Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tangled Bank # 11
It's here! I received ten submissions on a nice variety of topics. The only fair way to present them is in the order they arrived, so without further ado:

Socar Myles of Ratty's Ghost tells how, after a quiet summer, her 19th floor home has been invaded by bugs, including one highly unpleasant hornet. Though she fought the hornet to a stalemate, the battle was not without collateral damage.

Prashant Mullick draws connections between the PBS show Evolution and recent news items about how homosexuality continues to be considered a criminal act in India. In particular, he confronts the common claim that homosexuality is "unnatural." Not only does homosexuality occur in nature, some of our closest relatives are enthusiastic practitioners.

Sean at Preposterous Universe just back from a rather busy summer of glamorous international conferences still has time to be interviewed for Sky and Telescope magazine. The author of a forthcoming article quizzed him about testing general relativity. He passes on some interesting Q&A.

From New Zealand, David Winter of Science and Sensibility talks about the way modern DNA techniques were used to solve old problems in moa taxonomy. The amazing diversity in the bones found for the moas have been a running problem for naturalists in New Zealand. Because most bones are young enough, DNA techniques offer some hope of unraveling this complex problem, while offering an interesting warning to paleontologists who do cannot use those same techniques.

Radagast of Rhosgobel takes exception to the oversimplified explanations of "photosynthesis" in most reference books. One of the most fundamental concepts in the biological sciences still seems to be taught by what Dave Berry calls the "bad" method. In grade school they teach us a bunch of facts that are wrong and then spend a decade or two more explaining that nothing works like we thought.

Tangled Bank founder and two-time host P. Z. Myers has a detailed post on neurulation in zebrafish. If you don't know what that is, be sure to read the comments. The key issue seems to be that the zebrafish are taking on the powerful mouse lobby for a position in the lucrative world of molecular genetics with the usual longterm goal of developing an army of invulnerable, giant, mutant zebrafish soldier-clones.

Having made your way through the previous two or three seriously educational dinner courses, you probably think you're entitled to some dessert. Mike at 10,000 Birds comes to our rescue with some peeps (not the marshmallow kind).

Wesley R. Elsberry of The Austringer gives us a short post on "Altruistic Punishment" (which does not mean "I'm doing this for your own good, young man"). Altruistic Punishment is the self-righteous urge to kill we all have when exposed to people breaking certain societal norms, especially when we are unaffected by their transgression. Think about people who take cuts in line or too many items through the express line.

S. Y. Affolee, a graduate student at Dartmouth in the microbiology department, sent in a review article called The Black Plague and Paleomicrobiology, which is right up my alley. The authors of the reviewed piece set out to examine the pathogen that caused the Black Plague and found themselves unable to prove the plague even happened. A revolution in Medieval Studies in the making or a D for sloppy research methodology? We report, you decide.

Jennifer Forman Orth, of UMass Boston, Department of Biology, gives us a round-up of interesting peer-reviewed journal articles about invasive species. This is a semi-regular feature at her place, the Invasive Species Weblog. Jennifer is very serious about her topic and has an entire store full of invasive species related goodies for the gardener on your gift list (the holidays are coming).

It's been fun to have an excuse to read more science and take some time off from politics. Now, I suppose I need to actually write something for TB.

The host of Tangled Bank #12 on September 22 will be Kevin, at Lean Left. Send your submissions to Pharyngula , Tangled Bank , or directly to Kevin at Lean Left. Tangled Bank is always looking for new hosts, too (write Pharyngula or Tangled Bank).

Update: I left one of the submissions out. This has been corrected. My sincerest apologies to the neglected writer.

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