Monday, October 31, 2005

October Letters to Discover: Author Information

The October edition of Discover had a couple of notable letter writers. The most controversial was Dr. Ralph G. Walton who disagrees with the below noted article supporting the safety of aspartame. In the letter he refers to a study he had published which is linked below. This came with a somewhat neutral reply from the editors and another reply, at the request of Dicsover, from D. Eric Walters who refutes the claim that aspartame is unsafe.

Walton, Ralph G. - Professor of clinical psychiatry, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine; Rootstown, Ohio
Heading: How Sweet it Isn't
Subject: "Hitting the Sweet Spot" August 2005
Links to the Author: Adverse Reactions to Aspartame:
Double-Blind Challenge in Patients from a Vulnerable Population
, Survey of Aspartame of Studies: Correlation of Outcome and Funding, Department of Psychiatry Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine

Hoffman, Curtiss - Chairman, Department of Anthropology, Bridgewater State College;
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Heading: The Culture Race
Subject: "Are the Desert People Winning?" August 2005
Links to the Author: Dr. Curtiss Hoffman's Homepage, In Fast-growing Area, a Race to Save History-The Boston Globe
Books by the Author: The Seven Story Tower: A Mythic Journey Through Space and Time

Olsen, Doug - Oakland, California
Heading: Creationism, Darwinism, and Beyond
Subject: R & D "23 Years Ago in Discover: Creationism" August 2005
Links to the Author: No definite links

LaTour, Jonathan - Salem, Oregon
Heading: Stop That Panther
Subject: "Dr. Mushroom" July 2005
Links to the Author: No definite links

Letters to Discover: Author information archives


Circus of the Spineless

The second Circus of the Spineless is up at Snail's Tales.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Butterfly Blogging: Gulf Fritillary

This is a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae (Click the pic to enlarge), resting on a chrysanthemum. I took this picture in a flower bed in front of my house last weekend. I was not initially familiar with its identity so I had to refer to my handy insect identification manual from my college entomology course. Here is a page with a good description and a picture from the USGS.

The key Identifiers of this butterfly include the bright orange upperside with black markings and 3 black-encircled white dots on forewing leading edge.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark!

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Random Fatigue Meme

Bludgeoned by afarensis.

1. Of all the books that you have eventually finished after many starts & stops, which one took you the longest and how long did it eventually take?

For me, most books that take over a couple of months, don’t recover from the loss of momentum and are never finished, but the one book that stands out is a biography of T. H. Huxley called Scientist Extraordinary: The Life and Scientific Works of Thomas Henry Huxleyby Cyril Bibby, which took more than half a year. I have mentioned it here before. It was in my medical school library and I read just a few pages at a time during study breaks.

Currently I am reading a book titled Mutants : On Genetic Variety and the Human Body by Armand Leroi, which if I ever finish, will be the record holder, its been over a year and it still sits at my bedside, I read about 4 pages every 2-3 weeks.

2. What great band (or album or song) have you heard so often, you wouldn’t mind never hearing again even though you still think the band (or album or song) is great?

Led Zeppelin IV

3. Which cliché or often cited quote needs to be placed in quarantine for a few decades?

“When in doubt, whip it out.” A useful rule of thumb for the college days, that has since been repressed, but may come roaring back when senility sets in.

4. During the 1990s "Compassion Fatigue" received a lot of press, now the media is giddy with "Donation Fatigue". What will be the next trendy fatigue?

Hopefully it will be political correctness fatigue, or for my medical counterparts, fibromyalgia fatigue.

5. What percentage of respondents will answer "meme fatigue" to question #4?
I looked into some of the previous responses of others. I thought somebody would have despite reasons against it stated by PZ Myers. Although many said that everybody would answer “meme fatigue” they themselves did not and none of the others that I looked at did either.
So my answer is none.

Who to pass it on to? In a similar vein to my last meme's method of selection, I will go from random fatigue to random acts of violence and use the following method: From a random nearby book, PDxMD Differential Diagnosis with Clinical Benchmarks, I randomly placed my finger on 3 words, retrosternal, relevant, and findings. Then I took these words to Google and added blog, and arrived at the following unsuspecting blogs to attack: Sumer's Radiolgy Site, Swords Into Plowshares, hibiscusfire


Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday Invertebrate Blogging: Jumping Spider

This is a Jumping Spider (click the pic to enlarge), from the family Salticidae. When I first saw it, I thought it was a jumping spider from recent photos of similar appearing spiders, but I was not sure exactly which characteristics of the spider made it so. Here is a link to the site I used to ID this spider. This is the key part of the description: "Square-fronted cephalothorax bearing four very large anterior eyes. Legs usually short and stout with the first pair sometimes enlarged". The Wikipedia entry is also very descriptive. When I saw the family name, Salticidae, I immediately thought of a word with the same root, saltatory, as in saltatory conduction. Which is the means by which action potentials travel along myelinated nerve fibers, JUMPING from node (of Ranvier) to node.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark!

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday Farm Blogging: American Buffalo

These are American Buffalos, Bison bison (click the pic to enlarge). I photographed them last week while returning from my trip to see the tree in the silo.Most people know at least a little about these large animals and their history in America. But I photographed, and posted these animals because I haven't seen any on farms around here before.

