Life Science

Genetic Drifters

On Pharyngula, PZ Myers criticizes the stubborn obfuscations of Michael Behe, who refuses to yield his illogical calculations. Behe says (rightly) that a certain mutation necessary for drug resistance in the malaria parasite has about a 1 in 1020 chance of occurring. But the mutation is also detected in 96% of malaria patients who respond…

This entry doesn’t have a fictionalized story both because I’m on vacation, and because I don’t think there’s a single dramatic turning point in this particular story. It’s probably one of the most impressive human accomplishments of the last umpteen thousand years, though, and definitely deserves a place in any rundown of wonders of science.…

H. erectus…doodler

Also, master of molluscan anatomy, and clever tool user. This paper, Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving, by Joordens et al. tells an interesting story from some mundane artifacts made half a million years ago. What the investigators have is a jumble of clam shells, found in the…

Following on yesterday’s story of transformative discoveries starting by accident, we’ll jump from the Middle East to the Far East for the probably apocryphal story of the Empress Leizu (also sometimes referred to as Xi Lingshi) who is credited with the discovery of silk around 2600 BCE. One of the many versions of the story…

Friday Cephalopod: It’s a montage!

The physics of dogs drinking water

I have to be honest. I have always wondered whether my dog actually got any water in his mouth. It always seemed to me that the majority of water ends up on my floor. High speed video collected and analyzed by a team of researchers from Virginia Tech (Sean Gart, Jake Socha and Sunghwan Jung)…

He keeps saying the same ol’ debunked crap over and over again, and nowadays when a paper comes out that shows he was completely wrong about something, he spins it into a triumphant vindication for his sycophantic fans, who are all, apparently, abysmally innumerate. The hobby horse he’s been riding for the past few years…

Granted this is not comparative physiology, I thought this study was really interesting. Research has shown that exposure of developing embryos to caffeine in utero can alter the expression of genes in the heart leading to changes in how the heart develops and functions in adult animals. New research from the University of Florida published in…

The fungal tea tastes vile, and not for the first time he considers dumping it on the last of the morning’s fire. It does seem to be helping the pain in his gut, though, as the medicine man said it would, so he gulps the last of it with a grimace. Around him the younger…

Temperature and sex determination

Some interesting new research. The paper is, unfortunately, behind a paywall but they made a video, so it is worth posting. Here’s the press release for the paper: Scientists know that temperature determines sex in certain reptiles—alligators, lizards, turtles, and possibly dinosaurs. In many turtles, warm temperatures during incubation create females. Cold temperatures, males. But…