Criminal gang-ish

News Mash: Did Science need to tell me about its fascianting criminal studies? No, but I appreciate it!

Scientists and criminals…

Two groups, when viewed separately, definitely lack cohesion.

But if pair together, regarding crime research?

Perfect fit!

[via PopSci]Brain Scan Predicts Whether Convicts Will Re-Offend: Welcome To The Sci-Fi Future ~by Dan Nosowitz

Researchers at the Mind Research Network in New Mexico–a non-profit, partially government-funded neuroscience facility–have discovered a way to predict whether released convicts will return to their own ways. Sort of.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found a correlation between activity in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain and criminal activity. Researchers used fMRI machines on a population of 96 male convicts, then “followed” them for the next four years (we assume this means “checked their criminal records” and not “skulked after them while wearing balaclavas) to see whether they’d relapse. Many did, of course; the US is not a friendly place for an ex-convict, and there’s a high rate of relapse. But the correlation between the findings from the fMRI is what’s interesting here.

The anterior cingulate cortex is the section of the brain that circles around the corpus callosum, in the central-front part of the brain. It’s responsible, we think, for some involuntary functions like regulating heart rate and blood pressure, but there’s also some evidence that it has an impact on emotional response, motivation, and error detection, among other functions. In one study, increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex was seen when study participants were shown particularly emotional video clips.

But in this study, men with lower activity in the anterior cingulate cortex were found to be significantly more likely to commit crimes after their release. It’s a significant correlation: men in the bottom half of anterior cingulate cortex activity were 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes and 4.3 times more likely to be arrested for nonviolent crimes.

…[Read More]

Especially for other Info Addicts like myself…

I mean, knowing that criminal gangs act like pacts of animals in the wild, and as a result their fight locations can be predicted with 99% certainty?

Honestly, who needs to know this?

Nevertheless…

Fascinating.

[via DailyMail]How gang members behave like animals… and maths experts are now predicting where they will fight rivals Criminal gang-ishwith 99% accuracy ~By Amanda Williams

Maths experts have used geometric equations learned from wild animals to predict the location of fights between rival gangs with almost 99 per cent accuracy.

Jeffrey Brantingham, an anthropologist at UCLA, in California, who uses statistics to study crime, has employed a theory devised by Alfred Lotka, an American statistician, and Vito Volterra, an Italian mathematician, in the 1920s.

The pair observed that similarly sized rival groups of a species – from lions to hyenas – claim territories whose boundaries form a perpendicular line halfway between each group’s home, be it a den or a beehive.

Their findings – called the Lotka- Volterra equations – have been long used as a staple of ecological theory.

Brantingham applied it to 13 equally sized criminal gangs from the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles’ East Side.

He and his team, aided by police, identified an area or ‘anchor point’ which functioned as the gang’s home base and used the Lotka- Volterra equation to draw borders between the turfs, Smithsonian.comreports.

Brantingham said that according to the equation, if the gangs are equal in ability, the boundary between them was equi-distant and perpendicular between their anchor points. He added: ‘It’s a nice, simple, geometric organization.’

According to the equations, researchers then predicted where the violence between the rivals gangs was most likely to take place. They predicted 58.8 per cent would occur less than a fifth of a mile from the borders, 87.5 per cent within two-fifths of a mile and 99.8 per cent within a mile.

Analysis of 563 gang-related shootings in the area between 1999 and 2002, showed researchers their predictions were almost exactly accurate, with the location of real-life shootings being 58.2 per cent, 83.1 per cent and 97.7 per cent, respectively.

Brantingham, who said his mapping method better reflects criminal activity than other police methods because it is not dictated to by geography,  is continuing to test the territory maps.

…[Read More]

So what am I saying?

Other than this information does me little, immediate benefit from the knowing…

Unless one counts the joys I will receive, when I recount my “knowledge” to others at a later date?

Oh, and believe you me…

I count it!

You should to.

There is joy in the simple knowing–Never doubt it!

a cure for what ails you

News Mash: Natural, traditional medicines are only ‘implausible’…Until they are not!

When it comes to traditional medicines…

And natural ‘cures’?

Science isn’t buying it.

I mean, if they did, what would happen to all of their Big Pharma funding? Duh!

[via PopSci]Is Homeopathy Really As Implausible As It Sounds?

The new British minister of health has recently become the target of scorn and mockery, after a science writer with The Telegraph noted that he supports homeopathy, a branch of alternative medicine most health experts view as quackery. But just how quackish is it?

Quick as Western doctors are to equate alternative medicine with utter nonsense, there’s a difference between something that hasn’t been proven to work and something that couldn’t possibly work. The tools available for understanding the body are largely blunt, and some alternative theories have gained traction as those tools sharpen. Improvements in brain imaging technology, for example, have shown that meditation—a practice long dismissed by Western doctors as pure mysticism—can improve both the structure and function of the brain.

The form of alternative medicine known as Homeopathy was developed by a German physician around the turn of the 19th century. For two and a half centuries, it has sustained a solid following: According to the National Center for Homeopathy, over 100 million people worldwide use homeopathic medicine. There are—according to the Center’s website—eighteen homeopathic doctors within a ten-mile radius of Popular Science’s office in New York. Could it be that the practice of homeopathy is simply untested and unfairly stigmatized, or is it truly implausible?

