Evolution to the Rescue: Species May Adapt Quickly to Rapid Environmental Change, Yeast Study Shows

1:50:33 PM, Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Evolution is usually thought to be a very slow process, something that happens over many generations, thanks to adaptive mutations. But environmental change due to things like climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, etc. is happening very fast. There are just two options for species of all kinds: either adapt to environmental change or become extinct.

So, according to McGill biology professor, Andrew Gonzalez, the question arises, "Can evolution happen quickly enough to help a species survive?" The answer, according to his most recent study, published in Science, is a resounding yes.

By using a long-armed robot working 24/7 over a period of several of months, McGill Professors Graham Bell and Gonzalez were able to track the fate of over 2000 populations of baker's yeast for many generations. Yeast was chosen for the experiment because a lot is known about the genetic makeup of this model organism and because it can reproduce in a matter of hours. Bell and Gonzalez used the robot to submit different yeast populations to varying degrees of environmental stress in the form of salt and so study evolutionary rescue, which is the ability of a population to adapt rapidly through evolution, in real time.

What they observed was that the likelihood of evolutionary rescue depended on the severity and rate of change of the environment and the degree of prior exposure of populations to the environmental stressor (salt). The degree of isolation from neighboring populations also affected the capacity of the yeast populations to adapt through the accumulation of beneficial mutations..."

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World Naked Bike Ride L.A. (NSFW)

1:28:11 PM, Thursday, June 23, 2011

-- "The L.A. participants in the World Naked Bike Ride flashed Echo Park, Silver Lake, Downtown and more on Saturday, June 12. The nude and semi-nude cyclists met up before hand to decorate their bodies and bikes, had a run-in with the police along their route, and partied to live music after the ride at a secret location near Echo Park Lake. All photos by Josh "CuriousJosh" Reiss."

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Jaws vs. Little Mermaid Swimsuit

3:53:21 PM, Monday, June 20, 2011

-- Although Black Milk (blackmilkclothing.com)has discontinued production of this Jaws and The Little Mermaid swimsuit mash-up it's still to awesome/hilarious not to share.

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The Bearded Pigs

3:26:47 PM, Monday, June 20, 2011

"One of the most remarkable pigs has to be the Bornean bearded pig Sus barbatus, one of two currently recognised bearded pig species. The other is the much smaller, shorter-faced Palawan bearded pig S. ahoenobarbus of the Philippines: genetic work suggests that S. ahoenobarbus is not a close relative of S. barbatus, but actually closer to the Celebes warty pig S. celebensis and other Philippines pigs (Lucchini et al. 2005). S. barbatus occurs on Sumatra, Bangka, the Riau archipelago and the Malay Peninsula as well as Borneo. There are two subspecies: S. b. barbatus has long cheek beards while S. b. oi has more wiry-looking snout hair. Molecular work confuses the distinction between these two forms, since Sumatran populations supposed to belong to S. b. oi are actually closer to the nominate Bornean population that to Malaysian populations of S. b. oi (Lucchini et al. 2005, p. 33).

One hypothesis for the evolution of Sus proposes that the bearded pigs and the Java warty pig S. verrucosus are the sister-group to a clade that includes the Wild boar S. scrofa and Celebes warty pig S. celebensis. Supposedly, members of the bearded pig lineage can be distinguished from members of the wild boar lineage by their especially elongate snout and 'saw-edged' fronto-nasal suture (Groves 1983, 1997). Conspicuous differences in size between the bearded pig populations of Sumatra, Borneo and elsewhere meant that particularly big individuals collected on Borneo were initially thought to represent an additional species; S. gargantua Miller, 1906.

Comparatively little is known about the ecology and behaviour of bearded pigs. They're reportedly migratory across part of their range, moving back and forth between areas during the year, and sometimes gathering in huge herds of hundreds of animals (Groves 1981). I'd like to know more about what they do with all that crazy snout hair, but this subject doesn't seem to have been much explored in the literature. It seems to be sexually dimorphic, with males having hairier snouts and cheeks.

These photos were taken at Berlin Zoo by Markus Bühler. Berlin Zoo includes quite a few neat bits of signage and artwork: the sign below does a nice job of illustrating some of the diversity present in the wild pigs of south-east Asia. As you can see, this diversity is pretty impressive. The taxonomy of these pigs has been much discussed and debated and how many of the various forms are regarded as 'subspecies' or 'species' remains the topic of disagreement (see Groves 1997, 2001). It's an important issue, since many of these pigs are threatened and of great conservation interest..."

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Diving Into Water Covered With Ash from Puyehue Volcano

3:10:06 PM, Monday, June 20, 2011

-- Volcanic ash spewing from the Puyehue Volcano in Chile.

