Greg Laden

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Biological Anthropologist, Science Blogger.

Greg Laden's Blog
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  • February 8, 2012
  • 04:40 PM

Melting Ice and Sea Level Rise

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

If all the water currently trapped in all the glaciers across the entire world, the sea level would rise far more than most people imagine. Almost everyone living anywhere in the world at an elevation of below about 500 feet with a direct drainage to the sea would be directly affected; The sea level rise itself might be a bit over 300 feet, but oceans tend to migrate horizontally when they rise onto previously uninnundated land surfaces. So if you lived at 500 feet above sea level in most of Ma........ Read more »

  • January 25, 2012
  • 02:27 PM

IQ Varies with Context

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

In a very interesting way.

As a regular reader of this blog, you know that IQ and similar measures are determined by a number of factors, and for most "normal" (modal?) individuals, one's heritage (genes) is rarely important. Putting it another way, variation across individuals in IQ and other measures have been shown again and again to be determined by things like home environment, diet and nutrition, and even immediate social context. Here's another finding supporting this: Read the rest o........ Read more »

  • January 11, 2012
  • 02:44 PM

A word or two about tobacco, and some neat and new research

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Over the last few weeks I've run into a few misconceptions about tobacco, as well as some interesting news, so I thought I'd share. If you already know some of this, forgive me, not everyone else does.

First, tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum, is a member of the Solanaceae family of plants, which from a human perspective has got to be one of the most interesting plant families out there. It includes Belladonna, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. So, from this one family of plants, you can kill your n........ Read more »

Zagorevski, Dmitri, & Loughmiller-Newman, Jennifer. (2012) The Detection of Nicotine in a Late Mayan Period Flask by GCMS and LCMS Methods. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 403-411. info:/

  • January 4, 2012
  • 03:57 PM

Russian Rivers and Arctic Salinity: Climate Variation Better Understood

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

The sun heats the earth, but unevenly. The excess heat around the equator moves towards the poles, via a number of different mechanisms, the most noticeable for us humans being via air masses. That's what much of our weather is about. Heat also moves towards the poles, in the ongoing evening-out of energy distribution on the planet's surface, via ocean currents.

One of the interesting things that happens with ocean currents is this: Warm water tends to move from equator towards polar region........ Read more »

Morison, J., Kwok, R., Peralta-Ferriz, C., Alkire, M., Rigor, I., Andersen, R., & Steele, M. (2012) Changing Arctic Ocean freshwater pathways. Nature, 481(7379), 66-70. DOI: 10.1038/nature10705  

  • November 2, 2011
  • 05:06 PM

Do you take Vitamin E to avoid prostate cancer? Stop. Now.

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

In a recent study, 35,533 prostate cancer-free men in a higher risk age group for prostate cancer in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico were given various treatments of Vitamin E, selenium, and placebo in order to see if claims that Vitamin E and/or Vitamin E with selenium were effective in reducing prostate cancer risk.

8752 received selenium alone - 575 developed prostate cancer.
8737 received Vitamin E alone - 620 developed prostate cancer.
8702 received both - 555 developed prostate cance........ Read more »

Klein, E., Thompson, I., Tangen, C., Crowley, J., Lucia, M., Goodman, P., Minasian, L., Ford, L., Parnes, H., Gaziano, J.... (2011) Vitamin E and the Risk of Prostate Cancer: The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 306(14), 1549-1556. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2011.1437  

  • October 21, 2011
  • 12:32 PM

Van Gogh's Cowboy Boys Shakespeare's Pot

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Although one can not be certain, all the evidence points to the fact that William Shakespeare smoked pot. This is not a new story. My good friend and colleague, Dr. Francis Thackeray, who has never smoked pot in his life but who has acted in Shakespeare's plays numerous times, led a research team that put 2 and 2 together and came up with narcotic literary munchies. In Shakespeare's time, land owners were required to grow pot in order to provide fibers for making the rope needed hoist the sai........ Read more »

Harm van Bakel, Jake M Stout, Atina G Cote, Carling M Tallon, Andrew G Sharpe, Timothy R Hughes, & Jonathan E Page. (2011) The draft genome and transcriptome of Cannabis sativa. Genome Biology, 12(R102). info:/

