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What we're talking about Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Exoplanet Extravaganza

“It isn’t only the beauty of the night sky that thrills me. It’s the sense I have that some of those points of light are the home stars of beings not so different from us, daily cares and all. who look across space with wonder, just as we do.” -Frank Drake What is it that…

As more and more exoplanets (at first) and earth-like exoplanets (eventually) have been discovered, the way thy are described to us has become increasingly sophisticated. Below are embeds of diverse video descriptions that have been very quickly developed and distributed given the freshness of this latest scientific discovery. Note that the practice of very clearly…

Exoplanet hunters have discovered a cache of rocky planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1 only forty light-years away. Compared to our sun, TRAPPIST-1 is tiny, and all its planets orbit closer than Mercury orbits Sol. But three of them are still in the Goldilocks zone that could be just right for life, and all seven planets could theoretically hold liquid water. While Ethan Siegel introduces the neighboring star system with spectacular illustrations from NASA and ESO, Greg Laden says that the practice of saying these images are artistic interpretations "has largely fallen by the wayside." Instead, scientific outreach has turned to storytelling in order to capture public interest.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

I’m relieved my courtin’ days are over, because even if I did paint my butt iridescent colors, I don’t think I could twerk it up over my head.

Yesterday was a great day for comparative physiology! Highlights from the seminars on comparative physiology: Melissa Reiterer, graduate student from Florida Atlantic University, presented her research on how freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta) survive for long periods of time without oxygen and do not develop oxidative stress after oxygen is restored. The turtles are able to do this…

Physical Science

“I was always amused when overtaking one of these great monsters [a tortoise], as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead. I frequently got…

“A few centuries ago, the pioneer navigators learnt the size and shape of our Earth, and the layout of the continents. We are now just learning the dimensions and ingredients of our entire cosmos, and can at last make some sense of our cosmic habitat.” -Martin Rees You might think that Jupiter is the largest…

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” -Walter Elliot It’s been two great weeks here at Starts With A Bang, where we’ve seen an incredible slew of new articles, new contributions, and literally hundreds of comments where nobody needed to get banned! To all of those who…

Environment

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

I’m not quite sure what to make of this1, but it seems interesting, and the video is lovely. There are two papers: Antarctic ice shelf potentially stabilized by export of meltwater in surface river by Robin E. Bell et al., Nature 544, 344–348 (20 April 2017) doi:10.1038/nature22048: Meltwater stored in ponds and crevasses can weaken…

Yesterday was a great day for comparative physiology! Highlights from the seminars on comparative physiology: Melissa Reiterer, graduate student from Florida Atlantic University, presented her research on how freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta) survive for long periods of time without oxygen and do not develop oxidative stress after oxygen is restored. The turtles are able to do this…

Humanities

More than 8 million U.S. children depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for access to timely medical care. The program is authorized through 2019, but its federal funding expires in September and it’s unclear what Congress will do.

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

Yesterday was a great day for comparative physiology! Highlights from the seminars on comparative physiology: Melissa Reiterer, graduate student from Florida Atlantic University, presented her research on how freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta) survive for long periods of time without oxygen and do not develop oxidative stress after oxygen is restored. The turtles are able to do this…

Education

Highlights from today’s sessions included: Norelia Ordonez-Castillo, undergraduate student from Fort Hays State University, presented her research on channel catfish. According to Norelia, these fish can become obese so her research was geared towards trying to find out how their receptor for LDL cholesterol differs from rodents and humans. But what I want to know is…

Yesterday was a great day for comparative physiology! Highlights from the seminars on comparative physiology: Melissa Reiterer, graduate student from Florida Atlantic University, presented her research on how freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta) survive for long periods of time without oxygen and do not develop oxidative stress after oxygen is restored. The turtles are able to do this…

Day 1 of the meeting was as inspiring as usual. The Porter Fellow Reunion Reception took place this evening. This 50 year-old program is designed to support trainees as they conduct research projects in physiology and learn to become independent researchers. It was amazing to see so many past and present fellows and to hear about their accomplishments since receiving the award.…

Politics

More than 8 million U.S. children depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for access to timely medical care. The program is authorized through 2019, but its federal funding expires in September and it’s unclear what Congress will do.

