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We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “evolution

Nature or nurture: is violence in our genes?

dna violence

dna violence

Nature or nurture? The quest to understand why humans kill one another has occupied the minds of philosophers, sociologists and psychologists for centuries. Are we innately violent, as Englishman Thomas Hobbes postulated in the 1650s, or is our behaviour influenced more by the environment we grow up in, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau theorised a century later?

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A dog’s dilemma: Do canines prefer praise or food?

dramatic dog cupcakes

A new study suggests that given the choice, many dogs prefer praise from their owners over food. The study is one of the first to combine brain-imaging data with behavioral experiments to explore canine reward preferences.

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Influence of religion and predestination on evolution and scientific thinking

lego evolution

lego evolution

Generally seen as antithetical to one another, evolution and religion can hardly fit in a scientific discourse simultaneously. However, in a new article, a biology researcher delves into observations on the influences a few major religions have had on evolutionists and their scientific thinking over the centuries.

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Bigger brains led to bigger bodies in our ancestors

brain sizes

brain sizes

New research suggests that humans became the large-brained, large-bodied animals we are today because of natural selection to increase brain size. The work contradicts previous models that treat brain size and body size as independent traits responding to separate evolutionary pressures. Instead, the study shows that brain size and body size are genetically linked and that selection to increase brain size will “pull along” body size.

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Some aging treatments shown to have opposite effects on males and females

sex differences in aging

sex differences in aging

What helps her live longer might be harmful to him, according to a new study that may shed light on how and why organisms age. Analyzing years of previous research on dietary and pharmaceutical tests on flies and mice, researchers showed that aging interventions can have opposite effects on mortality rates in males versus females.

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Are you multicellular? Thank a random mutation that created a new protein

Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf
Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf

Get it? Cell division, well long division anyway…

All it took was one mutation more than 600 million years ago. With that random act, a new protein function was born that helped our single-celled ancestor transition into an organized multicellular organism. That’s the scenario — done with some molecular time travel — that emerged from basic research in the lab of University of Oregon biochemist Ken Prehoda.

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It’s alive!! Study adds to evidence that viruses are alive

Study adds to evidence that viruses are alive

The diverse physical attributes, genome sizes and lifestyles of viruses make them difficult to classify. A new study uses protein folds as evidence that viruses are living entities that belong on their own branch of the tree of life.
Image credit goes to: Julie McMahon

Classifying something as living isn’t as easy as it sounds, after all we are all atoms, so when do atoms go from nonliving to living? Despite the complexities of viruses, we have historically deemed them nonliving. However, a new analysis supports the hypothesis that viruses are living entities that share a long evolutionary history with cells. The study offers the first reliable method for tracing viral evolution back to a time when neither viruses nor cells existed in the forms recognized today.

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On Wikipedia, politically controversial science topics vulnerable to information sabotage

On Wikipedia, politically controversial science topics vulnerable to information sabotage

Wikipedia reigns. It’s the world’s most popular online encyclopedia, the sixth most visited website in America, and a research source most U.S. students rely on. But Wikipedia entries on politically controversial scientific topics can be unreliable due to information sabotage.

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Cellular zombies: Mutant cells that can’t copy DNA keep dividing when they shouldn’t

Mutant cells that can't copy DNA keep dividing when they shouldn't

Sequential images of abnormal divisions in a mutant cell leading to abnormal nuclei and chromosome rearrangement. Chromosomes are displayed in pink, cell membranes in green. The cell undergoes two aberrant divisions.
Image credit goes to: Susan Forsburg

Researchers at USC have developed a yeast model to study a gene mutation that disrupts the duplication of DNA, causing massive damage to a cell’s chromosomes, while somehow allowing the cell to continue dividing.

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Mans best friend: Dogs process faces in specialized brain area

How Dogs React to Faces vs. Everyday Objects

The study involved dogs viewing both static images and video images on a screen while undergoing fMRI. It was a particularly challenging experiment since dogs do not normally interact with two-dimensional images, and they had to undergo training to learn to pay attention to the screen.
Image credit goes to: Photo by Gregory Berns, Emory University

Ever feel like your pet knows what you look like? While historically animals are depicted as, well slow… new research is proving otherwise. To pet owners this might not be big news, but scientists found that dogs have a specialized region in their brains for processing faces. The research provides the first evidence for a face-selective region in the temporal cortex of dogs.

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Research investigates whether solar events could trigger birth defects on Earth

solar flare

Studies find airplane crews at high altitude are exposed to potentially harmful levels of radiation from cosmic rays. But could these cosmic rays pose hazards even at sea level? In recent years, research has suggested congenital birth defects down on Earth’s surface could be caused by these “solar particle events” — spikes in cosmic rays from the sun that touch off the northern lights and sometimes hamper communications or the electric power grid.

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Expanding the code of life with new ‘letters’

Science has added to the genetic alphabet

Not anymore…

The DNA encoding all life on Earth is made of four building blocks called nucleotides, commonly known as “letters,” that line up in pairs and twist into a double helix. Now, two groups of scientists are reporting for the first time that two new nucleotides can do the same thing — raising the possibility that entirely new proteins could be created for medical uses.

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How social norms come into being

 

social norms

Fifteen years ago, the name “Aiden” was hardly on the radar of Americans with new babies. It ranked a lowly 324th on the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names. But less than a decade later, the name became a favorite, soaring into the top 20 for five years and counting. Now, a new study provides a scientific explanation for how social conventions — everything from acceptable baby names to standards of professional conduct — can emerge suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, with no external forces driving their creation.

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Evolution of whooping cough and the anti-vaccination movement

whooping cough

When I was your age, whooping cough wasn’t what it is today. I’m sure we all know the stereotypical grandfather telling stories like that, but — at least in this case — if he started his story off like that then he is actually right. Over the last few years, this once-common childhood illness, has evolved in response to its own vaccine, in other words this isn’t your parents’ pertussis.

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The Genetic Evolutionary Arms Race

genetics

Genes are tricky little buggers, the stuff that makes us up has fought the test of time to make it to where we are today. It is thought that our genes changed in an attempt to outpace other life, albeit random changes.That might only be half right however, new findings suggest that there is an evolutionary arms race going on within the genome against, of all things, itself. This inherent competition of primates  drove the evolution of complex regulatory networks that orchestrate the activity of genes in every cell of our bodies

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