Biochemical Soul Musings on Nature, Science, Evolution, Biology, and Education

2Jul/09Off

Grandpa’s Pet Therapod

nope - not a fake at all...

nope - not a fake at all...

I hang out online sometimes with a bunch of like-minded fossil-enthusiasts (The Fossil Forum).

Tonight somebody posted this:

Just watched the new this evening and they were talking about a dig going on right now outside of Glen Rose, on the McFall ranch. The news showed the footprints of the therapod and the human prints together. It was interesting. For report go to cbs11tv.com

So I mosied over to the Dallas, TX CBS news site and found the article "Local City Known As Dinosaur Capital Of Texas, by Arezow Doost."

Sounds innocuous enough for a title, right?  Then I read the first three sentences:

"Did you ever think that there were dinosaurs in North Texas?

As it turns out, this is one of the most prolific areas for dinosaur tracks in the state. One group of scientists have even found tracks dating back millions of years."

Read that last sentence again:

"One group of scientists have even found tracks dating back millions of years."

Cause, you know, all those other groups found tracks that weren't millions of years old...
(for those of you who missed out on elementary school, dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous sixty-five million years ago.)

Absolutely hilarious...and mind-numbingly maddening.

After reading a bit more, then you learn what it is really about:

"Scientists believe that one of the most unique findings is human prints dating back to the same period as the dinosaur prints. "We are looking for the truth," said Baugh. "We don't want anything else but the truth.""

I rolled my eyes. Obviously, I had a feeling what I would find out with a little search, but I decided to check out the scientist quoted in the piece, because I thought it was a bit odd that he said "We are looking for the truth. We don't want anything else but the truth."

You see, that is a very non-scientist thing to say in a media piece, and it instantly threw up a red flag to me. I say this because when one is actually in the practice of being a good scientist, a statement like that is like a commercial fisherman saying "no really, we're just out here to catch fish." What else would a fisherman be fishing in the ocean for? If you're a scientist, a statement like that is less than unnecessary.

Yeah this guy, Carl Baugh, is a young earth creationist discredited in the scientific community and with a questionable education. He is obviously seeking to prove his own wrong beliefs - not actually do what good scientists do, which is let the data speak for themselves. Check this out for some rather hilarious reading on Baugh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Baugh

Sigh...it is Texas after all (I was born and raised in east Texas, FYI)

As an added moronic bonus, if you look at the url of the story you'll see that it's filed under "pets."
(http://cbs11tv.com/pets/Texas.Dinosaur.Capital.2.1069336.html).

What kind of of idiots are running that station?

One thing about the fossil record - it's insanely consistent across both time and continental space, if fragmentary. And it has consistently shown us that human and therapod existence is quite a few tens of millions of years apart.

Hell, mammals were barely existent back then, compared to today. But primates? LOL - no.

***

Side note: I'm going fossil hunting in Aurora, NC tomorrow and at Greens Mill Run in Greenville, NC on Saturday!!  Shark teeth here I come. Please just let me find a megalodon.

27Feb/09Off

Tagged by Rick MacPherson’s Google Meme

Okay, my excuse is that I have yet to participate in a "meme" yet (despite being tagged by several).

The infamous Rick MacPherson of Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice & Sunsets came up with his own little game wherein he determined a set of search terms that would result in his own blog ranking as the top hit (such as "coral reefs, conservation, queer" and "zelnio, conservation, blog, coral, drunk").

The exercise ended up being more entertaining than I anticipated. My goal was to find the most entertaining or impressive search terms.

In no particular order, here are some search terms that will give you Biochemical Soul as the #1 Google search hit (no quotes or advanced googling were used):

  • andrew kevin dueling penises (that explains some of my traffic - it's totally invertebrate biology-related - I swear)
  • miriam oyster orgies (also invertebrate biology-related)
  • magnum p.i. blue whale
  • daniel darwin beard
  • timber rattlesnake camouflage
  • flatfish eye adaptation
  • aye-aye finger adaptation
  • spaghetti monster animation
  • heron catfish video
  • daniel d brown ("daniel brown" doesn't pull this blog until results page 2)

Interestingly, I almost capture the the entire history of heart evolution - pretty sweet:

  • worm heart evolution (2nd behind a "pet heart-worm" site)
  • fly heart evolution
  • fish heart evolution
  • frog heart evolution
  • reptile heart evolution
  • bird heart evolution (#2 search result)
  • mammal heart evolution
  • human heart evolution (page 2 of results)

How about it Christie, Kevin, Allie, DNLee, Glendon? Care to give it a go?

6Feb/09Off

Science in Danger!

Because it needs to be shouted out to the world, I am reposting this from The Panda's Thumb. I find this utterly baffling. How can any American not see the vast impact of science on our lifestyles, our economy, our health, our environment, and our existence?!

Science Getting the Shaft

US Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are proposing to cut the stimulus/spending package by roughly 10%. Their staff have identified several “useless” programs included in the bill, and it appears that they consider science funding to be one of those useless pursuits.

Over the last 50 years, much of our economic development has been driven by science, and at a time when the US is faced with losing its scientific dominance to China and the EU, the US needs increased science funding. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. Fund fishing research, and your children all eat for a lifetime.