Lennox Yearwood Jr was on his way to speak at the March for Science in DC, when something bad happened. He tells us: …at the March For Science in Washington DC on Earth Day, I was assaulted, roughed up, and detained by police in the shadow of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and…

Legislation in response to a BuzzFeed News investigation into the Baltimore County Police Department’s failure to appropriately investigate many rape cases clarifies that in Maryland, no means no.

Medicine

More than 8 million U.S. children depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for access to timely medical care. The program is authorized through 2019, but its federal funding expires in September and it’s unclear what Congress will do.

In a current poll, 61% of Americans want to retain Obamacare, and improve this already implemented and existing program. A mere 37% want to “repeal and replace” it. About 69% of American want the Republicans, including the Republican President, to to do some combination of working with Congressional Democrats or a combination of Democrats and…

Naturopaths claim that licensing their profession will ensure a high standard of care and protect patients. The case of Jade Erick, who died as a result of intravenous curcumin administered by a naturopath puts the lie to that claim. We now know that the naturopath who killed Erick has pending complaints that the Naturopathic Medicine Committee has done little to act on, revealing its ineffectiveness.

Brain & Behavior

Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons in the brain of zebra finches do in fact decrease dopamine signals when the birds hear an…

A new article published in Physiological Reviews compared some remarkable similarities and differences between naked mole rats and humans. Both are relatively long-lived, highly social and have low natural selection pressures. But, this is about all they have in common. While humans are prone to developing age-related cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementias, naked mole rats…

Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind is a new book on cultural evolution in humans from a biological perspective. This is an interesting book and a good book, and I recommend it, but I need to add a strong caveat. The author could have made a more compelling argument had he more…

Technology

Researchers at George Mason University have created a synthetic version of a peptide found in the blood of Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis). They dubbed the synthetic peptide DRGN-1. Living up to its name, DRGN-1 proved to be pretty tough against microbes (Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus) as well as biofilms. Bacteria stick together to create biofilms that attach to surfaces and help…

Have a look at the list of books, below. Would you like a subset, or all, of these books, in electronic format, for very cheap? There is a way to do that. Note: This is time sensitive, the offer running for just about two weeks and it started yesterday. I’ve reviewed several of these books…

This bill was so unpopular that only 11% of Americans thought he should sign it. It was so unpopular that 74% of Americans thought he should veto it. This bill was not one of Trump’s campaign promises, and it wasn’t part of the Republican Party platform. I can only assume it was a bought and…

Information Science

Many thanks to the organizers of this past weekend’s March on Science here in Toronto. They invited me to be part of the amazing roster of speakers for the event. I was honoured to take part and offer some of the lessons I’ve learned in the course of my various listing projects over the last…

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, supported by Education Minnesota, ran the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards ceremony tonight, and Amanda and I were graciously invited by author Shawn Otto and State Auditor and Gubernatorial Hopeful Rebecca Otto to join them at their table. Shawn’s wildly popular, and extremely, increasingly relevant book The…

For your reading and collection development pleasure… It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, kind of seeing what’s on my mind a little in the science-y and tech-y book world and kind of a way to help me remember what I want to pick up. It’s also been a while since…

Jobs

Immigrant workers who get injured at work now fearful about accessing workers’ comp; women ironworkers win six months of paid maternity leave; many home health workers still going without health insurance coverage; and a health care union declares itself a sanctuary for immigrants.

OSHA’s list of bad actors has two new members. An update of the agency’s “severe violators” program shows two companies were added since President Trump took office.

In February 2017, garment workers in Myanmar, who were enraged by abusive and illegal working conditions, stormed their factory and smashed $75,000 worth of equipment. The worker revolt revealed the broken promises of international clothing brands that sweatshop apparel production would lead to better lives and “empowerment.”