Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

You shouldn't need to join facebook but can just click on the links in the widget to access the articles. If you have any problems or comments please mail me at arandjel 'AT'

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sloths only poop once a week

Potty training at the sloth orphanage from Lucy Cooke on Vimeo.

from vimeo:

filmed at the Aviarios del Caribe sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica which rescues orphaned baby and injured adult sloths, rehabilitates them and releases them back into the wild. It's a teaser for the documentary which follows the drama of life at the sanctuary over the course of a year.

Sloths have a number of biological anomalies and one of these is the fact that as adults they descend from the trees once a week to go to the loo. Orphaned baby sloths have to learn this behaviour if they are to be released into the wild and so the sanctuary staff have created their own potty training routine for the sloths.

For more sloth photos and videos follow the blog or twitter

Organic Chemistry is difficult


The Bicycle Animation

from youtube
This is a piece created to question whether it was possible to film animation in realtime. Part of my CSM 3rd year disseration project I was looking at proto animation (really early basic animation) in contemporary design. I've taken a lot of influence from other contemporary designers who are using these techniques to explore the way we look at animation and how its made. As stated on my channel I have interviewed animators such as Jim le Fevre and in my research referenced other people using this technique such as David Wilson and Tim Wheatley who did this before me. I developed this project based on what is being done in animation right now as well as a lot of primary research into the history of animation techniques.

Big Thanks to my friend Stefan Neidermeyer who did the sound. The soundtrack is made up of various bike noies recorded during the filming process which Stef then remixed to make the amazing soundtrack.

60-Second Adventures in Thought

The internet


thanks to alex C for the link!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why doesn’t America like science?

From the Financial Times
By Gillian Tett
Thanks to Zoran A for the link

Just three Republican candidates have declared that they believe in the scientific basis for evolution

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, does not often hide his views. When he recently addressed an international economic forum at Columbia University, on the seemingly “dull” topic of science and politicians, however, his words were incendiary, even by his standards.
“We have presidential candidates who don’t believe in science!” he lamented, referring to the current field of people jostling to become Republican candidate for the 2012 elections. “I mean, just think about it, can you imagine a company of any size in the world where the CEO said, ‘oh I don’t believe in science’ and that person surviving to the end of that day? Are you kidding me? It’s mind-boggling!”

It is a comment that many observers might echo, particularly among the ranks of American scientists. For while Bloomberg did not specify whom he considers to be “mind-boggling”, the list of targets is long. Thus far, just three of the eight potential Republican candidates have positively declared that they believe in the scientific basis for evolution. The rest have either hedged, or – like Rick Perry – claimed that evolution is just “a theory that is out there... [but] it’s got some gaps in it”. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann, another contender, has actively called for creationism to be taught too, since she has similar doubts about the evolutionary science.
Newt Gingrich has cast doubt on the virtues of stem cell research, Herman Cain has questioned whether there is any scientific evidence behind homosexuality, and most of the candidates have queried climate change. Indeed, whenever any candidate has defended evidence-based science, they have suffered a backlash: witness the travails of Mitt Romney.

In some senses, this is not surprising. A recent survey by the National Science Foundation found that 45 per cent of Americans support evolution (barely more than those who actively reject it). There is similar scepticism about climate change.

The views that Bloomberg considers “mind-boggling” are not outliers, or not outside the coastal areas such as New York, where he resides.

But common or not, the spread of this sentiment is leaving many American scientists alarmed. Last month, New Scientist magazine warned in an editorial that science is now under unprecedented intellectual attack in America. “When candidates for the highest office in the land appear to spurn reason, embrace anecdote over scientific evidence, and even portray scientists as the perpetrators of a massive hoax, there is reason to worry,” it thundered. Some 40,000 scientists have now joined a lobby group called Science Debate, which was founded four years ago with the aim of getting more scientific voices into the political arena. “There is an entire generation of students today who have been taught that there is no objective truth – who think that science is just another opinion,” says Shawn Lawrence Otto, co-founder of Science Debate, who told me that the “situation today is much worse than in 2008”.

This is paradoxical. Historically, science has commanded respect in America. It was Abraham Lincoln, after all, who founded the National Academy of Sciences, and during the cold war, there was heavy investment in science, as America reeled from its “Sputnik moment” (or fears that it was being outflanked by the USSR). Innovation continues to be worshipped, particularly when it produces entrepreneurial companies and clever gadgets (think Apple’s iPad).

Nothing causes more fear among American politicians than the idea that America is “falling behind” countries such as China in science. And another recent survey by the National Science Foundation shows that more than half of Americans consider scientists to have a “prestigious” profession, a higher rating than bankers, doctors, politicians and priests. Only firefighters command more respect.

Why? Some observers might be tempted to blame this paradox on the rise of the religious right: while the craft of science might be respected, its conclusions are not. Others point to powerful commercial concerns (such as oil companies), who have a vested interest in twisting debate, and attacking science they dislike. Another line of thinking blames the polarisation of the media and political class: when there is an emphasis on partisan shrieking, there is less room for reasoned debate.

But Otto of Science Debate likes to blame another factor: the impact of social sciences. Since the 1960s, he argues, society has been marked by a growing sense of cultural relativism, epitomised by anthropology. And as post-modernist ideas spread, this has undermined the demand for scientific evidence. Today, any idea can be promoted as worthy, irrespective of facts – and tolerated in the name of “fairness”.

I suspect that this overstates anthropology: the discipline has been somewhat introverted and has little political power. But leaving aside that quibble, it is hard to disagree with Otto’s basic point – that in today’s political climate there is far too little evidence-based, reasoned debate. In that spirit it is worth noting that Otto himself is now urging scientists not to shun the Republican Party. On the contrary, “I am encouraging them to join”, to influence the debate, he says. It would be nice to think – or hope – it could make a difference. Maybe Bloomberg could donate some cash.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD?

