Archive for the 'Natural Sciences' category

The only thing birds have to fear is fear itself

Dec 21 2011 Published by under Evolution, Natural Sciences, Uncategorized

Well, at least, the only thing THESE birds have to fear is fear itself.

This is one of those studies that, when you lay it out, seems really...simple. Clear layout. Clear results. But it challenges a lot of the things that we once assumed about predator:prey relationships. Most particularly, it overturns the idea that the only thing making prey die from predation is the predators themselves.

This seems really simple, right? Fox eats bunny, lots of foxes mean the bunny population declines. Just foxes being AROUND bunnies (but eating, say, SmartOnes meals or something), well the bunnies wouldn't get eaten and the prey population would stay the same or even increase. Right?

Well...wrong. It turns out that sometimes what the prey population has to fear, is FEAR of predation itself.

Zanette et al. "Perceived Predation Risk Reduces the Number of Offspring Songbirds Produce per Year" Science, 2011.

(this is a full video by the authors, showing the results of their finding! Wish more people could do this!)

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6 responses so far

In which Sci is WRONG, you guys. Follow up on bees and cell phones

So I posted something the other day on bees and cell phones. The science in the paper itself wasn't convincing to me, but the other references they pulled out in the discussion made me pull an about face. I thought, hey, maybe the electromagnetic field potentials from the cell phones ARE contributing to colony collapse disorder.

And thus I wrote my post.

And then came the morning, and Jonathan, on Twitter, who pointed out I was wrong (Credit to him and all the people at Ars Technica, for not only doing good writing, but for including links to papers at the end!!! WOO!!). And I looked, and asked, and then asked around.


I hate being wrong. I feel really dumb, and I feel like I've let you all down (all two of you who read the blog). I'm sorry, you guys. 🙁

SO. Like the good little scientist, I am going to revise my hypothesis. We're going to cover this paper again, with MOAR references, and MOAR research. And I'm going to get it RIGHT. Or as right as I can under the circumstances.

Favre, D. "Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping" Apidologie, 2011.

(This dog in a bee suit, however, is NEVER wrong and way too cute. Source via Creative Commons)

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19 responses so far

Are Cell Phones Killing the Bees?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sci was too credulous when she wrote this post. I have since seen the error, written a correction, and the result is up here. PLEASE GO THERE for the real story on bees and cell phones. Thanks, y'all!
- a very ashamed Scicurious

Sci has been really interested in the latest literature on cell phones. Partially because some of it involves holding a cell phone over a petri dish filled with sperm, I will admit. 🙂 But it's also just one of those things that really interest people. We're using these super cool little gadgets that can access the internet anywhere...what ARE they doing to us? To our environments? Is it bad when you talk for a while and they get all warm and stuff? So I've begun digging through the lit. And just the other day, the brilliant and talented Desiree of Skeptically Speaking handed me this little gem.

It's Official: Cell Phones are Killing Bees.

My first thought was...well KILLING seems an awfully strong word, especially if you're not smashing a bee with your cell phone. So I had to read the paper. And now...I think I might be convinced.

Favre, D. "Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping" Apidologie, 2011.

So today we are taking a break from the cranial nerves (hey, I never said I would do them all straight through!) and delving into this. Everyone, put on your bee suits.

(Source via Creative Commons)

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8 responses so far

Scicurious GUEST POST: An Optic Cup in a DISH

Apr 20 2011 Published by under Natural Sciences, Physiology/Pharmacology

Today, Sci would like to welcome back to the blog Ambivalent Academic!!! Everyone give her a big hand. 🙂 We were chatting recently about a cool new paper that came out in Nature on corneal formation in a dish, and she said she'd give it a go on my blog!!! So please welcome Ambivalent Academic and her highly awesome post on corneal a DISH.

Eiraku et al. "Self-organizing optic-cup morphogenesis in three-dimensional culture." Nature. 2011

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16 responses so far

Oral Contraceptives and Weight Gain: Data and Anecdotes

Feb 02 2011 Published by under Health Care/Medicine, Natural Sciences

@noahwg linked an article (or a blog post?  It seems more like a blog post) in the NY Times today, on oral contraceptives and weight gain. The post covers a review of various clinical trials (there are only three listed, but that's because they are using the most stringent measures of three treatment trials per study) and concludes that there is no causal association between oral contraceptive use and weight gain.

