Science & Society

Many parasites depend on their host’s behavior in order to successfully reproduce. Instead of leaving this behavior to chance, some parasites actively manipulate their hosts to produce the desired behavior. For example, after infecting a rat, the taxoplasmosa gondii parasite needs to be transferred to a cat’s belly to reproduce. To do this, the sneaky parasite rewires its rat host to actively seek the smell of cat urine. When the rat gets eaten, the parasite completes its necessary transfer.

Cordyceps fungi infect insects and steer them to higher ground where, when the insect dies and the fungus bursts forth, the fungus spores will be more effectively dispersed by wind.
If you watched "Angels&Demons" recently, you may have thought particle physics was just about scary science that could do real harm on the chance it may do future good.  

Not so, though most people don't realize the impact particle physics has had on society.   Particle physics saves lives, connects continents through new channels of communication and generally helps us understand the world around us.   In many ways it inspires tomorrow’s leaders.

While the perils associated with particle physics, from Earth-gobbling black holes to Vatican-destroying amounts of antimatter, gain news headlines, it’s easy to overlook the large economic and societal benefits of particle physics research.
Brian Greene on science as the ultimate adventure:

Science is about immersing ourselves in piercing uncertainty while struggling with the deepest of mysteries. It is the ultimate adventure. Against staggering odds, a species that has walked upright for only a few million years is trying to unravel puzzles that are billions of years in the making. How did the universe begin? How was life initiated? How did consciousness emerge? Einstein captured it best when he wrote, "the years of anxious searching in the dark for a truth that one feels but cannot express." That's what science is about.
In general, science is like an episode of "LOST"; one question gets answered but that answer raises two more questions. The discovery of DNA and genes has answered many questions about who we are and why we are, but to what degree remains a mystery.

'Nature Versus Nurture' has been an argument for decades. Nature proponents state that genes are primarily responsible for everything, including our eventual personalities and behaviors, and that they can all be explained by certain sequences of DNA. The Nurture argument instead says that although genes and DNA play a part of our anatomy and other physical aspects, our environment, exposures and experiences are determines our personalities and behavior.
U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) officials have announced the destruction of 60 percent of the U.S. declared stockpile under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This milestone was achieved Saturday, April 25. CMA reached the 50 percent milestone in December 2007 and is poised to destroy its two-millionth munition in the coming months. 
Professor Maria da Graça Bicalho, head of the Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility Laboratory at the University of Parana, Brazil, told the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics that people with diverse major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) were more likely to choose each other as mates than those whose MHCs were similar, and that this was likely to be an evolutionary strategy to ensure healthy reproduction.

Yes, opposites attract.   Even genetically.  

The MHC is a large genetic region situated on chromosome 6, and found in most vertebrates. It plays an important role in the immune system and also in reproductive success. Apart from being a large region, it is also an extraordinarily diverse one. 
Harry Benjamin Syndrome, at first a uncontroversial and innocuous idea that transsexual brains are different from other brains, has morphed into a platform for some to denigrate others under a cloak of true pseudoscience proposed by laypeople and supported by not one reputable sexologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.  What some of them have done is take to attacking anyone who does not fit with their ideal of what a real "woman born transsexual" is (Like a transsexual who does not want sexual reassignment surgery.All they while complaining about how oppressed they feel.  This is just a little snapshot of the bigotry, hy
Being Unfair

Being Unfair

May 20 2009 | 2 comment(s)

In case you thought I was being unfairly hard on the leaders of the Catholic Church here and here, take a look at the results of an investigation into church run reform schools in Ireland:
A fiercely debated, nine-year investigation into Ireland's Roman
Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorized thousands of
boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades — and that
What happens when a guy married to an art historian who dislikes religion writes a book using science?   "Angels&Demons", that's what.   It's the book Dan Brown wrote that made even less sense than "The DaVinci Code", because it was written before that blockbuster hit, even though the new movie seems like a sequel.  

Because it was written three years earlier, he had yet to refine his craft of jumbling vaguely non-specific pop social science with revisionist history - though he still knows he dislikes Catholics enough - and basically works in the expected conspiracy theory with some science as the weapon.
What is Language ?

We are tool-using social  animals. The most powerful tool known is the one we use to build every other tool: language - spoken or written. But tools can be used with little or no skill to turn out mundane artifacts and garbage. By honing your skills with language you - yes, you - can craft masterpieces. A study of linguistics can help you acquire such skills, but be warned: the pursuit of linguistic knowledge is highly addictive.