My wife and I have the weirdest conversations, and I absolutely love that. I am a lucky man. I found someone who can turn her magical perspective into a set of tiny numbers in a computer that we perceive as colors that are then assembled into a picture that makes me laugh. This person is called an “artist.” The result is this week’s comic. There’s a video version of this post available, too.
A few weeks ago, I made a video about hydra, the little freshwater creatures, not the mythical beast or the Marvel villains. I got people up in my comments talking about a conspiracy theory I’d never heard of. According to this theory, “THEY” are adding HYDRA to the vaccines (along with NANOCHIPS with NANO-ONIONS)! My cat is more wise than i am with regard to YouTube comments (in that he has no idea they exist).
So, I started reading about what the best practices are for talking with conspiracy theory believers and science deniers. And that led to the video I uploaded last weekend.
I was inspired by this talk by Naomi Oreskes called “Why Trust Science?” Dr. Oreskes wrote a book about that topic that was published before COVID-19. It is especially relevant now, thanks to all of the anti-science talk on social media. She asks a simple but important question: why should we trust science, and more practically, why should people trust scientists?
Ultimately, scientists are people. Science is a human endeavor. There will be problems. But scientists are accountable to reality. Scientists are accountable to experiment. Scientists are accountable to observation and data. That’s the final, highest authority.
On a mostly unrelated note, here are two terrible aquatic creature jokes I made up:
- What do you call a baby frog caught in a storm? A SQUALL-iwog.
- What’s a jellyfish’s favorite exercise? Pull Ups (polyps).
I got to thinking about humanized organisms while I was reading about hydra. Hydra make good models to study the biology of aging because they seem to be immortal: they don’t seem to age at all. If we knew how they accomplished it, it might help us understand how to slow aging. How do we know that they don’t age?
Prof. Daniel Martinez observed groups of hydra for years. He carefully fed them and kept them in separate tubes. Each one was observed making buds – little baby hydra – but the old hydra was put into a fresh tube alone every time. The researchers waited for any of them to get old and die… and none did. Well, maybe they didn’t wait long enough? We can only compare them to other creatures in the same weight class.
Longevity tracks body size and time to first offspring. So orcas (weight 1 million grams, first offspring at 25 years) live far longer than voles (weight 10 grams, first offspring within a few weeks of birth). Hydra weigh in at a fraction of a gram and have their first offspring a few days after being born. But they are still alive and reproducing for years, thousands of times longer than the trend would predict.
What allows hydra to accomplish this? How do they regenerate? What’s special about their stem cells that they don’t deplete? Can we study hydra in a way that’s relevant to human longevity?Continue reading
Killifish are really interesting organisms for scientific experiments. They are vertebrates, so they are closer to us genetically than insects or worms. But they are a lot easier to grow and care for then mice or rats. Some killifish have life spans of only three months. This makes them very attractive as aging model animals. If treatment extends their lifespan, you only have to wait 3 months to find out. With mice, you have to wait for several years. This paper discusses another cool feature of the killifish model animal. Some kinds of killifish can go into a kind of suspended animation. I did not know that and it is fascinating.
This article discusses a new composite silicon/carbon material for hosting lithium ions. Cramming lithium ions into a silicon matrix makes for an even higher energy battery than a standard lithium-ion battery. unfortunately, silicon expands under these conditions and can destroy the battery. By incorporating the silicon into a carbon matrix, these researchers increase the conductivity and the resilience of the battery to multiple charger Cycles. The result was a very nice paper. I love that they tried to make their composite material from readily available substances.
— New Scientist (@newscientist) February 18, 2020
Why do we go gray after stress? Linkages between nerves and stem cells in our hair follicles! This happened to me in the month before my dissertation: I got gray in my beard. So strange.
I am not an economist, but I think this talk articulates important issues. Larger cohorts have a strange weight in democracies.
ha ha happy new year pic.twitter.com/29c2r0hrBk
— Gregor Czaykowski (@LoadingArtist) January 22, 2020