Posts filed under ‘Science’

Question of the Day

If it’s bad luck when a black cat crosses your path, what kind of omen is it when a slug crosses your path?

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23 June 2008 at 22:45 1 comment

Door #9: The Parasite Behind Crazy Cat Ladies?

Filled with reports of off-beat research (or off-beat implications of otherwise garden-variety research), the annual “Year in Ideas” issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine has become a highlight of my December.

This year’s most amusing item:  Rebecca Skloot’s piece on a possible biological explanation for why “some humans develop an unhealthful attraction to cats and apparently become immune to the smell of their urine.”

Just the first paragraph had me and my housemate in stitches:

Here’s a little-known and slightly terrifying fact: According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 million people in the United States are infected with a parasite that may migrate into their brains and alter their behavior in a way that — among other things — may leave them more likely to be eaten by cats. New research into this common parasite — Toxoplasma gondii — may offer clues to the phenomenon known to the unscientifically-minded as “crazy cat lady” syndrome.

9 December 2007 at 0:56 Leave a comment

Door #3: Poetry of the Seamounts

My sister Mars and I share an affinity for the crazy common names applied to creatures. Her Web site features a list of whimsical bird names from the bristle-thighed curlew to the rufous-breasted fruitpigeon.

Today I came across an equally wonderful list of fish species trawled from the underwater mountain ranges (some over a mile below the surface) in the Tasman Sea off Australia. The list links to pictures of some of the most fantastical fish I’ve ever seen.

Go ahead, read these aloud. The list is like a strange, gothic poem:

Australian Burrfish
Ballina Angelfish
Beaked Salmon
Blue Grenadier
A deepsea anglerfish (no common name)
Duckbilled Eel
Dwarf Dory
A fanfin anglerfish
Fangtooth
Fathead
Gelatinous Blindfish
Gilbert’s Halosaur
Gulper Eel
Hammerjaw
Humpback Blackdevil
King Gar
Largescale New Laternfish
Little Red Gurnard Perch
Longray Spiderfish
Orange Roughy
Plunket’s Dogfish
Portuguese Dogfish
Ribbon Barracudina
Sharpnose Sevengill Shark
Shortsnout Lancetfish
Short-tail Torpedo Ray
Silver Lighthouse Fish
A snaggletooth (no common name)
Snubnosed Eel
Soft Leafvent Angler
Southern Spineback
Spangled Tubeshoulder
Sparkling Slickhead
Spiky Oreo
Stoplight Loosejaw
Triplewart Seadevil
Viperfish

Who needs science fiction, when science fact is this amazing?

3 December 2007 at 8:42 1 comment

Bee Movie in My Bonnet

Am I the only one who’s bothered by the fact that Jerry Seinfeld voices the lead in Bee Movie?

It’s not that I have objections to Seinfeld, but aren’t worker bees female?

24 November 2007 at 23:53 1 comment

Anthropology Projects Ripped From the Headlines

I don’t think a week goes by without my finding a great idea for a social/cultural anthropology project in some newspaper or magazine article. (Of course, someone may already be working on these projects, but that’s okay. It seems like there’s no shortage of possible topics.)

After reading a Salon.com review of Scott Weidensaul’s Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, I realized that someone should do for birders what Gary Alan Fine does for mushroomers in his book Morel Tales: The Culture of Mushrooming. That is, an anthropologist should do a sustained ethnographic study of a group of birders, looking at the meanings nature takes on in this specific cultural context, analyzing the stories birders tell and teasing out the complicated (and sometimes overlapping) relationships between amateurs and professionals.

19 November 2007 at 22:03 Leave a comment

To Sleep, Perchance

This is going to be a fairly short post, because I have to go to sleep now.  As it does every year, the recent time change has kicked my butt. I know that this will happen; and yet each time we spring forward or fall back, I forget to make allowances, and somehow manage to stay up even later than usual.

And that’s not the only reason I should know better.

My mother was the poster child for lack of sleep. I was well into my thirties before I realized that normal people did not have to replace their car every few years because they fell asleep at the wheel and totaled their old car.

So, instead of posting something long winded tonight, I’ll just leave you with these links and head off to get some shut-eye:

  • Slate.com reviews some recent studies on how the switch to and from daylight savings time messes with your circadian rhythms.
  • Harvard Magazine profiles some of the sleep scientists on the faculty. (This was the article an old boss told me about to convince me that all those people who say they can survive just fine on less than seven hours of sleep a night are  deluding themselves.)
  • New York Magazine talks about new research that shows that sleep deficits so affect kids’ school performance that, for example, over-tired sixth graders end up performing at a fourth-grade level. (This begs the question of what lack of sleep does to us folks in our forties who are losing brain cells by the minute.)

11 November 2007 at 22:41 Leave a comment

Who Says Scientists Aren’t Funny?

I stopped by the RCSB Protein Data Bank only to find out that the Molecule of the Month was anabolic steroids.

29 August 2007 at 21:38 Leave a comment

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