The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Life is tough, and then it’s dry. “As a new pond forms, turquoise killifish eggs buried in the mud spring from suspended animation. The eggs hatch, and in just 40 days the fish grow to full size, about 2.5 inches. They feed, mate and lay eggs. By the time the ponds dry up, the fish are all dead.Carl Zimmer at the New York Times looks at the arrival of an improbable aging model.

While we’re on the topic of senescence, Marc Jung and Gerd Pfeiffer at BMC Biology examine the epigenetics of aging (this one may be a bit challenging for people unfamiliar with molecular biology). “Not only are age-dependent methylation patterns surprisingly predictive for age within a range of two to four years, but such signatures could also be observed in aging mice and in patients with progeroid syndrome, a disease that has many features in common with aging.

Bob Goldstein at Nautilus explains “what Francis Crick and Sidney Brenner taught me about being scooped“. Also at Nautilus, Lily Bui on the art/science of navigating by your wits- a look at how Polynesians managed to sail “a huge part of the Pacific Ocean including over 1,000 islands, with the three main “points” at New Zealand, Hawaii, and Easter Island“.

Different roads to science. A duet by music industry migrants Nick Wan & Luna Centifanti . ”In both academia and the music industry (and probably a lot of other jobs besides), the thing that’s similar is the rewarding nature of an element of risk-taking.” And here I thought it was the pharmaceutical grade cocaine…

The social life of a male baboon can be pretty stressful,” writes Stanford University neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, “you get beaten up as a victim of displaced aggression; you carefully search for some tuber to eat and clean it off, only to have it stolen by someone of higher rank; and so on.” Eric Johnson at Scientific American takes an ecologist’s point of view on one of the most puzzling aspects of the US for foreigners: gun violence.

Leonard Nimoy was an interesting cat. Since his recent death, many different aspects of his life and personality have emerged (or re-emerged). My personal favorite might be this one, Spock addresses a troubled teenager on being a misfit.

One of the best writers on matters contemporary, John Lanchester at the London Review of Books on Moore’s law and our robot overlords. “Within a decade, a computer able to process 1.8 teraflops went from being something that could only be made by the world’s richest government for purposes at the furthest reaches of computational possibility, to something a teenager could reasonably expect to find under the Christmas tree.

It’s been remarkably hard to reach a medical consensus on the value (or lack thereof) of circumcision. Jessica Wapner at Mosaic on “The Troubled History of the Foreskin“.

In closing, I’ve been resisting turning this Monday’s post into a Carl Zimmerthon, but the man’s been on a roll, why fight it. If you want to learn about the most revolutionary life sciences discovery of the last few years, here he is in Quanta on everything you ever wanted to know about CRISPR; if you just want to know where HIV came from, he’s got you covered at the New York Times.

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