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In 10 minutes we’ll be hanging out with Dr. +Miguel Nicolelis, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Psychology and Neuroscience at +Duke University and Co-Director of Duke’s Center for Neuroengineering. Hope you can join us! Feel free to submit your questions using the Q & A app.
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Please join us on 5/5 for a +Science on Google+ HOA with Dr.+Miguel Nicolelis, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Neuroscience at +Duke University, and founder of Duke's Center for Neuroengineering. Dr. Nicolelis is a pioneer in neuronal population coding (simultaneously recording from hundreds to thousands of neurons), Brain Machine Interface (controlling robotic or avatar limbs with thoughts), neuroprosthetics (prosthetic limbs that directly communicate with sensory and motor cortices), and Brain to Brain Interface (tactile or visual information encoded by rat 1 is decoded by rat 2). Dr. Nicolelis has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, with many of these publications appearing in high impact journals such as Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (see below for a short list of publications). More recently, Dr. Nicolelis’ research made it possible for a quadriplegic child to use his mind to control a bionic exoskeleton and kickoff the opening game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

RSVP “yes” to add this event to your calendar. We will open up the Q & A app so feel free to post your questions on this event post or by using the app during the hangout.

Relevant Links:
Faculty page: http://goo.gl/qs8NfM 
Lab page: http://www.nicolelislab.net 
2012 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/kxCxT8 
2014 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/23OqmV 
Book: http://goo.gl/x7Kg5J 

Relevant Readings (see http://goo.gl/nQadag for a more exhaustive list):

Schwarz D, Lebedev MA, Tate A, Hanson T, Lehew G, Melloy J, Dimitrov D, Nicolelis MAL. Chronic, Wireless Recordings of Large Scale Brain Activity in Freely Moving Rhesus Monkeys. Nat. Methods doi:10.1038/nmeth.2936, 2014.

Thomson EE, Carra R, Nicolelis MAL. Perceiving Invisible Light through a Somatosensory Cortical Prosthesis. Nat. Commun.10.1038/ncomms2497, 2013.

Ifft P, Shokur S, Li Z, Lebedev MA, Nicolelis MAL. A Brain-Machine Interface Enables Bimanual Arm Movements in Monkeys. Sci. Transl. Med. 5: 210, DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3006159, 2013.

Shokur S, O’Doherty J.E., Winans J.A., Bleuler H., Lebedev M.A., Nicolelis M.A.L. Expanding the primate body schema in sensorimotor cortex by virtual touches of an avatar. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110: 15121-6, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308459110, 2013.

O’Doherty JE, Lebedev MA, Ifft PJ, Zhuang KZ, Shokur S, Bleuler H, Nicolelis MAL. Active tactile exploration enabled by a brain-machine-brain interface. Nature 479: 228-231, 2011.

Fuentes R, Petersson P, Siesser WB, Caron MG, Nicolelis MAL. Spinal Cord Stimulation Restores Locomotion in Animal Models of Parkinson’s disease. Science 323: 1578-82, 2009.

Pereira A, Ribeiro S, Wiest M, Moore LC, Pantoja J, Lin S-C, Nicolelis MAL. Processing of tactile information by the  hippocampus. PNAS 104: 18286-18291 (Epub) November 2007.

Krupa DJ, Wiest, MC, Laubach M, Nicolelis MAL Layer specific somatosensory cortical activation during active tactile discrimination   Science 304: 1989-1992, 2004.

Nicolelis MAL, Dimitrov DF, Carmena J, Crist R, Lehew G, Kralik J, Wise S. Chronic, multi-site, multi-electrode recordings in macaque monkeys. PNAS 100: 11041-11046, 2003.

Nicolelis MAL. Actions from thoughts. Nature 409: 403-407, 2001.

