SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

Click to embiggen

Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

Click to embiggen

Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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Super-healthy tomatoes showcase genetic meddling’s sunny side.

3 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientific American celebrates a bumper crop of super-healthy tomatoes, thanks to genetic modification: A single tomato of the new variety contains the same amount of resveratrol as 50 bottles of red wine, or the same amount of genistein (a compound found in soy beans that is thought to have health benefits) as 2.5kg of tofu. As tomato plants grow quickly and produce a lot of fruit, farming this new variety could be a way to produce these nutrients in industrial quantities much more cheaply than synthesising them chemically, or extracting small amounts from other plant sources. The variety was made by introducing a gene from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana—called AtMYB12—into the tomato genome. The gene codes for a transcription factor that binds to the promoter regions of genes encoding various metabolic enzymes. ‘In Arabidopsis [the] MYB12 [transcription factor] regulates the production of flavonols … which are important in UV protection and signalling,’ says Cathie […]

The key to octopuses’ uncanny intelligence is in their genes.

13 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reports that the octopus has, for an invertebrate, a really large genome – including a long sequence of genes that regulates intelligence in “higher” animals: “It’s the first sequenced genome from something like an alien,” jokes neurobiologist Clifton Ragsdale of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who co-led the genetic analysis of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides). … Researchers want to understand how the cephalopods, a class of free-floating molluscs, produced a creature that is clever enough to navigate highly complex mazes and open jars filled with tasty crabs. Surprisingly, the octopus genome turned out to be almost as large as a human’s and to contain a greater number of protein-coding genes — some 33,000, compared with fewer than 25,000 in Homo sapiens. … One of the most remarkable gene groups is the protocadherins, which regulate the development of neurons and the short-range interactions between them. The octopus has 168 of these genes […]

Makin’ babies with Neanderthals *changed* us.

30 July 2015 // 0 Comments

As a species. In some pretty profound ways, Nature says. They highlight a few of the “outsize effects” our Neanderthal genes have on our lives: Now researchers are using large genomics studies to unravel the decidedly mixed contributions that these ancient romps made to human biology — from the ability of H. sapiens to cope with environments outside Africa, to the tendency of modern humans to get asthma, skin diseases and maybe even depression. … In some cases, they are very different from the corresponding H. sapiens DNA, notes population geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts — which makes it more likely that they could introduce useful traits. “Even though it’s only a couple or a few per cent of ancestry, that ancestry was sufficiently distant that it punched above its weight,” he says. … Using de-identified genome data and medical records from 28,000 hospital patients, [Corinne Simonti and Tony Capra, […]

The gene technology that will change everything.

28 July 2015 // 0 Comments

Wired revels in the newest scientific revolution – the ability to rewrite our genes with ease: The stakes, however, have changed. Everyone at the Napa meeting had access to a gene-editing technique called Crispr-Cas9. The first term is an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” a description of the genetic basis of the method; Cas9 is the name of a protein that makes it work. Technical details aside, Crispr-Cas9 makes it easy, cheap, and fast to move genes around—any genes, in any living thing, from bacteria to people. “These are monumental moments in the history of biomedical research,” Baltimore says. “They don’t happen every day.” Using the three-year-old technique, researchers have already reversed mutations that cause blindness, stopped cancer cells from multiplying, and made cells impervious to the virus that causes AIDS. Agronomists have rendered wheat invulnerable to killer fungi like powdery mildew, hinting at engineered staple crops that can feed a population […]

World’s oldest sperm found inside fossilized worm.

15 July 2015 // 0 Comments

It’s the sperm of perspective, is what it is. Nature is showing off the very seed of history – the oldest animal sperm ever discovered: The remains of long, thin cells preserved inside the 50-million-year-old fossilized cocoon of an unknown worm species represent the oldest animal sperm ever found, say researchers at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. Benjamin Bomfleur and his colleagues spotted the sperm fragments when they used an electron microscope to examine the inner surface of the cocoon fossil, which had been collected by an Argentinian expedition on Seymour Island, which lies off the Antarctic Peninsula. Their findings are published today in Biology Letters. … Bomfleur says that the discovery was a surprise — “we laughed”, he says, on seeing the microscope images — “but in retrospect, it makes sense that you would find them as common inclusions in fossil cocoons”. The cocoons are secreted by some worms, including earthworms […]

The Big-Brain Gene. So here’s where the trouble started….

