WHAT DARWIN LEARNED FROM DORSET: READING THE ROCKS, HOW A VICTORIAN GEOLOGIST DISCOVERED THE SECRET OF LIFE
We generally fall asleep and then wake up at least 25,000 to 30,000 times throughout our lifetime. Transitions between sleep and waking appear to occur seamlessly, but the underlying mechanisms are extraordinarily complex. There is much interest in characterizing the brain's neuronal circuitry that control these shifts in state, and recent research has pointed to specific populations of neurons in the brainstem, hypothalamus, basal forebrain, and thalamus. On page 957 of this issue, Hayashi et al. (1) report that a specific population of neurons in the early developing hindbrain gives rise to subpopulations that contribute to the sleep-wake circuitry.
The Plague in pre-history. Carl Zimmer, NYT.
But in a new study, published on Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers report that the bacterium was infecting people as long as 5,000 years ago.
"...Exactly what those early outbreaks were like is impossible to know. But the authors of the new study suggest that plague epidemics in the Bronze Age may have opened the doors to waves of migrants in regions decimated by disease.
“To my mind, this leaves little doubt that this has played a major role in those population replacements,” said Eske Willerslev, a co-author of the new study and the director of the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen.
"David M. Wagner, a microbial geneticist at Northern Arizona University who was not involved in the study, said that the new research should prompt other scientists to look at mysterious outbreaks in early history, such as the epidemic that devastated Athens during the Peloponnesian War. “It opens up whole new areas of research,” he said...."
"...New patients had slowed to a trickle in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, the center of the outbreak, and there had not been a report across the border in Liberia for four weeks. Sierra Leone, although surrounded by Guinea and Liberia, had not discovered a single confirmed case.
"Like the 10 Ebola crises he had handled before, in Uganda and Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this first substantial outbreak in West Africa seemed to be burning itself out after a few months and a few hundred infections.
“This is close to over,” Dr. Rollin told himself, a view common among the virus hunters. “That’s it for this outbreak.”
"Or so he thought. In fact, Dr. Rollin and other well-intentioned veterans of past Ebola campaigns had tragically underestimated this outbreak, overlooking clues that now seem apparent. Viewing the West Africa epidemic through the prism of nearly two dozen previous outbreaks across the continent, they failed to appreciate that the 2014 version would be unique in catastrophic ways..."
First flower petals were concentric circles of three.
Though the team’s reconstructed ancestral flower doesn’t look radically different than many modern flowers, it does have a combination of traits not found today. Like many of today’s flowers, the putative ancestor contained both male and female parts on the same blossom. And the arrangement and numbers of its petals and its organs that shed and receive pollen all fall within the range of its modern descendants—no one trait stands out as obviously ancient. But no one current flower matches its form exactly, either. One discovery that will surprise some researchers is that its petals and other organs were organized in concentric circles in groups of three, rather than in spirals, the team reports today in Nature Communications.
Some of the earliest surviving branches in the family tree of flowering plants, such as the ancient Amborella shrub, have their petals arranged in spirals. Many researchers have assumed that the first flower was the same. But Hervé Sauquet, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Paris Sud, compares these plants to the ancient mammal group that contains platypuses—odd, egg-laying aquatic mammals living in Australia. Though some of their traits are likely remnants of their ancient origins, they’re also reflective of hundreds of millions of years of later evolution to their specific environments. “We’re just showing this applies to Amborella as well,” Sauquet says.
The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future by Jim Robbins.
A fascinating investigation into the miraculous world of birds and the powerful—and surprising—ways they enrich our lives and sustain the planet.
Our relationship to birds is different from our relationship to any other wild creatures. They are found virtually everywhere and we love to watch them, listen to them, keep them as pets, wear their feathers, even converse with them. Birds, Jim Robbins posits, are our most vital connection to nature. They compel us to look to the skies, both literally and metaphorically; draw us out into nature to seek their beauty; and let us experience vicariously what it is like to be weightless. Birds have helped us in so many of our human endeavors: learning to fly, providing clothing and food, and helping us better understand the human brain and body. And they even have much to teach us about being human in the natural world.
