Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tangled Bank #93

The Tangled BankAhoy me mateys and welcome to the 93rd edition of the Tangled Bank, humbly hosted by yours truly. For those of you returning to from Archaea to Zeaxanthol, welcome back. For those new to my blog, let me give you a quick introduction.

from Archaea to Zeaxanthol started out as a space to share all things biological with my AP Biology class during the stage of my life when I was crazy enough to try my hand at teaching high school science. I lasted one semester before I ran, almost literally, screaming from the profession. I have now thoroughly entrenched myself back in academia at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island as part-time biology faculty and coordinator of the Undergraduate Center for Marine Life Sciences, where I am involved in various projects that revolve around supporting undergraduate research in the life sciences. And yes, I am a pirate. Two hundred years too late. Please feel free to peruse the site - you'll see a variety of posts ranging from reports on "pure" science to rants about students and teaching to the joys of being a sports fan in New England.

As for this edition of the TB, I've decided not to break submissions into topic categories. Instead I am posting them in the order that I received them. First come, first served. This way your promptness or procrastination are clearly displayed for all to see. So without further ado, please enjoy this Thanksgiving/Lebanon Independence Day/Feast of St. Cecilia edition of the Tangled Bank. (and forgive me for my one-liners)

Greg Laden wins the award for being this edition's first submission. Greg, your prize is in the mail, just like the iPod I won from Seed. Anyways, Greg has two interesting posts reviewing some recently published work. This first post tells you everything you ever wanted to know about glial cells but were afraid to ask. The second post explains why your sister smells kinda funny - it's those darn MUP proteins helping you avoid any incestuous urges. By the way, you probably smell just as funny to her.

John at a DC Birding Blog helps us answer the age-old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the blue jay?". Ok, not quite, but he does show us what claws can tell us about bird evolution.

GrrlScientist continues the avian theme with a review of some recent work on the importance of blue-light photoreceptors in bird migration. In another post, GrrlScientist reports on genetically engineered Supermice. We should start stockpiling Kryptonite now.

Archaeozoology offers a thorough description of the pathology of two similar bone diseases, osteomalalcia and rickets. Now get out of your house, go outside in the sunshine and get yourself your daily dose of vitamin D!

Alvaro at SharpBrains reminds us that our greatest asset as a human species is not our intelligence per se, but the flexibility of our intelligence. Flexibility is always a good thing, isn't it?

Coturnix blogs about the newly described Nigersaurus taqueti, one of the most morphologically interesting dinosaurs I've ever seen. I just stared at those photos of the skull shaking my head in amazement. A must see if you haven't already (and even if you have, go see it again).

Speaking of being awed by biological variety, Stephen at Quintessence of Dust reviews a recent paper that addresses the question of why there isn't even more diversity out there, in particular in plant's inflorescent morphology. It's an interesting piece that shows how evolutionary theory can be used to create a testable developmental model. It also introduces us (or at least me) to the concept of "evolutionary wormholes". Mr. Darwin may I introduce you to Dr. Einstein?

Over at Metamagician and Hellfire, Russel gives us an excellent rant about science being a major part of "rational inquiry" and not merely "a way of describing the world, among other ways". I particularly like his statement that

At this stage of human understanding, it would simply be irrational to reject such scientific findings as that certain diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses, that the Earth revolves around the Sun (not vice versa), that our own species, Homo sapiens, evolved from earlier life forms, that DNA encodes for proteins in a way that provides a mechanism for biological heredity - and many others.
Hear, hear!

On a completely different topic, Russel touches upon the relationship between "binge" drinking during pregnancy and fetal neurolodevelopment. Not quite Russel's take, but this reminds me of when my wife likes to say (rather Darwinisticly), alcohol only kills the weak brain cells and we don't want our kids having weak brain cells do we?

(Russel has also provided a couple of good posts concerning irrational and unfounded calls to morality in issues of bioethics - see here and here )

Tara Smith gives a concise description of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (aka MRSA) and its growing prevelence in non-hospital communities. While some grim details are discussed, Tara's presentation is a far cry and a refreshing change from the Armageddon-like press MRSA has been receiving lately. Tara also discusses a disturbing finding that shows MRSA infections spreading rapidly in swine populations - and the ability of these infections to easily jump to humans. Please, please, tell me I can still eat bacon.

Ed at Not Exactly Rocket Science has an interesting post on cooperation and communication in bacteria and the evolutionary pressures on bacterial slackers. Apparently, bacteria have their own versions of Jeff Spicoli to worry about. Ed seems to have a thing for cheaters too - he provides us with a post about the multiple disguises used by the bluestriped fangblenny. I bet his next post involves awkward, misunderstood porcupines that dress in black and listen to the Cure.

Ouroboros discusses potential problems with calorie restriction. Sure, you may live longer and avoid getting diabetes, but you'll probably have worms. I think I'll go eat a cheeseburger now.

CL at planet doom? (aka the Scourge of the Southern Seas) invokes the Law of Unintended Consequences in questioning the sensibility of seeding the ocean with iron to counteract global warming. Next thing you know, he'll argue against importing Cane toads.

The Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog discusses some newly discovered traditional planting techniques in the Amazon that facilitate cross-pollination in casava, which results in "making the casava stronger". ABW also has an interesting post about the intersection of culture and nutrition that explains why Kenyans don't eat polenta.

Mike at 10,000 Birds has some great photos and a description of the Northern Gannet. Some day I hope someone refers to me as 'pulchritudinous'.

The physics arXiv blog reveals a new medical toy in our near future - the micro MRI. It's sure to be the hot item next Christmas.

Science and Reason has a really nice piece that describes the role of sirtuin proteins and the sirtuin-encoding gene sir2-1 in extending the lifespan of C. elegans. Too bad they haven't found a gene that increases nematode pulchritude.

A Mad Tea Party provides us with all the nauseating details of Norovirus, aka the Cruise Ship Virus. I suggest reading this one before you sit down and gorge yourself on turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

Unbelievably and with amazing symmetry (I'm not making this up), Greg Laden, who started us off with the first post, finishes us up with the last. In this one, Greg discusses Neutral Theory and the Adaptionist Program in relation to some new work on the evolution of the nematode vulva. I think I best let that one alone.

Well, that's all folks. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of the Tangled Bank. I've certainly enjoyed writing it. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, Lebanon Independence Day, Feast of St. Cecilia, or just another day in November as appropirate. Stay tuned for Tangled Bank #94 to be hosted by Life Before Death


Mad Hatter said...

Thanks for including my tardy post! I just noticed from your profile that we share the same astrological sign and zodiac year. Weird coincidence....

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