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Michael Habib
Works at University of Southern California
Attended Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Lives in Los Angeles
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Michael Habib

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Rosetta’s Comet Really “Blows Up” in Latest Images

First off, no, comet 67p/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is not about to explode or disintegrate. But as it steadily gets nearer to the Sun the comet’s jets are getting more and more active, and they’re putting on quite a show for the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft!
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A short report follows below on a new MRI methodology for detecting pediatric fatty liver disease. The sensitivity isn't great, yet, but for a new method it does quite well. After all, mild cases are hard to detect with biopsy, as well.

MRI Technique Developed for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Children Study makes strides toward noninvasive diagnostic for increasingly common pediatric liver disease

Between 5 and 8 million children in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), yet most cases go undiagnosed. To help address this issue, researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based technique to help clinicians and researchers better detect and evaluate NAFLD in children. The study is published Feb. 5 in Hepatology.

“Currently, diagnosis of NAFLD requires a liver biopsy, which is not always available or performed. This leads to both misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses, hampering patient care and progress in clinical research,” said Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, MD, professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego, director of the Fatty Liver Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and the first author of the study. “Thus, a noninvasive method for diagnosing and/or evaluating NAFLD has the potential to impact millions of children.”

NAFLD is characterized by large droplets of fat in at least five percent of a child’s liver cells. Obesity and diabetes are risk factors for NAFLD. Doctors are concerned about NAFLD in children because it can lead to hepatitis, liver scarring, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Traditionally, NAFLD is diagnosed by a gastroenterologist in consultation with a pathologist, who examines the patient’s biopsied liver tissue under a microscope. The presence and severity of liver fat is graded by the pathologist as none, mild, moderate or severe, based on the percentage of liver cells that contain fat droplets.

In an effort known as the MRI Rosetta Stone Project, Schwimmer and colleagues used a special MRI technique known as magnitude-based MRI, which was previously developed by researchers in the UC San Diego Liver Imaging Group, to estimate liver proton density fat fraction (PDFF), a biomarker of liver fat content.

“Existing techniques for measuring liver fat are dependent upon the individual scanner and the center at which the measurements were made, so they cannot be compared directly,” said Claude B. Sirlin, MD, professor of radiology at UC San Diego and senior author of the study. “By comparison, PDFF is a standardized marker that is reproducible on different scanners and at different imaging centers. Thus, the results of the current study can be generalized to the broader population.”

In this study, the researchers compared the new MRI technique to the standard liver biopsy method of assessing fat in the liver. To do this, the team enrolled 174 children who were having liver biopsies for clinical care. For each patient, the team performed both MRI-estimated PDFF and compared the results to the standard pathology method of measuring fat on a liver biopsy.

The team found a strong correlation between the amount of liver fat as measured by the new MRI technique and the grade of liver fat determined by pathology. This is an important step towards being able to use this technology for patients. Notably, the correlation was influenced by both the patient’s gender and the amount of scar tissue in the liver. The correlation between the two techniques was strongest in females and in children with minimal scar tissue.

Depending on how the new MRI technology is used, it could correctly classify between 65 and 90 percent of children as having or not having fatty liver tissue.

“Advanced magnitude MRI can be used to estimate PDFF in children, which correlates well with standard analysis of liver biopsies,” Schwimmer said. “We are especially excited about the promise of the technology for following children with NAFLD over time. However, further refinements will be needed before this or any other MRI technique can be used to diagnose NAFLD in an individual child.”


Pictured: MRI of child’s liver with severe NAFLD - 38 percent is fat whereas 1 percent is normal.
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Sensitivity for functional imaging can be poor, often due to noise. I'll read this when I get home. I'm curious how it compares to MRE, magnetic resonance elastography.
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This poster is a great quick educational tool for placing some of the current NASA missions in context (which have been focusing on the less studied members of the list below).
The Solar System’s ‘Yearbook’ is About to Get Filled In

Lined up like familiar faces in your high school yearbook, here are images of the 33 largest objects in the Solar System, ordered in size by mean radius. Engineer Radu Stoicescu put this great graphic together, using the highest resolution images available for each body. Nine of these objects have not yet been visited by a spacecraft. Later this year, we’ll visit three of them and be able to add better images of Ceres, Pluto and Charon. It might be a while until the remaining six get closeups.
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A set of marbles...
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I just looked through Joschua Knüppe's portfolio on DeviantArt. It's quite good. He has a great paleoart gallery and some great fantasy creature pieces (he is particularly fond of dragons).

