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.


An Insect the Size of a Gerbil

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


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! 


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


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











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.


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




Find fireflies, help keep the forests alight


Across eastern North America, one of the most magical signs of summertime is the beginning of firefly activity—hundreds or thousands of flying beetles, their abdomens glowing or flashing, filling twilight backyards and woodland clearings with floating lights.

But those displays—which fireflies put on to attract mates—are getting rarer. Or seem to be, anyway—but we don’t have the kind of comprehensive census of firefly activity that could really tell us how they’re doing. A citizen science project out of Clemson University aims to change that by enlisting anyone with a smartphone or a home internet connection:

The objective of the Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project is to promote environmental
sustainability and stewardship through the participation of local communities in environmental science research. The Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project offers a mobile app that everyone – from elementary students to seniors – can use to measure firefly populations in their communities from neighborhoods, to parks and anywhere in the world they may go!

To help, you follow the project site’s instructions for learning how to count fireflies, then use a smartphone app or a webpage form to report what you see, when, and where. Why not collect some data while you admire the lights in the forest?

(Hat tip to Erik Runquist, on Twitter.)

Just when we thought we knew the human body

Researchers at the University of Virginia have discovered a direct connection between the immune system and the brain. Through vessels that were previously thought not to exist. Yeah.

What’s truly amazing, is that it lay undetected in these two HUMAN systems that we have mapped throughly. This discovery has awesome implications for research in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Read about it at UVA Today, or many other science news outlets.


*Side note, I am a PROUD UVA alumni, GO HOOS!

How to teach evolution to creationist students

Is it possible to break through the cloud of early education about creationism and teach college students evolutionary biology?

Or are we as teachers doomed to continuously address the question: “How do you know it evolved, were you there?

An interesting piece by  a writer for Slate and former unprepared creationist student, talks about what we know about evolution education, and the impact of early religious education on a students ability to learn in the future.

The Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah 14. Temptation of Adam and Eve. Genesis cap 3 v 6. Moine.

The Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah 14. Temptation of Adam and Eve. Genesis cap 3 v 6. Moine. Slightly Modified…