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What we're talking about Life, Death, and ERVs Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Life, Death, and ERVs

I read an interesting article in Scientific American that discussed the so-called Peto’s Paradox. Dr. Richard Peto (University of Oxford) came up with the idea that if every cell has an equal probability of becoming cancerous, then larger animals would be predicted to develop cancer at higher rates than smaller animals. As it turns out,…

For quite a while, now, there has been a connection between Endogenous Retroviruses and HIV. For some unknown reason, some of the young ERVs in humans, the ones that can still code for a protein here and there, are reactivated in HIV+ patients. Scientists have found ERV RNA in HIV+ patient plasma, and they have…

In a phenomenon known as Peto's paradox, large mammals do not develop cancer more often than small mammals, despite having more cells that could go haywire. On Life Lines, Dr. Dolittle writes "Some researchers suggested that perhaps smaller animals developed more oxidative stress as a result of having higher metabolisms. Others proposed that perhaps larger animals have more genes that suppress tumors." But a new hypothesis argues that large mammals have evolved to minimize the activity of ERVs, which are ancient viral elements integrated into our DNA. Active ERVs can cause cancer and possibly other diseases; mice exhibit about 3300 active ERVs, while humans exhibit about 350. On the blog known as ERV, Abbie Smith writes "some of the young ERVs in humans, the ones that can still code for a protein here and there, are reactivated in HIV+ patients." Researchers are considering targeting these ERVs in order to combat HIV; as Abbie writes, "You could train the HIV+ individuals immune system to ‘see’ the ERV components in an HIV infected CD4+ T-cell, and BAM! Kill the HIV infected cell!" But she warns that other ERV components are expressed in many normal human cells, and teaching our immune system to target them might be a very bad idea.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Browse this list of images…all of them of real, live, genuine zombified organisms. Just in time for Halloween!

A paper that made extravagant weight loss claims for green coffee beans has been retracted. This study had been touted by Dr Oz, of course — no fraud is to ludicrous for him — and rebutted by Scott Gavura, and I’m generally suspicious of any dietary supplement that promises weight loss without reducing calories or…

I just learned that the Blogess has “giant squid phobia”. Several people are aware of my severe giant squid phobia and lovingly (?) sent me this video of a giant squid attacking a Greenpeace submarine, and that’s unsettling enough, but WHY IS THERE ANOTHER SQUID BEHIND IT SPITTING OUT FIRE?  Is that a real thing?  Because I…

Physical Science

“The most amazing lesson in aerodynamics I ever had was the day I climbed a thermal in a glider at the same time as an eagle. I witnessed, close up, effortlessness and lightness combined with strength, precision and determination.” -Norman Foster It’s called the “Eagle Nebula” because the shape of the nebula itself faintly resembles…

“I would give my life to fly in space. It’s hard for me to talk about it but I would. I would then, and I will now.” -Jerrie Cobb, at age 67 in 1999 Some of the greatest heros of the 20th century are those who were an integral part of humanity taking our first…

“Out, you impostors! Quack salving, cheating mountebanks! your skill Is to make sound men sick, and sick men kill.” -Philip Massinger It’s been a wild ride full of ups-and-downs this week, as we’ve covered topics from solidly-based science to the theoretically expected, all the way to physical impossibilities and unverifiable, outlandish claims. Sometimes, that’s what…

Environment

In a new study just published by the journal Sustainability Science (Springer), analysis from the Pacific Institute (with lead author Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, now at the Union of Concerned Scientists) shows that many of the fundamental responses of California water users to severe drought actually make the state’s overall water conditions worse – that in the end,…

You know Guy Himber’s work. He worked on special effects for Aien 3, Underworld, Independence Day, Edward Scissorhands, I, Robot, lots of other productions. And now, he is playing around with LEGO. Steampunk Lego by Guy Himber is subtitled “The illustrated researches of various fantastical devices by Dr. Herbert Jabson, with epistles to the Crown,…

There has not been much hurricane activity in the Atlantic for a while now, so unsurprisingly the reporting is starting to slip again. This post goes out to all you reporters at CNN and Reuters and Yahoo and everywhere else. Imma give you an example of what you are doing wrong, then I’ll send you…

Humanities

Recent pieces address healthcare workers’ safety and the research behind controlling Ebola’s spread; end-of-life planning; contraception; and more.

