Entomologist Go Mainstream!

It would be hard to argue that many scientific groups that study specific organismic groups are truly widely known (maybe mammalogists… or ornithologists?).

So when a group of scientist that studies a specific group of organisms gets a full article on Buzzfeed

Yeah we’re going to talk about it.

Check out the post above, or the twitter #LivingWithAnEntomologist

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The benefits of thinking

The theory of evolution by natural selection is among the best established theory in science (this very blog is named by the famous Dobzhansky, quote). However, despite it’s establishment and well known history, it is among the most controversial subsets of science for the american people.

It is no surprise that someone’s understanding of evolution is altered by demographic factors such as religious upbringing, political affiliation and county of origin.

However, recent mounting evidence about the cognition of religion could explain why the very eloquent theory of evolution is difficult to understand, leading people to instead adopt creationism as a compelling alternative.

A new paper by Will Gervais in Cognition addresses the above idea.

Read about it over at NPR!

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Walking, it’s good for your brain

A plethora of new studies have demonstrated that mental and physical health are both benefited by spending time outdoors (not the best news for PhD students finishing their dissertation (cough, me)).

One example: a cognitive neuroscience study demonstrating the neural signature of walking through nature.

Read the paper here, or the Washington Post article summarizing the findings here.

And get off your computer for a few minutes and go for a nice long stroll through your closest natural habitat.

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Do androids dream of electric sheep?

Short answer? Yes.

Long answer? It’s complicated…

Google recently used their image recognition neural network, which has “learned” to identify features such as buildings, animals and objects in photos, to determine what the machines would derive photos based on their recognition patterns.

And the images? Well they were a tad…  massively hallucinogenic.

Read about it over at the Guardian.

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A Knight, pre- and post-animal detection.

A dreamscape made from random noise.

Why honey badgers don’t care

Ever since the (very) viral video (see below) about the honey badger (originally the subject of a National Geographic documentary), we all now know that honey badgers don’t care.

They are indifferent to stinging bees and documentaries alike. But they especially don’t care about venomous snakes.

Which is particularly curious given that venomous snakes kill many people and other animals. So why don’t honey badgers care? Coevolution of course!

Danielle Drabeck, a University of Minnesota grad student, set out to study how honey badgers are resistant to venom. It turns out, in a mutation similar to mongoose, hedgehogs and pigs, allows the honey badgers to resist neurotoxins.

Read more about it (arms race coevolution, parallel evolution, neurotoxins, HOORAY!) over at Slate.

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A “Girl” in the lab

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Whenever a sexist scientist makes a stupid comment, twitter goes crazy. I am not saying this isn’t a great thing (see “Girls with Toys”).

However, one thing to note, is although there is outrage whenever sexist comments are made towards women in STEM (or stupid shirts are worn) it still doesn’t help solve our ultimate problem.

What’s missing is a CHANGE in the number of women in faculty positions in STEM fields. We need to fix the leaky pipeline, and grabbing our pitchforks and taking to twitter might not be doing it. And while Tim Hunt’s comments deserve to have him run out of town (which he was), I’m not sure removing one sexist solves our problem.

So I have resisted posting about #distractinglysexy images (although they are REALLY great and you should go look at all of them) but instead want to highlight this interesting opinion piece over at the New York Times. 

Sarah Soper comments on how male faculty are resistant to take on female students, and the more prestigious the faculty, the fewer females you find in their lab. And how that may be one of the cracks causing a leak in the pipeline, especially as you move up the academic pyramid.

Oh and I lied. See below for some awesomely #distractinglysexy images.

I'm really glad that Curie managed to take a break from crying to discover radium and polonium.

I’m really glad that Curie managed to take a break from crying to discover radium and polonium.

It might seem like I was fixing a leak on the Large Hadron Collider, but I was just #distractinglysexy

It might seem like I was fixing a leak on the Large Hadron Collider, but I was just #distractinglysexy

I did an entire Liver Transplant without crying or falling in love. Heartless Vixen

I did an entire Liver Transplant without crying or falling in love. Heartless Vixen

How do my male colleagues publish anything when I show up dressed so revealing?

How do my male colleagues publish anything when I show up dressed so revealing?

Yes, I know I am #distractinglysexy in my level A PPE. The suit totally flatters my curves.

Yes, I know I am #distractinglysexy in my level A PPE. The suit totally flatters my curves.

Who can resist a whale anatomist covered in blood, with a bloody hardhat & sexy fisherman's waders?

Who can resist a whale anatomist covered in blood, with a bloody hardhat & sexy fisherman’s waders?