Scientists figure out a bit about a toad’s brain (observation, hypothesis, experiment, model, predction)
First a bonus: Jerry Coyne’s website has a post about mayfly emergence showing up on radar!
Toad Brain Activity
A friend alerted me to this post, which is about how a toad reacts to stimuli which mimics prey in the wild. There was a bit of a “ha, ha, watch the stupid toad get “owned”” but the videos are quite interesting and illuminate how science works.
First, there is the observation (toad hunting a worm).
(photo: Heidi Carpenter)
Then some conjectures are made: “what type of stimuli elicits a “hunt” response”?
Then there is an series of “experiment followed by a refined conjecture”; here we see what “looks like” prey to the toad and what doesn’t, and what sort of response does the toad make? Then we look at the signals in the toad’s brain.
It turns out that there are a couple of receptors involved: one if the “predator” sensor is activated, it sends a signal which cancels the “hunt maneuver” response. How is this verified: one can disconnect the “canceling signal” pathway.
Then the whole lot is modeled by a neural network which elicits the predicted response. Yes, there is some mathematics that underlies this, which includes signal theory, neural networks, probability and possibly fuzzy set theory as the “predator/prey” sets appear to be fuzzy.
The videos total 30 minutes but are worth watching.
Exercise There is some evidence that exercise can clear unnecessary stuff in the short term memory. Tests on mice have shown that treadmill running helps them forget electric shocks. But there is more in this article:
Adult mice that exercised on a running wheel after experiencing an event were more likely than their inactive mates to forget the experience, according to a paper from researchers at the University of Toronto, published in Science today (May 8). The results suggest that the production of new neurons—neurogenesis—prompted by the exercise wiped out the mice’s memories. They might also explain why human infants, whose brains exhibit abundant neurogenesis, do not have long-term memories.
“In general, hippocampal neurogenesis has been thought to be the basis for memory and they’re suggesting that it’s the basis for amnesia,” said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “That’s a very controversial and provocative concept.”
Infantile amnesia is common to all humans. Children typically do not develop long-term memories until age three or four. But why is that? Sheena Josselyn and her husband Paul Frankland, who are both neuroscientists at the University of Toronto, pondered precisely that question after noticing that their two-year-old daughter could easily remember things that happened within a day or two, but not several months in the past.
More specifically, they wondered whether it might have something to do with neurogenesis in the hippocampus—a brain region involved in learning and memory. Hippocampal neurons are produced rapidly during infancy, but neuronal generation in the region slows to a trickle in adulthood. “This inverse relationship between the levels of neurogenesis and the ability to form a long-term memory got us thinking that maybe one is due to the other,” said Josselyn.
Surf to the link to read more.
Energy: this photo was captioned: “How windfarms RUIN landscapes – shocking illustration of the destruction wrought by wind industry fanatics” (via @Jonathan_Leake on Twitter)
Government intervention and fisheries: Via Paul Krugman:
Brad Plumer tells an important, little-known tale. It begins with things going badly:
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, many fisheries in the US were in serious trouble. Fish populations were dropping sharply. Some of New England’s best-known groundfish stocks — including flounder, cod, and haddock — had collapsed, costing the region’s coastal communities hundreds of millions of dollars.
So the government got involved. But we know that government is always the problem, never the solution; so you know what came next.
Or maybe you don’t. In fact, government intervention has been a big success. Many fisheries have rebounded, to the benefit of the fishermen as well as consumers.
Fighting climate change isn’t really all that different from saving fisheries; if we ever get around to doing the obvious, it will be easier and more successful than anyone now expects.
There are types of frogs whose males dance to attract mates (surf to the page to see the video) but, unfortunately, these frogs are endangered. These are small, walnut size frogs.
Animals of Chernobyl
Since background radiation is too high for humans to live there, the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is like a wild habitat. So, scientists are seeing some interesting developments in the animals of the region.
GMO issues Here is a guide to looking at some of the anti-GMO stuff that is out there.
I watched our university women’s team lose at home, then watched our men’s team lose in the “play in” round in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
So, I slept in an extra hour and went to morning swim: I did that “fresh” (without lifting first):
2 x 250 warm up 500′s (on the 5)
10 x 100 on the 2:05 (1:45-1:48 each; couldn’t go faster)
100 in 1:45 (oh well)
4 x 25 fist, 25 free on 1:05
3 x 50 fly (fins)
25 fly, 25 free.
Then after my 9-10 class, I got in about a 1 hour weight workout. Full weights; my bench suffered:
rotator cuff, Achilles, hip hikes
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (ok)
bench (weak) 10 x 135, 1 x 180, 7 x 160, 7 x 160
super set: 3 sets of (12 x 50 dumbbell military), 10 x 25 dumbbell upright row, 10 x 30 dumbbell curl.
super set: 3 sets of 10 (pull downs: 160, Hammer Machine Row: 210, 210, 200).
