Jennifer Carpenter reports in the News Blog that US and Canadian researchers have evolved a population of fruitflies that can count:
The result, presented on 9 July at the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa, Canada, supports the notion that the neural mechanisms underlying basic arithmetic skills first emerged hundreds of millions of years ago. It could also eventually offer a key to understanding why some people have problems with numbers.
Few doubt that our closest animal relatives have some capacity to count. A variety of clever studies have also revealed the numerical skills of more distant species, including salamanders, fish and bees. But until now, no one has ever tried to genetically enhance an animal’s counting ability.
If you want to hear more about these numerically savvy insects, then continue to Jennifer’s post.
Kathleen Raven announces in the Spoonful of Medicine Blog, the burgeoning field of do-it-yourself biomedical research got a major endorsement this week when the genetic testing heavyweight 23andMe announced that it had bought the community health site CureTogether for an undisclosed sum:
With CureTogether, a social networking site that enables users to conduct their own research studies by sharing and aggregating health information, California-based 23andMe appears to be getting serious about expanding its efforts in the Web-based, participant-driven research arena.
Already, peer-reviewed studies involving 23andMe’s 150,000 customers have yielded novel genetic insights into Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism and common traits such as freckling. CureTogether’s infrastructure and user base—which span some 500 medical conditions—should only make such patient-driven research easier.
What does the future hold for 23andMe? Find out in Kathleen’s post.
There is no “normal”
In a similar vein, this week’s Soapbox Science post is by Dr. Chris Gunter. She explains that, “There is no ‘normal’ ” and has a frank and stimulating discussion about personal genomics:
My own experience with my genomic data has been quite positive. I am a single mother. I was about to turn 40. I was trying to decide how much life insurance to buy before I crossed that cost milestone. We all deal with “Big Life Decisions” in our own way; I need as much information as possible. (e.g. How can people not find out the sex of the baby in advance? I can’t even begin to imagine that!) I thus thought, why not get so-called direct-to-consumer genomic testing and find out what I could?
Feel free to join in the conversation.
2011 Weather Extremes
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
How did the Earth get its oceans? The primordial Earth was a seething ball of magma, so the water that it began with would have evaporated into space. As a result, planetary scientists have long debated which of two types of objects, comets or asteroids, were more responsible for delivering Earth’s water.A new study, published today in Science, says that asteroids were the source. The authors, led by Conel Alexander of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in Washington DC, analysed the isotopic abundances of nitrogen and hydrogen in 86 primitive meteorites, and found that they coordinate with Earth’s.
Science of Swamps
But these beautiful swamps deserve a look beneath the surface. Beyond their beauty, the Louisiana wetlands play important roles in ecosystem services and protection of the state’s coastline. These wetlands and the cypress trees that populate them, as shown here, act to naturally protect the coastline from erosion and hurricane damage, to store and convey floodwaters, and to absorb sediments and contaminants. Swamps and wetlands are some of the largest natural carbon sinks in the world, sequestering excess carbon dioxide that would otherwise drive further climatic warming.
Continue to her post for more science and pictures.
HPV Vaccine for boys
Daniel Cressey discloses in the News Blog, boys in Australia are to be offered a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV):
The Gardasil HPV vaccine, which was developed in Australia, will be funded for 12 and 13 year-old boys from next year as part of the country’s National Immunisation Program, the ministry of health announced today. Women and girls began being vaccinated in the country in 2007, and a significant drop in cervical cancer was seen shortly after [Lancet, 377, 2085-92 (2011)].
“Already the HPV vaccine has had an impact,” said Tanya Plibersek, Australia’s minister for health in astatement today. It is estimated that a quarter of new infections will be avoided by extending the vaccine to boys.”
Learn more about this in Daniel’s report.
Death of the Mouse
We still slide a pointing device on a flat surface or our index finger on a touchscreen. We are speaking to our computers through 2D motion and buttons (left, right, up, down and left click, right click) when we live in a 3D world. But our interaction with computers is about to jump a notch with the introduction of Leap Motion, a small device which allows you to control your computer by gesturing your hands and fingers in mid-air. It’s quite awesome and the potential uses of this technology are only now being tapped into.