Welcome to the 42nd Tangled Bank, a bi-weekly compendium of the best science blogging.
Shortly after I started Dogged, Coturnix submitted one of my entries to Tangled Bank, and that was my introduction to this amazing compilation of great science writing. I submitted one of my own posts to a later Tangled Bank, and then I volunteered hesitantly to host one ... hesitantly, because I am not a scientist. I've worked as an editor and writer about medicine and health, mostly veterinary medicine, writing for a popular audience. There isn't a whole lot of love lost on the part of scientists for health writers, and really, who can blame them? Still, P.Z. Myers accepted my offer to host, and here we are. So without any further bloviation, Tangled Bank Number 42!
Of IDiocy and Darwinism
At the beginning of the universe there were no blogs. That was sad. However, there were also no proponents of "Intelligent Design" so it was a fair trade-off. Alas, that's not true any longer. The Bonehead Compendium examines the question, who exactly IS teaching science to our kids and how can they be so dumb?
One of my favorite bloggers is Mike the Mad Biologist, and he submitted a piece that took Charles Krauthammer's dismissal of "Intelligent Design" as a springboard to write about evolutionary biology and the falsification method and the likelihood approach. It had nothing to do with animals, but he sprinkled it with cute photos of pandas and puppies napping and stuff. Way to go, Mike, suck up to the host. Nicely done.
Which leads to the question, what's so great about Darwinism anyway? Glad you asked. The editors at Seed Magazine blogged on that very topic after seeing an exhibit on Charles Darwin at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Although I was distressed to learn for the first time that Darwin thought it was better to get married than to get a dog. Wrong, Charles.
Danny Yee takes what he calls a "non-specialist's" perspective in his review of Tangled Trees: Phylogeny, Cospeciation, and Coevolution from the University of Chicago Press.
How Sick is THAT?
One of my favorite subjects is disease. I was happy to get so many submissions about sickness and plague and pestilence. It may be that I'm not a well woman, but it seems I am in extremely good company.
As a bridge piece from the previous section, a few Thoughts from Kansas, where Josh Rosenau ruminates on trees, as well as influenza, in Ecology of Viruses.
I'm old enough to remember the world before we'd ever heard of HIV or AIDS. I suspect Mike Rivers-Bowerman is not, but he has put together quite a FAQ on the subject over at terry (short for "Terra"), submitted by Dr. David Ng from the University of British Columbia.
A fascinating look at treating Amish kids for genetic diseases from Dr. Andy.
Amazingly, I got two separate submissions on malaria. The first comes from Ruth Schaffer at the Institute of Applied Microbiology at the Justus Liebig University in Germany, in her Biotech Weblog, where she discusses a whole new approach to treating malaria.
The second comes from Coturnix, where he shows how science SHOULD be taught, in Dr. Love-of-Strange, or How I Learned To Love The Malaria...
I forgot to ask if it's OK to present more than one post from the same blog, but after Mike the Mad Biologist used those cute puppy pictures, I'd have looked the other way no matter what. He has some scary things to say about bacterial resistance, not to drugs, but to the body's own natural defenses. And here is some medical journalist commentary: That's a really, really bad thing.
Genetic epidemiologist Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei discusses how language bias influences what studies are published internationally, and how this bias might affect what we know (or think we know) about genetic research.
Once upon a time, Mad Cow Disease, more politely known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, was the most discussed disease in the world. That crown is now worn by the bird flu, but research into prions, the nasty little infectious agents that transmit BSE and similar diseases in other species, has revealed their presence in two bodily fluids where they weren't previously thought to occur: Urine and milk. Or at least, prions have been found in mammary gland tissue, and are presumed to be present in milk, too. Since prions can remain infectious in the face not just of pasteurization and cooking but being burned to a crisp, you can see why researcher Tara C. Smith isn't really happy to see them popping up all over the place.
Of course, no compilation of blogging on diseases would be complete without a whole slew of posts on avian flu. Avian flu ties up veterinary medicine, animals, agriculture, human medicine, epidemiology, virology, public health, politics, health care issues, even evolution, in a neat package. It is actually the ultimate blogger's disease topic.
Tara C. Smith of the the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases in Iowa is looking at research on farmers and veterinarians, and wondering how many undiagnosed cases of asymptomatic avian flu are lurking out there.
Josh Braun at ScienceG8 poses ten questions on avian flu ...
Question 1: To Cull a Coughing Bird
Question 2: Bird Flu and the Other Pandemic
Question 3: Shots in the Dark
Question 4: Reading All About It
Question 5: Corporate Politics
Question 6: Calling the Code
Question 7: Dangerous Nationalism
Question 8: Guns 'n Doses
Question 9: Triage
Question 10: Stockpiles
Susan Clubb DVM guest blogging at Vet Techs on avian flu, media sensationalism, and the fear of birds.
Politics and Medicine
The intersection of medicine and politics, otherwise known as "the health care system," is a fertile ground for blogging. Melissa Kaplan explains in words of one syllable to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt why signing up for the new Medicare drug program is NOT just as easy as signing up for cable TV or registering your car, but she makes him a fair offer:
How about if I register your next car, and get your new cable service contract squared away, while you go through the 48 plans and my prescriptions and figure out which one both covers the most of my drugs at the best price for me. Sounds like a fair trade of services to me, given how complicated registering a car and ordering cable is.