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What Children’s Skulls Look Like as They Prepare to Lose Their Baby Teeth

11:29:26 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

-- Child's skull with baby teeth and adult teeth, Hunterian Museum, London. Photo by Stefan Schäfer.

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New Little Ice Age in Store?

10:40:36 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

"The Earth could enter a new 'Little Ice Age' in the coming years due to low solar activity, astronomers believe.

Sunspot activity, which follows an 11-year cycle, is due to peak in 2013 after which it will start to wane slightly.

But astronomers think the next upswing will be less intensive than normal, or could fail to happen at all.

That could affect weather on Earth because low solar activity has been linked to low global temperatures in the past.

Between 1645 and 1715 almost no sunspots were observed, a solar period which came to be called the Maunder Minimum.

During those decades Europe suffered frequent unusually harsh winters, and the time was later termed the Little Ice Age.

Although there is no conclusive evidence that one caused the other, many scientists believe it did.

Sunspots are darker patches on the sun's surface, caused by small areas of strong magnetic activity which disrupt the normal flow of intensely heated gases.

Paradoxically when there are most sunspots, overall solar output - called total solar irradiance (TSI) - is also at a high..."

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Children as Young as 10 Vomit to Lose Weight, With Highest Rates in Boys

10:25:02 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Children as young as ten are making themselves vomit in order to lose weight and the problem is more common in boys than girls, according to a study of nearly 16,000 school pupils published online early, ahead of print publication, by the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

The findings have prompted researchers to issue a warning that self-induced vomiting is an early sign that children could develop eating disorders and serious psychological problems, such as binge eating and anorexia.

They also believe that self-induced vomiting can be tackled by making sure that children get enough sleep, eat breakfast every day, eat less fried food and night-time snacks and spend less time in front of a computer.

Thirteen per cent of the 8,673 girls and 7,043 boys who took part in the research admitted they made themselves sick to lose weight. But the figures were much higher in younger children, with 16% of 10-12 year-olds and 15% of 13-15 year-olds vomiting. The figures fell to 8% in 16-18 year-olds.

The study of 120 schools, carried out for Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, also found that 16% of the boys made themselves sick, compared with 10% of the girls..."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: Molecular Cloud Barnard 163

7:14:49 PM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

-- "It may look to some like a duck, but it lays stars instead of eggs. In the center of the above image lies Barnard 163, a nebula of molecular gas and dust so thick that visible light can't shine through it. With a wing span measured in light years, Barnard 163's insides are surely colder than its exterior, allowing conditions where gas can clump and eventually form stars. Barnard 163 lies about 3,000 light years from Earth toward the constellation of Cepheus the King. The red glow in the background results from IC 1396, a large emission nebula that houses the Elephant's Trunk Nebula. Finding Barnard 163 in an image of its greater emission nebula IC 1396 can be a challenge, but it's possible. "

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Jewish Court Sentences Dog to Death by Stoning

10:08:51 AM, Sunday, June 19, 2011

"A Jerusalem rabbinical court condemned to death by stoning a dog it suspects is the reincarnation of a secular lawyer who insulted the court's judges 20 years ago, Ynet website reported on Friday.

According to Ynet, the large dog made its way into the Monetary Affairs Court in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, frightening judges and plaintiffs.

Despite attempts to drive the dog out of the court, the hound refused to leave the premises.

One of the sitting judges then recalled a curse the court had passed down upon a secular lawyer who had insulted the judges two decades previously.

Their preferred divine retribution was for the lawyer's spirit to move into the body of a dog, an animal considered impure by traditional Judaism.

Clearly still offended, one of the judges sentenced the animal to death by stoning by local children.

The canine target, however, managed to escape.

"Let the Animals Live", an animal-welfare organisation filed a complaint with the police against the head of the court, Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin, who denied that the judges had called for the dog's stoning, Ynet reported.

One of the court's managers, however, confirmed the report of the lapidation sentence to Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot..."

-- ... Speechless...

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Sri Lanka's Killing Fields

1:11:51 PM, Friday, June 17, 2011

-- Meanwhile Buddhists, a supposedly a peaceful religion, merrily killing Hindus in Sri Lanka.

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Some Chicken May Contain Arsenic, FDA Says

4:40:15 PM, Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Scientists using the world's largest atom smasher have made some of the hottest and densest matter ever achieved on Earth.

"The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that some chicken meat may contain small amounts of arsenic, though the agency is stressing that the amount is too tiny to be dangerous to people who eat it.

The FDA said Wednesday that a new study developed by the agency shows that an ingredient in chicken feed that contains arsenic, called Roxarsone, may make its way into parts of the bird that are eaten. Previous studies have indicated that the arsenic was eliminated with chicken waste.

