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  • June 6, 2016
  • 11:34 AM

Burning seaweed to make glass and avoid a lumpy neck

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Seaweed is one of those tricky biological groups, as membership isn't just about being a close relative. It typically includes plant-like organisms found among several types of algae - green, brown, and red - and depending on who you're talking to also includes masses of cyanobacteria (which are distant relatives of algae). Functionally, all seaweeds enjoy growing in salty water and use the sun to manufacture sugary meals for themselves. Their need for sun means they are found in sunlit coastal ........ Read more »

  • January 6, 2016
  • 03:38 PM

A famous fungal family born of war, fruit markets, and deadly radiation

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

During World War II, while physicists and chemists worked to develop the atomic bomb and improve synthetic rubber, microbiologists at the newly established Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL) in Peoria, Illinois were tasked with figuring out how to mass-produce penicillin.This drug, prized for its high toxicity to bacteria (at least those not resistant to it) and low toxicity to humans, was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. He isolated it from a blue-green mould (essentially........ Read more »

  • November 18, 2015
  • 01:22 PM

Early wrong ideas about how our glands work

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Let's talk about glands! These highly specialized bits of tissue put together and pump out useful compounds to ensure we stay healthy and can do the things animals do (aim to reproduce, mostly). Exocrine glands release fluids such as sweat, saliva, milk, tears, mucous, and bile into segments of our digestive tract or onto the surface of our skin (and eyes). Endocrine glands toss hormones and other regulatory molecules into our bloodstream, to be carried to distant locales bearing instructions to........ Read more »

López-Muñoz F, Molina J, Rubio G, & Alamo C. (2011) An historical view of the pineal gland and mental disorders. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, 18(8), 1028-1037. DOI: 10.1016/j.jocn.2010.11.037  

  • November 2, 2015
  • 03:16 PM

Natural antibacterial agents from the time before penicillin

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Penicillin was a game changer. It ushered in a class of drugs collectively able to treat pretty much any bacterial illness. Relative to the other antibacterials available at the time of its widespread introduction, penicillin was safe to use and cheap to produce. Prior to penicillin, antibacterial drugs were mostly developed by stringing together a bunch of slightly different compounds in a laboratory and then screening them for the ability to kill or inhibit the growth of certain bacteria. Orga........ Read more »

  • June 3, 2015
  • 01:55 PM

Accepting Continental Drift: 50th anniversary of the seminal Bullard et al. map

by Marc in Teaching Biology

Originally written for the Geological Society of London’s History Of Geology Group, where I am web editor. Amidst the many events this year celebrating William Smith and the publication of his 1815 map, comes another, less well-known anniversary. The acceptance of continental drift led to a seismic shift in 20th century geology, the development of the theory … Continue reading Accepting Continental Drift: 50th anniversary of the seminal Bullard et al. map →
The post Accepting........ Read more »

  • June 3, 2012
  • 01:01 PM

A Tale of Two Huxleys

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Andrew Huxley is one of the founders of both modern electrophysiology and  computational neuroscience, and is consequently a personal hero of mine. His recent (May 30, 2012) death inspired me to learn more about his life.Andrew Huxley (1917-2012)Andrew Huxley along with Alan Hodgkin discovered the mechanisms which governed the action potential in nerve cells. They inserted micro-electrodes into the squid giant axon and recorded the sodium and potassium currents which generated ........ Read more »

  • October 31, 2011
  • 04:45 AM

Buried Alive!

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

The pathological fear of being buried alive is called taphophobia1 [from the Greek taphos, or grave]. Being buried alive seems like a fate worse than death, the stuff of nightmares and horror movies and Edgar Allan Poe short stories. What could be pathological about such a fear? When taken to extremes, it can become a morbid, all-consuming obsession. In 1881, psychiatrist Enrico Morselli wrote about "two hitherto undescribed forms of Insanity" (English translation, 2001):As the result of some ob........ Read more »

  • July 22, 2011
  • 09:20 AM

A quick Mendel follow-up

by Daniel in Ego sum Daniel

As a footnote to my previous post about Gregor Mendel, I offer these interesting Google NGrams.

To start off, we plot the terms "Gregor Mendel", just "Mendel", "Mendelian" as well as the genus of the garden pea Mendel worked with, "Pisum".

Not surprisingly, the years 1866 and 1900 (or there around) stand out markedly.

1866 was of course the year Mendel published his paper Experiments in Plant Hybridization, and we can see that mentions of his name, or at least his surname, and mentions of ........ Read more »

Weinstein, A. (1977) How unknown was Mendel's paper?. Journal of the History of Biology, 10(2), 341-364. DOI: 10.1007/BF00572646  

Lenay C. (2000) Hugo De Vries: from the theory of intracellular pangenesis to the rediscovery of Mendel. Comptes rendus de l'Academie des sciences. Serie III, Sciences de la vie, 323(12), 1053-60. PMID: 11147091  

  • January 17, 2011
  • 05:00 AM

Copernicus and the Star that was bigger than the Universe

by Alun in AlunSalt

I’ve been trying to watch Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I’ve never seen it and it’s proving to be a bit of a struggle. He definitely can write. Some of the sequences are fantastic, but some of it is badly dated. The thing that really grates to me is his dismissal of Ptolemy and his geocentric... Read more »

