GDW , gdw

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  • November 18, 2016
  • 08:31 AM
  • 242 views

Is anybody out there? Talking to the Galactic Zookeepers

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

The Zoo Hypothesis Hello? Anybody out there in the starry skies? If there are extra-terrestrial civilizations, why haven’t we heard from them yet? The sheer magnitude of the universe with its billions upon billions of stars has led many to suggest that life must have arisen more than once in the cosmos. Some have gone […]... Read more »

  • October 27, 2016
  • 06:19 AM
  • 247 views

Climate change, the long view

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Now and forever, or at least for a very long time By 2050, sea levels will have risen this much. If we don’t act, average global temperature will rise x degrees by 2100. These are the things we all hear in the discussion concerning climate change and its consequences. But beyond the turn of the […]... Read more »

Clark, P., Shakun, J., Marcott, S., Mix, A., Eby, M., Kulp, S., Levermann, A., Milne, G., Pfister, P., Santer, B.... (2016) Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change. Nature Climate Change, 6(4), 360-369. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2923  

  • October 14, 2016
  • 06:20 AM
  • 264 views

Forgetting Earth, forgetting Mars: Dementia, pollution, and space travel

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Forgetting Earth Dementia. Few words inspire greater fear in those of us who value (quasi-?) independent thought. The term ‘dementia’ encompasses various brain disorders that all share some scary traits: general decline in cognitive function, decreased ability to speak, and in later stages, being unable to take care of oneself. Unfortunately, as human lifespan increases […]... Read more »

Killin LO, Starr JM, Shiue IJ, & Russ TC. (2016) Environmental risk factors for dementia: a systematic review. BMC geriatrics, 16(1), 175. PMID: 27729011  

Parihar VK, Allen BD, Caressi C, Kwok S, Chu E, Tran KK, Chmielewski NN, Giedzinski E, Acharya MM, Britten RA.... (2016) Cosmic radiation exposure and persistent cognitive dysfunction. Scientific reports, 34774. PMID: 27721383  

  • October 5, 2016
  • 09:06 AM
  • 293 views

Of microbes and men: Evolving as one and terraforming earth

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Me and my microbes In the past decade or so, the microbiota, the community of microbes that makes its home in the guts of humans and other animals, has become quite a popular research topic. Quite rightly so, since our little guests seem to affect aspects of our lives that we wouldn’t necessarily consider to […]... Read more »

Faria VG, Martins NE, Magalhães S, Paulo TF, Nolte V, Schlötterer C, Sucena É, & Teixeira L. (2016) Drosophila Adaptation to Viral Infection through Defensive Symbiont Evolution. PLoS genetics, 12(9). PMID: 27684942  

Solé RV, Montañez R, & Duran-Nebreda S. (2015) Synthetic circuit designs for earth terraformation. Biology direct, 37. PMID: 26187273  

  • September 22, 2016
  • 09:27 AM
  • 307 views

Will tardigrades get humanity into space?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

The mighty water bear Tardigrades, aka water bears, are tiny animals that can be found just about everywhere on earth, with a slight preference for the moisture in moss. They happily amble along on their four pairs of legs and slurp up plant cells, algae, and even smaller invertebrates that can’t get away fast enough […]... Read more »

Boothby TC, Tenlen JR, Smith FW, Wang JR, Patanella KA, Nishimura EO, Tintori SC, Li Q, Jones CD, Yandell M.... (2015) Evidence for extensive horizontal gene transfer from the draft genome of a tardigrade. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(52), 15976-81. PMID: 26598659  

Koutsovoulos G, Kumar S, Laetsch DR, Stevens L, Daub J, Conlon C, Maroon H, Thomas F, Aboobaker AA, & Blaxter M. (2016) No evidence for extensive horizontal gene transfer in the genome of the tardigrade Hypsibius dujardini. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(18), 5053-8. PMID: 27035985  

Hashimoto T, Horikawa DD, Saito Y, Kuwahara H, Kozuka-Hata H, Shin-I T, Minakuchi Y, Ohishi K, Motoyama A, Aizu T.... (2016) Extremotolerant tardigrade genome and improved radiotolerance of human cultured cells by tardigrade-unique protein. Nature communications, 12808. PMID: 27649274  

