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Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 11684 | Comments: 13
Last by GUEST COMMENT on Jul 10, 2012, 4:25pm
I'm a young researcher. I haven't yet been around the block. I've had one research job for the past 5+ years and that has mostly been spent coordinating influenza epidemiology studies. Only recently have I jumped into the deep end of the laboratory world to tackle the second part of my dissertation.

I know IRBs really well. I've lost count how many I've have to declare war against. I know IACUCs well enough to keep our lab kosher. I know funding agencies and the stress they love to evoke. I know how to convince random people that they should participate in my study - "Help a girl graduate, please!" I know phlebotomy well enough to actually get blood. I know how to coordinate an epi study like nobody's business. I know a random set of laboratory skills, even how to harvest influenza viruses from embryonated chicken eggs.

But why did I choose to do science and public health? Honestly, I chose science because of its cool factor. I thought microbes were fascinating and I wanted to learn as much as I could about them. I can pin point my love for infectious diseases to a specific life event - choosing to do an 8th grade book report on The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. To me, the Ebola virus was fascinating and throughout high . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2595 | Comments: 7
Last by Michael Blume on Mar 01, 2011, 1:20am
This week's guest blogger is Michael Blume who did his dissertation in scientific studies of religions (German: Religionswissenschaft) about brain sciences & religion(s). Since then, he has focused on evolutionary studies of religion and therein especially on the interactions of religious traditions and fertility as well as gender issues. Besides writing books and articles, he's blogging at Scilogs.eu (English) and Scilogs.de (German). You can find him on Twitter @BlumeEvolution

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The idea that the biological trait of religiosity and the cultural traditions of religion(s) are a result of evolutionary history still seems to be shockingly daring and new to many. But in fact, it has been there from the very start of evolutionary theory. Charles Darwin, a learned theologian, was pretty clear about it: If evolutionary theory turned out to be true, it had to be able to explain the evolution of "natural" religiosity as well as . . . More
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 4091 | Comments: 7
Last by Erika Villanueba on Nov 29, 2011, 11:24pm
If I had to pick any one pathogen to call my "favorite", it would be the influenza virus. In truth, it picked me. It's a passion of my boss/mentor, so naturally much of my work and study has revolved around various influenza viruses. Zoonotic influenza research is the primary focus of his applied laboratory in which I work. Our "niche" is occupational animal exposures as risk factors for zoonotic influenza infections. From the countless grant proposals, manuscripts, and undergrad lecturing, to a key component of my dissertation, I've developed quite an interest in this virus and even consider it as a career focus after graduating.

This first post of the blog series will cover the basics of influenza A viruses and their pandemic potential. Later I'll go into the epidemiology of influenza viruses, but this first post serves as a starting point. A word of caution: I'm not a virologist, so I've kept things simple. Now let's jump right in...

Influenza virus basics. There are three species, or types, of influenza viruses (A, B, and C). Humans can be infected with all types, but influenza A is the most virulent. Wild aquatic birds are the natural reservoirs for most influenza A viruses, but through various modes of transmission . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 3065 | Comments: 10
Last by Gynecomastia on Oct 19, 2011, 4:38am
I was 3 years old. I didn't know what it meant, but I was 3. The next year, I'd be 4, and I would want an Atari 2600 for my birthday. But at that point in time, I was 3 and the world was going to change. I would later hear about how everything changed and the ensuing hard, uphill struggle to inform. To survive. But instead I was 3. Being filmed in the garage at my grandmother's house on my Uncle's old Betamax camcorder. Running around the small backyard in the Outer Sunset District.

. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2280 | Comments: 20
Last by Pascal Wallisch on Nov 04, 2010, 1:10am


[Wherein our Hero considers the consequences of being Blonde. Notes for femme fatale bank-robbers...]

So this was a topic I received via twitter, or perhaps I was being alerted to a finding via twitter... in any event I've decided to run with it.

The tweet was referencing the degree of eye-contact men make with women who have different coloured hair. Though I couldn't find an article addressing that direct question it seems that the implication is that hair colour influences the perceived attractiveness of women in men. I think the folk wisdom is that, yes, it certainly does; but the bigger question is how might such a difference manifest in the real world. Ok, so men are nicer to women who they find more attractive? There are some good (evolutionary) reasons why this might be the case; and I would also suggest that women are nicer to men they find more attractive.

But again, so what?

Well, apparently there are some pretty big differences. Let's begin with those who receive tips during their work. It seems tips increase with breast size, and hip-to-waist ratio, but start to decline if the ratio is too large or the breasts are too far either side of some 'optimum' t . . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 1766 | Comments: 12
Last by Thomas Joseph on Jan 25, 2011, 9:20am
This article got my blood boiling.

Americans overwhelmingly say that in general they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes.

