Field of Science

Links - April 20, 2011


Opinion: The decline of physiology. Medical schools in the UK are scaling back their basic physiology education in favor of more pathology and clinical courses which skim over the basic physiology needed to understand those situations. If you are a physiologist, the APS encourages you to participate in the comments discussion.

Sucked out of a plane? What are the physiological consequences of being sucked out of an airplane? This made me think of the airlock scenes in Battlestar Galactica. (CALLY NOOOOO!)

The neuroscience of the gut. I briefly mentioned the brain-gut axis earlier this week. It has been established that the gut flora can have an effect on things like obesity (although the exact nature of the relationship is still poorly understood), but it seems that the gut flora may also influence the brain and behavior in more ways than previously thought.

Remembering a time when blood did not flow right to left. A history lesson from Dr. Isis.


Do genes modify the health impact of sedentary behavior? Travis at Obesity Panacea (which isn't a new blog by any means but is quickly becoming one of my new favorites) interviews Caren Smith, the lead author of a recent paper exploring how genetics may influence the impact of sedentary behavior. They found that women with the TT genotype at SNP rs6507931 were at a higher risk when engaging in sedentary behavior than women with other genotypes. 23andMe v3 includes this SNP, so you can look up your genotype here. I'm CT at rs6507931, does that mean I don't have to worry about sedentary behavior affecting my health? No, not at all. As Dr. Smith says in the interview, "With respect to worrying about genotype vs. worrying about sedentary behavior, at the moment we know more about the overwhelmingly beneficial effects of physical activity than we do about the effects of interactions with certain genotype.  While it is likely that some people derive greater benefits than others from exercise (or conversely, at put at higher risk through inactivity), the vast majority of people would benefit from increasing their overall physical activity."

"Coffee, I must have coffee..." At 23andMe's blog, they explore some recent papers that link one's genotype to the amounts of coffee and other caffeinated beverages that one consumes. Anecdotally, I have one of the caffeine-desirous genotypes, and I do drink about 3 cups of black tea a day. When I say cups, I mean my tea cup, which is much closer to 2 measuring cups.

Razib Khan's 23andMe v3 genotype. Razib has put his 23andMe data into the public domain.

Other Biology

That's not a dinosaur! Our cultural consensus of what dinosaurs are "supposed" to look like is rapidly diverging from what scientists are discovering about dinosaur morphology. This sorta came home for me when I recently re-watched The Land Before Time and realized that the brontosaurus never existed! I also went off on a tangent about how stegosaurus and triceratops did not live during the same time period (which I actually knew even as a kid from reading Calvin and Hobbes). This prompted Kedar to implore me to just shut up and enjoy the movie, but how can I when I'm experiencing cognitive dissonance?!

Other Stuff

How to get academic papers for free. I had no idea about a lot of these. After reading this I logged in at my local public library's website using my library card, and was shocked to find that they had access to quite a few academic databases. Not as good as my university's library, but still pretty damn good.

Mis-illustrating abortion. 90% of abortions happen in the first trimester, so why do 90% of news articles about abortion show pictures of women in their third trimester?

How I, a married, middle-aged man, became an accidental spokesperson for gay rights overnight. "The real problem here is certainly not that Facebook is a homophobic company. It's that their terrible corporate policy on censorship needs to stop siding with the idiots, the complainers and the least-enlightened and evolved amongst us as a matter of business expediency!"

The real life models for classic pinup paintings. Okay, this is pure fluff. Pure, delicious fluff:

Source. You know, I've always thought those ankles looked like they were bent at an unnatural angle, but apparently they're true to life!


  1. That's a normal sized cup of tea... for me, anyway :)

    In the UK, about ten years ago, we had a tv show called "Walking with Dinosaurs". I think that shaped my mental images of dinosaurs, as well as Jurassic Park. I'd love to see an updated version that makes use of what has been found out since.

  2. I don't put milk in my tea, which I'm told is very incorrect, but I don't like it. I like the bitterness and acidity, I feel like that's the point!

  3. thank you for the link on how to get free papers & journal articles! i was mostly stuck with what i can find with google scholar & whats on i was actually looking for some information today and couldn't find anything that didn't have a price tag of at least $30... so thank you again!

    and btw, ~2 cups is also about normal for me. we have some small "tea cups" in the house & they're not good for much but decoration, imo!

  4. I went to some fancy-ass restaurant with my Dad for Easter brunch yesterday, and they only served tea in those tiny cups. It took about four of them to feel like a real cup of tea to me.


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