jm + biology   16

Cordyceps even creepier than at first thought
Hughes’s team found that fungal cells infiltrate the ant’s entire body, including its head, but they leave its brain untouched. There are other parasites that manipulate their hosts without destroying their brains, says Kelly Weinersmith from Rice University. For example, one flatworm forms a carpet-like layer over the brain of the California killifish, leaving the brain intact while forcing the fish to behave erratically and draw the attention of birds—the flatworm’s next host. “But manipulation of ants by Ophiocordyceps is so exquisitely precise that it is perhaps surprising that the fungus doesn't invade the brain of its host,” Weinersmith says. [....]

So what we have here is a hostile takeover of a uniquely malevolent kind. Enemy forces invading a host’s body and using that body like a walkie-talkie to communicate with each other and influence the brain from afar. Hughes thinks the fungus might also exert more direct control over the ant’s muscles, literally controlling them “as a puppeteer controls as a marionette doll.” Once an infection is underway, he says, the neurons in the ant’s body—the ones that give its brain control over its muscles—start to die. Hughes suspects that the fungus takes over. It effectively cuts the ant’s limbs off from its brain and inserts itself in place, releasing chemicals that force the muscles there to contract. If this is right, then the ant ends its life as a prisoner in its own body. Its brain is still in the driver’s seat, but the fungus has the wheel.
biology  gross  cordyceps  fungi  fungus  ants  zombies  infection  brain  parasites 
23 days ago by jm
The "Alpha Wolf" notion is outmoded and incorrect
via Saladin Ahmed -- the scientist who coined the term abandoned it as useless years ago:
The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book "The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species," written in 1968, published in 1970, republished in paperback in 1981, and currently still in print, despite my numerous pleas to the publisher to stop publishing it. Although most of the book's info is still accurate, much is outdated. We have learned more about wolves in the last 40 years then in all of previous history.

One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. "Alpha" implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack. In other words they are merely breeders, or parents, and that's all we call them today, the "breeding male," "breeding female," or "male parent," "female parent," or the "adult male" or "adult female." In the rare packs that include more than one breeding animal, the "dominant breeder" can be called that, and any breeding daughter can be called a "subordinate breeder."
biology  animals  wolves  alpha  alpha-males  mra  science  wolf-packs  society  competition  parenting 
october 2016 by jm
_Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?_
'There is a popular belief in neuroscience that we are primarily data limited, that producing large, multimodal, and complex datasets will, enabled by data analysis algorithms, lead to fundamental insights into the way the brain processes information. Microprocessors are among those artificial information processing systems that are both complex and that we understand at all levels, from the overall logical flow, via logical gates, to the dynamics of transistors. Here we take a simulated classical microprocessor as a model organism, and use our ability to perform arbitrary experiments on it to see if popular data analysis methods from neuroscience can elucidate the way it processes information. We show that the approaches reveal interesting structure in the data but do not meaningfully describe the hierarchy of information processing in the processor. This suggests that current approaches in neuroscience may fall short of producing meaningful models of the brain.'

via Bryan O'Sullivan.
via:bos  neuroscience  microprocessors  6502  computers  hardware  wetware  brain  biology  neural-systems 
june 2016 by jm
How big an issue is the nausea problem for Virtual Reality products? - Quora
Sadly (because I want a “holodeck” as much as the next red-blooded geek) - I don’t think it’s possible to make a VR system that both delivers the experience that everyone wants - and doesn’t make a sizeable proportion of the population so sick that they’ll never want to do it again. For the people who can stomach the display - my major concern is that the US Navy studies show that there is some disorientation that might persist long after finishing your game…so driving a car while “under the influence” of post-VR disorientation is probably as dangerous as drunk-driving.

If these devices are in pretty much every home - then there are huge problems in store for the industry in terms of product liability. There have been plenty of warnings from the flight simulation industry - there are no excuses for not reading the Wikipedia article on the subject. If people are driving “under the influence” and the VR companies didn’t warn them about that - then they’re in deep trouble.

IMHO, these consumer-grade VR devices should be carefully studied and if they do cause possible driving impairment, they should be banned until such time as the problems can be fixed…which may very well be “never”. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.


(via Tony Finch)
holodeck  vr  oculus-rift  hmds  nausea  head-mounted-displays  biology  brain  flight-simulation 
may 2016 by jm
Hangovers aren't caused by dehydration, low blood sugar, or acetaldehyde / Boing Boing
The [now-]leading theory implicates a specific gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and a complementary brain receptor, "that responds to low concentrations of ethanol, as produced by one glass of wine, in the brain."
hangovers  booze  brain  biology  biochemistry  gaba  ethanol  alcohol 
january 2016 by jm
BioBrick
Holy shit we are living in the future.
BioBrick parts are DNA sequences which conform to a restriction-enzyme assembly standard.[1][2] These Lego-like building blocks are used to design and assemble synthetic biological circuits, which would then be incorporated into living cells such as Escherichia coli cells to construct new biological systems.[3] Examples of BioBrick parts include promoters, ribosomal binding sites (RBS), coding sequences and terminators.


