GDW , gdw

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  • August 25, 2016
  • 09:40 AM
  • 98 views

How to rebuild a brain

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

After the stroke The human brain is complicated. Very complicated. And like any piece of complex machinery that relies on the smooth functioning of many components, it’s not immune to malfunction. When a part of the brain doesn’t get proper nutrition through a nice and smooth blood flow, things go awry and a stroke occurs. […]... Read more »

  • August 18, 2016
  • 08:54 AM
  • 192 views

Wait, let me google it. On the fall (and rise?) of human memory.

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Ruins of a memory palace Once upon a time, there were no computers. And yet, even in the ancient days when writing was not widespread, people told gigantic tales or recited poems of epic proportions. Often more than once. Admittedly, they probably changed a bit along the way, but still the plot remained intact. How […]... Read more »

  • August 11, 2016
  • 08:41 AM
  • 216 views

Who made the Piltdown man? Inside one of science’s most (in)famous hoaxes

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

There was always that nagging feeling of not being accepted, of whispers behind his back. They pretended to be open-minded, but in reality not belonging to the group of professionals was reason enough to dismiss his work and findings. In their eyes, he was just a solicitor. A hobbyist. He was tolerated, but their derision […]... Read more »

De Groote, I., Flink, L., Abbas, R., Bello, S., Burgia, L., Buck, L., Dean, C., Freyne, A., Higham, T., Jones, C.... (2016) New genetic and morphological evidence suggests a single hoaxer created ‘Piltdown man’. Royal Society Open Science, 3(8), 160328. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160328  

  • August 3, 2016
  • 09:13 AM
  • 212 views

Do we need a doping Olympics? The ethics of doping in sports

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

There is only her and the track. The people standing on her left and right do not matter now. She has only one adversary: time. In her head she plays how the future might…will unfold. Forty seven strides. That’s all she needs. All things on the periphery disappear. Her world, her universe becomes a single […]... Read more »

  • July 28, 2016
  • 08:34 AM
  • 253 views

Game of Farmers: Agriculture is coming

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Gron gazed across the plain from inside a tuft of long grass. There. Just in front of the far hillock. Gazelles. Meals on legs. He vaguely remembered mother carrying him through cooler forests when he was not yet old enough to walk. He had never understood why they had left. But he had learned, had […]... Read more »

Zeder MA. (2008) Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(33), 11597-604. PMID: 18697943  

Lazaridis, I., Nadel, D., Rollefson, G., Merrett, D., Rohland, N., Mallick, S., Fernandes, D., Novak, M., Gamarra, B., Sirak, K.... (2016) Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature19310  

  • July 21, 2016
  • 10:08 AM
  • 301 views

The decline of biodiversity: Past the point of no return?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Mohi looks up at her mother. Confused. Afraid. Mother had always said that she had to keep her filtration veil on when they left their housedome. But now, here stood her mother, unveiled. The woman gifted an encouraging nod to her young daughter. Mohi removed her veil. Air! Light! The freshness of the breeze and […]... Read more »

Steffen W, Richardson K, Rockström J, Cornell SE, Fetzer I, Bennett EM, Biggs R, Carpenter SR, de Vries W, de Wit CA.... (2015) Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223). PMID: 25592418  

Newbold T, Hudson LN, Arnell AP, Contu S, De Palma A, Ferrier S, Hill SL, Hoskins AJ, Lysenko I, Phillips HR.... (2016) Has land use pushed terrestrial biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? A global assessment. Science, 353(6296), 288-91. PMID: 27418509  

Oliver TH. (2016) How much biodiversity loss is too much?. Science, 353(6296), 220-1. PMID: 27418489  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 07:28 AM
  • 340 views

An equation for life

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Water churns. Earth moves. Molecules jostle and chemicals mix. Between heaven and hell, a young planet finds itself in full flux. Developing. Forming. Star stuff rains down and forged elements bubble up. Then it happens. It seems as if it’s just another chemical match-up, another reaction in the vast library of possibilities. But it would […]... Read more »

Scharf C, & Cronin L. (2016) Quantifying the origins of life on a planetary scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 27382156  