This book illuminates qualities unique to birds that demonstrate just how invaluable they are to humankind—both ecologically and spiritually. The wings of turkey buzzards influenced the Wright brothers’ flight design; the chickadee’s song is considered by scientists to be the most sophisticated language in the animal world and a “window into the evolution of our own language and our society”; and the quietly powerful presence of eagles in the disadvantaged neighborhood of Anacostia, in Washington, D.C., proved to be an effective method for rehabilitating the troubled young people placed in charge of their care.
Exploring both cutting-edge scientific research and our oldest cultural beliefs, Robbins moves these astonishing creatures from the background of our lives to the foreground, from the quotidian to the miraculous, showing us that we must fight to save imperiled bird populations and the places they live, for the sake of both the planet and humankind.
Praise for The Wonder of Birds
“A must-read, conveying much necessary information in easily accessible form and awakening one’s consciousness to what might otherwise be taken for granted . . . The Wonder of Birds reads like the story of a kid let loose in a candy store and given free rein to sample. That is one of its strengths: the convert’s view gives wide appeal to those who might never have known birds well.”—Bernd Heinrich, The Wall Street Journal
“Engaging, thoughtful . . . worthy of a place alongside David Attenborough’s documentary The Life of Birds or Graeme Gibson’s The Bedside Book of Birds . . . This offering will appeal to naturalists, anthropologists, linguists, and even philosophers as well as to lay readers.”—Library Journal
“In this deeply felt and well-supported argument for avians’ value to humankind, science writer Robbins hits the full trifecta for engrossing and satisfying nature writing.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Using enchanting stories and rich historical references, Jim Robbins explores the role of birds on the evolution of human self-awareness.”—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“It’s one for the birds—what a wonderful book! It will give you wings.”—Rita Mae Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Rubyfruit Jungle.
“The Wonder of Birds provides a great and well-timed gift: a portrait of the quiet miracles around us on each day of our ordinary lives.”—Michael Punke, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Revenant
“Jim Robbins writes masterfully, with lucid prose and deep insight into the human psyche and natural world.”—Peter Stark, author of Astoria
Marie Duplessis, French courtesan and Parisian celebrity, was a striking Victorian beauty. In her best-known portrait, by Édouard Viénot, her glossy black hair frames a beautiful, oval face with sparkling eyes and ivory skin. But Duplessis’ fame was short-lived. Like Violetta, the protagonist in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata whose tale Duplessis inspired, Duplessis was afflicted with tuberculosis, which killed her in 1847 at the age of 23.
By the mid-1800s, tuberculosis had reached epidemic levels in Europe and the United States. The disease, now known to be infectious, attacks the lungs and damages other organs. Before the advent of antibiotics, its victims slowly wasted away, becoming pale and thin before finally dying of what was then known as consumption.
The Victorians romanticized the disease and the effects it caused in the gradual build to death. For decades, many beauty standards emulated or highlighted these effects. And as scientists gained greater understanding of the disease and how it was spread, the disease continued to keep its hold on fashion.
“Between 1780 and 1850, there is an increasing aestheticization of tuberculosis that becomes entwined with feminine beauty,” says Carolyn Day, an assistant professor of history at Furman University in South Carolina and author of the forthcoming book Consumptive Chic: A History of Fashion, Beauty and Disease, which explores how tuberculosis impacted early 19th century British fashion and perceptions of beauty.
During that time, consumption was thought to be caused by hereditary susceptibility and miasmas, or “bad airs,” in the environment. Among the upper class, one of the ways people judged a woman’s predisposition to tuberculosis was by her attractiveness, Days says. “That’s because tuberculosis enhances those things that are already established as beautiful in women,” she explains, such as the thinness and pale skin that result from weight loss and the lack of appetite caused by the disease.