All homeopathic remedies are available in a huge range of concentrations. But there’s a big difference: those concentrations are really small. In homeopathy, less is more, so homeopaths think of a large dose as a high dilution, instead of a high concentration.

In fact, most available treatments are sold at even more absurd dilutions. Oscillococcinum, a popular flu remedy derived from duck liver and made by Boiron, a French manufacturer of homeopathic cures, comes in a standard dilution of 400X.

At this low concentration, to ensure you actually did ingest one molecule you would have to swallow about 10380 pills—many, many more pills than there are atoms in the universe.

And that’s pretty implausible. [Read More]

But unfortunately for Big Pharma…

Slowly, some opinions are being changed in the scientific community.

And yes, I did only say “some” so no need to get excited yet.

Nevertheless…

It’s nice to have hope!

[via io9]Gathering Scientific Evidence that Traditional Medicines Can Work ~by Sophie Bushwick

Traditional medicine doesn’t just fill up the health food aisle at the supermarket — it could help make everybody healthier. But how can we figure out which ancient herbal remedies actually work, and which ones are just hype? An estimated 10,000 to 53,000 plant species were traditionally used as medicines, and only some of those could have bioactive molecules with actual molecules. That’s a lot of plants to sort through.

But now, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that we can find out — by comparing the plants that multiple different cultures adopted as remedies.

For example, say a plant often used to cure headaches in an ancient Nepalese culture was closely related to a plant used for the same purpose in South Africa. The communication-crippling geographical distance between these two cultures indicates that they discovered their headache cures independently. So they probably began using these plants because the flora had real pain-killing abilities. This plant family may produce valuable bioactive compounds.

The authors conclude that the plants near hot nodes on the cross-cultural plant family tree are more likely to have biological effects on the human body, and should become targets for drug development. “More than 80% of plant species have not been investigated for bioactivity and methods to distinguish those plants most likely to be bioactive when selecting species for further testing are needed,” they write. “The finding that medicinal plant use shows strong phylogenetic clustering indicates targeting close relatives of plants with known bioactivity or phylogenetic medicinal hotspots identified as hot nodes is a good strategy for focused screening.” [Read More]

Cause honestly, if everyone started turning away from dangerous of our drug crazed medical science establishment…

Big Pharma, and the drugs they insidiously push on humanity, would come to irreparable harm.

Oh, wait.

That’s not a bad thing…

Please carry on, turn away as you please.

No really…

PLEASE! 

i vant to bite your neck

News Mash: The tiny size of bugs today is due to birds. Thank you, birds!

Wow.

Make for a nice day when I can learn something new about myself.

Such as?

Oh, I am in love with bird. Madly. And have just uncovered this once deeply buried passion.

Mostly?

Because of THIS:

[via eScienceNews] Giant insects ruled the prehistoric skies during periods when Earth’s atmosphere was rich in oxygen. Then came the birds. After the evolution of birds about 150 million years ago, insects got smaller despite rising oxygen levels, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Insects reached their biggest sizes about 300 million years ago during the late Carboniferous and early Permian periods. This was the reign of the predatory griffinflies, giant dragonfly-like insects with wingspans of up to 28 inches (70 centimeters). The leading theory attributes their large size to high oxygen concentrations in the atmosphere (over 30 percent, compared to 21 percent today), which allowed giant insects to get enough oxygen through the tiny breathing tubes that insects use instead of lungs.

The new study takes a close look at the relationship between insect size and prehistoric oxygen levels. Matthew Clapham, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and Jered Karr, a UCSC graduate student who began working on the project as an undergraduate, compiled a huge dataset of wing lengths from published records of fossil insects, then analyzed insect size in relation to oxygen levels over hundreds of millions of years of insect evolution. Their findings are published in the June 4 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). [Read More]

And because, there exists…

A vampire spider that science is just NOW discovering, and to what degree, it hunts it prey.

This spider looks for two things: Girly appendages and for victims plump full of blood.

[via LiveScience] Jumping spiders, also known as vampire spiders, have a very specific diet: female mosquitoes that have just fed on blood. A new study using “Franken-mosquitoes”— glued-together parts of different mosquitoes — finds that the spiders check for not only a blood-red belly but also for girly antennae while choosing where to pounce.

“In the past it was thought that jumping spiders responded to very basic stimuli that triggered predatory behavior. Something along the lines of, ‘It is small and it moves, therefore it is prey,'” study researcher Ximena Nelson, of the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand, told LiveScience.

The new study indicates they are much pickier eaters than that, Nelson said: “It is clear from these results that this type of ‘algorithm’ is not used by E. culicivora [the jumping spider]. At the very least, it is much more sophisticated.” [Read More]

I am so glad, that thanks to birds?

These spiders are ‘bottom of my shoe’ size…

In other words?

Very smashable.

So…

Thank you birds.

It’s what fills up the ‘body cavity’ that makes your monster!

What constitutes a monster?

Varies for us all.

Take spiders.

Spiders are EVIL brains with legs.

Seriously.

Science says so…

(They just left out the ‘EVIL’ part, but that was due to an oversight on their part & not because ‘EVIL’ was not scientifically factual in this context)

[via eScienceNews]The brains of tiny spiders are so large that they fill their body cavities and overflow into their legs, STRI researchers report. As part of ongoing research to understand how miniaturization affects brain size and behavior, researchers measured the central nervous systems of nine species of spiders, from rainforest giants to spiders smaller than the head of a pin.