Thanks to Alex C for the link!

by Dave Pritchard

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with his mates back home who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He's also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him (carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees.

Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends. In particular, he spends an evening down at the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the world for many years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when Gandalf isn't around.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project, though he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he said, 'although I do not know the way.'")

Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has no more interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference in Lorien, Frodo is cross-questioned terrifyingly by Galadriel, and betrayed by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work himself. Frodo cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on, he will only discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really understand what it's all about, but in any case is prepared to give Frodo credit for being rather cleverer than he is. Then he sets out towards Mordor.

The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents the writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission), finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the world seems empty.

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him, and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over. But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With the help of his friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this ordeal, but discovers at the end that victory has no value left for him. While his friends return to settling down and finding jobs and starting families, Frodo remains in limbo; finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond and many others, he joins the brain drain across the Western ocean to the new land beyond.

Octopus Walks on Land at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

I would suggest watching this with the volume off - MA

Thanks to Cleve H for the link

Monday, November 21, 2011

Noisy human neighbours affect where urban monkeys live

not terribly shocking but nice to have some solid data on it - thanks to Caro D for the link!

Duarte MH, Vecci MA, Hirsch A, Young RJ (2011) Noisy human neighbours affect where urban monkeys live. Biology Letters doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0529


Urban areas and many natural habitats are being dominated by a new selection pressure: anthropogenic noise. The ongoing expansion of urban areas, roads and airports throughout the world makes the noise almost omnipresent. Urbanization and the increase of noise levels form a major threat to living conditions in and around cities. Insight into the behavioural strategies of urban survivors may explain the sensitivity of other species to urban selection pressures. Here, we show that urban black-tufted marmosets (Callithrix penicillata) living in noisy urban areas may select their home-range based primarily on ambient noise level. We have tested the hypothesis that the noise from vehicular traffic and visitors in an urban park in Brazil influences the use of home-range (space) by urban marmosets. Marmosets even avoided noisy areas with high food availability. In addition, they systematically preferred the quieter areas even with dynamic changes in the acoustic landscape of the park between weekdays and Sundays (no observations were made on Saturdays). These data provide evidence that the use of home-range by wild animals can be affected by a potential aversive stimulus such as noise pollution.

Rosa- kick-ass eco-short film - apparently made for $100

ROSA from Jesús Orellana on Vimeo.


ROSA is an epic sci-fi short film that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where all natural life has disappeared. From the destruction awakes Rosa, a cyborg deployed from the Kernel project, mankind’s last attempt to restore the earth’s ecosystem. Rosa will soon learn that she is not the only entity that has awakened and must fight for her survival.

The short-film was created entirely by young comic-artist Jesús Orellana with no budget during a single year. Since it's world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival, ROSA has been an official selection at film festivals around the world such as Screamfest, Toronto After Dark, Anima Mundi or Los Angeles Shorts Film Festival. In October ROSA was screened at the opening night of the Sitges International Film Festival, considered the world's best festival specialized in genre films. Following the succesful festival run, the short film has attracted the attention of the major talent-agencies and Hollywood producers. Currently ROSA is in development to be a live-action motion picture.

For more information regarding ROSA, please visit

Become a Fan on

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ivory Coast: Race to save the chimps

To support the efforts of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation in Cote d'Ivoire please go the their homepage!

From the Global Post
by Laura Burke
Conservationists are working to keep endangered chimpanzees alive and wild.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — On a humid October day in a tropical forest in the middle of Abidjan, members of Ymako Theatri theater group, dressed in black suits, jump to the beat of drums and sing: "Chimpan-zees are our cou-sins! Let’s not eat them any-more! Let’s not kill them any-more!"

The rhythm is catchy and the performers are energized, singing: "We must protect the forest for the future of our children!"

Today, like always, the audience is rapt.

The long-established international theater and dance troupe has been working with the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation since 2002 to hammer home a message of conservation in villages around national parks in Ivory Coast and beyond.

It’s a message this country can use.

Years of armed conflict, population growth and a lack of park management has resulted in a free-for-all environment in Ivory Coast's parks and reserves, said Inza Koné, this nation’s only homegrown primatologist. He runs a local organization called Research and Action to Save Primates in Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast's chimpanzee population declined by 90 percent over a period of 17 years, according to a 2008 report by the German Max-Planck Institute. The ape is now critically endangered.

Many international conservation groups, including World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International, withdrew their offices from Ivory Coast after the 2002 civil war began, deeming the security situation too dangerous to work there, and they have not returned.

“Wildlife Conservation Society had one resource person here and he died two or three years ago. They could not find a single person to replace him. Not a single person,” Koné said.

But in Tai National Park, a small group of conservationists, primatologists and local field officers have weathered moments of crisis to keep the park’s chimpanzees protected from poachers and deforestation.

“[Tai] is the model for Ivory Coast,” said parks official Djé Francois N’goran.

Their efforts seem to have paid off. The chimp population in Tai remained stable from 2007 through 2010, said Dervla Dowd, deputy director of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation.

Data from the last tumultuous year is not in yet, though.

Last November, after Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office following a contested election, the country was plunged into six months of violence that killed thousands of people, many in the west. Park rangers left their posts for months. During their absence, poaching rose sharply in parks across the country, N’goran said.

Koné said when his team returned to Tai there were also signs that poaching had increased.

“We found gun shells and heard gunshots. We saw campsites around the park,” he said.

Field officers reported seeing a couple of chimps in the [bush meat] markets, “but since there are so few chimps left, they are hard for poachers to find, as well,” said Dowd.

But she remains optimistic. At least “the field assistants were able to find all the habituated chimps [in the research area],” she said.