I particularly enjoyed his Paralititan illustrations:
A great -- though still very young -- paleoartist
As I promised here some invertebrates.  On the left you see a swarm of Baculites syriacus, a nearly straight shelled ammonite (not orthocerat or nautiloid!). It's a interesting genus which is ...
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Thanks for pinging me +Kam-Yung Soh, yes I already follow his work on deviantART and he does some really good work.
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Michael Habib

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These posters are likely to be of interest to those in the Space community here on G+.
Five robotic spacecraft posters now available from

Our friends at Chop Shop have finished the first 5 posters in their historical robotic spacecraft poster series and they are now available on their website. Look for a new ‪#‎LightSail‬ design coming in the spring!
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Wow. I love those! 
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The original article (posted below) is from the Wall Street Journal. Despite the original title, the device has not been cleared for general use - the FDA has given a green light for a 100 person trial. Regardless, the idea of blocking the viscerosensory reflex signals from the vagal nerve pathways (by essentially talking over them with noise, it seems) is interesting.
FDA Clears ‘Pacemaker for the Stomach’.

Implant targets nerve pathway that makes people feel hungry.

Federal regulators approved a novel dieting device that acts like a pacemaker for the stomach by manipulating the nerve pathway that makes people feel hungry or full.

The device is the first of its kind to treat obesity by targeting nerves that link the stomach and the brain. The system would block electrical signals in the abdominal vagus nerve by dispatching high-frequency electrical pulses. It is implanted surgically into the abdomen, and is designed to be used in people age 18 and over who haven’t been able to shed pounds with a weight-loss program. It is to be used in people with a body-mass index of 35 to 45, or roughly 75 pounds or more over a person’s ideal body weight.

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Seems to ignore the emotional causes for the self abuse of obesity. 
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More giant pterosaurs

Yesterday, I was on Quarks and Quirks talking about my latest research on giant pterosaurs (co-authored with Colin Palmer). In this particular interview, we discussed the issue of how big pterosaurs could potentially get, rather than just the anatomy that allowed known species to launch and fly at large sizes. The interview is now available online (and is linked below)

A few interesting highlights:

- Steady flight power requirements wouldn't be limiting until truly gigantic sizes (15 meters or more). There is a popular argument (that still makes the internet rounds) that large flyers would need a prohibitive amount of muscle power to fly, and therefore large pterosaurs must have lived in a special atmosphere or had other special conditions. Geological data demonstrate that the Late Cretaceous atmosphere wasn't all that different than ours, but it turns out to work just fine even for a remarkably large animal (see below).

- Based on known power scaling patterns from living animals (particularly flying animals), we can estimate that the flight muscles of giant pterosaurs probably produced at least 200 Watts/kg (they would have had mostly anaerobic flight muscle). Wind tunnel experiments suggest a maximum lift:drag ratio of at least 15:1 for the big pterosaurs, and so at 20 m/s a cruising Quetzalcoatlus would only require about 2,600 Watts of power for steady flight (20 m/s * 200 kg * 9.8 * (1/15)). It probably had 60 kg of flight muscle to work with (give or take), and so 12,000 Watts of available burst power is not unlikely. Even at aerobic power rates, flapping power wouldn't be limiting (about 6,000 Watts or so).

- Launch power was limiting, but not until about 12 meter span and roughly 400 kg. So there could be giant pterosaurs out there that were larger than the ones we already have found.
How big could history's largest flying creature get?
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+Kevin Sullivan: there is no evidence for webbed feet in the group of pterosaurs that includes Quetzalcoatlus, and we do have some foot skin impressions for the group. So, short answer, it probably lacked webbed feet. However, some other large pterosaurs had webbed feet.
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New images of Ceres continue to come in from the Dawn mission
On approach to dwarf planet Ceres, our Dawn spacecraft has acquired its latest and closest-yet snapshot of this mysterious world. Details: 

This animation showcases a series of images Dawn took on approach to Ceres on Feb. 4, 2015 at a distance of about 90,000 miles (145,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet.
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Massive lava flows and mass extinctions

The link below is to an opinion piece about the revival of the Deccan Traps volcanism as cause or major part of Cretaceous extinction. A "combination cause" model that mixes the Deccan Traps with asteroid impact is becoming popular on account of data linking both events to the correct time interval (65.5 million years ago). Both events were massive and likely extraordinarily damaging.

