Post List

  • May 14, 2010
  • 10:00 AM
  • 1,717 views

Knowledge versus certainty in skepticism and science

by Orac in Respectful Insolence

"I don't want knowledge. I want certainty!"--David Bowie, from Law (Earthlings on Fire)

If there's one universal trait among humans, it seems to be an unquenchable thirst for certainty. This should come as no surprise to those committed to science and rational thinking because there is a profound conflict between our human desire for certainty and the uncertainty of scientific knowledge. The reason is that the conclusions of science are always provisional. They are always subject to change base........ Read more »

  • May 14, 2010
  • 09:40 AM
  • 1,837 views

Near misses fuel gambling addiction

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

GAMBLING is extremely popular, with lottery tickets, casinos, slot machines, bingo halls and other forms of the activity generating revenues of more than £80 billion each year in the UK alone. For most people, gambling is nothing more than an entertaining way to pass the time. But for some, it becomes a compulsive and pathological habit - they spend increasing amounts of time gambling, because tolerance builds up quickly, and experience withdrawal symptoms when they aren't gambling.

The terms ........ Read more »

  • May 14, 2010
  • 09:38 AM
  • 1,088 views

Inviting Mother Nature to the design table

by Caroline Sober in Promega Connections

Sustainability is all over the news these days. Green this, eco-friendly that, recycle everything, buy the twisty lightbulbs, and “Aren’t you going to compost that?” Much like good compost, sustainability is hot, and it’s finding its way not only into our households, but also into product design. Principles like using low-impact materials, energy efficiency and designing for [...]... Read more »

  • May 14, 2010
  • 09:37 AM
  • 1,398 views

Amphiumas: gigantism, extended parental care and freaky morphology in a group of eel-like salamanders

by Darren Naish in Tetrapod Zoology



A few days ago I visited my friends at the Centre for Fortean Zoology (for non-Tet Zoo-related reasons), and I particularly enjoyed looking at their amphiumas. Purely because I want to share the photos I took - well, and because amphiumas are weird, little known and really, really neat - I thought I'd say a little bit about them.



As usual, that 'little bit' quickly grew into a full-length article... nuts. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Bonett RM, Chippindale PT, Moler PE, Van Devender RW, & Wake DB. (2009) Evolution of gigantism in amphiumid salamanders. PloS one, 4(5). PMID: 19461997  

  • May 14, 2010
  • 08:00 AM
  • 2,030 views

Time to Bring Back Home Economics?

by Arya M. Sharma in Dr. Sharma's Obesity Notes

One of the most frequent solutions offered for the obesity epidemic is to reintroduce or increase physical education classes in schools.
In a commentary, published in this week’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Alice Lichtenstein and David Ludwig suggest bringing back home economics education, which used to be a fixture in [...]... Read more »

Lichtenstein AH, & Ludwig DS. (2010) Bring back home economics education. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 303(18), 1857-8. PMID: 20460625  

  • May 14, 2010
  • 07:29 AM
  • 1,025 views

Breathing like Buddha: altitude & Tibet

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

You probably are aware that different populations have different tolerances for high altitudes. Himalayan sherpas aren’t useful just because they have skills derived from their culture, they’re actually rather well adapted to high altitudes because of their biology. Additionally, different groups seem to have adapted to higher altitudes independently, exhibiting convergent evolution. But in [...]... Read more »

Tatum S. Simonson, Yingzhong Yang, Chad D. Huff, Haixia Yun, Ga Qin, David J. Witherspoon, Zhenzhong Bai, Felipe R. Lorenzo, Jinchuan Xing, Lynn B. Jorde.... (2010) Genetic Evidence for High-Altitude Adaptation in Tibet. Science. info:/10.1126/science.1189406

  • May 14, 2010
  • 06:27 AM
  • 1,157 views

Testing common ancestry to all modern-day life

by Grant Jacobs in Code for life






That evolution occurs is well resolved. Precisely how evolution occurs, in detail, is less so.
One question revolves around if present-day life arose from a single species or more than one.
Douglas Theobald  from Brandeis University has tested if life arose from one or several ancestral paths.1 His results strongly support a single ancestry.
The question of if life has [...]... Read more »