Read more: SMITHSONIAN
One of the scariest things about cancer is the way it spreads, with cancerous cells breaking free and spreading throughout the body, landing in other organs and beginning to grow there. The process, known as metastasis, is often a death sentence, the point where the best cancer-fighting techniques become ineffective. But it’s tricky to follow; we lack a means of imaging whole systems at the detail needed to spot a few elusive metastasizing cells.
To that end, scientists at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Medicine have developed a method of imaging, published in the journal Cell Reports, that shows metastasis in real time, at the level of individual cells. The technique relies on modified cancer cells that glow and a chemical cocktail that turns organs transparent, making the fluorescent signals emitted by the modified cells easier to see. This, in turn, can offer a more comprehensive view and a better understanding of metastasis that researchers could use to develop better drugs.
“One of the difficulty in analysis of the cancer metastasis is, it spreads anywhere in the body,” says Hiroki Ueda, a pharmacology professor who worked on the study. “It goes to the brain, or the pancreas, or kidney. To understand the whole picture of the metastasis, whole body analysis with high resolution … is quite important.”
As cancer metastasizes, any of those cells floating around the system can become a growth. And it’s important to catch them all. Like bacteria that develop resistance to antibiotics, treating cancer with chemotherapy can leave isolated cells or colonies behind, and those are then liable to become drug-resistant strongholds. Making the process visible in research could help scientists understand what types of cancer cells are likely to form what they call “malignant outposts,” and help design drugs specifically to combat them.
Tissue clearing—the process of making cells more translucent—was invented around a century ago, and has been used in imaging for cancer research, bacterial infections, and autoimmune diseases for more than a decade. Ueda, his collaborator Kohei Miyazono, and their team developed a different, two-stage chemical cocktail that improves the detail over the old method. To make it easier to image the organs, the researchers needed light to flow straight through the tissue, without refracting too much due to different tissue densities. The first stage reduces lipids, which refract light a lot, and the second stage increases the refraction in the organs' surroundings, to better match it to the organ, allowing the light to pass cleanly through. The process results in a visualization clear enough that researchers can see individual cancer cells.
Read more: SMITHSONIAN
Last Universal Common Ancestor. @nicholaswade
A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth.
This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old.
The new finding sharpens the debate between those who believe life began in some extreme environment, such as in deep sea vents or the flanks of volcanoes, and others who favor more normal settings, such as the “warm little pond” proposed by Darwin.
The nature of the earliest ancestor of all living things has long been uncertain because the three great domains of life seemed to have no common point of origin. The domains are those of the bacteria, the archaea and the eukaryotes. Archaea are bacteria-like organisms but with a different metabolism, and the eukaryotes include all plants and animals.
Why would scientists revive a thousand-year-old medical recipe for a foul-smelling concoction? They suspected it could have a very real benefit, and it turns out they were right. An Anglo-Saxon brew kills methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, scientists from the U.K. have announced.
Read more: SMITHSONIAN
Lightning bug lamps can glow yellow, orange or, as is the case with the ghosts, even shades bordering on electric blue. They can appear as single blinks or long, glowing trails. Some fireflies will flicker when threatened by a predator or caught in a spiderweb. Others light up to compete with rivals or after they’ve been rejected by a suitor. Some females are completely dark, while others offer flickers to let males know they’re on the market.
Read more: SMITHSONIAN
Is our microbiome our master? @carlzimmer @nyt
"...The idea that a simple organism could control a complex animal may sound like science fiction. In fact, there are many well-documented examples of parasites controlling their hosts.
Some species of fungi, for example, infiltrate the brains of ants and coax them to climb plants and clamp onto the underside of leaves. The fungi then sprout out of the ants and send spores showering onto uninfected ants below.
How parasites control their hosts remains mysterious. But it looks as if they release molecules that directly or indirectly can influence their brains.
