Science online, socially un-contagious edition

You probably won’t catch bad eating habits at that cocktail party. As long as you go easy on the canapés. Photo by rocketlass.

Big blogging news this week: Bora Zivkovic and the team at Scientific American have launched a big new network of science blogs, sweeping up a large chunk of my RSS subscriptions, including Kate Clancy, Eric Michael Johnson, Christie Wilcox, Krystal D’Costa, Kevin Zelnio, Jason Goldman, and SciCurious. And just like that, SciAm is the center of the science blogosphere. Congrats to everyone involved!

  • When the press release precedes peer review, check your wallet. A whole series of studies proposing that behaviors from divorce to overeating are “contagious” via social ties may be bunk.
  • Hoisted on their own statistical petard. A study of dinosaur morphology data using statistical methods invented by Creationists ends up confirming descent with modification.
  • Solution: either more funding, or fewer deaths. US Federal funding for research into solutions to infection by drug-resistant Staphylococcus comes to less than $600 per MRSA death.
  • Darwin was polite even in pencil. Robert Krulwich examines Charles Darwin’s marginalia.
  • They’re elephants with wings! Why you should never piss off a crow.

Programming note

Chicago! Photo by jby.

No new science post this week. Partly that’s because I spent the long holiday weekend in Chicago, which was all sorts of not-staring-at-my-laptop fun, for evidence of which see above.

However, it’s really more because I’m thinking that a posting pace of once every other week will be more compatible with my offline schedule for the foreseeable future. Said schedule includes concentrating on the whole new postdoc thing, but also things like getting to know a shiny new hometown while it’s not buried in snow and reading the last new David Foster Wallace novel ever.*

Hopefully this will result in less rushing to write posts, maybe even better posts. But don’t get your hopes up, Dear Readers.

* At least one of these activities may be directly responsible for more footnotes in my posts. So you’ve got that to look forward to.


In which sloppy scientific reasoning inspires weak attempts at humor

Apropos of nothing much:

How many evolutionary psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. Millions of years of sexual selection have adapted us to navigate in total darkness by tripping over furniture.

And in the interest of balance:

How many evolutionary biologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only one—but, you know, if we wait long enough, we strongly expect non-deterministic processes to change the bulb for us.

(Confidential to Guillaume: I, for one, would love to hear an adaptive hypothesis to explain the origin of an academic field heavily devoted to making up hypotheses without ever testing them. Perhaps it’s some sort of honest signalling mediated by h-scores?)


Carnival of Evolution, July 2011

Fireworks. Photo by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton.

It’s Independence Day in the U.S. To celebrate, let me suggest the latest edition of the Carnival of Evolution, which is hosted this month by 13-year-old evolution blogger William. (He’s dedicated the Carnival to some other patriotic holiday, but we’ll overlook that.) The monthly roundup of online writing about evolution and all its scientific, cultural, and historical ramifications includes posts by John Wilkins, Zen Faulkes, and Byte Size Biology among many others. Go check it out while you’re waiting for the barbecue coals to heat up.


Science online, chocolate milk snake oil edition

Leave the chocolate milk. Take the espresso. Photo by confusedbee.
  • So counterintuitive, it’s counterfactual. The “chocolate milk diet” thoroughly and painstakingly debunked.
  • Proof that baby crows are smarter than the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. A cool new study documents the development of object permanence in crows.
  • First step: piss off Richard Owen. How the giant squid was finally accepted as non-mythical.
  • Maybe it ain’t so, Stephen Jay. Was the mismeasuring of mismeasurement in Gould’s Mismeasure of Man itself … incorrectly assessed?
  • Gray’s position did not make leaps. How Charles Darwin slowly convinced the botanist Asa Gray to ditch creationism, though not Christianity, simply by asking him questions.
  • Paging Dr. Pangloss. A clever, but almost entirely untested, hypothesis proposes that our fingers wrinkle up when wet to improve our grip.
  • Hope you like pasta. Over at his shiny new blog Science-Based Running, Dave Munger reassesses carb loading.
  • In case you missed it. D&T closed out Pride Month by hosting the Diversity in Science blog carnival.
  • Go do this right now. Pitch in a few bucks to help Sarcozona attend ESA, so she can write up the international ecology conference.