Monday, February 26, 2007

Game Over, Man

I've been wanting to use this for soooo long.

This post may be somewhat unnecessary considering that I haven't posted anything here in two and a half months, but I want to say that I am formally shutting down ROBBLOG.

I cut my blogging teeth over here and ROBBLOG will always have a place in my heart. I'll leave it up for the archive and, who knows, maybe someday I'll come back here but, for now:

Happy trails, old friend...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Recent Human Evolution

This is really cool:
"Throughout most of human history, the ability to digest lactose, the principal sugar of milk, has been switched off after weaning because there is no further need for the lactase enzyme that breaks the sugar apart. But when cattle were first domesticated 9,000 years ago and people later started to consume their milk as well as their meat, natural selection would have favored anyone with a mutation that kept the lactase gene switched on."
The change may have been as recent as 3,000 years ago. Once again, throw this on the pile of data that supports evolution. (In your face creationism and Intelligent Design!)

Figure it out people, ignoring scientific facts isn't going to help Americans compete.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Today in Science


Today is World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day, AIDSinfo

Risk of progression to AIDS increases without steady anti-retroviral drug treatment. CBC

Experts look to implement new strategies to prevent HIV transmission. WP

Bill Clinton is starting a foundation to provide AIDS drugs to children. BBC

The EU plans to spend 54 billion Euros on science over the next several years. BBC, ScienceNOW

Scientists need to be involved in science debates to keep them from being dominated by minority views. BBC

A single asteroid killed the dinosaurs. Reuters, NG

The White House does not want to release documents concerning the "Plan B" contraceptive. WP

Blocking progesterone may keep breast cancer gene, BRCA1, at bay. WP, Reuters

Bush Administration abstinence-only policy for combating underage pregnancy does not work, contraception does. BBC, Reuters

Steven Hawking says humans need to get out of the solar system to survive. AP, Reuters, BBC

NASA says shuttle redesign can wait until 2008. AP


Monsoons in India have worsened with climate change. Reuters, Nature

LA auto show highlights green cars. CSM

Microsoft releases Vista OS for business. Reuters, BBC

Stem cells may be used to fix back pain. BBC

Hurricane season ends without one hitting the US, thanks to el Nino. AP, Reuters, Nature, NG

Al-Qaeda is making noise about a cyber attack on businesses set for today. AP

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today in Science


South Africa will use Friday's World AIDS Day to launch a new plan to fight HIV/AIDS and answer near universal criticism of their previous "strategy". Reuters

Male circumcision in Africa may hold promise for limiting the spread of the disease. WP

Universal AIDS test needed. Reuters

Review says that scientific journal editors should scrutinize data more before accepting investigators submissions. WP, NYT

Natural anti-inflammatory may be more potent than synthetic drugs, but without side effects. WP

Arby's rules! They are taking the trans-fats out of their fries. WP

Keep drinkin' (red wine that is), you'll live longer (then you can drink more). WP, BBC

NASA sets next shuttle launch for Dec. 7th. WP, Reuters


Personal wind turbines are catching on in Britain. CSM

The world is reacting to climate change even if the politicians are not. WP

Demand for plug-in hybrid cars grows. Reuters

GM is (finally) working on a plug-in hybrid. WP

The EU is fighting over strong CO2 emission cuts. Reuters, BBC

Heat stored in the North Atlantic may exacerbate climate change. Guardian

Price wars: Plasma TV prices keep going down. WP

Face transplant recipient can smile. BBC

Ancient computer examined. BBC, NYT, Reuters,, Nature, NG

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Friday, November 17, 2006

You Can Do Something to Help Save Science in America!

[Crossposted at Tokatakiya]

Resolution HR6164 (you can look up the text here) passed the House of Representatives on September 26th and has now been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee.

