08 February 2009

Science in the news

Okay, so evidently Bren's Left Coast is going to take January off. And part of February. In my defense, I was travelling a lot, but I know they have internet in exotic places like Milwaukee and Brooklyn so really that's no excuse. In any event, I'd like to welcome back my readers (reader?) to a new year and a new administration.

1. This Thursday is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, one of the most influential thinkers of the last two centuries. From an article today in the LA Times, scientists are still grappling with the implications of the Theory of Evolution, including why it's speeding up: "In the 5,000 to 10,000 years since agriculture triggered the growth of large societies, the pace has accelerated to 100 times historical levels." There follows a discussion of lactose tolerance, skin tone, and blue eyes - "For nearly all of human history, everyone in the world had brown eyes. Then, between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, the first blue eyed baby was born somewhere near the Black Sea... today the number of people with blue eyes tops half a billion." Fascinating. (And why are we still having a "debate" about the theory of evolution?)

2. In an evolution-related story, Black wolves come from selective breeding in dogs. Color selection was bred into dogs by humans and then passed into wild populations. It turns out that it's much more prevalent in North America, where there was more cross-pollination between domestic and wild animals, than in Europe. How cool is that? But again, evolution is just a "theory."

3. The dominant strain of influenza in this country, H1N1, is now nearly 100% resistant to the retro-viral Tamilflu. Why does this matter? "Tamiflu and Relenza have been stockpiled by the federal government for treating the public in case of the emergence of a dangerous pandemic flu. Four times as many Tamiflu doses have been stockpiled as Relenza doses." Story reported here in the LA Times.

4. And speaking of flu, remember H5N1 (a/k/a "bird flu"?) It's baaaaack! According to Dr. Keiji Fukuda, head of the World Health Organization's global influenza program, "It's probably the most lethal virus that's ever been discovered." Maybe science has a place in public debate after all?

5. And Fowler, Indiana, my hometown, has one of the largest windfarms in the United States, or even the world. A Christmas letter from friends there told me "You wouldn't recognize the place" for all the wind turbines outside of town on "Fowler Ridge" which is a made up name for a barely perceptible wrinkle on the prairie northwest of town. More of the windmills' dimensions - and where to eat while going to check them out in Earl Park and Fowler - are at www.earlparkindiana.com. Go Benton County!


Celeste said...

Welcome back! Glad to read the first post of 2009. Informative as usual. I checked out the earlpark link. That is a pretty big deal for such a small place. Unexpectedly, it kinda made me want to visit!

Bren in SoCal said...

Thanks! Good to be back. And anytime you want to tour Benton County, I'd be honored to be your guide! A pub crawl would be so cheap, mate - we'd have to get a room at the Pheasant B&B.
Thanks for reading!

Marc said...

Brennan- Here's my take (or a take) on blog posting frequency:


Marc (for sure one of your readers)

Celeste said...

My two cents: as a blog reader, I think bloggers should post daily. (obviously I do not write a blog!) Most of the blogs I read on a regular basis post daily, if not multiple times a day. The regular posting is probably what got me addicted to a couple of them. When I know there will be new content, I look forward to checking in each day to see what's up. Not every post has to be a gigantic, insightful analysis of life. That's too much pressure. If bloggers just write what's on their mind, what's happening in their world, what they are noticing around them that piques their interest, chances are it will be worth reading. There is no other blog I would still be reading with such a large gap between posts! Seriously! The things I do for you! ;)

Bren in SoCal said...

Thanks Marc and Celeste for your thoughts on that. Sometimes it does feel like I've got to gin up a big piece or something with a lot of thought and reflection. I suspect that some people who blog every day have limited pressure in their day jobs, though I have no proof of that. I'll be more regular moving forward - at least it's not blimbo (which I love by the way!).

hina333 said...

Next time I'm in the area- I'll check out Fowler!