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Scientia Pro Publica 6

June 15, 2009

Come one! Come all! It’s carnival time!

This is the sixth edition of the moveable bi-weekly fiesta known as the Scientia Pro Publica (Science for the Public) Blog Carnival. Scientia Pro Publica is a collection of awesome posts designed to bring topics in science, nature and medicine to the public.

Let’s kick this carnival off with some submersible love. Thanks to budget cuts, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) in Fort Pierce, Florida may be forced to retire Johnson Sea Link I and II. Both submersibles have been invaluable to ocean exploration, deep sea research—and deep sea researchers. Dr. Erik Cordes and Dr. Christina Kellogg share their love for Johnson Sea Link at Deep Sea News.

Behavioral Ecology (a.k.a. cool things animals do)

Peter, my co-blogger here at Mauka to Makai, writes about tool use in Don’t be a tool! While some tool-using animals poke termite mounds with twigs and throw rocks at ostrich eggs, crows and rooks take tool use to a whole new level. They’re “freaking smart,” he writes.

At Deep Sea News, the week of May 17 was dubbed “Sex Week”. Why? The authors have their reasons (some of which are very mature…), but, as Dr. M writes, “The nature of reproduction, both sexual and asexual, dictates evolutionary processes and at its core controls the biodiversity of life on earth by isolating populations.  If you want to understand life around you, you need to understand sex.” This is just the introduction to Sex Week. There’re a whole slew of great posts that follow.

Following the sex theme, GrrlScientist, the author of Living the Scientific Life (Scientist Interrupted), shares a video of a male Wire-tailed manakin dancing to attract a mate.

This one would be more appropriate under “disturbing things animals do:” in 50 Ways to Eat Your Lover/Brother/Baby I wrote about sexual cannibalism, filial cannibalism and regular ol’ cannibalism.

Biology and Evolution

Perhaps you remember learning about prokaryotes and eukaryotes in school. A eukaryote has a nucleus—I used to remember it with “euk has nuc”—and a prokaryote doesn’t. Shuna, of Lab Rat, tells us that the term “prokaryote” may soon be obsolete in On the Classification of Blobs.

In primate news…The author of A Primate of Modern Aspect introduces us to A. brevirostris, a new Miocene Ape and wonders if it’s a human ancestor. Meanwhile, Eric of The Primate Diaries writes about the finding of Darwinius masillae, a middle Eocene primate the media has called “the missing link.” In Breaking the Chain, Eric writes, “This new Eocene primate is not a missing link any more than any other fossil find is, whether they be ancestral to humans or ancestral to turkey buzzards. What the term reveals is nothing more than our human chauvinism implying that we were the one and sole purpose of creation.”

In other news…scientists are working on a computer simulation of a fruit fly brain. See Mike’s post at Brain Stimulant for more information.

The Human Body

In the first video ever posted on Science of the Times, Eric shows us how the flu virus jumps from one species to another and finally ends up in humans.

The brain is weird. It turns out that when researchers stimulate parts of a patient’s premotor cortex, the patient moves, but has no idea they moved. When a researcher stimulates parts of a patient’s inferior posterior parietal cortex, the patient swears they moved, but they don’t. Katherine Porter explains everything in It’s All in Your Head at Galley Proofs.

You’ve probably heard of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), but have you heard of PTED (Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder)? GrrlScientist writes that “those with PTED suffer from intrusive thoughts and memories long after the triggering event, phobicly avoid places related to the event and are pathologically consumed by an intense desire for revenge.” It just so happens that the next edition of DSM (the mental health “bible”) is in the works—will PTED make the cut?

AK writes a pretty heavy review of memory, emotions and state-dependent learning at AK’s Rambling Thoughts. FYI: state-dependent learning is the process whereby an individual learns something while under the influence of a drug and is therefore more likely to be able to retrieve that information when he/she is on that drug again. This type of research was pretty popular in the ‘70s…

In 1905, Swiss authorities blamed absinthe (perhaps unfairly) for multiple murders and an attempted suicide. Absinthe was banned in Switzerland, the United States and across Europe a few years later. Now, “the green fairy” is once again legal. Romeo Vitelli, author of Providentia, takes a look at absinthe in The Lanfray Murders.

Scientists in Society

Gustav Nilsonne’s research is published with Open Access! What does this mean? Good things, very good things. As the author puts it: “We have no reason to keep supporting the self-serving oligopolies of knowledge that still publish most scholarly articles, when we can instead make them freely available to the entire world.”

Reviews and Responses

In The Bourne ultimatum, the crew from Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog share their views of Joel K Bourne Jr’s National Geographic piece “The Global Food Crisis: The End of Plenty.” It was a pretty good article, a “tour de force,” they say except for one thing…

GrrlScientist reviews “Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals,” the new book by Temple Grandin (a high-functioning autistic known for her work in humane livestock handling). In all, GrrlScientist recommends the book even though she’s skeptical of Grandin’s take on housecats.


At 10,000 Birds, Corey Finger discusses the Yellow Wagtails of Kazakhstan and provides some fabulous photographs!

Finally, Greg (the host of the next edition of Scientia Pro Publica) writes about the science of birdwatching. He writes, “Right now the loons and their chicks are ten feet off shore in one direction, and I’m 20 feet in the other direction. If I type loudly one of them may look up to see what the sound is.” Hmmm, sounds like a pretty sweet gig, Greg!

That’s it for today’s carnival. I hope you enjoyed yourself. Greg of Greg Laden’s Blog will be hosting the next edition of Scientia Pro Publica on July 6. If you’d like to be included in the next carnival, submit your stuff (awesome stuff only, please) using this automated submission form or email it to ScientiaBlogCarnival [at] gmail [dot] com. Please include a brief description of your submission—it makes things a lot easier for the hosts. Speaking of hosts…if you’re interested in hosting Scientia Pro Publica on your blog, leave a comment here or contact GrrlScientist.

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