Image Sources:
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http://goo.gl/FlChhV
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Please join us on 5/5 for a +Science on Google+ HOA with Dr.+Miguel Nicolelis, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Neuroscience at +Duke University, and founder of Duke's Center for Neuroengineering. Dr. Nicolelis is a pioneer in neuronal population coding (simultaneously recording from hundreds to thousands of neurons), Brain Machine Interface (controlling robotic or avatar limbs with thoughts), neuroprosthetics (prosthetic limbs that directly communicate with sensory and motor cortices), and Brain to Brain Interface (tactile or visual information encoded by rat 1 is decoded by rat 2). Dr. Nicolelis has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, with many of these publications appearing in high impact journals such as Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (see below for a short list of publications). More recently, Dr. Nicolelis’ research made it possible for a quadriplegic child to use his mind to control a bionic exoskeleton and kickoff the opening game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

RSVP “yes” to add this event to your calendar. We will open up the Q & A app so feel free to post your questions on this event post or by using the app during the hangout.

Relevant Links:
Faculty page: http://goo.gl/qs8NfM 
Lab page: http://www.nicolelislab.net 
2012 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/kxCxT8 
2014 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/23OqmV 
Book: http://goo.gl/x7Kg5J 

Relevant Readings (see http://goo.gl/nQadag for a more exhaustive list):

Schwarz D, Lebedev MA, Tate A, Hanson T, Lehew G, Melloy J, Dimitrov D, Nicolelis MAL. Chronic, Wireless Recordings of Large Scale Brain Activity in Freely Moving Rhesus Monkeys. Nat. Methods doi:10.1038/nmeth.2936, 2014.

Thomson EE, Carra R, Nicolelis MAL. Perceiving Invisible Light through a Somatosensory Cortical Prosthesis. Nat. Commun.10.1038/ncomms2497, 2013.

Ifft P, Shokur S, Li Z, Lebedev MA, Nicolelis MAL. A Brain-Machine Interface Enables Bimanual Arm Movements in Monkeys. Sci. Transl. Med. 5: 210, DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3006159, 2013.

Shokur S, O’Doherty J.E., Winans J.A., Bleuler H., Lebedev M.A., Nicolelis M.A.L. Expanding the primate body schema in sensorimotor cortex by virtual touches of an avatar. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110: 15121-6, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308459110, 2013.

O’Doherty JE, Lebedev MA, Ifft PJ, Zhuang KZ, Shokur S, Bleuler H, Nicolelis MAL. Active tactile exploration enabled by a brain-machine-brain interface. Nature 479: 228-231, 2011.

Fuentes R, Petersson P, Siesser WB, Caron MG, Nicolelis MAL. Spinal Cord Stimulation Restores Locomotion in Animal Models of Parkinson’s disease. Science 323: 1578-82, 2009.

Pereira A, Ribeiro S, Wiest M, Moore LC, Pantoja J, Lin S-C, Nicolelis MAL. Processing of tactile information by the  hippocampus. PNAS 104: 18286-18291 (Epub) November 2007.

Krupa DJ, Wiest, MC, Laubach M, Nicolelis MAL Layer specific somatosensory cortical activation during active tactile discrimination   Science 304: 1989-1992, 2004.

Nicolelis MAL, Dimitrov DF, Carmena J, Crist R, Lehew G, Kralik J, Wise S. Chronic, multi-site, multi-electrode recordings in macaque monkeys. PNAS 100: 11041-11046, 2003.

Nicolelis MAL. Actions from thoughts. Nature 409: 403-407, 2001.

Image Sources:
http://goo.gl/9pCg8d
http://goo.gl/FlChhV
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California Water Cycle

Water cycle modeling connects the physics between groundwater, surface water, and the atmosphere. +Jason Davison models the complete California system using 3D models, and explores the feedbacks between the two systems. 

Check out his work below and at the European Geophysical Union (EGU) on Monday morning (April 13). 
 
Water Cycle Modeling

I coupled HydroGeoSphere (HGS), a three-dimensional integrated surface and subsurface flow and energy transport model, to Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF), a nonhydrostatic Mesoscale three-dimensional numerical weather model. HGS replaced the land surface components of WRF and provides the evapotranspiration and saturation from the porous media to the atmosphere. WRF provides HGS with the potential evapotranspiration and precipitation. 