  • October 20, 2011
  • 03:41 PM

Urban Heat Islands as Explanation for Hockey Stick Global Warming Curve

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Urban areas can be warmer than surrounding non-urban areas because there is a lot of combustion, pavement and other structure can collect solar heat and retain it for a while, and other factors. It is not uncommon to look at a weather map where conditions for precipitation are marginal, and everywhere but the urban zone, or only the urban zone and nothing else, is showing a weather phenomenon. Because people and airports (where weather is very important) are located in or very near urban areas........ Read more »

Wickham, C., Curry, J., Groom, D., Jacobson, R., Muller, R., Perlmutter, S., Rohde, R., Rosenfeld, A., & Wurtele, J. (2011) Influence of urban heating on the global temperature land average using rural sites identified from MODIS classifications. Unknown. info:/

  • October 12, 2011
  • 06:43 PM

The Influence of Late Quaternary Climate-Change Velocity on Species Endemism

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Rapid climate change can cause species extinction. But if a species is highly mobile or wide-ranging, then that effect may be attenuated. And, more rapid climate change would be more serious a problem than less rapid climate change. Therefore, there should be a relationship between species mobility (migration) and the rate, or velocity, of climate change vis-a-vis extinction. This is a nice set of hypotheses which have been tested in a recent paper. The abstract: Read the rest of this post.......... Read more »

Sandel, B., Arge, L., Dalsgaard, B., Davies, R., Gaston, K., Sutherland, W., & Svenning, J. (2011) The Influence of Late Quaternary Climate-Change Velocity on Species Endemism. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1210173  

  • September 19, 2011
  • 08:43 PM

How To Do Good Climate Science Instead Of Bad Climate Science

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

In order to do good climate science, you have to understand and control for the sources of variation in the system. In any system that involvs metric change over time, there are four sources of variation: Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Trenberth, K., Fasullo, J., & Abraham, J. (2011) Issues in Establishing Climate Sensitivity in Recent Studies. Remote Sensing, 3(9), 2051-2056. DOI: 10.3390/rs3092051  

  • September 15, 2011
  • 11:25 AM

A Very Cool Ancient Crocodile

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

I have never actually seen a snake eat a crocodile or a crocodile eat a snake, but I am pretty sure I've seen a snake planning to eat a Nile Croc. And that was in the geological present.

In the geological past, about 60 million years ago (during the "Eocene" a.k.a. "dawn age") there was a rain forest that is sort of the ancestor to modern rain forests, which is now a coal deposit (and thus, eventually, will be part of our air) in Columbia. It has yielded interesting materials, and the latest........ Read more »

Hastings, A.K., Bloch, J. I., & Jaramillo, C.A. (2011) A new longirostrine dyrosaurid (Crocodylomorpha, Mesoeucrocodylia) from the Paleocene of north-eastern Colombia: biogeographic and behavioural implications for New-World Dyrosauridae . Palaeontology, 54(5), 1095-1116. info:/10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01092.x

  • September 9, 2011
  • 01:09 AM

Coming to terms with the female orgasm

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

I think I know why science does not understand the female orgasm. It is because science excels when it breaks free of context, history, human complexities and anthropology, but when a topic requires one to grasp context, history, human complexities and anthropology, then science, especially the hard sciences, can fall short. Also, the nature of the female orgasm is a comparative question, but human sexuality is highly (but not entirely) derived; It is difficult to make a sensible graph or tabl........ Read more »

  • September 6, 2011
  • 02:58 PM

Latest Research Shows That Clouds Do NOT Cause Global Warming

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

The question of whether clouds are the cause of global warming has been settled:

No, they are not. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

  • September 3, 2011
  • 04:22 PM

Global Warming: Separating the noise from the signal

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

A small "Signal-to-Noise Ratio" means that there is not enough real information (signal) compared to the background noise to make a definitive statement about something. With a sufficiently high Signal-to-Noise Ratio, it is possible to make statistically valid statements about some measure or observation. This applies to a lot of day to day decisions you make in life.

