Friday Coffee Break

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 Jeremy – “Fast evolution“: If evolutionary time frames are much shorter than previously thought, the implications are huge for environmental science.

Disruptive environments can happen without human intervention, but we are particularly good at creating them. Whether you’re talking about the construction of a highway or the arrival of a fishing fleet, Reznick told me that dramatic environmental shifts spur localized populations to change very quickly. And those changes can even create new species or subspecies, all within the span of tens to hundreds of years.

Also from Jeremy – None of my science piñatas are appropriate for children.

From Devin – How to horizontally step into science writing.

The vertical trajectory is the one taken by people who, perhaps from a very early age, knew they wanted to become writers or journalists, perhaps specifically science journalists. … The horizontal trajectory describes people who start out in science, with every intention of making a career in research. But, as tenure track is now an alternative career in science, most science students need to find other options. Some of them – those who always liked to write, wrote diaries as kids, etc. – will explore the option of becoming science writers.

Also from Devin – Tips on NSF pre-proposals, the three types of specific aims.

In particular, how people handle the Specific Aims section 1) makes a big difference in the flow of the document, and 2) is pretty heavily correlated with those I suspect have NIH experience.

There seem to be three flavors of SA that I see re-occurring…(click the link to find out what they are!)

From Sarah – Do you know what a klout score is? It might not get you tenure (this post is an April Fool’s Joke), but maybe someday it could?

Klout scores are based on a numerical measure of social media significance, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The resulting score is increasingly being used to decide whether or not someone is an “influencer”. Rumor has it that sites like GitHub (see esp GitHub Resume) and Stack Overflow are important in the tech industry, but no such similar sites are really much used in academia.

Also from Sarah – Further evidence from a sea lion that humans aren’t that special.

While rhythm can often be hard enough to find among humans, finding it in the animal kingdom has been even more rare. But thanks to a 3-year-old sea lion named Ronan who knows how to keep the beat, previous notions of rhythmic ability among animals are now being challenged.

From Jonathan – An episode of the Diane Rehm show where guest, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, discusses the BRAIN project.

President Barack Obama announced a new multi-year research initiative to map the human brain. He compared its potential to that of the Human Genome Project. Scientists hope the brain project will eventually lead to solutions to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and better treatments for a range of mental illnesses. The National Institutes of Health will coordinate the project. The president wants Congress to approve $100 million in initial funding. Some critics argue the money could be better spent on smaller grants to a number of brain research projects with specific goals. But many scientists are enthusiastic.

From Noah – Dragonflies are Nature’s drones: pretty and deadly.

Dragonflies…look dainty, glittery and fun, like a bubble bath or costume jewelry, and they’re often grouped with butterflies and ladybugs on the very short list of Insects People Like. Yet they are also voracious aerial predators, and new research suggests they may well be the most brutally effective hunters in the animal kingdom.