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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Intelligent Design not a scientific issue, but a political one.

An interesting lecture on how anatomy and physiology can debunk the theory of Intelligent Design.

As always -- leave any thoughts, comments, ideas, theories, criticisms and so on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FedEx Fossil found to be important link in transition from water to land

In the March 15 issue of Annals of Carnegie Museum, researchers describe their findings regarding an ancient amphibian skull found at the Pittsburgh International Airport in 2004. This amphibian fossil, named Fedexia striegeli, is believed to be an important transitional fossil and one of the earliest examples of terrestrial life. The amphibian received its namesake from the ever so popular shipping company FedEx, as it was discovered on land the corporation owned. The species name striegeli is derived from the undergraduate student Adam Striegel that is credited with its discovery. How unbelievably awesome would it be to uncover such an extremely important fossil as an undergraduate?

It is believed that the amphibian lived in the Late Pennsylvanian Period. From my understanding of this research, the importance lies in the fact that animals with such advanced capabilities to survive as terrestrials during this time period means that the shift from water to land had begun much earlier than previously thought.

Here's a rundown of the characteristics of Fedexia striegeli that led researchers to believe it lived a primarily terrestrial life:

1.) Nasal opening divided into two portions: Scientists believe that the back portion held a gland that might have increased the sense of smell. This is an indication of terrestrial life because terrestrial animals rely on their sense of smell for several important life functions including locating prey, sensing predators, knowing their locations, and for sexual purposes.

2.) Lacking lateral line: This feature served as a method for aquatic animals to sense vibrations in the water - which proved helpful when attempting to locate food. However, the absence of a lateral line in
Fedexia striegeli indicated that it has evolved so much from its original aquatic ancestor, that the lateral line is no longer present.

3.) Highly ossified bones: Ossification of bones indicates that they were thick and well developed, another sign that the animal was walking around supporting its body weight.

Research and discoveries in this field are extremely important and vital in the sense that -- the more we know about the animals that lived and survived in these ancient periods, the more we will know and understand what life was like at that time as well as understanding the evolutionary track they were on.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Some studying we can get behind

Just watch the video. Awesome!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reflections on Blogging

Apologies from Neeley and myself for not keeping up-to-date with our blogging. I've been crazy busy, and Neeley just started a new job in a toxicology lab @ a research company! Congrats Bug!

So, as we all know, the increasing popularity of blogging in the last few years is astounding. The Future Buzz is a great website from 2009 showing various stats concerning different forums on the internet including Google, Wikipedia, blogging, YouTube and so on. The site states that over 346,000,000 people read blogs annually...seriously?! That's too many people to try to comprehend. When Neeley and I began our venture into science blogging - we were a little skeptical. That's not to say that we still aren't, but I suppose you could say we're slowly finding our footing in it. Initially, we both felt like...who really wants to read the rants of two 24 year old science nerds? We both have undergraduate degrees in Biology, we are both very intelligent when it comes to science (or we like to think so!), and are both currently working in the science field (myself in biochem, Neeley in toxicology) -- but searching through some of the science blogs that are out there, I came to find that so many of them are tremendously technical, detailed, and advanced. It was all a bit overwhelming.

We don't necessarily want to write about the most recent groundbreaking scientific research -- that's not saying it's not interesting to us nor to the rest of the general public -- but we'd rather write about topics we're interested in, already involved in, or just think are really really cool. Neeley wrote about the meat vs. vegetarian diet because that's something she's experimented with...and she loves food...amazing cook! And for me, I wrote about Darwin (because he's just spectacular) and about the ruminant research because I grew up on a farm and agriculture is something that I'm drawn towards.

Essentially, I guess what I'm trying to say is that Neeley and I are science geeks, through and through. It's an unhealthy passion. We have no idea how many people read what we write, or how many find it interesting. We can only hope that as time passes we will attract more readers into our ridiculous lives of science. It's become a forum for us to proudly display our geekdom. So, now that we have our pre-blogging jitters pushed aside, let's hope this roller coaster ride that we like to call our lives is interesting enough to people to make this blog successful!

Comic - courtesy of

Saturday, February 27, 2010

To meat or not to meat... that is the question!