As the spiders get smaller, their brains get proportionally bigger, filling up more and more of their body cavities. “The smaller the animal, the more it has to invest in its brain, which means even very tiny spiders are able to weave a web and perform other fairly complex behaviors [i.e. EVIL behaviors],” said William Wcislo, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “We discovered that the central nervous systems of the smallest spiders fill up almost 80 percent of their total body cavity, including about 25 percent of their legs.”[Read More]

80% of their body cavity?

Wow…

Creepy.

That’s a lot of space filled with EVIL.

The ‘scary’ is all about body cavity, and just what could used to fill it.

But we are talking MY monster (SPIDERS!) here.

What about yours…

And speaking of room?

Pythons have it…

To spare.

Those of you who do not have a problem with spiders, how about we talk about YOUR monster for a second?

[via CosmosMagazine]Our early relatives would have made an easy meal for large snakes, according to new research that provides solid evidence for the threat snakes posed to primitive humans and other primates.

The finding, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, helps to settle the long disputed question of why humans have a fear of snakes, even though they pose little threat in modern society.

“I’m not sure if anyone till now has demonstrated with data just how dangerous large snakes must have been to early hominin species in the ancient past,” said anthropologist Thomas Headland from the not-for-profit organisation SIL International, who conducted the research with Harry Greene from Cornell University.

Fear of snakes in the grass

Snakes tend to eat their pray whole, making it hard to find fossil evidence of snakes preying on humans and other primates. In the rare cases where the fossilised contents of snake’s stomachs have been found, they did not contain traces of primates.

However, studies on humans looking at the response of both adults and children to images of snakes shows that children, like adults, are much quicker at spotting snakes in a scene than other objects. That suggests that our fear of snakes is in-built, rather than something we learn as we grow up. [Read More]

My ‘body cavity’ theory is looking pretty good now, isn’t it?

Just, you know…

D-oh!

Not for the majority of us humans.

Teddy needs to stop being so selfish. Someone get him on a social network ASAP!

The social network, and all the sites that make up this complicated beast…

Can be a complex place, fraught with social perils and pitfalls, just waiting to befall you, by that next thoughtless update.

However?

It is also a place which promotes coöperation…

Huh.

Who knew?

[via Physorg] Rand, a post-doctoral fellow in Harvard’s Department of Psychology and a Lecturer in Human Evolutionary Biology, is the lead author of a new paper, which found that dynamic, complex social networks encourage their members to be friendlier and more cooperative, with the possible payoff coming in an expanded social sphere, while can lead to an individual being shunned from the group and left – literally – on their own.

As described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the research is among the first such studies to examine social interaction as a fluid, ever-changing process. Previous studies of complex social networks largely used static snapshots of the groups to examine how members were or were not connected. This new approach, Rand said, is the closest scientists have yet come to describing the way the planet’s 6 billion inhabitants interact on a daily basis.

“What we are showing is the importance of the dynamic, flexible nature of real-world social networks,” Rand said. “Social networks are always shifting, and they’re not shifting in random ways.

“Although people sometimes do nasty things to each other, for the most part we are fantastically cooperative,” Rand said. “We do an amazing job of having thousands or even millions of people living in very close quarters in cities all over the world. In a functioning society, things like trade, friendship, even democracy itself require high levels of cooperation, and when everyone does it, you get good collective outcomes.”

“Cooperation is a fascinating topic,” Sociology and Medicine Professor and Pforzheimer House master Nicholas Christakis said. “We see cooperation everywhere in the biological and social worlds, but it’s actually very hard to explain. Why do creatures, including ourselves, cooperate?

“What our paper shows is that there is a deep relationship between cooperation and social networks. In particular, we found that if you allow people to re-wire their social networks, cooperation is sustained in the population. I believe this paper is the first to show, empirically, how that relationship works. As humans, we do two very special things: we re-shape the social world around us, and in so doing, we create a better place for ourselves by being nice to each other.” [Read More]

Discourages selfishness, does it?

This cute little guy could definitely make do with some of that…

Even though?

His selfishness is so…

Precious!

*swoon*

[via NewsLite]A video of a porcupine enjoying a corn on the cob so much that it squeals when someone tries to take it away has become an online hit. Obviously.

Teddy Bear the North American porcupine was recorded by staff at Zooniversity (a mobile teaching zoo) after they realised he was being particularly grumpy.

After giving Teddy an ear of corn, they tried to take it from him to see (or rather hear) how he responded… and oh boy did he.

He released a bizarre series of squeals which bosses say was so impressive they’ve been contacted by two major TV networks wanting to use the footage.[Read More]

Not sharing your corn there, huh Teddy?

Oh, my prickly, precocious, precious  friend…

You definitely need your own Facebook page, I think it would help out with social conditioning.

Plus?

I would selflessly L O V E to see it, regularly and often!

See?

Working already!

Never doubt it, Ninja Cow knows Magnetic North!

Cows always navigate…

Towards Magnetic North?

[via io9] The ongoing mystery of the magnetosensing cows

Back in 2008, a team of German researchers published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that claimed to demonstrate that cattle, when resting or grazing, actually align their bodies along the Earth’s magnetic fields.

The team’s results — which were based on satellite imagery of over 8,500 cattle from different regions around the globe — were compelling, but a recent attempt to replicate the researchers’ findings has failed, inciting some pretty serious scientific squabble. So where does the great magnetic cow debate stand today?

