234 posts · 317,093 views
The paper I'm about to discuss is a minefield of potential misconceptions that arise from the way we often use language do describe natural phenomena. This is a situation where it would be easier to start with a disclaimer ... a big giant obvious quotation mark ... and then use the usual misleading, often anthropomorphic language. But I don't think I should do that. We'll address this research the hard way, but the result will be worth the extra work.
Here is the basic hypothesis. The null m........ Read more »
Merav Parter, Nadav Kashtan, & Uri Alon. (2008) Facilitated Variation: How Evolution Learns from Past Environments To Generalize to New Environments. PLoS Computational Biology, 4(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000206
Maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais [usda] ... or the corn rust or the corn root cutter or whatever pathogen that comes along that cannot be fought off with a cleverly concocted combination of chemicals. This is because all we eat is corn, or so it seems.
In a paper just published in PNAS, scientists use stable isotopes to estimate the contribution of corn to the standard American diet of meat and fries from fast food. They sampled a disgustingly large number of not so happy meals from Burge........ Read more »
A. H. Jahren, & R. A. Kraft. (2008) Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in fast food: Signatures of corn and confinement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0809870105
It is hard to kill fungus. Well, not really. They can't handle being burned and chlorine does them in and lots of other chemicals are bad for hem. But when a fungus infects a person ... like with Aspergillos, an infection with Aspergillus in the lungs, fungi are tricky. To kill an infectious agent, one typically poisons it somehow, but to ingest, inject, inhale, or even topically apply a chemical may also affect the person. The reason it is relatively easy to kill an infecting bacterium than........ Read more »
Eveline Snelders, Henrich A. L. van der Lee, Judith Kuijpers, Anthonius J. M. M. Rijs, János Varga, Robert A. Samson, Emilia Mellado, A. Rogier T. Donders, Willem J. G. Melchers, & Paul E. Verweij. (2008) Emergence of Azole Resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus and Spread of a Single Resistance Mechanism. PLoS Medicine, 5(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050219
Cute baby lions. When they grow up, they will want to eat you. I'll never forget the first wild lion I ever saw. It was a pitch black night, on the savanna in the Western Rift Valley. I had climbed on top of the hood of the Land Rover, engine off, but headlights on. My plan was to search the horizon for lights indicating the presence of the research camp I was trying to find. Once I was on the hood, I was about to tell my colleague, still in the vehicle, to cut the headlights so I could s........ Read more »
Agostinho Antunes, Jennifer L. Troyer, Melody E. Roelke, Jill Pecon-Slattery, Craig Packer, Christiaan Winterbach, Hanlie Winterbach, Graham Hemson, Laurence Frank, Philip Stander.... (2008) The Evolutionary Dynamics of the Lion Panthera leo Revealed by Host and Viral Population Genomics. PLoS Genetics, 4(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000251
The North End, Boston, Massachusetts I'm standing outside Luigi's restaurant having a smoke, and Luigi's doorman had joined me. Across the street yellow stingray is parked, as usual, to block the alley. The word is, the fire escape down into that alley leads directly from Baronelli's office. The stingray is an escape pod.
Almost every restaurant on Hanover street and the dozen side streets is like Luigi's: owned by a family from a particular part of Italy or Sicily, with a local cuisine........ Read more »
M. E. Wilkerson, & J. Salmons. (2008) "GOOD OLD IMMIGRANTS OF YESTERYEAR," WHO DIDN'T LEARN ENGLISH: GERMANS IN WISCONSIN. American Speech, 83(3), 259-283. DOI: 10.1215/00031283-2008-020
A very good day of grunting worms. Credit: Ken Catania So-called Gene-Culture Co-Evolution can be very obvious and direct or it can be very subtle and complex. In almost all cases, the details defy the usual presumptions people make about the utility of culture, the nature of human-managed knowledge, race, and technology. I would like to examine two cases of gene-culture interaction: One of the earliest post-Darwinian Synthesis examples addressing malaria and sickle-cell disease, and the mo........ Read more »
Kenneth C. Catania, & Sarah Frances Brosnan. (2008) Worm Grunting, Fiddling, and Charming—Humans Unknowingly Mimic a Predator to Harvest Bait. PLoS ONE, 3(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003472
Linvingstone, Frank. (1959) Anthropological Implications of Sickle Cell Gene Distribution in West AFrica. American Anthropologist, 60(3), 533-562. DOI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/666341
The Science Museum of Minnesota recently developed an exhibit called "Race: Are we so different?" This exhibit is now at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and will be in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, New Orleans, Kalamazoo, Boston and Washington DC between now and June 2011.