Just miles from the often volatile Liberian border, in Ivory Coast’s southwest, the Tai National Park is the home of some 500 chimpanzees and other threatened species, like forest elephants, the pygmy hippopotamus and the red colobus monkey. The park is the largest protected tropical forest in West Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Wild Chimpanzee Foundation and the Tai Chimpanzee Project, both started by German primatologist Christophe Boesch, carry out bio-monitoring, behavioral research and community outreach around the park. Boesch began his research in the Tai forest in 1979 and lived there for 12 years.

There are four sub-species of chimpanzee in Africa and they have different behaviors, said Emmanuelle Normand, director of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation.

“Even within each sub-species there are different cultures. The way they make tools, eat termites, for example.”

High Childhood IQ Linked to Subsequent Illicit Drug Use, Research Suggests

A high childhood IQ may be linked to subsequent illegal drug use, particularly among women, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The authors base their findings on data from just under 8,000 people in the 1970 British Cohort Study, a large ongoing population based study, which looks at lifetime drug use, socioeconomic factors, and educational attainment.

The IQ scores of the participants were measured at the ages of 5 and 10 years, using a validated scale, and information was gathered on self reported levels of psychological distress and drug use at the age of 16, and again at the age of 30 (drug use only) .

Drug use included cannabis; cocaine; uppers (speed and wiz); downers (blues, tanks, barbiturates); LSD (acid); and heroin.

By the age of 30, around one in three men (35.4%) and one in six women (15.9%) had used cannabis, while 8.6% of men and 3.6% of women had used cocaine, in the previous 12 months.

A similar pattern of use was found for the other drugs, with overall drug use twice as common among men as among women.

When intelligence was factored in, the analysis showed that men with high IQ scores at the age of 5 were around 50% more likely to have used amphetamines, ecstasy, and several illicit drugs than those with low scores, 25 years later.

The link was even stronger among women, who were more than twice as likely to have used cannabis and cocaine as those with low IQ scores.

The same associations emerged between a high IQ score at the age of 10 and subsequent use of cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, multiple drug use and cocaine, although this last association was only evident at the age of 30.

The findings held true, irrespective of anxiety/depression during adolescence, parental social class, and lifetime household income.

"Although most studies have suggested that higher child or adolescent IQ prompts the adoption of a healthy lifestyle as an adult, other studies have linked higher childhood IQ scores to excess alcohol intake and alcohol dependency in adulthood," write the authors.

Although it is not yet clear exactly why there should be a link between high IQ and illicit drug use, the authors point to previous research, showing that highly intelligent people are open to experiences and keen on novelty and stimulation.

Other research has also shown that brainy children are often easily bored and suffer at the hands of their peers for being different, "either of which could conceivably increase vulnerability to using drugs as an avoidant coping strategy," explain the authors.

Willie Nelson cold play cover for sustainable agriculture - Back to the start

Thanks to David H for the link (I am even going to steal his comment on his post "Wow, go to love that.....Willie covers Coldplay and on a nice vid from Chipotle about sustainable agriculture.")

Experimental Drug Melts The Fat Off Chunky Monkeys


Fat monkeys, rejoice!

An experimental drug that zeroes in on the blood vessels that feed fatty tissue helped obese monkeys lose quite a bit of weight in a study done by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Great for monkeys, sure. But maybe great for you, too.

Here's why. Some diet drugs that work well in rodents don't pan out when it comes time to try them in primates, including us. This drug, called adipotide, seeks out the particular blood vessels that fatty tissue needs for nourishment, then causes cells in those vessels to die.

Deprived of a blood supply, the fatty deposits shrivel up.

Ten monkeys treated in the latest study, whose results were just published in Science Translational Medicine, lost an average of 11 percent of their body weight over a month of treatment. The most weight lost by any of the five monkeys in the placebo group was 1 percent.

On the safety side, the drug was pretty well tolerated but did show some side effects in the kidneys. Those were mild and got better on their own once treatment stopped.

The drug, given by injection, isn't going to be on pharmacy shelves anytime soon. But it has now been seen to work in five different species — from mice to monkeys.

The M.D. Anderson team is getting ready to try the drug in overweight men with prostate cancer to determine if drug-induced weight loss improves their cancers.

Ablaris Therapeutics, a unit of Arrowhead Research Corp., has the rights to the drug. M.D. Anderson and key members of the research team have a financial interest in Ablaris.

For more on the research, see this M.D. Anderson video.

Citation: K. F. Barnhart, D. R. Christianson, P. W. Hanley, W. H. Driessen, B. J. Bernacky, W. B. Baze, S. Wen, M. Tian, J. Ma, M. G. Kolonin, P. K. Saha, K.-A. Do, J. F. Hulvat, J. G. Gelovani, L. Chan, W. Arap, R. Pasqualini, A Peptidomimetic Targeting White Fat Causes Weight Loss and Improved Insulin Resistance in Obese Monkeys. Sci. Transl. Med. 3, 108ra112 (2011).

Obesity, defined as body mass index greater than 30, is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality and a financial burden worldwide. Despite significant efforts in the past decade, very few drugs have been successfully developed for the treatment of obese patients. Biological differences between rodents and primates are a major hurdle for translation of anti-obesity strategies either discovered or developed in rodents into effective human therapeutics. Here, we evaluate the ligand-directed peptidomimetic CKGGRAKDC-GG-D(KLAKLAK)2 (henceforth termed adipotide) in obese Old World monkeys. Treatment with adipotide induced targeted apoptosis within blood vessels of white adipose tissue and resulted in rapid weight loss and improved insulin resistance in obese monkeys. Magnetic resonance imaging and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry confirmed a marked reduction in white adipose tissue. At experimentally determined optimal doses, monkeys from three different species displayed predictable and reversible changes in renal proximal tubule function. Together, these data in primates establish adipotide as a prototype in a new class of candidate drugs that may be useful for treating obesity in humans

Flying Rhinos: Photos You Don't See Every Day

These photos, which came to us via email from the World Wildlife Fund, show an amazing scene: Nineteen sedated black rhinoceroses were airlifted out of an area in South Africa, and spent about 10 minutes upside down in the air en route to a new home.

