Posted 4 hours ago


“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.”

Frank Herbert

Posted 6 hours ago

It only took 35 years for flesh-eating bacteria to become an infectious terror


All it took for flesh-eating bacteria to go from harmless organisms to gruesome infectious pathogens was four mutations and about 35 years. That’s what an international group of researchers announced today in a study that outside experts are calling the largest bacterial genome paper ever published.


Posted 6 hours ago


La Jolla, California by rimlli on Flickr.

This seal is really damn happy.

Posted 10 hours ago


Meet the Marine Big 5 of South Africa
Gansabaai, South Africa is the primary habitat for 5 of the world’s most endangered marine animals. Here are facts about each of them.

Posted 10 hours ago


Historical Convention Merch

  • from The Aporetic

"After the most recent OAH a friend a col­league, Adam Roth­man, suggested a line of T-shirts. We came up with a few ideas. Feel free to add your own.”

***I think this goes for all conferences.

(Source: The Aporetic via @AcademicsSay on Twitter)

Posted 10 hours ago


Life-style determines gut microbes

An international team of researchers has for the first time deciphered the intestinal bacteria of present-day hunter-gatherers

  • from Max Planck Institute
"The gut microbiota is responsible for many aspects of human health and nutrition, but most studies have focused on “western” populations. An international collaboration of researchers, including researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has for the first time analysed the gut microbiota of a modern hunter-gatherer community, the Hadza of Tanzania. The results of this work show that Hadza harbour a unique microbial profile with features yet unseen in any other human group, supporting the notion that Hadza gut bacteria play an essential role in adaptation to a foraging subsistence pattern. The study further shows how gut microbiota may have helped our ancestors adapt and survive during the Paleolithic.

Bacterial populations have co-evolved with humans over millions of years, and have the potential to help us adapt to new environments and foods. Studies of the Hadza offer an especially rare opportunity for scientists to learn how humans survive by hunting and gathering, in the same environment and using similar foods as our ancestors did.

The research team, composed of anthropologists, microbial ecologists, molecular biologists, and analytical chemists, and led in part by Stephanie Schnorr and Amanda Henry of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, compared the Hadza gut microbiota to that of urban living Italians, representative of a “westernized” population. Their results, published recently in Nature Communications, show that the Hadza have a more diverse gut microbe ecosystem, i.e. more bacterial species compared to the Italians. “This is extremely relevant for human health”, says Stephanie Schnorr. “Several diseases emerging in industrialized countries, like IBS, colorectal cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, Crohn’s disease and others, are significantly associated with a reduction in gut microbial diversity.”

The Hadza gut microbiota is well suited for processing indigestible fibres from a plant-rich diet and likely helps the Hadza get more energy from the fibrous foods that they consume. Surprisingly, Hadza men and women differed significantly in the type and amount of their gut microbiota, something never before seen in any other human population. Hadza men hunt game and collect honey, while Hadza women collect tubers and other plant foods” (read more).

(Source: Max Planck Institute; bottom image: National Geographic)

My paleo friends will find this interesting.

Posted 10 hours ago

"This is madness", thought The Collector, "being up all night, trying to catch bugs. Why don’t I collect stamps or bottlecaps like a normal person…"
From: Taschenberg, Ernst Ludwig et al. - Die Insekten, Tausendfüssler und Spinnen (1877)


"This is madness", thought The Collector, "being up all night, trying to catch bugs. Why don’t I collect stamps or bottlecaps like a normal person…"

From: Taschenberg, Ernst Ludwig et al. - Die Insekten, Tausendfüssler und Spinnen (1877)

Posted 12 hours ago


welp, i know how i’m spending my sunday

Posted 22 hours ago

Neoliberalism has made the tenure process in higher education demoralizing and infantalizing, and it doesn’t help that the Provost is a sociopath.


Anthropology, American University 

"Resisting Neoliberal Narratives: Postcolonial Resistance in Tenure Battles" 

Posted 1 day ago

Isaac Newton's Most Underrated Disciple Was a Pioneer for Women in Science


Émilie du Châtelet was famous for centuries as little more than Voltaire’s favorite girlfriend. But her genius was obvious from a very young age, and so was her endearingly modern attitude over whether a laboratory was really a woman’s place. She simply did not give a rat’s butt about all that noise.

Her nobleman father recognized her obvious brilliance when she was a child, and became her educational ally. Though there are conflicting reports about her mother’s opinion on all this, the overall consensus is that she was scandalized by her daughter’s budding mind, and tried to send her to a convent to straighten her out. It appears that the one time misogyny actually worked in Émilie’s favor was in this parental debate, in which her mother’s qualms were squashed by her father’s support.

The education paid off, and fast. By the time she was 12, Châtelet could speak six different languages, knew the classic canon backwards and forwards, and could ride a horse and handle a sword. As a teenager, she used her mathematical genius to devise a clever system for maximizing gambling returns, and then used the winnings to buy books and lab gear. I know—I’m as confused as anyone about why this woman does not have a biopic, and this is just the beginning of her story.

As she developed into an intellectual powerhouse, her father began to share her mother’s fears about her blatant disregard for gender roles “My youngest flaunts her mind,” he said, “and frightens away the suitors.” He need not have worried. Châtelet would have a lot of trouble getting men to accept her as an equal, but seducing them was not shaping up to be a problem. In fact, the abundance of suitors was more of an issue. She married the Marquis Châtelet-Lomont when she was 19, and it seems his leniency for her wandering eye was a central motivation for the match.

Her most famous lover was Voltaire, and together they would bring Isaac Newton’s work to continental Europe. Voltaire was not only her intellectual match, he was her much-needed advocate. For years, Châtelet had been pulling out all the stops to gain access to the French scientific community but had been barred over and over due to her pesky lack of a Y-chromosome (though when she showed up to meetings dressed as a man, she was sometimes allowed in).

Châtelet had been obsessed with Newton since she first read the Principia, and felt she had been put on the Earth to spread the good word of Newtonian physics. But she knew she had the chops to build on his work too, and even corrected Newton’s kinetic energy formula, which he had derived as E = mv. Leibniz had come to a different answer, E = mv², so she carried out the necessary experiments herself and discovered Leibniz was correct. Her proof laid the groundwork for Einstein’s iconic formula two centuries later.

Voltaire used his fame as a springboard to help her get the foothold she needed, and together they published Elements of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy (only Voltaire is credited, but the book is built on Châtelet’s expertise). Newton’s ideas were fighting a losing battle against Cartesian physics in France, and this accessible volume went a long way to shifting the balance in favor of the brave Newtonian world.”

I’m a big fan of this lady.