US vs. UK: I’m beginning to think the revolution wasn’t such a great idea

Two households, both alike in dignity,
On fair Earth, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

(From that great classic play, Romeo and Juliet and an Unnamed Egg Donor)

Let’s compare the scientific relevance of the British House of Lords and the Republican party of the United States.

There are currently concerns about nuclear transfer procedures in human fertility treatments — you may have heard some of the noise in the news about babies with three parents. Cases of mitochondrial disease are passed on from mothers to all of their children, but one way around it is to use donor mitochondria, so woman #1 provides the cytoplasm for a healthy egg, woman #2 provides the nuclear DNA, and a man provides the sperm that fertilizes the genetic material provided by woman #2. That’s three parents, one child.

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Friday Cephalopod: Winning!

This week, everyone has been sending me a link to that horrible series of photos showing a seal gnawing and dismembering an octopus (no, I will not link to it! I might cry.) So instead I’m showing you a happy movie of a successful octopus gnawing and dismembering a crab.

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It’s not just creationists!

It’s also MDs who avoid the “E” word. A survey of the literature found an interesting shift in usage:

The results of our survey showed a huge disparity in word use between the evolutionary biology and biomedical research literature. In research reports in journals with primarily evolutionary or genetic content, the word “evolution” was used 65.8% of the time to describe evolutionary processes (range 10%–94%, mode 50%–60%, from a total of 632 phrases referring to evolution). However, in research reports in the biomedical literature, the word “evolution” was used only 2.7% of the time (range 0%–75%, mode 0%–10%, from a total of 292 phrases referring to evolution), a highly significant difference (chi-square, p < 0.001). Indeed, whereas all the articles in the evolutionary genetics journals used the word “evolution,” ten out of 15 of the articles in the biomedical literature failed to do so completely. Instead, 60.0% of the time antimicrobial resistance was described as “emerging,” “spreading,” or “increasing” (range 0%–86%, mode 30%–40%); in contrast, these words were used only 7.5% of the time in the evolutionary literature (range 0%–25%, mode 0%–10%). Other nontechnical words describing the evolutionary process included “develop,” “acquire,” “appear,” “trend,” “become common,” “improve,” and “arise.” Inclusion of technical words relating to evolution (e.g., “selection,” “differential fitness,” “genetic change,” or “adaptation”) did not substantially alter the picture: in evolutionary journals, evolution-related words were used 79.1% of the time that there was an opportunity to use them (range 26%–98%, mode 50%–60%), whereas in biomedical journals they were used only 17.8% of the time (range 0%–92%, mode 0%–10%).

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“The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.”

That quote is from a good article in Nature on how sex is non-binary — my only quibble would be with that “now”. You’d have to define “now” as a window of time that encompasses the entirety of my training and work in developmental biology, and I’m getting to be kind of an old guy. Differences in sex development (DSDs) are common knowledge, and rather routine — and coincidentally, I’m giving an exam on sex chromosome anomalies today.

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I never thought of it that way

This wacky Saudi cleric has a novel proof that the earth does not rotate. You see, if the earth rotates, then all you’d have to do to fly west* is get in an airplane, hop into the air, and stay stationary and wait for your destination to roll up under you. And you wouldn’t be able to fly east because your destination would keep rolling away from you. Therefore, the earth must be stationary.

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So…then fecal transplants could be a kind of mind control?

This is an amazing “discovery”! Someone named JA Tetro has been selling interviews and articles to women’s magazines and other credulous sources, claiming that your microbiome is the key to compatibility.

Tetro says that when you kiss your date, his or her germs make their way into your mouth’s ecosystem. And if it’s a match, you’ll want to keep smooching.

This study does one amazing thing, it shows you that kissing is the best way to find a mate for the long term. It might sound really gross but if the bacteria from the other person harmonizes with your bacteria, your immune system is all good. You feel a sense of calm and happiness, maybe even addiction, he explained.

But if the bacteria don’t align with your microbes, you actually feel disgust and revolt. Your immune system is rejecting that person as a possible mate.

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