I'm currently working on modeling all of California, with the goal of finding the relationship between water resources and the climate. We are also looking at the current drought in California and study the future climate under the new precipitation patterns. 

Our work on California is still in the early stages and our results are showing the initial spin-up period before quasi-equilibrium. I'm presenting my research at the  Universität Tübingen this week and to EGU (Monday, 13th morning) next week. 

Please learn more about my research at JasonDavison.com!

#california   #climate   #science   #climatechange   #drought   #water  
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In 5 minutes we’ll be discussing Developmental Robotics with Dr. +Matthew Schlesinger, Associate Professor of Psychology from SIU. Hope you can join us!
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Please join us on 4/6 for a Developmental Science HOA with Dr.+Matthew Schlesinger, Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Illinois University and director of the SIU Vision Lab. Matthew Schlesinger received his graduate degree in cognitive development from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995. After spending a year as a visiting lecturer in psychology at Berkeley, Dr. Schlesinger received a Fulbright fellowship to study artificial life models of sensorimotor cognition with Domenico Parisi at the Italian National Research Council in Rome. Dr. Schlesinger continued his postdoctoral work in 1998-2000 with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts, studying machine-learning approaches to adaptive motor control.  He is currently involved in three areas of research:  (1) visual attention and spatial working memory in infants, children, and adults, (2) neural network models of early visual processing and oculomotor control, and (3) neural substrates of working memory and spatial-directed attention. 

RSVP “yes” if you want to add this event to your calendar.

Relevant Links:
Faculty page: http://goo.gl/JZro2y 
Lab page: http://goo.gl/5mxvZA 
Developmental Robotics Book: http://goo.gl/NEpoBg 
ICDL-EpiRob Conference:  http://goo.gl/KfnvG 

Relevant Readings:
Schlesinger, M., Johnson, S.P., & Amso, D.  (2014).  Prediction-learning in infants as a mechanism for gaze control during object exploration. Frontiers in Perception Science, 5, 1-12.  http://goo.gl/ZiXuDo 

Schlesinger, M., & McMurray, B. (2012). The past, present, and future of computational models of cognitive development. Cognitive Development, 27, 326-348.  http://goo.gl/T8Bgnd 

Schlesinger, M., Johnson, S.P., & Amso, D.  (2014).  Learnability of infants’ center-of-gaze sequences predicts their habituation and posthabituation looking time. In Proceedings of the Fourth Joint IEEE Conference on Development and Learning and on Epigenetic Robotics (pp. 267-272). New York: IEEE. http://goo.gl/qEc54G
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Really interesting HOA, +Matthew Schlesinger. Thanks. Hopefully we can continue our discussion in the very near future! Here's the link if you're interested in picking up the Developmental Robotics book (see below). I have also provided the link to the upcoming ICDL-EpiRob Conference, as well as Dr. Schlesinger's lab/faculty pages.

Developmental Robotics Book: http://goo.gl/NEpoBg 
ICDL-EpiRob Conference:  http://goo.gl/KfnvG 
Faculty page: http://goo.gl/JZro2y 
Lab page: http://goo.gl/5mxvZA 
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Please join us on 3/4 for a Developmental Science HOA with Dr.+Laura Wagner, Associate Professor of Psychology at +The Ohio State University and director of the Developmental Language and Cognition Lab. Dr. Wagner studies how children acquire language, and in particular, how they learn about meaning. Her research has looks at various dimensions of meaning, including children's understanding of temporal and event semantics (especially the linguistic category of aspect), and their understanding of social indexical meanings coded in dialect and register. She conducts her studies at her lab on OSU's campus, and also at the Columbus Center of Science and Industry (+COSI). We will enable the Q & A app prior to the HOA so feel free to posts your questions on the event post or by using the app. RSVP “yes” to add this event to your calendar.