The original findings, presented by a research team led by zoologist Hynek Burda, used images acquired from Google Earth to demonstrate the cows’ magneto-reception capabilities.

“Amazingly,” wrote the researchers, “this ubiquitous phenomenon does not seem to have been noticed by herdsmen, ranchers, or hunters. Because wind and light conditions could be excluded as a common denominator determining the body axis orientation, magnetic alignment is the most parsimonious explanation.”

At the time, the team’s findings garnered quite a bit of media attention — something that apparently rubbed some researchers the wrong way.

“When in 2008 [Burda and his colleagues] started to announce their surprising findings in [the] mass media, we got the impression that this is not the way science should be made and we took a closer look,” says Lukas Jelinek, an electromagnetic-field researcher and one of the authors of the recent replication study. “We found out that it is not as fantastic as it was presented.”

Using a new set of Google Maps imagery of around 3400 cattle, Jelinek and his colleagues concluded that the cows simply weren’t lining up, and chalked the first team’s findings up to things like poor quality of Google satellite photographs, lack of blinding in their evaluations, and subconscious bias.

But according to Burda and his colleagues, Jelinik and his team have been looking at the satellite imagery all wrong. Burda says that half of Jelinek’s data has to be thrown out, because it features cows near high-voltage power lines, which his team hypothesizes can disrupt magneto-sensing capabilities in cattle. What’s more, Burda’s team investigated the behavior of cattle in herds, while Jelinek’s team analyzed individual cows. By the time Burda and his colleagues got finished cleaning up the Jelinek data, they found that it actually supported their original findings that cattle can, in fact, magneto-sense.

So where does this leave us? When Nature News asked Sönke Johnsen (who studies magneto-reception at Duke University but was unaffiliated with either group’s investigation) for his opinion, he sided with Burda and his team’s initial findings:

[Johnsen] says that at least some of the images in question should probably not have been analysed. He also suggests that the proper unit of evaluation is probably the herd, as the alignment of individual cows in herds is unlikely to be independent. Overall, he says that the original results, “while mysterious, still stand”.

[PNAS and Comparative Physiology via Nature News] [Read More]

Yep…

These sense and gravitate towards Earths magnetic fields!

Someone get Man the memo:

[Source]

Cause obviously, detecting Earth’s Magnetic North is one skill…

Man DEFINITELY lacks!

[via WUWT] Telegraph, BBC, and Independent geography FAIL: “Row to the Pole” never made it to the “North Pole” – they are 790 miles short

http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/telegraph_fail.jpg?w=438&h=558

I pointed out that not only were they NOT at the north pole, they weren’t even at the north magnetic pole which had since moved due to the Earth’s normal processes.

As I explained before the trip even started, there’s no “pole” achievement here, not even close. They are 738 KM short of the actual magnetic pole. The 1996 magnetic pole doesn’t exist there anymore and thus can’t be a pole of any kind.

The Telegraph article says:

The successful trip to the Pole, described as the “greatest ocean rows of all time”, was only possible because of more seasonal ice-melt in the Arctic that has opened the waters up.

No mention of the fact that they aren’t even close. The actual North pole is 790 miles away:

Most any child in primary school taking an introduction to geography could spot this error, which makes the Telegraphs error doubly embarrassing.

Following my lead, WUWT reader Neil Turner issued a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in the UK over this glaring inaccuracy. They responded with a ruling and agreed the Telegraph erred. Here is part of the email exchange from the PCC and the Telegraph:

And here is the microscopically sized “correction” printed today on page 18, next to the nude wrestler story and the fashion news. It doesn’t even contain the word “correction”.

Neil writes in his email to me:

My observation is that it is typical that the misleading story received far greater prominence than the correction. I took this up with the PCC, and they explained that the size, font etc of correction is leaft at the Editor’s discretion.

From my perspective, the editor’s discretion, shown above in it’s placement and size, is pretty much the journalistic equivalent of “eff you!”.

What a bunch of gormless cobblers.

Meanwhile Jock Wishart and the crew enjoys the spoils of their sponsor, the Old Pulteney whisky company, caring not at all that people think he’s reached some sort of geographic pole. Such is the way of the world today, fluff and failure make headlines whiles facts get buried on page 18 next to the nude wrestlers. [Read More]

However…

Never fear!

Remember…

Ninja Cow knows.

Ego: Some people are just born better at it than others!

Ego…

An even possibly over-inflated sense of self.

Sounds like a bad thing doesn’t it?

Well guess what…

Science says, “Not so much.”

[via io9]In general, the more aware of reality you are, the more likely you are to survive. But sometimes lying to yourself has its advantages. Possessing an over-inflated belief in yourself can help you perform better than accurately knowing your abilities.

That’s the finding of new research from the University of Edinburgh and UC San Diego. They found that overconfidence actually leads to better results in a number of situations, in everything from business to warfare. It’s basically scientific proof of Pliny the Elder’s legendary maxim that “Fortune favors the bold.” Admittedly, he said that right before sailing his ship into the path of the erupting Mount Vesuvius and, you know, dying.

But in non-Pliny-related scenarios, the researchers found that bolder strategies tend to do better than more cautious, realistic ones. They built a mathematical model that simulated generations of conflict, allowing them to pit different strategies against each other. The overconfident strategists didn’t always win, but when they did win, they won huge, taking in more than enough reward to make all their faintly stupid risks worth it.

