Submit entries for Animalcules (due tonight at midnight CST) and Tangled Bank (in by next Monday night). Also, drop me a line if you’d like to host future versions of Animalcules–I’ve had a few offers, and I’ll be setting up a schedule next week.

Oh, and I see Chris was out eagle watching over the weekend. We had another in our backyard on Monday. My parents rode back to Iowa with me and the kids (picking up an old car of mine to give to my sister) and they got to see it as well:


Dear lord…

Do you people not understand internet etiquette? Once a conversation is closed, it’s closed–don’t go spamming other threads with unrelated comments. I already told y’all I’d re-open the AIDS discussion in another thread–are you so impatient that you can’t give me a few days’ break to go enjoy my new family members? Sheesh.

Anyhoo, as I mentioned, I’ll get to the Padian paper soon–possibly tomorrow. Please keep the comments on the whole AIDS topic reserved for that–and specifically that paper, when it’s posted.

[Edited to add: after reading all the comments, I do want to thank the few of you who congratulated me on the new additions. I appreciate it].

In the meantime, babies:




As I mentioned here, I’m heading to Ohio in the morning. I have two brand-new nephews to meet. My sister gave birth to her first child back on January 24th, and a sister-in-law just had her first on Valentine’s Day. (And the baby boom ain’t over yet–another almost-sister-in-law–my brother-in-law’s girlfriend–is due in May). So, the positive: I get to spend the weekend playing with babies and then give them back to their mommies when they puke, poop, and generally do all that nasty stuff that babies do. The negative: 8+ hours (looks like bad weather, so potentially up to 10) in a car with just me, my two kids, and the dog, likely with much of that taken up by my daughter complaining when we listen to “boy music,” and my son likewise complaining about every “girl song.”

Anyhoo, I’ll be back next week (or maybe even over the weekend, if I get bored of family stuff) with more on the AIDS issue, and hopefully some more original research analyses. I’ve been a bit short on those lately because of time–alas, despite what was claimed by one of the more active responders on the Bethell AIDS thread, I don’t make a living blogging, and I’m not paid by Tony Fauci to discuss these things.

For the Ohioans…

Just wanted to point you to these posts over at Mike’s blog, regarding Jimmy Stewart, a former physicist and candidate for State Representative in Ohio’s 22nd District: Dublin and Clintonville. I don’t know him from Adam and so this doesn’t constitute an endorsement in any way, but apparently he’s reaching out to the blogosphere for both questions on his positions, and, of course, support. Mike’s already asked him some questions (including ones about intelligent design and overall science education in Ohio’s schools), and I submitted some as well that have reportedly been passed along. His answers look pretty good so far, and he doesn’t pussyfoot around the ID issue. As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in Findlay, Ohio and went through the public school system growing up, so I asked him some questions regarding school funding, college tuition, Ohio’s “brain drain,” and gay marriage. Stay tuned–I’ll link the post with his answers when/if it appears.

Bird flu update meta-post

It’s been about a week since my last “bird flu” post–and I know that many people, including myself, tend to get burned out on the same ol’ thing, but there’s some interesting news out that I wanted to share. First, two posts from Effect Measure. Here, Revere discusses the newest reports of H5N1 spread: swans in Austria, Germany, and Iran. Revere also discusses one of GrrlScientist’s favorite topics, spread of the virus caused by wild birds vs. domestic poultry. I agree with his conclusion (and not just because he linked my “small world” post):

Another (and in our view more likely) possibility is that both explanations [that the virus spreads by wild birds *and* domestic poultry] are correct. The virus makes the occasional long jump via migratory birds but primarily spreads locally via the poultry trade.

Since the virus itself does get a lot of attention, I’m also highlighting another of Revere’s posts, , trying to get people to go beyond individual strategies–or public health strategies–and think about community measures that will help in responding to a disaster.

But if we are going to get through this with minimum pain we will, above all, need to help each other. The more prepared we are as communities the more likely we will see neighbor helping neighbor instead of neighbor fleeing neighbor. In essence this is a task at community mobilization and the closer a pandemic seems, the easier it will be to mobilize the community. So we should be thinking about it and doing it, even if in the past it was hard to get attention. Perceptions change and with them, willingness to take action.