Climate change denialists understand this principle and they use it to try to fool people into thinking that "the jury is still........ Read more »

Santer, B., Karl, T., Lanzante, J., Meehl, G., Stott, P., Taylor, K., Thorne, P., Wehner, M., Wentz, F., Mears, C.... (2011) Separating Signal and Noise in Atmospheric Temperature Changes: The Importance of Timescale. Journal of Geophysical Research. DOI: 10.1029/2011JD016263  

  • September 2, 2011
  • 09:53 PM

CloudGate: Denialism Gets Dirty, Reputations Are At Stake

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

There has been a major dust-up in the climate denialist world. A study published in late July made false claims and was methodologically flawed, but still managed to get published in a peer reviewed journal. The Editor-in-Chief of that journal has resigned to symbolically take responsibility for the journal's egregious error of publishing what is essentially a fake scientific paper, and to "protest against how the authors [and others] have much exaggerated the paper's conclusions" taking to ta........ Read more »

  • August 10, 2011
  • 01:02 PM

125 sq km of ice knocked off Antarctica by Tsunami

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

The Honshu tsunami of March 11th (the one that caused the Fukushima disaster) caused the otherwise stable Sulzberger Ice Shelf to calve giant hunks of ice. Climate scientists call this "teleconnection." I call it a big whopping bunch of whack knocking off a gigunda chunka stuff. Either way, this is important and interesting. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Brunt, Kelly M., Okal, Emile A., & MacAyeal, Douglas. (2011) Antarctic ice-shelf calving triggered by the Honshu (Japan) earthquake and tsunami, March 2011 . Journal of Geology, 57(205), 785-788. info:/

  • July 29, 2011
  • 03:34 PM

On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth's Radiant Energy Balance

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

According to a newly published paper in the journal "Remote Sensing" the Earth's atmosphere releases into space more heat than climate scientists had previously estimated in a way that effectively removes concern about fossil CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

  • July 28, 2011
  • 04:32 PM

Archaeopteryx Falls from Bird Family Tree Again

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

A proposal has been made to remove beloved Archaeopteryx from the bird family tree and push it over to some non-avian dinosaur subtree. This is not the first time that the ancient species has had its position on the tree of bird life threatened, but this time it may be for real. The proposal is reasonable.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

  • July 27, 2011
  • 06:53 PM

The Origin of Wine

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

With Julia spending the summer and most of the fall in The Republic of Georgia, I've been thinking about various political and historical aspects of that country, and one of the things that is claimed to be true is that wine was first invented there. Recently, someone asked me (always ask the archaeologist esoteric stuff like this) where wine was first invented. And, recently, we scored some Concord Grapes, which are native to North America (presumably thanks to some bird a long time ago) as opp........ Read more »

Myles, Sean, Boyko, Adam, Owens, Christopher, Brown, Patrick, Grassi, Fabrizio, Aradhya, Mallikarjuna, Prins, Bernard, Reynolds,Andy, Chia, Jer-Ming, Ware, Doreen.... (2011) Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape. PNAS. info:/

  • July 27, 2011
  • 05:34 PM

Why shrews are interesting

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

It has been said that our most distant primate ancestors, the mammal that gave rise to early primates but itself wasn't quite a primate, was most like the Asian tree shrew, which is neither a shrew nor does it live in trees. This is, of course, untrue. When the average American sees a shrew native to the new world scurrying past, he or she usually thinks of it as a form of mouse. Which it isn't. (In fact, there are no "mice" native to the new world, but even if we give our hypothetical obser........ Read more »

  • July 26, 2011
  • 06:14 PM

The Pre-Clovis Debra L. Friedkin site

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Butter Milk Creek is a Texas archaeological site and an archaeological complex located rather symbolically a couple of hundred miles downstream from the famous Clovis site in New Mexico. It is the most recently reported alleged manifestation of a "pre-Clovis" archaeological presence. The most important thing about this site is probably this: It is well dated (though the dates need to be independently verified or otherwise run through the gauntlet of criticism dates of important sites are alway........ Read more »

Waters, M., Forman, S., Jennings, T., Nordt, L., Driese, S., Feinberg, J., Keene, J., Halligan, J., Lindquist, A., Pierson, J.... (2011) The Buttermilk Creek Complex and the Origins of Clovis at the Debra L. Friedkin Site, Texas. Science, 331(6024), 1599-1603. DOI: 10.1126/science.1201855  

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