These thick-skinned mammals, weighing up to 3,000 pounds each, were being transported to the Limpopo Province in South Africa. Led by the WWF's Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, nearly 120 black rhinos have been relocated, with the hope that a new home will help protect the critically endangered species from poachers.

Flying Rhinos from Green Renaissance on Vimeo.

This new technique in removing rhinos from dangerous situations is gentler than previous methods, according to Dr. Jacques Flamand, World Wildlife Fund project leader. "The helicopter translocations usually take less than ten minutes, and the animals suffer no ill effect," he said in a statement. "All of the veterinarians working on the translocation agreed that this was now the method of choice for the well-being of the animals."

Poachers have been responsible for the demise of other rhino species as well. About 65,000 black rhinos thrived in 1970, according to the International Rhino Foundation, but less than 5,000 roam the planet today.

Bonobos - chimpanzees' gentle cousins

Go here to watch a video from the MPI about bonobo research and conservation at Lui Kotale, DRC.

No rhinos remain in West Africa

From the BBC
Western black rhino declared extinct
By Daniel Boettcher

No wild black rhinos remain in West Africa, according to the latest global assessment of threatened species.

The Red List, drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has declared the subspecies extinct.

A subspecies of white rhino in central Africa is also listed as possibly extinct, the organisation says.

The annual update of the Red List now records more threatened species than ever before.

The IUCN reports that despite conservation efforts, 25% of the world's mammals are at risk of extinction. As part of its latest work it has reassessed several rhinoceros groups.

Poaching vulnerability
As well as declaring the western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) extinct, it records the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), a subspecies in central Africa, as being on the brink of extinction.

The last Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) outside Java is also believed to have disappeared.

Overall numbers of black and white rhinos have been rising, but some subspecies have been particularly vulnerable to poaching by criminal gangs who want to trade the animals' valuable horns.

Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, told BBC News: "They had the misfortune of occurring in places where we simply weren't able to get the necessary security in place.

"You've got to imagine an animal walking around with a gold horn; that's what you're looking at, that's the value and that's why you need incredibly high security."

Another focus for this year's list is Madagascar and its reptiles. The report found that 40% of terrestrial reptiles are threatened. But it also says that new areas have been designated for conservation.

Among the success stories identified in the latest annual update is the reintroduction of the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus). Listed extinct in the wild in 1996, it was brought back after a captive breeding programme and the wild population is now thought to exceed 300.

Among the partner organisations involved in compiling the research for the list is the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

ZSL's Dr Monika Boehm said: "This Red List update very much shows us a mixed picture of what's happening to the world's species. There's some good news and some bad news.

"Unfortunately, the overall trend is still a decline in biodiversity. We still haven't achieved our conservation potential."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sex With Animals Linked to Penile Cancer

From LiveScience
by Jennifer Abbasi

For many people, bestiality is a bad joke, but for some it could be a matter of life or death, according to a new study finding that men who had sex with animals in their lifetimes were twice as likely to develop cancer of the penis as others.

The study of 492 men from rural Brazil found that 35 percent of study participants, who ranged from 18 to 80 years old and included both penile cancer patients and healthy men, reported having sex with animals (SWA) in their lifetimes. A team of urologists from centers around Brazil co-authored the paper, which looked at risk factors for penile cancer in men who had visited 16 urology and oncology centers in 12 Brazilian cities. In addition to SWA, three other risk factors for penile cancer were found: smoking, the presence of premalignant lesions on the penis and phimosis, a condition where the foreskin cannot be retracted over the penis.

Men who had sex with animals also reported a higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.

Of the 118 penile cancer patients, 45 percent reported having sex with animals, compared with 32 percent of healthy men, who visited the medical centers for benign conditions, check-ups or cancer prevention. Fifty-nine percent of men who had sex with animals did so for one to five years, while 21 percent continued the behavior, also known as zoophilia, for more than five years. The subjects reported a variety of frequencies for their sex acts, ranging from monthly to daily. [

The researchers found no association between penile cancer and the number of animals the men used over time, the species (which included mares, cows, pigs and chickens, among other animals) or the number of other men who also participated. However, the higher rate of reported sexually transmitted diseases in men who had sex with animals could be a result of group sex, said lead author Stênio de Cássio Zequi, a urologist inSão Paulo. More than 30 percent of subjects practiced SWA in groups.

Thirty U.S. states, under their animal cruelty legislation, have enacted laws that prohibit sexual contact between humans and animals, according to Michigan State University College of Law.

Theorizing a causal role
Sex with animals could be as ancient as sex itself. "Since time immemorial, this habit has been described in folk music, theater, jokes and oral traditions," Zequi told LiveScience. "In some antique civilizations there were temples or rituals designated for SWA practices." Yet SWA is underrepresented in scientific literature, and the new study is the first to link the practice to male genital cancers. Penile cancer accounts for up to 10 percent of cancers in men in Asia, Africa and South America, although it is rare in the U.S.

Micro-injuries to the penis are a well-recognized risk factor for the development of penile cancer. Such physical trauma could explain how sex with animals causes the cancer.

"We think that the intense and long-term SWA practice could produce micro-traumas in the human penile tissue," Zequi said. "The genital mucus membranes of animals could have different characteristics from human genitalia, and the animals' secretions are probably different from human fluids. Perhaps animal tissues are less soft than ours, and non-human secretions would be toxic for us," he explained.