A comforting thought, and a bit of a no-brainer. Problem is, as we will see, that these Americans, who more than likely belong to the Baby Boomer generation, haven't given much thought beyond this sentiment. So, when they're pressed with specifics, they back off.

Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security ...

This paragraph, if I read it correctly, is poorly written. What happens is that when specific cuts are proposed, to programs that will benefit them, people back off from the desire of wanting cuts. Who is them? Baby Boomers would be the logical guess. Medicare and Social Security are two programs that Baby Boomers have banked on ... yet they're also the ones who have elected politicians who have routinely expanded those programs which have dwindled their reserves. Of course, the Baby Boomers want to pass the buck and keep those programs intact.

Nearly two-thir . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2111 | Comments: 9
Last by Psycasm on Jan 17, 2011, 11:04pm


Who knows the trolley dilemma?

It's a simple little thought experiment in ethics. Here's a variation:

You are a station master at a railway and a runaway train is speeding through the station. Ahead of it is a split line, and the train is headed down Line A if you do not act. At the end of Line A is a single surveyor, inspecting the tracks, oblivious to the fact there is a train headed for him. At the end of Line B is a group of 4 or 5 workmen doing some maintenance.

You cannot stop the train, but you can redirect it down Line B. Do you?

Most people will answer No. It's a tragedy, but the loss of one life is better than the loss of 5.

You are a station master at a railway and a runaway train is speeding through the station. Ahead of it is a split line, and the train is headed down Line A if you do not act. At the end of Line A is a group of 4 or 5 workmen doing some maintenance, oblivious to the fact there is a train headed for them. At the end of Line B is a single surveyor, inspecting the tracks.

You cannot stop the train, but you can redirect it down Line B. Do you?

Many people will answer Yes for the same reason. The loss of one life is a tragedy, yet your a . . . More
Author: David Manly | Views: 2295 | Comments: 0
First off, I would like to apologize for not posting as recently as I would have liked to on LabSpaces. I've been with LabSpaces blogs since the very beginning, and I would never stop posting ... but, life got in the way.

Over the past few months, I've been busy writing and working, and I let a few things fall away.
So, I apologize for my absence, but I'm back now and will post more frequently. And, I have a very interesting post to share. I hope you enjoy!

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions that a human can experience, and it can affect every human being on the planet. However, how do you categorize an emotion? People feel emotions in different ways, and some are more affected by them than others.

The etymology, or origin of the word, is not well known. According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, it comes from the Middle English fer or the Old English fǣr, which stands for sudden danger. This describes the event that caused the emotion, but not the emotion itself. The emotional state of fear was first noticed and defined in the late 12th Century, and is the same definition that we know of today. But is there a better one out there?



To define an emotion is a complex task, but to describe one . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4689 | Comments: 8
Last by Isabel on Mar 13, 2011, 4:59am
I'm no expert. I'm a student - an Undergrad, at that. I'm no block-busting blogger, either. I consider that I have had a bit of modest success doing what I'm doing, but still view myself on the outskirts of the scienceblogging community.

However, being both a student and one who attempts to communicate psychology has given me the opportunity to observe what people don't know about psychology, and to observe what people think they know about psychology, but are wrong.

No doubt all fields have this. The layperson likely asks chemists if they can make bombs and drugs, may ask astronomers if we can visit other planets, or ask biologists if they can create life. Sure, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it reveals ignorance. The Chemists' work may involve synthesizing organic molecules; the Astronomer spends their day examining reams of data regarding the wobbles of far off planets, and the biologist, well... Labspaces is populated with biologist - if you want the full idea.

Psychologists get asked if they can read people's minds. Yes, they're making a joke - but if their goal is to get a 30 second rundown of what psychology is, it doesn't really leave the door open.

...and the answer is yes; for a given . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3049 | Comments: 8
Last by becca on Mar 08, 2011, 12:09am


Silly analogies, I know. But it kind of gets the point across. A paper by Griskevicius et al (2006) suggests that, when individuals in a same-sex group are presented with the option of conforming or non-conforming when a sexy other is around, men and women behave differently.

Let me explain, and more importantly, let me pose a question.