I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like the people around me are either hard core vegetarian, or hard core meat eaters. I for one have done them both. I tried for a solid 9 months to not eat meat. My Achilles heel you ask? SUBWAY! I just cant stay away from those foot long spicy italians!! (Don't take that dirty!) So I wanted to talk about the pros and cons of the meat diet and the vegetarian diets.

You probably already know that a vegetarian diet consists plant based foods like vegies, fruits, legumes, seeds, blah blah blah. You get it! However, in my reading I found that there are all different kinds of vegetarian diets, and by talking to vegetarians I found there are all different kinds of reasons to pursue them. A vegetarian doesn't eat meat, game, poultry, fish, shell fish, or crustaceans. An ovo-vegetarian eats eggs but not dairy. A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy but no eggs. Of course there is also a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Im sure you can guess what they eat. A vegan omits all animal based products, dairy, eggs, and honey. Yes, even honey from the bees! There are also a bunch of other specialized vegetarian diets like fruitarians. Google it, I'm not kidding. I even found that some alcohols are off limit because of their use of gelatin in the clarifying process. I know what you carnivores are thinking, "How can veggie eaters possibly get all of nutrients they need if they don't eat meat?" In fact vegetarians can get eat a complete balanced diet without animal products. They consume high amounts of fiber, folic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. Some vegetarians can have low levels of calcium and vitamin B, but with a sufficient amount of collard greens, leafy greens, tempeh, and tofu, this should not ever be a problem. Yes friends, they even get a sufficient amount of protein. Although their levels are slightly lower than carnivores, it is more than enough to sustain an active human body. There are a variety of other benefits to the diet other than the physical aspect. Here are 22 benefits to going vegie right now! It is animal friendly, and discourages the beef industry that produces copious amounts of methane gas.

On the flip side of the “animal friendly” diet, there is another lifestyle out there called the Paleolithic Diet, or The Caveman Diet. This diet seeks to be similar to our preagricultural counterparts. Our ancestors didn’t have the modern convinces of cultivated plants and domesticated animals, so they hunted and gathered. Foods that are copesetic with this diet include anything that can be hunted/fished and gathered. Eggs, insects, fruits, seeds, nuts, vegies, mushrooms, herbs and spices, sea food, fish, and wild game meats (and grass feed beef). People following this diet are encouraged to drink a lot of water, natural fruit juices, and teas. Fermented and alcoholic beverages are prohibited, as well as adding salts, sugars, dairy, beans, and grains. (Since I love a good cookie, salty foods, and wine I’m out!) In this diet you can cook your foods unlike raw food diets. The foods you eat on this diet are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Since these foods are low in carbs, it may be an effective weight loss strategy for obese people, and help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes. The Caveman Diet has low omega-3:omega-6 fatty acid ratio, and is absent of any artificial trans fats. So this may aid in the reduction of cardiovascular disease. On the flip side this diet is high in cholesterol because of all the meats. The vitamin and mineral content of the diet is also really high in contrast to the “Neolithic diet”, also known as the standard diet of today.

Part of the argument is that Neolithic foods like grains, beans, and potatoes contain anti-nutrients. These anti-nutrients are enzyme blockers that bind up digestion, and mess with stomach enzymes and small intestine enzymes, which adds up to a lot more work on your organs. These anti-nutrients also contain lectin. A natural protein that can trick the cell into doing things it normally couldn't do. Lectins can do all kinds of bad things like change the physiology of cell membranes. Which, if I learned anything in A&P, can start a whole world of troubles for the body. However, there is the argument that diets like this can shorten the life span.

There are pros and cons to each diet. Not to mention I found a world of arguments out there for each one, and I encourage you all read more, and choose for yourself. For me.. I think I will stick to eating whatever I please. Life is to short to deprive my pallet of all the wonderful flavors out there because of a diet!

Please leave your comments and let me know where you stand on the matter!

