Tangled Bank 97: The Frozen Bank

It is interesting to contemplate a frozen bank, clothed with ice of many kinds, with birds not singing on the bushes, with various insects nowhere to be seen, and with worms crawling under the earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have… aw hell, it’s fricken freezing and there’s nothing but ice, snow, and cold air on the banks of Madison, Wisconsin. What am I to do to keep warm? Thankfully, a whole host of science bloggers sent me their best posts from the last few weeks – let’s see if we can warm up together in this cold northern weather to the 97th edition of the Tangled Bank.

Let’s start with a drink to feel warm on the inside. At A Drunken Walk Through Science, we have a writeup of A Michael Shermer Book Lecture by DS. If you like what you drank there, also take a look at Academic Life, an explanation, for those non-academic types out there, exactly what it is that grad students spend their time doing.

That reminds me how I got in this mess. I’m in grad school… moved from the sunny state of California to the climatically novel capital of the republic of Wisconsin.

Hey, it’s not too much of an adjustment, after all, human brains are very plastic. Over at SharpBrains, Alvaro has compiled a list of books on the plasticity of brains. Check it out.

Maybe I need to get myself checked out. But what if I didn’t speak english very well? Larry Ferlazzo has the answer with The Best Websites for English Language Learners.

Ouroboros also contributes a health-related blog entry on aging. Read Predation vs longevity: a counterexample.

Next, Greg Laden‘s tackling this wild idea that humans developed the ability to cook much much sooner than we thought. Perhaps a little fire would warm things up a bit, here? Read Cooking and Human Evolution.

How about a hot shower? Actually, that would feel real good after the -23 C night we had not four days ago. But what if there are too many people in the building trying to take a shower at the same time, can we all get water that’s at the same temperature? KFC at The Physics arXiv Blog explains just how (although it’s not too easy) with The shower temperature problem.

Minus 23 degrees Celsius. Actually, that’s cold enough to keep DNA for a long time. Most of my lab’s freezers are only -20. And on that note, Joe Dunckley at Cotch dot net finds that what happens to genes after they get transcribed from DNA, but before they get translated, is really really interesting. Read Model Splicing.

Molecular details about genetics is fascinating, but oftentimes some of the really interesting issues in genetics are about what to do or not do with food genetics. Can’t stomach golden rice? Get your teeth into golden maize! Jeremy treats us to some interesting biofortification news at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog. Also at this blog, but contributed by a guest poster Hannes Dempewolf, is More to maize evolution than selection. Yeah! Grrr, the opposition to humanitarian efforts such as golden rice sure gets my blood boiling… perfect for this weather!

Speaking of blood boiling, as usual creationists are up to their dirty tricks. The snow may be blinding at times, but when you have creationists abound, you have The Blind Leading the Blind. A blind cave fish quote-mine rescued by Eric at The Primate Diaries. They never seem to learn.

Besides thinking about what might be wrong with others, there’s always the possibility that there’s something wrong with you. Specifically, your calculus. What, math? There’s nothing wrong with my, oh, that kind of calculus. I had the dentist take care of that. Hey you should Know your pathology: Calculus, and see what Archaezoology has to say about the anatomy of dental plaque.

I’m starting to feel a little cold again, perhaps we should go on a walk. Better yet, let’s go on a dinosaur hunt! Sunil at Balancing Life has a post about Dinosaur Hunters that’s worth taking a walk through, if not a dig.

This next post I would like to direct you to at The Digital Cuttlefish, really warms my up on the inside and the outside. First, the hilarity of switching between calm science about a red hot sun, and the unhinged attitude of a radio evangelist crooning about fire and brimstone is entertaining. But then you realize that there’s something more to how this one was put together, and what it all means. Read Dueling Destinies. No seriously, read it. I can wait.

J-J-J-Geez, you sure took your sweet time, what did you leave a comment or something? Man I’m cold. Let’s light a fire in us all with Smart Bitches, Not Meerly Sex at Podblack Cat’s Blog. That will get the heart thumping, all right!

It may be snowy here, but in Hawaii there are plenty of creatures running around, and plants enjoying the weather, too. Weird ones. Jennifer Forman at The Invasive Species Weblog reports that if you find weird plants and animals, you can upload your pictures and scientists will figure out what they are for you! Read more at Real ID.

At 10,000 Birds, Mike explains to everyone what a Merganser is. Hey, What is a Merganser? Can I eat it?

If you want to read about something to eat that’s exotic/gross (depending on your perspective), David Attenborough has a tale to tell. In an interview with David Attenborough on Ed Yong’s blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science, Attenborough talks about the things he has experienced in his quest for good nature to film.

That should be enough science to keep you warm for the next two weeks. Me, I was kidding. This California-born Homo sapiens has the advantage of a Northern German ancestry and thus, internal blood veins. Whenever I go out to (try to) give blood, they can’t seem to find the veins. (Doctors and hospital phlebotomists don’t seem to have a problem.) It’s good for retaining heat and retaining blood. The trick is just piling on the layers and charging gung-ho into the snow. Actually, I already think Wisconsinites complain too much!

But I have one more post to relate that isn’t so much warm as it it cool. Sally at Foothills Fancies tells us a story about the hardy (and old) Cushion Plants that stick it out in the bitterly cold tundra. And to top it off, they present pretty little purple flowers… show-offs! Nice to find a kindred spirit in the wintertime, particularly one with chloroplasts. Don’t miss Life on a Cushion.

In two weeks, the next Tangled Bank will be up at Quintessence of Dust.

Finally, you may notice that I didn’t include any posts of my own. Instead, I would like to tell everyone what is going up in the near future on my site. In two days’ time, I’m uploading the last episode of my radio show/podcast from Davis, CA, which includes a discussion between PZ Myers and Ken Miller, a funny debate of another kind, and a few special surprises. It was recorded in May, 2007, but with my new climate, some tricky editing I had to do, and everything else that is going on, I didn’t get to it. I thought this would be the best way to get the word out after so long.

And then I would also like to get the word out that as of February 5th, 2008, The Inoculated Mind Mindcast is re-starting as a podcast, and may be picked up by a local station in the following month. I’ve got a roster of guests I’m lining up, and oh, so much news and so many issues to talk about… and so much more music to back it up!

Thanks for reading, and here’s something to guess in the comments: What scientist whose research was discussed in one of the above blog posts communicated to me that he listens to my show? (No, not one of the bloggers)

Now if only I could adapt my bike to the cold…