“I would give my life to fly in space. It’s hard for me to talk about it but I would. I would then, and I will now.” -Jerrie Cobb, at age 67 in 1999 Some of the greatest heros of the 20th century are those who were an integral part of humanity taking our first…

It’s been a brutally busy couple of weeks here, what with reading folders for the job searches we have going on, trying to keep on top of my class, and multiple day-care closings for the Jewish holidays. But the kids are still very cute, as you can see from the above caricatures of The Pip…

Education

The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Nick Schneider When NASA’s…

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

I have. So I surfed the web and found this neat video from Smithsonian that explains it all.

Politics

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

This is an endorsement by Climate Hawks Vote, which I support. Climate Hawks Vote is delighted to endorse Scott Peters in California’s 52d Congressional District of San Diego for his strong climate leadership and for taking first place in our August 2014 survey. And his approach just may break partisan gridlock in Congress. Scott Peters…

This is an endorsement by Climate Hawks Vote, which I support. We’re working our way through scoring Senate Democrats on climate leadership, using the same lodestar that we’ve used on House Democrats: who’s leading on climate by engaging the public? It’s slow going – results might not be final until mid-October or later. However, given…

Medicine

The Hot Zone was first released in 1994, the year I graduated high school. Like many readers, that book and Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague really sparked my interest in infectious diseases. In some sense, I have those books to thank (or blame?) for my career. But I’m still going to criticize it, because as…

“Death is the only wise adviser that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will…

I’m beginning to feel that I’m flogging a topic a bit too hard again. Usually, this happens primarily when I’m on a roll over some particularly tasty ridiculous tidbit of antivaccine nonsense. This time around, it’s not so much antivaccine nonsense (although some did manage to slip its way into the discussion) but rather Ebola…

Brain & Behavior

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

I have. So I surfed the web and found this neat video from Smithsonian that explains it all.

When it comes to substance abuse disorders, public health and the public at-large are hardly on the same page — in fact, they’re not even reading the same book. And that’s a serious problem for sustaining and strengthening efforts to treat addiction and advancing effective public health policy.

Technology

My whole housing development recently changed Internet Service Providers. We now have optical fibre from Ownit, offering hundreds of megabits per second. It works just fine. But there’s a security issue and Ownit aren’t taking it seriously. All over Sweden, Ownit are deploying wifi routers that work out of the box. If you want to…

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

I might. This is a preliminary look, based just on the web site and some tweets with the developer, of the imp (all lower case), a small computer somewhere in technology and power, perhaps, between a Raspberry pi (which is mainly a hobbiest toy) and the Intel Nuk (which is sort of a non-Mac Mac…

Information Science

Science Online was an amazing annual unconference that started a few years back and grew and became part of the reshaping of public communication about science. This year, the people running the conference started out with the plan to move the conference to a new venue, Atlanta, and last week abruptly announced that the conference…

So what do I mean by Big Deals. In the world of academic libraries, a Big Deal is when we subscribe to the electronic versions of all (or almost all) of a journal publisher’s offerings. Usually for it to qualify as a Big Deal, the publisher in question is going to be one of the…

I used Google N-gram Viewer to inspect the occurrence of the word “Ebola” in the Google-indexed literature. A few instances of Ebola came up earlier than the disease being known, so I figured they were references to the place name in Zaire/Congo, after which the disease is named. And that was in fact the case.…

Jobs

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the U.S. This one occurred on October 7 at a Kia Motors manufacturing plant.

Too bad Murray’s Chicken doesn’t care as much about working conditions for its employees, as it does about the living conditions for its birds.

“If the California Public Health Department had been able to find out that my company was using a chemical that was killing people, I might never have gotten so sick that I had to have a lung transplant,” Ricardo Corona told a California Judiciary Committee last April, testifying in favor of California Senate Bill (SB) 193 that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on September 29th.