Monday, 29 December 2008

Oceanography update: Rough Sex at 40k Leagues Under the Sea

From Scientific American, an article regarding the mating habits of squid that makes one glad to be a mammal:

"What do you do to pass on your genes to the next generation if you are really hard up, it’s too dark to see clearly and you are literally under enormous pressure? The short answer: play rough and weird."

To cross over into anthropology for a moment, I would venture to say that "rough and wierd" may describe a fair amount of activity in SL. Just an educated guess, that is.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Public Health update: Papal mortality and Welsh rugby

The most recent issue of the British Medical Journal, the Christmas edition, continues the tradition of prior years in reporting on the truth (or lack thereof) in popular medical knowledge.

Here is a sample of one of the medical myths put to the test:

Payne GC, Payne RE, Farewell DM. Rugby (the religion of Wales) and its influence on the Catholic church: should Pope Benedict XVI be worried? BMJ 2008;337:a2768. doi:10.1136/bmj.a2768

Objective: To explore the perceived wisdom that papal mortality is related to the success of the Welsh rugby union team.

Design: Retrospective observational study of historical Vatican and sporting data.

Main outcome measure: Papal deaths between 1883 and the present day.

Results: There is no evidence of a link between papal deaths and any home nation grand slams (when one nation succeeds in beating all other competing teams in every match). There was, however, weak statistical evidence to support an association between Welsh performance and the number of papal deaths.

Conclusion: Given the dominant Welsh performances of 2008, the Vatican medical team should take special care of the pontiff this Christmas.

A link to the editorial covering all the myth-busting articles can be found here:

Delamothe T. Editor's Choice: Everything you know is wrong. BMJ 2008;337:a3027. doi:10.1136/bmj.a3027

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Archæology: top ten discoveries of 2008.

Archaeology Magazine has again given us their list of the top ten archaeologic discoveries of the year.

The year is not quite exhausted, however, leaving enough hope that one may still yet unearth something truly wonderful in the waning days of December.

However, I am certain that this one find (mentioned tangentially in the above top 10 list), will be hard to top:

Gilbert TP et al. DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America. Science 2008; 320 (5877): 786-789. DOI: 10.1126/science.1154116

The interested reader may search for the images of the artefacts via the usual routes; I have a strict no-fæces-images rule for this site.

And if one of my readers does come upon something to challenge the abovementioned top ten discoveries, or even the coprolites, please forward the details straightaway. You may use your judgement in forwarding actual samples.