Pfizer Inc., which makes the feed ingredient, said Wednesday that it will pull it off the market in the United States. Had the company not stopped sales, the FDA could have eventually banned the product since it contains a known carcinogen.

Many poultry producers have already stopped feeding their birds the ingredient, which has been used since the 1940s to kill parasites and promote growth.

The FDA said that people should not stop eating chicken that may have been fed the drug. Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said the study raised "concerns of a very low but completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen."

Pfizer said in a statement that a subsidiary, Alpharma LLC, is suspending sales next month in response to the FDA findings. The company said it is waiting a month so producers have time to transition their birds off the drug. The ingredient will also be pulled off the market for swine and turkeys, though the FDA only studied chickens..."

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Scientists Create Hottest Substance on Earth

2:12:11 AM, Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Scientists using the world's largest atom smasher have made some of the hottest and densest matter ever achieved on Earth.

The state of matter called a quark gluon plasma existed in the milliseconds after the big bang 13.7 billion years ago.

Physicists using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, smashed heavy lead ions together at close to the speed of light.

They generated temperatures of more than 1.6 trillion degrees Celsius, 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

In the process they recreated the densest material ever observed - only black holes are denser.

The results - released at the Quark Matter Conference recently held in Annecy, France - allows scientists to understand the evolution of the early universe recreating the conditions that existed back then.

One of the fundamental building blocks of matter, called quarks, are bound together by gluons to form 'composite' subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons.

But in its infancy, just microseconds after the Big Bang, the universe was so hot and dense these quarks and gluons existed freely and unbound..."

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60 New Mutations in Each of Us: Speed of Human Mutation Revealed in New Family Genetic Research

12:54:55 AM, Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Each one of us receives approximately 60 new mutations in our genome from our parents. This striking value is reported in the first-ever direct measure of new mutations coming from mother and father in whole human genomes published today.

For the first time, researchers have been able to answer the questions: how many new mutations does a child have and did most of them come from mum or dad? The researchers measured directly the numbers of mutations in two families, using whole genome sequences from the 1000 Genomes Project. The results also reveal that human genomes, like all genomes, are changed by the forces of mutation: our DNA is altered by differences in its code from that of our parents. Mutations that occur in sperm or egg cells will be 'new' mutations not seen in our parents.

Although most of our variety comes from reshuffling of genes from our parents, new mutations are the ultimate source from which new variation is drawn. Finding new mutations is extremely technically challenging as, on average, only 1 in every 100 million letters of DNA is altered each generation.

Previous measures of the mutation rate in humans has either averaged across both sexes or measured over several generations. There has been no measure of the new mutations passed from a specific parent to a child among multiple individuals or families.

"We human geneticists have theorised that mutation rates might be different between the sexes or between people," explains Dr Matt Hurles, Senior Group Leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who co-led the study with scientists at Montreal and Boston, "We know now that, in some families, most mutations might arise from the mother, in others most will arise from the father. This is a surprise: many people expected that in all families most mutations would come from the father, due to the additional number of times that the genome needs to be copied to make a sperm, as opposed to an egg."

Professor Philip Awadalla,who also co-led the project and is at University of Montreal explained: "Today, we have been able to test previous theories through new developments in experimental technologies and our analytical algorithms. This has allowed us to find these new mutations, which are like very small needles in a very large haystack."

The unexpected findings came from a careful study of two families consisting of both parents and one child. The researchers looked for new mutations present in the DNA from the children that were absent from their parents' genomes. They looked at almost 6000 possible mutations in the genome sequences..."

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North Korea Getting Very Close to Nuclear Missile, Says South Korea

3:30:16 PM, Monday, June 13, 2011

"According to South Korea's defense minister, North Korea may have created a nuclear warhead small enough to be launched in a missile. This is a first for those nutters, who had previously only detonated two nuclear devices that were too big for rockets.Today, a typical thermonuclear weapon weighs about 2,400 pounds (1,100 kg), and has a destructive capability of 1.2 megatons of TNT. Compare this to the 0.013 megatons of TNT of Little Boy, the 9,700-pound nuclear bomb dropped by Enola Gay over Hiroshima.

If South Korea is right, this type of warhead would allow North Korea to create missiles capable of reaching South Korea or Japan just few minutes after launch. These nuclear devices can use their current and tested rocket technology, completely destroying a city as large as Tokyo or Seoul.

North Korea is also working on a missile capable of reaching as far as the West Coast of the United States. According to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and USNORTHCOM (US Northern Command), Kim Jong Il and his cronies failed on testing such a rocket in April 2009. However, the Guardian later reported that North Korea may actually be able to reach Hawaii. Whatever the outcome of those tests was, what is clear that they will not stop at that failure..."

-- Oh herro!!!

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