Relevant Links:
Faculty page: http://goo.gl/la3xYa 
Lab page: http://goo.gl/CduTn0 
Buckeye Language Network: http://goo.gl/YA6dNW 

Relevant Readings:
Wagner, L., Clopper, C. G., & Pate, J. (2014).  Children’s perception of dialect variation. Journal of Child Language, 41, 1062 – 1084. http://goo.gl/aFFmPc

Clopper, C., Rohrbeck, K. L. & Wagner, L. (2013). Perception of talker age by young adults with High-Functioning Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 134 - 146. http://goo.gl/oyf8uD 

Wagner, L. (2010). Acquisition of Semantics. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1 (4), 519 - 526. http://goo.gl/8H9rct 
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We will be hanging out with Dr. +Miguel Nicolelis tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 (ET). Here's the link (http://goo.gl/Wlv006) if you want to watch the HOA.
 
Dr. +Miguel Nicolelis is a pioneer in neuronal population coding (simultaneously recording from hundreds to thousands of neurons), Brain Machine Interface (controlling robotic or avatar limbs with thoughts), neuroprosthetics (prosthetic limbs that directly communicate with sensory and motor cortices), and Brain to Brain Interface (tactile or visual information encoded by rat 1 is decoded by rat 2). Check out this video if you are not familiar with his work. We will be hanging out with Dr. Nicolelis tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 (ET). Here's the link (http://goo.gl/Wlv006) if you would like to watch the HOA
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Science vs. Chipotle

Now that the fast food chain is going GMO-free in response to public sentiment, not science, it's a good time to remind our readers of some GMO myths. Remember, Jane Goodall knows her primates but apparently not molecular biology.
 
Busting a few GMO Myths

I'm reposting this from a discussion on my Facebook wall.

A little while back, I posted the attached link about Jane Goodall, and it sparked a conversation about GMOs.  Some of the things that people were saying are frequently-repeated misconceptions about genetic modification, so I think my attempt to clear up the confusion is worth reposting here.  I'll update, maybe, as the conversation evolves.  I'm bolding the (edited) claims, and leaving my responses unformatted.

Claim: Science doesn't say things like "GMOs are safe."  Anyone advocating GMOs is a business person, because scientific claims are more contextual than that, and there's no preponderance of evidence.

Response:

That's absurd. There's a tremendous amount of peer reviewed evidence that GMOs are in no way harmful. Asserting that anyone disputing claims that they pose health risks is a "business person" is just as crazy as saying that anyone claiming that climate change is a real problem is being paid off by the government (or whatever). It's a conspiracy theory, and it's irrational.

The parallels between climate deniers and GMO skeptics are striking and obvious. In both cases, there's a strong scientific consensus about the right answer to some question, along with a popular rejection of that scientific consensus. Virtually every study done on GMOs has shown that they pose absolutely no additional health risk to human beings; asserting that GMOs are safe is absolutely a scientific position. I'm not sure what you mean when you say that "science is contextual." Yes, of course we haven't done every single test possible on the health risks associated with consuming GMOs in every possible circumstance. We don't know if they pose a health risk when consumed on Mars, while standing on your head, while sitting in a bathtub full of homemade gin, and so on; to be skeptical of their general safety on that basis is totally insane, though. 

By every indicator we have, they're perfectly safe, and it's reasonable to base our opinion on the best science we currently have. Claiming that any scientist (that includes me, by the way!) who agrees that GMOs are safe is a shill for agribusiness is exactly the same thing as claiming that any scientist who claims vaccines are safe is a shill for "big pharma." It's a completely unwarranted conspiracy theory. Of course science can't make a claim like "All GMOs are completely risk free for every person in all circumstances," but that's a strawman--no one is making that claim. The claim is that based on all the evidence we have, GMOs are pose no more health risks than non-GMO crops for the majority of people. There are, of course, people out there who might have allergies to some component in GMO foods, just as there are people who have allergies to some components of vaccinations. However, that has absolutely no bearing on their general safety, and (again) we have strong evidence that they are indeed safe.

