Tangled Bank #48

Welcome to Tangled Bank #48! Tons of good stuff to share with you today. I considered a number of themes, including the invisible theme (aka, none at all), but decided on “songs by groups that may have been in my iPod in high school (if iPods had been invented then).” Not that I have an iPod now, either, but y’know–hypothetically. Enjoy.

Don’t Drink the Water

On the microbiology and infectious disease front, Sandra at Digital Bio fills you in on a project at Johns Hopkins, getting students involved in examining the microbial diversity all around them.

My own blogging has focused way too much on HIV lately, so instead of including one of those, I’ll point you toward a party of a different kind: chicken pox parties, and why they should go the way of the dodo.

This one is a bit unusual. At Reb Chaim HaQoton you’ll find a post discussing Tzara’as, the name of the leperous disease mentioned many times in the bible. Was it really leprosy?

Always Changing Probably

Several posts on climate change. From terry, a piece on yet another result of climate change: changing Canadian boundaries, and the struggle to secure them.

Additionally, I’ll highlight a writing contest there (with actual money!). Check it out.

At Rigor Vitae, a post on global warming’s effects on frog populations.

Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Lots of posts centering on basic biomedical research. At the Scientific activist, Nick reports on a pro-science protest, defending use of animals in research.

Meanwhile, Ewen over at Complex medium shows us one reason why animal research is important, discussing the pros and cons of using mice to study Salmonella.

If you want some background on why basic research is clinically relevant, surf over to the Hodges Lab blog.

At his new digs here at Scienceblogs, Orac on Respectful Insolence has a post on yet another quack treatment for autism: chemical castration.

Ruth on the Biotech weblog discusses a more positive advancement: using wisdom teeth for jewelry. Sounds strange, but it also has medical applications.

PharmB of Moment of Science has a post touching on some subjects recently discussed here on Aetiology: Epigenetics and cancer. (If you’re thinking, “what is epigenetics?”, don’t worry–background is given.)

Pennyroyal Tea

On the drinking front, Bora at Circadian Rhythms has a post on why it’s easier to get drunk during the day, meshing nicely with Ed,s post on why breathilizers are inaccurate.

Have you ever wondered how many cans of diet soda can you drink safely? I know it’s kept me up nights. Over at Political calculations, you can find out with a nifty little tool to figure out how much Nutra Sweet in diet pop–err, soda–you can calculate based on your body weight.

Hangin’ around (or, not)

Two discussions of invasive species. At the Invasive species weblog, news that both Indiana and Ohio are giving up at the state level to control the spread of the emerald ash borer. As one who’s recently transplanted from the Toledo area, this was something that came up often in discussions, especially in my neighborhood with lots of beautiful old trees.

At Archy, the question is posed: do salmon get lost? A freebie dissertation topic on how salmon colonize new areas.

Mike provides us with this post from 10,000 Birds on alcids–“penguinis of the Northern Hemisphere.”

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

Interestingly, I received two posts involving menopause in one way or another. The first from Keats’ telescope discusses “grandmother effect,” in which human grandmas (past menopause) indirectly improve the propagation of their genes by helping out with the grandkids.

In the second, Evil monkey at Neurotopia begins a series discussing HRT for symptoms of menopause, complete with 1960s ads about the poor, suffering husband of the post-menopausal woman.

Come as you are

Another pair of posts about science and the public. Head to Eastern blot for a discussion of open access journals and interesting science in the media–and the difficulty of reaching people with subscription-only journals

This post could have fit in a number of categories. On Anthonares, you’ll find a piece about Google Earth and GIS (geographic information systems), and how it will change education (particularly geography).

Do the Evolution

Ian wishes Charlie a happy birthday, and celebrates with an evolutionary explanation for the huge number of MHC (major histocompatibility complex) genes.

Mike at the Questionable Authority discusses sympatric speciation, and why he chose that field of study. He also has an inbuilt test to see if you’re a true science geek.

Meanwhile, another Mike (the Mad Biologist one) writes about “beneficial” mutations, smacking down a creationist.

On Pharyngula, PZ discusses gene regulatory circuits –notably, conserved regions of widely distributed circuits, and how they play a role in the conservation of body plans since the Cambrian radiation.

Adam of the Grey thumb blog wins best post title: Eugenics doesn’t work. Ask why, asshole. Check it out to see how chickens and Enron relate to the title.

On Two Cents, beche-la-mer writes a review of The Origin of Species, noting how well Darwin had anticipated advances in science, and his critics.

Richard on Newton’s Biomium discusses circadian clocks and the “watchmaker” hypothesis in a two-part series. Part I; Part II.

I Will Not Take These Things for Granted

On the topic of “doin’ science,” Adventures in Ethics and Science, Janet discusses why less may sometimes be more as far as inclusion of data.

From another Scienceblogs neighbor, Cognitive daily, comes a post on reading (and designing) graphs, and why we’re faster at understanding some layouts than others. Good stuff to know for scientists

Territorial Pissings

At Penn, an excellent example of science + politics, regarding the intersection of the federal government, science, and the timber industry.

Josh at Thoughts from Kansas comments on Manimals, and new proposed legislation that would seek to ban them–but has some “friendly fire.”

From B and B comes a post with more details on the censorship of scientists, including that by the now-notorious George Deutsch.

Of course, one area of science that has attracted lots of attention by politicians recently has been fossil fuels. Johniac at Blogcritics provides background on several alternative fuels that may help to reduce our dependence on oil.

Black Hole Sun

In the physics & astronomy category, Phil of the Bad Astronomy Blog discusses new data on the the spiral galaxy M101–it’s bigger and has more stars than previously thought–and as always, shares some incredible pics of the universe around us.