From the list of stimulus projects that are on the cutting block:

  • NSF 100% cut ($1,402,000,000)
  • NASA exploration 50% cut ($750,000,000)
  • NOAA 34.94% cut ($427,000,000)
  • NIST 37.91% cut ($218,000,000)
  • DOE energy efficiency & renewable energy 38% cut ($1,000,000,000)
  • DOE office of science 100% cut ($100,000,000)

If you have an opinion about these cuts, you should make it known to your Senators because they will soon be voting on this proposal.

List of Senators and Contact Information

25Oct/08Off

XKCD: Beliefs

This comic is a bit old, but it's just so (agelessly) pertinent right now.

XKCD: The best comic artist on the internets

XKCD (Randall Monroe): The best nerdy comic artist on the internets

24Oct/08Off

Sarah Palin knows nothing of science

Fruit Fly Brain

Fruit Fly Brain (credit Pamela Mitchell)

In one of the single most maddening, ignorant, unfathomably idiotic statements (out of many) I have heard spew through Sarah Palin’s lips, the candidate for the second highest position in the free world uttered a single phrase today that could utterly destroy the progress of medicine and scientific understanding.

In her very first policy speech, Palin talked about autism and disabilities (video below). She urged that

“For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference.”

This is very true. And where does this information and the ability for early identification come from? Scientific research. Unfortunately, she went on to say

“You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.”

When I heard this issue forth from my T.V. I literally could not believe what I had just heard. I had to rewind my TiVo just to make sure. I write now filled with more anger at the the current state of this union than I have felt in some time (albeit, anger cut with a good dose of hope).

Why the anger, you say? What’s wrong with her statement, you ask?

This statement of “public policy” exhibits an almost unbelievable level of the ignorance of Palin and those that support her – and on multiple levels.

Drosophila melanogaster

Drosophila melanogaster

#1. The fruit fly (Drosophila) has probably been the single most important organism for the study of genetics for over a century now. Almost everything we know about genetics, development, cell biology, neuroscience, and every other field of biology has strong roots in previous and current work on Drosophila. The fruit fly is one of a small handful of “standard model organisms” used by thousands of scientists across the world to learn how our bodies, organs, genes, and proteins work. Most of what we know about how a single fertilized cell becomes the amazingly complex beings we are comes from studies initially done in Drosophila. Vast amounts of our understanding of the brain (and brain disorders, diseases, and defects) also come from initial studies in fruit flies.

In fact, recent research from my own graduate alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on fruit fly brains has had an impact on the understanding of autism and has boosted autism research:

“[S]cientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for..nerve cell connections to form and function correctly. The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.”

To decry research in [condescending and amazed tone] “the fruit fly” is a testament to the true idiocy of this woman and to the failure of our public education system. In fact, her own father, Chuck Heath, was a biology teacher – obviously a complete failure of a biology teacher.

#2. The fact that she threw in “in Paris, France” represents yet another tactic to pander to the “patriotic,” French-hating (remember Freedom Fries?) Right. It also represents another misunderstanding of the nature of science in the modern world. You see, science knows no borders. It doesn’t matter where the research happens. The results all end up in the same place – in our collective database of scientific knowledge.

In my own research, both current and past, my work on heart and brain development has been based on, and done in collaboration with, other scientists all over the world. Some of my current research is based on results from a group in Korea. Other projects were based on studies from a consortium of scientists from Canada to China to Australia.

Regardless of where the research is done, it all contributes to the “public good” and it all feeds into the knowledge of our biological existence, into the state of our medical technology, and into our mental and body health.

I’ve been fuming ever since hearing her comments tonight. I am now happy to say that both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are currently covering this story quite well on MSNBC. To quote Richard Wolffe on Olbermann's Countdown, this is one of her most “mindless, ignorant, uninformed, comments” yet.  I hope I don't need to spell out for you why having someone like this in the number 2 (or God forbid, number 1) position in the country will harm science and scientific undertanding in this country.

I imagine the science blogosphere will be alight with posts about this, hopefully from some actual Drosophila scientists, and I will update this post with their links as they come along (let me know if you want your blog post listed).

(Note: Please Digg this below, or use whatever bookmark sharing site you prefer - we need as many people to see this issue as possible).

Update: Welcome visitors from AmericaBlog! You may also enjoy this image.

Update 2: For those of you who understand that the details of the earmark (which I don't think Palin even had a clue about) actually deals with a different species of fruit fly (Olive Fruit Fly), see the comments section. Yes I am very well aware of this, but it has no bearing on her comment, apparent ignorance, and flippant dismissal of research because it deals with silly-sounding fruit flies. More: PZ Myers at Pharyngula blasts the claim that she "wasn't disparaging all research into fruit flies, but only one specific earmark for studying agricultural pests."

Other coverage of Palin's scientific ignorance:

Excellent post at Reasoning the Reasons: Does She Not Know? Or Does She Not Care to Know?

Think Progress: Memo To Palin: Fruit Fly Research Has Led To Advances In Understanding Autism

Daily Kos: Sarah Does Science

Blue Herald: Olbermann and Wolffe Discuss Palin's Mindlessness

The great PZ at Pharyngula: Sarah Palin: Ignorant and Anti-Science, Losing the Sense of the Argument

My Point Exactly: Science, schmience, part 2

Google Blog List of Articles on this issue