Archive for the 'Science Thursday' Category

Filed under: not helping Jennifer

We emerge only briefly from our hibernation to bring you important news: a new species of jumping spider has been discovered, and a contest is being held to name it. Beware of photos of said specimen at the link. You know who you are.

Pinko suggests ploverulus amatiens, but we are partial to the more subtle lapsias gooba, in spite of the patriarchal naming conventions used in descriptive names.

(Astute and worldly readers will note that this same edifice detailed by decidedly more local blogger Substance McGravitas. Thus far, a plaque to commemorate the visit has not been approved.)

Please contribute your suggestions below, or at the link. Bonus points for Phil Collins references and more general depravity.

Any other business?

Happy Birthday to Pinko Punko from Pitchfork

Dear Mr. Punko,

Despite the years of abuse we at Pitchfork have suffered at the hands of yourself and Monsieur Canadian, we still retain a fondness for your blog and the good work done over the years.  It takes a truly half-assed blog to make us look like we know what we’re doing.  Also, thanks for the traffic.  As a token of our appreciation and in celebration of your birthday, we at the P-fork team have been conducting our own research projects to give back to the greater bullsian community.  Attached please find our most recent manuscript, published in our flagship Pitchfork Press journal, Cobag Cell, which we think you will find tremendously interesting.  Although we still hate you very much, we want you to know how much better we are than you.

Sincerely yours,

The staff at Pitchfork


Science fails U again

1) I just discovered that the French for “snowy plover” is “gravelot à collier interrompu“. Which no doubt translates as “abortive attempt to empty a coal freighter onto a burial site”.

This is clear defamation on the part of the French. I am aware of no plover in possession of a coal freighter who would allow such a commission to go unfinished.

No doubt the French for “taxonomist” is “tchieundère-mouphaine”.

2) Where is my car with a turbot engine?

Forget flying cars — as the 50s teaches us, the most important part of any car is fins. Therefore it’s obvious that the fins should be in the engine where they can do the most good. When you open the hood the of a car, there ought to be flatfish staring back you, just waiting to give you the freedom of the open road.

3) Notice anything wrong with this list?

Of course you do: no moose! Thus the perverse priorities of scientists are revealed yet again.

Note that they have cloned ferrets. That means there could be a standardized ferret for ferret curling. There’s only one problem: who ever heard of curling with a frakkin’ ferret? I mean, sure, there’s “ferret legging”, and also that bit of the Laws of Cricket (Law 5, §9.xlvii, I think) that allows for “the use of a ferret as a replacement ball if the standard issue ball is a) rendered irretrievable by a spacetime anomaly, or b) eaten by a badgerA further section defines “badger” as “all those creatures listed in the section ‘On Baddgers’ in the 6th Earl of Gravelotham’s 1523 Hountsman’s Lawes.” This includes “Baddgers, stoattes, dormice:-common, New World terrappins, hedgewhigs, Tyggers, parsnips, dormice:-flame Brething, the Earl of Molemensbury, & ferale terriers:-of wieght one-halfe to 1 and two-third stone.” There is a note that the measure for “stone” is the one in use in Hertfordshire at the time, not the more recent standardized unit. Also, as no one has determined what his Lordship meant by a “hedgewhig”, nothing going by that name counts for purposes of this rule.“, but curling?

On the other hand, all attempts to establish moose curling as an international sport have floundered solely on the lack of agreement on a standard for moose. There is thus a far greater need for a standardized moose than a standardized ferret.

The director of the Bank of Molemensbury has indicated an interest in funding such a project. However, actually releasing any funds would require first finding a way to end the century-and-a-half long siege of the bank by flaming dormice.

New York Times trolls Cancer Research, Research Partisans Call Emu Alert

Gina Kolata at the NY Times wrote a Sunday Times piece about the risk averse National Cancer Institute funding regime. I’ll just say that reading the headline and first few sentences in my still plastic-bag wrapped and folded Sunday Times I started to lost my grip on polite discourse, though I am generally well-regarded in that regard.

For the full flavor of the piece, you should just take it all in, but it is your typical collection of Just So™ brand Straw and concern-trollish question-asking. The shallowness of the piece is astounding. I however am taking it to heart. If Kolata can be given more weight for NIH funding decisions, my grant with the below aims has a good shot at being funded:

Specific Aim 1: Obtain underpants.

Specific Aim 2: ???????

Specific Aim 3: Cure cancer!!!!!!!