Zequi theorizes that micro-lesions caused by this toxicity could facilitate the action of some yet unrecognized microorganism during contact between different mammalian species.

Tobias Köhler, a urologist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research, said the study was rigorous. "It adds to our knowledge of cancer prevention and gives us epidemiological data we never really had before on sex with animals.”

Köhler, who specializes in sexual medicine, speculates that the friction during SWA causes micro-lesions. "The vagina in humans has moisturizing properties, which prevent penile injury. With animals, you're at higher risk for micro-trauma, like cuts and scratches. And then whatever pathogens are there, like bacteria and viruses, are more likely to cause a problem."

Köhler said it's "absolutely plausible" that microorganisms present during sex with animals could cause penile cancer, citing the fact that human papilloma virus (HPV) causes cervical and penile cancer.

He postulated that the lifestyle of men who have sex with animals could also be a factor. "The study reported that these men also have more sex with prostitutes," Köhler said. "Are they using condoms when they have sex with people? Are they engaging in higher infectious-risk anal intercourse with people?"

However, Zequi said that SWA remained as a significant risk factor for penile cancer in the analysis, independent of lifestyle choices.

Circumcision also seems to play an important role in the development of penile cancer in men who have sex with animals. In global populations where the foreskin is removed soon after birth, the rates of penile malignancies are near zero. Uncircumcised men may develop more micro-traumas during sex, according to one theory on why circumcision protects against cancer. Smegma, the white secretion that collects around the glans of the penis in uncircumcised men, is composed of fatty acids that have been shown to be highly carcinogenic, and could also help to explain the increased risk. [5 Myths About the Male Body]

"As the majority of subjects in our study were uncircumcised, or were circumcised later, this may have contributed to the incidence of penile cancer," Zequi said. "I have no doubt that when both the conditions are present in [the] same man, the risks are multiplied by each other, configuring the most unfavorable scenario andthe highest risk for this cancer," he said, referring to both an uncircumcised penis and incidence of sex with animals.

Not just a rural problem
The subjects recruited from the study all grew up in rural areas of Brazil. The researchers wrote that they chose this population to investigate because sex with animals is common in rural areas with high rates of penile cancer, and a connection seemed plausible. In fact, Zequi said he was not surprised that 35 percent of participants had had sex with animals.

"We know that in rural zones of our country, and probably worldwide, young men have sexual experiences with domestic animals," he said. Most of the subjects reported that they stopped having sex with animals when they began having sex with people.

Men who have sex with animals in developing countries are usually poor and illiterate, with little or no access to hygiene, health care or the Internet, Zequi said. The opposite is true in developed countries such as the U.S., where SWA seems to occur in the educated population.

A study published in in the Archives of Sexual behavior in 2003 examined the demographics of 114 self-defined zoophiles in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Europe. An online survey revealed that 36 percent lived in large cities and 83 percent were either college graduates or had completed some college. Forty-five percent of the respondents worked in informatics or technology, and some of them earned high incomes.

"SWA is not a sexual behavior limited only for poor rural populations," Zequi said. "It is actually a growing health concern today. Just give a few clicks on the search sites on the Internet and you'll come across numerous 'zoo' sites or virtual communities focused on bestiality, many of which are pornographic and sometimes with degrading images." Zequi wants men (and women) who have sex with animals to know that the practice could be hazardous to their health, and he wants clinicians to spread the word to at-risk populations.

Köhler agreed, saying, "From a penile cancer prevention point of view, SWA should be discouraged based on the results of this study." He recommended standard safety precautions with any type of high-risk sexual intercourse: Wear a condom.

The new study was published online Oct. 24 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Zequi SC, Guimarães GC, da Fonseca FP, Ferreira U, de Matheus WE, Reis LO, Aita GA, Glina S, Fanni VSS, Perez MDC, Guidoni LRM, Ortiz V, Nogueira L, Rocha LCA, Cuck G, da Costa WH, Moniz RR, Dantas Jr. JH, Soares FA, and Lopes A. Sex with animals (SWA): Behavioral characteristics and possible association with penile cancer. A multicenter study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02512.x

Introduction.  Zoophilia has been known for a long time but, underreported in the medical literature, is likely a risk factor for human urological diseases.

Aim.  To investigate the behavioral characteristics of sex with animals (SWA) and its associations with penile cancer (PC) in a case-control study.

Methods.  A questionnaire about personal and sexual habits was completed in interviews of 118 PC patients and 374 controls (healthy men) recruited between 2009 and 2010 from 16 urology and oncology centers.

Main Outcome Measures.  SWA rates, geographic distribution, duration, frequency, animals involved, and behavioral habits were investigated and used to estimate the odds of SWA as a PC risk factor.

Results.  SWA was reported by 171 (34.8%) subjects, 44.9% of PC patients and 31.6% of controls (P < 0.008). The mean ages at first and last SWA episode were 13.5 years (standard deviation [SD] 4.4 years) and 17.1 years (SD 5.3 years), respectively. Subjects who reported SWA also reported more venereal diseases (P < 0.001) and sex with prostitutes (P < 0.001), and were more likely to have had more than 10 lifetime sexual partners (P < 0.001) than those who did not report SWA. SWA with a group of men was reported by 29.8% of subjects and SWA alone was reported by 70.2%. Several animals were used by 62% of subjects, and 38% always used the same animal. The frequency of SWA included single (14%), weekly or more (39.5%), and monthly episodes (15%). Univariate analysis identified phimosis, penile premalignancies, smoking, nonwhite race, sex with prostitutes, and SWA as PC risk factors. Phimosis, premalignant lesions, smoking, and SWA remained as risk factors in multivariate analysis. However, SWA did not impact the clinicopathological outcomes of PC.

  SWA is a risk factor for PC and may be associated with venereal diseases. New studies are required in other populations to test other possible nosological links with SWA.