HR 6164 aims to continue the Republican War on Science by crippling the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The President of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) detailed many of the insidious provisions of HR6164 in an open letter (pdf) to the HELP committee's ranking member, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass).
"After careful review and modeling of future NIH budget scenarios, AASLD has concluded that the NIH Reform Act of 2006 will deal a sever and crushing blow to the future of biomedical research in this country. Damage to the research enterprise will result in the permanent loss of investigators and technical support staff from our academic centers with an inevitable negative impact on America's position as the world's leader in basic, translational and clinical research and as the creator of much-needed high paying, technology jobs in our country.

Several provisions of HR6164 will negatively impact our ability to develop the new diagnostics, treatments and, ultimately, cures:
    For the first time ever, this legislation places a cap on the amount of funding Congress can appropriate to NIH by replacing the existing "such sums" language with hard limits. Had this bill been in effect from 1998 to 2003, the will of Congress to double the NIH budget would have been thwarted, and our current funding levels would never have been achieved.

    The legislation creates a "Common Fund" by siphoning off money from the institutes and centers. Under provisions of the bill, 50 percent of any increase in NIH funding would go to the Common Fund; but 100 percent of any reduction would be borne by the institutes and centers - and thus by peer-reviewed research.

    The budget of the Director's Office at NIH would be authorized at a level in excess of $1.0 billion (it is currently appropriated at $527 million). Again,this funding would come at the expense of the institutes and centers.

    The authorization caps,when combined with the Common Fund and the Director's Office authorization level - and when controlled for biomedical research inflation - assures that NIH will not experience more than a 1 percent increase for the life of this bill, even if Congress appropriates the fully authorized amount - something it rarely does." [Emphasis mine.]
Make no mistake, crippling the NIH like this will have unimaginably damaging effects on the biomedical sciences for years, possible decades, to come.

This issue affects all Americans, every single one of us. The NIH provides the funding that fosters new treatments and cures, not to mention the many new biomedical start-ups that are built on discoveries made using NIH grant money. These start-ups create jobs. Not only is biomedical science THE growth industry of the 21st century but biomedical jobs will likely play a large part in replacing the manufacturing jobs that are being shipped overseas.

This bill is short sighted. It will reduce the quality and quantity of science performed in this country. It will reduce the number of new treatments, cures, and drugs discovered in this country. It will damage the short and long-term growth of biomedical industry in this country at a time when job growth is (and will be) sorely needed.

The good news is that this bill has not yet been passed.

Here is a list of the Senators who sit on the HELP committee and whose votes are crucial to killing this bill. If you live in a state represented by one of the Senators on the HELP committee, I urge you to use the link above to write them and request that they vote against HR6164. If you don't live in one of these states, please contact your Senator and request that they vote against HR6164 (and urge their colleagues to vote against it) if it makes it to a floor vote.

This isn't just legislation that will hurt scientists in their ivory towers, this will affect every man, woman, and child in the United States. (Very likely much of the rest of the world as well.) Please take this seriously and please take the time to write a note to your Senator to kill this bill.

It will be the most important thing you do today.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Today in Science

Science issues like stem cells and climate change are going to be high priority in new Democratic Congress. CSM

Democratic Congress unlikely to allow expanded offshore drilling. NYT

Humorous names for genes discovered in fruit flies do not translate well to the clinic. NYT

Panda porn: what an age we live in. Reuters

Manipulating immune cells can help fight melanoma. BBC, Guardian

Firefighters have a higher risk of developing certain cancers. BBC


Life expectancy with HIV has increased. NYT

Doctors can use Google to help with diagnoses. BBC, CBC

Children may have hardening arteries. Reuters


Kyoto countries are looking to extend the pact. Reuters

Storm surge barriers may be needed to protect New York City. CSM

Stem cells used to treat diabetes in mice. BBC

And to restore sight in mice. WP

Accurate scientific facts are finding their way into TV shows. LAT

Artificial stomach created. BBC

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dolphins Found with Vestigial Legs

In Japan.

Vestigial structures are parts of an animal that once had a function but are no longer used (think appendix).

They are one of the many proofs of evolution. They represent a "snapshot" of evolution in progress.

I always feel the need to say this, evolution is supported by as much data as any other concept in science.

This is one more item on that list.

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