What we're talking about Thursday, April 27, 2017

Exoplanet Extravaganza

“It isn’t only the beauty of the night sky that thrills me. It’s the sense I have that some of those points of light are the home stars of beings not so different from us, daily cares and all. who look across space with wonder, just as we do.” -Frank Drake What is it that…

As more and more exoplanets (at first) and earth-like exoplanets (eventually) have been discovered, the way thy are described to us has become increasingly sophisticated. Below are embeds of diverse video descriptions that have been very quickly developed and distributed given the freshness of this latest scientific discovery. Note that the practice of very clearly…

Exoplanet hunters have discovered a cache of rocky planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1 only forty light-years away. Compared to our sun, TRAPPIST-1 is tiny, and all its planets orbit closer than Mercury orbits Sol. But three of them are still in the Goldilocks zone that could be just right for life, and all seven planets could theoretically hold liquid water. While Ethan Siegel introduces the neighboring star system with spectacular illustrations from NASA and ESO, Greg Laden says that the practice of saying these images are artistic interpretations "has largely fallen by the wayside." Instead, scientific outreach has turned to storytelling in order to capture public interest.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Thank you Dr. Barb Goodman (Director of SD Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network, Fellow of the American Physiological Society, Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota) who sent me information about thirsty koalas. Koalas typically hydrate themselves from the leaves of eucalyptus trees. But recently researchers at the University of Sydney have noticed…

The August Krogh Distinguished lecture was awarded to Dr. Warren Burggren, who gave a fantastic lecture on epigenetics, or modifications to gene expression. He discussed how epigenetic changes to our genes are reversible. So when a stimulus like hypoxia changes our genes, these epigenetic changes to the genes go away rather quickly when the hypoxic insult…

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

Physical Science

The Washington Post: What we are reporting here isn’t fake news. But it doesn’t feel exactly like real news, either. It’s in that foggy realm of Trump news in which everything is slightly ambiguous and wobbly and internally inconsistent and almost certainly improvisational and not actually grounded in what you could call “government policy.” LOL…

“You must remember, my dear lady, the most important rule of any successful illusion: First, the people must want to believe in it.” -Libba Bray There are many times throughout history that science — and scientists — have gotten it wrong. And there are many topics today that are quite polarized, from the Big Bang…

“I was always amused when overtaking one of these great monsters [a tortoise], as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead. I frequently got…

Environment

Perspective: It’s Not a War on Science by Clark A. Miller puts forward the thesis that What appears to be a war on science by the current Congress and president is, in fact, no such thing. Fundamentally, it is a war on government. To be more specific, it is a war on a form of…

The August Krogh Distinguished lecture was awarded to Dr. Warren Burggren, who gave a fantastic lecture on epigenetics, or modifications to gene expression. He discussed how epigenetic changes to our genes are reversible. So when a stimulus like hypoxia changes our genes, these epigenetic changes to the genes go away rather quickly when the hypoxic insult…

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

Humanities

The August Krogh Distinguished lecture was awarded to Dr. Warren Burggren, who gave a fantastic lecture on epigenetics, or modifications to gene expression. He discussed how epigenetic changes to our genes are reversible. So when a stimulus like hypoxia changes our genes, these epigenetic changes to the genes go away rather quickly when the hypoxic insult…

More than 8 million U.S. children depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for access to timely medical care. The program is authorized through 2019, but its federal funding expires in September and it’s unclear what Congress will do.

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

Education

The August Krogh Distinguished lecture was awarded to Dr. Warren Burggren, who gave a fantastic lecture on epigenetics, or modifications to gene expression. He discussed how epigenetic changes to our genes are reversible. So when a stimulus like hypoxia changes our genes, these epigenetic changes to the genes go away rather quickly when the hypoxic insult…

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

Yesterday was a great day for comparative physiology! Highlights from the seminars on comparative physiology: Melissa Reiterer, graduate student from Florida Atlantic University, presented her research on how freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta) survive for long periods of time without oxygen and do not develop oxidative stress after oxygen is restored. The turtles are able to do this…

Politics

More than 8 million U.S. children depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for access to timely medical care. The program is authorized through 2019, but its federal funding expires in September and it’s unclear what Congress will do.