That was it.
Today: busy with candidate stuff and a couple of quizzes.
Someone said this was about me:
And this is funny (and fun)
The upshot: these frogs only have a brief window in which to mate; hence they are out, even when it is cold. And they can stay in amplexus for months (the fertilization takes place outside of the body; the female releases the eggs and the male fertilizes them):
Though egg laying takes place in spring, frog pairs in mountain ponds can begin hibernation in amplexus—a months-long embrace that may provide a breeding advantage by allowing mating as quickly as possible once warm weather arrives. Eggs of high-elevation frogs may be 30 percent larger than those of lowland females, giving tadpoles a head start. Eggs and tadpoles of mountain frogs have developed resistance to genetic damage from ultraviolet radiation, a component of sunlight that is more intense in the thinner air of high altitude.
And yes, frogs (at least many of them) have a type of antifreeze to protect against frostbite and to keep the vital organs alive.
Note: “TL;DR” means “too long; didn’t read”.
11. I was born in Fukuoka, Japan (Island of Kyushu) on Itazuke Air Force Base.
My father was in the Air Force and I lived all over the place. As far as my birthplace: Itazuke AFB stuff can be found here.
10. In grades 1-12 I went to 10 different schools (3 different states, 2 different countries) and have taken classes at 5 different universities.
Narimasu Elementary, Mather (AFB) Elementary (outside of Sacramento, CA), Becker elementary (Austin, TX), Zilker Elementary (Austin, TX), Douglas Elementary (Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota), Green Park Elementary, Kanto Mura Middle, Tachikawa Middle, Yokota High (Japan), Travis HS (Austin, TX). Colleges: US Naval Academy (BS Math), Texas-San Antonio (one class), University of New Haven (3 classes), University of Texas, Austin (Ph. D. Math), Bradley University (33 hours, Industrial Engineering).
9. First NFL game seen: 1962 49′ers vs. Browns (Jim Brown played). First college game: Texas vs. Rice in 1969 (UT won the national championship that year.
I remember very little about the 1962 NFL game. I remember some of the Rice vs. Texas game. I’ve seen several bowl games (8 Cotton Bowls), several seasons of Navy, Texas (9 home seasons), Illinois (3 so far), as well as Cowboys, Rams, Buccaneers, Patriots, Colts and Bears home games. NBA: I saw a few Spurs home games and a Rockets home game; I saw one NBA playoff game (NBA champion Lakers in 1988). Yes, I got to see Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Akeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abadul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley play.
8. I’ve played 10 different sports (or events) at some organized level. I sucked at ALL of them.
Football (little league through high school), baseball (little league, pony league), basketball (junior high), track and field (shot put), judo (college club sport), crew (rowing): Freshman scrub team in college, distance running (public meets and races), swimming (swim meet, open water swim), triathlon (one short one), race walking, distance walking. I had dreams of being a professional athlete, but I have zero athletic ability.
7. I backed Anita Bryant’s anti-gay rights crusade in the 1970′s and was anti-gay rights until 1982. Then in the late 1990′s, I was the President of the Peoria Chapter of the ACLU for a couple of years.
I lost most of my anti-gay prejudice when I met some gay men at a party. They kissed each other; I expected to be disgusted and grossed out. Instead it was “oh…that’s it?” I just didn’t care afterward; I saw my beliefs were irrational. It was the easiest “major” change of view I’ve ever had.
6. I was raised Roman Catholic and seriously considered becoming a priest in 1985. My issues with religions are mostly intellectual ones (I reject the supernatural stuff).
My beef: I accept naturalism (things happen for natural causes) and I see nothing “special” about the earth or our tiny place in the universe. I think that it is highly unlikely that a bunch of sheep herders got it right several thousand years ago and much more likely that they were just making stuff up. I am open to evidence of a non-human centered “creative force/whatever” but not so open to ancient human religions.
5. My favorite non-technical college class was Chinese Politics taught by Professor Rao.
I enjoyed Professor Farley’s Spanish classes too, though I was a poor language student (no ear for the language; reading was ok)
4. I’ve actually had a poem accepted for publication (in some fly-by-night outfit called “Graffiti on the Asylum Walls”; it was about the consequences of seeing VPLs on a woman working out in the gym.
This poem was inspired by my seeing a woman in shiny pink spandex shorts with striped panties in the weight room.
3. Most of my published work appears in The College Mathematics Journal or in The Journal of Knot Theory and its Ramifications. Areas: knot theory (geometric toplogy) and real analysis.
My first was in the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. I’ve also had things in the American Mathematical Monthly , Journal of the Mexican Mathematical Society and the Houston Journal of Mathematics, Missouri Journal of the Mathematical Sciences and in refereed conference proceedings.
