Spiders say, “No means no!”

The arachnids have a mechanism to prevent rape.

It seems as if everyone is talking about the anti-rape condom in South Africa, which was actually introduced a couple of years ago. What bothers me about this is not how late it’s making the news rounds, but how it’s being hailed as a rape preventative device when, in fact, it’s not. It doesn’t prevent rape from occurring; it only makes it very painful for the attacker.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m in favor of punishing attackers and making them wary of rape just in case a woman is wearing one of these teeth-filled devices—but women shouldn’t have to do a damn thing to prevent rape. Rapists should. Women should not have to alter their lives in order to not be raped; we should instead live in a world where such attacks do not occur in the first place.

Evidence of oldest Americans uncovered from a prehistoric toilet

We humans dream of changing the world, of leaving marks in the annals of time for a bolt of insight or hard-won accomplishment. Yet some go down in history for strange, unexpected, even unwanted deeds. Certainly prehistoric Americans living in Oregon never thought that in the year 2012 they would become famous for dropping their guts in a cave.

Brains Scans Predict Behavior, Chisel Away At Individuality?

The usefulness of fMRI scans in predicting and manipulating our thinking and behavior may have large social and religious impacts down the road.

Our brains, once thought to be the greatest mystery of our humanity, are now becoming a roadmap by which we can be understood, even predictable. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI scans, are real-time measurements of the activity within our brain. Researchers have used these types of scans to determine our thoughts, teach us through brain-wave manipulation, and now it seems they can even predict our behavior. Although brain science is managing to unlock many of the secrets about human thinking and behavior, it begs the question, “Are we losing something in return?”

Spoiled by the Weather Channel

Boy am I glad I don’t live in a log cabin, relying on a Farmer’s Almanac.

Over the weekend, we had some pretty alarming weather here in the Midwest. In many areas, it didn’t get nearly as scary as it was predicted—but it certainly did in some towns across the area. Some people criticized the weather folks, saying they went too far with their warnings of complete catastrophe; indeed, it did feel as if we were about to experience The Day After Tomorrow. I must admit that I panicked—something that I normally do not do, but when you have a kid, like they say, everything changes.

New Science Exchange Site Allows Researchers To Outsource

A new startup is changing the way that science is conducted, and may lead to the future of scientific progress.

A new startup is changing the way that science and scientists operate around the world, and it may just become the future of scientific study and advancement. Science Exchange is an eBay-like service providing access and funding to scientists’ equipment and expertise all around the world. Funded by YCombinator and started by cofounders Elizabeth Iorns and Dan Knox in August of last year, the web company has already allowed scientists and research labs to greatly accelerate the speed at which they can pursue their projects, and the efficiency with which their funding is allocated. They do this by using a network of scientists and researchers, also using Science Exchange, to outsource various components of their work.

The service allows scientists to go onto the “Exchange” and find other scientists or researchers that specialize in the area of work that they need completed. They then pay this individual or individuals to complete that portion of the project while they continue on with other areas of the work that are more in line with their own specialties. Likewise, they can increase their own funding for projects by taking on a component of another lab’s work. As reported in Singularity Hub, it’s about opening up access to experts and specialized equipment in various fields. In this age of highly specialized technological and scientific information, many scientists lack the expertise to address certain aspects of a scientific experiment or innovation, and so must find some other professional in the field with those skills. Science Exchange makes this easy and mutually beneficial by carefully vetting members of the exchange, and then giving them access to their worldwide network.

Domestication Syndrome: How Animals Become Domesticated Without People

Bonobos exhibit a higher degree of domestication than chimpanzees, and all on their own.

There’s a common assumption (and rightly so) that the story of domesticated animals runs parallel to that of the story of human civilization. Once we had learned to plant and harvest, to build shelter and cook our food, we began the process of enlisting animals to help. However, recent ideas from a dynamic anthropologist from Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences hypothesizes that domestication may not be an exclusively human endeavor. Bonobos, primates that are closely related to Chimpanzees, show an incredible range of domestic traits without ever having been actively domesticated by people.

