Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle – Review

SUMMARY: The third installment in a children's book series that follows the adventures of twin amateur sleuths who build several science-y spy gadgets to aid them in their quest to solve a mystery. The summer holidays are only two weeks along but 11-year-old Nick Holt already misses his parents. In Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith [Quirk Books, 2014; Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US], we learn that Nick is convinced that someone is... Read more


Henry Fairfield Osborn’s Guide On How to be a Healthy Palaeontologist

Posted by Travis Park in Blogozoic

Ever ran out of puff applying that last layer of plaster jacketing to a fossil? Ever wanted to keep prepping out a bone but just didn't have the juice? Lacking the stamina to finish that character matrix? Fear no more! Henry Fairfield Osborn had the answers way back in 1922 and you can have these nine tips for success too. Before you know it you'll be leaping like a raptor in the long grass and figuring out relationships quicker than... Read more


When neurons let off steam

We put a new manuscript on arxiv. Niklas Hübel and I investigate an extension to the classical theory by Hodgkin and Huxley (Nobel Prize 1963) that in its original version describes nerve impulses (spikes). Spikes manifest communication between nerve cells. Their underlying mechanism is an all-or-non phenomenon, also called “excitability”. Excitability as a mechanism describes how a certain excitable state persists for some time following an input signal, a suprathreshold stimulation that, however, is terminated at some point long before... Read more


What I learned this Earth Day, 2014

Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists – In the summer I drive to my favorite of many nearby glacial lakes, a deep down-turned gumdrop of cool water ringed in lillypads. I catch painted box turtles. After a frenetic chase and what feels like too long without air I surface gasping, and marveling at each turtle’s personality. They might battle hissing and clawing at air, or hide a bit before emerging to inspect me… or their own reflections in my goggles. Some... Read more


Spider bites are extraordinarily rare (and more unlikely than car crashes)

“It does not seem like this spider is a frequent biter and the reports of alleged bites in the media and from the general public greatly outnumber the reality of the situation” That’s a quote from a recent paper published by McKeown et al., titled Verified spider bites in Oregon (USA) with the intent to assess hobo spider venom toxicity. An important word in that title is ‘intent’. The author’s original goal was to figure out, over a 3 year period, what spiders may actually bite people... Read more


Bringing the US Biomedical Research Establishment into Equilibrium

The need is great, and the time is now. The recent PNAS article "Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws" should be studied and discussed by individuals, educational and research institutions, and scientific societies. There may be no more, or fewer, sacred cows in biomedical research -- and many oxen may be gored as well. The paragraph below is reprinted from an AAMC newsletter of April 17, 2014. Bruce Alberts, Marc Kirschner, Shirley Tilghman, and Harold Varmus describe specific... Read more


Birdbooker Report 317

SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read more


Swimming with Viruses

You can find viruses everywhere: in the soil, in the clouds and in animals. According to scientists from the University of Oldenburg in Germany, there are also a ridiculous number of viruses buried at sea, in the sediments of the oceans. These sedimentary viruses don’t lie dormant on the seabed, but actively replicate down in the fathoms, even in the gyres of the ocean where most forms of life can’t be sustained since organic carbon is a scarce commodity. By... Read more


Morsels For The Mind – 18/04/2014

Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy! If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”. **** Feather, fur &... Read more


The uncertain life of a squirrel

“Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believ’d.” from The Political History of the Devil by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) As Benjamin Franklin said, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. For squirrels, taxes are no certainty. Death, on the other hand, is. The chance encounter with the small corpse of a black squirrel was an affecting reminder of the fleeting nature of life – of the certainty of death.... Read more


Is Psychology really science? Why, yes it is!

The following is a guest blog post by Tanya Karam, @PsychAllDay on Twitter. In my own research in science and environmental communication, I've recently discovered the importance of human psychology in understanding human processing of scientific information and human behaviors toward the environment. So I asked Tanya to write a blog post about the science of psychology... Enjoy! On the first day of the first psychology class I ever taught, before I was able to get through the syllabus, a student... Read more


Lab Grown Organs and Artistic Computers in Fifty Years?

The Pew Research Center released the 2014 survey of U.S. adults (1,001 participants, surveyed by land-line or cell phone interviews) regarding their views on technological advancements in the next 50 years. Over eighty percent of the participants said that "People in need of an organ transplant will have new organs custom made for them in a lab" and roughly half of the participants felt that "Computers will be as effective as people at creating important works of art such as... Read more


The News Release Is Dead, Long Live the News Release

Credit: Photo credit: Marcela, WikiMedia Commons “The news release is dead.” If you work in journalism or public relations circles, you’ve heard this before. But institutions keep rolling out news releases. Are news releases actually still effective or has their time passed? It depends on how you look at it. How News Releases No Longer Work I don’t think news releases are dead. But I do think that news releases no longer work the way they used to. For a... Read more


OpenSciLogs is here: The Evolution of Popular Science

The first #OpenSciLogs story project - meant to be participatory, "open notebook" science blogging - is here! Check out our Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign page, and participate in the story yourself via this Google Doc! Indiegogo Campaign Page: OpenSciLogs by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.... Read more


Journal Club: What’s old is new again: newly discovered songbird family is ancient

SUMMARY: Scientists analysing songbird DNA discovered that the spotted wren-babbler is neither a wren nor a wren-babbler, nor even a babbler. Instead, it represents an old evolutionary family that has no close living relatives. Spotted wren-babbler, Elachura formosa (previously Spelaeornis formosus). Image: Per Alström/SLU [doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.1067]. A newly published study has uncovered a previously unknown family of songbirds that is represented by just one species. After analyzing one of the largest and most comprehensive songbird DNA databases amassed so far, researchers... Read more