Identification, Please

How do you feel at home in any wilderness in the world? Field guides. They allow you to identify strange and foreign organisms and feel right at home in strange new ecosystems.

In an excellent piece over at the New York Times, Helen MacDonald talks about the history of the field guide, how they were used then, and how they are used now.

Check it out!

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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?

Controlling the Raptors/Chicken/Dolphins/Turtles/Penguins/Ostriches

Given the opening weekend sales were BY FAR the highest of the summer (so far), everyone and their mom has gone to see Jurassic World (and if you haven’t, then you should. I fully endorse this movie).

One particular scene has brought the professional and amateur animal lovers much pleasure: Chris Pratt as the raptor whisperer. 

The raptor whisperer, stopping the raptors with his hands and his will.

The raptor whisperer, stopping the raptors with his hands and his will.

And in response, zoo keepers and animal enthusiasts are recreating this scene with their various raptor like (and not) animals.

Read about it over at Wired, and see the amazing images below (or check out twitter #JurassicZoo).

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An accidental discovery of a new technology to fight cancer

Sometimes scientific breakthroughs come to us in the strangest of ways. At Sloan Kettering Cancer Center researchers teamed up with physicians studying lung cancer to test the use of nanoparticles in treating lung cancer.

They followed the nanoparticles injected into mice, and one of their nanoparticles didn’t behave as expected at all.

“To our surprise, this particle accumulated almost exclusively in a specific structure of the kidney and stayed there until all of it had degraded” – Ryan Williams, Postdoctoral Fellow at Sloan Kettering and the studies first author.

But, this misbehaving particle has a promising future. For the most common form of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma (RCC), this nanoparticle could deliver treatment directly to the tumor, while not disturbing other organs. It could also enable new ways to treat chemotherapy-induced kidney failure.

Quite a little whoops, that may turn into a major success!

Learn about it over at the Sloan Kettering website. 

Mesoscale nanoparticles visualized by scanning electron microscopy. The diameter of an average particle measures about 400 nanometers, which is about 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair. (from Sloan Kettering Article)

Mesoscale nanoparticles visualized by scanning electron microscopy. The diameter of an average particle measures about 400 nanometers, which is about 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair. (from Sloan Kettering Article)

 

Sad Animal Facts

I cannot explain why I was not aware of this amazing website before now. I have no excuse.

That being said, there is a website called sad animal facts, that is both factual and adorable. I hope it brightens your Friday morning, as it has mine.

Check out the website here.

Or check out some of my favorite sad animals below (not an exhaustive list, I’m just beginning to explore the awesome).

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Viruses on a Plane

It’s like snakes on a plane, only vastly more realistic and much MUCH scarier.

Researchers at Fred Hutch Cancer Institute have found that the flu viruses primarily found in children (such as H1N1) circulate much slower than those strains found in jet setting adults (H3N2). This study is the first large scale attempt to track the H1N1 virus, and influenza B strains OR as it turns out the much faster traveling H3N2 (and is published over at Nature).

The transmission of flu seems to mirror our own behavior! And it makes a case for why we should really be paying attention to India. Read about it over at Hutch News.

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An Insect the Size of a Gerbil

Not the stuff of your nightmares, but rather the adorably cuddlable Giant Weta.

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Resembling giant crickets (not too far off the mark given their evolutionary history) these charismatic mininfauna are the heaviest insects on the planet, weighing in at 2.5 ounces. Despite their massive size, they are really quite sweet.

In addition to their giant brethren, there are ~70 known species of Weta, all equally unique due to the strange evolutionary history of an island isolated for hundreds of millions of years, New Zealand.

Learn all about the glorious Weta over at Wired! 

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Due to their role as New Zealand’s most iconic bug, they are also featured on Peter Jackson’s production companywetaNZ_logoHiRes_black

 

The Dinosaurs of Jurassic World

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Ankylosaurus, the first dinosaur in the series. Often referred to as the armored tanks of the Mesozoic.

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I am beyond excited for the new Jurassic World movie.

And to stoke the flames of my enthusiasm, redOrbit has started a series describing the dinosaurs of the park and what we currently know about them.

The sent the list of dinos from the movie and sent it to two paleontologists and dino enthusiasts, Dr. Stephanie Drumheller-Horton and Dr. Marc R. Spencer.

They provided so much information, that redOrbit is running an 8 day series which runs right up to the movie premier. I strongly recommend checking it out, I know I will be visiting daily.

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Apatosaurus, which means deceptive lizard, has often been classified with the famous thunder lizard (Brontosaurus).

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