Friday Coffee Break

halloween coffee two

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.

This week is open access week! Celebrate by dispelling six myths about open access articles (From Sarah).

“Open access to academic research has never been a hotter topic. But it’s still held back by myths and misunderstandings repeated by people who should know better.”

How should the public perceive scientists? Geeks, Cool Nerds,…Regular People? (From Sarah).

“So might a more inclusive portrayal of science – one that includes a few well-dressed and socially astute women, for example – draw more people to science than a “coolified” depiction of stereotypical nerdiness?”

What is inside of an anglerfish? The Natural History Museum used a 3D CT scan to find out (From Sarah & Noah).

“Museum imaging experts discover that an anglerfish in the collections ate a fish twice its length, giving it an enormous expanded stomach.”

 John Hawk discusses the implications of the recent discovery of a unique Homo erectus skull that was published in Science this week (From Jeremy).

“When you look at the cranial base of D4500, you realize something truly special is there. The number of well-preserved basicrania from Homo erectus is very small, none as intact as this one.”

How many cells are in the human body?  Carl Zimmer discusses the latest answer (From Jeremy).

“A simple question deserves a simple answer. How many cells are in your body?  Unfortunately, your cells can’t fill out census forms, so they can’t tell you themselves.”

Advertisements

Before they hatch, these lizards are tailored to whatever habitat they’re in

Closed-litter Rainbow-skink (Carlia longipes)

Carlia longipes, looking right at home on a rock. Photo by berniedup.

Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot
we’ll be adapted whatever the weather, whether you like it or not.

Life is risky for a newly hatched lizard. You have to make your way in a habitat you’ve never seen before, full of all sorts of larger animals that think you’d make a decent snack, if maybe not a full meal. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could’ve been preparing for the conditions you’ll meet out there even before you crack through that shell?

Well, for one species of skinks, it looks like this may be exactly what happens. A recent paper in The American Naturalist makes the case that rainbow skinks (Carlia longipes) develop in their eggs to match the habitat conditions around their nest—based on the temperature of the nest.

Continue reading

Friday Coffee Break

halloween

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.

Get in the mood for Halloween with 13 horrifying ways to die … if you are an insect. (From Sarah)

“Scared of insects, spiders, or other leggy arthropods? It could be worse. You could be one of them.”

Feeling guilty about taking your coffee break? Don’t! Taking a break is good for your brain. (From Sarah)

“Research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity”

Instructors at the Catalina Island Marine Institute found one BIG fish! (From CJ)

“A snorkeler off the coast of California found more than she bargained for on the ocean floor Sunday, when she saw the large eyes of an 18-foot fish staring back at her.”

zombie apocalypse might not be so bad for the rest of the animal kingdom.  (From Jeremy)

“National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski explains how nature would deal with a zombie outbreak: brutally, and without quarter.”

A recent study suggests that when you are in love, everything really does taste sweeter. (From Amy)

“Not only do we correlate the word love with sweetness, but thinking about romance might make us perceive the things we eat and drink as sweeter, too.”

Still hungry for more science?  Check out The Science Studio. (From Amy)

“Welcome to Science Studio – the best multimedia on the web. This year we’re focusing on audio and video pieces – all the best sciencey stuff that filled your ears and eyes this past year.”

Two years!

Two years ago today, Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! launched with a welcome from me and a post about coevolutionary medicine from CJ. Since then, we’ve written about everything from mammoth extinction events to diet fads, from the rationality of science denialism to the selective effects of agriculture—and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

So what’s ahead for this fine blog? Well, the National Network for Child Care “Ages and Stages” resource has this to say about two-year-old science blogs children:

Two-year-olds like to be independent! Favorite words are “Mine” and “No” and “I do it!” Emotions take on a roller coaster-like quality as 2-year-olds can go from excitement to anger to laughter within a few moments. A great deal of time is spent exploring, pushing, pulling, filling, dumping, and touching.