Griskevicius et al (2006) conducted two studies. The first asked participants (N = 237) to rate a number of images (to determine their aesthetic preference) then placed them in a same-sex group (online; 3 members) to discuss some of the images. They participant was always last to engage in the discussion, and was basically given the option to conform to a unanimous group opinion, or non-conform (i.e. Like vs Dislike). The trick, however, is that prior to the group discussion participants were given a written scenario to imagine themselves in; the first was a 'self protective' scenario:


In the self-protective scenario, participants imagined being in a house
alone late at night. As the scenario progressed, they overheard scary noises
outside and believed that someone had entered the house. After calling out
and receiving no reply, the story ende . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3414 | Comments: 4
Last by donna pink on May 23, 2011, 12:22pm


Magical thinking is a funny term for a strange phenomenon. Broadly put it is the belief or expectation that our thoughts and actions will influence the future, others, or ourselves. I can only imagine it seems ridiculous for anyone reading this blog to consider the possibility of actually cursing someone, or placing a hex on their family. But I do imagine a certain percentage pray to a bearded man in sky to bestow good luck or good health on themselves or the people they know. Yet the middle group - the non-hexers and the non-prayers - are not exempt. Chances are you know it in some other form - willing the phone not to ring at 4:45 on a friday afternoon, 'jinxing' your own (or someone else's) good luck by making it the subject of conversation, or suggestion one ought to 'wish you luck' prior to some big event, and engaging in any other kind of superstitious behaviour.

The crazy part is that magical thinking can work. Sometimes. If you're so persuaded by the arguments of religion knowing that folk are praying for you can actually work. Of course, the magical thinking is on the part of the thinker/prayer; and the benefits associated with the knowledge that you're being prayed for are in . . . More
Author: genegeek | Views: 7822 | Comments: 6
Last by JanedeLartigue on Oct 06, 2010, 5:46pm
This post is in honour of 007, the unbeatable secret accountant, who is getting ready to join the Terry Fox Challenge - after she finds out about options for chemo.

I have several friends around the world who are dealing with cancer diagnoses and they have had some general questions about the treatment options. None of them are science experts and instead of writing the same email to everyone, I thought I would try a general post.

Warning: this post is not advice for anyone and it is a general introduction to the topic. I won't try to explain the specifics of any particular drug because that is beyond my level of expertise.

What is chemotherapy? Why take it?

It depends who you ask. Many patients will say, 'poison'. But really, the term means 'drug therapy' although we generally use it in Canada to mean drugs to kill cancer cells. Please note that chemo is used in many diseases but I'll focus on cancer applications as that is where most of the questions have started.

In cancer treatment, chemo is usually offered when there is a concern that there might be tumour cells that were not or can not be removed with surgery or radiation. For ex . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 53343 | Comments: 16
Last by Sydney Talbot on Jun 11, 2013, 1:38am


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Here's where I heard about this paper first... and a pretty weak treatment at that.

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In a previous post I dared suggest* that women watched porn. Several people warned me of the imminent troll-storm, and true to their predictions, I was inundated with claims that I was a misogynist, supporting 'shoddy' science, and endorsing the male status-quo. All of which was rubbish, and based on the fact that 'women' and 'porn' appeared in the same sentence. Oh no, women are sexual beings? Think of the children!**. The lead author of the paper I cited showed up and made a few comments. The trolls fled. ...Then I won an award for the post.

And so here I am to make another inflammatory statement. Well, two, in fact. First, I think Evolutionary Psychology offers a valid paradigm to explore human behaviour and cognition. And so I am steeled for the exclamations of 'just so stories' and the accusations of 'quackery'. Second, apparently women have sex, some even enjoy it, so much so that they . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 1546 | Comments: 8
Last by gwern on Nov 06, 2010, 1:06pm


[Wherein our hero considers how he might think himself smarter. Yet it appears Brain-Training might just be woo.]

At this time of year I start wondering how to get an edge in my exams. Is studying really the best way about it? Last exam period I examined the best way to use caffiene, and I ran a series of informal experiments to figure my own personal method out [here].

This time round I was thinking - how can I improve my working memory / fluid intelligence. I'd heard a bit in the pop media about some tasks that can improve some general capacities and I thought sounds reasonable.

Fluid intelligence / working memory is your capacity to hold things in mind and access them quickely and efficiently; it's the capacity 'to hold a representation active in the face of distraction and interference'. I may be using those terms [working memory, fluid intelligence] incorrectly, so please correct me if that's the case. For instance I have a heavily weighted multichoice stats exam coming up. It would be useful to be able to peruse the whole sheet and kind of keep a running log of here are the questions on x, here are the questions on y... and be able . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 1934 | Comments: 4
Last by yannisguerra on Jan 18, 2011, 2:44am


I have stumbled upon an interesting area of research. It seems that, like some other seemingly arbitrary measures (like digit ratios), that it has the capacity to have modest (if rough) predictive power. It also seems, at first glance, to border on the kooky side of science, and in parts reminds me of old arguments about racial intelligence and head-bumps, cranial capacity, and ol' fashioned racism.

It is the study of eye colour and its predictive power.

