Friday, February 26, 2010

Notes for Feb 26

  • Ancient crocodile fossils. The history of crocs is pretty amazing. I'm really glad they stick to rivers and lakes now.
  • PLoS Medicine's decision to ban articles funded by the tobacco industry highlights a particularly difficult problem in research that often isn't acknowledged: It is very difficult to distinguish real results from faked results when all you're looking at is the resulting papers. One of the reasons PLoS banned the papers was: "the industry's long-standing attempts to distort the science of and deflect attention away from the harmful effects of smoking". Jeff Stier (of the American Council on Science and Health) seems to think PLoS is making a bad decision: "By deciding to no longer allow for research funded in any part by the tobacco industry, they're acknowledging that they're no longer able to evaluate science." I would just point out that the key is that they were never able to evaluate the science. When a person or persons is intentionally trying to manipulate the science, it is very hard to distinguish.
  • I don't really understand what NASA does or is supposed to do. But, it sure doesn't seem to do science. Oh, and they had to testify in front of Congress yesterday.
  • Everyone I know who knows anything about energy in the country seems to think nuclear is the big solution. I remain unconvinced for a variety of reasons. This isn't helping me feel better though.
  • The convoluted and confusing debate about salt and health. Personally, I'm extremely skeptical we're eating too much salt as a culture.
  • The story of how the all-female whiptail lizard retains such impressive genetic diversity has apparently been solved. Not so apparent: How. This article in the NYTimes just raises more questions than answers, but the actual article is interesting. The 'diversity' being referred to by the NYTimes is really heterozygosity...and it's maintained by a double meiosis. So there isn't really diversity in the population (they all have the same genotype). The author talks about this restricting their evolutionary ability (i.e., if their genotype is fixed, how are they going to evolve), but I wonder how much epigenetic variation might be able to allow them to evolve.

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