As you know, the name of the original and best carnival o’ science comes from Charles Darwin’s opus. What you may not know is that the great work in which he first presented that analogy was not meant to stand alone. Charles Darwin had two qualities that made him a great and a frustrating scientist. He was fastidious, and the On the Origin of Species demonstrates the importance he placed on gathering all the evidence. This is part (but only part) of the reason it took decades between his conception of the intellectual core of that book and when he actually published it.
The Origin was not meant to be the final word on the subject, and until his death, Darwin was working away at his “Big Species Book,” the book to which The Origin (at 400 pages) was merely the abstract. Fastidiousness and procrastination are undoubtedly the bane of many the scientist, and Darwin was no exception.
Which is all by way of explaining that the Tangled Bank was not scheduled to be hosted at Thoughts from Kansas this week, and I regret not being more fastidious about the presentation. In order to keep procrastination at bay, we have to move fast, otherwise the next host will play Russell to my Darwin, or vice versa.
Speaking of Chuckie D, the Invasive Species Weblog has unearthed some of Darwin’s own thoughts on the invasive species clogging up many a tangled bank.
Walking the Berkshires reveals a different sort of invasion, the invasive idea that invasive species are the second leading cause of species extinction. What that means and how we’d measure that turn out to be less obvious than it might seem.
Sometimes, a microbe invades the brain and changes the way we think. Tara at Aetiology reviews a couple of recent examples of viruses that may affect memory.
Viruses are far from the only ways to affect memories. Invasive ideas are what teaching is all about after all. Discovering Biology in a Digital World reviews some strategies for teaching science scientifically.
Untangling the complex patterns we see in the world is a persistent problem in science, and we don’t always do well at it. Consider the Runes of Runamo, which Salto sobrius tells us were thought to be ancient Swedish runes, until geologists realized that the “runes” were just cracks in a crystalline formation.
On a related note, Avant News sends us a story about a message in a bottle virus. Paralinguistic decoders, a bit too much good German beer, and a divine command “Go forth, noble virus, and multiply. You are the chosen one.”
Cat Dynamics brings us Christo in Space, a look at what products of our civilization future explorers might recognize.
The Mouse Trap talks about how we recognize color, and shows how the language we use to describe color tells us something about how our eyes recognize it. Fans of Zork will appreciate an appearance by the Grue.
The brain doesn’t always work the way we’d like it to, as the Wandering Visitor reminds us in a discussion of tunnel vision.
Sometimes our brains surprise us, as with this tale of a polite question posed to a sleeping elephant, and its impolite response.
Mark Rayner of The Skwib shows us how Big Brother is watching your crotch, hoping to keep track of what’s going on in your brain.
Taking a different look at communications and nerves, The Voltage Gate asks whether the signals between nerves in our brains are really so different from communication between our bacterial ancestors.
Social intelligence isn’t just for cells, and if you thought the title of 10,000 Birds was just figurative, check out Mike’s take on fallout fun. Never fear, it isn’t a nuclear holocaust, just “a mass of birds, exceptional in both number and diversity, that descends on a given locale as a result of meteorological or seasonal forces.”
Can molecules retain an intelligent memory of what had been dissolved in them? Homeopaths say yes, but Scientia Natura explains the fraud of homeopathy.
There are other good things we can put in our bodies, which Lab Cat’s discussion of preserved meat helps us appreciate. Yes, Lab Cat is a vegetarian, but even the finest of meat-a-sauruses will learn something about the ways we can keep our tasty food edible even longer.
However, Ruth of Eating Fabulous points out that Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Does NOT Work. Clearly we should all just make ourselves into jerky.
Ouroboros takes a different view of aging, looking at how ideas in the study of aging have aged.
Fight Aging tells us how to fight aging by fighting AGE, advanced glycation endproducts.
Speaking of endproducts, Dr. Aleksandr Kavokin tells us a tale, a tale of yellow poo. It ends with a promise “Next time let’s look for other types of stools: Black, green, red, floating, greasy, blood-tingled, bright-red blood stained, foul-smelling and so on.”
That isn’t the only thing coming out of some anuses. Science Made Cool tells us about pearlfish, parasitic fish that live in sea cucumbers, venturing out of the anus at night to forage.
On a perhaps related note, Orac discusses Dr. Eric Poehlman, who faces Jail for scientific misconduct. Poehlman faked data and used that data to obtain grants and prominence, until a colleague had the courage to stand up to him.
At Biocurious, André tells us about hybrid TIRF/AFM imaging, which allows him to manipulate a cell while watching it at a resolution of an electron microscope.
PZ Myers from Pharyngula shows what we can learn by dissecting embryos from half a billion years ago. These are the youngest remains of some of the oldest animals.
Scott Bird describes his own interesting experiment with biphasic sleep – a nap in the evening followed by a full night’s sleep.
Genetics and Health brings us an interview with Rebecca Taylor, a proudly Catholic molecular scientist. The intersection of science, bioethics, and religion produces a lot of food for thought.
The Biotech Weblog tells us about some of the best places to work in the molecular biosciences. No word on the best places to work in the Catholic molecular biosciences.
Daniel Collins tells us about Hydraulic redistribution, the ways that flows of water in and out of plant roots can tie together plant communities.
I’ll close with a couple of stories about the surprising things that bacteria can do. First, Bora from A Blog Around the Clock tells us about magnetotactic bacteria, bacteria that use the Earth’s magnetic fields to orient themselves.
Finally, my post on Radiation for Food, a community of bacteria which live entirely on energy produced by radiation deep underground.