Tag Archives: Science

Anti-Vaxers and Racists Obsession with Purity

From a discussion about this video of a parent saying they don’t care if anybody else’s kids get sick:

“There is a strange and terrifying human obsession with “purity,” and it manifests itself in so many different forms:

  • For the anti-vaccination brigade, it’s the delusion that an immune system free of “toxins” will recognize and destroy unknown pathogens based on raw strength alone.
  • For racists, it’s the delusion that one ethnicity is superior to others and can only be bettered by isolation from their lessers and minimizing the latter’s political influence.
  • For demagogues, it’s the delusion that compromise with a different belief system corrupts your principles and weakens your argument.

And nothing could be further from the truth. The healthiest children are the ones playing in the dirt, getting slobbered on by their dogs, and full of antibodies from vaccines. Populations with high rates of intermarriage between ethnic groups can effectively breed out generations of inherited problems. Diverse groups solve problems and predict the future better than those comprised of a sole demographic.

I don’t know why “purity” is such a seductive concept, but it’s a dangerous one.”

via Cenodoxus comments on Anti-Vaccine Doctor: I Don’t Care If My Kids Make Others Gravely Sick.

12 Years in a Coma, With Just Your Thoughts

From NPR: What would you do if you were locked in your body, your brain intact but with no way to communicate? How do you survive emotionally when you are invisible to everyone you know and love? That’s the first question asked by NPR’s new program on human behavior, Invisibilia. The first show tells the story of Martin Pistorius, who fell into a mysterious coma as a young boy. He had only one thing left as his mind began to function again — his own thoughts. Here’s a glimpse into his story.

Full audio program http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/09/376084137/trapped-in-his-body-for-12-years-a-man-breaks-free

A Climate Scientist Drops a Truth Bomb on Deniers

A climate scientist has had enough:

“I’m a perpetual lurker, but I’m tired of looking through the nonsense that gets posted by a subset of the community on these types of posts. It’s extremely predictable. Ten years ago, you were telling us that the climate wasn’t changing. Five years ago, you were telling us that climate change wasn’t anthropogenic in origin. Now, you’re telling us that anthropogenic climate change might be real, but it’s certainly not a bad thing. I’m pretty sure that five years from now you’ll be admitting it’s a bad thing, but saying that you have no obligation to mitigate the effects.

You know why you’re changing your story so often? It’s because you guys are armchair quarterbacks scientists. …

I’m sorry, but it’s needs to be said: you’re full of it.

I’m at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, sponsored by ASLO, TOS, and AGU. I was just at a tutorial session on the IPCC AR5 report a few days ago. The most recent IPCC report was prepared by ~300 scientists with the help of ~50 editors. These people reviewed over 9000 climate change articles to prepare their report, and their report received over 50,000 comments to improve it’s quality and accuracy. I know you’ll jump all over me for guesstimating these numbers, but I’m not going to waste more of my time looking it up. You can find the exact numbers if you really want them, and I know you argue just to be contrary.

Let’s be honest here. These climate change scientists do climate science for a living. Surprise! Articles. Presentations. Workshops. Conferences. Staying late for science. Working on the weekends for science. All of those crappy holidays like Presidents’ Day? The ones you look forward to for that day off of work? Those aren’t holidays. Those are the days when the undergrads stay home and the scientists can work without distractions.

Now take a second before you drop your knowledge bomb on this page and remind me again… What’s your day job? When was the last time you read through an entire scholarly article on climate change? How many climate change journals can you name? How many conferences have you attended? Have you ever had coffee or a beer with a group of colleagues who study climate change? Are you sick of these inane questions yet?

I’m a scientist that studies how ecological systems respond to climate change. I would never presume to tell a climate scientist that their models are crap. I just don’t have the depth of knowledge to critically assess their work and point out their flaws. And that’s fair, because they don’t have the depth of knowledge in my area to point out my flaws. Yet, here we are, with deniers and apologists with orders of magnitude less scientific expertise, attempting to argue about climate change.

First, I know that many in this community are going to think, “okay, you might be right, but why do you need to be such an ******** about it?” This isn’t about intellectual elitism. This isn’t about silencing dissent. This is about being fed up. The human race is on a long road trip and the deniers and apologists are the backseat drivers. They don’t like how the road trip is going but, rather than help navigating, they’re stuck kicking the driver’s seat and complaining about how long things are taking. I’d kick them out of the car, but we’re all locked in together. The best I can do is give them a whack on the side of the head.”

