Life Science

Beware of freezing hearts

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) are really cute when they hibernate (above). During torpor bouts, their body temperature decreases to a few degrees Celsius and their metabolism drops by as much as 95% with heart rates ranging from only 3-10 beats per minute. These bouts of torpor are interrupted by periodic arousals every couple of weeks during which their…

It’s been nearly two decades since the last publication of a nationwide survey on the distribution of blacklegged ticks — the primary transmitters of Lyme disease. That survey, released in 1998, reported the tick in 30 percent of U.S. counties. Today, a new study using similar surveillance methods has found the tick in more than 45 percent of counties.

Anonymous agents behaving underminingly

The stories about prominent harassers in the field of astronomy have been coming out a lot lately, and kudos to the field for taking steps to end a severe and chronic problem that impairs the advancement of half the members of the human race. But of course you knew the counter-reaction was coming. It’s inevitable.…

Scientists behaving deviously

There are some scientific technologies that rapidly become ubiquitious and indispensible, and they become the engine that drives tremendous amounts of research, win Nobel prizes, and are eventually taken for granted. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one example: PCR is routine in molecular biology now, but I remember when PCR machines were magical objects of…

Oh rats!

As I was perusing YouTube I came across a video from National Geographic that I must admit was fascinating while at the same time disturbing. The video describes how rats are able to travel from the sewer into your toilet. Although this is reportedly an uncommon occurence, I will be sure to look before I…

Learning new songs

New research shows that premotor neurons are activated in the brains of adolescent male zebra finches whenever a young bird hears their father (a tutor) sing. These are the same neurons that are usually activated in anticipation of movement. What is special about this, is that as the birds learned new songs or pieces of new songs,…

But that’s not how science works!

There will be an interesting meeting in London next fall,

This is a new one: an octopus farm. Kanaloa Octopus Farm is open for business — for $200, you can get your very own pet octopus. Unfortunately, they’re caught in a chicken-and-egg problem. You should not encourage the capture of cephalopods in the wild, so it’s a great idea to have a breeding program to…

A few days ago, David Bowie died of cancer. This morning I learned that the actor Alan Rickman has died of cancer. You all know the rule of threes, right? It has been satisfied, because in his state of the union address Barack Obama announced that he was going to kill American biological research, with…