As usual, Wikipedia provides a good source of information. Here is an interesting paragraph on the interactions between the Native Americans, which provides a perspective that I had not considered before.

Bison were central to the lifestyle of Native Americans of the Great Plains. But there is now some controversy over their interaction. "Hernando De Soto's expedition staggered through the Southeast for four years in the early sixteenth century and saw hordes of people but apparently didn't see a single bison," Charles C. Mann writes in to 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Mann discusses the evidence that North American Indians not only created (by selective use of fire) the large grasslands that provided the bison's ideal habitat, but also kept the bison population regulated. In this theory, it was only when the Indian population was decimated by wave after wave of epidemic (from diseases of Europeans) that the bison herds propagated wildly.

To get a visual image of how just how much buffalo killing went on back then, take a look at this picture of the massive pile of buffalo skulls which can also be seen on the right side of the above mentioned article.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tree Thriving in a Silo: Life will find a way

I recently heard about a beautiful plot of land for sale nearby, so I wanted to go check it out. It is mostly pasture, but the description of the land and how to find it always included something like, "and it has a big silo out in the field with a tree growing out of it." That in itself necessitated a drive out for personal investigation. (Click the pics to enlarge)

My initial reaction was amazement that this tree has made it from this seemingly inhospitable environment of low sunlight to what now looks like guaranteed success, as long as the silo holds up of course.

When I began trying to describe this situation however, I couldn't really make it seem like such an impressive feat, since trees start out like this all the time, on forest floors, with just enough sunlight. The fact is that if it had not been for the silo, this tree would likely have been mowed or trampled long ago.

Regardless of whether this tree should be seen as a survivor against the odds, or just a tree doing what trees do, my hat goes off to this tree that has found its niche in a most unusual way.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Lego Me

By Way of Culture Cat

This is is what I look like in Lego form. I do usually wear pants to work, but I think in lego world I would have to do without. I think lego pants would just be too restrictive. I don't usually wear a cape around the office, but if I was going to go through the conversion, I would have to elevate my status to super hero. You may also note that my lego being is a little taller and more dolicocephalic than the other lego beings, which is a true comparison for me and other non-lego humans.

What do you look like in Lego?


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Podcast: Interview with PZ Myers of

I finally purchased an iPod yesterday. My first download was yesterday's Journal of Medical Practice Management Interview with PZ Myers of I found it to be worthwhile and do recommend it for any of you other ipod owners. There are also a few podcast interviews with medical bloggers available in the sidebar of the above page.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Invertebrate Blogging: Spiders

There were three spiders involved when I took these pics (enlarge) a few weeks ago. I believe they were all the same species. I rounded the corner of my house, looking for unsuspecting subjects and I saw these three. The first pic shows one spider eating another. It was out on the web in the open. After one decent pic, the spider dropped the other and ran away. The victim is shown in the second pic. The bottom pic shows the third spider which was a few inches away wathcing the incident. It crawled into the cranny when the first one ran.

Also take a look at Middle-Fork's Spider with Spider and don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark!

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Monday, October 03, 2005

September Letters to Discover: Author Information

The notable letter writer for this month was Charles Tart who wrote in to defend himself after the article, "Extreme States" in the July 2005 issue. As a result of my research, I found that Tart is a well known, highly published individual in the field of consciousness research (that is not to say that I necessarily agree with what little I know of his work). The editors of Discover did issue an apology with the printing of the letter.

Tart, Charles T. - Professor, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto, California; Professor Emeritus, University of California at Davis
Heading: Out-of-Body Experiences
Subject: "Extreme States" July 2005
Links to the Author: Home page and Virtual Library, Entry from The Skeptics Dictionary, The Archives of Scientist's Transcendent Experiences, Wikipedia Entry, Tart's UC Davis Home Page,
Books by the Author: Mind Science: Meditation Training for Practical People , Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential , States of Consciousness , Charles T. Tart, Ph. D. TRANSPERSONAL CONVERSATIONS, Mind at Large: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Symposia on the Nature of Extrasensory Perception, Other media from Charles Tart

Weigert, Frank - Wilmington, Delaware
Heading: A Palpable Hit
Subject: "Impact Geologist Waits for the Big One to Hit" July 2005
Links to the Author: Letter to the Editor, Natural History - March 2004

Miller, Jeff - Belmont, California
Heading: Contrast and Compare
Subject: Letter from James Bramson in response to "Our Preferred Poison" March 2005
Links to the Author: No definite links

Collins,Nancy - Statesboro, Georgia
Heading: Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News
Subject: "Dr. Mushroom" July 2005
Links to the Author: No definite links

Spears, Priscilla - Conifer Colorado
Heading: Remember the Plants
Subject: Think Tank 25 Year-Review and Forecast of Paleontology - July 2005
Links to the Author: Suggestions for Montessori Science Studies
Montessori Life, Spring 2004
, Big Picture Science
Books by the Author: Plant Lessons: Introducing Children to Plant Form and Function

Letters to Discover: Author information archives