Full rant http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/1z1hyo/two_of_the_worlds_most_prestigious_science/cfpy15c

Image from http://phys.org/news/2012-04-carbon-dioxide-global-ice-age.html

Swallowed Whole By A Shark

What happens if you are still conscious when a shark swallows you whole:

“Sharks are anything but a cavern on the inside, you’re just familiar with seeing into their mouths. Just past the gills, you encounter the bulk of the body and the body cavity is rather full of liver, muscle, and other organs.

So lets say you ended up inside a shark somehow, and that somehow it’s stomach was large enough to fit you whole. You’d die either of suffocation or drowning but lets say somehow you don’t.

At first you’re hanging out in the shark’s stomach thinking, “oh this isn’t so bad”, and then you start to feel your skin burning because the shark’s stomach is flooding with digestive acid and digestive enzymes that start to break down your body. Then the shark’s stomach starts undulating and contracting to break whats left of your now fragile, half digested body apart.

After you’ve been properly turned to chyme, the stomach begins to vacate and you’re pushed into the intestine where the bits of you that are useful are absorbed and turned into shark. The bits that aren’t needed right away get stored away as fatty tissue in the liver which helps the shark not sink too fast and the rest of you continues along to be pooped out of the shark’s cloaca.
Most of this shark poop is still carbon and nutrient rich relative to the open ocean, so what’s left of you gets taken up pretty rapidly by the microbial communities in the ocean. Any particles too large to be taken up and consumed will rain down to the bottom of the benthos as marine snow where it will be eventually broken down by chemotrophic bacteria in the sediment or buried until the tectonic plate it’s on subducts at a convergent plate boundary and it is forced into the Earth’s mantle.

If you make it to the Earth’s mantle, you could be there for a while but eventually you will return to the surface in some form, either in some inorganic mineral, or if you’re really lucky, you could be outgassed in a volcanic eruption and return to the atmosphere.

From the atmosphere it’s a 50/50 shot if you’re going to be taken up by terrestrial trees and plants or become algae in the ocean. Perhaps you re-enter by being fixed by a CO2 loving green algae, so now a little bit of you is algae. Which sucks because you’re about to get eaten again. and again. and again.

Until you travel up to the top of the marine food web and become a shark. Look at you apex predator! Except then you get fished out of the ocean and have your fins cut off to make someone’s soup. So now you’re a person again… until you go swimming and get swallowed by another shark with an enormously large stomach.”

Full thread justastupidkid comments on What would happen if you were eaten whole by a shark?

Tobacco Virus Jumps 1.6 Billion Years of Evolution to Honeybee

More research on colony collapse disorder:

“When HIV jumped from chimpanzees to humans sometime in the early 1900s, it crossed a gulf spanning several million years of evolution. But tobacco ringspot virus, scientists announced last week, has made a jump that defies credulity. It has crossed a yawning chasm ~1.6 billion years wide. And this is likely bad news for its new host, the honeybee, matchmaker of crops and bringer of honey.  …

As scientists were studying the possible role of pollen in spreading known bee viruses, a team of scientists from the United States and China began screening bees and pollen for viruses of all sorts. To their surprise, as they reported Jan. 21 in the journal mBio, they discovered a common plant virus — tobacco ringspot virus — had seemingly infested honeybees. Was it merely a transient visitor? Or had it made itself at home in a place inconceivably different from its usual digs?”

Full article http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/2014/01/31/suspicious-virus-makes-rare-cross-kingdom-leap-from-plants-to-honeybees/

Image from Wikipedia

Rom-Com Death March Reduces Divorce Rate

Divorce rate cut in half when couples watch relationship movies together:

“Study participants were sent home with a list of 47 movies with intimate relationships as a major plot focus and asked to watch one a week for the next month, followed by the same guided discussion for about 45 minutes. Which approach proved most effective? To the surprise of the researchers, all worked equally well. All three methods halved the divorce-and-separation rate to 11 percent compared to the 24 percent rate among the couples in the control group. Partners in the control group received no training or instructions but were otherwise similar in age, education, ethnicity, relationship satisfaction, and other dimensions.”

Full list of the movies http://edu.surveygizmo.com/s3/1508519/movie

Full article http://www.mdconnects.com/articles/302/20140131/divorce-rate-cut-half-couples-who-discussed-relationship-movies.htm

Complex Things Explained in 10 Words or Less

Another open-ended discussion challenging others to explain something complex in under ten words:

Cancer is what happens when cells forget how to die.