The researchers also think there might be a natural selection component to all this as well. In the long run, overconfident people are perhaps more likely to leave a great number of descendants, which might mean humans in general become more susceptible to overconfidence. As with most evolutionary psychology arguments, this seems like a bigger leap than the available evidence really indicates, so I’m skeptical on this bit.

That said, they suggest that overconfidence works particularly well in unfamiliar situations, where it’s difficult to even make an accurate assessment of one’s position. Faced with an unknown enemy or technology, the best course may be to simply assume that you can win until proven wrong. In that scenario, it might make some sense why overconfidence is an desirable trait from an evolutionary perspective, particularly since so much of human history seems dominated by exploring unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situations.

Dr. Dominic Johnson of the University of Edinburgh sums up their research:

“The model shows that overconfidence can plausibly evolve in wide range of environments, as well as the situations in which it will fail. The question now is how to channel human overconfidence so we can exploit its benefits while avoiding occasional disasters.”

Via Nature. Painting of the death of Pliny by JMW Turner via. [Read More]

But who are those who have that seemingly endless ability to think about themselves in an optimistic light, seemingly FULL of self-esteem?

It’s a gift they are born with in their genes.

(PhysOrg.com) UCLA life scientists have identified for the first time a particlular gene’s link to optimism, self-esteem and “mastery,” the belief that one has control over one’s own life — three critical psychological resources for coping well with stress and depression.

“I have been looking for this gene for a few years, and it is not the gene I expected,” said Shelley E. Taylor, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and senior author of the new research. “I knew there had to be a gene for these psychological resources.”  

The research is currently available in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and will appear in a forthcoming print edition.

The gene Taylor and her colleagues identified is the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). Oxytocin is a hormone that increases in response to and is associated with good social skills such as empathy and enjoying the company of others.

“This study is, to the best of our knowledge, the first to report a gene associated with psychological resources,” said lead study author Shimon Saphire-Bernstein, a doctoral student in psychology in Taylor’s laboratory. “However, we wanted to go further and see if psychological resources explain why the OXTR gene is tied to depressive symptoms. We found that the effect of OXTR on depressive symptoms was fully explained by psychological resources.” [Read More]

Sucks…

Just doesn’t seem fair for those who were born without, does it?

I know…

My supremely-optimistic,-filled-with-self-esteem-and-just-totally-masterful self  feels so bad for you guys!

Black Plague and Zombie Parasite: Science, karma is watching you!

Gonna go out a crazy limb here and say that maybe scientists harvesting the power behind zombie making parasites in other species?

Might not be the best idea out there…

Cause were human and therefore?

Dumber than we think we are.

[via New Scientist] Parasitic fungi turn animals into willing slaves, with gruesome consequences – but it could pay to get to grips with their powers

AS IT floats through the air, a spore of the fungus Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani seems benign. But when it encounters an ant its true nature is revealed. First, it punches its way through the insect’s exoskeleton. Once inside, it begins to grow, consuming just enough of its host’s tissues to leave it weakened but functional. Finally, when the fungus reaches sexual maturity, it releases chemicals into the ant’s brain. Under their influence, the hapless insect makes its way to a popular ant meeting place, climbs a plant and clamps its jaws onto the underside of a leaf, just as the parasite consumes its brain. Days later, elaborate fungal reproductive structures shoot out of the insect’s corpse, spores rain down onto the unsuspecting ants on the forest floor, and the cycle begins again.

Parasites come in all sorts of gruesome guises, from blood-sucking lice to eyeball-eating schistosomids. But there is something particularly disturbing about one that can control minds – and O. camponoti-balzani is by no means the only organism that can (see “More mind-controlling parasites”).

What makes this fungus and its relatives particularly intriguing, though, is that their secrets are starting to be unravelled – a breakthrough that could help create new types of insecticide, open a new front in the fight against insect-borne diseases and perhaps even one day bring novel treatments for human psychological conditions. Finally, we are learning to harness these mind-benders for our own ends. [Read More]

Stuff like this?

Stupid!

And proof that our hubris will one day be our undoing.

Bright side, in case there is an actual human zombie outbreak as a result of dumb frassing scientists?

Scientists are now also playing around with the bacterium that caused the Black Plague, which might come in handy in the event of a zombie plague outbreak…

[via Gizmodo] The source of Black Death, a plague that devastated Europe in the 14th century, has finally been pinpointed thanks to an analysis of rotting bones and teeth extracted a mass burial site in London.

Until this study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, some scientists were skeptical that the incredibly deadly plague came from the Yersinia pestis bacterium, despite a fair amount of evidence that it did. The latest research is proof positive that Y pestis is to blame. Scientists took DNA from 53 bones and 43 teeth that had been buried in East Smithfield, a cemetery build preemptively in 1348 in expectation of much death.

The effort wasn’t wasted: two years after the cemetery was in place, the bubonic plague had killed one-third of London’s population. East Smithfield holds 2,400 of the victims stacked five deep.

The plague still exists, but it behaves much differently than it did back then. For example, today the plague is carried by rats and is contracted directly from them (or their fleas). In the 14th century, the Black Death passed from person to person, which is what made its destruction so swift. That difference among others made some scientists doubt that the same bacterium caused the disease back then and today.

