Archive for: June, 2009

Friday Weird Science: Female Water Striders Make them Work for it

Jun 19 2009 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Sci is stuck in the car dealership waiting for her baby to get her checkup. There are good things about this (free wireless!), but the coffee here is TERRIBLE. Bringing own coffee next time. But it also means there's plenty of time to bring you your daily dose of weird science!

Now, in most insect species, the female doesn't have a lot of choice whether or not she gets mated with. The time comes, the males fight each other, and the poor female is stuck for it. But in other species, a male has to prove himself, and it's up to the female to accept him or not. Perhaps the best-known example is a dung beetle, who makes up a nice, tasty ball of crap for his special lady friend. If it's big enough, he's good to go. Otherwise, no thanks, try again, and make sure the dung is FRESH this time.

Well it turns out that there are several species of female insects that can't be "coerced" into mating. Rather, they have to be persuaded. The question is, what is the difference between those who are coerced and those who are persuaded. Scientists have hypothesized that the difference might be hidden genetalia. If the male can't find it, he can't force it. And it turns out, in water striders, this may make the difference. Han and Jablonski. "Female genetalia concealment promotes intimate male courtship in a water strider" PLoS ONE, 2009.

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Jun 19 2009 Published by under Activism

The Silence is the Enemy Campaign continues! Please take a look around the blogs that are participating, there's some GREAT stuff going on. For a full list, check out the Intersection. And a good number (including this one) are donating their clicks to Doctors Without Borders in honor of Silence is the Enemy.

As far as individual posts, may Sci recommend the ones over at Mad Scientist, Jr. Toaster has a bunch of really good posts on the men involved, how society makes them into men who can belittle (and some who can rape) women, and how we might go about changing this. It's a very thought-provoking series.
She also recommends some interesting posts (and conversations) going on at Almost Diamonds. Check them out.

And last, but not least, the talented Arikia has donated her time to create a website devoted to Silence is the Enemy!
It's great that this is picking up steam, and more in always better. Keep clicking, and keep reading!

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The Music of the Brain

Jun 18 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

First of all, remember that post I wrote on the serotonin theory of depression, and how it was probably wrong? I was right it is at the very least incomplete. Another one bites the dust. It's sad, as we are so desperate to find SOME theory on which we people who like to study depression can hang our hats. But the serotonin one was not to be. Check out the blog coverage. It is incisive. I don't know that we should be THAT hard on the researchers who invented the idea. After all, it was a good idea at the time, and the good news is that everyone is willing to accept better evidence and move on. The scientific method at work.

Ok, I'll admit, when Sci first saw this publication, she went "LOL wut?!" Why would anyone DO this? I mean, cool, but WHY? Kind of like putting a really sensitive measurement apparatus for brain wave activity in a freely-flying bat. Cool? Yes. Useful?'s COOL!
But this paper IS cool, and the more I think about it, the more I think there might be something to this, following some more refinement and development down the line. Wu, et al. "Scale-free music of the brain", PLoS ONE, 2009.

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The things Sci has seen...

Jun 17 2009 Published by under Activism

Sci has learned something important today: Mini-moos SUCK. I know my regular brand of coffee. I know it in all its dark, rich, spicy deliciousness. But today, it tastes don't know how it's possible for a creamer to make expensive, fair trade, delicious awesome into watery stuff you could buy from the 7-11.
I want my REAL creamer back. Call me old-fashioned, but...

The other thing you should know is that the animal research debate has resurfaced. It's going on at Dr. Isis' and at Dr. Free-Ride's, both of whom can talk about this much better than I can.
All I can say is this:

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A Couple of Things

Jun 16 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Sci is exhausted and hasn't had more than her first cup of coffee this morning. She will try to get back to neurotransmitter stuff this afternoon.
But there are some things you should check out!

1) Scientia Pro Publica is up, and there's some good stuff in it, including coverage of sex week!
2) Drugmonkey has a good article up on the distinction between cannabis and nicotine withdrawal. The comments it has sparked are even more interesting.
3) Op-Ed in the NY Times on the failed Drug War. Some fodder for thought.

4) Thus Spake Zuska is doing some GREAT posts where she goes through The Gender Knot chapter by chapter. It's a great introduction to why feminists think the way they do and why so many of our assumptions may in fact be holding up the patriarchy.

