Pure Pedantry

Archives for May, 2007

Researchers have discovered cows with genes that allow them to make skim milk: Herds of cows producing skimmed milk could soon be roaming our pastures, reports Cath O’Driscoll in Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI. Scientists in New Zealand have discovered that some cows have genes that give them a natural ability to…

Research in army ants has shown that they will plug holes in the road using an interesting technique: Certain army ants in the rainforests of Central and South America conduct spectacular predatory raids containing up to 200,000 foraging ants. Remarkably, some ants use their bodies to plug potholes in the trail leading back to the…

Memory for computers is getting pretty large, but it is still based on basically the same system that it was several years ago. They have just gotten better a fabricating them. It is an interesting question to ask whether we could store memories in alternative substrates such as biological ones. The idea is an intriguing…

The NYTimes has an excellent article about the controversy concerning hurricanes and global warming: Perhaps the best known proponent of the idea that warming and hurricanes may be connected is Kerry A. Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His conclusion that the total power released in Atlantic and western Pacific hurricanes…

Libertarian Paternalism?

Ilya Somin from the Volokh Conspiracy has this post on a resurgent paternalism — using as its justification new findings from behavioral economics: “Libertarian Paternalism” is all the rage in law and economics circles these days. To slightly oversimplify, libertarian paternalists claim that people systematically make mistakes as a result of cognitive errors and biases.…

The latest issue of Science magazine (May 18) has several reviews devoted to the coming of age of behavioral neuroscience. However, one by Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg caught my eye. The review is entitled “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science,” and their core argument is that resistance to science in adulthood is…

Daniel Lazare, writing in the Nation, has an interesting article about differences of opinion even among atheists: This is the problem, more or less, confronting today’s reinvigorated atheist movement. For a long time, religion had been doing quite nicely as a kind of minor entertainment. Christmas and Easter were quite unthinkable without it, not to…

Are case reports useful?

A new journal for case reports only, The Journal of Medical Case Reports, has spawned an discussion at The Scientist about whether we should even have case reports in journals: Does the medical literature need more case studies? A new journal is betting it does, even as editors at other journals say the answer is…

Human Eggs for Sale!

The NYTimes has an interesting article on the increasing amount people are willing to pay for donor eggs: A survey published this month in the journal Fertility and Sterility, “What Is Happening to the Price of Eggs?” found that the national average compensation for donors was $4,217. At least one center told the authors of…

Not good news for people who think low carbs is the answer. A recently published study has shown an increase in mortality associated with low-carb/high-protein diets. Studies looking at the comparative effectiveness of different diets have shown that basically all diets are equivalent. (Equivalently bad, that is. All the diets tested produced moderate declines in…