  • September 15, 2016
  • 09:10 AM
  • 412 views

Paralympic athletes and the rise of the cyborgs

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Para and super? The Olympics are over. They’ve brought us some good stories, some nice records, and (self-citation alert!) a humble blog post about the ethics of doping. But the Paralympics, their less mediatized cousin, are in full swing. Paralympians from all over the world gather to wow us with their athletic prowess in the Paralympic […]... Read more »

  • September 8, 2016
  • 09:16 AM
  • 335 views

CRISPR on my plate, and some GMO’s on the side

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

A CRISPR recipe Less than a month ago, the world’s first official CRISPR/Cas9 meal was served. CRISPR/Cas9 is a fairly new technology to edit genomes, and cut and paste genes at will. Well, it’s not exactly that new. It’s actually been around for a long time. CRISPR, or *humhum* Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats […]... Read more »

Snell C, Bernheim A, Bergé JB, Kuntz M, Pascal G, Paris A, & Ricroch AE. (2012) Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: a literature review. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 50(3-4), 1134-48. PMID: 22155268  

  • September 1, 2016
  • 10:19 AM
  • 349 views

Responsible resurrection: The ecology of de-extinction

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

March of the mammoths Improvements in our genetic tinkering capabilities have led several people to suggest potential uses for our newfound powers. Although we ought to add some nuance and note that those powers are still in development. In any case, one of those powers is quite impressive. De-extinction, or the process of bringing back […]... Read more »

  • August 25, 2016
  • 09:40 AM
  • 402 views

How to rebuild a brain

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

After the stroke The human brain is complicated. Very complicated. And like any piece of complex machinery that relies on the smooth functioning of many components, it’s not immune to malfunction. When a part of the brain doesn’t get proper nutrition through a nice and smooth blood flow, things go awry and a stroke occurs. […]... Read more »

  • August 18, 2016
  • 08:54 AM
  • 467 views

Wait, let me google it. On the fall (and rise?) of human memory.

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Ruins of a memory palace Once upon a time, there were no computers. And yet, even in the ancient days when writing was not widespread, people told gigantic tales or recited poems of epic proportions. Often more than once. Admittedly, they probably changed a bit along the way, but still the plot remained intact. How […]... Read more »

  • August 11, 2016
  • 08:41 AM
  • 495 views

Who made the Piltdown man? Inside one of science’s most (in)famous hoaxes

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

There was always that nagging feeling of not being accepted, of whispers behind his back. They pretended to be open-minded, but in reality not belonging to the group of professionals was reason enough to dismiss his work and findings. In their eyes, he was just a solicitor. A hobbyist. He was tolerated, but their derision […]... Read more »

De Groote, I., Flink, L., Abbas, R., Bello, S., Burgia, L., Buck, L., Dean, C., Freyne, A., Higham, T., Jones, C.... (2016) New genetic and morphological evidence suggests a single hoaxer created ‘Piltdown man’. Royal Society Open Science, 3(8), 160328. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160328  

  • August 3, 2016
  • 09:13 AM
  • 449 views

Do we need a doping Olympics? The ethics of doping in sports

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

There is only her and the track. The people standing on her left and right do not matter now. She has only one adversary: time. In her head she plays how the future might…will unfold. Forty seven strides. That’s all she needs. All things on the periphery disappear. Her world, her universe becomes a single […]... Read more »

  • July 28, 2016
  • 08:34 AM
  • 501 views

Game of Farmers: Agriculture is coming

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Gron gazed across the plain from inside a tuft of long grass. There. Just in front of the far hillock. Gazelles. Meals on legs. He vaguely remembered mother carrying him through cooler forests when he was not yet old enough to walk. He had never understood why they had left. But he had learned, had […]... Read more »

Zeder MA. (2008) Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(33), 11597-604. PMID: 18697943  

Lazaridis, I., Nadel, D., Rollefson, G., Merrett, D., Rohland, N., Mallick, S., Fernandes, D., Novak, M., Gamarra, B., Sirak, K.... (2016) Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature19310  

  • July 21, 2016
  • 10:08 AM
  • 529 views

The decline of biodiversity: Past the point of no return?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Mohi looks up at her mother. Confused. Afraid. Mother had always said that she had to keep her filtration veil on when they left their housedome. But now, here stood her mother, unveiled. The woman gifted an encouraging nod to her young daughter. Mohi removed her veil. Air! Light! The freshness of the breeze and […]... Read more »

Steffen W, Richardson K, Rockström J, Cornell SE, Fetzer I, Bennett EM, Biggs R, Carpenter SR, de Vries W, de Wit CA.... (2015) Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223). PMID: 25592418  