Monday, November 7, 2011

NewYorker article on Neanderthals (and Svante Pääbo)

New Yorker article on Neanderthals

Dolphins team up to get the girl


An alliance of four male dolphins, dubbed The Beatles have shown that when blokes co-operate, they have more sexual success.

The research by a team at Macquarie University is published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

The study found that male dolphins who form an alliance fathered far more babies than those who worked in smaller groups or alone.

The researchers studied a population of 70 male and 64 female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins living in Port Stephens, New South Wales. They collected skin samples from males and calves and looked for genetic markers which would reveal the paternity of the calves.

They found that 14 different males had sired 32 calves. However, nearly half of the calves - 13 individuals - were sired by a single alliance of four dolphins known as The Beatles.

Three calves were sired by a three-male alliance and five calves were sired by another three-male alliance.

The remaining 11 calves sired by pairs or lone males.
Teaming up works

Males are known to form alliances in a number of species, including lions, chimpanzees, horses and, some would argue, humans.

"But there has not been any evidence to show why an alliance might be preferable," says co-author Dr Jo Wiszniewski.

"This research shows that male dolphins need to cooperate with each other to maximise their reproductive success."

Up to 80 per cent of males form alliances to seek out and reproduce with females during the spring/summer breeding season, says Wiszniewski.

"Males in alliances have better control of the females - we often see the males swimming around the females one on each side, sometimes one at the back. The female can't get away from them," she says.

"They basically herd the female - they try to keep her away from other males. They would swim by her and when she was feeding, they would feed too."

"These kind of herding events can last just from a few hours up to a few weeks at a time," says Wiszniewski.
Pressure to form alliances

Female dolphins only have a calf every two to five years, so in any particular year there are very few females available and ready to mate with.

"That's why there's so much pressure for males to form alliances, to become more competitive," she says.

Previous research from Western Australia also found that male dolphins who form alliances breed more successfully. But in this case, forming cooperative alliances was less surprising, Wiszniewski says, because those dolphins were related.

"If one of those males helps another reproduce, he still gets benefits because his genes still get passed on," she says.

But in Port Stephens, the cooperating dolphins weren't related.

"That's what's so fascinating. By helping another male, they are actually risking the chance that they won't reproduce with a female. So they really need a high level of cooperation and trust so then the male knows that by helping another male, he's also going to get helped."

Wiszniewski points out that one of The Beatles - John - doesn't seem to have fathered any calves.

"We have a feeling he was not a full part of the alliance. He was what we call the odd male out - he wasn't really 'in' with the group."

Bizarre Tongue-Eating Parasite Discovered Off the Jersey Coast

(Thanks to Alex C for the link!)
by Brian Merchant

Ceratothoa imbricata, the South African relative of the parasite discovered off the Jersey Shore. Photo Credit: Dr. Nico Smit

There's been a spate of amazing animal discoveries recently--the giant rat-eating plants found in the Philippines, a huge woolly rat discovered in a volcanic crater--and now, yet another animal has emerged that could be right out of a sci-fi film. It's a bizarre creature that survives by eating its hosts' tongue and then attaching itself inside the mouth.The sea-dwelling parasite attacks fish, burrows into it, and then devours its tongue. After eating the tongue, the parasite proceeds to live inside the fish's mouth. There's a horror film waiting to be made about this thing. Surprisingly, the fish doesn't seem to suffer any severe impediment--just the loss of its tongue. And it seems to have no trouble surviving with its new, far uglier tongue.

While the isopod, a kind of louse, has been known to exist for a while now, discoveries of live specimens are rare. The BBC reports that "Fishermen near the Minquiers - islands under the jurisdiction of Jersey - found the isopod, a type of louse, inside a weaver fish." So no, the tongue-eater wasn't found in that Jersey. The Jersey Shore is still tongue replacing creature-free, if you stateside Northeasterners were worried about the thing ruining your late summer vacationing.

Now, the picture above is a relative of the one discovered off the Jersey shore -- the one causing the ruckus, Cymothoa exigua, looks like this:

Not that you'd have to be too concerned anyways--the isopod isn't a threat to humans in the slightest, though it's reportedly vicious, and can deliver quite a little bite. One of the fishermen who found the creature described it thus: "Really quite large, really quite hideous - if you turn it over its got dozens of these really sharp, nasty claws underneath and I thought 'that's a bit of a nasty beast'." And while it can't seriously hurt people, it evidently doesn't like them: "It doesn't affect humans other than if you do actually come across a live one and try and pick it up - they are quite vicious, they will deliver a good nip."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Three new elements approved: darmstadtium (Ds), roentgenium (Rg) and copernicium (Cn)

Three new elements approved
from the institute of physics (IOP)

Elements 110, 111 and 112 have been named darmstadtium (Ds), roentgenium (Rg) and copernicium (Cn) respectively.

The General Assembly approved these suggestions from the Joint Working Party on the Discovery of Elements, which is a joint body of IUPAP and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

Dr Robert Kirby-Harris, Chief Executive at IOP and Secretary-General of IUPAP, said, “The naming of these elements has been agreed in consultation with physicists around the world and we’re delighted to see them now being introduced to the Periodic Table.”

The General Assembly includes delegates from national academies and physical societies around the world. IUPAP has 60 member countries altogether.

The five day meeting, which has been running from Monday 31 October and will finish today, has included presentations from leading UK physicists, and the inauguration of IUPAP’s first female President, Professor Cecilia Jarlskog from the Division of Mathematical Physics at Lund University in Sweden.


from wikipedia:
Darmstadtium is a chemical element with the symbol Ds and atomic number 110. It is placed as the heaviest member of group 10 but a sufficiently stable isotope is not known which would allow chemical experiments to confirm its place. This synthetic element is one of the so-called super-heavy atoms and was first synthesized in 1994, at a facility near the city of Darmstadt, from which it takes its name.

