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City life makes bigger spiders

A new study from researchers at the University of Sydney shows that golden orb-weaving spiders (Nephila plumipes) that live in the city are larger and produce more offspring as compared to country living. When they say the spiders are big, they mean really big. The females can reach up to 20-25mm (males are only ~5mm).…

“When I was ten all I knew was that I hated the weird words used to describe whatever it was that was wrong with my brother — to this day I think it all happened because he was overtaken by evil spirits that got loose in that haunted house ride at the carnival that summer. It’s easier…

Crayfish Gastroliths

It’s the time of the year when it used to become legal to catch and sell Swedish crayfish (since 1994 there is no limit), and so the grocery stores sell Turkish and Chinese crayfish for a few weeks. The traditional way to eat them is to boil them with dill, salt and a little sugar,…

X-Volcanoes – Bárðarbunga

Bárðarbunga is arguably the scariest of the 30 or so active volcanoes in Iceland. Extreme volcanoes don’t always have extreme eruptions, but they are scary because they have the capability for extreme events, uniquely so. It is not the most active, it is not the tallest, it may possibly be the biggest in some sense,…

After nearly a decade of hoping state legislators would pass an earned paid sick time law, advocates in Massachusetts decided it was time to put the question to voters. Now, in November, voters will have the chance to help improve the lives of nearly 1 million workers who can’t earn one, single hour of sick leave and are often left to choose between caring for themselves or a loved one, paying the bills or losing a job.

Friday Mushrooms

Has it really been almost four years since I blogged about mushrooms? This afternoon me and my wife repeated our September 8, 2010 expedition to the hills between Lakes Lundsjön and Trehörningen and picked almost a kilo of mushrooms in a bit more than an hour. We got: King bolete, Stensopp/Karl Johan, Boletus edulis Bay…

The Science of Inequality

Science had a very interesting special section this spring: The Science of Inequality – basically doing a summary and review of issues related to the stuff in Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century The section has a series of very interesting articles on a range of related topics: “Inequality in the Long Run” by…

Here we go again. If there’s anything that ignites the fevered brains (such as they are) of antivaccine activists, it’s a good seeming conspiracy. Indeed, as we’ve seen before, if they can’t find a legitimate one, they’ll either exaggerate one or make one up out of whole cloth. This week, an “alleged” conspiracy has been…

Throwback Thursday

OK, the photo above is a recent picture of me– yesterday, in fact. But the spiral-carved rock I’m standing next to was carved that way a bit more than five thousand years ago, so that ought to count as a throwback… We’ve been in Dublin the last few days, and on Thursday we took a…

Scaredy snakes?

Dr. Greg Byrnes (Siena College, Loudonville, NY) and Dr. Bruce Jayne (University of Cincinnati, OH) discovered that snakes use more force than is necessary to support their weight when climbing.  To climb, snakes rely on friction and repeatedly contract and extend their bodies, a process called concertina locomotion. To study the forces generated by snakes…

“We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” -Bill Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut When you think about the most amazing sights available to humanity here on Earth, you probably don’t think about leaving Earth in order to capture them. But sometimes, doing exactly that…

Learning thresholds

Kim Goodsell was not a scientist, but she wanted to understand the baffling constellation of disease symptoms that were affecting her. The doctors delivered partial diagnoses, that accounted for some of her problems, but not all. So she plunged into the scientific literature herself. The point of the linked article is that there is a…

What would analog genetics look like?

How about another of those non-awkward Dawkins Twitter questions? Although this one actually is kind of awkward, in a non-offensive way. I don’t quite know what it means. Does evolution rely upon digital genetics? Could there be an analogue genetics? What features of life have to be true all over the universe?

Do the math: There are actually two answers to this question. First, “maths” looks plural and is preferred by some because “mathematics” is plural. The problem with that is “mathematics” is no more plural than “physics” or any other compound noun. It is a rational sounding utterly incorrect argument. If we said “mathematics are cool”…