I note that this project is incredibly risky with a huge upside.

Orac has some thoughts here, here. Mike the Mad. Jim Hu.

Emusevier- at it again

Finding new and important markets to serve.

I note that they are merely dilettantes in the publishing game. Elsevier had a patriotic gun show biz, but I bet pros like Emusevier are running suitcase nukes.

Let’s look at some titles. Don’t read that too quickly, filthbots.
Continue reading ‘Emusevier- at it again’

Dear siRNA-based drug companies ….. April Fool’s!!!!!!!

Perhaps you should do some controls before you start clinical trials next time, cobags!

Here’s the scoop. There’s a terrible ocular disease called blinding choroidal neovascularization (CNV), which occurs during age-related macular degeneration. What happens is new blood vessels infiltrate into the retina, causing degeneration and blindness. The blood vessel growth is thought to be from angiogenesis, and some bright people got the idea that if you could inactivate some of the important genes that cause angiogenesis, you might be able to reverse the disease.

What these bright people did was utilize small interfering RNA molecules (siRNA) against two different angiogenic factors, VEGFA or its receptor VEGFR1, to hopefully block angiogenesis and reverse the disease. They did pre-clincial experiments in mice, where they directly injected these small double-stranded RNAs right into the eye, and lo and behold, got fantastic results. They had no idea how cells were supposed to be taking up these siRNAs, they had no idea exactly how the siRNAs were exerting a physiological response, and they certainly had no idea how specific the response was. All they cared about was that it worked. After all, siRNA is magic and will cure all diseases. They also didn’t bother to do the right controls to see what happens if you put in an siRNA targeting a different molecule, or even nothing at all.

Continue reading ‘Dear siRNA-based drug companies ….. April Fool’s!!!!!!!’

Why my lab suxxez, told Bossy style

Part 1 of an occasional series, in three pictures:







Math Corner

The giganticity and inevitableness of the painful canker sore I will obtain during the holiday months scales directly with the size and deliciousness of the crate of clementines, nature’s own mouthly citrus grenades. FREAKONOMICS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


James Watson, historically known for highly cobaggish tendencies, sullies science and his reputation, with some ridiculous statements. The poop is just starting to hit the fan. I wonder what US coverage will be like, because he is one of the last of his generation, and held up as a pioneering genius. I think he gets less credit than his colleague in the discovery of DNA structure, Francis Crick, who was one of the greatest biological thinkers of the last century. Watson essentially stopped appearing on papers from his own lab in the early 60s, but he created an environment at Harvard that trained a large number of very smart and very good people that pushed molecular biology in the 60s, 70s and 80s. This is just a sad, sad thing.

From the Dept. of We Knew That If We Were Studying Pinko and A Bag of Cookies in the Grocery Store Parking Lot

From the latest issue of Current Biology:

The Evolutionary Origins of Human Patience: Temporal Preferences in Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Human Adults

To make adaptive choices, individuals must sometimes exhibit patience, forgoing immediate benefits to acquire more valuable future rewards [1, 2, 3]. Although humans account for future consequences when making temporal decisions [4], many animal species wait only a few seconds for delayed benefits [5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. Current research thus suggests a phylogenetic gap between patient humans and impulsive, present-oriented animals [9, 11], a distinction with implications for our understanding of economic decision making [12] and the origins of human cooperation [13]. On the basis of a series of experimental results, we reject this conclusion. First, bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) exhibit a degree of patience not seen in other animals tested thus far. Second, humans are less willing to wait for food rewards than are chimpanzees. Third, humans are more willing to wait for monetary rewards than for food, and show the highest degree of patience only in response to decisions about money involving low opportunity costs. These findings suggest that core components of the capacity for future-oriented decisions evolved before the human lineage diverged from apes. Moreover, the different levels of patience that humans exhibit might be driven by fundamental differences in the mechanisms representing biological versus abstract rewards.

To sum up: “I got no patience, and I hate waiting. Bonobos win!”

UPDATE Case in point: I’m picking up my friend from the train station. He was up in the hippie place shooting lasers at crystals, so I hopped past the KGO (I spared UC the Bay Stink report because it was so late, but it was stinky). Right next to the train station is a generic wing place. Open til midnight. I had neither an exceptional desire or hunger for generic wings. OR DID I? I did. We stopped. Fries were dusted with garlicky, salty, MSGy, oddly sweet magic dust. Wings were fine. I couldn’t not stop, but I bet a bonobo could have. Just who is the evolutionary dead end???