What we're talking about Craniate Kith and Kin Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Craniate Kith and Kin

Good news, everyone! The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that captive chimpanzees deserve the same protection as wild chimpanzees. We’ve been living for years with a peculiar split decision that says it is illegal to experiment on some chimps, the ones still living in the wild, but other chimps, those that live in…

We hear this all the time. Pig physiology is like people physiology. Pigs and humans have the same immune system, same digestive system, get the same diseases. Pigs are smart like people are smart. Pigs are smarter than dogs. And so on. Ask a faunal expert in archaeology or a human paleoanatomist: Pig teeth are…

  Another reason to marvel at dolphins. As a follow up to the previous blog on dolphins calling each other by name, new research from Dr. Jason Bruck at the Institute for Mind and Biology (University of Chicago) shows that dolphins have the longest memory known in animals. In addition to Kai, shown above, a…

As researchers continue to document the intelligence and emotional acuity of animals, beasts begin to look more like brethren, and food more like friend. On Pharyngula, PZ Myers shares a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that accords chimpanzees used in research the same endangered status as their wild counterparts. According to Science, "organizations that want to continue working with chimpanzees will have to document that the work enhances the survival of the species and benefits chimps in the wild." PZ writes, "I want to see more studies done on our closest relatives — but it has to be done in a way that respects their right to live." Meanwhile, Greg Laden considers commonalities humans share with one of our preferred sources of animal protein—pigs. A new review of past swine research emphasizes that pigs have excellent long-term memories, comprehend simple symbols, demonstrate empathy, and are very social: they play with, help, and even deceive each other. Greg stresses that pig-human similarity is qualitatively different from chimp-human similarity, resulting not from close ancestry, but from parallel evolutionary histories—including an affinity for eating roots.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Is it Shark Week again? I wouldn’t know, because their destructive and dishonest portrayals of these amazing animals was a major factor leading me to turn off the Discovery Channel and never watch it again. Read David Shiffman’s essay on the abuses of sharks, and join the rest of us in contributing to Discovery’s declining…

Especially if you’re a cuttlefish.

Turtles are nifty animals, with a remarkable adaptation: they’ve taken their ribs and shifted them outside their appendicular skeleton, flattened and expanded them, and turned them into a shell. It’s a clever twist, and it doesn’t require any magic — just a shift in timing during development, with a little extra signaling. The molecular biology…

Physical Science

“Now, Venus is an extremely hostile environment, and as such presents a lot of challenges for a science fiction author who wants to create life there. However, as I began to research it more thoroughly, I found myself intrigued by the possibilities the world offers.” –Sarah Zettel Of all the worlds in our Solar System,…

I’ve been doing a bunch of conferencing recently, what with DAMOP a few weeks ago and then Convergence last week. This prompted me to write up a couple of posts about conference-related things, which I posted over at Forbes. These were apparently a pretty bad fit for the folks reading over there, as they’ve gotten…

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” –Bruce Lee One of the greatest tricks that filmmakers use to enhance what can be shown in apparent real-time…

Environment

Workers and safety advocates delivered petitions with 25,000 signatures to Hyundai’s headquarters demanding better working conditions at companies in the automaker’s supply chain. Exposure to isocyanates in the manufacturing of automobile seats is a particular concern.

Mark Lynas, one of the EcoMod crowd, has noticed what I pointed out – that Da Fadder is not on their side, indeed opposed. Whether the Bishop of Rome has noticed that the EcoMods disagree with him is another matter. ML roughly parallels what I said, but gets carried away with the goodness of his…

No, not Eli but The Economist. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that they have a somewhat different perspective, closer to mine, or perhaps vice versa. They do some half-hearted “analysis” of the South Africa and Israel disinvestment campaigns, but really all they do is point at a couple of graphs and say “its hard to…

Humanities

This year’s first week of fieldwork at Stensö Castle went exceptionally well, even though I drove a camper van belonging to a team member into a ditch. We’re a team of thirteen, four of whom took part in last year’s fieldwork at the site. All except me and co-director Ethan Aines are Umeå archaeology students.…

This went around a different corner of my social-media universe while I was off in Waterloo, away from my iTunes. I was curious about it, though, so looked at the contents of the “25 Most Played” playlist, and having done that, I might as well post them here (the number in parentheses is the number…

A common hurdle in the field of occupational health and safety is delivering what can sometimes be life-saving information to the people who need it most. After all, not all employers are amenable to workplace health and safety education. But what if safety advocates could find and connect with the most at-risk workers out in the community? Perhaps even reach vulnerable workers with safety education before they experience an injury at work?