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Things I like to Blog About: Neurotransmission

Jun 16 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

I suppose I thought for a while that if I was talking about dopamine and serotonin and GABA and things enough, people would just kind of "get" neurotransmission. And most people do. But it's still a good thing to cover, partially because it's kind of mind boggling to think about (well, Sci finds it mind-boggling), and partially because it helps you understand why changes in receptors, changes in transporters, or changes in release will have different effects. This comes in very handy when talking about various psychiatric and addictive drugs of which I am very fond. And so, your general post today: Neurotransmission.

And also, I get to DRAW!!! w00t.
The synapse. Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. Like so many things, it is not what is on the outside, but what is on the inside that counts. 🙂

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The Sci-curiously ginger cocktail

Jun 15 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Sci has not had time to get heavy with the science. This is because she took the weekend off to hang in Philly. And it means I got to see the Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities!!!

Apparently, in the olden days, they used to give gentlemen a drink of sherry before the viewed the exhibits, to "strengthen the mental faculties". I could have used to mental faculty strengthening. Not because it was gross or anything (though Mr. SiT found a few of the exhibits a little stomach turning), but because there's SO MUCH. I saw a LOVELY fetal pig example of cyclopia (the snout shape helps emphasize the proboscis effect), and the megacolon was excellent, though not as well preserved as I hoped. The only thing I can say, though, is that they need more space, and that they may be trying to do too much. Because they're trying to emphasize the weird, while also emphasizing the science, stuff gets left out. How did the soap lady die? What are the features of the fetus at each stage of development. And though there were lovely piles of bones, I REALLY could have used some labels. Sci has always wanted to take some time off to take medical anatomy, because she is currently woefully deficient in this area.

Still, lots of great stuff to be seen. I particularly liked the wall of eye diseases (all the diseases of the lachrymal glands lined up really show the similarities and differences). Good slices of the brain, and a couple of excellent examples of stroke. Beautiful fetal specimens, and a couple of nice models of uterine prolapse. People will probably LOVE the specimen of Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. Sci definitely recommends for all of your Weird Science needs. 🙂 I've got lots of blog fodder!
After the museum, we stopped by Rouge, a restaurant acclaimed for its cheeseburger covered in Gruyere and onions (AWESOME). And most awesome of all, they invented a drink for me!!! Sci loves anything with ginger in it. They had a "gingerly" cocktail, but it unfortunately was full of gin as well as ginger. As Sci also has a severe visceral reaction to gin, she asked for some help. She got this:

Heavy splash sours (they make their own, 2pts lime juice, 1 pt lemon juice, granulated sugar)
2 oz Stonge's ginger (apparently you can find this by asking for currant wine)
1 oz courvossier
1 oz St. Germaine
Shake w/ice. Strain. Serve with garnish of crystallized ginger.
curiously ginger.jpg
It was DELICIOUS. It now ranks as Sci's top drink EVER. She would like to name it the Sci-curiously ginger cocktail. But she will take further suggestions. 🙂 The waitresses all liked it, too. My hope is that one day you'll see it on the menu.

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Friday Weird Science: Female Ejaculation

Jun 12 2009 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Earlier this week, the infamous Bora pointed Sci toward a New Scientist article on female ejaculation. The article is really interesting and worth checking out. But being a true sex science geek and a history geek as well, Sci turned to the lit. And today I present you with the man himself: Ernst Grafenberg, discoverer of the G spot, and, only slightly less well-known as the inventor of 'the ring' and its potential use in contraception.

It's weird, historical science time.
Grafenberg, E. "The role of urethra in female orgasm". The International Journal of Sexology, 1950.

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Your clicks should move it, move it

Jun 11 2009 Published by under Activism

I don't know why, but Sci has always really liked this song:

Sci dances just like that hippo. The resemblance is uncanny.
You should move it move it. You should move it move it to these links. And you should click on them! Because for every click you do, money goes this month to Doctors Without Borders. We want to spread the word and help victims of rape throughout the world. Every little click helps. You know you like to move it move it:

The Intersection
On Becoming A Domestic And Laboratory Goddess
The Questionable Authority
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Blog Of The Moderate Left
Seattle Grassroots Examiner
the rugbyologist

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I want my own death robot!

Jun 10 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

This guy is awesome. In fact, this guy makes me wish that awesome was a verb, so that I could say that "he awesomed around like there was no tomorrow."

Pop Sci reports that Carlos Owens of Wasilla, Alaska built his own 18 foot tall robotic exoskeleton in his backyard know...he can. He acknowledges that it may have legitimate applications for the military or construction, but this ignores it's primary function: terrifying the villagers! Owens needs to work on his evil laugh. Muahahaha!

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