Our microbiome has the biochemical potential to do the same thing. In our guts, bacteria make some of the same chemicals that our neurons use to communicate with one another, such as dopamine and serotonin. And the microbes can deliver these neurological molecules to the dense web of nerve endings that line the gastrointestinal tract.
A number of recent studies have shown that gut bacteria can use these signals to alter the biochemistry of the brain. Compared with ordinary mice, those raised free of germs behave differently in a number of ways. They are more anxious, for example, and have impaired memory.
Adding certain species of bacteria to a normal mouse’s microbiome can reveal other ways in which they can influence behavior. Some bacteria lower stress levels in the mouse. When scientists sever the nerve relaying signals from the gut to the brain, this stress-reducing effect disappears...."
"..Researchers and the fishing industry have steadily learned more about the corals since the 1950s, and particularly in the last decade or so as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has used submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to probe the depths and capture new information, images and video.
Peter J. Auster, a marine biologist who is an emeritus professor at the University of Connecticut and senior research scientist at Mystic Aquarium, has studied the corals for 30 years and said that they had been found on steep slopes of seamounts and in canyons that were cut into the continental shelf.
“These are incredible landscapes,” he said.
Because the corals grow slowly, bottom-fishing for squid and fish could knock them over and the communities would not recover for many years. The canyons that are being considered for protection are, Dr. Auster said, refuges for organisms that used to be more widespread. “The choices are what we do with what’s left,” he added.
The group that makes the choices is the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. It is meeting in Raleigh, N.C., and the amendment under discussion would affect its regulations for mackerel, butterfish and squid fishing...."
“…Scientists have puzzled out profoundly important insights about how the brain works, like the way the mammalian brain navigates and remembers places, work that won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for a British-American and two Norwegians.
“Yet the growing body of data — maps, atlases and so-called connectomes that show linkages between cells and regions of the brain — represents a paradox of progress, with the advances also highlighting great gaps in understanding.
“So many large and small questions remain unanswered. How is information encoded and transferred from cell to cell or from network to network of cells? Science found a genetic code but there is no brain-wide neural code; no electrical or chemical alphabet exists that can be recombined to say “red” or “fear” or “wink” or “run.” And no one knows whether information is encoded differently in various parts of the brain.
“Brain scientists may speculate on a grand scale, but they work on a small scale. Sebastian Seung at Princeton, author of “Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are,” speaks in sweeping terms of how identity, personality, memory — all the things that define a human being — grow out of the way brain cells and regions are connected to each other. But in the lab, his most recent work involves the connections and structure of motion-detecting neurons in the retinas of mice….”
It’s often warned that unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles common in many countries can lead to clogged-up arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Now scientists are looking to the habits of the Tsimane people in Bolivia, who lead a highly active way of life based on hunting, foraging and fishing, for clues on how other populations can improve their heart health.
Study estimates that an 80 year old from the Tsimane (or Chimane) group had the same vascular age as an American in their mid-fifties.
The Tsimane people - a forager-horticulturalist population of the Bolivian Amazon - have the lowest reported levels of vascular ageing for any population, with coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) being five times less common than in the US, according to a study published in The Lancet and being presented at the American College of Cardiology conference.
The researchers propose that the loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles in contemporary society could be classed as a new risk factor for heart disease. The main risk factors are age, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.
"Our study shows that the Tsimane indigenous South Americans have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis of any population yet studied," said senior anthropology author, Professor Hillard Kaplan, University of New Mexico, USA. "Their lifestyle suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fibre-rich carbohydrates, along with wild game and fish, not smoking and being active throughout the day could help prevent hardening in the arteries of the heart. The loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles could be classed as a new risk factor for vascular ageing and we believe that components of this way of life could benefit contemporary sedentary populations." 
Although the Tsimane lifestyle is very different from that of contemporary society, certain elements of it are transferable and could help to reduce risk of heart disease.
While industrial populations are sedentary for more than half of their waking hours (54%), the Tsimane spend only 10% of their daytime being inactive. They live a subsistence lifestyle that involves hunting, gathering, fishing and farming, where men spend an average of 6-7 hours of their day being physically active and women spend 4-6 hours.
