Tag Archives: Links

Where I Go For Science

Where I Go For Science

A friend of mine asked me for a few links to science sites so she could learn a little more, so I set to copying and pasting my bookmarks for her. Now I know why I lose so much time sitting at the computer. Most of these sites are life sciences, so sorry about the lack of Chemistry and Physics and such. Here’s the list. . .

Sites in my WordPress Reader, loosely arranged by subject:

Skepticism/Critical Thinking
Science or Not?
I fucking hate pseudoscience
Edzard Ernst
Why Evolution is True
Doubtful
Violent Metaphors

Brain Stuff
Neurobollocks
Left Brain Right Brain
Mind Hacks
Neurologica Blog
Wiring the Brain
Science Over a Cuppa
Gabriela Tavares
BPS Research Digest

Medicine
Science Based Medicine
Science-Based Pharmacy
Science-Based Life
Drug Monkey

Genetics/Epigenetics
Bits of DNA
Code for Life

Vaccination/Disease
Skeptical Raptor’s blog
Shot of Prevention
The Poxes Blog

Other. . .
Inspiring Science
Double X Science
Bishop Blog

Not on wordpress:

Not Exactly Rocket Science Not only a lot of interesting articles on Biology, but a weekly roundup of interesting links. (You can also visit The Loom and Only Human from here, plus some others, but these three are my favorites.)
In The Pipeline Chemistry, but a lot of it related to Pharmaceuticals.
Skeptical Medicine A critical look at both conventional medicine and pseudoscience.
Scitable Nature Publishing Group’s educational site.

Aggregators:

Phys.org
Research Blogging
Science News (limited access for free, but still a lot of good science.)
Science Seeker (you can filter what you see by checking the subject boxes to the right.)

I’m always checking for new places, especially those that would be good for people who are not scientists, but want to understand. I’ll take suggestions for anything that’s not behind a paywall or too difficult for non-academics!

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

genebrain

Genetic research has a meaningful place in psychiatry, as a major study has just found out. Thomas Insel of the NIMH blogs about the impact of a study on schizophrenia and explains its importance. 108 gene regions, put together, show a significant increase in the risk for the condition, and with 37,000 affected participants and over a hundred thousand controls, this is pretty big. Thank goodness several hundred million dollars have just been donated to psychiatric research.

What is complex about complex disorders? A paper by Kevin Mitchell explains what’s involved in finding the genes that contribute to polygenic disorders like ” schizophrenia, autism, depression, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, obesity, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and probably hundreds of other conditions”. Perhaps some of these will be discovered now that more funding is available!

Is “reductionism” in behavioral genetics a boon or curse? asks if and when reductionism is a bad thing. In behavioral genetics, most scientists are looking for complex genetics behind complex traits, but they need to be careful of how their public statements can be read. The author points out, “There is a difference between methodological reductionism, a tool, and philosophical reductionism, a guiding principle.”

Evan Thompson on core theories of neurophenomenology and time-consciousness opens, “Evan Thompson, one of the authors of 1991′s The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, in 2010 authored a sweeping, dare I say even magisterial, account of how science and philosophy should understand consciousness, embodiment, evolution, and neuroscience.” The piece that follows is brief but covers a lot of ground – and makes me interested in reading the book.

An interesting neurological phenomenon is auditory pareidolia – She’s Hearing Voices talks about this symptom that’s common in certain mental disorders and how even ordinary people can be prompted to hear things that aren’t there. In schizophrenia and OCD and certain types of depression and personality disorders, this may be a magnification of what is normally an adaptive trait, IMO.

Shakespeare, Vermeer, and the “Secrets” of Genius takes the almost revolutionary position that practice does not necessarily make perfect – sometimes you have to be born with talent.

Most of Us Still Don’t Get It: Addiction Is a Learning Disorder questions the idea that we have genes or areas in our brain that predispose us to certain addictions. I read it and thought that perhaps all addiction could be characterized as a salience disorder, because it takes the position that it’s a maladaptive state of a survival trait. Just read.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Sorry this is short. Time just got away from me. Enjoy!

Why all medical professionals need to study evolution. I think everyone should, period.