Just as with climate change, it's really, really important that people keep abreast of the genuine research on this issue before making claims like this. In both cases (as well as with vaccinations), the body of scientific literature is extensive, and the evidence is firmly on one side of the issue. Climate change is real, GMOs are safe, and vaccines save lives. Disputing any of those points is to go against the scientific consensus. In all cases, of course, research is ongoing and always evolving. It's possible that we'll discover some hidden danger associated with GMOs, just as it's possible that we'll discover that we've been entirely mistaken about anthropogenic climate change. Basing beliefs or public policy on the unsupported supposition that future research will overturn the current consensus, though, is crazy.

Claim: Glyphosate is incredibly dangerous.  It's been linked to Celiac disease (citing http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/), as well as the widespread die-off of honeybees.

Response:

The first (and most important) point here is that even if glyphosate is actually dangerous to humans (a claim for which there is virtually no evidence), that's a problem with glyphosate rather than with GMOs. Saying that pesticide resistant GMO crops are inherently dangerous because of the pesticides is absurd--if there's a risk there, it's a risk associated with the pesticide itself, rather than with genetic modification. This is similar to the point about monoculture that I mentioned above--we can say that some of the farming practices associated with GMO agribusiness are suspect without that implying that GMOs themselves are suspect. If I engineer an organism to grow better in the presence of arsenic, and people become sick after consuming the arsenic covered crops, that doesn't show that it was the genetic modification that made people sick--it was the arsenic. Again, there's a strong parallel with climate change here. The fact that some approaches to dealing with global warming (say, geoengineering) carry substantial risks themselves is not evidence that global warming isn't happening, nor is it an argument against trying to deal with the problem in some way.

All that aside, the study that you linked to is itself suspect in a number of different ways. A quick review of the article shows that the authors are basing their conclusions on a single paper out of India from 2009 (http://cropandweed.com/vol5issue1/46.1.html) in which the investigators exposed fish to a "glyphosate containing" (emphasis mine) compound. The researchers found changes in the fish's digestive tract which (in their words) "appeared to resemble Celiac disease." That's not much of a link. I did a little more digging, though, and things are even more suspect. The particular compound that they used in the 2009 study is a commercial compound called "Excel Mera 71" (EM71). EM71 is a terrestrial herbicide--not designed for use in water--that contains, in addition to glyphosate, a number of other compounds--most notably a couple of surfactants. Surfactants aren't used in non-terrestrial applications, as lots of aquatic animal life is known to be vulnerable to it, and the damage associated with surfactants is the sort that the authors noticed in this study. In fact, the National Pesticide Information Center notes that "pure glyphosate is low in toxicity to fish and wildlife, but some products containing glyphosate may be toxic because of the other ingredients in them." Every other study conducted shows that glyphosate is minimally harmful to fish, but compounds that it is mixed with can be harmful, which is why those formulations aren't used in water. The 2009 study on which the Celiac claim is based doesn't take this into account, and fails to control for damage that might have been induced by other compounds in EM71. That's bad science, but jumping from that single study conducted on fish that found damage that looked like Celiac disease to the researchers to the claim that glyphosate causes Celiac disease in humans is beyond bad science: it's fear-mongering that's completely without basis in reality.

So, there are three major things wrong with the claim that GMOs are dangerous because glyphosate might cause Celiac disease: (1) If that's true, it's a risk associated with glyphosate, not GMOs. (2) The proposed glyphosate/Celiac link itself is based on a single study of EM71's damage to fish, and (3) the fish study itself was methodologically suspect. That's very unconvincing.

Honeybee colony collapse disorder is indeed worrying, but I've never seen a single plausible paper suggesting that it's linked to GMOs directly. There are a lot of proposed mechanisms on the table, and we're still trying to figure out what's going on. However, none of the proposed mechanisms blame genetic modification. In fact, the biggest metastudy done on that question (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2169303/) found that there is no discernable link between GMOs and honeybee health. Even when exposed directly (and exclusively) to Bt crops, bee fertility, larvae viability, or adult lifespan. Blaming colony collapse on GMOs is completely unwarranted speculation that isn't backed up by science.

