Lunchtime Linkfest

A quick round-up of what I’ve been reading and listening to!

  • There’s a great article in Current Biology (my all-time favourite journal) this week, titled “Why should biomedical scientists care about biodiversity?”. The authors argue that working on the standard model organisms leaves many bench scientists detached from nature, and put forth several arguments about the value of biodiversity from a medical research point of view. For example, the emergence of HIV-1 and Ebola as human pathogens is linked to the bushmeat trade in Africa; polar bears’ hibernation behaviour might give us insights into human diabetes and cardiovascular disease; there may be new drugs (and model organisms) out there we don’t even know about yet. It’s great stuff, so go and read it!
  • From the BBC, a moving and inspirational story about a student who, after being severely disabled by a head injury at the age of 11, rejected the “incredibly patronising and very boring” music therapy she was offered at first, and found a programme that allows her to play and compose classical music using only small movements of her head and thumbs. She’s now facing a battle to study music at college, as the musical examination boards don’t recognise music performed in this way – but she’s finding support from other sources, and is determined to carry on.
  • Meanwhile, the Flowing Data blog brings us a colour-coded world map of gas prices, designed to show Americans how much better they have it than most! I found that the map didn’t show enough differentiation between prices, though – the strongest colour is for countries where petrol costs double or more what it does in the States, but as the blog post says, the price in the UK is currently almost TRIPLE that in the US. Ah well – the most important message is clearly that wherever you live, you should ride a bike instead!
  • And finally, from the excellent Today in Canadian History podcast,  a piece about Saint Urho’s Day. This is a celebration of a man who drove all the grasshoppers out of Finland, thus saving the famous Finnish wine industry. Americans and Canadians of Finnish descent celebrate the day with food, drink, songs about Saint Urho,, and by wearing clothes of royal purple and Nile green. Funnily enough, this feast day occurs the day before St. Patrick’s, and was invented in Minnesota in 1956.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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6 Responses to Lunchtime Linkfest

  1. Lisbeth says:

    Aghh, FB abstinences on Cath’s blog!
    How can I like the senctence: “the most important message is clearly that wherever you live, you should ride a bike instead!”
    Well, like this, I presume 🙂

  2. Frank says:

    Re. the biodiversity article, see this editorial from Disease Models & Mechanisms. She makes a slightly different point, but Hazel Sive hopes to: “diminish constraints on which non-human biological systems are considered useful for translational research, which will be enriched through extending the repertoire of systems and approaches that are available.”

  3. bean-mom says:

    Thanks for the links, Cath! That article in Current Biology is on my “to-read” list (along with countless other articles) so your rec has just pushed it to the top!

  4. Mike says:

    There’s an advocate group in the US that points to the extremely limited applicability of biomedical results from common animal models. They are no bunch of mindless (and ecologially insensitive) mink releasers or beagle botherers, but a skeptical group of clinicians that basically point out how rarely results from animal models can be successfully applied as predictions for human responses, based on empirical evidence.

    I know little more about them, except for what I’ve heard from the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast episode 290. It’s a very interesting topic and discussion, far more nuanced than I can illustrate here.

    There’s also a freely available paper Are animal models predictive for humans? available about this. I’m off to read it. For free.

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