Excellent piece on gender disparities in the study of Autism by Virginia Hughes. This applies to ADHD, too, and it would be nice to see something this well-written on that.

Dorothy Bishop points out the shortcomings in a neuroimaging and genetics study, and in doing so, tells you some things you should be able to find in a good one.

Continuing on the potential pitfalls of neuroimaging studies, here’s a longread that explains in detail what happens when images are taken and analyzed for study. It should give you some perspective next time you see an article claiming that scientists have found something amazing in the brain that explains a huge chunk of cognition or emotion.

There was a scientific dust-up last week in which a journal had to retract a good number of papers because of problems with peer review. Nature suggests a double-blind system. Unfortunately, this isn’t much different from what’s supposed to be happening now, and it’s flawed. Nature even makes note of the bias in the current system, so I’m wondering why they are recommending this.

Kids who are raised by same-sex parents actually do pretty well.

Biodiversity is key to our survival. Scientific American shows us maps where biodiversity exists at high levels – right in the same spots that are threatened by global warming.

I love my pets, too, but this is kind of gross:

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

hysteria
GMOs

The environmental benefits of genetically modified crops is explored in Conservation Tillage, Herbicide Use, and Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States: The Case of Soybeans

A piece on the claim that GMOs are under-studied, With 2000+ global studies affirming safety, GM foods among most analyzed subjects in science pretty much demonstrates that no, they are not.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are sprayed on crops, and they are bad for good insects. But they’re good for selling plants. Engineered pest resistance doesn’t get sprayed and affects only pests that attack the specific crops. Just sayin’.

Organic foods may have been sprayed with pesticides, too – and isn’t necessarily any better for you. Being free of GMOs makes no difference.

Vaccines

A friend and I were blocked from commenting on an online discussion on the terrible, horrible things that are vaccines. This is a typical technique of anti-vaxxers. A detailed description of what it means to be anti-vaccine is on Science-Based Medicine It’s from 2010, but classics never get old.

Because of a new study analyzing the actual risks of vaccination (hint – nearly none, even less compared with disease outcomes) the pro-vaccine message is finally getting the press it deserves. USA Today, The Daily Beast, Think Progress (I know, not a big anti-vaxxer magnet) The New York Times and Time. Even The Economist reminds us that we should take our medical advice from science, not celebrities.

Medicine

Viruses may be responsible for several cancers. The Big Idea That Might Beat Cancer and Cut Health-Care Costs by 80 Percent explores a virus that may trigger certain kinds. Vaccination to prevent cancer might work better than treating it after the fact, ya think?

Quadruple amputee soldier learns to adapt to life with transplanted arms.

‘Molecular movies’ will enable extraordinary gains in bioimaging, health research

Video

This is stupid, which means it made me laugh a lot.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

reality check

Debunking!

In the wake of pretty much every outbreak of every vaccine-preventable disease, comments on the news articles fill up with people who still think that vaccines cause autism. One article keeps getting referred to, “22 Studies that Prove Vaccines Cause Autism.” I’m not going to link, it doesn’t need any more hits, because it already shows up on the first page of many searches on vaccines. Instead, I’m going to direct you to Liz Ditz’s excellent rebuttal.

Foodbabe proves over and over that she’s all style and no substance. The Foodentists dissect her attack on Lean Cuisine and the Grocery Manufacturers Association with many facts about GMOs that she apparently doesn’t know – or chooses to ignore.

On the topic of GMOs, Gilles-Eric Séralini’s paper linking glyphosate to tumors in rats, which was retracted last year because of methodological and statistical flaws, has been re-published in a journal with apparently less exacting standards. I’m thinking along the lines of “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”

SFARI tells us that autism is not the only neurodevelopmental disorder that’s on the rise. The numbers may actually be a good thing, because it means that more people are getting needed treatment.

You know that study that said watching porn shrinks your brain? Well, maybe not so much. Christian Jarrett at Wired talks about the study’s many shortcomings.

Business Insider has an interesting piece on the Myers-Briggs personality test. By the way, I’m ENFP.

Sometimes things are partly true, or true but misrepresented. In those cases, we don’t need debunking, we need. . .

