Scientia Pro Publica 3: the Swine ‘flu Edition

Here we go. The third edition of Scientia Pro Publica (Science for the People), the carnival of the good science blogging from the past couple of weeks.

Let’s start in the world of the cell. AK’s thoughts are rambling. about the intelligence of cells (that is, their ability to react to stimuli rather than their ability to do the Times crossword). It’s the first of a series (follow the links), so by the end we’ll know if cells have passed the Turing test yet.
In contrast, Mike wants to stimulate our brains. He’s found out that the brain has even more computational capacity than we thought, which will presumably be part 53 in AK’s series.
Now, we know that some science blogger can be shrill at times, but Scicurious has found a beastie that’s even worse. The Bornean frog, Hula cavitympanum, communicates ultrasonically. So if your hospital’s scanner is on the blink, invite a couple of these in to help:

Chemistry (mainly)

Joining the dots, it is now clear that the autism epidemic in the US has been caused by their sweeteners. Obviously. The News for Freedom Daily reports that Americans are (or were) being poisoned by their food sweeteners they’ve been eating foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, and half of tested samples contained mercury. Will the anti-vaccination movement admit they have been wrong in diagnosing where all that mercury came from1?
Is Tom Tritton nuts, I wonder? He has a good explanation for why we should diet and eat our fibre, but not such a good one for our reaction to disgust. One can only imagine his facial contortions when he was writing that second post.

Ecology and Conservation

Grrlscientist is happy because the `Alalâ, or Hawaiian Crow, (_Corvus hawaiiensis_), has been awarded $14.3 million over the next five years to stop dying. The USFWS has denied that the application consisted of a single photograph:

and that the report justifying the allocation of the money consisted of the single word “Aaaah”.
Back underwater, the denizens at Southern Fried Science are in the pay of the why sharks lobby. They’re even smearing dolphins, claiming that they eat their young too. From what I’ve heard, the sharks don’t pay well, but they can give you a good deal on a loan.
Carrie Burrows is feeling sorry for Lonesome George. She also reviews a book by San Diego Zoo’s vet, Dr. Phillip T. Robinson, which includes this advice:

tortoises should never receive injections in their hind legs

Should Lonesome George wish to shoot up so that he can enjoy his dotage, I hope he remembers this.
Jeremy, at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog is fascinated by the latest work on red leaves and aphids. This is one of those theories that just sounds silly, and then some nut goes and finds evidence for it. Grrrrr.
I’ve been wondering about spring and climate change. I’m still waiting.
Next, 10000 birds and one Charlie. More importantly, this is a report by Dominic Kimani on his conservation efforts with Sharpe’s Longclaw:

_We’re ready for Sean Bean

Physics and Astronomy

Those of you looking to replace your hangover with a different form of brainache might want to pop over to read Yoo’s Stochastic Scribbles. Stars aren’t where we see them: light has taken so long to reach us that they’ve moved in the mean time. So where are they? Eh? Eh?
This Lively Earth contains string. Priscilla Stuckey likes string. She enjoys a lecture about string. She is a mere mortal. Brian Greene is obviously knot.


Good news for malaria fans according to Bjørn Østman. According to a recent paper, the way to control malaria and slowing the development of resistance it so target old mosquitoes. The argument is that they’re the only ones carring enough parasites (_Plasmodium falciparum_, as you don’t need reminding), and they’re too busy doing whatever retired mosquitoes do to reproduce, so there’s little selection pressure on them. Cool, but (as discussed in the comments) we shouldn’t underestimate evolution.
B.Held likes tumours galore, and now boils. She is silent on whether she likes lions and tigers boiled.


Over at the Smithsonian, Sarah Zielinski seems to be slowly going green with envy as she interviews Helen Fields about her trip on an Arctic icebreaker. Me too, although that might just be the seasickness.
The Dichotomous Trekkie 2.0 (Who presumably feels The Wrath of Kahn) has found the impossible: a sensible merging of biology and astronomy. Well, sort of. It’s more like biology and physics. Anyway, it looks like the amino acids in life are stable. Of course, this just shows that The Designer chooses his/her/its materials carefully.
Eric Oosenbrug is more up to date, being a Next Generation scientist. And the next generation, as we all know, has lots of Data. About Life. All of Life. In an encyclopaedia. Eventually.

