Posts tagged ‘science’

So it seems that we should expect full genome sequences to be quite cheap within the next several years, if this trend is anything to go by. I think it’s time to start thinking about what effect this might have on health insurance.

Is a genetic disposition toward risk or alcoholism or cancer a pre-existing condition? Should it be treated as such? For what might a sequence be legally requested?

As far as things like personal medicine and gene therapy and the like go, the rapid decrease in sequencing cost is a big step forward. It also exposes an extremely private part of us, one that we shouldn’t want to be disseminated to government or corporations without a clear set of rules.



75 scientific mysteries, illustrated by 75 of today’s most exciting artists

This is “what existed before the Big Bang?”, but don’t miss the rest at the link above.

Gooood morning everybody



More than a little disconcerting, especially considering Russell’s vipers are of the genus Daboia, which means the lurker and that lies hid(den), and enjoy living in high-density human populations. 

On the plus side, at least it’s not among the dozens of poisonous animals trying to take over Australia!



The Vancouver Science World museum wins at advertising

Click through to see the whole gallery of awesome ads.


Nothing proves science is awesome by demonstrating it! I think we can all agree that science demonstrations like these in public areas would make them much more enjoyable.

Sort of like these Seattle street corners!


Curious gorillas gaze at a caterpillar

This is awesome. I love how the dominant male pushes the other guy out of the way to get a better look.

Here we are, walking the fine line of animal behavior and human interpretation thereof. There’s curiosity in their eyes, but is this proof that they are bored, merely checking out their surroundings, or is there some deeper message about animal cognition there?

What do you think?

(via Why Evolution Is True)

What I would give to know what was going through their heads!

I think the focus on such a small, fairly insignificant creature in their domain has to indicate curiosity on a near-human level. Not to mention there is a ton of other distractions, people everywhere, a (probably) reflective lens right in front of them.

Things like this make it undeniably clear that humans and gorillas are relatively closely related.

The University of Oregon Science Literacy Program (UO SLP) offers General Education courses for non-science majors designed to improve scientific awareness and general science literacy of the educated public by enhancing competence in and appreciation of science. The SLP will empower undergraduates to consider scientific approaches to societal issues, enable graduate students in the sciences to effectively communicate ideas to audiences of non-scientists, and assist faculty in improving teaching techniques using modern pedagogy.

The Science Literacy Program at the University of Oregon

Yes. Yes. Yes. We need this so badly.

(via sciencecenter)




Sir John Gurdon, Nobel Prize winner, was ‘too stupid’ for science at school

At the age of 15, Prof Sir John Gurdon ranked last out of the 250 boys in his Eton year group at biology, and was in the bottom set in every other science subject.

Sixty-four years later he has been recognised as one of the finest minds of his generation after being awarded the £750,000 annual prize, which he shares with Japanese stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka.

Speaking after learning of his award in London on Monday, Sir John revealed that his school report still sits above his desk at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, which is named in his honour.

my mom always said grades are important, but they’re not the most important thing.

I love how he framed that. He probably looked at it every day and said, “Oh yeah?”

Here’s a bigger image of the letter.

Grades are poor measures of one’s potential to be curious.


We’ve seen slime molds “chase” their dinner, and we’ve seen them recreate the Tokyo rail system (whoa!) by maximizing efficiency in growth … now the ability to “map” their surroundings without “mapping”?

From joshbyard:

Brainless Slime Molds Shed Light On The Evolution of Memory

“We have shown for the first time that a single-celled organism with no brain uses an external spatial memory to navigate through a complex environment,” said Christopher Reid from the University’s School of Biological Sciences.

…“Results from insect studies, for example ants leaving pheromone trails, have already challenged the assumption that navigation requires learning or a sophisticated spatial awareness. We’ve now gone one better and shown that even an organism without a nervous system can navigate a complex environment, with the help of externalized memory.”

The research method was inspired by robots designed to respond only to feedback from their immediate environment to navigate obstacles and avoid becoming trapped. This “reactive navigation” method allows robots to navigate without a programmed map or the ability to build one and slime molds use the same process.

When it is foraging, the slime mold avoids areas that it has already “slimed,” suggesting it can sense extracellular slime upon contact and will recognize and avoid areas it has already explored.

…“We then upped the ante for the slime molds by challenging them with the U-shaped trap problem to test their navigational ability in a more complex situation than foraging. We found that, as we had predicted, its success was greatly dependent on being able to apply its external spatial memory to navigate its way out of the trap.”

(via Brainless slime mold uses external spatial ‘memory’ to navigate complex environments | KurzweilAI)

Check out this mind-boggling video of what the Red Bull Stratos dive will hopefully look like, assuming everything goes as planned. 

Here’s a look right after the planned jump yesterday was delayed due to high winds. The man on the left is Joseph Kittinger, who holds the record until the man on the right, Felix Baumgartner, is able to successfully jump.

521 Years

Link: 521 Years


That’s the half-life of DNA, according to new research from scientists in Denmark and Australia. That means that dinosaur DNA is pretty much out of the question, but that the Earth’s primary genetic material lasts longer than once thought.

By studying DNA left over in leg bones of extinct moa birds of different ages, they were able to determine how fast it naturally degrades. Water, essential for life, can be pretty reactive over the span of hundreds and thousands of years, slowly breaking the bonds that hold DNA molecules together.

If half the DNA is gone in 521 years, then even at optimal temperatures any sample would be almost totally degraded after 6.8 million years.

I guess there’s a few questions that remain, like if different environments could lead to different numbers, or what different soils could do to move that number up or down … but I’d sell your stock in any Jurassic Park-type ventures.

More at Nature.

Well that’s a bummer. Guess we’ll just have to build our own dinosaurs from scratch!

(Don’t hold your breath; we can barely make single living cells.)