The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

The Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

I don’t know how long the editorial staff at eLife took to come up with this title, but ‘Gene Swapping in the Dead Zone‘ is hard to beat. A look at virus-bacteria interactions in the ocean oxygen depleted areas “also known as marine dead zones (…) where oxygen respiration is rapid, and the physical processes that would replenish oxygen supplies (such as mixing and exposure to the atmosphere) are weak. It is estimated that between 1 and 7% of the oceans are OMZs. These large swathes of water are lethal to animals that require oxygen, but they are hot-spots for microbes that can live on sulfur”.

One side effect of the Ebola epidemic is the immense amount of garbage being printed and sowing panic. If you want to read a quality Ebola piece, one place to start is at the LRB with Paul Farmer’s first hand account: “Both nurses and doctors are scarce in the regions most heavily affected by Ebola. Even before the current crisis killed many of Liberia’s health professionals, there were fewer than fifty doctors working in the public health system in a country of more than four million people, most of whom live far from the capital. That’s one physician per 100,000 population, compared to 240 per 100,000 in the United States or 670 in Cuba. Properly equipped hospitals are even scarcer than staff, and this is true across the regions most affected by Ebola. Also scarce is personal protective equipment (PPE): gowns, gloves, masks, face shields etc.”

While we worry about distractions like Ebola, weapons of mass destruction or pro-austerity economic policies, Jude Isabell at Nautilus warns us that a race of hyper-intelligent urban racoons is arising: “We’ve devised all sorts of ways of protecting our garbage, which all fail,” says Michael Pettit, an associate professor of psychology at York University, who has studied the history of animal behavior, including that of raccoons. The success of the city’s aggressive raccoons have struck fear into the hearts of Torontonians. Even Toronto Mayor Rob Ford confessed to the media that his family was too frightened to take out their trash.

If you’re tired of words, 50 years of incredible pictures in this gallery of Wildlife Photographer of the Year highlights at The Guardian.

While we’re on the topic of highlights, Nature has put up three webpages dedicated to Nobel prize winning research, open access for 1 month: “NPG is making available a range of articles from its journal archives that capture and reflect their remarkable achievements. Due to their impact and importance the research articles in the Highlights section will be free to access for a month”. There are separate pages for Medicine, Chemistry, and Physics.

To end on a Nobel light note, from our “Problems We All Wish We Had” department, Clara Moskowitz at Scientific American the trials & tribulations of traveling with your medal: “There are a couple of bizarre things that happen. One of the things you get when you win a Nobel Prize is, well, a Nobel Prize. It’s about that big, that thick [he mimes a disk roughly the size of an Olympic medal], weighs a half a pound, and it’s made of gold.”

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