  • July 7, 2016
  • 09:09 AM
  • 393 views

Are animals (and AI’s) people too?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Charles gets up and balances on his short legs. During the brief ungainly walk to the dais, he fights the urge to scratch his arms. The vest that has been tailor-made for him itches. But it will help focus the committee on his purpose, focus on him as a person. He squats on the low […]... Read more »

Perring C. (1997) Degrees of personhood. The Journal of medicine and philosophy, 22(2), 173-97. PMID: 9186928  

Windrem MS, Schanz SJ, Morrow C, Munir J, Chandler-Militello D, Wang S, & Goldman SA. (2014) A competitive advantage by neonatally engrafted human glial progenitors yields mice whose brains are chimeric for human glia. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 34(48), 16153-61. PMID: 25429155  

  • June 29, 2016
  • 06:20 AM
  • 315 views

Birdsong Babel: Different birds use different grammar rules

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Zizou listens carefully. She ignores her confines and tries to focus on the intruder’s song. There’s something odd about it. Something she can’t quite put her feather on. It’s familiar, yet… not familiar. The intruder is strong. He or she keeps signing incessantly. There’s no sight of him or her, though. She has to make a […]... Read more »

Olkowicz S, Kocourek M, Lučan RK, Porteš M, Fitch WT, Herculano-Houzel S, & Němec P. (2016) Birds have primate-like numbers of neurons in the forebrain. PNAS, 113(26), 7255-60. PMID: 27298365  

  • June 16, 2016
  • 08:30 AM
  • 299 views

An omelette of extinction

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

~50 000 years ago  He wakes. The first sunrays slowly crawl over the horizon. As he gets up, the others in his family group stir. He surveys this new land.  His stomach grumbles… # Present day Born in an African cradle, humanity has spread across the globe. And almost everywhere we went, we managed to […]... Read more »

Miller G, Magee J, Smith M, Spooner N, Baynes A, Lehman S, Fogel M, Johnston H, Williams D, Clark P.... (2016) Human predation contributed to the extinction of the Australian megafaunal bird Genyornis newtoni ∼47 ka. Nature communications, 10496. PMID: 26823193  

  • June 8, 2016
  • 05:38 AM
  • 323 views

Cultural evolution in killer whales

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Auka watches mother and the other adults hunt. They are black-and-white ghosts flitting through the waters of their chilly world. Their prey is fast, agile. Coordination is key. Which is why the young ones have to stay behind. There is no place for playfulness during the hunt. But Auka doesn’t feel playful. She ignores the […]... Read more »

Foote AD, Vijay N, Ávila-Arcos MC, Baird RW, Durban JW, Fumagalli M, Gibbs RA, Hanson MB, Korneliussen TS, Martin MD.... (2016) Genome-culture coevolution promotes rapid divergence of killer whale ecotypes. Nature communications, 11693. PMID: 27243207  

  • June 1, 2016
  • 09:38 AM
  • 355 views

All hail our eight-limbed overlords

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

(This is my first attempt to blend science and fiction in a single post. The idea is to write about a recent study or studies but explore it through small snippets of original fiction as well. Hope you like it. Feedback is always greatly appreciated…) # A carefully orchestrated dance of chromatophores flashed Octa’s agreement. […]... Read more »

Doubleday ZA, Prowse TA, Arkhipkin A, Pierce GJ, Semmens J, Steer M, Leporati SC, Lourenço S, Quetglas A, Sauer W.... (2016) Global proliferation of cephalopods. Current biology : CB, 26(10). PMID: 27218844  

  • May 25, 2016
  • 09:00 AM
  • 413 views

Are our gut bacteria the key to immortality?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

The fight against aging Ever since the ancient Sumerians, men has sought eternal life. We still do. Anti-aging science has become quite an industry. As we dive deeper and deeper into our biological foundations, we’re learning more and more about how and why we age. A lot of mysteries remain, but there’s still talk about […]... Read more »

De Winter, G. (2014) Aging as Disease. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 18(2), 237-243. DOI: 10.1007/s11019-014-9600-y  