If you get a chance, go see it.
In the meantime, a review of this exhibit has just been published in the current issue of Museum Anthropology, authored by Mischa Penn, Gil Tostevin, and your........ Read more »
Constructivism. Determinism. It is all a bunch of hooey.
A recent paper published by PLoS (Culture Shapes How We Look at Faces) throws a sopping wet blanket on widely held deterministic models of human behavior. In addition, the work underscores the sometimes spooky cultural differences that can emerge in how people see things, even how people think. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Human societies tend to be at least a little polygynous. This finding, recently reported in PLoS genetics, does not surprise us but is nonetheless important. This important in two ways: 1) This study uncovers numerical details of human genetic variation that are necessary to understand change across populations and over time; and 2) the variation across populations are interesting and, in fact, seem to conform to expectations (in a "we don't' really care about statistical significance" sort o........ Read more »
Michael F. Hammer, Fernando L. Mendez, Murray P. Cox, August E. Woerner, Jeffrey D. Wall, & Dmitri A. Petrov. (2008) Sex-Biased Evolutionary Forces Shape Genomic Patterns of Human Diversity. PLoS Genetics, 4(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000202
The file drawer effect works like this: Numerous studies are done and the results are random. But because they are random, a small number have, randomly, strong effects that are interesting and that in isolation support some interesting hypothesis. All the results that fail to confirm the interesting (or fund able) expectation are filed away .... in the file drawer. Only the results that seem to show what the researchers want to show are made public.
In areas where research is cheap and o........ Read more »
Kirby Lee, Peter Bacchetti, Ida Sim, & Mike Clarke. (2008) Publication of Clinical Trials Supporting Successful New Drug Applications: A Literature Analysis. PLoS Medicine, 5(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050191
Life Science Teachers: Take special note!
This is not yet an error in the mainstream press, but there is an error afoot, currently represented in the widely read slashdot, which I imagine will propagate. The purpose of this post is to alert you to this problem and prepare you for the occasion when you run into a wackaloon creationist waving their arms around and screaming "Carbon dating does not work! It's been proven." This story also has a Global Warming Denialism component.
What I'm g........ Read more »
P. K. Swart. (2008) Global synchronous changes in the carbon isotopic composition of carbonate sediments unrelated to changes in the global carbon cycle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0802841105
Read the following text. As you read it, try to empty your mind. When you encounter grammatical errors or jargon that is impossible to understand, do not try to translate what you are reading. Rather, become one with the obscurity. Read slowly, thoughtlessly, with emptiness of purpose, as though the words were entering your eyes, traveling through your head, and leaving through your ears. The ultimate understanding will be achieved when you reach the end of the abstract and have understood ........ Read more »
Giuseppe Pagnoni, Milos Cekic, Ying Guo, & Sheng He. (2008) “Thinking about Not-Thinking”: Neural Correlates of Conceptual Processing during Zen Meditation. PLoS ONE, 3(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003083
How do athletes in Olympic level endurance completions do it? Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Jonathan Esteve-Lanao, Alejandro Lucia, Jos J. deKoning, Carl Foster, & Conrad P. Earnest. (2008) How Do Humans Control Physiological Strain during Strenuous Endurance Exercise?. PLoS ONE, 3(8). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002943
ï»¿ Sabertooth cat skull There are two kinds of cats. Cat experts call one type feline or "modern" partly because they are the ones that did not go extinct. If you have a pet cat, it's a modern/feine cat. This also includes the lions, tigers, leopards, etc. The other kind are called "sabercats" because this group includes the saber tooth. It is generally believed but not at all certain that these two groups of cats are different phylogenetic line........ Read more »
Per Christiansen. (2008) Evolution of Skull and Mandible Shape in Cats (Carnivora: Felidae) . PLoS One, 3(7).