Less vs. fewer: If you can count it, use fewer.

Computers – they do exactly what they’re told to.

You’re made of chemicals. They work like magnetic Legos. Neat.

Geocaching is playing hide and seek using billion dollar satellites

Put penis in vagina. Move back and forth. Wait. Baby!

Evolution: Try a bunch of random shit, toss what doesn’t work.

Anyone can be happy if they lower their standards enough.

Google – an algorithm to show you what other people wanted.

Orbits: Falling sideways so fast, you continually miss the ground.

Q: How do vaccines cause autism? A: They don’t.

Journalism: Call people and write down the dumbest things they say.

Existence: Get conceived, be born, live a while, die, be forgotten.

The entire universe is simply four forces acting on energy.

All from http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1wmy8c/what_is_the_most_complicated_thing_that_you_can/

Image from http://i197.photobucket.com/albums/aa107/mnbilliards/Fun%20Pix/Pool/10-Ball-Real.png

Just One Gene Determines the Queen Bee

From science blogs:

“A research team led by Wayne State University, in collaboration with Michigan State University, has identified a single gene in honeybees that separates the queens from the workers. The scientists unraveled the gene’s inner workings and published the results in the current issue of Biology Letters. The gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees’ ability to carry pollen. “The gene – Ultrabithorax, or Ubx – is responsible for making hind legs different from fore legs so they can carry pollen” said Aleksandar Popadic, associate professor of biological sciences in Wayne State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Science and principal investigator of the study. “In some groups, like crickets, Ubx is responsible for creating a ‘jumping’ hind leg. In others, such as bees, it makes a pollen basket – a ‘naked,’ bristle-free leg region that creates a space for packing pollen.””

Full post http://www.mdconnects.com/articles/305/20140131/research-led-wayne-state-discovers-single-gene-bees-separating-queens.htm

Why Are Sloths So Slow?

“For sloths, it’s one that works and is based primarily on metabolism and adapting to that change! Sloths are eating incredibly poor food. Plants do everything they possibly can to guard against being eaten, from tying up material in difficult to digest things like cellulose or lignin to producing compounds to actively reduce the efficiency of their digestion! Sloths have overcome many of these defenses by digesting food for extremely long times. By taking longer to digest the food and developing internal adaptations to do so, they can get energy out of a very abundant resource in the tropics; however, this comes at a price: they are limited in speed! Sloths move extremely slowly, so once they’re spotted, they’re easy game. Fortunately for the sloths, they’ve managed to develop forms of crypsis to avoid being seen! They can move so slowly that they are actually able to host algae and plant material in their fur, making them blend into their surroundings more easily. Moving slowly also draws less attention in general, so they can avoid being spotted that way.”

Unidan comments on Sloth crawling out of the water.

Humans are Altricial and Precocial

“When we discuss life history of animals, we discuss them as altricial or precocial. Altricial animals produce large number of offspring with a relatively small energetic investment in each one; therefore, the offspring are born pretty weak and many will probably die. Cats, mice, dogs – any animal that produces a litter is probably altricial. Other animals are precocial. That means a large energetic investment goes into each offspring; they usually reproduce one at a time and their offspring are born pretty ready to handle a lot on their own. Think of elephants, horses, whales, and so forth: long gestation periods, and offspring born capable of pretty full locomotion. Humans are the odd case. We are secondarily altricial. Our reproductive strategy looks like that of a precocial species – one progeny at a time and a substantial resource investment in each – but our infants resemble altricial infants much more than precocial ones.

Human life history only make sense if you look at human infants as fetuses that are continuing to develop outside the womb, and happen to have been born prematurely. In fact, up until it reaches eight months to a year of age, it is much more consistent with developmental understandings to see any baby as a prematurely born infant. Therefore, most of the development that you see in an infant is that which would “normally” take place in the womb. This is because, quite frankly, our large brain size prohibits birth at full brain weight. Most precocial mammals are born with brains fairly close to adult brain size; we do most brain development outside the womb that other precocial species do inside.”

Anthropologist on Reddit  comments on ‘If a child is born premature, do they develop as if they were still in the womb?

Image from http://www.ascensionearth2012.org/2013/12/neanderthal-viruses-found-in-modern.html