What we're talking about Chance Cancer Mutations Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chance Cancer Mutations

Why do we die?

Pharyngula January 13, 2015

I finally got around to finishing Greta Christina’s Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. It’s good! This book is the sort of thing atheism needs more of: an acknowledgment that the phenomena most important to human beings can be addressed effectively without imagining fantastic supernatural creatures. Atheists have this reputation…

That paper that proposed that most cancers were due to bad luck, that is, that they were a consequence of biological factors that could not be controlled, has been surprisingly controversial. I thought it was a fairly unsurprising paper that confirmed what we already suspected, but wow, the furious pushback has been something to behold.…

If there is one cause of cancer, it would be genetic damage to somatic cells. So all we have to do to cure cancer is prevent all genetic damage! That’s not a very useful prescription, unfortunately; it’s rather like saying that all we have to do to prevent accidental deaths is prohibit all potential causes…

This new year, researchers concluded that 2/3 of the difference in cancer risk between different parts of the body can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions those parts undergo. More divisions reflect a higher risk as errors that occur naturally during the DNA replication process can contribute to the development of cancer. On Pharyngula, PZ Myers suggests this is one reason we naturally get old and die: so that we don't allow our cells too many years to accumulate mutations. Of course, mutations are rare and unpredictably distributed, and not all of them are dangerous, making who gets cancer largely a matter of chance. The new study also shows which cancers are most influenced by lifestyle factors. PZ writes,"colorectal and lung cancers do have a significant risk beyond what can be accounted for by stochastic errors, so pursuing a reduction in exposure to risk factors, like diet and smoking, can have a useful role in reducing the incidence of these cancers."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Just yesterday, Japanese fishermen caught a 6m long giant squid, and it lived for a few hours before expiring. Here’s a video of the rare beastie swimming about, with shots of the tragic corpse afterwards.

Dr. Thane Wibbels (University of Alabama at Birmingham) is interested in studying how temperature affects the sex of red-eared slider turtle embryos. For humans, the answer is simple: sex chromosomes. You know, the combination of XX means girl and XY means boy. Turtles are not that simple. Temperature is a factor in determining whether the…

They absolutely refuse to touch themselves.

Physical Science

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars eleven Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine after driving ~42 km! This is the farthest any off-planet vehicle has gone so far. Oppy’s mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another…

The low-level cold I’ve been nursing for a month now finally exploded into the full unpleasantness of my usual winter illness Saturday, or else I would’ve been more active following up on my Deflategate article and my ideal gas law post. As it was, for most of the day, I could barely keep on top…

“You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge.” -Eckhart Tolle It’s been an amazing week here at Starts With A Bang, and you’ve been given plenty to think about. In particular, here’s what the past seven days have seen:…

Environment

Or so says Gavin in How Climate Change Denial Still Gets Published in Peer-Reviewed Journals via Retraction Watch. Dountless Monkers will welcome yet another chance to bluster and threaten to sue1. The paper has been “harshly criticized by physicists” (who knew ATTP was plural, eh?) and “climate scientists” though to be fair ATTP only really…

Since it is Caturday, and I don’ think I’ve posted these before. A King Cheetah (a rather large form of cat) in South Africa: Picture Of Cat On Top Photo Credit: Gatto Mimmo via Compfight cc

Dr. Thane Wibbels (University of Alabama at Birmingham) is interested in studying how temperature affects the sex of red-eared slider turtle embryos. For humans, the answer is simple: sex chromosomes. You know, the combination of XX means girl and XY means boy. Turtles are not that simple. Temperature is a factor in determining whether the…

Humanities

Rarely do poverty and optimal health go together. In fact, income is consistently tapped as a major factor underpinning a person’s opportunity to live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, children don’t fare much better, with low-income children facing increased risks of poor health and development. So, just how many American children face this challenge today? Four out of every 10.

I’m not in the mood for heavy blogging just now, so how about we discuss something light and frivolous. Like the meaning of life. Back in July, I wrote this: Answers about our origins have no implications at all for questions of meaning and value. Arising through blind, uncaring forces in no way implies that…

As more research is emerging on the potential health effects of fracking, a new study — perhaps the largest to date of its kind — has found that people living near natural gas wells may be at increased risk for adverse health impacts, including skin and respiratory conditions.