Scientists being scientists

And there’s more. We all all know Bora is power-mad. So now he’s wondering power and science online. Go over there and be really really polite – it’ll annoy the hell out of him.
Meanwhile, Stephen Curry is annoyed. With himself, but mainly with another crystallographer who didn’t publish his methods. This ones’s no yolk.

Science and Society

For the alcoholics amongst you, Thomas Joseph has found that it’s not worth wasting it in cars. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it’s still too expensive, and pushes up the cost of other food as well. That was one experiment that failed.
Poor Bora has decided to stir things up: he asks Do you love or hate Cilantro?. We ask what’s Cilantro?. You can go over there and argue the merits of coriander.
Grrlscientist is convinced that a book with a hero called O’Hara must be good. Who am I to disagree?

At last, the swine ‘flu.

Yep, this has been the big sciency story of the week.

First shots of the protagonist
Here at nature Network we’ve been getting historical. Jenny Rohn (author of that wonderful book with the O’Hara hero) is already reminiscing about when she first heard about swine ‘flu. And the newly arrived Eric Michael Johnson sees parallels with previous epidemics: the way humans have created conditions that give rise to reservoirs where diseases can multiply. The discussion in the comments is fascinating too. Nature also has a special up about swine flu (thanks, Maxine!).
The Science Bloggers have been putting in overtime on this. Revere at Effect Measure has several good posts, for example on over reaction to over-reacting, and how we calculate how many people die of flu each year. Tara Smith has also been covering it, explaining the WHO’s epidemic scale. And Sandra Porter has been having a BLAST with the virus. For tose of you who want more, Revere has been involved in creating a ‘flu wiki, with so much information it’s not to be sneezed at worth browsing around.
Elsewhere, DemFromCT at DailyKos discusses the rationale behind closing schools, VRR at the Virology blog discusses swine flu and makes a geographical observation.

The southern hemisphere is another story – the influenza season there is just starting. It is certainly possible that this swine virus might cause extensive epidemics.

I’m sure there are more blog posts out there about the swine flu and science, so feel free to leave links to them in the comments (or leave links to any other good science blog posts you’ve read over the last couple of weeks).


That’s it from me for now. The next edition will stay at Nature Network, but be hosted by Eric, at The Primate Diaries. If you want to submit a post, either use this automated submission form or send it directly to ScientiaBlogCarnival at gmail. Be sure to include the URL or “permalink”, the essay title and include a brief summary of what you’ve written (it really does help the carnival writer to see what the post is about).
If you are interested in hosting Scientia Pro Publica at your blog, send an email to Grrlscientist, or leave a comment here or over there and she will get in contact. You can’t be scared by the high standard of the writing of the carnival post now, can you? Grrlscientist is also looking for logos and artwork for advertising and publicity purposes, and even a 500-pixel wide Scientia Pro Publica banner and other images that we can use to promote and decorate the carnival.

1 No, I don’t believe mercury causes autism. But if it did, this shows the stupidity of singling out vaccines. It’s a bit like claiming that the pull of the stars at birth affects your character. Someone once pointed out that your fridge has a stronger effect.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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8 Responses to Scientia Pro Publica 3: the Swine ‘flu Edition

  1. Maxine Clarke says:

    Great post, must have been a lot of work to put all that together. Nature is honoured to be included in a blog carnival!

  2. GrrlScientist says:

    love it bob. great, GREAT job! i am so pleased to see the support this carnival is receiving.

  3. Bob O'Hara says:

    Thanks, Maxine. I should have added the ‘flu wiki too. In fact, now I will…

  4. Eric Michael Johnson says:

    Great carnival! Thanks for including my swine flu post. I’ll see everyone at The Primate Diaries in a few weeks.

  5. Sandra Porter says:

    Nice work Bob! Thanks for including me!

  6. Carrie Burrows says:

    Thank you for including me!

  7. Art Kilner says:

    Thanks again for including me, especially where you did. I’ve just posted another article with a link to this page, and some discussion of the synergy between my post and Mike’s (next in your list).

  8. Stephen Curry says:

    Great job Bob – thanks for including me (though your punning muscle may be in need of attention).
    On the ‘flu front, Vincent Racaniello (highly experienced virologist) has been doing some sterling work in providing background and up-to-date information on his Virology Blog.

Comments are closed.