As I write this, the sky is pouring cats and dogs on D.C., as it has been for the past several days. In fact, it’s record-setting. Elsewhere in the world, there are people frying eggs on the sidewalk where before they might have prepared a delightful salad. But just a few weeks ago D.C. had unusually dry weather. And last winter we suffered through a bizarrely consistent stretch of cold. In short: we’re living through turbulent times.
Inevitably, news stories ask whether each of these unexpected weather events is “caused by global warming.” Continue reading
Here’s a YouTube rendition of the slideshow I presented at Nerd Nite DC in 2016. The script follows the video. A shorter version is here.
A woman recently came up to tell me that bonobos were her favorite primates. “Not humans?” I asked, but I knew better. Thanks to primatological popularizers, bonoboism has become widespread. But people looking for a “hippie chimp” are lionizing the wrong species. Continue reading
Myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome or ME/CFS, is a disease of many mysteries. Even the most fundamental questions remain unanswered: how does ME/CFS develop, and how can patients recover?
Researchers across the globe are addressing different aspects of this enigma. They seek to uncover a fundamental disruption that underlies the array of symptoms – or at least to identify an exclusive test result, or biomarker, that a general practitioner could use in making a diagnosis. Some labs focus on immune function, others on the gut microbiome, aerobic energy, or brain inflammation, among others.
Promising results are common, but two recent studies of cell metabolism have garnered special attention for their potential in both aiding diagnoses and explaining what goes wrong.
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I took a physiology course so you don’t have to! I’ve combined some surprising basics with key terms and research on myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka chronic fatigue syndrome) into less than six minutes. And I’ve tried to keep it fairly simple.
Here’s the script: Continue reading
The Emerging Energy Paradigm, Simplified
This post contains the narration to this slideshow:
Why do people with myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, have less energy than healthy people – even on relatively good days? On bad days – after overexertion – everything goes haywire, but why do they have less energy on ordinary days?
Several bits of recent research converge on an answer to this basic question. Continue reading
Cyclists and pedestrians don’t emit pollution, but they ingest it—especially particulate matter (PM) from cars. Happily, recent research shows that various nutrients can offset some of the damage from these tiny airborne particles.
To some evolutionary researchers, parental love is a mechanism to foster the transfer of genes through successive generations. Feeling emotionally attached to our children, most humans feed and protect our offspring and prepare them to thrive as adults, including as breeders. But when did this start for fathers – did our common ancestor with chimps and bonobos do the same? Recent research among chimpanzees suggests that the answer is yes. Continue reading
Here‘s interesting research on the propensity of humans and other primates to spot snakes, even sneaky ones. Apparently, there’s a Snake Detection Theory that says that our vision has evolved to discern camouflaged but dangerous animals, particularly snakes. To test the Snake Detection Theory, researchers in Japan processed photos of various animals so that they were progressively more blurred; in this way, they could compare how much clarity was needed before research subjects could identify the animal. The other animals were supposedly nonthreatening ones, such as cats and birds. (Not everyone agrees!) They found that people saw snakes in photos that were blurrier than the ones in which they first recognized other animals.
Assuming that the images were truly equivalent, this result bolsters the Snake Detection Theory. And this suggests that, in the evolutionary past, our ancestors lived with individuals who didn’t have this snake-seeing facility and thus died of snakebites before reproducing and passing on their genes.
The list of distinctive human abilities keeps getting shorter. Once again, our close cousin the chimpanzee has chipped away a bit of our uniqueness. A new study demonstrates that these great apes possess the ability to mix elements of existing techniques to improve efficiency—a part of “cumulative culture.” Continue reading