Posted: 01 Sep 2008 06:36 PM CDT
As part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of a certain Charles Darwin, Radio New Zealand is getting a whole bunch of New Zealand scientists to give public lectures about Darwin’s impact on our place in the world. They’re recording them, broadcasting them over the radio, and you can listen to them on the internet here (the first two are online already).
Lecture 1 - Darwin and the Evolution of an Idea (Professor Lloyd Spencer Davis, University of Otago)
Lecture 2 - The Evolution of Biological Complexity (Professor Paul Rainey FRSNZ, Massey University).
Lecture 3. The Principle of Evolution: Absolute Simplicity (Professor David Penny CNZM FRSNZ, Research Director, Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University)
Lecture 4. The fossil record (Professor Alan Cooper, Director, Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, The University of Adelaide)
5. Evolutionary Psychology (Professor Russell Gray, The University of Auckland)
6. The Storytelling Ape: Evolution, Art, Story, Culture (Professor Brian Boyd, The University of Auckland)
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 03:52 PM CDT
I started blogging over two and a half years ago, mostly as a way to write about material in my head. I used to label myself a “blogger”, but since I also dabble in video/screencasts, podcasts, maintain a wiki, etc, that label is one of convenience. The point is, that by painting blogging, including scienceblogging, with one big brush, we are selling ourselves short.
Some people use a blog as a diary of observations. Others talk about specific scientific experiments (which might also go up on a wiki). Some record screencasts of their work, while some might choose to go with putting up material on slideshare, or increasingly on Nature Precedings. Others use their blogs to report news, provide commentary on issues of the day, write essays, and many other uses. Note that I haven’t even talked about Tumblelogs, Twitter or Friendfeed yet.
In other words, we need to look at online presence in two dimensions at the very least; the choice of medium, and the nature of the content. That’s one reason I was very pleased to see that Scienceblogging is changing titles to ScienceOnline in 2009. It’s much more inclusive and a better approach.
The other thing that galls me on occasion is the “are bloggers journalists?” discussion. People take things much too seriously sometimes, and just love using broad brush strokes. There is enough place for online communication and presence of multiple types, so once again a gentle reminder. Don’t think of online presence in one dimension. You need at least the two described earlier, and discussions around citability, value, etc need to take that into account
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 12:30 PM CDT
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 12:04 PM CDT
I spent the last few days at a "retreat" for the Joint Genome Institute and heard about a few things there worth sharing with everyone. I will try and post about some of them in the next few days. Here is one. The JGI and the Center for Integrative Genomics have made a pretty cool tool for comparative analyses of plant genomes. It is called Phytozome and has a variety of simple and nice features. JGI is doing more and more work on plant genomes as part of their energy research and I think Phytozome could turn into a good place to go to get the latest plant genome information. Go to http://www.phytozome.net to see the real thing.
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 09:21 AM CDT
It’s that time of the month again, so here’s the latest round-up from my column over on SpectroscopyNOW, covering a whole range of science and medical news with a spectral twist from magnetic resonance to Raman by way of fishnets and infra-red.
Fishnet invisibility cloak - It is what fans of science fiction and technologists have been waiting for since HG Wells’ Invisible Man first came into view - or not, as the case may be. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have engineered three-dimensional meta materials that can reverse the natural direction of visible and near-infrared light, which could one day lead to an invisibility device.
Bending MRI to diagnose joint disease - Osteoarthritis has turned out to be the bane of the Baby Boom generation, causing joint pain and disability for millions of people, more than half of those over the age of 65 in fact. Unfortunately, current approaches to diagnosing the disease cannot provide definitive results until the disease is in the advanced stages. This is often when symptoms have become severe and irreversible joint damage may already have occurred. Magnetic resonance imaging could provide an early diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, according to scientists speaking at the recent ACS meeting.
Universal detector - A team in Japan has used UV spectroscopy and microscopy to study the interaction between liposome clusters and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as a model of how living cell plasma membranes might be affected. The work could lead to the development of a universal detector for EDCs
Dance of the xenons - An NMR study of xenon atoms has demonstrated a fundamental new property - what appears to be chaotic behaviour in a quantum system ? in the magnetic spin of these frozen atoms. The work could lead to improvements in our understanding of matter as well as in magnetic resonance imaging.