Here’s hoping our “terrible twos” are full of lots more exploring, and possibly also dumping. Also, we would like to apologize in advance if the Twitter feed gets a bit cranky when we run out of juice.

Research and teaching postdoc in the population genomics of mutualism

2010.04.05 - Samson out and about

One of your future colleagues in the Smith Lab, hard at work in the field.

Friend of the blog—and longtime collaborator of mine—Chris Smith recently landed an NSF CAREER grant for new research on the causes of evolutionary divergence within the Joshua tree-yucca moth mutualism—and he’s looking for a postdoc to help with it!

The proposed work will take advantage of new genomic resources for the genus Yucca—Joshua tree population genetics is about to get a lot more powerful than the 10 microsatellite loci I used for my dissertation research. And it will involve fieldwork in the Mojave Desert, which is objectively one of the most beautiful empty spaces on the map of North America. Chris is on the faculty of Willamette University, which is an undergraduate institution, so the postdoc position is also a unique opportunity to do basic research in close coordination with an undergraduate teaching program.

Moreover, I can personally recommend Chris as a mentor and collaborator—to the extent that I’ve turned out to be a pretty decent scientist, he’s one of the principal reasons why. (And to the extent that I haven’t, well, that’s a reflection on me, not him.)

The complete job description, and instructions on how to apply, are after the jump.

Continue reading

Bacteria, Circumcision and HIV. Oh my!

Basically every place on our bodies is loaded with bacteria. All of these communities are important (I’ve written about some of the ways before) and more and more research seems to be finding that our microbes play an active role in fighting (or causing) disease.

So maybe it’s obvious that microbes in our swimsuit areas could be involved in sexually transmitted disease. OK, maybe not “obvious” but it may be the case with HIV and the penis microbiota. Did you know that circumcision reduces the rate of HIV transmission to men by 50 – 60%? That’s a pretty significant reduction (no pun intended). There are two major (and non-mutually exclusive) hypotheses as to how circumcision accomplishes this – morphological and bacterial. [SIDENOTE: if you are unfamiliar with the technical aspects of circumcision, I suggest Wikipedia – which has a lot of information but contains an image or two that may not be safe for work – or this Mayo Clinic site.]   

Continue reading

Friday Coffee Break

birdscoffeeEvery 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.

Scientists have been tracking the flight patterns of alpine swifts – turns out, they are pretty badass! (From Noah).

“In September of 2011, three alpine swifts took to the air in southwest Africa, and stayed there for almost 200 days. They fed on the wing. They slept on the wing. By the time they firmly settled back on solid surfaces, it was April of 2012 and they had travelled across the Sahara to the Mediterranean.”

A recent study has identified heritable genetic variation that may contribute to eating disorders (From Jeremy).

“Eating disorders are a combination disease, a combination of genetic risks and environmental triggers, including things like stress. Unfortunately, it’s been difficult to identify specific genes that predispose people to eating disorders.”

Trying to determine which recent scientific findings are the most important? Don’t ask a scientist (From Amy).

“Maybe you shouldn’t put too much stock in what four out of five dentists say? Scientists, even experts in the same field, don’t agree on which research studies are the most important, a new study (of course) found.”

CJ points us to some awesome science comics at Beatrice the Biologist.

“Beatrice the Biologist is part science blog, part comic, and part incoherent rambling. I just hope you find my insanity amusing.”

Poop pills – This is supposed to reduce the ‘ick’ factor?  (From Sarah)

“If you’re one of those people that has trouble swallowing pills, try not to think what’s in these ones as they go down: A researcher has shown that encapsulated bacteria from human feces effectively treated 100 percent of patients with relapsing Clostridium difficile infections.”

While a longer life is good for us, it is likely very bad for our biotic environment.  Are you surprised? (From Sarah)

“As human life expectancy increases, so does the percentage of invasive and endangered birds and mammals, according to a new study by the University of California, Davis.”