Their diet is largely carbohydrate-based (72%) and includes non-processed carbohydrates which are high in fibre such as rice, plantain, manioc, corn, nuts and fruits. Protein constitutes 14% of their diet and comes from animal meat. The diet is very low in fat with fat compromising only 14% of the diet - equivalent to an estimated 38 grams of fat each day, including 11g saturated fat and no trans fats. In addition, smoking was rare in the population.
In the observational study, the researchers visited 85 Tsimane villages between 2014 and 2015. They measured the participants' risk of heart disease by taking CT scans of the hearts of 705 adults (aged 40-94 years old) to measure the extent of hardening of the coronary arteries, as well as measuring weight, age, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and inflammation.
Based on their CT scan, almost nine in 10 of the Tsimane people (596 of 705 people, 85%) had no risk of heart disease, 89 (13%) had low risk and only 20 people (3%) had moderate or high risk. These findings also continued into old age, where almost two-thirds (65%, 31 of 48) of those aged over 75 years old had almost no risk and 8% (4 of 48) had moderate or high risk. These results are the lowest reported levels of vascular ageing of any population recorded to date.
By comparison, a US study of 6814 people (aged 45 to 84) found that only 14% of Americans had a CT scan that suggested no risk of heart disease and half (50%) had a moderate or high risk - a five-fold higher prevalence than in the Tsimane population.
In the Tsimane population, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose were also low, potentially as a result of their lifestyle. The researchers also note that the low risk of coronary atherosclerosis was identified despite there being elevated levels of inflammation in half of the Tsimane population (51%, 360 of 705 people).
"Conventional thinking is that inflammation increases the risk of heart disease," said Professor Randall Thompson, cardiologist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, USA. "However, the inflammation common to the Tsimane was not associated with increased risk of heart disease, and may instead be the result of high rates of infections." 
Because the study is observational it cannot confirm how the Tsimane population is protected from vascular ageing, or which part of their lifestyle (diet, physical activity or smoking) is most protective. The researchers suggest it is more likely to be a result of their lifestyle than genetics, because of a gradual increase in cholesterol levels coinciding with a rapidly changing lifestyle.
VEGANISM AS PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE
“Woolly mammoths by the tens of thousands once roamed across ice age grasslands spanning Europe, Asia, and the northern reaches of North America. But after the global climate began warming some 12,000 years ago, mossy tundra began to replace grasses, depriving the massive animals—roughly the size of modern African elephants—of their most important food source. Human hunters further culled their numbers. Woolly mammoths went extinct on the mainland about 10,000 years ago, but small pocket populations persisted on islands, isolated from human contact.
Hoping to learn more about the last lonely days of the Wrangel Island mammoths, bioinformatics researcher Rebekah Rogers of the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and biologist Montgomery Slatkin of the University of California (UC), Berkeley, compared the complete DNA sequence from a 4300-year-old mammoth bone found on Wrangel Island with that of a 45,000-year-old specimen that lived on the Siberian mainland….”
SMITHSONIAN- The Last Mammoths Died Isolated and Alone
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC- Wrangel Island; A Wildlife Haven
PHYSICS.ORG- The Genomic Meltdown Just Before Extinction
CSM- DNA Reveals Mammoths Secret
Dr. Lamb and her colleagues are now searching for those mechanisms. They’re also trying to put a number on the value of seagrass’s disease-fighting powers. “There could be a huge potential in how valuable they become,” said Dr. Lamb.
Robert J. Orth, a seagrass expert at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who was not involved in the new report, predicted it would lead to similar research on seagrass meadows in other parts of the world. “It’s going to make people think,” he said.
The growing recognition of this plant’s importance comes even as it is disappearing. Nearly a third of the world’s seagrass meadows have died off since the 19th century. A number of studies indicate that they are now disappearing at an accelerating pace.
