The Thoughtful Animal

Extra, Extra

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Science
The NY Times had an article on why we like spicy foods…a week after I had my piece in the Guardian making the same arguments. Coincidence? Probably.

“As the cost of DNA sequencing continues to plummet, I predict that these canine genetic/genomic studies will get much more common.” Virginia Hughes reports on the world’s first dog genomics program.

Martin Robbins on why personal drug detectors for parents is a bad idea. Plus a hilarious story involving cocaine, marmite, and airport security.

Why are California sea otters dying? A good article from the LA Times, to be read in conjunction with this excellent piece by the Southern Fried Scientist.

Diagnosis. It works, bitches.

“This exchange of papers highlights what I think is the current empirical standstill between two very different world-views.” The Games with Words blog has a very interesting discussion on language learning, with an equally interesting comments section. For what it’s worth, while associative learning is clearly necessary for language learning, I do not think it is sufficient. I don’t think it is possible that language can emerge solely on the basis of statistical learning without a core set of underlying concepts or rules.

For some insight into this language acquisition debate, see this masterful New Yorker article on the Piraha.

An ode to the many evolved virtues of human semen. Thanks, Jesse Bering. Just what we needed.

So capuchin monkeys can be trained to use a token economy. Fantastic. Why is this news? And why is this interesting? It’s nothing more than just associative learning. Right?

Mo Costandi asks if we can use brainwaves to catch criminals, in the Guardian Science Blogging Festival.

Neuroskeptic discusses the rise of the mouse (over the rat) in scientific research.

Jump behind the fold for the rest!


Is there a relationship between psychopathology and creativity? Andrea Kuszewski discusses the possibility.

For your amusing picture of the week: Fibonacci pigeons. (via @DrCraigMc)

There are some dumb attempts around the country to restrict violent video games. Karen Franklin features the brilliant take-down of these laws by a forensic psychology professor, at her blog “In the News.”

A great interview in the NY Times with dolphin researcher Diana Reiss (of the famed-and-controversial- dolphin mirror recognition test). I just wish there was MORE.

A great resource for learning anatomy: thinkanatomy.com

Roopnarine’s Food Weblog has this to say about a post in the NY Times Opinionator blog: “This is one of the most misguided, poorly informed, nonsensical comments on the natural world that I have stumbled across for quite some time.”

A reminder from the good Dr. Isis that less invasive science isn’t always better science. Should we do more invasive studies with fewer participants or less invasive studies with more participants?

Our friends at Southern Fried Science break out their calculators for this one, demonstrating once and for all that CFLs are considerably better than incadescent bulbs.

The ancient origins of the cerebral cortex, from Wiring the Brain.

Nude psychotherapy. Please tell me this was just an excuse for massive group orgies?

Razib Khan explains some simple rules for inclusive fitness. A must read.

Communicating Science
Is science blogging out of balance, with respect to gender? Dave Munger analyzes some data, and shares the full text of his interviews with Jenny Rohn and Martin Robbins. Brian Mossop, overlord of the PLoGsters has an awesome response. Kim Hannula takes on a slightly different angle to this question: why pseudonymity matters.

Ira Flatow encourages scientists to learn to explain what they do.

Namnezia and Psycasm start blogging at LabSpaces! Both excellent additions to the network.

Vaughan Bell of Mind Hacks is writing a book!

Adam and Jamie of Mythbusters were in North Carolina earlier this week. Check out the Daily Tarheel coverage of their event, but then carefully read this important post by Bora, about how Mythbusters fits within the broader landscape of science communication. (It’s funny, because I had been thinking similar things about Alton Brown and his show Good Eats…should write a post about it, at some point.)

The re-vamped science blogging network from Ira Flatow’s Science Friday: Talking Science. Worth keeping an eye on.

Mike the Mad Biologist asks if and how we might need to incentivize science communication, for scientists.

Ed Yong reminds us that the only side that science journalists should take is that of empirical truth.

Academia / Careerism
Professor in Training on the various workloads associated with various flavors of academia. And what does she actually DO all day, anyway?

Female Science Professor opines that being a postdoc isn’t ALL bad.

GMP shares some particularly frightening tenure stories.

I might make all my students watch this video blog regarding plagiarism from Janet of Adventures in Ethics and Science.

We often refer to socioeconomic status as one all-encompassing term, but Drugmonkey reminds us that socio- and economic status are two very different things.

GertyZ asks if undergrad RAs should be paid. My answer is unless the undergrad is receiving some sort of course credit, they should be paid – if the PI has funding to pay them. Many institutions (mine included) offer small grants that undergrads can apply for, to support their research activities as well, and this should be encouraged, especially for labs without sufficient funding to pay undergrads.

Lisa Rau of the Square Syndrome blog asks why college instructors call their students “kids” when those kids generally already in their twenties.

The Rest
At the LA Zoo: a newborn giraffe, some deer, some peccaries…lots of zoo babies this month!

The LA Times Festival of the Books will move to USC, starting this year. This is excellent news.

Playing with parallel universes. How awesome was the season premiere of Fringe? Do you think Olivia is faking?

Tinkerbell got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (via Daily News)

Okay, this is really really cool. The world’s smallest stop-motion animation film. (via @BoraZ)

Kevin Zelnio of DSN fame wrote a song about the BP oil spill, and put it on youtube: Black Tide is Rising.