#SciLogs Weekly Roundup: Darwin’s Disease, Is Atheism Doomed, SEO For Science Writers, Mother’s Day

11 May 2013 by Khalil A. Cassimally, posted in SciLogs

Every weekend, I publish a roundup of the week’s SciLogs.com blog posts along with some reactions from the comment feeds and social media.

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Nsikan Apkan: Darwin’s Madness

Nils R Grotnes:

“The chances of a maternal lineage having more offspring than average ("spreading") in each generation is as just as high (or higher) for the ones without the mutation, than the one with. If you assume that on average every lineage get the same number of female offspring, there will be no "spread". Considering that the results of having the mutation makes you less healthy, it's not unreasonable to expect that an affected lineage would actually produce less offspring over the generations. The classic case of inbreeding leading to lethal effects comes from genes that is lethal only when doubled, that is when they are combined from both parents [...]”

Alan Hill:

“While I am sceptical about this hypothesis, it ought to be testable: any descendants of Sarah Wedgwood's daughters in the female line or of Charles Darwin's sister Caroline (who married Josiah Wedgwood III as noted above) would have inherited such a mitochondrial abnormality. The only one in the Wikipedia family tree is the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Did he suffer any similar symptoms? It is not impossible that there may also be living descendants who could, in theory, be tested for this condition.”

Alex Brown: Multiplying Dimensions at TEDxCERN

Malcolm Campbell: Built for speed

Michael Blume: May Atheism succeed demographically?

Zachary Stansfield:

“I've always assumed that atheism (or strict forms of religious belief) generally require a sort of elite position in the world (e.g. sufficient wealth to ponder such issues without great loss of self-esteem). Given that there is a strong negative correlation between wealth and offspring production (e.g. when comparing across societies), shouldn't this largely explain the effect?”

In response, Michael Blume:

“Yes, Atheism is flourishing among those raised in rather secure lifes, which often (but not always) combines with wealth and education. At this point, religion and family turn from a more-or-less fixed necessity to a matter of choice(s). And these choices turn out to be related. Thus, the reproductive gap among the higher educated religious and non-religious turns out to be bigger than among those less educated. Modern education looks like a demographic & evolutionary bottleneck, with only the (very) religious squeezing through with more than two children.”

Matt Shipman: How Do You Not Get Curious? An Interview with Jessica Wapner

Paige Brown: Dashing in Blue

Alex Brown: The cellar door of science

Matt Shipman: Why SEO Matters to Reporters and Bloggers: an Interview with Wil Reynolds

Khalil A. Cassimally follows up on the discussion on Scientific American’s The SA Incubator:

“But as SEO and SMO become more prevalent in online writing, it is naïve to not expect writers to accommodate these practices in their writings. Numerous online publications for instance already A/B test various titles per article [...] Frequently linking to articles or blog posts from one’s own publication is an SEO tactic that’s widely used. Writing a lede filled with SEO-friendly words is another. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a few social media editors are drafting new SEO guidelines for journalists to incorporate in their writings right now.”

Danny Haelewaters: Great research, unexpected conclusion – Why fish is so good for you (?)

Lee Turnpenny: No such thing as ‘Allopathy’

Laura Nielsen: Monitoring volcanic activity at Mount Cleveland

Farooq Khan: Cambridge Networks ay 2013

GrrlScientist: Alphabet Bird Collection | Book Review

Tania Browne: Measuring the Unmeasurable

Shannon Bohle: Librarians and the Era of the MOOC

Malcolm Campbell: Mom and apple pie

Matt Shipman: Grants: The Pros and Cons of Telling the World You Just Got Some Money

Jacquelyn Gill:

“"Writing about grants is hard because the researchers who received the grant haven’t actually done anything yet."

That's not exactly true. There's usually quite a lot of foundational research that goes into grant writing (including the relevant prior publications), and grants are much more likely to be funded if you have preliminary data. The joke I've heard is that you get funded by NSF for the work you've already done. While the final picture may be far from complete, I think it can be worth emphasizing the research that's been done that the new grant builds on, and the interesting questions and approaches (not to mention the training opportunities for students).”

In response, Matt Shipman:

“But if the foundational work is worth writing about, it stands on its own -- you're writing about that work, not about the grant. And, frankly, I wouldn't write about the foundational work unless it had been peer-reviewed -- in which case the news hook is the publication (or publications), rather than the grant. (I know peer review isn't perfect, but it is at least some sort of safeguard against promoting pseudoscience.)”

Malcolm Campbell: Morsels for the mind – 10/5/2013

Jalees Rehman: Cellular Alchemy: Converting Fibroblasts Into Heart Cells

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