Friday coffee break

Coffee flasks

Siphoned coffee.

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 Devin: A new service, Peerage of Science, which conducts peer review of scientific articles independently of any single journal, is evaluated in the pages of Trends in Ecology and Evolution; see also the response by Peerage of Science.

First, PoS aims to enhance the quality of reviewing by encouraging non-anonymous review, introducing ‘peer review of peer review’, providing the possibility for reviewers to publish their review as a ‘Peerage Essay’ (PE) and to build a ‘referee factor’. Previous attempts at non-anonymous review have discovered, however, that most reviewers prefer anonymity. Peer review of peer review and the implementation of a referee factor are certainly good ideas, but reviewers who want to remain anonymous would waste their time writing a PE. Additionally, it will not always be possible to have an original insight and bring new perspectives to every evaluated paper, and the PE could become outdated after manuscript revision. A solution could be to let the comments to authors be assessed by the other reviewers and make the writing of a PE optional. [In-text citations removed.]

(Jeremy also notes that PoS is either an unfortunate, or a brilliant, abbreviation for a peer review system.)

From Sarah: For the week of Valentine’s Day, Paleontology writer Bryan Switek considers what we know about the mating habits of dinosaurs.

Rather than simply leaning straight against the top of a female like an elephant or rhinoceros does, a male sauropod would probably have to rear up at a relatively oblique angle, and the female would have to assist by moving her tail (which is also a way in which female dinosaurs could have exerted mate choice and confounded any hot-under-the-collar males they would rather not mate with).

From Jon: New research finds that interval training—exercise in a series of brief bursts—can improve fitness faster than more time spent in sustained exertion.

Several years ago, the McMasters scientists did test a punishing workout, known as high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, that involved 30 seconds of all-out effort at 100 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate. After six weeks, these lacerating HIIT sessions produced similar physiological changes in the leg muscles of young men as multiple, hour-long sessions per week of steady cycling, even though the HIIT workouts involved about 90 percent less exercise time. [Links sic.]

From Jeremy: Documents leaked from a conservative think-tank with ties to companies like GM and Microsoft reveal plans to excise climate change from basic science education.

One thing I want to point out right away which is very illuminating, if highly disturbing, about what Heartland allegedly wants to do: they are considering developing a curriculum for teachers to use in the classroom to sow confusion about climate change. I know, it sounds like I’m making that up, but I’m not. In this document they say:

[Dr. Wojick‘s] effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

[Links and formatting sic.]

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Friday coffee break

Coffee

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 Sarah: When scientific results have political implications, harassment of scientists is on the rise.

Climate science is just the tip of the iceberg. Seismologists are looking worriedly toward Italy, where six scientists were indicted and prosecuted for failing to adequately warn people prior to the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, which killed more than 300 people. Given that timely earthquake prediction is currently impossible, it is unclear how any scientifically justifiable statement could be considered “adequate.” But whatever the outcome of the trial, the end result will almost certainly discourage geologists from making any public statement about future earthquake hazards, resulting in a less-informed and less-well-prepared public, more at risk from future earthquakes. [Link sic.]

From Devin: Spider silk contains chemical agents to defend against ants. The methods section of this paper gets pretty wild.

Spider webs are made of silk, the properties of which ensure remarkable efficiency at capturing prey. However, remaining on, or near, the web exposes the resident spiders to many potential predators, such as ants. Surprisingly, ants are rarely reported foraging on the webs of orb-weaving spiders, despite the formidable capacity of ants to subdue prey and repel enemies, the diversity and abundance of orb-web spiders, and the nutritional value of the web and resident spider.

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