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Gavin Hubbard
Beard enthusiast
Beard enthusiast


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'Bone eating snot flowers' confirmed to have dined on the bones of fallen marine reptiles from about 252 - 66 million years ago.

As illustrated by the excellent Gareth Monger.

My friend Gareth illustrated just this for a blog post I did back in 2013, when it was far more speculative, but now new research has it confirmed. The same creatures that 'drill' into whale bones at the bottom of the ocean to feast on their nutrients also did the same for marine reptiles.

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Pitch for a Guide to the Bacteria and Archaea:

A friend wants to make a book, can you help make it happen? 

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When you think about treating cancer, herpes is probably not the first thing you'd think about. Yet it turns out that that is exactly what a number of researchers are doing.

The trick is finding, or making, a virus which can infect tumour cells while leaving normal 'healthy' cells alone. Sounds hard but it's not impossible. Though there are still problems. For example, the immune system is primed to tackle viruses, it doesn't know the viruses intent and always assumes it's nefarious. Also, keeping the virus where it's needed could be a problem, and thats what the researchers this blog post looks at tried to solve.

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When it comes to viruses like flu, we have very few weapons. Vaccines take time to create and, in the event of a new strain of flu burning through a population, we have very few drugs. And the effectiveness of the drugs we do have looks somewhat questionable at the moment.... This blog post looks at a paper which examined how flu and its host interact on a molecular level. They found a molecule -- called 'NS1' -- which drugs (if we can find them) may be able to target in the future and stop flu infections, and therefore epidemics, in their tracks.

Non-immaculate perception: "Around 0.5% of women consistently affirmed their status as virgins and did not use assisted reproductive technology, yet reported virgin births."

Also, an interesting bit about “born again virgins”.

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I wonder to what extent this is all about perception, or rather mis-perception of risks?
Is this surveillance a concern about terrorist attacks and events causing loss of life on a great scale? In which case, assuming this is a kind of moral and safety argument, is it not morally equivalent to, for example, invest the same time, money and effort in car/road safety--assuming more people die per year in car crashes than in (potential) terrorist attacks? (I haven’t checked)

Or is the potential threat of terrorism more about preventing disruption/upsetting of existing social and political structures? Rarely have I heard people use this as an argument for wholesale monitoring. And does being able to invade the privacy of people, in secrecy and at will, by those in power risk the same thing?

To what extent is there really an economic angle on international security/surveillance, I wonder? For example, stealing intellectual property or attempting to influence foreign policies (or something along those lines) to prevent business/technologies/research with the potential to disrupt economic health back home, to the detriment of other nations. Is this a legitimate use of such surveillance powers?

If something isn’t currently legal, but those in power want it to be once revealed, it’s relatively easy to make it legal. I worry that, in the UK, the argument is too focused on legality, rather than the other factors.

I have no idea, these are musings. But I do know I don’t feel comfortable about the scale, level of intrusion, and power this surveillance brings.
Britain inspects much of the internet traffic that enters or leaves the country. Even innocent material may be stored for several days. Is electronic surveillance excessive? Today at 4pm GMT / 11am EST our International section editor, Edward Lucas, will answer your questions on electronic espionage via Twitter. Pose a question by commenting below or in a tweet using #wdys You will be able to follow the discussion here: or on Twitter via @econdiscuss

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'It’s no secret amongst the UK’s community of science communicators that animal research is one of the most challenging topics to talk to the public about.'

Why the time is right for public engagement with the 3R's:

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So anyway, here's a CARNIVOROUS butterfly...

Well, caterpillar, but still.

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A autumnal themed post for you today.

Why do leaves turn red in autumn? And is there any advantage to it for the tree?
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