Yup.  Again.  Because this isn't news.  In fact, it's a reprint of a review released in 2008.  Combined oral contraceptives don't cause weight gain in any of the studies in which they've been tested.

I've seen studies like this before, and I commented on it to a female friend of mine. And I got the response I have now come to expect: "Well, I gained weight!"

Sci's gonna have to put on her ranty pants for a minute.

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25 responses so far

First, Amoeba Farming. Next, THE WORLD.

Jan 26 2011 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Natural Sciences

I for one welcome our new amoeba overlords…

Sci is aware that the world freakin covered this paper last week. I don’t get access to press releases and so couldn’t get the paper until Friday, and well, time. But I really wanted to read it myself (yes, sometimes I read scientific papers for fun. What?!?!). And dang, this paper is COMPLETELY FASCINATING. I normally don’t say that about stuff outside my field. But WHOA.

Amoebas. They navigate mazes. They go from single, solitary little beings to huge conglomerates of cells in times of trouble. And now, they’re farming. Next, the WORLD. After all, they already figured out the transport system of Tokyo.

Brock, et al. “Primitive agriculture in a social amoeba” Nature, 2011.

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3 responses so far

Smelly Self-Confidence

Today is Sci's entry for this month's CARNAL CARNIVAL. The month's topic, as you may have body odor.

Ah, the big B.O. One of the things that people are by the most sensitive about in countries like the US. In fact, people have been busily covering any sign of their natural scent (and blocking out the scents of others) with hefty doses of whatever sweet smelling item they could come across for several thousand years. We judge others based on their body odor and we also judge ourselves. But the question is, if we think that WE smell other people notice?

It might sound like a one hand clapping sort of question, but not at all. If whether you think you smell is linked to the way you portray yourself, it's possible that other people may notice, even if they can't smell you. This study was going to find out whether this is true. Roberts, et al. "Manipulation of body odour alters men’s self-confidence and judgements of their visual attractiveness by women" International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2009.

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3 responses so far

Flirting Butterflies with Ornate Ornamentation

Jan 12 2011 Published by under Evolution, Natural Sciences

When it comes to mating, most species of animals have one sex that does all the work. Stereotypically, we think of the male putting in most of the effort, whether it's with extreme ornamentation like peacocks or with extreme effort like dung beetles. But it's not always the case, and sometimes females take the initiative. But in most cases the solicitor for sex doesn't really vary, it's the male, or the female, but not generally both.

Enter the butterfly: Bicyclus anynama. It's an African species often called the "Squinting Brown Bush Butterfly". I imagine that the genus "bicyclus" refers to the dual life cycle of the genus (though I couldn't find any solid information on that, anyone?), but to me it just makes me think of a butterfly riding a bicycle. Prudic, et al. "Developmental Plasticity in Sexual Roles of Butterfly Species Drives Mutual Sexual Ornamentation" Science, 2010.

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7 responses so far

The Flying Snake Portion of your Dissertation Work...

Dec 06 2010 Published by under Evolution, Natural Sciences, Uncategorized

Sci usually blogs about things related to health, being a biomedical scientist as she is. But this, this is AWESOME. COMPLETELY AWESOME.

It's people. Tossing snakes. From towers.

And it made me think so forcibly of the Snake Fight Portion of One's Thesis Defense (which is brilliant and should be required reading for every grad and post-doc) that I HAD to blog it!
(Is this the same lab?) Socha et al. "Non-equilibrium trajectory dynamics and the kinematics of gliding in a flying snake" Bioinsp. Biomim., 2010.

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9 responses so far

Book Review: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Aug 03 2010 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Natural Sciences

Sci has very little shame when it comes to certain things. Book procurement is one of them, and when she found out that Mary Roach (the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex) was coming out with another book, she had no hesitation in going right to the source and sending a polite begging letter (with remarkably little fan-girling) asking for a review copy.

And when it arrived in the mail, Sci may not may not have danced around a little. And she definitely put aside everyone else she was reading and pounced on the book (sorry, guys).

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach.

packing for mars.jpg

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4 responses so far

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