Trick or Treat! – Mullerian Mimicry Edition

photo (16) copy
Photo Credit: Jennifer Taylor (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

You are never to young for a meta-costume*.

To the untrained eye, it may look like my daughter is dressed as a monarch butterfly for Halloween. To the trained eye, you will recognize that half of her parental set is extremely dorky.

She is actually going as the concept of Müllerian Mimicry instantiated in the form of a viceroy butterfly. This costume is occassionally mistaken for Batesian Mimicry by novices.

Butterfly (monarch) on a Penta by Arturo Yee (CC BY 2.0)
Butterfly (monarch) on a Penta by Arturo Yee (CC BY 2.0)
Viceroy by Rodney Campbell (CC BY 2.0)
Viceroy by Rodney Campbell (CC BY 2.0)

Continue reading “Trick or Treat! – Mullerian Mimicry Edition”

Congratulations to Emily Willingham & David Grimes

It makes me very happy to share the announcement that our friend Dr. Emily Willingham is joint winner of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for Standing Up for Science. Emily is brave. That isn’t an adjective that one gets to use for many science writers; but Emily is brave. She has continued to bring clarity of scientific evidence to controversial issues such as autism, vaccines, school shootings, and parenting despite continuous abuse, legal threats, and other challeges.

The judges awarded the prize to freelance journalist Dr Emily Willingham and early career scientist Dr David Robert Grimes for courage in promoting science and evidence on a matter of public interest, despite facing difficulty and hostility in doing so…Emily Willingham, a US writer, has brought discussion about evidence, from school shootings to home birth, to large audiences through her writing. She has continued to reach across conflict and disputes about evidence to the people trying to make sense of them. She is facing a lawsuit for an article about the purported link between vaccines and autism. – Sense About Science

Although we do not know Dr. David Grimes, he also deserves our congratulations, thanks, and deep respect for his work:

David Grimes writes bravely on challenging and controversial issues, including nuclear power and climate change. He has persevered despite hostility and threats, such as on his writing about the evidence in the debate on abortion in Ireland. He does so while sustaining his career as a scientist at the University of Oxford. – Sense About Science

I have received phone calls from a very distressed David Grimes late at night over death threats, looking for a second opinion about how to cope with threats to his livelihood and threats of physical harm against him. While David is no push over, the constant barrage of abuse does take its toll and it’s very brave of him to continue to speak out against scientific falsehoods in the media when he’s under no obligation to as a researcher. – Daniel Murray

Congratulations to Dr. Emily Willingham and Dr. David Grimes.

Are you a Twitter Science Superstar?

by Brainleaf Communications

In the beginning, there was Neil Hall’s tone deaf “Kardashian Index”. Then there was Science Magazine’s list of 50 Twitter science superstars. Combined they painted a pretty clear picture that being active on social media was only considered a desirable characteristic in a thin slice of the population – you know, white dudes.

Hall did so by mocking young scientists who are active and effective on social media. Science Magazine did so by featuring very few women or people of color in their list.

PZ Myers, who did make Science Magazine’s list, takes them, particularly the editors, to task:

Isn’t it weird how invisible people suddenly become apparent if you just look for them?

In doing so, PZ reminded me of a Blues Brothers themed piece I wrote a few years ago for Nature’s Soapbox Science about finding audiences where they are on social media. Rather than fighting over the niche audience of science fans, we need to be convincing people to be science fans – much like Jake and Elwood convinced people to like the Blues. Continue reading “Are you a Twitter Science Superstar?”

5 Very Good Questions

Nature has published a comment by William P. Hanage suggesting ways to inoculate oneself against the hype associated with the burgeoning field of microbiome studies. As Bethany Brookshire (aka, SciCurious) notes, these questions should be applied to any and all research, not just the microbiome.

1. Can experiments distinguish differences that matter?
2. Does the study show causation or just correlation?
3. What is the mechanism?
4. How much do experiments reflect reality?
5. Could anything else explain the results?
paraphrased from William P. Hanage in Nature

Clear brains you say??

Karl Deisseroth
Karl Deisseroth

The interwebs have been abuzz this week about a new technique published in Nature coming from the Deisseroth Lab at Stanford (formerly of optogenetics fame). Now he’s the optogenetics guy AND the CLARITY guy, come on Karl leave something for the rest of us! Anyway, the new method allows entire brains, that have been removed from their respective skulls, to be processed into hydrogel hybrids that are optically clear and able to be labeled and observed all the way to their very center. This video is an example of a CLARITY processed mouse brain that is labeled with Thy1-GFP (green fluorescent protein expressed in ~10% of neurons). You can see individual neural cell bodies (the small round dots) and the projections from individual neurons (long thin fibers). Continue reading “Clear brains you say??”

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