Hare recalls a a lecture from Harvard anthropologist Richard Wranghem on the evolutionary puzzle of the Bonobo, which share a number of traits with Chimpanzees but no one can seem to explain why.” Hare made the connection to a breed of “silver foxes”, bred by Russian geneticist Demitri Belyaev. Belyaev took the least aggressive foxes and interbred them, looking for naturally occurring domestic traits; docility, trainability, temperament and response to stress and social cues. The result was a white splotchy fox that behaviorally was no different than today’s domestic dogs, with some added physical changes as well; shorter canines, white splotches on the fur, floppier ears, and a curlier tail. He managed this within 20 generations of his “silver foxes”, an evolutionary nanosecond.

Brain Scans Show Morality And Physical Disgust Closely Linked

fMRI scans show that the moral center of our brains and the physical disgust center show significant overlap, which may explain a lot.

There’s a reason that we have a physical reaction to men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Anthony Weiner, and John Edwards. There’s a reason why we can dismiss the death of Osama bin Laden with a, “he got what he deserved”, but seethe with hatred for someone like Dominique Strauss-Khan. It’s the same reason that liberals look at photos of Rush Limbaugh or Mitt Romney and become inflamed in the same way that conservatives may physically react to pictures of President Barack Obama. Our perceptions guide our moral and physical “disgust centers” in our brains, and often, those two neural networks overlap.

The widespread use of fMRI (functional magnetic imaging) has allowed researchers to watch as sensory stimuli literally “light up” various areas of the brain, which has lead to some very illuminating understandings of how our brains actually work. One of those areas, our “moral” center, is actually closely connected to the area of our brain in which physical revulsion is located. In other words, according to our brain circuitry, morality and disgust are closely related.

Genetically Modified Silkworms Spin Super-Strong Spider Silks

This stuff is some of the strongest and most elastic material on the planet, and it might just become commercially available.

Perhaps one of the most unusual and provocative ideas coming out of the bio-technology field today is the idea of industrial spider-silk fibers. The strands, or silks, of a spider is nature’s toughest, most durable, and most elastic material. In fact, the silks of some spiders are 10-times more resilient than Kevlar, while still being elastic enough to stretch to twice their original length. Oh, and they’re biodegradable. Being able to mass-produce spider silks would create an epic windfall for both biotechnological advances, as well as investment for the company that was able to do it. Fortunately, we’re making progress in that department.

There have been a few Herculean hurdles in the quest to be able to create spider-silk fibers on a massive scale. Although geneticists have been able to isolate the proteins within a spider’s silks (in fact, they’re so good that they can even genetically customize the silks for different properties), they have not been able to figure out how to turn them into fibers.

Researchers Closer To Locating The Origin Of Schizophrenia

Researchers have found that it's not a defect in the genes, but in the cell housing the DNA.

The new year is starting with some good news for individuals stricken with schizophrenia and a host of other neurological disorders. Schizophrenia, which has been a bit of a catch-all disorder in which victims suffer from extreme paranoia, delusions, dissociative thinking and even hallucinations, has long been thought to be a genetic disorder. After more than a decade of looking for evidence of schizeophrenia in gene, new evidence shows that the disease actually originates in the cell around the gene.

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute have recently found that schizophrenia is not a genetic disorder at all. In fact, it’s an epigenetic disorder, one cause by the structures of the cell that house our DNA. Particular to disorders like schizophrenia, there is a protein that functions a bit like a storage rack in the cell called a histone. The DNA, which would not otherwise fit within a single cell, is wrapped around the histone. However, in order for the DNA to express itself the histone has a tail which undergoes a perpetual chemical reaction called acetylation, which relaxes the DNA and allows it to express. Then acetylation takes place and the DNA once again contracts around the histone. The histones and DNA create chromatin, which manages the constant cycle of relaxation and contraction that allows all the genes of a cell to functions properly.


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