16 March 2015 // 0 Comments showcases the gene that gave us (and our Neanderthal and Denisovan cousins) big brains: A gene that is responsible for brain size in modern Homo sapiens and their ancient relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans, has been identified by a team of scientists from Germany led by Dr Wieland Huttner of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. … …[T]hey noticed that one particular gene contributed to the reproduction of basal brain stem cells, triggering a folding of the neocortex. The scientists said: “This gene manages to trigger brain stem cells to form a bigger pool of stem cells. In that way, during brain development more neurons can arise and the cerebrum can expand. The cerebrum is responsible for cognitive functions like speaking and thinking.” According to the team, the gene, called ARHGAP11B, is found in modern-day humans and our ancient relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans, but not in chimpanzees.

The DNA hard drive.

17 February 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist marvels at the ability of DNA to store information, with a realization that glassed-in genes could safely store information for millennia: Just 1 gram of DNA is theoretically capable of holding 455 exabytes – enough for all the data held by Google, Facebook and every other major tech company, with room to spare. It’s also incredibly durable: DNA has been extracted and sequenced from 700,000-year-old horse bones. But conditions have to be right for it to last. “We know that if you just store it lying around, you lose information,” says Robert Grass of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. So he and colleagues are working on ways to increase DNA’s longevity, with the aim of storing data for thousands or millions of years. They began by looking at the way information is encoded on a DNA strand. The simplest method treats the DNA bases A and C as a “0” […]

A social network for sharing your DNA. Online, I mean.

11 February 2015 // 0 Comments

Fusion has the details on the growing community of DNA uploaders: Members of openSNP upload their genes along with things like their sex, age, eye color, location, Fitbit data and medical history — for anyone to see and analyze. The record lives on forever, in an open-source database, so the detailed warning on its sign-up page should be read very closely. But for [University of Toronto bioinformatics student Samantha] Clark, the possibilities outweigh the risks: She wants scientists to have access to genetic information of every human being in the world. “The more people, the easier it will be for citizen scientists to work with the data and make new discoveries. If I want other people to do this and help science, I should set the tone,” said Clark, 25. “The benefit will be infinite as it picks up pace.” Clark had gotten her DNA analyzed by personal genomics company 23andMe. While a user can […]

One dad, two moms… on the cellular level. Now, legal. Almost.

10 February 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reports on a British legal ruling that’s a world-first, a step toward allowing medical scientists to create “three-parent” embryos: This technique, known as mitochondrial replacement or three-person in vitro fertilization, aims to prevent women passing on harmful mutations in their mitochondria, the cell’s energy-producing structures. An estimated 1 in 5,000 children are born with diseases caused by such mutations, which typically affect power-hungry tissues such as the brain, heart and muscles. All mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother, and some women carry harmful mitochondrial mutations without experiencing symptoms themselves. “It’s great news for the patients with mitochondrial disease. It gives them real hopes and that’s just fantastic,” says Doug Turnbull, a neurologist at Newcastle University, UK, who has led the effort to bring mitochondrial replacement to the clinic. … Proponents of the law change — a who’s who of UK science that included Nobel prizewinners, policy-makers and directors of leading science funders — […]

Genghis Khan ain’t the only big daddy.

28 January 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature checks our DNA and finds that, yes, a lot of us are related to the Mongolian conqueror… but Genghis Khan ain’t the only big daddy: “Lots of men have lots of sons, by chance. But what normally doesn’t happen is the sons have a high probability of having lots of sons themselves. You have to have a reinforcing effect,” says [Mark Jobling, a geneticist at the University of Leicester, UK]. Establishment of such successful lineages often depends on social systems that allow powerful men to father children with multitudes of women. … In addition to Genghis Khan and his male descendants, researchers have previously identified the founders of two other highly successful Y-chromosome lineages: one that began in China with Giocangga, a Qinq Dynasty ruler who died in 1582, and another belonging to the medieval Uí Néill dynasty in Ireland. … The other nine lineages originated throughout Asia, from the Middle East to southeast […]

A rat bustier or a rat camisole for a little rat naughtiness.

