Sunday, July 1, 2012

Back from the Dead and Ready to Party

I apologize for not showing up here for a bit. I'm sure both of my readers have been disappointed beyond measure.

Reader #1: Hey Freddie? Who was that blogger we used to read? Poppy? Kissy? Something?
Reader #2: I don't know anybody by that name. Put on the TV. Nova's got something interesting.

There are a number of reasons (no excuses) for this to have happened. Finishing the first cut of a novel. Some nuisance medical issues. Work. Family. The phase of the moon. Fluctuations in the element Carbon.

But one reason did seem to flocculate to the top of the pond: I got burnt out.

Ken Kesey said that he was in a writer's workshop when he realized that a bad book took just as much work as a good book. So are these science articles. One can argue their quality but they take a lot of work. After the last batch I just didn't have it in me to blog about anything for a while.

Clearly, something has to change.

What I've decided to do is lighten them up some. Show some science. Talk about some things that interest me that are not science. Have a bit more fun with less effort.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

In that vein here is the first one: A quick look at a bunch of interesting articles. Have fun.

U.S. Tightens Rules on Antibiotics and Livestock: 80% of all antibiotics used in the USA are used in livestock. Imagine the sea of excrement that comes from livestock and works its evil way to the sea. Now lace that wonderful river with antibiotics. Now listen to all of the rhetoric regarding antibiotic resistant bacteria and physicians prescribing antibiotics. Cognitive dissonance anyone?

Teamwork Builds Big Brains: What humans do better than any other species is cooperate with one another. Now there's solid evidence that it may serve as at least one of the sources of the selection pressure for all of that tissue between our ears.

Egg shaped dinosaur evolution: The big question about the Cretaceous extinction isn't that dinosaurs died. It's that mammal and birds lived when dinosaurs died. What is the selection mechanism of the Cretaceous extinction? Now one idea is that the life cycle of the dinosaurs might have made them vulnerable to the sort of extinction event that happened at the K-T boundary. Probably doesn't explain the demise of marine reptiles or pterosaurs.

New wrinkles in Dark Matter here and here: Something makes the rims of galaxies turn faster than they should. That's the original evidence of dark matter: a large amount of that something that has a gravitational effect but is otherwise unobserved. Yet it doesn't seem to show up around here: the locality around Sol. Why not?

Non-DNA DNA like molecules: DNA and RNA for the longest time were considered the sole possible mechanism for genetic inheritance. Not necessarily so. This does open two questions: 1) do we have to have DNA and RNA for extraterrestrial life and 2) Why did DNA and RNA become sole proprietors on earth?

Beating Down the Earth with Asteroids: The Late Heavy Bombardment is when the Earth was pummeled again and again with huge rocks. Big craters. Big events. It was supposed to have stopped about 3.7 billion years ago. New evidence suggests that it actually stopped about 1.8 billion years ago. Prokaryotic life is thought to have started about 3.5 billion years ago-- close to the end of the Late Heavy Bombardment. Now it looks like the early life forms might have happily tolerated being occasionally obliterated by a white hot impact. Eukaryotes, however, are thought to have originated 1.6-2.1 billion years ago. Hm. Interesting coincidence.

Wind Farms may have a role in climate change: They mix night time cool are on the ground with warmer upper air. Ah we live in interesting times.

New characteristics of the Permian Extinction: Biochemical evidence of "the animals died from a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water, an excess of carbon dioxide, a reduced ability to make shells from calcium carbonate, altered ocean acidity and higher water temperatures." Curious. That sounds very familiar.

Concerns about GM crops: Use of herbicide causes select for increased resistance to herbicides. Many GM crops have built in resistance to such herbicides allowing enormous quantities of herbicides to be dumped on them to kill the weeds and leave the crops. Result: increased weed resistance to herbicides. Wow! Who would have thought it?

New model of solar system formation: Jupiter started out as a little guy. But when he grew up he changed everything.

Mouse Brain in Silico: Scientists are building a virtual mouse brain. From which they will learn enough to build a virtual human brain. What will they think about?

Brain Scans of Comatose Patients and Consciousness: This is just scary. Is there brain death? And would anyone but the patient really know?

When Men are Less Moral Than Women: American men, anyway.

And that's it for now.

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