views

Crizotinib in ALK-rearranged cancer mutations

by Sally Church in Pharma Strategy Blog






While reading the latest New England Journal of Medicine, it was hard not to notice the focus on ALK mutations and crizotinib (Pfizer), with four articles in all on the topic, including a full original article, two brief reports and [...]... Read more »

Morris, S., Kirstein, M., Valentine, M., Dittmer, K., Shapiro, D., Saltman, D., & Look, A. (1994) Fusion of a kinase gene, ALK, to a nucleolar protein gene, NPM, in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Science, 263(5151), 1281-1284. DOI: 10.1126/science.8122112  

Soda, M., Choi, Y., Enomoto, M., Takada, S., Yamashita, Y., Ishikawa, S., Fujiwara, S., Watanabe, H., Kurashina, K., Hatanaka, H.... (2007) Identification of the transforming EML4–ALK fusion gene in non-small-cell lung cancer. Nature, 448(7153), 561-566. DOI: 10.1038/nature05945  

Kwak, E., Bang, Y., Camidge, D., Shaw, A., Solomon, B., Maki, R., Ou, S., Dezube, B., Jänne, P., Costa, D.... (2010) Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase Inhibition in Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine, 363(18), 1693-1703. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1006448  

Hallberg, B., & Palmer, R. (2010) Crizotinib — Latest Champion in the Cancer Wars?. New England Journal of Medicine, 363(18), 1760-1762. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe1010404  

Butrynski, J., D'Adamo, D., Hornick, J., Dal Cin, P., Antonescu, C., Jhanwar, S., Ladanyi, M., Capelletti, M., Rodig, S., Ramaiya, N.... (2010) Crizotinib in -Rearranged Inflammatory Myofibroblastic Tumor . New England Journal of Medicine, 363(18), 1727-1733. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1007056  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 01:28 PM
  • 1,206 views

Tales of Death

by Merry Youle in Small Things Considered

by Merry

Bacteriophages are expert killers, having been delivering death to bacteria for several billion years. We are not the first organisms to recognize their skill. Bacteria themselves have borrowed the tail of a phage and fashioned from it a targeted bacterial killer for their own use.

We first became aware of this in 1925 when André Gratia observed that E. coli produced a proteinaceous agent that efficiently killed other E. coli, but not unrelated bacteria. Being proteinaceous and selective is what distinguishes these agents, the bacteriocins, from other antibiotics. Many are now known, made by both Gram-negatives and Gram-positives. Initially they were classified and named for who produced them. Thus colicin for that first one, monocin made by Gram-positive Listeria monocytogenes and pyocin for those made by Pseudomonas aeruginosa (formerly pyocynia).

As the list grew, it became evident that the bacteriocins are a heterogeneous bunch. Some of them, including colicin, are trypsin-sensitive proteins, typically encoded on plasmids. (For more information about this group, click here.) Others are trypsin-resistant particles that can be purified by the same techniques that are used to purify viruses. Under the electron microscope, they look exactly like phage tails. Some resemble the contractile tails of the Myoviridae complete with sheath, core, base plate, and tail fibers, others the flexible but non-contractile tails of the Siphoviridae. These headless phage particles contain no DNA. ... Read more »

Nakayama, K., Takashima, K., Ishihara, H., Shinomiya, T., Kageyama, M., Kanaya, S., Ohnishi, M., Murata, T., Mori, H., & Hayashi, T. (2000) The R-type pyocin of Pseudomonas aeruginosa is related to P2 phage, and the F-type is related to lambda phage. Molecular Microbiology, 38(2), 213-231. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.02135.x  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 01:21 PM
  • 680 views

Medicine from the deep

by Noam Ross in Noam Ross

Normally I'm fairly skeptical of studies that attempt to put one big number around the value of a global ecosystem service.  In general, studies at such coarse spatial scales have more uncertainty and are not useful at the regional and local levels where decisions are generally made.  Nevertheless, I'm intrigued by this study in the latest Ecological Economics that attempts to put a value marine genetic diveristy on the development of future pharmaceutical products:

....Here, we provide the first global estimate of the number, source and market value of undiscovered oncology drugs based on empirical data, industry statistics and conservative modelling assumptions. We report US$563 billion–5.69 trillion attributable to anti-cancer drugs of marine origin pending discovery, revealing a new and substantial at-risk ecosystem service value. Our model predicted 253,120–594,232 novel chemicals in marine organisms; 90.4–92.6% of these compounds remain undiscovered. A total of 55 to 214 new anti-cancer drugs were predicted to reach the market sourced primarily from animal phyla (Chordata, Mollusca, Porifera, and Byrozoa) and microbial phyla (Proteobacteria and Cyanobacteria). While no single aspect of extractive marine resource value should be relied upon to account for the opportunity costs of conservation initiatives, the application of valuation models to ecosystem services further reveals the true, irreversible economic cost of habitat degradation and biodiversity declines.

Of course, a ten-fold range of value leaves a lot to be desired, and it's easy to pick out assumptions that could change these calculations.  However, the authors are fairly explicit in describing their research as primarily having demonstrative value:

Ecosystem service valuation aims to first demonstrate the existence of sufficient biodiversity value to promote conservation initiates, and second, to show how to capture and appropriate enough of the value to compensate for the opportunity costs of conservation in specific areas...The present study fulfils the former of these goals and promotes progression towards the second, where further studies focusing on case-specific scenarios and context-dependent variables will allow for the evaluation of ecosystem usage alternatives.

Perhaps this will get pharmaceutical companies to help with financing for marine protected areas.
One thing in the paper jumped out at me.   As shown in the figure below, there doesn't seem be any any one group of marine creatures that yield a large number of potential drugs.  The number of potential drugs (shown below as Marine Natural Products, or MNPs) discovered has a strong relationship with number of species examined.  This means that these chemicals are found in most marine taxa - finding them just requires investigating more species.

However, according to the data in the chart below, the plurality of efforts at developing drugs from compounds found in marine life are focusing on one phylum: Porifera, or sea sponges.

This is curious.  Maybe I'm missing something, but if these compounds are found across phyla, it seems that we are missing opportunities by concentrating heavily on just a few.
Erwin, P., López-Legentil, S., & Schuhmann, P. (2010). The pharmaceutical value of marine biodiversity for anti-cancer drug discovery Ecological Economics DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.09.030... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 12:00 PM
  • 240 views

The Star-nosed mole

by beredim in Strange Animals

Star nosed moles are one of the most distinctive types of mammal best known for their hairless, star like noses with their 22 pink, fleshy tentacles.... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 11:30 AM
  • 1,430 views

Lots of back and forth in molecular motors

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Designing organic molecules that perform repeated mechanical motions is not easy. The molecule needs to be robust on the one hand, and on the other hand have different stable states between which it can alternate. Achieving such complex functionality requires careful design considerations. Nature has solved this problem, and molecular motors perform important functions in living organisms, [...]... Read more »

Ruangsupapichat, N., Pollard, M., Harutyunyan, S., & Feringa, B. (2010) Reversing the direction in a light-driven rotary molecular motor. Nature Chemistry. DOI: 10.1038/nchem.872  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 11:15 AM
  • 551 views

Isle Royal Lessons: Predation Risk v. Dinner

by TwoYaks in Gene Flow

It's been a while since I've written a science blog post, and not because I haven't been reading papers. On the contrary, I've had the exact opposite problem! I'd like to revisit some work done on moose on Isle Royal, Michigan, one of the best studied ecosystems in the US. Reading about the Isle Royal studies was part of what got me into biology to begin with.