Eye colour is genetic (and follows Mendelian rules*), so the possibility exists that eye colour can reveal details about our genetic make-up. It's a rough-and-ready kind of measure, but like digit-ratio measures, it may serve a purpose. Data exists to suggest that blue-eyed children are more behaviourally inhibited than their brown-eyed counter-parts, blue-eyedness is correlated with infant timidity, and, may serve as a marker for social wariness (in children) (Kleisner et al, 2010). In an interesting study Kleisner et al (2010) took a bunch of photos of guys and girls, and asked subjects to rate them on a number of subjective measures. They found that brown-eyes in men were correlated with a higher . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 6281 | Comments: 30
Last by Kim Wallen on Jan 04, 2011, 10:33pm


And now for something completely different (or depending on your history folder, something exceedingly familiar)...



I'm going to begin this post with a copy of an Abstract from a paper entitled 'The pleasure is momentary…the expense damnable? The influence of pornography on rape and sexual assault' (Ferguson & Hartley, 2009) in Aggression and Violent behaviour.


The effects of pornography, whether violent or non-violent, on sexual aggression have been debated for decades. The current review examines evidence about the influence of pornography on sexual aggression in correlational and experimental studies and in real world violent crime data. Evidence for a causal relationship between exposure to pornography and sexual aggression is slim and may, at certain times, have been exaggerated by politicians, pressure groups and some social scientists. Some of the debate has focused on violent pornography, but evidence of any negative effects is inconsistent, and violent pornography is comparatively rare in the real world. Victimization rates for rape in the United States demonstrate an inverse relationship between pornography consumption and rape rates. Data from other nations have sug . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 7262 | Comments: 14
Last by Tim Skellett (Gurdur) on May 01, 2011, 4:14pm
This week's guest blogger is Tim Skellett. He is an Australian, but these days lives semi-permanently in northwestern Germany. His interests range from nature to ecology, gardening, reading, metal- and hot-glass-work, and travelling. He is a frequent contributor to the Guardian. He can be found on his Twitter account, at @Gurdur or on his blog.



----------------------------------



I once heard a woman talk, and I've never forgotten her, although I only heard about ten minutes of her speech, decades ago. I had a job in healthcare at the time, and part of my job was accompanying patients to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; the woman was one of a quite a few speakers at that meeting. She had been diagosed with Huntington's disease, which was a death sentence, and today still is; it was well-advanced, and meant she would die not all that long afterwards, and quite possibly in dementia. Huntingon's disease, also called Huntington's Chorea, is an autosomal dominant genetic, neurodegenerative disorder. So this woman had been handed one of life's truly nastily bad cards; one of her parents had had at least one particularly bad form of a specific gene, Huntingtin. That malformation of one gene has a great many different possible outworkings because the gene is widely spread throughout the body, although concentrated in the brain. The different outworkings can lead to different symptoms being presented clinically, which creates problems for nosology - the science or philosophy of how we define diseases. Sufferers of Huntington's often enough commit suicide, and it can be very difficult to determine if such a sufferer is suicidal owing to one possible rational response to the thought of dying in such a manner as Huntington's, or because the Huntington's itself has caused suicidal ideation through pathological brain changes, which is known to happen in some sufferers. Huntington's, like other neurodegenerative diseases, affects intentionality, our power of choice of action, through affecting the brain.

. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 57102 | Comments: 24
Last by Dustin L on Jul 05, 2012, 9:55am


It's generally accepted It has been demonstrated that as a nation's mean IQ increases their irreligiousity increases too (Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg, 2009). That is, there's a negative correlation between Intelligence (as measured by IQ tests) and religious beliefs (be that belief in (a) God(s), an after-life, or super-beings). The Lynn, Harvey and Nyborg (2009) paper claims the relationship between g and 'Disbelief in God' is .60. America, for whatever reason, is an outlier in this data.

Now there's likely to be 101 explanations as to why this is the case, and arguments and counter-arguments can be put forth to explain it. That particular debate is not what I'm interested in (at this very moment). What I am interested in is if the above statement is true, what else might be true? It's a controversial area of research, and so the information I could find was limited, but interesting.

Could there be some cognitive difference between non-believers and believers? Specifically, could religion influence cognitive style between the two groups. Alternatively, people could be born with a particular cognitive style which influences their religiousity, and this, I think, is an e . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 5426 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Jun 24, 2011, 11:17pm


So there’s been a bit of hype surround a paper entitled “Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males.” It seems a lot of people don’t like it, but I fear their dislike is something a knee-jerk reaction, and I feel like a little information could at least add nuance to the critics’ position.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the paper, either. It’s just that most of the criticisms I’ve read seem to trend along these lines:

a) Scientist waste grant money proving something we already know (i.e. Women find funny men attractive); or

b) You can’t measure how funny someone is, therefore their conclusions are wrong; or

c) More Evo Psychology crap; or

d) Any combination of the above

see here (this post repeated frequently, verbatim) and especially here



Here’s why I don’t like that paper:

a) Given the data and the methodology the evolutionary hypothesis is overstated, and I feel out of place.

b) I feel that the methodology coul . . . More
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