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Showing posts from March, 2016

Vegetarian diet a cause of hereditary cancers & heart disease?

Are we what we eat?
In a new evolutionary proof of the old adage, 'we are what we eat', Cornell University scientists have found tantalizing evidence that a vegetarian diet has led to a mutation that -- if they stray from a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 diet -- may make people more susceptible to inflammation, and by association, increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.

The discovery, led by Drs. Tom Brenna, Kumar Kothapalli, and Alon Keinan provides the first evolutionary detective work that traces a higher frequency of a particular mutation to a primarily vegetarian population from Pune, India (about 70 percent), when compared to a traditional meat-eating American population, made up of mostly Kansans (less than 20 percent). It appears in the early online edition of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

By using reference data from the 1000 Genomes Project, the research team provided evolutionary evidence that the vegetarian diet, over many generations, may hav…

Science vs. Religion: It's all in our heads

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If I understand the research in this report and in other studies posted here, the seeming conflict between faith and science resides in each of us due in part to the structures of our brains combined with how each individual's brain is genetically constructed combined with the fact that of the twenty or so "modes" of our brain, only one can grab the attention of our conscious and aware self at a time.

Recent research (below in related stories) shows differences between conservative and liberal thought processes; conservatives tending to more dominant amygdala reactions and liberals tending to more frontal lobe responses.  (This is my extremely simplistic explanation of our immensely complex brains.)  The importance of this is that political views are as much genetically controlled as based on logical conclusion.

Now we get into the conflict between science and religion.

The latest research seems to say that this, too, is genetic in origin.  Or, perhaps, may be genetical…

What's in a name? Longer life & more success if. . .

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Giving characters a name  is one of the pleasures of writing, as is, to be honest, using a person particularly disliked as the model for a villain.

According to this study of black names, the name you give a character has deeper implications of acceptance and success or ostracization and rejection through life. In our effort to create believable characters and stories, this is a small hint on how to name characters - perhaps a name with neutral connotation to disguise a villain or a name with negative connotation to saddle a protagonist with an additional small burden in life.

Imagine James Bond with a different name, say Ralph Foster.  Doesn't work as well does it?  Pick a character, any character, from literature or history and play with alternate names.  Marvin Prescott instead of Sherlock Holmes.  Irving Watanabe rather than John Wilkes Booth.  Fred instead of Gandalf.  Not that these are particularly good examples of how a name changes image.

Here's the story for your c…

How science literate are we as a society?

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How science literate are we?  How science literate is the population of the U.S?

This is one tough question.

First, how do you quantify science literacy and by what measure?  Is it enough to understand the basic concepts of science as taught in public schools, and to know a little math and biology and chemistry and physics and business? (Yes, business is an exploding field of scientific research - with fascinating results.)

"Science fiction properly defined mean that if there is any real science, it is correct." ~ Ursula Le Guin, NPR interview August 29, 2015

Do we need a functional understanding?  Okay, what is a functional understanding and how do you measure this?

To go a step further, is there a need to stay current with a variety of research outside of professional interest and across an impossibly wide range of subjects?  Is it enough to (attempt to) stay current in one field?

As often pointed out, there are more scientists active today than have lived and worked acros…

Why humans invented pottery 16,000 years ago

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Why did ancient humans invent pottery?

What survival advantage did firing lumps of mud give us at the end of the last ice age? Food storage?  Easier transportation of grain or other foodstuff?  Something to dramatically throw against a cave wall in an argument with your significant other?  Brewing beer?  To make ancient Frisbees?  Theories abound.

For me, the question isn't how come.  It's who and why?  Who figured out that heating mud in the depth of a fire would give it a temporary permanence?  Did someone deliberately do it in a moment of bored curiousity.  Was it an accident?  Or and this is my theory, did a six year old make "dinner" for her family by cooking her mud-food over a fire? Who pays attention to what six year old kids do? Obviously, someone did, or we'd be slurping morning coffee out of cupped hands.

