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Archives for June, 2012

Four-Legged Medical Models

Animals serve as useful models in medical research—but they also serve as models for our anthropocentric fantasies. On Life Lines, Dr. Dolittle reports that researchers were able to “restore locomotion in paralyzed rats using a combination of nerve stimulation and engaging the mind by having the rats complete simple tasks.” The rats, outfitted with a…

Divergent & Convergent Evolution

On ERV, Abbie Smith reports that scientists have discovered an entirely new branch of viruses in the boiling acid pools of Yellowstone National Park. By analyzing RNA segments from the pools, researchers inferred the existence of positive-strand RNA viruses with unknown genetic configurations. Smith writes, “These viruses are not just kinda new. They are really really different from the RNA viruses…

Tisn’t the Season

Spring is in the air, and Clostridium tetani is in the earth. On Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk writes “with playing in the dirt comes minor injuries that you really don’t want to turn into anything nasty.” Infection through open wounds can be fatal, as the bacterium releases a neurotoxin that causes uncontrolled muscular contractions. So…

New Books & eBook Pricing

On EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse says his new book Among the Creationists: Dispatches From the Anti-Evolutionist Frontline is now available with turnable pages and a hardcover binding. Rosenhouse calls the book “a collection of stories and anecdotes from my experiences attending creationist conferences over the last ten years” as well as an exploration of religious and…

A neologism is a new word or phrase that has not yet entered common parlance. It is compounded from the Greek roots neo (meaning new) and logos (meaning, more intricately, word). Whoever coined the term neologism did not have the first example. Logos originally meant spoken word or utterance, until Heraclitus used it to signify…

Barrel Bottoms Up

On Earth Day, Greg Laden took the opportunity to thank BP for the “modifications made to the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico” by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Surviving specimens of coral “have been provided with hip new color schemes (mainly black and blackish),” while creatures such as shrimp and crabs exhibit physical deformities “which will…

The Honeybee Bubble

By gluing radio chips to the backs of 800 honeybees, researchers proved that Neonicotinoid pesticides interfere with their behavior. Greg Laden reports that bees exposed to the common aphid-killer “forage abnormally, have ‘olfactory memory’ problems, are easily disoriented and become poor learners.” Fewer of them return to the colony. Laden observes, “One thing that strikes…

No Star Unturned

On Dynamics of Cats, Steinn Sigurðsson sifts through Hubble’s vast catalog of stars, gas, and galaxies, looking for a diamond in the rough. Many images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope have never really been looked at; Sigurðsson says “In some cases the PI died before doing so. More usually these are engineering test images,…