We are not just talking about public health measures. In a way, they will more likely take care of themselves because that seems to be the only thing state and local governments are thinking about. The big issues will be those loosely called social services: how to care for the many people who will need care despite no money, family or social support; how to ration scarce resources of all kinds; how to cope with a prolonged 30% to 40% absenteeism that can cripple essential services like food supply, pharmacies, water, power; how to provide for the dead and comfort their survivors. All of these things can be done by schools, businesses and agencies thinking ahead and putting in place some rudimentary planning.

Wise advice.

Finally, one new research finding just out today in Nature:

Antibodies to H5N1 found in village dogs and cats.

Large numbers of domestic dogs and cats in Thailand may be infected with the H5N1 strain of avian flu, Nature has learned. Experts are struggling to work out whether such carnivores might be spreading the disease.

In an unpublished study carried out last year by the National Institute of Animal Health in Bangkok, researchers led by virologist Sudarat Damrongwatanapokin tested 629 village dogs and 111 cats in the Suphan Buri district of central Thailand. Out of these, 160 dogs and 8 cats had antibodies to H5N1, indicating that they were infected with the virus or had been infected in the past. “That’s a lot,” says Albert Osterhaus, a virologist at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “This is definitely something to look into.” So far, researchers at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University have isolated the virus from at least one of the dogs.

Wild cats, including tigers, are known to be susceptible to the virus, but this is the first scientific study to find it in dogs, suggesting that infection could be widespread. Osterhaus is pressing officials at the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health to monitor dogs, cats and other carnivores for H5N1. “It’s a gap in our surveillance,” he says. “Basically all carnivores seem susceptible.”

Again, this is one thing that makes H5N1 so scary–it’s just such a strange influenza virus. Cats and dogs normally aren’t infected by influenza virus (though of course, a new “dog flu” was announced last year.) This just adds another layer of surveillance that we don’t have–infections we’re likely missing.


Win in Ohio!

Oh yeah, baby–Richard has the dish over on Panda’s Thumb:

Ohio is no longer on the Disco Institute’s list of favorite states for pilgrimages. Late this afternoon, by an 11-4 vote, the Ohio State Board of Education stripped out the intelligent-design creationist “critical analysis of evolution” benchmark, indicator, and lesson plan from the 10th Grade Biology curriculum.

Tthe resolution had four main parts:

1. Eliminate the “critical analysis of evolution” benchmark and indicator from the Science Standards.

2. Eliminate the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” model lesson plan from the Model Curriculum..

3. Instruct the Achievement Committee (formerly the Standards Committee) to consider whether the benchmark, indicator, and lesson plan should be replaced with something more acceptable.

4. Instruct the Ohio Department of Education to notify every school district in Ohio of these actions.

Woo hoo! Congrats, and thanks to everyone who worked on this, and especially the folks from Ohio Citizens for Science. As Richard notes, it ain’t over, but it’s another step in the right direction.

Carnivals, carnivals!

D’oh, I forgot about Tangled Bank again (has it been two weeks already?) Time flies, as the theme to TB this week emphasizes. Check out some of the best science writing in the blogosphere, and note that I’m hosting it here in two weesk. Submissions can be sent to aetiology AT gmail DOT com–please put “Tangled bank” in the subject line so I don’t overlook it.

While I’m on the subject of carnival submissions, let me also remind you about the second edition of Animalcules, going live on February 23rd. Send submissions to me at the address above.

Over at Science and Politics, you’ll also find the new edition of the Teaching Carnival, including a whole section on teaching science.

Lots of great stuff–I need more free time to read it all!

Other evolution news miscellania

PZ and Ed have both mentioned this NY Times article suggesting that Ohio’s about ready to cut out its cancer that are the Jon Wells-inspired “critical analysis of evolution” from their lesson plan. Richard Hoppe of Ohio Citizens for Science has been following the story over on Panda’s Thumb–for example, here and here most recently). I’ll be in Ohio later this week; hopefully some celebratin’ will be in order. Keep your eye on it.

Also from over at PT, Reed shares an interview with Massimo Pigliucci, who’s been holding Darwin Day celebrations since 1997 and helped to popularize them. Interesting stuff.