Read about vegetarian diets from The Vegetarian Resource Group
Read about Paleolithic Diets!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Common forage plant found to control gastrointestinal parasites in ruminants

While rummaging through Fresh Patents this weekend, I found patent request that caught my eye. A group of researchers are patenting a feeding mechanism they have discovered: the plant Lespedeza cuneata (also referred to as sericea lespedeza, Chinese bush clover, silky bush clover, and Himalayan bush clover) can control the presence of harmful, sometimes deadly, gastrointestinal nematodes in ruminants when included in the diet of these ruminants. More specifically, the plant has a detrimental effect on the fecundity of these worms.

In the southern USA, there is a high demand for goat meat and milk, however, the growth of the industry has been rather lagging and unable to keep up with the demand. This lagging is due to gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN), more specifically, Haemonchus contortus. This nematode will feed on blood in the stomach, therefore giving off a a red coloration. The adult worms have a lancet in their mouths, in which they utilize to open blood vessels for feeding purposes.

H. contortus females are extremely fertile and can lay up to 5,000 eggs a day. The eggs will pass through the feces, larvae will molt on the grass, and the ruminants will digest these nematodes who will then start attacking their intestinal tracts. The effects include anemia, weakness, and in a great deal of cases: death.

Chinese bush clover is known for its high concentration of tannins (protein). However, cattle and other ruminants are less likely to forage on this plant due to that fact. The high tannins produce a taste that the grazers do no particularly care for. Common dewormers and anthelminics are used in attempt to reduce the effects of the GINs, but the worms have readily developed resistance against the drugs.

The Chinese bush clover can be introduced into the diet of the animals in several ways: hay, pellets, directly with feed, and as an additive among many others. Through extensive research and feeding trials (shown in the patent request) the researchers have discovered that the plants does not kill the worms, but instead greatly reduces their fecundity, which will in turn reduce the number of worms consumed via grazing.

Take a look at the patent request on Fresh Patents for a more detailed description of what these researchers are trying to do. In my opinion, this method of GIN control is extremely advantageous. The method is simple to do, cost-effective, and most importantly: all natural. Considering that these ruminants are to be used in the food industry, as consumers we want the least amount of synthetic drugs in them as possible. And these researchers have come up with a solution.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday Darwin!

I know I'm a few days late posting on Darwin Day, Happy belated birthday Chuck! I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to post in honor of one of the most important figures in science -- in my book he IS the most important. As most of us science geeks know, Darwin Day is celebrated on Darwin's birthday, February 12th. Throughout my research and attempts to gain more knowledge about this amazing man, I came across some pretty interesting topics, and I found a few ways for us to appropriately honor his memory, intelligence, and contributions to our society.

The International Darwin Day Foundation is urging people in the scientific community to sign a petition they have generated in hopes of officially honoring Darwin:
"Our petition asks President Obama to issue a proclamation on Darwin Day that honors Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection and that calls on all Americans to preserve scientific discovery as a bedrock of our society. It also asks Americans to commemorate the day with appropriate events and activities."
The website makes a very valid point -- if we don't get the message out about evolution and it's importance in our society, specifically schools, we will be at a great disadvantage. It's imperative for children to be presented with ALL ideas and theories in all subjects, not just science. They'll be grossly unprepared once they hit the real world, and not to mention - have completely one sided opinions.

I personally believe that this petition is an extremely good idea, and that The International Darwin Day Foundation is on the right track in helping the science community get onto the map, and with more integrity and credibility. So, if you agree with me -- go ahead and sign the petition and spread the word! Let's honor Darwin and give him the credibility he deserves!

As many of you may have heard, there is a movie chronicling Charles Darwin's life, Creation. There has been a great deal of negative buzz about the movie here in the states. Unfortunately, the movie had a difficult time picking up an American distributor because people were concerned that it would be too controversial for conservative America -- but it's okay watch anti-American views, terrorism, rape, murder, and crime? But to my relief, the movie finally found a U.S. distributor! To my dismay though, it hasn't been released anywhere here in Ohio. But, when I get my hands on a copy of it, I say we have a large Darwin viewing party. Who's in?!

Here's a sneak peak...

Watch a funny clip of the Rachel Maddow show HERE.

Check out the Facebook page for the movie.

Check out Charles Darwin's great great grandson's interview on NPR.

Get yourself some Darwin gear HERE.

And in closing, I'll leave you with my favorite Darwin quote.

" It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."