Lennox Yearwood Jr was on his way to speak at the March for Science in DC, when something bad happened. He tells us: …at the March For Science in Washington DC on Earth Day, I was assaulted, roughed up, and detained by police in the shadow of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and…

Legislation in response to a BuzzFeed News investigation into the Baltimore County Police Department’s failure to appropriately investigate many rape cases clarifies that in Maryland, no means no.

Medicine

This week, the FDA sent warning letters to 14 companies making unsupported claims that their products can treat cancer. Given the new administration’s determination to deregulate almost everything, but especially the FDA, is this the last time in the foreseeable future that such a crackdown will occur?

Last month, the Texas Medical Board fined Houston cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and placed his practice under supervision. It did not strip him of his medical license, as he deserves. The result is that families of children with terminal cancer are once again raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to follow his siren song of false hope.

More than 8 million U.S. children depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for access to timely medical care. The program is authorized through 2019, but its federal funding expires in September and it’s unclear what Congress will do.

Brain & Behavior

The August Krogh Distinguished lecture was awarded to Dr. Warren Burggren, who gave a fantastic lecture on epigenetics, or modifications to gene expression. He discussed how epigenetic changes to our genes are reversible. So when a stimulus like hypoxia changes our genes, these epigenetic changes to the genes go away rather quickly when the hypoxic insult…

Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons in the brain of zebra finches do in fact decrease dopamine signals when the birds hear an…

A new article published in Physiological Reviews compared some remarkable similarities and differences between naked mole rats and humans. Both are relatively long-lived, highly social and have low natural selection pressures. But, this is about all they have in common. While humans are prone to developing age-related cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementias, naked mole rats…

Technology

Learn to Program with Small Basic: An Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math is yet another addition to the growing list of programming books for people interesting in learning programming. Basic is an under-appreciated language. I wish I had a good basic compiler handy, and I’d love to see a basic scripting…

Researchers at George Mason University have created a synthetic version of a peptide found in the blood of Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis). They dubbed the synthetic peptide DRGN-1. Living up to its name, DRGN-1 proved to be pretty tough against microbes (Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus) as well as biofilms. Bacteria stick together to create biofilms that attach to surfaces and help…

Have a look at the list of books, below. Would you like a subset, or all, of these books, in electronic format, for very cheap? There is a way to do that. Note: This is time sensitive, the offer running for just about two weeks and it started yesterday. I’ve reviewed several of these books…

Information Science

Many thanks to the organizers of this past weekend’s March on Science here in Toronto. They invited me to be part of the amazing roster of speakers for the event. I was honoured to take part and offer some of the lessons I’ve learned in the course of my various listing projects over the last…

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, supported by Education Minnesota, ran the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards ceremony tonight, and Amanda and I were graciously invited by author Shawn Otto and State Auditor and Gubernatorial Hopeful Rebecca Otto to join them at their table. Shawn’s wildly popular, and extremely, increasingly relevant book The…

For your reading and collection development pleasure… It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, kind of seeing what’s on my mind a little in the science-y and tech-y book world and kind of a way to help me remember what I want to pick up. It’s also been a while since…

Jobs

Immigrant workers who get injured at work now fearful about accessing workers’ comp; women ironworkers win six months of paid maternity leave; many home health workers still going without health insurance coverage; and a health care union declares itself a sanctuary for immigrants.

OSHA’s list of bad actors has two new members. An update of the agency’s “severe violators” program shows two companies were added since President Trump took office.

In February 2017, garment workers in Myanmar, who were enraged by abusive and illegal working conditions, stormed their factory and smashed $75,000 worth of equipment. The worker revolt revealed the broken promises of international clothing brands that sweatshop apparel production would lead to better lives and “empowerment.”