Newbold T, Hudson LN, Arnell AP, Contu S, De Palma A, Ferrier S, Hill SL, Hoskins AJ, Lysenko I, Phillips HR.... (2016) Has land use pushed terrestrial biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? A global assessment. Science, 353(6296), 288-91. PMID: 27418509  

Oliver TH. (2016) How much biodiversity loss is too much?. Science, 353(6296), 220-1. PMID: 27418489  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 07:28 AM
  • 583 views

An equation for life

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Water churns. Earth moves. Molecules jostle and chemicals mix. Between heaven and hell, a young planet finds itself in full flux. Developing. Forming. Star stuff rains down and forged elements bubble up. Then it happens. It seems as if it’s just another chemical match-up, another reaction in the vast library of possibilities. But it would […]... Read more »

Scharf C, & Cronin L. (2016) Quantifying the origins of life on a planetary scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 27382156  

  • July 7, 2016
  • 09:09 AM
  • 630 views

Are animals (and AI’s) people too?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Charles gets up and balances on his short legs. During the brief ungainly walk to the dais, he fights the urge to scratch his arms. The vest that has been tailor-made for him itches. But it will help focus the committee on his purpose, focus on him as a person. He squats on the low […]... Read more »

Perring C. (1997) Degrees of personhood. The Journal of medicine and philosophy, 22(2), 173-97. PMID: 9186928  

Windrem MS, Schanz SJ, Morrow C, Munir J, Chandler-Militello D, Wang S, & Goldman SA. (2014) A competitive advantage by neonatally engrafted human glial progenitors yields mice whose brains are chimeric for human glia. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 34(48), 16153-61. PMID: 25429155  

  • June 29, 2016
  • 06:20 AM
  • 498 views

Birdsong Babel: Different birds use different grammar rules

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Zizou listens carefully. She ignores her confines and tries to focus on the intruder’s song. There’s something odd about it. Something she can’t quite put her feather on. It’s familiar, yet… not familiar. The intruder is strong. He or she keeps signing incessantly. There’s no sight of him or her, though. She has to make a […]... Read more »

Olkowicz S, Kocourek M, Lučan RK, Porteš M, Fitch WT, Herculano-Houzel S, & Němec P. (2016) Birds have primate-like numbers of neurons in the forebrain. PNAS, 113(26), 7255-60. PMID: 27298365  

  • June 16, 2016
  • 08:30 AM
  • 484 views

An omelette of extinction

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

~50 000 years ago  He wakes. The first sunrays slowly crawl over the horizon. As he gets up, the others in his family group stir. He surveys this new land.  His stomach grumbles… # Present day Born in an African cradle, humanity has spread across the globe. And almost everywhere we went, we managed to […]... Read more »

Miller G, Magee J, Smith M, Spooner N, Baynes A, Lehman S, Fogel M, Johnston H, Williams D, Clark P.... (2016) Human predation contributed to the extinction of the Australian megafaunal bird Genyornis newtoni ∼47 ka. Nature communications, 10496. PMID: 26823193  

  • June 8, 2016
  • 05:38 AM
  • 473 views

Cultural evolution in killer whales

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Auka watches mother and the other adults hunt. They are black-and-white ghosts flitting through the waters of their chilly world. Their prey is fast, agile. Coordination is key. Which is why the young ones have to stay behind. There is no place for playfulness during the hunt. But Auka doesn’t feel playful. She ignores the […]... Read more »

Foote AD, Vijay N, Ávila-Arcos MC, Baird RW, Durban JW, Fumagalli M, Gibbs RA, Hanson MB, Korneliussen TS, Martin MD.... (2016) Genome-culture coevolution promotes rapid divergence of killer whale ecotypes. Nature communications, 11693. PMID: 27243207  

  • June 1, 2016
  • 09:38 AM
  • 536 views

All hail our eight-limbed overlords

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

(This is my first attempt to blend science and fiction in a single post. The idea is to write about a recent study or studies but explore it through small snippets of original fiction as well. Hope you like it. Feedback is always greatly appreciated…) # A carefully orchestrated dance of chromatophores flashed Octa’s agreement. […]... Read more »

Doubleday ZA, Prowse TA, Arkhipkin A, Pierce GJ, Semmens J, Steer M, Leporati SC, Lourenço S, Quetglas A, Sauer W.... (2016) Global proliferation of cephalopods. Current biology : CB, 26(10). PMID: 27218844  

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