(via Soren)
via:sorenrags  biobricks  fabrication  organisms  artificial-life  biology  e-coli  genetic-engineering 
october 2014 by jm
Cell Development
One of the photos taken by my great-grandfather, Thomas H. Mason, around the turn of the century from the NLI collection
ireland  history  science  biology  t-h-mason  photos 
may 2014 by jm
Disgraced Scientist Granted U.S. Patent for Work Found to be Fraudulent - NYTimes.com
Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk electrified the science world 10 years ago with his claim that he had created the world’s first cloned human embryos and had extracted stem cells from them. But the work was later found to be fraudulent, and Dr. Hwang was fired from his university and convicted of crimes.

Despite all that, Dr. Hwang has just been awarded an American patent covering the disputed work, leaving some scientists dumbfounded and providing fodder to critics who say the Patent Office is too lax.

“Shocked, that’s all I can say,” said Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University who appears to have actually accomplished what Dr. Hwang claims to have done. “I thought somebody was kidding, but I guess they were not.”

Jeanne F. Loring, a stem cell scientist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, said her first reaction was “You can’t patent something that doesn’t exist.” But, she said, she later realized that “you can.”
patents  absurd  hwang-woo-suk  cloning  stem-cells  science  biology  uspto 
february 2014 by jm
Coders performing code reviews of scientific projects: pilot study
'PLOS and Mozilla conducted a month-long pilot study in which professional developers
performed code reviews on software associated with papers published in PLOS
Computational Biology. While the developers felt the reviews were limited by (a) lack of
familiarity with the domain and (b) lack of two-way contact with authors, the scientists
appreciated the reviews, and both sides were enthusiastic about repeating the experiment. '

Actually sounds like it was more successful than this summary implies.
plos  mozilla  code-reviews  coding  science  computational-biology  biology  studies 
january 2014 by jm
How to Read a Scientific Paper (About That Researcher With a Nematode in His Mouth) - Wired Science
Let’s rewind to September 2012. It was about then- according to this recently published report (paywall) in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine – that an “otherwise healthy, 36-year-old man” felt a rough patch in his mouth, a scaly little area his right cheek. It didn’t hurt. But then it didn’t stay there either. He started testing for it with his tongue. It traveled. It moved to the back of his mouth, then forward, coiled backwards again. In the language of science: “These rough patches would appear and disappear on a daily basis, giving the patient the indirect sense that there was an organism moving within the oral cavity.”
nematodes  parasites  biology  medicine  paper  gross  funny  wired  mouth 
october 2013 by jm
All polar bears descended from one Irish grizzly
'THE ARCTIC'S DWINDLING POPULATION of polar bears all descend from a single mamma brown bear which lived 20,000 to 50,000 years ago in present-day Ireland, new research suggests. DNA samples from the great white carnivores - taken from across their entire range in Russia, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Alaska - revealed that every individual's lineage could be traced back to this Irish forebear.' More than the average bear, I guess
animals  biology  science  dna  history  ireland  bears  polar-bears  grizzly-bears  via:ben 
january 2013 by jm
Inside the mind of the octopus
"Researchers who study octopuses are convinced that these boneless, alien animals—creatures whose ancestors diverged from the lineage that would lead to ours roughly 500 to 700 million years ago—have developed intelligence, emotions, and individual personalities. Their findings are challenging our understanding of consciousness itself."
octopus  animals  biology  consciousness  neuroscience  science 
november 2011 by jm
Computer gamers solve problem in AIDS research that puzzled scientists for years
“This is the first instance that we are aware of in which online gamers solved a longstanding scientific problem,” writes Khatib. “These results indi­cate the potential for integrating video games [like FoldIt] into the real-world scientific process: the ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.”
foldit  gaming  games  science  biology  aids  viruses  protease  protein-folding  proteins  vr 
september 2011 by jm
Pruney fingers grip better : Nature News
The hypothesis, from Mark Changizi, an evolutionary neurobiologist at 2AI Labs in Boise, Idaho, and his colleagues goes against the common belief that fingers turn prune-like simply because they absorb water. Changizi thinks that the wrinkles act like rain treads on tyres. They create channels that allow water to drain away as we press our fingertips on to wet surfaces. This allows the fingers to make greater contact with a wet surface, giving them a better grip.'
science  anatomy  grip  evolution  water  biology  from delicious
july 2011 by jm
TCD researchers first to find genes unique to humans
go Aoife! “This is the first ever discovery of novel human-specific protein coding genes,” said Dr McLysaght. “They are found in humans and nowhere else.”
science  genetics  research  biology  evolution  tcd  sfi  genome  junk-dna  from delicious
september 2009 by jm

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