But where the heat is REALLY turned up in the politics of health care is around the issue of so-called "Plan B," or emergency contraception. Chiara at Thoughts of an Average Woman wants to know why public opinion carries more weight with the FDA than scientific research and advice when it comes to approving (or, as seems likely, NOT approving) emergency contraception.
Chris Clarke at Creek Running North has a dog named Zeke, who is having some health problems. And in times of trouble, Chris says, he always turns to scripture to get some comfort. Specifically, an essay by paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould about statistics.
We all know vets are only in it for the money, right? That and the power and glamor.
An overview of gastric dilation and volvulus (commonly called "bloat and torsion") in dogs, from the point of view of an ER vet.
Gina Spadafori wonders about the ethics of medical journalism and a proposed new veterinary "news" service, while PharmaWatch's Michael Lascelles wonders about the ethics involved in a smear campaign against an FDA official after a profitable veterinary drug is pulled off the market. And you thought pets were just cuteness and fluff, right?
Skeptico turns a skeptical eye on holistic veterinary medicine in the UK.
A veterinarian gets hot under the collar when a local pharmacist refuses emergency contraception to a rape victim, then wonders about her own "conscience clause."
Even excluding posts about bird flu, bird topics were high on the list of submissions. First from Living the Scientific Life:
(A) group of birds have actually accomplished what scientists had never previously been able to document; some island species doubled back and successfully re-colonized the continents from where they originated.
Birder Tom Nelson wants to believe the ivory billed woodpecker lives ... but, he says, "only if it's true." Check out an Ivory-bill Skeptic.
Ornithologist Wise Crow ponders the mysteries of the evolution of bird migration.
How Cool is THAT?
I have a friend who sends me, without comment, links to photos taken with powerful telescopes of outer space. I always look at them with awe, but never have anything to say back except, "Wow!" Some of the submissions didn't quite fit into any particular category, but these all made me go "Wow!"
For wow factor, it doesn't get much better than e. coli taking photographs, from Jim Hu at Blogs for Industry.
Jan Theodore Galkowski was mean to some Euglenoids once, and he's sorry now. And he has some cool stuff to tell you about propulsion, too.
Some might say "eeeuwww" instead of "wow," and apparently some did, but the Body Worlds 2 exhibit gets a thumbs up review on Past Lessons, Future Theories.
From De Rerum Natura: Developing a published scientific paper from a blog post? Blogging does pay off. And I almost put this one in the forthcoming "humor" section. Read it. Really. How can you resist anything about toxic mutators and hotheads?
The tabloid press had love all figured out. Andrew at Universal Acid sets them straight. This is Your Brain on Love.
Of course the scam was much more fun, but Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, gets to the bottom of the meteor thing. (No trucks were harmed in the writing of this blog.)
Chemist Cheryl Rofer at WhirledView exposes the dark side of daylight savings time and spreads a little sundial blogging.
From Cognitive Daily: Do you remember what really happened, or something else? And how does your mood influence your memory?
And to finish the "Wow" section with a big bang: A roundup of Everything Scientific. Take your pick of life on Titan, teaching evolution in Mexico, the effect of drought on pinon trees, and the genetic origins of farming.
Things to Worry About
Are we outsourcing science? The Mad Scientist worries about it, and not for the first time.
Jennifer Forman Orth, Ph.D. at Invasive Species Weblog is worrying about recommendations to eat smaller fish to avoid consuming toxins. Seems some young fish have higher levels of PCBs than older fish.
Orac at Respectful Insolence wonders how to cut costs in his laboratory with great humor. But scientists desperately trying to save money makes ME worry!
P.Z. Myers is worrying that one day when he whacks a mouse with a broom, the mouse is going to turn around and whack him back.
Ho Ho Ho
Since the holidays are upon us, I had to include a little seasonal selection for you. First, from Prometheus, some quirky biological holiday stories.
Coturnix debunks the debunkers at Circadiana! Does eating holiday turkey make you sleepy? Seems like a pretty straightforward question, but there's a scientific controversy.
And one that really should have gone into the Birds section, but was tagged as a holiday-themed turkey story by its author, and who am I to disagree? The Ocellated Turkey: The Other White Meat from 10,000 Birds.
Ha Ha Ha
I couldn't believe how many humorous pieces got sent my way. I don't actually remember so much funny stuff in any previous Tangled Bank, but maybe I wasn't paying attention.
Ever judge a science fair? From Bootstrap Analysis:
Maybe science would move forward more quickly if we quit trying to manipulate results or try to make ourselves look good, and instead submitted the kind of straightforward self-evaluation that this student did.
For some incomprehensible reason, Christopher Monks of The Science Creative Quarterly did not win the Nobel Prize for Science.
How about an evolutionary reflection on meditation and hunting? (Remember, this is the humor section.)
I've had a great time hosting the Tangled Bank. Thank you for visiting. The next Tangled Bank is at Rural Rambles on December 14 - you can send your entries to email@example.com or to P.Z Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org.