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Crude Matter


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Links – July 27, 2011

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Those of you following me over to Scientific American from Field of Science will know that I occasionally make links posts, which are usually heavy on the physiology but often branch out into other thematic topics as well. I haven’t decided how often to make links posts over here at my new home, but I generally did them twice a week before. I think it depends on how much time I have to collect links and how cluttered my blog will begin to feel if I post too many. If anything, I am always open to experimentation.

My links post graphic is a carryover from the old blog. My last blog was titled C6-H12-O6, which is the chemical formula for glucose. Glucose is used in cell metabolism to make energy, but excess glucose is stored as glycogen, which is a large, branching molecule made of many, many glucose molecules linked together. I liked the imagery of the linked glucose molecules and decided to use this computer representation of glycogen as the banner for my links posts. I’m going to keep using it, at least until (if) I can think of something better.

Metablogging

Introducing #SciAmBlogs bloggers: Michelle Clement. My interview with Bora over at the Network Central blog from last week. If you haven’t already read it, hop on over and do so.

Physiology

Digital Oxytocin: How Trust Keeps Facebook, Twitter Humming. Some, err, very preliminary results hint that using Facebook and Twitter might contribute to increased oxytocin levels.

Dolphin may sense the body electric. Research published today describes electroreception in dolphins, the first true mammal to exhibit this sense. I’m not going to talk about this in great deal right now, because I’ve downloaded the paper to blog about later. I do want to say that this is very, very cool, and also a good example of convergent evolution. (Yes, I know the images don’t work. I’m working on it.)

Scientific Advances on Contraceptive for Men. This is a really excellent article describing many of the approaches to male contraception currently being explored, how they work, and why they aren’t commercially available yet.

Genetics

Chip chips away at the cost of a genome. “Like the computer chips made by Intel, the company that Moore co-founded, the Ion Personal Genome Machine (PGM) exploits semiconductor technology, with its ability to deliver ever-increasing speed and lower costs[.]” This novel approach to genome sequencing bathes DNA fragments with a series of washes, each containing a specific type of nucleotide. When the corresponding nucleotide binds to the fragment, it gives off a hydrogen ion that the chip detects in the form of a change in pH. It takes about five seconds per base pair.

Personal genomics: no longer just for white folks and Roots into the Future. 23andMe is offering free personal genotyping to 10,000 black Americans as an initiative to boost genetic disease research in black American communities. “To learn more about the project, or to sign up to be notified when registration becomes more broadly available, go to www.23andme.com/roots.” You may also want to read Razib’s post explaining why it is unlikely that people will be able to ‘game’ the system.

DIY Dodecad. The Dodecad Ancestry Project, if you aren’t familiar, is an anthropologically-oriented genotype project that explores the admixture of various populations. Many people have volunteered to be part of the project to explore their ancestry, but many more people are ineligible for the project because they are of mixed ancestry or they have relatives that are already in the project. Now Dienekes has released a do-it-yourself version that you can run on your own 23andMe data.

Chemistry

My Chemically Fueled Life. This link is about a month old, but it is likely to be quite relevant to this blog very soon. The post is about re-branding “chemical free” products, since the truth is that nothing is chemical-free. The water you drink is a chemical. The oxygen you breathe is a chemical. That food you’re eating? Full of chemicals! And I ain’t talking about pesticides, either.

Eating mussles can make your semen radioactive! Eating 200g of mussels causes the radioactive polonium content of a man’s semen to increase threefold (which is still a very small amount).

The Treasures of Urine. If you liked my post on urine earlier this week, you’ll probably like this post on how phosphorus was discovered by alchemists attempting to turn urine into gold.

Sociology

The mental burden of a lower-class background. I can relate to this. While I would not classify my upbringing as ‘lower class’, I grew up in Appalachia, an area commonly associated with rednecks and Deliverance. There are a lot of things we just don’t have there, and there are a lot of things that seem normal there that would be scoffed at or approached with disgust or disbelief elsewhere. I’ve lived in the city for eight years since graduating high school in 2003, and I find that I definitely sort my life into pre- and post-move sections. I do different things, I talk about different things, and I certainly DON’T talk about some things.

Michelle Clement About the Author: Michelle Clement has a B.Sc. in zoology and a M.Sc. in organismal biology, both from The Ohio State University. Her thesis research was on the ecophysiology of epidermal lipids and water homeostasis in house sparrows. She now works as a technical editor for The American Chemical Society. Like this blog on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @physilology.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






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