Handling chirality with X-rays - X-rays are rather useful in determining the structure of materials and biomolecules, but are relatively insensitive to chirality. Now, a team of scientists in Japan has shown that circularly polarized X-rays at an appropriate wavelength can distinguish ‘left’ from ‘right’ in alpha-quartz. The work could have implications for studies of other inorganic organometallic materials, including industrial catalysts, liquid crystals, biomolecules, and pharmaceutical products.
Hybrid technology - Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) was first used in 1977 and since the has proven itself as an extremely sensitive analytical technique requiring only small volumes of sample and with wide application. Researchers have suggested that it is so sensitive that it could be used as a new tool in single molecule detection to augment or even displace techniques such as laser-induced fluorescence, frequency-modulated optical absorption at low temperature, and electrochemical detection of redox-active species. SERS of silicon nanostructures coated with a gold-silver substrate can be used to detect DNA hybridisation for taxonomic, biomedical and medical diagnostics purposes, according to a new study by researchers in Singapore.
Oh, and speaking of fishnets…anyone been thinking about the modelling career of John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin?
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 09:19 AM CDT
Male dominance rarely skews the frequency distribution of Y chromosome haplotypes in human populations
J. Stephen Lansing, Joseph C. Watkins, Brian Hallmark, Murray P. Cox, Tatiana M. Karafet, Herawati Sudoyo, and Michael F. Hammer
PNAS August 19, 2008 vol. 105 no. 33 11645-11650
Abstract: A central tenet of evolutionary social science holds that behaviors, such as those associated with social dominance, produce fitness effects that are subject to cultural selection. However, evidence for such selection is inconclusive because it is based on short-term statistical associations between behavior and fertility. Here, we show that the evolutionary effects of dominance at the population level can be detected using noncoding regions of DNA. Highly variable polymorphisms on the nonrecombining portion of the Y chromosome can be used to trace lines of descent from a common male ancestor. Thus, it is possible to test for the persistence of differential fertility among patrilines. We examine haplotype distributions defined by 12 short tandem repeats in a sample of 1269 men from 41 Indonesian communities and test for departures from neutral mutation-drift equilibrium based on the Ewens sampling formula. Our tests reject the neutral model in only 5 communities. Analysis and simulations show that we have sufficient power to detect such departures under varying demographic conditions, including founder effects, bottlenecks, and migration, and at varying levels of social dominance. We conclude that patrilines seldom are dominant for more than a few generations, and thus traits or behaviors that are strictly paternally inherited are unlikely to be under strong cultural selection.
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 08:11 AM CDT
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 06:40 AM CDT
A study in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching suggests that primary school students should be introduced to scientific concepts in “everyday English” first before being forced to memorize vocabulary.
How would this apply to teaching genetics? My son’s current favorite series of books is Geronimo Stilton and in Geronimo and the Gold Medal Mystery, a professor conducts “extremely secret experiments in genetics.” Genetics was explained as:
Not quite everyday English. How might this be rephrased?
Is that too simplistic? How would you explain genetics in one sentence?
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 05:46 AM CDT
Essentially, Kornberg is describing the critical elements in the relationship between scientists, industry, and innovation (page 294):
That this reminds me of the Open Access publication is of course no coincidence. What promotes innovation in one setting promotes innovation in all, generally speaking.
Innovation in industry cannot maintain itself on its own however. Kornberg continues:
Kornberg’s points are plainly obvious to anyone familiar with how research is financed. The success of American science is singularly the result of impressive government support. Continue reducing that support, and innovation will come to a screeching halt over the course of the next generation.
Posted: 01 Sep 2008 12:25 AM CDT
Of course, a critical drawback of inducible transgene expression is the amount of basal expression (leakage) responsible to making noise in the discrimination of specific transgene patterns analysis (and even, to reduce potentially harmful effects of transgene).
The Australian team of from Stuart M Pitson (University of Adelaide) by incorporating AU-rich mRNA destabilizing elements (ARE) into the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of inducible constructs, demonstrated that this modification minimized sphingosine kinase 1 (SK1) basal expression from a Tet-inducible vector with only a slight decrease in the maximum level of fully induced SK1. This approach, might improve signal-to-noise ratio and should also be applicable to other inducible expression systems.
On the other hand, if your transgene is a reporter gene, sometimes a minimal basal level expression would be appealing to monitor physiological patterns that could be increased or decreased by your treatments. Isn't it?
This short technical report was published on the August issue of BioTechniques (sorry, I did not find a DOI for researchblogging.org)
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