Knowing that it’s one and the same is important because scientists fear the bacterium could morph to become the evil satan of a pathogen it was during medieval times. But they still don’t know what made the old Y Pestis so much more deadly than the modern version. If they can figure that out, they’ll have a better idea of how to combat the next zombie plague. [Read More]

Oh, wait…

This is not a bright side.

ARRGGHHHHHH!

Science…

What in the HECATE are you doing you dolts!?!?!

As a species?

Yeah…

We’re just doomed.

With shrinking brains and conscious decapitated heads, any ‘Life WINS’ is debatable!

It’s a uniquely human trait.

Our brains shrink as we get older, whereas with monkeys?

No such luck.

[via Science News] Unlike humans, chimpanzees’ brains don’t shrink as they get older. That means that, so far, people seem to be the only lucky species whose brains wither with age, researchers report online July 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Chimp aging seems to be on a different trajectory than humans’,” says aging and Alzheimer’s expert Caleb Finch of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.

So far, the small number of great ape brains that have been studied show mild changes with age, Finch says, but nothing that approaches the damage seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding differences in aging between humans and other primates may help scientists figure out why human brains are susceptible to age-related dementias.

In the new study, anthropologist Chet Sherwood of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues focused on chimpanzees, which have some of the most developed brains and longest life spans among primates. The researchers wondered if chimps experience brain decline in old age similar to that seen in humans.

The researchers scanned the brains of 99 chimpanzees with ages representing the entire adult life span, from 10 to 51 years. For comparison, the team imaged the brains of 87 humans from 22 to 88 years old. 

The human scans confirmed what other studies had found: All brain regions measured showed shrinkage with age. But chimp brains didn’t get smaller with age.

Sherwood points out that the results don’t answer a fundamental question for human evolution: “Why would we be built in such a faulty way that leads to this degeneration in our brains?” he asks. Perhaps a long life span is worth the drawback. Big brains and long life spans may free up older members of the population to look after the youngsters, he speculates. [Read More]

On the bright side of this unfortunate science…

Should we later in life find ourselves in a situation where OUR heads are decapitated, this lack of mental capabilities (due to shrinkage) might make the horror of the subsequent “wave of death” that keeps us conscious a minute after decapitation, that much LESS traumatic…

[via Science News] Almost a minute after a rat’s head is severed from its body, an eerie shudder of activity ripples through the animal’s brain. Some researchers think this post-decapitation wave marks the border between life and death. But the phenomenon can be explained by electrical changes that, in some cases, are reversible, researchers report online July 13 in PLoS ONE.

Whether a similar kind of brain wave happens in humans, and if so, whether it is inextricably tied to death could have important implications. An unambiguous marker could help doctors better decide when to diagnose brain death, knowledge that could give clarity to loved ones and boost earlier organ donation.

In a PLoS ONE paper published in January, neuroscientist Anton Coenen and colleagues at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands described this wave of electrical activity in the rat brain occurring 50 seconds after decapitation. The Nijmegen team, which was exploring whether decapitation is a humane way to sacrifice lab animals, wrote that this brain activity seemed to be the ultimate border between life and death. They dubbed the phenomenon the “wave of death.”

But neurologist Michel van Putten of the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, wasn’t convinced. “We have no doubt the observation is real,” he says. “But the interpretation is completely speculative.”

In the new study, van Putten and colleagues devised a mathematical model of how a nerve cell would behave if its oxygen and energy supplies were suddenly cut off. The model consists of just a single cell with three kinds of channels that allow charged particles to flow in and out. The spaces outside and inside nerve cells have unequal electrical charges, a difference that allows neurons to fire the impulses they use to communicate.

After an abrupt halt of energy and oxygen supply, the channels stop functioning normally, causing a buildup of positive charge outside the cell. This buildup prompts a big discharge of electrical activity about a minute after starting the simulation — the wave of death.

Study coauthor and physicist Bas-Jan Zandt, also of the University of Twente, says that the simulation closely matches what is observed in the rat brain. Such cell behavior could be the start of a damaging process, he says, such as cell swelling, but there’s nothing about the actual wave that means the nerve cell is going to die.

“It doesn’t cause damage to the cell,” Zandt says. “In principle, it is a reversible process.” 

The observed brain wave may represent an event on the way to death, but probably isn’t death itself, says clinical neurophysiologist Kevin Nelson of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Coenen, coauthor of the earlier study, says he was happy to see the modeling experiment. “It nicely shows what we already expected,” he says of the study’s finding that the wave is due to a massive change in cell membrane charge. Yet he still thinks that this wave may be an irreversibly damaging process, and he and his team plan to test this. [Read More]

What?

Sure it’s a small ‘Life WIN’, but I’m counting it.

Making a plus out of a person surviving consciously a full minute after decapitation, takes some work, and I can get there eventually…

Just not always well.

The “fishapods” of yesterday…And today!

Fish carrying genetic programs for limbs…

But that’s crazy!

[via Physorg] Genetic instructions for developing limbs and digits were present in primitive fish millions of years before their descendants first crawled on to land, researchers have discovered.

Genetic switches control the timing and location of . When a particular switch taken from fish DNA is placed into , the segment can activate genes in the developing limb region of embryos, University of Chicago researchers report in . The successful swap suggests that the recipe for limb development is conserved in species separated by 400 million years of evolution.

