Battling the Mistrust of Science

Atul Gawande is a multitalented man, surgeon, father, and exceptional writer and author (check out his books here).

He recently gave the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology, and it was so interesting/well said that it was subsequently published in the New Yorker.

He address how science is mistrusted, the inherent bias of people (including scientists), what science is and how we as a scientific community can combat this mistrust.

Read it here!

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Measuring animal superlatives: How strong are gecko toe pads?

One thing I learned from doing the Planet Earth posts is that we are OBSESSED with superlatives. The world’s largest animal, smallest amphibian, fastest runner, highest jumper, we cannot stop looking for the best, worst, most in animals.

And along those lines, Dr. Travis Hagey set out to test how adhesive gecko toe pads are. Are they the most sticky surface in the animal kingdom? Find out here!gecko

Fear the Octopus

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Octopus are not aliens, but they can be vicious. Combine that with an incredible intelligence, and we should all be worried that cephalopods populations are increasing world wide.

As coral reefs are dying, cephalopods are booming (likely not a causative correlation). And not just octopus, but also cuttlefish, and 35 other species of genera, spanning all major ocean regions.

Why are they expanding in number? It’s unclear, but read about possible reasons over at Gizmodo.

I, for one, would like to extend a welcome to our new cephalopod overlords.

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Seeing Red

Intense breeding since the 1300s has bread canaries of all colors of the rainbow. But until 1920, one color, red, remained elusive.

After crossing the canaries with the red siskin of Venezuela (and careful mating over subsequent generations, they managed to move the gene for “red” into the canaries! The canary is the first animal that was purposely genetically modified by moving genes from another species into it.

And finding the gene that caused this color shift proved equally difficult. Until now.

Read about it over at the Atlantic!

Close-up of a Red canary, Serinus canaria

Close-up of a Red canary, Serinus canaria

 

Bones! And what they can tell us

I am a fan of the uncharismatic  (so far I’ve studied plants, snails, trematode and will soon branch to bees).

And there are few things in the world more universally charismatic than dinosaurs. Seriously, look no further than the Jurassic Park movies.

I promise that this is not the start of another AMAZING summer about dinosaurs (see last summer’s posts), but my love of the uncharismatic and my love of dinosaurs meet in this awesome comic about taphonomy! It’s the science of how bones are made into bones!

And it’s a pretty cute cartoon. Go check it out! I haven’t seen the Corkboard of Curiosities blog before, but it looks promising!

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Save the tapeworm! And the Kakapo…

One of New Zealand big five species to see (think African safari checklist, but for flightless birds in New Zealand) is the kakapo. These parrots can live up to 95 years (maybe longer) and is very close to extinction.

So tape worms were found within a pair of captive kakapos, conservation biologist dewormed them.

Which may have been a mistake. Hamish G. Spenc

“Some of these parasites may turn out to be quite good for their hosts” – Hamish G. Spencer

Want to find out why? Check out the article over at the New York times!

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The Underground mosquito

Not underground as in it burrows into the earth, but the formal noun referring to the London Underground. That’s right, as well as being an exceptional form of public transportation, the London Underground has it’s very own species of mosquito.

It was first reported during World War Two, when the tunnels of the Underground were used as overnight shelters, housing 180,000 people.

And then it was largely forgotten until a doctoral student, Katharine Byrne, started studying this subterranean pest. And found that the Underground mosquito is no longer able to interbreed with other mosquitoes:

“There are differences in both the mating behaviour and the reproductive biology,”

David Reznick

Read about it over at BBC, or read the original paper here!

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