Claim: Saying "GMOs are no more dangerous than other crops" isn't the same as saying "GMOs are safe."  Some GMOs are bred to require more water, or encourage more pesticide use.  Pesticides can run off into the water supply, and that's really bad.

Response:

I suppose "no safer than non-GMO food" isn't the same as "safe," that's true. That seems like sort of a peculiar point, though. There are risks associated with agriculture, especially the large-scale industrial agriculture (which is one of the largest contributors to climate change, incidentally) that we practice in much of the world now. I'm happy to admit that, and I share your concern about water table contamination and water use--I'm quite worried about that stuff as well.

However, I think framing this stuff in terms of GMO vs. non-GMO food muddies the water (so to speak) of the debate, and distracts from the very real problems associated with industrial farming practices. Worrying that genetic modification as a practice is dangerous, or claiming (as Goodall does here) that we're "poisoning ourselves" with GMOs confuses one problem with another, which makes it harder to solve the real problem. Genetically modified food itself poses no health hazard, according to the best scientific evidence we have. GMOs are not poison, or even risky as far as we can tell.

Now, if it's true that some GMO crops need more water to grow (a claim for which I'd like to see a citation), that's a concern. However, framing the problem in terms of an issue with GMOs themselves also blocks off a potential avenue for solving the problem: engineering crops that require less water to thrive. A cursory Google search shows that at least some people are actively working on this idea (http://12.000.scripts.mit.edu/.../genetically-modified.../). That's wonderful. If the public narrative is dominated by claims that GMOs are inherently unsafe, though, that makes it that much harder for these sorts of crops to come into wide use, which makes the problem significantly worse.

Similarly, if we're worried about pesticide runoff into lakes and rivers (which we should be!), framing the problem in terms of a risk associated with genetic modification just makes it that much harder to solve. A significant number of genetic modifications are actually designed to produce crops that don't require pesticides in virtue of allowing the plant itself to produce proteins that harm local pests. This piece from the New York Times discusses one such crop, a genetically modified species of eggplant being grown in some places in Africa, which has been engineered to be toxic to the most pervasive local pest: http://mobile.nytimes.com/.../how-i-got-converted-to-gmo...

Using that crop seems unequivocally great. It's helping the environment by decreasing the use of pesticides, and it's helping a small subsistence farmer make a better living. However, the crop has met with considerable resistance from environmental activists who oppose its use purely on the grounds that it is genetically modified. This reflects a lack of scientific understanding on the part of the activists, and has the potential to do a lot of damage, both environmentally and economically. That's the problem with framing this debate in terms of GMO-associated dangers. It obfuscates the real problem, and can prevent real, helpful solutions that benefit both people and the environment.

Claim: I guess I'll just have to trust you on this

Response: 

No, don't trust me on this! I'm incredibly untrustworthy in general, but at least when it comes to climate change I've done an extensive amount of real original work on the issue, and am an expert in my own right. I'm not an expert on GMOs. However, I am a scientist and I have a tremendous amount of trust in the scientific method and institution. I'm happy to put my faith in my colleagues working on this issue, just as I'd hope that they'd put their trust in me and my fellow climate change researchers when it comes to AGW. I'm basing my claims here on the existence of a strong consensus among those who are experts on this issue. That's the only reasonable position to take with respect to any complicated issue in which I'm not an expert. If the people who know the most about this stuff overwhelmingly say that it's safe, I'm very inclined to believe them.