Education

I’ve been doing a bunch of conferencing recently, what with DAMOP a few weeks ago and then Convergence last week. This prompted me to write up a couple of posts about conference-related things, which I posted over at Forbes. These were apparently a pretty bad fit for the folks reading over there, as they’ve gotten…

I’ve been pretty quiet about educational matters of late, for the simple reason that I was too busy teaching to say much. The dust having settled a bit, though, I thought I would put some notes here about what I did this past term, and what worked. I had two sections of the introductory Newtonian…

Could you imagine artificial skin capable of quickly changing colors to communicate or hide? Scientists have been testing ways to mimic the skin of cephalopods like squid, octopuses and cuttlefish, which have a remarkable ability to change skin color and sometimes even texture to mimic their surroundings. Cephalopods have networks of chromatophores, which are cells within…

Politics

A new take on TPP, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, gives me another reason to give the TPP a thumbs down.

The US Treasury Department has announced that the $10 bill will have a depiction of a woman, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to vote. And now, apparently, everyone can vote on who that woman will be. Or, at least, make a suggestion. The bill…

Historic agreement reached between farmworkers and agribusiness in Baja California; New York fast food workers testify in support of higher wages; Cal-OSHA to strengthen its heat exposure oversight; and labor advocates say an upcoming visit from Pope Francis could be a boost for workers.

Medicine

A common hurdle in the field of occupational health and safety is delivering what can sometimes be life-saving information to the people who need it most. After all, not all employers are amenable to workplace health and safety education. But what if safety advocates could find and connect with the most at-risk workers out in the community? Perhaps even reach vulnerable workers with safety education before they experience an injury at work?

A few of my favorite quotes from health groups in response to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

About a year and a half ago, I began an intermittent series that I called How “They” View “Us.” There are several posts in the series now. Basically, given the amount of nastiness directed at those of us who refute pseudoscience, in particular quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience, by those who believe in it, I tried…

Brain & Behavior

Analyzing online searches and social media activity has often been suggested as a way to track and maybe even predict the spread of diseases. And it’s a great idea — if it’s done right, it could offer public health workers real-time surveillance and a jumpstart at containing dangerous outbreaks. But there’s a hitch. How can we attempt to decipher between online activity triggered by the possibility of actual disease symptoms and online activity triggered by simple curiosity?

Could you imagine artificial skin capable of quickly changing colors to communicate or hide? Scientists have been testing ways to mimic the skin of cephalopods like squid, octopuses and cuttlefish, which have a remarkable ability to change skin color and sometimes even texture to mimic their surroundings. Cephalopods have networks of chromatophores, which are cells within…

Just one more example of how much humans and chimpanzees have in common. Check out this podcast describing wild chimpanzees seen drinking fermented tree sap as well as the video below. Supplement video uploaded by the study’s authors (Hockings et al., Royal Society Open Science, 2015) on Youtube. Sources: Scientific American KJ Hockings, N Bryson-Morrison,…

Technology

Analyzing online searches and social media activity has often been suggested as a way to track and maybe even predict the spread of diseases. And it’s a great idea — if it’s done right, it could offer public health workers real-time surveillance and a jumpstart at containing dangerous outbreaks. But there’s a hitch. How can we attempt to decipher between online activity triggered by the possibility of actual disease symptoms and online activity triggered by simple curiosity?

Gemini is what got me into space, science, all of it. Amy Shira Teitel can bring you up to speed. Gemini worked out almost everything that had to be worked out to go to the moon. Not the part with the big fire cracker under the tin can to take off from the moon, but…

If you have not already had a chance to see it, the T. Rex Autopsy airing on the National Geographic channel is a must-see! They literally created a model of T. Rex based on available evidence about T. Rex and other dinosaurs as well as evidence from modern birds and then performed an “autopsy”. The conclusion: T.…

Information Science

A common hurdle in the field of occupational health and safety is delivering what can sometimes be life-saving information to the people who need it most. After all, not all employers are amenable to workplace health and safety education. But what if safety advocates could find and connect with the most at-risk workers out in the community? Perhaps even reach vulnerable workers with safety education before they experience an injury at work?

There’s lots of discussion out there right now in the twitter and blog world concerning Bjorn Brembs’ call to librarians to jumpstart the mass migration to Open Access by essentially unilaterally cancelling all the journals they subscribe to. This act would force the hands of all the various players in the ecosystem to immediately figure…

A bit of a change of pace for me and my reviewing habits — a book written in French! Of course, books about science or scientists are pretty typical review fodder for me. And even more typically, graphic novels about science or scientists are incredibly common for me to review. But books in French? This…

Jobs

Workers and safety advocates delivered petitions with 25,000 signatures to Hyundai’s headquarters demanding better working conditions at companies in the automaker’s supply chain. Exposure to isocyanates in the manufacturing of automobile seats is a particular concern.

A common hurdle in the field of occupational health and safety is delivering what can sometimes be life-saving information to the people who need it most. After all, not all employers are amenable to workplace health and safety education. But what if safety advocates could find and connect with the most at-risk workers out in the community? Perhaps even reach vulnerable workers with safety education before they experience an injury at work?

For the just the second time in 10 years, OSHA issued citations to a poultry company for repetitive motion hazards that cause musculoskeletal injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.