Friday coffee break

Experimental coffee

NiB does not endorse drinking coffee at your lab bench. No, sir.

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

From Noah: A newly described family of amphibians looks like earthworms, and apparently spend their entire lives underground.

“The complete life cycle, everything, is happening under the soil,” said S. D. Biju, an environmental scientist at theUniversity of Delhi who led the research. “So far we don’t have much information about feeding; we think they eat earthworms.” [Links sic.]

From Sarah: The single biggest factor behind the underrepresentation of women in “math intensive fields” may be the difficulties of balancing an academic career with motherhood.

 Women deal with all the other challenges of being academic scientists as well as men do. Childless women are paid, promoted and rewarded equivalently to their male peers (and in some analyses at even higher rates). Children completely change the landscape for women—but do not appear to have the same effect on the careers of men.

From Jeremy: A widely-cited study linking attractiveness and immune system responsiveness doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

So the conclusion is that high testosterone, low levels of cortisol, and a high immune response to a vaccine correlate with physical attractiveness ratings. But there are several things here which bring the potential impact of this study down a bit. First, the correlation between testosterone and vaccine response disappeared when they took out the people who had NO response to the vaccine. This was a large number of people.

And from Devin: A palm-sized walking stick species, thought to be extinct, has been rediscovered on a tiny volcanic island.

Some climbers scaling Ball’s Pyramid in the 1960s said they’d seen a few stick insect corpses lying on the rocks that looked “recently dead.” But the species is nocturnal, and nobody wanted to scale the spire hunting for bugs in the dark.

That last piece comes with this amazing video, of a giant walking stick hatching from an improbably small egg.

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching from Zoos Victoria on Vimeo.