#GMO   #gmofree   #environmentalism   #scienceeveryday  
Primatologist Jane Goodall is speaking in Salt Lake City at a sold-out event Friday evening about her work and the future of chimpanzees. But in the
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 Years ago i flogged a friend with a green stalk of hygromycin resistant tobacco resulting in mild skin swelling, no effects in the progeny tough..... 
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Dr. Theodore (Ted) P. Pavlic, Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering at +Arizona State University. +Ted Pavlic received his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2010 from The Ohio State University where he learned to combine behavioral ecology and control theory to build algorithms that allow automation to make flexible decisions that are rational with respect to the current environment. Inspiration came from optimal foraging theory and cooperative breeding, and target applications ranged from military to the sustainable built environment. From 2010 to 2012, he worked as a postdoctoral scholar in Computer Science and Engineering studying cyber-physical systems of the future composed of fully autonomous and human driven cars operating in parallel in the cities of the near future. Since 2012, he has worked as a research scientist at Arizona State University in the social-insect laboratory of Stephen Pratt studying the collective decision-making processes of ants and honeybees. Not only have these studies inspired novel stochastic programming techniques for swarm robotics, but these animal models are also providing insights into the information structures that emerged at the origins of life. In August of 2015, he will join the engineering faculty of Arizona State University where he will use a variety of theoretical, computational, and empirical methods to study decision-making and organization across a wide range of artificial and natural systems. Potential graduate students interested in trans-disciplinary explorations of decision making are welcome to contact him to discuss opportunities.

Links
Personal website in desperate need of updating:
http://www.tedpavlic.com/

Current host (Stephen Pratt) laboratory for ant work: 
http://pratt.lab.asu.edu/

Collaborator (Sara Imari Walker) laboratory for info. theory work:
http://emergence.asu.edu/

Recommended Readings
Sean Wilson, Theodore P. Pavlic, Ganesh P. Kumar, Aurélie Buffin, Stephen C. Pratt, and Spring Berman. Design of ant-inspired stochastic control policies for collective transport by robotic swarms. Swarm Intelligence, 8(4):303–327, December 2014.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11721-014-0100-8

Theodore P. Pavlic, Alyssa M. Adams, Paul C. W. Davies, and Sara Imari Walker. Self-referencing cellular automata: A model of the evolution of information control in biological systems. In: Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE 14), pages 522–529, July 31 – August 2, 2014.
http://dx.doi.org/10.7551/978-0-262-32621-6-ch083

Theodore P. Pavlic and Stephen C. Pratt. Superorganismic behavior via human computation. In: Pietro Michelucci, editor, Handbook of Human Computation, pages 911–960. Springer, 2013.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-8806-4_74
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I was only able to catch the last 5 min live. I am very interested in this talk and hope to find the time to watch it all soon.
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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs!

The Science behind Egg Color: bile pigments, transporters and retroviruses.
 
Do You Like Green Eggs And Ham?

Yes, I like them, Sam-I-Am
White eggs, Brown eggs,  Pink ones too
But Tell me, how Do they turn Blue?
(With apologies to Dr. Seuss) 

Egg color in birds evolved for obvious reasons of camouflage and recognition, and for less obvious reasons such as thermal regulation, protection against UV light, and even antimicrobial defense. Chicken eggs are commonly white (no pigment), or brown (protoporphyrin). Rare breeds from China and Chile lay blue eggs, colored by the bile pigment biliverdin, a breakdown product of the hemoglobin in red blood cells.  Biliverdin is normally excreted by liver cells into the bile. So how does it end up in the egg shell? 

Organic anion transporters are proteins that move a large number of compounds- drugs, toxins, hormones and bile pigments, across cell membranes, as part of the liver's detoxifying day job. Genetic sleuthing mapped the blue color trait to a region of a chicken chromosome. Here was a gene for a transporter protein, SLCO1B3, that could provide blue-green biliverdin to color the shell. But why was the gene inexplicably turned on only in the shell gland of the blue egg laying chicken?

Endogenous retroviruses (ERV) are ancient viruses that inserted randomly into the genomes of prehistoric birds. One such viral fragment inserted right next to the SLCO1B3 gene in blue egg laying chickens, where it behaved like an accidental transcription enhancer, or "on switch". Because of its sequence, scientists speculate that it mediates estrogen specific regulation, accounting for the high levels of the biliverdin transport protein in the shell gland. Although this story nicely explains our Seussian curiosity about green eggs and ham, it also shows how viruses shape diversity in the living world. For example, an insertion of the avian leukosis virus inside a gene for the enzyme tyrosinase results in white plumage in chickens. Viral insertions can also be incredibly harmful, triggering cancer when they accidentally turn on oncogenes.