“The that drive the expression of genes in the digits of mice are not only present in fish, but the fish sequence can actually activate the expression in mice,” said Igor Schneider, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago and lead author on the paper. “This tells us how the antecedents of the limb go back in time at every level, from fossils to .”

The genetic hunt was inspired by a famous find – the 2004 discovery of the transitional fossil Tiktaalik in the Canadian Arctic by a team led by Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago. A transitional species between fish and the four-legged tetrapods, Tiktaalik possessed fins containing a skeletal structure similar to the limbs of later land-dwelling animals.

Those similarities – particularly the wrist and hand-like compartments present in the fins of Tiktaalik and its peers – inspired a laboratory experiment to look at the homology, or shared physical and genetic traits, of fish and limbed animals.

“This is really a case where knowing something about the fossils and the morphology led us to think about genetic experiments,” said Shubin, PhD, the Robert R. Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and senior author of the study. “Tiktaalik and its cousins showed us that this limb compartment is not an utter novelty in tetrapods, as was thought for a long time. So an antecedent of that program must exist.”

The research team compared a genetic switch region called CsB, known to regulate limb development in humans, with similar regions in mice, chickens, frogs, and two fish species: the zebrafish and the skate. Because the last common ancestor of all these species pre-dates Tiktaalik-like “fishapods,” the comparison offered a glimpse at biology before animals made their first steps on land.

[...]

“There previously was the idea that these switches had to be generated from scratch de novo, but no, they already existed, they were already there,” said Marcelo Nobrega, MD, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago Medical Center and another author of the study. “Maybe the key was expressing a gene earlier or later or in a specific territory, but it was just a modification of a program that was already encoded in the genomes of fish almost half a billion years ago and remains there to this day.” [Read More]

It’s really not.

Know why?

Because to this day, that switched…

Yes, still ‘flicked’.

[via Richard Dawkins] Using its fins to walk, rather than swim, along the ocean floor in an undated picture, the pink handfish is one of nine newly named species described in a recent scientific review of the handfish family.

Only four specimens of the elusive four-inch (ten-centimeter) pink handfish have ever been found, and all of those were collected from areas around the city of Hobart (map), on the Australian island of Tasmania.Photograph courtesy Karen Gowlett-Holmes

Though no one has spotted a living pink handfish since 1999, it’s taken till now for scientists to formally identify it as a unique species.

The new-species determinations were made based on a number of factors, including number of vertebrae and fin rays, coloration, the presence of scales and spines, and proportional body measurements, according to review author Daniel Gledhill of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO.

All of the world’s 14 known species of handfish are found only in shallow, coastal waters off southeastern Australia, the review notes.

Even among the previously known species, the fish are poorly studied, the review authors add, and little is known about their biology or behavior. [Read More]

Apparently not so odd…

Even today.

Man is at fault for both Global Warming and Global Cooling…Obviously.

Man-Made Global Warming extremists had a problem.

They were having a bit of a difficult time explaining how Man-Made Global Warming was happening (Hence the subtle name change to Climate Change) when there was shown, by SCIENCE, to be NO warming between 1998 and 2008.

Quandary.

After all, how does one attribute man and his polluting ways on extreme weather, when man-mad extreme weather is NOT taking place.

Oh, that’s easy…

You see, science has figured out how to attribute the NON-occurring extreme weather on man and his polluting ways.

Obviously.

[via AFP] WASHINGTON — China’s soaring coal consumption in the last decade held back global warming as sulfur emissions served as a coolant, according to a study that takes head-on a key argument of climate skeptics.

While 2005 and 2010 are tied as the hottest years on record, skeptics have charged that an absence of a steady rise from 1998 to 2008 disproves the view that people are heating up the planet through greenhouse gas emissions.

Robert Kaufmann, a professor at Boston University, said he was motivated to conduct the study after a skeptic confronted him at a public forum, telling him he had seen on Fox News that temperatures had not risen over the decade.

“Nothing that I had read that other people have done gave me a quick answer to explain that seeming contradiction, [Contradiction? What?! You don't say?] because I knew that carbon dioxide concentrations have risen,” Kaufmann told AFP.

The US-Finnish study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, named a culprit — coal.

The burning of coal jumped in the past decade, particularly in China, whose economy has grown at breakneck pace. Coal emits sulfur, which stops the Sun’s rays from reaching the Earth.

Kaufmann said that there was a precedent — greenhouse gas emissions also soared in the post-World War II economic boom in Western countries and Japan.

“What happened was at the same time, sulfur emissions increased very rapidly, thereby canceling much of the greenhouse gas effect,” Kaufmann said.

Global temperatures rose after the early 1970s when major developed nations started to take action to curb sulfur emissions, the study said. Global coal consumption again rose by 26 percent between 2003 and 2007, with China accounting for more than three quarters of the increase.

China remains the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and its output keeps rising. But it has also started to take action to address rampant pollution, including by installing scrubbers on its coal plants.

“So we already see temperatures starting to increase again. It rose in 2009, it rose in 2010 and that may be one reason for that increase,” Kaufmann said of the Chinese moves.

Both the US and Chinese governments want a a future for coal, a major industry. But while sulfur serves as a temporary coolant, it also contributes to major problems, such as acid rain and human respiratory problems.

Turning to sulfur to curb global warming is like saying, “We’ll pick our poison,” Kaufmann said.

