Author Archive | Good German

Fecal Transplants Let Packrats Eat Poison

Neotoma_cinerea_(bushy_tailed_woodrat)

Bushy tailed North American woodrat.

Eating shit could literally save your life!*

Via ScienceDaily:

Woodrats lost their ability to eat toxic creosote bushes after antibiotics killed their gut microbes. Woodrats that never ate the plants were able to do so after receiving fecal transplants with microbes from creosote-eaters, University of Utah biologists found.

The new study confirms what biologists long have suspected: bacteria in the gut — and not just liver enzymes — are “crucial in allowing herbivores to feed on toxic plants,” says biologist Kevin Kohl, a postdoctoral researcher and first author of the paper published online today in the journal Ecology Letters.

The study of woodrats, also known as packrats, raises two concerns, according to Kohl and the study’s senior author, Denise Dearing, a professor and chair of biology:

  1. Endangered species may lose diversity of their gut microbes when they are bred in captivity. When they are released to the wild, does that leave them unable to consume toxic plants that once were on their menu?
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The Comforts of Blame

Vladimir_Putin_-_2006

Attribution: Kremlin.ru

Sure, Putin is a bad guy, but is he the head of the Illuminati, responsible for all the problems in the world – is any one person even capable of such?

Binoy Kampmark writes at CounterPunch:

Investigations tend to be called upon to do just that. Causes are identified; actors are located.  The investigation being demanded by all countries that lost citizens on Malaysian flight MH17 in Ukraine was a perfectly logical, and legal demand.  The language of pre-emption, however, was never far away, begging the question on whether an investigation was even needed.

From the start, the rhetoric surrounding the shooting down of MH17 has been scripted as a matter of moral urgency and outrage.  Culprits have been sought with zeal, and the language of a crime site used to explain the radius within which the remains of the aircraft fell.  Someone pulled the trigger, as much as that can be said.

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Epigenetic Tie to Neuropsychiatric Disorders Found

2D structure of neurotransmitter dopamine. Created with BKChem and Extensible SVG Optimiser

2D structure of neurotransmitter dopamine. Created with BKChem and Extensible SVG Optimiser

Could this discovery lead to the end of “treating” mental illness through the endless prescribing of psychiatric drugs?

Via ScienceDaily:

Dysfunction in dopamine signaling profoundly changes the activity level of about 2,000 genes in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and may be an underlying cause of certain complex neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, according to UC Irvine scientists.

This epigenetic alteration of gene activity in brain cells that receive this neurotransmitter showed for the first time that dopamine deficiencies can affect a variety of behavioral and physiological functions regulated in the prefrontal cortex.

The study, led by Emiliana Borrelli, a UCI professor of microbiology & molecular genetics, appears online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

“Our work presents new leads to understanding neuropsychiatric disorders,” Borrelli said. “Genes previously linked to schizophrenia seem to be dependent on the controlled release of dopamine at specific locations in the brain.

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Free Markets and Capitalism Are Not the Same Thing

Photograph shows stock brokers working at the New York Stock Exchange. 1963

Photograph shows stock brokers working at the New York Stock Exchange. 1963

Roderick Long writes about the problems with conflating the two at Bleeding Heart Libertarians:

Left-libertarians differ from the (current) libertarian mainstream both in terms of what outcomes they regard as desirable, and in terms of what outcomes they think a freed market is likely to produce.

With regard to the latter issue, left-libertarians regard the current domination of the economic landscape by large hierarchical firms as the product not of free competition but of government intervention – including not only direct subsidies, grants of monopoly privilege, and barriers to entry, but also a regulatory framework that enables firms to socialise the scale costs associated with growth and the informational costs associated with hierarchy, while pocketing the benefits – and leaving employees and consumers with a straitened range of options. In the absence of government intervention, we maintain, firms could be expected to be smaller, flatter, and more numerous, with greater worker empowerment.

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Study Concludes Beef Is a Bigger Environmental Threat than Cars

USCA Choice standing rib roast (2 bone) by Michael C. Berch, aka MCB.

USCA Choice standing rib roast (2 bone) by Michael C. Berch, aka MCB.

Deforestation: It’s what’s for dinner!

Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

Eating meat is turning up the heat.