Education

Dr. Thane Wibbels (University of Alabama at Birmingham) is interested in studying how temperature affects the sex of red-eared slider turtle embryos. For humans, the answer is simple: sex chromosomes. You know, the combination of XX means girl and XY means boy. Turtles are not that simple. Temperature is a factor in determining whether the…

Having made several mentions here of the two tenure-track faculty positions we were trying to fill, I feel like I ought to at least note the completion of the search. As of last Friday, all the papers have been signed with properly dotted i’s and crossed t’s, and we have two new tenure-track assistant professors…

I came across an interesting study published last month in American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is a disorder in which the upper airway is repeatedly obstructed during sleep resulting in bouts of intermittent hypoxia (low oxygen concentrations). I had no idea that OSA is…

Politics

I’m not in the mood for heavy blogging just now, so how about we discuss something light and frivolous. Like the meaning of life. Back in July, I wrote this: Answers about our origins have no implications at all for questions of meaning and value. Arising through blind, uncaring forces in no way implies that…

In the week before his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama took modest but important steps toward expanding US workers’ access to paid sick and family leave.

I will assume you are paying some attention to the discussion of racism vis-a-vis Charlie Hebdo, Muslim bashing, obnoxious religious (in this case Islamic) rules of behavior, freedom of speech and expression, etc. If you were thinking that this situation is simple you better check your thought process, or your privilege, or something. Get an…

Medicine

Oh, no, here we go again. In fact, before I get started, I feel obligated to show this clip, saying, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in again: Yes, I know I’ve used this clip on multiple occasions before over years. However, sometimes it’s just so completely appropriate to how…

Dr. Thane Wibbels (University of Alabama at Birmingham) is interested in studying how temperature affects the sex of red-eared slider turtle embryos. For humans, the answer is simple: sex chromosomes. You know, the combination of XX means girl and XY means boy. Turtles are not that simple. Temperature is a factor in determining whether the…

In the wake of antivaccine-pandering pediatrician “Dr. Bob” Sears’ attempt to paint the measles as no big deal, so much so that it totally escaped his notice that it might not be a bad idea to recommend that the unvaccinated get the MMR vaccine in the midst of an outbreak, the bad news about the…

Brain & Behavior

Dr. Thane Wibbels (University of Alabama at Birmingham) is interested in studying how temperature affects the sex of red-eared slider turtle embryos. For humans, the answer is simple: sex chromosomes. You know, the combination of XX means girl and XY means boy. Turtles are not that simple. Temperature is a factor in determining whether the…

I came across an interesting study published last month in American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is a disorder in which the upper airway is repeatedly obstructed during sleep resulting in bouts of intermittent hypoxia (low oxygen concentrations). I had no idea that OSA is…

I listened to a really interesting story on NPR this morning about new discoveries regarding the flight patterns of bar-headed geese. These birds are known for their incredible ability to fly over the Himalayas on their annual migration to central Asia. Until now, it was often assumed that the birds reached a specific altitude and then simply…

Technology

Just a note to celebrate the life and times of Hedy Lamarr, who died on this day, 2000, at the age of 85. Lamarr had a very interesting career that involved major acting accomplishments, milestone acting events, and direct involvement in the invention of the technology that now forms the basis of WiFi, BlueTooth and…

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. The fourteenth…

Few fish can survive the immense pressure of living in the deep sea. The Mariana Trench can reach around 36,200 feet deep with pressures of over 1,000 atmosphere. Scientists have placed landers at various depths ranging from 16,400-34,750 feet along the walls of the trench and have discovered what appears to be the “World’s Deepest…

Information Science

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I’ve done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. And here we are in 2014! As in previous years,…

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I’ve done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. And here we are in 2014! As in previous years,…

I’ve been intermittently profiling people with STEM degrees and non-academic jobs since 2009, as it turns out. One of the questions in the profile asks “What’s the most important thing you learned from science?” These have been some of the most interesting responses, so I thought it might be interesting, while I sit here and…

Jobs

Rarely do poverty and optimal health go together. In fact, income is consistently tapped as a major factor underpinning a person’s opportunity to live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, children don’t fare much better, with low-income children facing increased risks of poor health and development. So, just how many American children face this challenge today? Four out of every 10.

MSHA fought for 20 year to eliminate the use of an average over multiple shifts to characterize miners’ exposure to respirable coal mine dust. It seems strange now to read MSHA announce the success of a new coal dust regulation by reporting the annual average coal mine dust levels.

Having made several mentions here of the two tenure-track faculty positions we were trying to fill, I feel like I ought to at least note the completion of the search. As of last Friday, all the papers have been signed with properly dotted i’s and crossed t’s, and we have two new tenure-track assistant professors…