Roentgenium is a synthetic radioactive chemical element with the symbol Rg and atomic number 111. It is placed as the heaviest member of the group 11 (IB) elements, although a sufficiently stable isotope has not yet been produced in a sufficient amount that would confirm this position as a heavier homologue of gold...The name roentgenium (Rg) was proposed by the GSI team[8] in honor of the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen.

Copernicium is a chemical element with symbol Cn and atomic number 112. It is an extremely radioactive synthetic element that can only be created in a laboratory. The most stable known isotope, copernicium-285, has a half-life of approximately 29 seconds, but it is possible that this copernicium isotope may have an isomer with an even longer half-life, 8.9 min. It was first created in 1996 by the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI). It is named after the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus..."to honor an outstanding scientist, who changed our view of the world".

a bit of Friday cuteness: baby owls at wildcare being weighed

a bit of Friday cuteness

"These orphaned Screech Owls are being weighed in WildCare's Wildlife Hospital. They will stay in care until they're old enough to be released back into the wild. Orphaned birds like these are always raised with others of their own species and contact with humans is kept to an absolute minimum. These little owls are gaining weight and soon will be ready for release!"

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax Trailer

the write up from is pretty cheeky:
"Remember those blissful days of childhood, when school paper drives and in-class showings of Fern Gully had us thinking that maybe deforestation might be the most worrisome result of reckless corporate greed? Man, we were sure off on that one. It's been ages since anyone reminded me to fret about how we are tearing down the rain forests, and will probably soon die when we can't afford entry into the rich people's luxury oxygen domes. So what better parable to reacquaint ourselves with this harsh than The Lorax, Dr. Seuss's timeless story about a lone, mustached voice of dissent against an increasingly violent assault on nature?"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Disney's Chimpanzee release date - April 20 2012 (featuring chimpanzees from Tai and Ngogo)

From Tampa Bay News
Disneynature’s ‘Chimpanzee’ swings into theaters next year

In theaters Earth Day 2012, Disneynature’s newest True Life Adventure introduces Oscar, a baby chimp whose playful curiosity and zest for discovery light up the African forest until a twist of fate leaves Oscar to fend for himself with a little help from an unexpected ally.

Disneynature will take moviegoers deep into the forests of Africa with “Chimpanzee,” a new True Life Adventure, scheduled for release April 20, 2012.

“Chimpanzee” will introduce an adorable baby chimp named Oscar and his entertaining approach to life in a remarkable story of family bonds and individual triumph. Oscar’s playful curiosity and zest for discovery showcase the intelligence and ingenuity of some of the most extraordinary personalities in the animal kingdom. Working together, Oscar’s chimpanzee family – including his mom and the group’s savvy leader – navigates the complex territory of the forest.

The world is a playground for little Oscar and his fellow young chimps, who’d rather make mayhem than join their parents for an afternoon nap. But when Oscar’s family is confronted by a rival band of chimps, he is left to fend for himself until a surprising ally steps in and changes his life forever.

“Chimpanzee” will be the fourth release for Disneynature, the first new Disney-branded film label from The Walt Disney Studios in more than 60 years. The label was launched in April 2008 to bring the world’s top nature filmmakers together to capture a variety of wildlife subjects and stories. Previous releases include “Earth,” “Oceans” and “African Cats.” These three films are among the top four highest grossing feature-length nature films of all time.

Walt Disney was a pioneer in wildlife documentary filmmaking, producing 13 True-Life Adventure motion pictures between 1948 and 1960, including “Seal Island” (1948), “Beaver Valley” (1950), “The Living Desert” (1953) and “Jungle Cat” (1958). The films earned eight Academy Awards.

Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, “Chimpanzee” will swing into theaters on Earth Day 2012.


Swede shocked by backyard elk 'threesome'

the best part of this article is how its written in a scandalous tone....Thanks to Alberto A for the link - MA

From the

A man in western Sweden was greeted by an unusual sight on Wednesday morning when he saw three elk engaged in what appeared to be group sex in his backyard.

“I had just gone out on the balcony to get some fresh air,” Peter Lundgren, a 43-year-old marketing manager from Lindome, south of Gothenburg, told The Local.

“They were eating apples and then suddenly they assumed the position.”

Lundgren quickly grabbed his camera to document the young male elk mounting an older female elk which in turn appeared to be sniffing or licking the rear end of another young male elk.

He explained that elk are a common sight in his neighbourhood, as the large beasts frequently roam from nearby wooded areas through people's yards.

While he's used to seeing elk get tipsy from eating fermented apples, Lundgren said he was wholly unprepared to have a front row seat at an elk sex show taking place in his backyard.

“I'd never seen anything like it. Not with elk, at least,” he said.

Pär Grängstedt, a researcher at the Grimsö research station in central Sweden, confirmed that it's “extremely rare” to see elk exhibit mating behaviour in a residential area.

“As elk live in the woods, they usually mate in the woods,” he said.

The attempted elk intercourse witnessed by Lundgren is all the more unusual, according to Grängstedt, because the elk mating season ended in early October.

He added, however, that it's not unusual for elk to have sex while others look on.

“Usually there are several males in the area competing to be with the in-heat female. The strongest one usually wins, and the others are left to watch,” he said.

“It's quite normal behaviour.”

While Lundgren explained that it didn't appear the frisky young male elk was able to fully consummate his mating attempt with the older female, Grängstedt said there can be little doubt about his intentions.

“Elk don't mount one another just for the heck of it like some other animals,” he said.

Grängstedt theorized that the young male may have been rebuffed due to a lack of experience, choosing both the wrong time and place to fulfill his lustful desires.

“An older bull would never try to mount a cow in a wide-open residential backyard at this time of year,” he said.

