Month: February 2011

Feelin’ Lucky? Is it more than just a feeling? (via LabSpaces)

1926 US advertisement for lucky jewelry . &quo...

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Are you lucky? Perhaps you’re unlucky. What is luck, anyway?

It’s tempting to consider it as some kind of magical force present in the ether, in which some individual seem more able to channel its influence than others.

Alternatively, it may be a force unto itself, bestowing favour or ill-fortune upon those who cross its path.

Both of those definitions, however, fail under scrutiny. This does not mean that ‘luck’ does not exist, nor does it mean that belief in it cannot be beneficial (or detrimental, in the case of bad luck). Luck (in part) does depend on how you understand it.

via LabSpaces.

BS Science – Creationism (via Dr. Sci-Psy)

Basilosaurus cetoides, an archaeocete whale fr...

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Links, bolds and underlines are mine. The tumblr of this guy is very funny, he’s smart. Follow it ;)

Here are some of the most common talking points creationists use.

1) No one has seen evolution in action. This theory is based on speculation.

As a microbiologist, I find this offensive. I witness evolution all the time when bacteria gain antibiotic resistance. This is small but very easy to see if you look at Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bug that arose due to evolution and the overuse of antibiotics selecting for specific traits.

2) There are no transitional fossils (intermedeary fossils that show evolutionary transition).

There are. A lot of them actually. My favorites are whales. The Fossils we have have put their evolution as so: the land mammal Indohyus, returns to the water and transitions into Ambulocetus, then after two more known transitions (Protocetid and Basilosaurus), finally ends as Cetaceans – modern whales. Besides, evolution itself is a fluid transitional process. All living species are currently in a state of “transition”.

3) Evolution can’t explain how life started.

Well, it’s not supposed to. The process in which life started that so many creationists talk about is something else all together called “abiogenesis.” This branch of science has many theories (I’m particular to the RNA world hypothesis) but has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution explains how species change over time through natural selection.

Having creationism (or its dressed-up inbred cousin, “intelligent design”) taught in any science class is detrimental to children’s cognitive development. If we teach kids that the earth is 6,000 years old, we’re teaching them that it’s okay to ignore empirical evidence. Being able to shape your beliefs on things that are testable and falsifiable is one of the most important skills anyone can learn.

via Dr. Sci-Psy.

What happens to your genes when you smoke a cigarette? (via Machines Like Us)

The effects of smoking cigarettes on gene activity have been investigated in the largest study of its kind. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Medical Genomics studied white blood cells taken from 1,240 people to identify 323 unique genes whose expression levels were significantly correlated with smoking behavior.

Jac Charlesworth led a team of researchers from the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, Texas, USA, who carried out the study as part of the long running San Antonio Family Heart Study in families from the Mexican American community in San Antonio. She said, “Previous studies of gene expression as influenced by smoking have been seriously limited in size with the largest of the in vivo studies including only 42 smokers and 43 non-smokers. We studied 1,240 individuals, including 297 current smokers. Never before has such a clear link between smoking and transcriptomics been revealed, and the scale at which exposure to cigarette smoke appears to influence the expression levels of our genes is sobering.”

via What happens to your genes when you smoke a cigarette? | Machines Like Us.

The hostile response that vegetarians and vegans experience (via Machines Like Us)

George Bernard Shaw, Nobel laureate in Literat...

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I recently had lunch with a group of people including one young woman who was a vegan. She said that she often received negative, even hostile, receptions from people she worked with or others in social settings when they found out she was a vegan, even though she was not a proselytizer about it and even if she mentioned it only in passing during casual conversation and it was relevant to the conversation.

I had noticed this before. For some reason, some omnivores seem to view vegetarians and vegans as a threat to their own values and often try to convince them that meat eating is better for them. Playwright George Bernard Shaw, a vegetarian who lived a very long and healthy life, amusingly described this odd response (quoted in Bernard Shaw: His Life and Personality by Hesketh Pearson (1961), p. 171):

When a man of normal habits is ill, everyone hastens to assure him that he is going to recover. When a vegetarian is ill (which fortunately very seldom happens), everyone assures him that he is going to die, and that they told him so, and that it serves him right. They implore him to take at least a little gravy, so as to give himself a chance of lasting out the night. They tell him awful stories of cases just like his own which ended fatally after indescribable torments; and when he tremblingly inquires whether the victims were not hardened meat-eaters, they tell him he must not talk, as it is not good for him.

via The hostile response that vegetarians and vegans experience | Machines Like Us.