REFS (open access papers): http://goo.gl/3yJ1FS and http://goo.gl/ypZyCF

Fun Fact: Green Eggs and Ham, published in 1960, is one of the best selling and most beloved children's books of all time. It has just 50 words, and was written by Dr. Seuss in response to a bet by his publisher. 

Photo: Tammy Riojas, Elgin, TX;

H/T to +Lorna Salgado for posting the news story that led to this   #ScienceSunday  post. 
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Water Absorption

Here's the interesting science behind water absorption by polymers found in diapers to satisfy your #ScienceSunday  curiosity!
 
Sodium polyacrylate: The fluff that absorbs water!

❅ Sodium polyacrylate is an example of a super-absorbing polymer. It is a cross-linked (network) polymer that contains sodium atoms. It absorbs water by a process called osmosis. 

Explanation from; http://goo.gl/IPzPU2 (h/t +Rajini Rao)

The white powder is a polymer of sodium polyacrylate. The particles have a membrane of the polyacrylate which surrounds the sodium ions. By the process of osmosis, the water is attracted to the sodium polyacrylate because it contains sodium ions (an ion that you would find in table salt).

It expands the crystals of the powder and makes it into solid like gel. This is an example of an osmosis process reaction involving a polymer. Sodium polyacrylate contains a high number of sodium ions within each particle. Water is highly attracted to sodium ions. So when the water is poured into the beaker containing the sodium polyacrylate, it moves into the individual powder particles and expands the polymer particles to become a solid like gel.

❄  Sodium polyacrylate can absorb 800 times its weight in distilled water, but only 300 times its weight in tap water, since tap water contains some sodium, calcium and other mineral salts.

Source : http://goo.gl/PwVwUT   #sciencesunday   #scienceeveryday   #chemistry  
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Happy Darwin Day

In celebration of Charles Darwin's 206th birthday, here is a post on how species continue to evolve to this day. Speciation caught in the act! 
#DarwinDay  
 
Evolution of a Species

Assortive Mating: The diversity of lifeforms on our planet is central to evolution. But how do new species form? A key step is assortive mating, when individuals use physical or vocal cues to choose mates that resemble themselves. Perhaps natural selection favors offspring from similar matings. Eventually, the populations diverge genetically to the extent that the hybrids are unfit, and separate species emerge.

Caught in the act? Take the curious case of the Australian Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae). There are black and red head color morphs (see image) that prefer to mate with like types. This preference is genetic, as chicks reared by foster parents of different type still prefer to mate with their own head color morph. In fact, the head color and mating preference are tightly linked on the sex chromosome Z (males are ZZ and females are ZW in birds). This lack of "sexual imprinting" is unusual, since most birds get their cues from rearing parents.

Hybrid drama: Both head color types coexist in the same geographical area. Shrinking and unequal populations mean that mates of the same type can be hard to find (the bird is endangered). The birds seem to "make the best of a bad situation" and breed with different head color morphs anyway. But there is a steep price to pay : more than a third of the offspring die. The mortality rate is worse in female chicks, nearly half fail to survive. Curiously, the mothers seem to control for this by producing broods with more males. So, if they are tricked into thinking that their mate is of a different head color  (using bird make-up!) they produce biased broods! All of this suggests that the Gouldian finch may be in the process of splitting into species, unless it becomes extinct before then :(

▪ Images (National Aquarium): http://aqua.org/explore/animals/gouldian-finch

▪ H/T +Mindy Weisberger whose post on the phosphorescence beads marking the gouldian finch chick's mouth (http://goo.gl/Zw8tv) set me off on this evolutionary hunt!

▪ Further readings by Sarah R. Pryke ▶ http://goo.gl/Tngj1
#ScienceEveryday  
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Beautiful colored bird
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