An ugly fact killing a beautiful hypothesis I'm not mentioning any names, and don't ask me any details. In fact, don't repeat this story.
Some years ago, when I was a mere graduate student, a fellow student working in an unnamed country in Africa discovered a very very old stone artifact. To this day, this bit of chipped stone debris, representing the activities of an ancient very pre-human hominid, is one of the oldest well dated, in situ objects of its kind known.
The ........ Read more »
Thomas Kaye, Gary Gaugler, Zbigniew Sawlowicz, & Anna Stepanova. (2008) Dinosaurian Soft Tissues Interpreted as Bacterial Biofilms. PLoS ONE, 3(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002808
Did Past Climate Changes Promote Speciation in the Amazon?
Any time you've got a whopping big river like the Amazon (or a mountain chain like the Andes, or an ocean, or whatever), you've gotta figure that it will be a biogeographical barrier. Depending on the kind of organisms, big rivers, high mountains, oceans, forests, deserts, and so on can provide a habitat or a barrier, and when there is a barrier, populations may end up splitting across that barrier and diverging to become n........ Read more »
Scott Solomon, Mauricio Bacci, Joaquim Martins, Giovanna Gonçalves Vinha, Ulrich G Mueller, & Peter M Bennett. (2008) Paleodistributions and Comparative Molecular Phylogeography of Leafcutter Ants (Atta spp.) Provide New Insight into the Origins of Amazonian Diversity. PLoS ONE, 3(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002738
A recent article in PLoS examines the possibility that disease is spreading from domestic to wild bees.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Michael Otterstatter, James D Thomson, & Frederick R Adler. (2008) Does Pathogen Spillover from Commercially Reared Bumble Bees Threaten Wild Pollinators?. PLoS ONE, 3(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002771
Frog The Major Histocampatibility Complex (MHC) is an adaptive feature of the immune system that probably evolved in basal tetrapods. The MHC is genetically diverse in most populations, so the pattern of genetic variation of the MHC is probably behind the pattern of morbidity and mortality when a population is challenged with a given pathogen. Or at least, this can be hypothesized. Understanding the dynamics of interaction between a specific pathogen and the immune system, however, requir........ Read more »
Seth Barribeau, Jandouwe Villinger, Bruce Waldman, & Hans Ellegren. (2008) Major Histocompatibility Complex Based Resistance to a Common Bacterial Pathogen of Amphibians. PLoS ONE, 3(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002692
Enough monkeys banging on keyboards over enough time should produce, through random chance alone, sensible prose now and then.
But if the monkeys are bloggers and reporters and other people, the noise they generate would become merely pseudo-sensible because of (highly unlikely) chance events, but it should actually contain some information. With a little tweaking and a lot of filtering and analysis, it is possible to monitor the chatter for signs of emerging infectious diseases and quite po........ Read more »
John Brownstein, Clark C Freifeld, Ben Y Reis, & Kenneth D Mandl. (2008) Surveillance Sans Frontières: Internet-Based Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence and the HealthMap Project. PLoS Medicine, 5(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050151
A recently published study seems to indicate that adult brain volume is reduced in individuals with significant lead exposure during childhood. While this study may lead to important findings linking lead to reduced cognitive function, it is important to note that observed effect is very small, very hard to link to specific outcomes, and may not exist. But it is worth a further look.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Kim Cecil, Christopher J Brubaker, Caleb M Adler, Kim N Dietrich, Mekibib Altaye, John C Egelhoff, Stephanie Wessel, Ilayaraja Elangovan, Richard Hornung, Kelly Jarvis.... (2008) Decreased Brain Volume in Adults with Childhood Lead Exposure. PLoS Medicine, 5(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050112
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