The talk of head transplants is completely nuts

New Scientist has an article titled 5 things you're dying to ask about head transplants. Yeah, someone said we can expect to be able to do head transplants in a few years, so the media are all wound up and asking stupid questions. Here are the questions New Scientist thought were really important.

What’s the difference between brain and head transplants?

Could the transplant technique work for a cryogenically frozen head?

Would the surgery be psychologically damaging?

I’m a registered organ donor. Could my body be used for this?

There’s one more. It’s so stupid and misleading that I had to single it out.

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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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