  • May 14, 2010
  • 06:00 AM
  • 1,220 views

Extreme conservation: constructing new habitat in ecological wastelands

by Rob Goldstein in Conservation Maven

... Read more »

  • May 14, 2010
  • 04:55 AM
  • 1,622 views

Planets and Anomalies in the Antikythera Mechanism

by Alun in AlunSalt

Mathematicians have a concept, Omega, that is defined as something so huge that any attempt to define it actually defines something smaller. In a similar vein I reckon that any attempt to describe the ingenuity of the Antikythera Mechanism actually ends up describing something less ingenious instead. More research on the device has been published [...]... Read more »

Evans, J., Carman, C.C., & Thorndike, A.S. (2010) Solar Anomaly and Planetary Displays in the Antikythera Mechanism. Journal for the History of Astronomy, 41(1), 1-39. info:/

  • May 14, 2010
  • 01:39 AM
  • 962 views

Friday Weird Science: We need your ID, kiss on the dotted line.

by Evil Monkey in Neurotopia

Sci watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie the other night. It's cute, and one of the things that she really enjoyed was watching Sherlock Holmes use his amazing power of deduction:

Sherlock Holmes: As to where I am, I was, admittedly, lost for a moment, between Charing Cross and Holborn, but I was saved by the bread shop on Southford Hill. The only baker to use a certain French glaze on their loaves - a Brittany sage. After that, the carriage forked left and right, and then a tell-tale bump at........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2010
  • 11:55 PM
  • 492 views

Strong Evidence of Empathy Among Ravens

by Michael Long in Phased

Orlaith Fraser (University of Vienna, Austria) and Thomas Bugnyar (Konrad Lorenz Forschungstelle, Austria) have presented strong initial evidence of empathy among non-primates. This news feature was written on May 13, 2010.... Read more »

  • May 13, 2010
  • 11:24 PM
  • 818 views

Mitochodrial DNA in the Nucleus and Species Life Span Differences

by Reason in Fight Aging!

A large merged double edition of the journal Rejuvenation Research is now online, bringing with it a lot of papers to look through. I thought I'd direct your attention to one of those many papers, as it presents an interesting evolutionary background to the SENS approach to the mitochondrial DNA damage that accumulates with age. Our mitochondria are biological power plants within our cells, the evolved descendants of symbiotic bacterial species. They convert food into ATP, the chemical used as f........ Read more »

Muradian, K., Lehmann, G., & Fraifeld, V. (2010) NUMT (“New Mighty”) Hypothesis of Longevity. Rejuvenation Research, 13(2-3), 152-155. DOI: 10.1089/rej.2009.0974  

  • May 13, 2010
  • 09:30 PM
  • 1,268 views

Cocaine Treatment and the Stroop Test

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox


Treatment dropouts do poorly on color/word match.
It’s commonly used to demonstrate behavioral inhibition, but it’s also a nifty parlor game. It is called the Stroop Test, and it plays off the fact that people are far better at reading words than they are at intentionally ignoring them. To prove it, John Ridley Stroop’s 1935 Ph.D. thesis showed how difficult it is to interfere with the automatic processing of words. In the basic Stroop test, a list of color names is presented. However, th........ Read more »

Streeter, C., Terhune, D., Whitfield, T., Gruber, S., Sarid-Segal, O., Silveri, M., Tzilos, G., Afshar, M., Rouse, E., Tian, H.... (2007) Performance on the Stroop Predicts Treatment Compliance in Cocaine-Dependent Individuals. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33(4), 827-836. DOI: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301465  

  • May 13, 2010
  • 05:44 PM
  • 797 views

The pill could lower sex drive in young women

by Helen Jaques in In Sickness and In Health

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill, first approved by the FDA in 1960 and now the choice of contraception for more than 100 million women worldwide. By uncoupling sex from pregnancy, oral hormonal contraceptives finally allowed women to become agents of their own bodies.
Life isn’t all rosy on the pill [...]... Read more »