Last week, Dr. Orth and his colleagues published a detailed study of the retreat of seagrass in Chesapeake Bay in the journal Global Change Biology. Since just 1991, they estimate, 29 percent of the bay’s seagrass meadows have vanished.
Their research points to two main culprits. Eroded dirt washes into the Chesapeake, making the water cloudy. Seagrass get so little sunlight that the resulting dimming can be deadly.
"Bumble bees may have small brains, but that doesn’t mean they’re not inventive. A new study shows that the insects can innovate to solve complex problems, quickly figuring out a better way to get a sugar reward. Such mental flexibility may help bees overcome human-caused changes to their environment.
“It’s a cool study, and both the authors and the bees deserve credit for their innovativeness,” says Dhruba Naug, a behavioral ecologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Bumble bees have already proven themselves remarkable animals. They possess complex navigational skills, rudimentary culture, and emotions. They can even use tools: Scientists have shown that the insects can learn to pull a string—and so get a sugary reward—by watching another bee perform the task. Although bees don’t pull strings in the wild, they do sometimes pull or push aside flower petals and parts that may resemble strings..."
"...So in the new study, Loukola and colleagues made the bees forage for sugar water by moving a small, yellow ball to a specific target (as in the video above)—something far removed from what the insects do in the wild. The scientists first trained the bees to know that the ball had to be in a target location in order to yield sugar water. Then each insect was shown three yellow balls placed at varying distances from the target. Some bees watched a previously trained bee move the farthest ball to the target and get a reward. Other bees watched a “ghost”—a magnet beneath the platform—move the farthest ball. And a third group didn’t see a demonstration; they simply found the ball already at the target with the reward.
In separate tests, each bee was subsequently challenged to move one of the three balls to the target within five minutes. The 10 bumble bees that watched a sister perform the task were the most successful, the scientists report today in Science. They also solved the task faster than those that watched the ghost or didn’t see a demonstration. Some of the latter bees solved the task entirely on their own.
The bees quickly figured out a better way to move the ball, too. Although those that watched the demonstrator initially pushed the ball to the target, in subsequent trials, they walked backward and pulled the ball—an unexpected and innovative change, the scientists say.
The bees also displayed inventiveness when deciding which ball to move. Although the demonstrator bees always moved the farthest ball (because the others were glued in place), most of the observer bees chose instead to move the ball that was closest to the target. When the researchers replaced the yellow ball that was closest to the target with a black ball, most of the bees moved it for the reward—showing that they understood the general principle of the task: Move a ball to the center, not move only a yellow ball.
“These bees solved the problem more effectively,” and showed that they could “generalize the solution to new situations,” says Anne Leonard, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Nevada in Reno, who was not involved in the study....
The Fatal Menace of (antibiotic resistant bacteria) MRSA by Maryn McKenna is a stunning account of a pathogen that resists antibiotics. These bacteria (MRSA) exist all around us. Challenging doctors, MRSA infiltrates our lives at an unrelenting pace through hospitals, clinics, agriculture, and the food chain. The author, Dr. Maryn McKenna, sounds the alarm on “the biggest thing since AIDS” and shares enough knowledge to empower her readers.
Author's Homepage http://marynmckenna.com
Twitter Feed https://twitter.com/marynmck
The Language of Plants: A Guide to the Doctrine of Signatures by Julia Graves
“A powerful and unique book, The Language of Plants is without doubt the most in-depth discussion of plant signatures available to us today. A brilliant medical herbalist, Julia has drawn from ancient and modern sources and blended this knowledge with her own rich experience and personal wisdom to create a marvelous resource, designed to take us deeply into the healing energetics of plants. While reading it, I felt a modern alchemist at work.” ―Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist and author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health and The Herbalist’s Way
It is only in the age of technology that human beings have lost a sense of nature being alive. Throughout history, people spoke to nature, and nature communicated with them. During the Middle Ages, reading the “book of nature” was called the doctrine of signatures, which had always been an important part of interacting with nature for traditional healers and herbalists.