2. My love of frogs came from my dad; we used to play with a pair of stuffed frogs that my mom made from scratch. Dad’s frog was called “yellow eyes” (eyes were made from yellow buttons); my frog was called “silver eyes”.
Also, I’d capture large American toads and keep them in a box overnight and let them go the next morning.
1. My first car was a Datsun 210; my first house (owned) was in Ledyard, CT. (near Groton/New London).
This frog is going to lose its Frog Card. :-)
How much human variation is there? Check this out:
Melissa Wilson Sayres blogs at mathbionerd and Panda’s Thumb. A recent post on Panda’s Thumb address a tweet from Daniel Wegmann where he said “Every non-lethal genome position is variable in the human population.”
She asks “Is this true?” and proceeds to show that it is [How many mutations?]. She assumes that the human mutation rate is 1.2 × 10-8 per sit per generation. Multiply this by 7.16 billion people on the planet and you get an average of 86 mutations at every single base pair in the human genome.1
Many of these mutations will be deleterious and they will be quickly eliminated from the population if they are lethal or cause severe problems. Some moderately and slightly deleterious mutations will be present in the population because they haven’t yet been eliminated by negative selection. (Some will have no effect if they are present in only one copy of your diploid genome.)
To a first approximation, the statement is pretty accurate.
Surf to read the discussion. Basically, for every gene that does something, there are a LOT of alleles, at least world wide.
I’ve seen this in my life. I’ve had some of the best outcomes when doctors told me: “we need to treat the symptom; the cause will take care of itself” or “testing you for this will yield no useful information” and “you don’t need antibiotics; you just need to rest and drink lots of water”. In the later case I thought the doctor was a quack, but when I did what she told me to do, I got well!
Bubonic plague: it is still with us (in mutated form?); some squirrels have it.
Freezing light by taking advantage of quantum mechanics
You can read about it here; basically one group of scientists used a laser to make a crystal transparent at a narrow frequency of light, shot a beam of light through it and used another beam to shut off the “make it transparent” laser to “freeze” the light. When they transparency was turned back on, the signal was still there.
74 F, 79 percent humidity. But there were others out there, albeit on their way back.
This 8.0x mile course features a nice, cool, 1 mile segment through a “canopy” of trees and offered shade much of the way. Still, I was dying:
1:25 for 8.0x miles; 43:20 out, 41:40 back, which included a very brief walk break at 4.2 miles. I am glad that I didn’t give up on it. A younger couple passed me (female in black spandex shorts) on the way back; on the way out I saw a large group of lady runners and a few cyclists.
I wanted to chase the couple but thought better of it; it was a good thing too because I wasn’t in the best of shape at the finish. Whew! Mind you, I wasn’t running that hard.
Low hemoglobin + warm temperatures = tough day for even a medium length “run”.
There is a Chinese toad that actually grows spikes on its upper lip for a brief period during mating season; it also exhibits some unusual behavior.
Surf to the link at Jerry Coyne’s website to read more.
My social struggles
Remember those old friction exercisers?
I didn’t use this model; I used one that was marketed by Bart Starr (it had green canister) but it worked the same way.
You could use it for curls, rows, and then anchor it with a door to do lat type exercises, among other things. Some might even still use it:
I used mine fairly regularly, especially during football season when we didn’t lift weights. I also did a LOT of pushups.
I remember Sundays: I’d have my black and white television on in my room and the NFL game would be on; I’d watch the game while using this thing. I just KNEW what I was seeing my future.
Well, here is what happens with most young people: toward the end of high school, they get a grip, and start looking at realistic options for the futre. Me: I still had the dream of being a big time football player; I couldn’t let it go until…well..the realization came that it wouldn’t happen.
Plebe summer at Annapolis was a real eye opening experience; we were all together and I soon saw the enormous gap between me and those who were recruited for the various sports teams. It became apparent how un-athletic I was; it was humiliating. I had trouble passing the obstacle course (good athletes saw it as a bit of a joke).
It wasn’t all bad though; later I found out that I did reasonably well in certain other areas but that isn’t the point in the post.
My point: it seems that, when one changes a situation (gets older, goes to a new school, gets a new job, moves to a different social setting), there are a blizzard of “unspoken rules” or “unspoken points of etiquette” that other people pick up on, without having to be told. I was TERRIBLE at that; I still am. In fact, I’ve learned to make it a point to learn these unspoken rules and to quietly ask others if I am confused.
This is one of the reasons I didn’t do well as a Naval officer, though I started to catch on toward the end. I do eventually catch on and end up extracting my head from my butt, but sometimes it is not until I wore some people’s nerves raw.
So, back to the exer-genie example: most people do NOT need to be told when they need to grow up and let go of childhood fantasies. I was NOT one of those people; I needed cold, hard reality to kick me in the teeth.
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