  • May 13, 2010
  • 05:34 PM
  • 548 views

E-coli, Linux and Language

by Sean Roberts in The Adventures of Auck

How do language structures compare to structures of Bacteria and Operating Systems?... Read more »

  • May 13, 2010
  • 04:00 PM
  • 964 views

Time to put away the magic bullet theory of back pain – Peter O’Sullivan talks…

by Lorimer Moseley in BodyInMind

Marienke van Middelkoop, and coworkers published a systematic review investigating the benefits of Exercise therapy for chronic nonspecific low-back pain (NSCLBP)[1]. They concluded that no exercise approach is superior to any other (from motor control to conditioning to back school) and that effect sizes for exercise are small in the management of NSCLBP. They proposed [...]... Read more »

[1] van Middelkoop M, Rubinstein SM, Verhagen AP, Ostelo RW, Koes BW, & van Tulder MW. (2010) Exercise therapy for chronic nonspecific low-back pain. Best practice , 24(2), 193-204. PMID: 20227641  

  • May 13, 2010
  • 03:24 PM
  • 864 views

Guest post: Dr Chris Evans – behind an unexpected discovery

by Stuart Lynn in we are all in the gutter

The internet has been abuzz this week with news of a recently discovered massive star being booted from its home cluster. I have the good fortune to know one of the scientists involved in this discovery and have asked him to give us an insight in what went in to this find. So without further [...]... Read more »

C. J. Evans, N. R. Walborn, P. A. Crowther, V. Henault-Brunet, D. Massa, W. D. Taylor, I. D. Howarth, H. Sana, D. J. Lennon, & J. Th. van Loon. (2010) A massive runaway star from 30 Doradus. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 715(2). arXiv: 1004.5402v1

  • May 13, 2010
  • 03:14 PM
  • 1,206 views

Cambrian survivors - weird critters which (temporarily) cheated extinction

by Laelaps in Laelaps



Components of the newly-described Fezouata fauna. a, Demosponge Pirania auraeum b, Choiid demosponge c, Annelid worm d, Organism showing possible similarities to halkieriids e, Possible armoured lobopod f, Thelxiope-like arthropod g, Marrellomorph arthropod, probably belonging to the genus Furca h, Skaniid arthropod i, Spinose arthropod appendage
apparatus consisting of six overlapping elements. From Van Roy et al, 2010.



When the Cambrian period comes up in conversation, it is usually in re........ Read more »

Van Roy, P., Orr, P., Botting, J., Muir, L., Vinther, J., Lefebvre, B., Hariri, K., & Briggs, D. (2010) Ordovician faunas of Burgess Shale type. Nature, 465(7295), 215-218. DOI: 10.1038/nature09038  

  • May 13, 2010
  • 02:41 PM
  • 1,798 views

Black ghost knifefish in a strange angle

by Lucas in thoughtomics

I bet you never wondered why the black ghost knifefish hunts at an uncomfortable angle of -30°! Prepare to take a journey on the intersection of animal behaviour, neurobiology and biomechanics!
Suppose you’re one of your animal ancestors, swimming around in one of the warm and shallow Cambrian seas 500 million years ago. You’re a small [...]... Read more »

MacIver, M., Patankar, N., & Shirgaonkar, A. (2010) Energy-Information Trade-Offs between Movement and Sensing. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000769  

  • May 13, 2010
  • 02:30 PM
  • 465 views

The Future is Now?

by Journal Watch Online in Journal Watch Online

Global warming may already be driving lizard populations extinct

... Read more »

Sinervo, B. et al. (2010) Erosion of lizard diversity by climate change and altered thermal niches. Science. info:/10.1126/science.1184695

Huey, R.B., Losos, J.B., & C. Moritz. (2010) Are lizards toast?. Science. info:/10.1126/science.1190374

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