Biagi E, Franceschi C, Rampelli S, Severgnini M, Ostan R, Turroni S, Consolandi C, Quercia S, Scurti M, Monti D.... (2016) Gut Microbiota and Extreme Longevity. Current biology : CB. PMID: 27185560  

  • May 21, 2016
  • 08:19 AM
  • 333 views

The persistence of wealth and modern-day samurai

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

The rich stay rich If you had rich ancestors, you might just be in luck. Two Italian economists used tax data to identify the wealthiest families in the city-state Florence in 1427. In contrast with the idea that you’re largely responsible for your own fortune, they found that the wealth of the 1427 families was […]... Read more »

Barone, G and Mocetti, S. (2016) Intergenerational mobility in the very long run: Florence 1427-2011. Bank of Italy working papers. info:/

  • May 16, 2016
  • 08:43 AM
  • 325 views

Academic publication quality and the senility of science

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

A recent column in Nature by Daniel Sarewitz laments the ever increasing torrent of academic publications. Quantity goes up, but quality does not follow suit. There are more scientists than ever. And they publish more than ever. However, that doesn’t mean they publish more high quality research. This harks back to the work of Derek J. […]... Read more »

Kidwell MC, Lazarević LB, Baranski E, Hardwicke TE, Piechowski S, Falkenberg LS, Kennett C, Slowik A, Sonnleitner C, Hess-Holden C.... (2016) Badges to Acknowledge Open Practices: A Simple, Low-Cost, Effective Method for Increasing Transparency. PLoS biology, 14(5). PMID: 27171007  

  • May 10, 2016
  • 07:40 AM
  • 340 views

Do dragons dream of tasty crickets?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

(Also appeared on United Academics) Sleep cycles When we leave the day behind us and nestle ourselves in our cosy beds, we sleep. Sleep, however, comes in stages that repeat themselves. It’s a five-stage cycle that last about 90 minutes in humans. Four stages of non-REM sleep are followed by a period of REM (Rapid […]... Read more »

Shein-Idelson M, Ondracek JM, Liaw HP, Reiter S, & Laurent G. (2016) Slow waves, sharp waves, ripples, and REM in sleeping dragons. Science (New York, N.Y.), 352(6285), 590-5. PMID: 27126045  

  • May 3, 2016
  • 07:39 AM
  • 385 views

Flipping the Drake Equation for a deep time perspective on the Fermi Paradox

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Is anybody out there? Where are all the alien civilizations? Even if (intelligent) life is very unlikely, the sheer size and age of the universe means that even long odds might have produced space faring civilizations. Yet, so far, nada. When people are considering the (im)probability of non-human space travellers, one thing always comes up: […]... Read more »

  • April 26, 2016
  • 08:57 AM
  • 406 views

Human sacrifice, inequality, and cycles of political power

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Human sacrifice to preserve inequality Statistically speaking (wait, wait, don’t click away, I know this is not the most enticing opening, but bear with me), you and me, we are not part of the 1%, or the 0.01%, that in most Western societies holds a disproportionate amount of influence and resources. Secretly, though, we want […]... Read more »

  • April 15, 2016
  • 09:12 AM
  • 411 views

Rewriting life: Adding letters to the ABC of DNA

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

(Also appeared on United Academics.) The alphabet of life The grand tale of life is long and complicated. Storylines intertwine and many subplots twist and turn unexpectedly. Amazingly, this billion-year-spanning story is written in an alphabet that contains only four letters, the alphabet of DNA. A for adenine, C for cytosine, G for guanine, and […]... Read more »

Malyshev DA, Dhami K, Lavergne T, Chen T, Dai N, Foster JM, Corrêa IR Jr, & Romesberg FE. (2014) A semi-synthetic organism with an expanded genetic alphabet. Nature, 509(7500), 385-8. PMID: 24805238  

  • March 17, 2016
  • 04:44 PM
  • 251 views

Once upon a time… On the origin of fairy tales

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

(Also appeared on United Academics Magazine) Once upon a time, around 6 000 years ago, there lived a blacksmith. This blacksmith was a true craftsman, always looking for ways to improve his metal-moulding skills. When he had practised all he could, he saw only one way towards perfection: a demonic deal. So he called forth […]... Read more »

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