Critical Thinking

I got a little gut-punch here, because I hate neuroscience hype, but I also did a few little happy dances reading about optogenetics. I pick on optogenetics, but… and Moving on from optogenetic frustrations are actually not too far from the mark, though. I think it is possible to get excited about a new method without looking at it as a be-all and end-all breakthrough. . .as long as you look at the research and stay away from the media version.

Another thing that gets oversold is brain imaging. Again, cool, but not as magical as it’s portrayed sometimes. Lots of times. Virginia Hughes talks realistically about the limits and potential of neuroimaging.

A longread (28 pages) on critical thinking. I have to admit, it’s still open in another tab as I write this. Written from a legal viewpoint, as in how something would stand up in court when exposed to scrutiny, but relevant in a general sense as well.

I often take issue with people who are strict “nurturists” because they are so unspecific about what “environment” is and what it does. Genetics and epigenetics are mechanisms that are, while still being incompletely understood, more logical and straightforward than the more nebulous claims of environmental influence. Many of the people I’ve run across take a Lamarckian viewpoint, or even imagine evolution as a personal change (more akin to Pokemon evolution than anything we see in biology!) So I read Developmental Plasticity and the “Hard-Wired” Problem all the way through, and was pleasantly surprised to see a thoughtful and detailed approach to the “Nature vs. Nurture” question. I don’t know how convinced I am, but it’s more than I’ve been by anyone else presenting this argument.

Genetics/Epigenetics

If you wish to make a gene from scratch explains that, well, it’s not really as easy as that.

Cath Ennis explains how epigenetics works in two parts.

Video – Pallas Cat kittens

Somehow not as freaky when they’re kittens, and funny to see domestic cat behavior in response to the intrusion of the camera.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

I’m going to try to start up with this again, because I’ve lost track of some of the neat things I’ve found. This is going to be a slightly different format, just because the easier I make it, the more likely it is that I’ll be able to keep up with it. It’s also short, because I threw it together in just a couple of days.

Brain stuff:

NIH scientists take totally tubular journey through brain cells I haven’t gotten far enough in DD#2’s Neuroscience textbook to read about microtubules, but now I think I have to. Cool stuff.

DARPA is a US government run defense program that is working on a lot of cool technology, and some of that is on the brain. There’s a lot of potential for electronic stimulation to treat mental illness in a way that is more targeted than medications. New venture aims to heal disrupted brain circuitry to treat mental illnesses looks at some of what they hope to be able to do.

MIT is doing some fascinating research at the molecular level into mental illness. Shining Light on Madness is a somewhat long article, but well worth reading to the end if you want to know what’s being tested, why, and how it’s going to be examined. h/t to Antonei B. Csoka for linking it on Twitter.

In the meantime, The Brain Initiative is finding fascinating information about how the brain works.

Pseudoscience

Lynn Stuart Parramore has an excellent article, Excuse me, is that snake oil gluten free? that explores some of the magical thinking behind the free pass we give Big Placebo, and why we need a little more skepticism.

Deepak Chopra has issued a “challenge” to, essentially, disprove every single claim he’s ever made in a single paper. Steve Novella explains it brilliantly. Easily movable goalposts included.

Video:

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

A new study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about neuroimaging to determine response to medication or therapy in Major Depressive Disorder. It seems much more exciting if you don’t actually read it. Fortunately, Neurocritic did, so you have someone to explain what’s hope and what’s hype.

Paul Offit explains why we shouldn’t take multivitamins.

He also has a book coming out soon called “Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine” and USA Today covers some of the issues that make this stuff such a dangerous alternative.

And Darshak Sanghavi at Slate wonders why so many of us think we need to avoid gluten

Now, if you happen to be near Washington, DC, and you want to see some cool genetics stuff, hit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for an exhibit called Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code.

Teaching otters to use vending machines might not be the best idea, but it sure is cute to watch.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Yes, it’s been a while since the last set of links. I’ll try to do better. Enjoy these for now.