That’s the message from a team of international researchers whose just published study shows that the raising of livestock and consumption of meat—especially beef—is becoming an increasingly aggressive driver of planetary global warming and climate change.

Published this week in the journal Climatic Change and posted in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research reveals the alarming increase in global consumption of meat from raised livestock and discovered that beef cattle in particular are releasing more methane and nitrous oxide, both potent greenhouse gases, than previously thought.

Carbon dioxide is the most-prevalent gas when it comes to climate change. It is released by vehicles, industry, and forest removal and comprises the greatest portion of greenhouse gas totals.

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Thoughts of a Homeless Man

Homeless Veteran on the streets of Boston, MA

Homeless Veteran on the streets of Boston, MA

A fictional reflection on the realities of homelessness.

Meng-hu writes at hermit’s thatch:

Fictional, but based on an actual conversation, with the interlocutor here speaking.

I’ve been homeless for ten years. I made some mistakes and I paid for them, but I lost all my friends, and my family refused to ever see me again. Jobs are scarce; I have no skills of value to anyone. But like Siddhartha in the Hesse novel, I can think, I can wait, I can fast. Many days I go hungry. But I have infinite patience. And I can think, but usually think myself into a self-righteous and ethical stalemate.

I decided to give up trying to make it, you know, to give up trying to be a square peg — or is it round? It was just too hard: trying to pay rent or a mortgage, trying to pay insurance and debts, trying to guess what pleases people.

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Torture Okayed Through Pop Culture

Diverse torture instruments.

Diverse torture instruments.

Noah Berlatsky analyzes how pop culture (movies, comic books, television) makes torture “ok.” He writes that “Torture, pop culture says, is effective, fun, and even funny.”

Noah Berlatsky writes at Splice Today:

In Frank Miller’s influential 1986 series The Dark Knight Returns, Batman drags an unconscious perpetrator up to a rooftop, and hangs him upside down with his eyes covered. When the bad guy wakes up, Batman begins to question him, and then uncovers the guy’s eyes. Hundreds of feet above the city, the bad guy starts to scream in terror, prompting our hero to ruminate smugly about how much fun he’s having.

Last year, in the film Olympus Has Fallen, the American agent played by Gerard Butler stabbed a North Korean bad guy in the knee to get him to talk. The audience at the preview I attended cheered enthusiastically.

Last weekend at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, Sarah Palin declared to an enthusiastic audience that the current administration is too nice to jihadists.

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Early Predator Brain Was Simpler Than the Brain of Its Prey

Laggania cambria, Anomalocarididae; Model in life size (about 60 cm) based on fossils from Burgess Shale (middle Cambrian), Canada; Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany.

Laggania cambria, Anomalocarididae; Model in life size (about 60 cm) based on fossils from Burgess Shale (middle Cambrian), Canada; Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany.

Methinks there are contemporary cases of this being true.

Via ScienceDaily:

An international team of paleontologists has identified the exquisitely preserved brain in the fossil of one of the world’s first known predators that lived in the Lower Cambrian, about 520 million years ago. The discovery revealed a brain that is surprisingly simple and less complex than those known from fossils of some of the animal’s prey.

The find for the first time identifies the fossilized brain of what are considered the top predators of their time, a group of animals known as anomalocaridids, which translates to “abnormal shrimp.” Long extinct, these fierce-looking arthropods were first discovered as fossils in the late 19th century but not properly identified until the early 1980s. They still have scientists arguing over where they belong in the tree of life.

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An Atheist’s Defence of Irrationality

Dr. Isaac Asimov, 1965

Dr. Isaac Asimov, 1965

Raghunath Joshi writes:

Isaac Asimov said ‘I am an emotional atheist. As to the claim that God exists, my suspicion is so strong that I don’t want to waste my limited time believing/acting on it’. Even though I am an atheist, I can appreciate religion when ever it results in kindness honesty and courage, like the writer Kurt Vonnegut when he says ‘Believe in all harmless untruths if it makes you kind, happier and more truthful’.

In all of the arguments that we, atheists make against religion, the underlying thread is ‘logic’. The problem with using logic is that we HAVE to stop it at one point in the line of argument. It is so because logic can’t create a meaning of one’s life. It can only help us derive a moral structure from a fundamental premise such as ‘compassion towards’ / ‘happiness of’ / ‘freedom of’ all living creatures.

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