Isle Royal is an island in Lake ... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 11:07 AM
  • 1,556 views

Fast ForWord for reading disabilities and language delays: Does it work?

by Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD in Child-Psych

Monday BRIEFS: Quick musings in child related research. Fast ForWord is a series of computer programs designed to improve language and reading skills in 4-14 year old kids with language difficulties. The system is sold and marketed by the Scientific Learning Corporation (www.scilearnglobal.com/the-fast-forword-program/). The system has been adopted extensively by school across the USA, Canada, [...]... Read more »

  • November 1, 2010
  • 11:00 AM
  • 966 views

Real Life Werewolves? Happy Halloween! [The Thoughtful Animal]

by Jason G. Goldman none@example.com in Food Matters



In March 2000, Dr. Simon Chapman and colleagues from the University of Sydney published a paper in which they assessed the effectiveness of an educational intervention for the prevention of dog bites in children.


"Prevent-a-Bite" is an educational programme designed for primary school children. The programme aims to instill precautionary behaviour around dogs, assuming that this might reduce the incidence of attacks. A randomised controlled trial of the efficacy of the intervention was conducted in Australian children aged 7-8 years who were presented with an unsupervised opportunity to approach a strange dog.

Shortly after the publication of this paper, Chapman received a short note from a local farmer: "Have you university types ever looked at whether dog bites happen more around the full moon? It's a well known fact that they do."

It is also a well known fact that farmers (not to mention the rest of humankind) are the unwitting victims of confirmation bias, recall bias, and other various invisible gorillas. The nature of the human mind, combined with the rich oral folkloric traditions passed down from earlier generations of farmers to later generations, makes the persistence of these myths understandable. Being university types of the highest order and respectability, Chapman and a colleague, Stephen Morrell had no choice but to respond, so they "leashed their skepticism" and investigated.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...

... Read more »

Chapman S, & Morrell S. (2000) Barking mad? another lunatic hypothesis bites the dust. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 321(7276), 1561-3. PMID: 11124174  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 10:58 AM
  • 1,221 views

Real Life Werewolves? Happy Halloween!

by Jason Goldman in The Thoughtful Animal



In March 2000, Dr. Simon Chapman and colleagues from the University of Sydney published a paper in which they assessed the effectiveness of an educational intervention for the prevention of dog bites in children.


"Prevent-a-Bite" is an educational programme designed for primary school children. The programme aims to instill precautionary behaviour around dogs, assuming that this might reduce the incidence of attacks. A randomised controlled trial of the efficacy of the intervention was conducted in Australian children aged 7-8 years who were presented with an unsupervised opportunity to approach a strange dog.

Shortly after the publication of this paper, Chapman received a short note from a local farmer: "Have you university types ever looked at whether dog bites happen more around the full moon? It's a well known fact that they do."

It is also a well known fact that farmers (not to mention the rest of humankind) are the unwitting victims of confirmation bias, recall bias, and other various invisible gorillas. The nature of the human mind, combined with the rich oral folkloric traditions passed down from earlier generations of farmers to later generations, makes the persistence of these myths understandable. Being university types of the highest order and respectability, Chapman and a colleague, Stephen Morrell had no choice but to respond, so they "leashed their skepticism" and investigated.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Chapman S, & Morrell S. (2000) Barking mad? another lunatic hypothesis bites the dust. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 321(7276), 1561-3. PMID: 11124174  

  • November 1, 2010
  • 10:58 AM
  • 627 views

How do ballerinas make it look so easy?

by Psychology 379 bloggers in Cognition & the Arts

I love watching the Lilac Fairy variation from the Tchaikovsky ballet Sleeping Beauty because of the effortlessness with which she performs. As someone who loves to dance, I can appreciate and understand how much work she is truly putting into her dance. I know I could never perform her solo myself, but I love watching it all the same. Ballet and other styles of dance require years of training and discipline to get to the professional level and be successful. What gives them the ability to become experts? How can they automatically mold their bodies into these motions and positions that everyone readily recognizes as dance? Psychologists are starting to look at how expert dancers learn and remember dance steps and what gives them the advantage of expertise in their style.... Read more »

Jean, J., Cadopi, M., & Ille, A. (2001) How are dance sequences encoded and recalled by expert dancers?. Current Psychology of Cognition, 20(5), 325-337. info:/

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