Graney, C.M. (2010) The Telescope Against Copernicus: Star Observations by Riccioli Supporting a Geocentric Universe. Journal for the History of Astronomy, 41(4), 453-467. info:/

  • December 10, 2010
  • 04:50 AM

The Antikythera Mechanism

by GrrlScientist in GrrlScientist

Two years ago, a paper was published in Nature describing the function of the oldest known scientific computer, a device built in Greece around 100 BCE. ... Read more »

  • June 23, 2010
  • 01:02 AM

Pouring Oil on ‘Troubled Waters’

by Kevin Zelnio in Deep Sea News

We love getting interesting emails from our readers. Some are complaints about our (mostly mine) colorful language, many are emails telling us how they appreciate what we do, several even come from our colleagues who would like us to know about some recent research or a new expedition, and we get many readers asking us specific . . . → Read More: Pouring Oil on ‘Troubled Waters’... Read more »

Franklin, B. (1774) Of the Stilling of Waves by means of Oil. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 445-460. DOI: 10.1098/rstl.1774.0044  

Wyckoff, Lieut. A.B. (1886) The use of oil in storms at sea. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 23(123), 383-388. info:/

  • June 18, 2010
  • 12:49 PM

Microbe biogeography: the distribution, dispersal and evolution of the littlest organisms

by Hannah Waters in Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

In any high school biology class1, we learn that isolation is key to the evolution of species.  For example, take Australia, where an array of marsupials such as koalas and kangaroos reproduce like no other animals on the planet.  Isolation on a continental island allowed ancestral marsupials to evolve gestation via pouch, a trait which [...]... Read more »

Martiny, J., Bohannan, B., Brown, J., Colwell, R., Fuhrman, J., Green, J., Horner-Devine, M., Kane, M., Krumins, J., Kuske, C.... (2006) Microbial biogeography: putting microorganisms on the map. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 4(2), 102-112. DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro1341  

  • May 12, 2010
  • 09:10 AM


by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

"Head-wound Hank", from Geek Orthodox.The 19th century archive of The Lancet1 is filled with simply delightful case reports. Who can resist the allure of early plastic surgery failures, such as RHINOPLASTIC OPERATION, PERFORMED BY M. LISFRANC, FOLLOWED BY DEATH? Or how about a Case of Local Tubercular Deposit on the Surface of the Brain, presented by Robert Dunn, Esq.? Finally, the tragic History of a Case of Hydrophobia, treated at the Hotel Dieu at Paris, by an injection of water into the ve........ Read more »

  • March 15, 2010
  • 01:00 PM

The bizarre history of rangeland management research

by JL in Analyze Everything

As with the paper from last Friday, today's paper comes from "Ecological Restoration", one of the few journals that is delivered, in print, to our office. So yeah, I've been reading through it. This paper is by Sayre (2010; full cite below) and is basically about how the cultural and scientific beliefs of those living in the desert southwest have shaped the way that restoration has occurred ... Read more »

  • March 15, 2010
  • 10:28 AM

Sloppy Technicians and the Progress of Science

by Promega Corporation in Promega Connections

Entry 6 March 11, 2010 (from One Reader’s Journey through The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks)
Then, in 1953, a geneticist in Texas accidentally mixed the wrong liquid with HeLa and a few other cells, and it turned out to be a fortunate mistake. The chromosomes inside the cells swelled and spread out, and for the [...]... Read more »

Tjio JH, & Puck TT. (1958) THE SOMATIC CHOMOSOMES OF MAN. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 44(12), 1229-37. PMID: 16590337  

BAIKIE AG, COURT-BROWN WM, BUCKTON KE, HARNDEN DG, JACOBS PA, & TOUGH IM. (1960) A possible specific chromosome abnormality in human chronic myeloid leukaemia. Nature, 1165-6. PMID: 13685929  

PENROSE LS. (1962) Some clinical aspects of human cytogenetics. Postgraduate medical journal, 284-5. PMID: 14485139  

Hsu, T.C.,. (1952) Mammalian Chromosomes In Vitro: I The Karyotype of Man. J. Heredity, 167-172. info:/

  • September 23, 2009
  • 10:00 AM

The Antikythera Mechanism: Art or Science?

by alun in AlunSalt

ome posts take quite a while to write. This is a response to Candy Minx and Martin Rundkvist who were discussing the Antikythera Mechanism in 2006. Candy Minx thought the Antikythera Mechanism was an expression of what was already known and embedded in a society through things like myth and ritual. Martin thought that the mechanism was far more complex. Originally I planned to write a fence-sitting compromise. Here it is. This is science turned up to 11.... Read more »

Freeth, T., Bitsakis, Y., Moussas, X., Seiradakis, J., Tselikas, A., Mangou, H., Zafeiropoulou, M., Hadland, R., Bate, D., Ramsey, A.... (2006) Decoding the ancient Greek astronomical calculator known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Nature, 444(7119), 587-591. DOI: 10.1038/nature05357  

  • November 23, 2008
  • 01:00 AM

I get my kicks from thermodynamicks!

by Stephen Curry in Reciprocal Space

A wonderful paper on the subject of heat. Not a recent publication but a fascinating one nonetheless!... Read more »

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