An additional note: This piece mentions work by Mark Richards. He gave a talk last May at Berkeley about his research and efforts to find the K-Pg boundary signal in the Deccan eruption sequence, along with the possible link between global earthquakes and a subsequent massive pulse of magma at the Deccan site shortly after the impact.

The talk is on YouTube at this link.

Title: Extraterrestrial impact in Yucatán, lava floods & Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction Mark Richards, geologist at Berkeley

My thanks to Ben Creisler for alerting me to these stories on the Dinosaur Mailing List.

Maybe an asteroid didn’t wipe them out.
Green Goblin's profile photoTracy L Campbell's profile photoChris Douglass's profile photoAmir Aly's profile photo
+Gregor Kropotkin: it's not meant to be news so much as a nice article about an old debate with some good interviews of well known geologists and paleontologists. In other words, it's a decent review for the casual reader. I think those are well worth posting, in addition to truly new discoveries.
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Wizards of the Coast employees being awesome to a new young player. This is doing it right.
Wizards of the Coast doing it right.

"My almost 8-year old daughter has been slowly getting more and more into Magic as I have gotten back into the game. She's been learning to play with me, first with a sliver deck I built for her and she later modified and then with the Speed v. Cunning duel decks. She's been begging to go to FNM but just haven't been able to go yet.

When I realized that GP Denver was coming up, and that I'd not be able to play in the main event I wanted to at least bring her to the event to show her the range of people who play this game she's started to play.

We walked in on Saturday about the end of round 3 and she was stunned at how many people were there. And then seeing that there were several female players and quite a few younger players she got really excited that she wouldn't be the only one of either if she played more.

On a lark I signed us up for a side event draft as she's been wanting to draft (and it's what our FNM is) and gave her a little coaching in advance. When we sat down with our pod, I warned everyone it was her first draft and asked for patience and everyone was super cool about it.

When the draft started the Judge was awesome in explaining things to her and away we went. She built a passable B/W warriors deck but missed some sweet picks along the way.

The two best parts of this story happen now though. The player to her left was passed a Sarkhan in the 3rd pack. 2nd pick. She passed it because she wasn't familiar with planeswalkers much and didn't want to take a card she couldn't play. He looked at me and showed me and offered me the card at the end of the draft just as a nice-guy move. I appreciated that as I've been on that end before and it always feels weird when a new player passes you a money card.

The second thing that sticks in my mind is in the game she played (single elimination bracket) her opponent was super patient with her explaining the options she had for her moves on the board. Afterwards she shook his hand like I've taught her to do and said Good Game.

Even though she lost 0-2 she had more fun than I thought and was so pumped for the game that she watched the finals on twitch from home the next night.

Another awesome story of the community here making others feel welcome and awesome."

A member of the Wotc team saw the thread and replied with this:

"Hey Conrey, can you message me your address and your daughter's name? I'd love to send her a care package from Wizards! (Be sure to message me and not reply to this, I don't want you posting your info publicly!)

And a few days later this is what turned up (see photo)

Full Photo Gallery -
Source -

Well done Wizards of the Coast, you did right.

Check out the latest Fate Reforged cards and pre-order here -

Add/Follow us on Facebook and get involved with the community! -

Useful UK Magic The Gathering Facebook Groups & Forums here -

Get your Magic cards here -
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Michael Habib's profile photoEve Viscerator's profile photoRon Albury's profile photoKimberly Chapman's profile photo
That's awesome!  Definitely made of win.  Look at that smile! :D
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A really neat plant with an unusual life history and essentially parasitic, subterranean growth (except the surface flowers).
#RhizanthellaGardneri, also known as Western #Underground #Orchid, was discovered in the spring of 1928 in Western Australia. This particular orchid is a myco-heterotroph as it relies completely on the broom honeymyrtle and fungus for its nutrients and carbon dioxide. It reproduces both #asexual and #sexual, where underground insects such as termites and gnats are known to pollinate the flowers. #iucnredlist #endangeredspecies #plants
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+Jean Souza for the gnats man, for the gnats :)
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Michael Habib

