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Talking back

Talking back

A science blog, sans blague


Evolution Did Not Snap the Brain Together like LEGOS

Evolutionary psychology has typically tried to identify the piece parts of human cognition shaped by the rigors of natural selection. New questions have arisen in this contentious discipline about what exactly is on that parts list—or whether the list itself really exists.One of the foremost debating points centers on whether the brain consists of a series of Lego-like modules, each one produced from evolutionary adaptations that resulted in mental tools for things like going after Mastodons, forming clans and communicating the daily incidentals related to food, shelter and mating...

STAFFAugust 29, 2012 — Gary Stix

A Robot Helps Listen In on Brain Cell Chatter

Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1991 for their development of the patch-clamp technique, which records currents coursing through single ion channels in cells...

STAFFAugust 23, 2012 — Gary Stix

Is American Science in Decline?

That is the title of a new book by two quantitatively oriented sociologists. The Harvard University Press offering goes beyond the reflexive and often pessimistic assumptions that often imbue discussions about future prospects for U.S...

STAFFAugust 22, 2012 — Gary Stix

Out of Africa: Startling New Genetics of Human Origins

I love population genetics for its ability to peer back into human history through the medium of DNA's ATCGs.One of the stars of this discipline is Sarah Tishkoff, a standout in African genetics, someone who will readily haul a centrifuge into the bush in Cameroon.Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania is lead author on a paper published online July 26 in Cell that details whole-genome sequencing of five individuals each from three extant hunter-gatherer groups—the Pygmies of Cameroon as well as the Hadza and the Sandawe of Tanzania...

STAFFJuly 26, 2012 — Gary Stix

Alzheimer's: A Ray of Hope? Just Perhaps Maybe

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has always looked for an anomaly in the persistent cosmic background chatter—a change perhaps in the intensity of a signal that can be taken as a sign that a transmission might be a message to us earthlings from other intelligent beings.Each year, medical researchers who gather at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference search for something similar as they weigh reports of the complex biology of the human brain for some sign that a drug might actually change the relentless course of the disease...

STAFFJuly 18, 2012 — Gary Stix

German Court: Circumcision Is Cruel and Usual Punishment

Conventional wisdom has it that the only thing that will unite races, religions and political factions will be the landing of a hostile Martian space ship.It's a little hard to plan for the exact moment of the next Mars attack...

STAFFJuly 14, 2012 — Gary Stix

Higgsteria: We Didn t Need No U.S. Supercollider

“Europe Overtakes U.S. in Physics Pursuing God Particle,” the headline blared.The Bloomberg News story declared that the home of Galileo and Newton has recaptured the lead in physics with its pursuit of the Higgs boson, a place in the scientific firmament that was once indisputably owned by the birthplace of Benjamin Franklin...

STAFFJuly 6, 2012 — Gary Stix

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