“As a child, I just knew which plant to pick up and hold to my head for a headache to go away. Once I heard about the concept of a ‘doctrine of signatures,’ I would just stand silently, in awe of nature talking to me, talking and talking in her silent, direct speech. The book of nature seemed so obviously spelled out, and in oddest contrast to what I learned in medical school. My professors seemed never to have heard of nature being vibrant and alive and brimming with patterns of energy that are right there for us to understand and use.... This direct and primordial experience of being part of nature's omnipresent, cyclic course taught me more in the realm of no-words than any university ever could have.” ―Julia Graves
The Language of Plants covers all aspects of the doctrine of signatures in an easily accessible format, so that everyone, whether nature lovers or healers, can learn to read the language of plants in connection with healing.
European DNA Connects to Amerindian DNA During the Last Glacial Maximum. @nicholaswade. @nyt
"...The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion — about 25 percent — of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.
The Mal’ta boy was 3 to 4 years old and was buried under a stone slab wearing an ivory diadem, a bead necklace and a bird-shaped pendant. Elsewhere at the same site about 30 Venus figurines were found of the kind produced by the Upper Paleolithic cultures of Europe. The remains were excavated by Russian archaeologists over a 20-year period ending in 1958 and stored in museums in St. Petersburg...."
Great explaination of medical science of HIV, genes, and case study.
Firstly, only 1% of Caucasians are estimated to carry the CCR5-delta 32 mutation that confers resistance to HIV, with other races having even fewer numbers. The genetic change means people lack a protein needed by HIV to enter blood cells.
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Explores an amazing link between the Black Plague and HIV.
Partial or complete immunity, through the Delta 32 mutation, and how they tracked it down.
How to Explore the Final Frontier of the Brain. Alexandre Pouget, @unigenews @natureprofessor of neuroscience at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
"...But the experiments now possible are increasingly resource-intensive. The neu-ronal activity driving a simple behaviour, such as a mouse navigating a maze, could involve the cooperation of several hundred brain areas. Mapping the whole picture implies making recordings in many neu- rons from each area. Yet a typical 1–3-year study involves recording from relatively small populations of neurons in just a sin- gle area of the brain. And, as we will discuss, these data cannot at present be combined across labs.
Most new approaches for the collection and analysis of neural data require training and expertise across a range of domains — from genetics to optics to computational neuroscience. As in most disciplines, neuroscientists in one laboratory — let alone one scientist — rarely hold the entire set of requisite skills. Moreover, because labs do not normally share raw data, the fruits of difficult experiments cannot be fully exploited by groups with comple- mentary expertise.
In short, a generation ago, neuroscientists were largely limited by theory and tools. Today, the bigger problem is effectively har- nessing, as a community, what is already available.
We propose that researchers join forces in ‘meso-scale’ collaborations of around 20 principal investigators and between 50 and 100 researchers to conduct experi- ments that are beyond the reach of single labs. Even at this scale, there will be many hurdles to clear. Specifically, an effective col- laboration would need to do the following.
Focus on a single brain function. The downfall of many neuroscience collabora- tions — and especially of mega-projects — is setting goals that are too broad. The common goal has to be ambitious, yet reachable within, say, ten years, and well defined. A whole-brain theory of one brain function — a single behaviour — could meet those requirements. If a collaboration were largely limited to labs interested in the same behaviour — such as courtship in fruit flies, or foraging in mice — clear, shared objectives could be defined at the start. The labs would apply a range of recording and manipulation techniques to the same common behavioural task, allowing the functional data to be seam- lessly combined.
To assemble a team of experts on such a focused problem, a collaboration would need to incorporate participants distributed throughout the world. In the past, physi- cal proximity was indispensable for effec- tive interaction. Now, online collaboration tools — such as Slack, GitHub or Google Docs — have changed the game. Scientists must harness these to plan experiments, make decisions, discuss problems and more. For more specific needs, new tools may need to be invented...."