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Tropical pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes are some of my favorite organisms (I've grown quite a few of them over the years). The biology of these carnivorous plants is fascinating, and the optimal prey capture conditions present some neat tradeoff systems.
"Dr. Ulrike Bauer from Bristol's School of Biological Sciences and colleagues studied tropical pitcher plants that use slippery pitfall traps to capture insects.
Dr Bauer said: "The plant's key trapping surface is extremely slippery when wet but not when dry. For up to eight hours during dry days, these traps are 'switched off' and do not capture any of their insect visitors. At first sight, this is puzzling because natural selection should favour traps that catch as many insects as possible."
Surveys of wild plants in Borneo revealed that the traps sporadically captured large 'batches' of ants from the same species. The researchers then conducted experiments in which they artificially kept the trapping surfaces wet all the time. They found that wetted plants no longer captured large 'batches' of ants.
"Ants are social insects," Dr Bauer explained. "Individual 'scout' ants search the surroundings of the nest for profitable food sources. When they find a pitcher trap full of sweet nectar, they go back to the colony and recruit many more ant workers. However, a trap that is super-slippery all the time will capture most of these scout ants and cut off its own prey supply."
The researchers found that ant recruitment was impeded when the traps were continually kept wet".

Insect-eating pitcher plants temporarily 'switch off' their traps in order to lure more prey into danger, new research from the University of Bristol, UK, and the University of Cambridge, UK, has found.
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Assistant Professor, Cell and Neurobiology
Anatomy, Biomechanics, Paleontology
  • University of Southern California
    Assistant Professor, Cell and Neurobiology, 2012 - present
    I teach Clinical Human Anatomy (Cadaveric). I research biomechanics, paleontology, robotics and comparative anatomy. Growing interest in astrobiology.
  • Chatham University
    Assistant Professor of Biology, 2009 - 2012
    I taught Clinical Human Anatomy (Cadaveric), Evolution, and Biostatistics. I had a fruitful research program in biomechanics, paleontology, and comparative anatomy.
  • National Aquarium
    Animal Husbandry: Rainforest, 2001 - 2001
    I provided animal care at the National Aquarium for reptiles, birds, and invertebrates. (
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Los Angeles
Baltimore - Ellicott City - Charlottesville - Pittsburgh
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Paleontologist. Gets to play with flying reptiles, dinosaurs, and swarms for a living. Enjoys tea and Kung Fu off the job.
I spend my time teaching human gross anatomy and studying strange creatures from the deep past of Earth's history. I am particularly fond of publishing works on giant flying reptiles. When not contemplating the fossil record I can be found studying Kung Fu and growing orchids.

(Profile photo by Gus Ruelas)

My Curriculum Vitae

Some of my recent papers:

Han G, Chiappe LM, Ji S-A, Habib M, Turner AH, Chinsamy A, Liu X, and Han L. 2014. A New Raptorial Dinosaur with Exceptionally Long Feathering provides Insights into Dromaeosaurid Flight Performance. Nature Communications. 5 (4382)

Chiappe LM, Zhao B, O’Connor JK, Chunling G, Wang X, Habib M, Marugan-Lobon J, Meng Q, Cheng X. 2014. A new specimen of the Early Cretaceous bird Hongshanornis longicresta: insights into the aerodynamics and diet of a basal ornithuromorph. PeerJ 2:e234 

Hone DWE, Habib MB, Lamanna MC. 2013. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of Solnhofen (Upper Jurassic, Germany) pterosaur specimens at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Annals of Carnegie Musuem 82(2): 149-175.

Habib M. 2013. Constraining the Air Giants: Limits on size in flying animals as an example of constraint-based biomechanical theories of form. Biological Theory: Special Volume doi: 10.1007/s13752-013-0118-y

Habib M. 2010. The structural mechanics and evolution of aquaflying birds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 99(4): 687-698

Habib M.  2008. Comparative evidence for quadrupedal launch in pterosaurs. Pp 161-168 in Buffetaut E, and DWE Hone, eds.  Wellnhofer Pterosaur Meeting: Zitteliana B28

Bragging rights
I was selected as one of the "Brilliant 10" in Popular Science Magazine for 2014. My research was featured as one of the top 100 stories of 2009 by Discover Magazine.
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    Anatomy (Ph.D.), 2004 - 2011
  • University of Virginia
    Biology (M.S.), 2001 - 2004
  • University of Virginia
    Biology (B.A.), 1998 - 2001
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