Over at “to go beyond yesterday,” physics student Loganayagam writes about the pseudo-force , and what its study can tell us about the geometry of space and time.

Murder of One

John over at Wheat-dogg’s world provides a history of the death of geocentricism.

Been a Son

In the “misc.” category, David over at the Scientific Creative Quarterly muses on fatherhood, the music of nature, and how to find logic in things that may not be.

On the skwib, a post noting that recent studies show that complex decisions are best made by the unconscious. Of course, the caveman Thag knew that a long time ago.

Finally, at Salto sobrius, Martin brings news of the reconstruction of replica Viking-era buildings in Sweden–is this a good thing, or not?

Phew! Thanks to everyone who submitted posts. Next Tangled Bank will be March 15th just down the road at Living the Scientific Life.

13 Replies to “Tangled Bank #48”

  1. Well, it’s only 10 here. I had it mostly ready when I arrived, but had to get off that pesky grant first, and there were an additional 11 entries in my box between when I left the office yesterday and arrived this morning. So, deal. 🙂

  2. Tara,

    I must say, you really are a cool person. That’s why I find myself somewhat puzzled by the abuse you take from likes of Harvey, Hank, and the rest. They act as if you had no knwledge of the you speak of.


  3. It’s mostly a fence-sitter lurker phenomenon, left over from years of evolution-creation “debate.” While many people are convinced by the evidence alone, others base their decisions on the attitudes of the participants in the debate. I’ve learned to have a tough skin and am more amused than angry when those on the “other side” of the fence are left with nothing but insults to my person.

  4. Tara,

    Do any of those on the “other side of the fence” actually have scientific credentials?

    I, too, find them somewhat amusing but in a tragic kind of way. The fact that people can be so cocksure of things they have no knowledge of concerns me because they don’t seem to understand how good they have it. If it were not for science, our society would not have any of the advantages it now has. I would not be alive today were it not for advances in science.

    I therefore believe that people don’t understand what they’re kicking to the curb when they attack science.


  5. Do any of those on the “other side of the fence” actually have scientific credentials?

    Oh, sure. It’s funny–both the creationists and the anti-HIV folks have entire lists of PhD scientists who support their position. They argue from authority, and yet it’s those like Bialy who disparage my PhD degree as well. Irony. Additionally, I don’t argue my opinion has weight only because I have a degree–I prefer to let the evidence speak for itself.

    I therefore believe that people don’t understand what they’re kicking to the curb when they attack science.

    Precisely. And it’s not only the incredible advancements that we have because of science. For evolution-deniers, many of their arguments, if valid, would not only invalidate evolution, but any historical science (for example, the “well, were you there to see it?” canard). For HIV, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, their arguments apply not only to that virus but to every other infectious agent.

  6. Great Tangled Bank. One thing I really appreciated is that there are quite a few posts dealing with science, and not so much with debunking anti-/pseudo-science.

  7. Personally, I think it should fall to the educated laymen of the world to defend proper science from the inanities of creationists and pseudo-scientists.

    Let the real scientists get down to work so they don’t have to waste time with nonsense, when they could be doing something scientifically productive.

    Just my humble opinion ^_^

  8. Hey Ploggie, good to see ya! I think there’s room for both. IMO it’s the responsiblity of scientists to educate the public–which includes, at times, debunking pseudo-science. But obviously we can’t be everywhere all the time, so educated laymen (such as yourself) definitely are invaluable. At Panda’s Thumb, for example, we have a good mix of scientists at all levels (grad students, postdocs, jr, sr, and emeritus faculty) and laymen in different areas–and it works really well (IMO, of course).

  9. I’m currently watching the 2000 DVD version of Sagan’s (1980) COSMOS. As an educated layman defending science and debunking stupidity, I have to say that Sagan was really good at this stuff, and having a pro do it is a good thing. Further, it is in the scientist’s own interest to make sure science is understood by the masses. Much of the funding for science comes from the public.

    Of late, i’ve come to be of the opinion that i’ve been quite ineffectual in debunking the stupid. Coming down like a ton of bricks has the same effect that Bible thumpers had on me while i was growing up – which is none. I have to admit that all i’ve done is look like i’m trying to sound smart, when the smartest i’ve ever been was when i was asking stupid questions. What does seem to work is teaching using the audience’s vocabulary, and using compassion. What you really need to avoid doing is saying, “I’m really smart, and these are the fact.” You need to say, “This is the process that scientists find works the best.” So, when an ID’er says that Carbon 14 dating isn’t any good for talking meaningfully about T-Rex, I agree, and state that there are several lines of evidence that, though they include radio dating techniques that aren’t Carbon dating, they also include stratification and other techniques, which, when combined, yield answers that are consistent with each other, and lend confidence to the results. Then i use an example i really know about: that the 1998 result in which the team states that the Universe we live in is accelerating apart at an increasing rate was delayed while they rechecked their process in several ways to avoid saying something that was wrong. It was an extraordinary claim, and such things demand extraordinary evidence. And it was extraordinary. It wasn’t one of the three Freedman models that the Universe must be. And, yes, this result could be wrong. And yes, there is continuing study.

    Easy ways for scientists to promote their causes are to write blogs, and when they complete some task, do a phone interview with a podcaster. Many of the science podcasts are made by educated laymen who have the time to figure out how to assemble podcasts and distribute them. They need content. The scientist has content that needs to get out.

    For polish, podcasts add music and humor. Here’s a short one:

    The Astronomy Picture Of the Day web site once again has a picture of the Rosette Nebula for Valentine’s Day.

    I love it.

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