“You could certainly make that argument, but I don’t think many people would view that as a very satisfactory solution, especially if it meant living in a very polluted atmosphere like in China,” he said.

The study’s co-authors included Michael Mann, a prominent member of the UN scientific panel whose landmark 2007 report warned that climate change was unequivocal and mostly caused by humans.

The study also found additional factors that limited warming in the period, including a natural dip in solar activity and the effects of the El Nino and La Nina ocean patterns.

Joe Romm, a fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, [*ding, ding, ding* - Hello!]  criticized the study for speaking of a hiatus in surface temperatures. He pointed to record temperatures in 2005 and 2010 and a rise in ocean heat.

“There has been no hiatus in global warming,” Romm wrote on his blog, saying that the years 1998 and 2008 were “the favorite cherry-picked endpoints of the deniers” [And yet, the FACTS cannot be brushed aside, because YOU say so.  There is skepticism, because people are starting to see through such lame assed scientific theories - Idiot!] due to outside factors such as El Nino and La Nina.

Climate change skepticism has been on the rise in the United States. Leading lawmakers in the Republican Party, which triumphed in last year’s congressional elections, argue that the science is unproven and that action would be too costly to the economy. [Read More]

*sniffs*

Quite the mental gymnastics there.

Very impressive.

No, seriously…

No matter how it is set up?

These climatologists  still get their liberal grant money because this “man-made” crisis exists.

This belief though, is understandable.

Pollution, after all…

Wreaks havoc with the brain.

[via LiveScience] Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain that can cause learning and memory problems, according to a new study conducted on mice.

The study also found a link between air pollution and higher levels of depression and anxiety, and researchers believe that pollution may have a similar effect on humans.

Researchers exposed mice to either filtered air or polluted air for six hours a day, five days a week for 10 months, which is nearly half of the mice’s life span. The polluted air contained fine  particles such as those created by cars and factories.

The concentration of particles breathed in by the mice was equivalent to what people may be exposed to in some polluted urban areas, according to researchers from Ohio State University’s Department of Neuroscience.

After 10 months of exposure, the mice underwent several behavioral tests. They were placed in a brightly lit arena and given 2 minutes to find an escape hole. All the mice were trained to locate the hole for five days, but the mice who breathed the polluted air took longer to learn where the hole was located and were less likely to remember where it was when tested later.

In another experiment, mice exposed to the polluted air showed higher levels of depressive-like behavior than the mice that breathed filtered air. Researchers found that the hippocampal area of the pollution-breathing mice brains had overall reduced cell complexity — changes that have been are linked to decreased learning and memory abilities.

“The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems,” said lead author Laura Fonken of Ohio State University. “This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world.” [Read More]

Now that is ONE explanation for these idiot climatologists I can get behind….

You know, discernible PROOF in comparison to those climate scientists who prefer to stick two fingers in their ears, then wag the rest, when faced with facts that contradict all the “man-made”  crap, which they have a hard time disputing.

Honestly?

If elementary school taught me nothing, it’s this…

Wagging your fingers to win an argument? That rarely works to convince anyone.

Eye spy with my little eye, or with a vest, or with my whole body, something that is…

Awesome.

To see…

With a vest?

Yep, there us an app for that.

Excellent…

And how unique!

[via The Blaze] Could seeing eye dogs soon be replaced by…vests?  In what could be a major breakthrough for the blind, USC school of engineering has developed a vest that, when worn, can navigate a person safely through their environment. Much like GPS, the system plots out a course pre-selected by each wearer. Stereo-vision cameras attached to the unit perceive depth and guide users along their selected route. The vest also includes vibration motors that alert the wearer if they’ve deviated off their charted courses.

Developers of the vest soon hope to refine the size and make the product available to the public. [Read More]

Reuters provides the video:

Or it would be, that is, if Mother Nature hadn’t gone all “one-upmanship” by creating a creature that sees with its WHOLE body…

The oldest dates back to the Ordovician period (c 450 MYA).

[via Cosmos Magazine] NEWCASTLE: Sea urchins may use their entire body as a compound eye, throwing shadows with their skeletons to gain directional vision, according to new research.

Many echinoderms, a group that includes starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers, can react to light despite their lack of eyes. Previous studies have shown that sea urchins have a large number of genes linked to the development of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue in the human eye.

New research has now revealed that light-sensing photoreceptors seem to be located on the tip and base of the tube feet that cover the sea urchin’s entire body.

“It has been known for centuries that echinoderms react to light (both examples of escape or attraction),” said co-author Sam Dupont from the Department of Marine Ecology, of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“However, there was a lot of debate on how they were doing this. One general idea was the presence of photosensitive cells dispersed over the body. What we show is that it is much more organised and complex than that.”

Seeing the light

Previously, scientists had thought that photoreceptors were present throughout the sea urchins’ bodies, allowing them to react to light, but not necessarily see images.

Genetic studies have shown that sea urchins have several genes for the production of the protein opsin, necessary for light-sensing, or photoreception.

The new study sought to find the opsin and hence the urchins’ light-sensing structures. The presence of opsin on the base and top of the sea urchins’ tube feet confirmed that photoreceptors are dispersed all over the body, and are also integrated with the nervous system. [Read More]

Way to go, Mother.

Now the vest doesn’t look quite as cool as I originally thought it was.

Show-off.