Carl Zimmer wrote an article on Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva for the Atlantic. One of the reasons I think it’s important to read stories like these is to see examples of the success that comes from investigating genetic origins of diseases. Another is to show that there are real reasons that a treatment may or may not be produced outside of the simple profitability of the treatment itself. All in all, this is a great story with some human interest thrown in for good measure.

I’ve often had the discussion with people about how even though we have names for colors, not everyone perceives them the same way. Well. . .who’d have known it? Apparently some of our perception differences arise from how we name the colors in the first place! Empirical Zeal discusses it in two parts. Part 1. Part 2.

Beyond Recognition: The Incredible Story of a Face Transplant
Yes, it’s graphic, but it’s also absolutely amazing.

Scicurious has an interesting piece about genes and environment. . .interesting not only because it shows an actual mechanistic result in the brain that can differentiate genetically identical mice, but also because those of us on SSRIs can take comfort in knowing our meds are assisting us in hippocampal neurogenesis.

Another thing that seems to be related to a mechanical malfunction in the brain is Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which a person is uncomfortable with the very presence of a part of his or her body. Mindscapes: The man who needs to paralyse himself in New Scientist talks about some of the possible roots of this condition that makes people seek elective amputation procedures.

From Nature, an explanation of what a chemical is, and why it’s not inherently dangerous or toxic.

Some tips
on distinguishing science journalism from infotainment.

And. . .a tap-dancing seagull.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Watching the Lights Go Out is a blog by a man who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimers’, chronicling his life and thoughts and how the disease affects him. It’s touching and thought-provoking. Go read it.

How animals grieve – make sure to watch the video, too.

Scientists playing around with the prefrontal cortexes of rats may have come across a new way of treating addiction.

People who don’t understand epigenetics or neuroplasticity have no compunctions about writing about them anyway. Then we get books like this that the average reader thinks represent real science. And because genetics and epigenetics is so nuanced and complex, people automatically assume a position of nature OR nurture – with the nurture enthusiasts often accusing people who talk about genetics as being genetic determinists. Virginia Hughes has some wonderful insights about how we really think.

And Bradley Voytek explains why this should be fixed by more science – it’s an investment in wonder. Kevin Mitchell at Wiring the Brain adds that, well, it works.

Images of g-coupled protein receptors
that may help us understand how they work and how to treat the problems they cause!

Before kitten can drink the milk, kitten must DEFEAT the milk!

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Here are some references to help you win at logic: The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe explains how logic works and doesn’t work before delving into its top 20 logical fallacies – how to spot them and how to counter them. The Nizkor Project breaks them down by type, and you can search them by name. Logical Fallacies is an encyclopedic reference, a little more detailed than Nizkor, and an easier font and background than Skeptic’s Guide. Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies is great if you’re a visual learner, with little icons for each individual fallacy. The Master List of Logical Fallacies is written for writers, has a few different names for some fallacies that you might not recognize, but is maybe a little easier to understand because there’s less Latin.

Speaking of fallacies, one of the big ones is the “teach both sides,” or “teach the controversy,” usually found regarding evolution. Dave Hone, in The Guardian blogs, shows how misleading this is with a specific case of a TV show that showed “both sides of the debate” regarding the evolution of birds. One side is represented by the majority of experts, the other by people who have an opinion.

Genetic research unearths a possible marker for prostate cancer, which may help us develop targeted treatments to cure it.

More on genes and cancer. . .apparently the genetic condition called Laron’s syndrome makes people’s bodies short, but their lives long. Somewhere in their genes, they’re resistant to growth hormones and resistant to cancer. Fascinating.

Phineas Gage is probably the best-known case of the effects of traumatic brain injury on behavior. New technology attempts to recreate the damage that was done by the railroad spike in his head in an effort to understand it better. Mindhacks isn’t sure he wants to know more, but shares it anyway.

Sometimes you need an outside perspective to see that an idea looks stupid. People in the UK think the NRA’s idea to put armed guards in schools is nuts. I think they’re right.

The Keystone pipeline could make this a scene anywhere along its entire length. Maybe that’s better than an ocean spill, but wouldn’t we rather avoid it in the first place if we can?

Rhinos are dangerous animals. Really dangerous. But how can you be scared of one that looks this cute?