The Gene Factory (New Yorker)

  LETTER FROM SHENZHEN: THE GENE FACTORY A Chinese firm’s bid to crack hunger, illness, evolution—and the genetics of human intelligence. BY MICHAEL SPECTER A well-balanced article about BGI in the New Yorker. I am misquoted about our current ability to predict height from genomic information, despite an hour on the phone with the Harvard-educated …

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Bacteria Aid Social Communication

Twitter may limit humans to 140 characters, but a just-as-brief scent post can convey an encyclopedia of information about the animals that left them. MSU BEACONites Kevin Theis and Kay Holecamp studied multiple groups of male and female spotted and striped hyenas in Kenya and found that “when hyenas leave paste deposits on grass, the …

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Give Me the Power!

A few people outside the mid-Michigan area may have some vague awareness that we had a little incident about a week ago. I woke up last Sunday, drank some coffee and looked outside to a crystal wonderland. All the trees, every surface, had about a quarter of an inch of ice wrapped around, producing a …

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Ice Box

We have now officially arrived at that time of the year when the Thornapple blog sinks far below its normal standard of mediocrity. December has always been the month for some of the worst blogs. It started the very first year. Even when there were less than a half dozen entries to the Thornapple blog, …

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The dawn of genetic engineering?

Some CRISPR links. This technology is for real. See earlier post CRISPR. Watch realtime action here. GeCKO knockout in human cells. Zhang and Church raise $43M for new venture Editas. Application to Cystic Fibrosis in human stem cells , Cataracts in mouse. The Scientist: It was less than a year ago that scientists first applied CRISPR, a …

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Political polarization of the U.S. Senate: Is the data fooling us?

Earlier this month, The Economist, Yahoo! News, and several other respectable news outlets ran articles talking about some great network visualizations apparently showing the “political polarization of the U.S. Senate.” There, they argued that these visualizations show how the Senate has evolved from a fairly cohesive unit in 1989 into a dysfunctional group divided along …

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Neanderthals dumb?

This figure is from the Supplement (p.62) of a recent Nature paper describing a high quality genome sequence obtained from the toe of a female Neanderthal who lived in the Altai mountains in Siberia. Interestingly, copy number variation at 16p11.2 is one of the structural variants identified in a recent deCODE study as related to …

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Keep Climbing…

It’s great to know you’ll never hit your peak — fitness peak, that is. Bacteria in MSU BEACONite Richard Lenski’s Michigan State University lab are still growing ‘fitter’ even after 58,000 generations — and 25 years! — of living in the same, simple environment. In a recent paper published in Science, Michael Wiser, lead author …

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New Publication: Defining Food Fraud Prevention to Align Food Science and Technology Resources

The EU Food Fraud resolution just passed from committee for a full European Parliament vote in early 2014.  Defining Food Fraud and a focus on preventative actions are no longer just academic exercises.  That said, our new article is perfect timing, with very important insight for implementing regulations and industry best practices. Focus Research on …

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Our Vast Influenza

Last week’s page 4 news from Washington demonstrated the vast influence of the Thornapple blog on the nation’s elite decision makers. Just six weeks after blogging on the problems associated with the sub-therpeutic use of antibiotics in meat production, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (that’s FDA to the policy geeks among my readership) announced …

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Yuri Slezkine: The Jewish Century

Yuri Slezkine of UC Berkeley, author of The Jewish Century (reviewed in The Nation). @7 min “I was unprincipled enough to put down Russian in all my official paperwork because, obviously, it made it much easier to get into college.” [ Slezkine is half Jewish; his father is Russian. See They take students like you there and …

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4 Trends in Open

Open knowledge, OER, Translational Scholars and MOOCs – 4 Trends it was a pleasure to share this week during an ICRISAT workshop. It sounds like they will begin making use of some of our open content in urban agriculture and food safety. ICRISAT recently launched Explore It!  – an open knowledge repository. “EXPLOREit embodies the spirit …

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What is telecoupling?

Where do I fit into this picture?  How can I possibly help to sustain an entire species? That’s just it – you’re never alone in science. Previously, I mentioned the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants,” but the great thing about science is that I actually get to work with the “giants” of Kirtland’s …

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No Pain, All Gain, Says Mouse

Grasshopper mice aren’t just cute: they EAT scorpions. The painful, potentially deadly stings of  ark scorpions don’t bother them; stings are just par for the course in devouring a meal. In a paper published in Science, MSU BEACONite Ashlee Rowe and colleagues demonstrated that the grasshopper mice are essentially numb to the pain caused by …

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NCTQ is at it again

I wrote earlier this year about the review of teacher preparation conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).  In that post I described many of the methodological problems in the NCTQ analysis.  The organization has sent a new request for information to education schools around the country, and in a commentary to be …

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Football Writing Today with Jonathan Wilson

On December 5, Jonathan Wilson, journalist, author, and founding editor of The Blizzard, and the Football Scholars Forum convened for an online session devoted to independent fútbol writing in a digital age. Wilson fielded a range of questions from an international audience from five continents during a 90-minute conversation that blended English pragmatism and fútbol …

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Is science self-correcting?

More fun from our man Ioannidis. See earlier posts Medical science? , NIH discovers reproducibility and Bounded cognition. A toy model of the dynamics of scientific research, with probability distributions for accuracy of experimental results, mechanisms for updating of beliefs by individual scientists, crowd behavior, bounded cognition, etc. can easily exhibit parameter regions where progress is limited …

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Mint Petra Odds and Ends

As I complete (hopefully) the upgrade of my home PC to Linux Mint 16 Petra (which appears to be commensurable with Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander), I’m making notes on glitches small and large. I initially had some display problems booting and resuming from hibernation. By “display problems” I mean totally corrupted displays, or what appeared …

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Not Yet Sick

Well, I guess I need to start out this morning by confessing that I am out of sync with the season. I’m sure that both of my regular readers have moved beyond Thanksgiving leftovers, but I ate two (count ‘em—two) turkey sandwiches yesterday. I made a special trip down to Goodrich to buy some of …

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