691orangutans killed for meat in Kalimantan

Orangutans killed for meat in Kalimantan
from the Jakarta Post via GRASP UNEP facebook page

A report says 691 Borneo orangutans were slaughtered in Kalimantan – most of whom were eaten by residents.

The great apes were killed for several reasons, Suci Utami Atmoko, a field coordinator for report co-author The Nature Conservancy (TNC), said on Tuesday.

“Some [residents] were desperate and had no other choice after spending three days hunting for food,”
she said.

Local residents also killed the orangutans for safety reasons, Suci said, harvesting orangutan meat to make traditional medicine and selling any surviving orangutan babies.

The Nature Conservancy led the survey, which was conducted between April 2008 and September 2009 and involved 6,972 respondents in 698 villages across Kalimantan.

Nineteen NGOs joined the survey, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the People’s Resource and Conservation Foundation Indonesia (PRCFI) and the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF).

TNC program manager Neil Makinuddin said 70 percent of the respondents knew that orangutans were a protected and endangered species when they hunted the animals.

Decisions to open land in Kalimantan to development have not considered orangutans, leading to the destruction of their habitat, Neil said.

“We must soon open conservation areas for orangutans or their population will become extinct,” he said, adding that the government should punish orangutan killers.

Erik Meijaard, forest director of People and Nature Consulting International, said Kalimantan’s orangutans would become extinct if 1 percent of female orangutans were killed in a year. “Uncontrolled killing will soon diminish their population.”

Forestry Ministry species conservation chief Agus SB Sutito said the ministry had yet to receive reports about the rapid killing of orangutans in Kalimantan.

“We gladly welcome the results of the survey,” he said. “The ministry will work harder to enforce the law.”

There were currently 40,000 to 65,000 orangutans in Kalimantan, although the number was rapidly decreasing due to habitat loss, according to the WWF.

The government previously set a target of raising the populations of 14 endangered species, including orangutans, by up to 3 percent by 2020.

2 chemists walk into a bar..

From the 3 cheers facebook page
Thanks to Martin K for the link!

TED talk: Paul Zak: Trust, morality - and oxytocin

thanks to chrissie E for the link!

The silver lining: trees enveloped in spider webs

"The Silver Lining, The Spider Webs! An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters. Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenome...non before but, they also report that there are now far fewer mosquitoes than they would expect, given the amount of stagnant, standing water that is around. It is thought that the mosquitoes are getting caught in the spiders web, thus, reducing the risk of malaria, which would be one blessing for the people of Sindh, facing so many other hardships after the floods...!!!"

Emmanuel De Merode Ted Talk

Thanks to Emma S and Steve G for the link!

grad life: sad but true...true but sad...

Thanks to Alex C for the link

Orangutan Culture Develops Like Human Culture

Thanks to Geraldine F and Zoran A for the link
By Olivia Solon

A team of anthropologists have shown that orangutans may have the ability to learn socially and pass these lessons down through generations — evidence that culture in humans and great apes has the same evolutionary roots.

In humans, certain behavioral innovations tend to be passed down from generation to generation through social learning. Many consider the existence of culture in humans to be one of the key factors that differentiates us from other animals.
Around a decade ago, biologists observing great apes noticed geographical variations in behavior that suggested that they were passing certain innovations down through generations, just as humans do. To this day, there is much debate about whether geographical variations in behavior is driven culturally or through genetic and environmental factors.

Researchers from the University of Zurich have now studied whether the geographic variation of behavioral patterns in nine orangutan populations in Sumatra and Borneo can be explained by cultural transmission. They have concluded that it can.

The team analyzed more than 100,000 hours of behavioral data and created genetic profiles of more than 150 wild orangutans. They measured the ecological differences between the habitats of the different populations using satellite imagery and remote sensing techniques.

Co-author of the study, published in Current Biology, Carel van Schaik said: “The novelty of our study is that, thanks to the unprecedented size of our dataset, we were the first to gauge the influence genetics and environmental factors have on the different behavioral patterns among the orangutan populations.”

Environmental influences and, to a lesser degree, genetic factors did play an important role in defining differences in social structure and behavioral ecology between the populations. However, these factors did not explain the behavioral patterns.

Michael Krützen, the first author of the study, said: “The cultural interpretation of the behavioral diversity also holds for orangutans — and in exactly the same way as we would expect for human culture. It looks as if the ability to act culturally is dictated by the long life expectancy of apes and the necessity to be able to adapt to changing environmental conditions.”

Classic Clip: Chimpanzee Culture and Medicine Usage

Livia W reminded me of this classic chimp culture clip, featuring Dr. Boesch and the infamous Dr.Wrangham ant-bitten lip scene

Scientists Develop the Most Relaxing Tune

From Neatorama
Scientists Develop the Most Relaxing Tune
By John Farrier

Sound therapists and stress specialists worked with the band Marconi Union to develop “Weightless”, the most relaxing song ever:

Weightless works by using specific rhythms, tones, frequencies and intervals to relax the listener. A continuous rhythm of 60 BPM causes the brainwaves and heart rate to synchronise with the rhythm: a process known as ‘entrainment’. Low underlying bass tones relax the listener and a low whooshing sound with a trance-like quality takes the listener into an even deeper state of calm.

Dr David Lewis, one of the UK’s leading stress specialists said: “‘Weightless’ induced the greatest relaxation – higher than any of the other music tested. Brain imaging studies have shown that music works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions.” [...]

The top 10 most relaxing tunes were: 1. Marconi Union – Weightless 2. Airstream – Electra 3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix) 4. Enya – Watermark 5. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing 6. Barcelona – Please Don’t Go 7. All Saints – Pure Shores 8. AdelevSomeone Like You 9. Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria 10. Cafe Del Mar – We Can Fly

Go here to hear the song