If you're a writer of pre-historical fiction, you need an understanding of even these seemingly simple matters of utility and survival of the c…

Sunbathers live longer. No one knows why.

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Sunbathing season is near, so the report of this research conclusion is particularly good (?) news for worshipers of Sol and the healthy tan.  Yes, there's still a risk of skin cancer, yadda yadda, but. . . longer life?  Awesome.  Break out the sun screen and loll on the beach.  Can't come soon enough for those of us in the Northwest.  Summer is usually three or four days in August and I can't wait.
Why do sunbathers live longer than those who avoid the sun?
New research looks into the paradox that women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun, even though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer. An analysis of information on 29,518 Swedish women who were followed for 20 years revealed that longer life expectancy among women with active sun exposure habits was related to a decrease in heart disease and noncancer/non–heart disease deaths, causing the relative contribution of death due to cancer to increase. Whether the positi…

How much blood could Dracula drink before killing you?

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A joy of reading science releases is coming across apparently meaningless research that explains things we never knew we need, but do.

Such as how much blood could Dracula suck out of someone's neck without killing them?  And, of course, how long would it take?

I never knew that I need this information, but here it is.

The full student paper including some mind boggling equations is linked in the attribution line.  I suggest wearing a garlic garland before reading it.
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Out for blood: Fluid dynamics explain how quickly a vampire could drain your blood
To coincide with the 85th anniversary of Tod Browning’s ‘Dracula’ (1931) starring Bela Lugosi, should you (unfortunately) be assailed by a vampire, students from the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy have used fluid dynamics to examine how long it would take for the undead fiend to drain an average human’s blood – and have calculated that it would take only 6.4 minutes to drain 15 per cent of the …

Conservatives and liberals do think differently

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Conservatives and liberals do think differently Research shows different ways of solving everyday problems linked to political ideology. Big differences in the ways conservatives and liberals think about solving the nation's most pressing problems couldn't be more apparent during this presidential election cycle. But political ideas aside, people who hold conservative versus liberal perspectives appear to differ in everyday thinking processes and problem solving, according to new research.
When solving short (non-political) verbal problems in an experiment, liberals were more likely than conservatives to achieve solutions with a sudden insight or "Aha!" In contrast, both groups achieved roughly an equal number of solutions through gradual, analytical processing.

Different from instinctive or gut reactions, insight problem solving occurs when after working on a problem for awhile and maybe feeling stuck, a solution unexpectedly emerges into consciousness in an 'Aha!…

Human habitat 1.8 million years was no picnic - despite park-like setting

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Whether you write pre-historical fiction a la'  best-selling author Jean Auel or are interested in how we became who are today, this study has something for you.  For the first time researchers have constructed an accurate picture of how our ancestors lived some 1.8 million years ago, revealing what they ate, how they found food and what animals we had to compete with (and flee from as well.)

Here's the report with a link to the full study in the attribution.
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Early human habitat, recreated for first time,  shows life was no picnic Scientists have pieced together an early human habitat for the first time, and life was no picnic 1.8 million years ago.  Our human ancestors, who looked like a cross between apes and modern humans, had access to food, water and shady shelter at a site in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. They even had lots of stone tools with sharp edges, said Gail M. Ashley, a professor in the Rutgers Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Art…

Writing a "Bromance"? Here's a report on the health benefits

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As writers, we all know that men build friendships and bonds very differently than women.

From Fight Club to Dumb & Dumber and The Little Rascals to the Big Bang Theory and the Red Green Show, male friendship movies and television are a part of popular culture.  While women don't get it, men don't either.  They just do it without a lot of thought.

Part culture and part biology, male relationships are what they are based for a great part on beer, broads, and bragadacio.

*  *  *  *  * The Man's Prayer I'm a man. But I can change. If I have to. . . . I guess.                    -- Red Green *  *  *  *  *
Have you ever wondered what men get out of bromances?  There's not a ton of research on this, but the report below does explore what's in male-male relationships for men.

Here's the report with a link to the full study in the attribution.
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Bromances may be good for men's health Moderate stress encourages male bonding, and  prosocial behavior m…