5 January 2015 // 0 Comments

LiveScience examines how and why rats are aroused by tiny vests: In an unusual study, researchers allowed virgin male rats to have sex with females wearing special rodent “jackets.” Later, when scientists gave the males a chance to mate again, the animals preferred to mate with jacket-wearing female rats rather than with unclad ones. The findings suggest that male animals can learn to associate the sight and feel of clothing with sex. … In a second experiment, the researchers exposed virgin male rats first to jacketed females that were sexually receptive, then to unjacketed females that were not sexually receptive. Then they put the rats in a chamber similar to the first experiment, with one female wearing a jacket and one not wearing a jacket. Again, the trained males preferred to mate with the jacketed females, mounted them more often and ejaculated more quickly, compared to with the unjacketed females. Zunino and his colleagues also […]

Schizophrenia: many diseases in one

16 September 2014 // 0 Comments

Daily Beast looks over Washington University research that’s found that the singular diagnosis of schizophrenia is actually a compound disease, caused by eight different genetic disorders that “cluster” into different combinations: As senior investigator Dr. C. Robert Cloninger notes, “[genes] don’t work by themselves. They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.” Rather than focusing on the individual genes that have been associated with schizophrenia, this team looked instead at the interactions between genes in order to isolate the causes of the illness. … “There isn’t just this one kind of schizophrenia but actually several different syndromes where some people have positive symptoms like hallucinations and delusions [and] others have negative symptoms where they’re not able to think logically and these different syndromes are associated with different groups of genes.” Instead of […]

Triathlete uses internet to defeat her rare genetic disease

21 August 2014 // 0 Comments

The Atlantic gives hope to the new generation of WebMD obsessives with a fascinating tale of an athlete who used the internet to figure out what was *really* going on in her malfunctioning body: She cycled, ran, climbed and skied through the Rockies for hours every day, and was a veteran of Ironman triathlons. She’d always been the strong one in her family. When she was four, she would let her teenage uncles stand on her stomach as a party trick. In high school, she was an accomplished gymnast and an ardent cyclist. By college, she was running the equivalent of a half marathon on most days. It wasn’t that she was much of a competitor, exactly—passing someone in a race felt more deflating than energizing. Mostly Kim just wanted to be moving. So when her limbs started glitching, she did what high-level athletes do, what she had always done: She pushed through. But in […]

My great-grandmother was stressed when she was pregnant AND IT FREAKS ME OUT!

8 August 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily has yet more research on the heritability of stress, with research that shows the effects of stress on one pregnant mom can last four generations: A first generation of rats were subjected to stress late in pregnancy. The following two generations were then split into two groups that were either stressed or not stressed. The daughters of stressed rats had shorter pregnancies than the daughters of those who had not been. Remarkably, the grand-daughters of stressed rats had shorter pregnancies, even if their mothers had not been stressed. As well as shorter pregnancies, the rats whose grandmothers and mothers experienced stress displayed higher glucose levels than the control group. In addition, rats whose grandmothers or mothers who were stressed weighed less. Gerlinde Metz [of Canada’s University of Lethbridge], senior author of the article, says: “We show that stress across generations becomes powerful enough to shorten pregnancy length in rats and induce hallmark features […]

The sleepless gene.

4 August 2014 // 0 Comments

Science World Report takes a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed look at the mutation that makes some people chipper, functional early risers: The researchers turned to 100 pairs of twins for this particular study…. All of these pairs of twins were the same sex and were healthy with no chronic conditions. In all, the scientists measured nightly sleep duration at home for seven to eight nights with actigraphy. The researchers also examined the response to 38 hours of sleep deprivation and the length of recovery sleep in a lab. While individual sleep needs varied, the researchers did find a small population of adults that routinely obtained less than six hours of sleep per night without any complaints of sleep difficulties and no obvious daytime dysfunction. What was more interesting was that the researchers found a twin with a variant of the BHLHE41 gene, called p.Tyr362His, who only needed a nightly sleep duration of about five hours. The non-carrier […]

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