Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

The Tangled BankWelcome everyone to the 75th edition of Tangled Bank! There is plenty of material here to read so I think that you all will find something to interest you in this collection of the most recent stories about science, nature and medicine. So without further ado, I will let you jump right in.


Science and Religion

Tara at Aetiology wrote about a recent talk about Intelligent Design by Fred Skiff — a presentation that was long on rhetoric, short on light.

I wrote a book review about God: the Failed Hypothesis by Victor J. Stenger. The book critically examines both empirical data and scientific models for the existence of a supreme, transcendant being — God — and finds them to be inadequate.

Ion, Editor at Avant News, writes a story about how California Scientists Map God Genome. These scientists discover that there is not a particularly close genetic relationship between god and humans, leading them to propose that each species may have its own version of god, and we have yet to map the genome of our own particular god.

Paddy takes a brief, humorous look at the insidious ways that creationists sneak into our homes.

Joseph responds to creationists’ declaration that schools should “teach the controversy” — never once realizing that there is no controversy except a false one of their own manufacturing.

Science in the Blogosphere

Hsien says goodbye to the blogosphere because EurekaAlert stubbornly refuses to provide access to embargoed science papers to her (and other sciencebloggers, ahem) so she can write about science on her blog. As an independent scholar and science blog writer who has no professional affiliation at this time, this is a huge handicap that I also deal with daily — having no access to science until after it is published, and often not even then! The door to the scientific world has been slammed shut and firmly padlocked against free agents and blog writers like Hsien by organizations such as these, for no reason other than unadulterated journalistic cronyism.

Richard reviews some of Darwin’s scanned notebooks that are online, specifically, one of the two field journals that follows Darwin’s Red Notebook where he had only just begun to believe that evolution occurs, before he had his eureka moment and worked out the mechanism for evolution (natural selection).

In his piece, Barry wonders if he is smarter than his ancestors because of the easy availability of information on the internet; Sipping from an Ocean.

Natural History of Humans

Martin reminisces about society as he ponders a Bic lighter in A defense for archaeology.

Jeremy writes about the “built landscape” hypothesis of Amazonia, which basically states that the incredible biodiversity seen in the South American rainforest is largely due to a skilled agricultural society of millions that possessed the capacity to simultaneously promote successful agriculture while maintaining biodiversity; that they managed and cultivated most of the Amazon rainforest, and the region’s apparent virginity is only an illusion.

Barry asks what separates humans from the animals?

Natural History of Animals

John at A DC Birding Blog presents his narrative about his latest birding trip to Constitution Gardens in Washington DC in Wind and Waterbirds.

Mike from 10000 Birds writes about buff and tawny coloration in birds for those of you who are bird coloration buffs.

Biotunes sends in a second post of the Cool Bug of the Fortnight, which appears to be a nascent ongoing series. This issue forcuses on the courtship of a “true” fruit fly, Rhagoletis juglandis and includes pictures.

Carel writes about the natural history of the Trionychidae turtles and includes several of his paintings and some photographs to tantalize your senses.

Scientific Issues

Reagan writes about some scientific challenges involved with personalized medical care. The set of problems is by no means exhaustive, but the post describes what the author sees as the three biggest issues: identifying genetic polymorphisms that have an impact on disease, predicting what diseases a person is at risk for, and developing drugs that are more effective and have fewer adverse effects.

Jeremy writes an argument in support of compulsory labeling of genetically modified foods, without any possibility of opting out.

Jennifer writes about Beach Bark Disease, a complex infection with insects and fungi that is threatening beech tree forests across America. This infection will likely have dire consequences for wildlife as the trees die out.

Medicine

Orac from Respectful Insolence writes eloquently about how cancer is more complex and adaptable than we think it is in his piece; “The deadly deviousness of the cancer cell, or how dichloroacetate (DCA) might fail.”

The author of Fight Aging writes about The Evolutionary Argument Against Antioxidants. Basically, evolution cares not for your old age — if you’re past the point of reproductive fitness, you’re on your own. So it is unlikely that antioxidants and other anti-aging remedies will work as they are purported to.

Ouroboros writes a synposis of a long article in The Scientist that describes possible “fixes” to the problem of human aging in “what if humans were designed to last?

Sunil, who will be hosting the next issue of Tangled Bank, writes about resveratrol, which acts as an anti-fat chemical in mice and also in humans.

Charles from Science and Reason writes about cytokine storms, which are severe disturbances of the immune system, and which seem to be implicated in many medical problems, from sepsis to avian flu mortalities.

Dan discusses a paper about the role of two MyosinII isoforms in migrating cells, with reflections on evolutionary niches within cells.

Alvaro presents a corn starch could be so weird? This piece includes two streaming videos that demonstrate its odd properties. The second video is especially interesting since it shows how a non-Newtonian fluid behaves.

Mo from Neurophilosophy writes an article about Robo-salamander provides clues about evolution of vertebrate locomotion. The robo-salamander is an amphibious robot that can crawl, walk and swim. This article also includes a streaming video of the robot “creature” in action.

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Addendum: I couldn’t find either of Matthew‘s articles, Sex and the Single (Fur) Seal or A thought about ovary transplant and materno-fetal conflict, nor could I find Phil‘s article, Proving Global Warming. This is too bad, Matthew and Phil, because I was prepared to kick your readership numbers through the roof!

The next issue of Tangled Bank will appear at Balancing Life on 28 March 2007. To send your submission to Tangled Bank, please use this online form.

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Comments

  1. #1 biosparite
    March 14, 2007

    A nice selection and a good issue, Grrl Scientist/Hedwig. Re weird science and corn starch, I wonder whether the ethanol boom will run up the price of all corn products as we turn our backs on sugar, the much more effective ethanol feedstock (nice going, Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto; the whole Midwest will be a Roundup-ready corn field when you are through).

  2. #2 Alvaro
    March 14, 2007

    This is better reading that many books I buy…thanks!

    A while ago I organized some book clubs in which each person had to bring one of their favourite non-fiction book to discuss, on any topic. Guaranteed fun for curious minds. Carnivals like this serve a similar function-maybe they could be connected to an online discussion group?

  3. #3 Monado
    March 14, 2007

    I regard the push to make ethanol for fuel as yet a stratagem for using up the ‘excess’ corn crop and keeping up prices.

  4. #4 CP
    March 15, 2007

    Thanks for the pickup! Great carnival — lots of aging biology, my favorite :-)