Guest post 4! Don't just assume you should know

(by scicurious) Oct 17 2013

Today I'm very proud to feature Ivonne Pena at SciAm today, telling us some important things about context. Many people just assume that others know what a syllabus is, how to get around, etc. But when you are here in academia from a foreign country, it is not so simple. Head over and check it out!

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Guest Post 3: Microaggressions

(by scicurious) Oct 16 2013

Today I'm very pleased to show off the Microaggressions Tumblr over at SciAm. The group is doing great work and is here with me to tell you all about the harmful affects of microaggression, and how to bring them to light. Head over and check it out!

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Guest Post 2: Automatic Othering

(by scicurious) Oct 15 2013

Over at SciAm Blogs today, we've already got the second guest post up. Hermitage is there to tell us some uncomfortable truths about diversity in academia. She's a got a great post up, make sure to head over and check it out.

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Guest post 1: In the end, let's make sure something good comes out.

(by scicurious) Oct 15 2013

Over at SciAm today, the first of the week's guest posts is up! Please head over and read about Rim's experiences...and what she decided to do about them.

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Let's #standwithDNLee, let's get voices heard.

(by scicurious) Oct 14 2013

I'm at SciAm Blogs today, where I'm introducing a whole week of Guest posts. I'm sure many of you have heard what happened to Danielle Lee this past weekend. I would like to take her goals, and use them to expand the conversation. From the Buzzfeed article:

Though she’s grateful for the support, Lee said she wishes the attention was geared toward one of her already existing missions in the science community, like increasing diversity.

“If that many people were going to come out in support of me, I’d rather it be in support of one of the missions that’s going to make me redundant. I am trying to make myself redundant, truth be told. It is a lonely place to constantly be the only one like you in science,” she said.

Let's use the opportunity to get voices heard. At SciAm, you'll see a whole week of guest posts. People who you should pay attention to, with voices very, very worth hearing. Check it out.

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Friday Weird Science: Oral Sex Gets Fishy

(by scicurious) Oct 11 2013

When it comes to parenting, some animals will go the extra mile. Possums, for example, have their young clinging on as they trundle around. Kangaroos give birth to immature young that they keep in a pouch until it's bursting at the seams. Humans let 30 year old offspring move back in.

And fish? Do mouth brooding.

cichlid mouthbrooding
(A mouthful! Source)

The fish above has a mouthful of eggs. It's a cichlid. And some species of cichlid will go the extra...mouthful to protect their eggs. They are so worried about the predation of their eggs that the females lay eggs, circle around, and then immediately gobble them up, holding them in their mouths until the fry hatch, and often even longer, until they are big enough to make it on their own.

However, it turns out that the female fish are in such a rush to pick up their eggs, they sometimes don't even give them time to get fertilized! Holding a mouth of unfertilized eggs seems like kind of a waste. But the males have figured out not just how to get fertilization to happen...they got some oral sex out of the bargain.

Sort of.

Mrowka, W. "Oral Fertilization in a Mouthbrooding Cichlid Fish" Ethology, 1987.

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Of Genes and Eating Disorders

(by scicurious) Oct 09 2013

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are difficult psychiatric disorders. They are especially tragic because, while they may seem like just messed up eating, they are far, far more. Eating disorders have some of the highest rates of death of any psychiatric disease, as malnutrition puts the body at risk.

anorexia
(Source)

When we think of eating disorders, though, we tend to think of them from a cultural angle. It's because our culture is so obsessed with thin, no one can ever be thin enough, and so that must bring out eating disorders. It is true that a culture which glorifies skinny the way ours does tend to bring out more extreme dieting than one that does not. But it is also true that eating disorders are far more than the product of a culture which glorifies the size 0. Reports and descriptions of anorexia, for example, date all the way back to the Greeks, and famous case studies that fully described the disorder date from the 1860's. There is clearly a genetic component, anorexia in particular runs strongly in families. There is also a potential sex effect, eating disorders are far more common in women than in men.

Eating disorders are a combination disease, a combination of genetic risks and environmental triggers, including things like stress. Unfortunately, it's been difficult to identify specific genes that predispose people to eating disorders. Studying large populations of people with the disease and find some common genetic variants, for example, but for such a complex disorder that is not dependent on a single gene, many of those will also be present in healthy populations.

Another approach is instead to look at families which have a strong history of eating disorders, to see what common genes are passed down. While this has its own limitations (for example, you then have to look for the occurrence of those genes in the wider population, and being within a single family or two, there are bound to be environmental factors that aren't present elsewhere), it's a way to uncover genetic variants that my have previously gone undiscovered. And it means you might, as they did here, uncover two genes that, when screwed up in very precise ways, result in the same eating disorder.

Cui et al. "Eating disorder predisposition is associated with ESRRA and HDAC4 mutations" Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2013.

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Did Your Daddy Teach You to Sing?

(by scicurious) Oct 07 2013

Over at SciAm Blogs today, I'm talking about a new study in zebra finches, and how much, and how, they sing. Is it genes? Environment? Or did your dad teach you to sing like that? Head over and find out!

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To everything there is a season.

(by scicurious) Oct 04 2013

Over the past few weeks, some very new and exciting developments have happened here in Sci-land! I'm very happy to say that I'll soon (in about two weeks) be taking up residence as a full time blogger at Student Science, a part of Science News! I'll be blogging about the latest and greatest things in the world of student science: how students can get involved in research, how teachers can make science everyone's favorite subject, and how parents can help their little scientists find their wings. Not to fear, Scicurious blogging will continue, and it will also be moving over to Science News.

I'm determined to enjoy my last few weeks here at Scientopia. It's a wonderful group of passionate individuals. I love each individual voice and they are often my favorite things to read. I hate to leave, but I'm very excited about my chance to help even more people love science! I hope you all will keep tabs on me as I take Scicurious, and now, Eureka!Lab, on to new horizons!

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Friday Weird Science: No Singing, or Sexing, in the Rain

(by scicurious) Oct 04 2013

*sings*
No siiiiinging in the rain,
No siiiinging in the rain!
But once the storm is over
Bugs are hooooorny again.

They're calling for mates
When the sun's out above
But when pressure's down
They're not ready for love.

Let's the stormy clouds chase
All the bugs from the place
Come on with the rain
And watch horny insects brace

They'll wait out the rain
Til the sun's out again
No singing
Or sexting in the raaaain.

Singing in the rain seems so romantic, doesn’t it? The childlike joy of dancing through the raindrops with your beloved certainly worked for Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly in the movie.

But there’s a difference between a light drizzle and a thunderstorm. And when red skies at morning make sailor’s take warning, it’s best to take the romancing indoors.

Unless of course, you’re an insect. Then, maybe you just want to pack it in for the day.

bug1
(Source)

Pellegrino et al. “Weather Forecasting by Insects: Modified Sexual Behaviour in Response to Atmospheric Pressure Changes” PLoS ONE, 2013.

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