Exercise pills, weight, large viruses and other topics

Fun: watch this video of a raccoon eating cat food, and watch the end when it scampers away on its hind legs.

Social Science and Human Behavior and Health

Have you mistakenly told the same story to a person multiple times? Have you ever repeated back a story to a person, who was the one who told you the story to begin with? The latter happens sometimes but the former acts more. Here is one reason why. In a nutshell: when you are telling a story, you are spending more mentally energy focusing on telling the story correctly and less on taking in the person you are talking to. When you are listening to a story, you are focusing not only on the story, but also on the story teller. Via: Mano Singham.

Monsters in our society It is helpful to remember that society’s worst criminals are often someone else’s loved ones and that the monster in question might appear to be normal, or even likable when you see them. Villains don’t always look like Dick Tracy caliber freaks. Randazza’s blog post talks about this.

Human health:
It is possible that some of the benefits of exercise might be obtained via a pill. But I wonder how this would pertain to a “training effect” (PT, weight lifting versus swimming versus running, sprinting versus marathon running, etc.). And there is no way this would compensate for not seeing the ladies in their spandex workout gear. πŸ™‚

Obesity What about genetics and obesity?

The mice were eating their usual chow and exercising normally, but they were getting fat anyway. The reason: researchers had deleted a gene that acts in the brain and controls how quickly calories are burned. Even though they were consuming exactly the same number of calories as lean mice, they were gaining weight.

So far, only one person β€” a severely obese child β€” has been found to have a disabling mutation in the same gene. But the discovery of the same effect in mice and in the child β€” a finding published Wednesday in the journal Science β€” may help explain why some people put on weight easily while others eat all they want and seem never to gain an ounce. It may also offer clues to a puzzle in the field of obesity: Why do studies find that people gain different amounts of weight while overeating by the same amount?

Scientists have long thought explanations for why some people get fat might lie in their genes. They knew body weight was strongly inherited. Years ago, for example, they found that twins reared apart tended to have similar weights and adoptees tended to have weights like their biological parents, not the ones who reared them. As researchers developed tools to look for the actual genes, they found evidence that many β€” maybe even hundreds β€” of genes may be involved, stoking appetites, making people voraciously hungry.

This rare gene-disabling mutation, though, is intriguing because it seems to explain something different, a propensity to pile on pounds even while eating what should be a normal amount of food. Investigators are now searching for other mutations of the same gene in fat people that may have a similar, but less extreme effect. The hope is that in the long term, understanding how this gene affects weight gain might lead to treatments for obesity that alter the rate at which calories are burned.

There are genes that regulate hunger and others that regulate metabolism. Of course, nothing here means that people can’t be “trained” to eat the right amount of food FOR THEM; it doesn’t matter if someone else can/should eat more.

Spaceships will be taking a photo of Saturn with earth in the deep background. People are being invited to wave at Saturn and at the probes.

It should look something like this:


Evolution Why distinguishing scientific truth from religious myth and superstition matters. From Jerry Coyne’s website.

The largest virus yet has been discovered. This virus has many genes which have not been seen before. Is this virus of ancient origin?

“We believe that those new Pandoraviruses have emerged from a new ancestral cellular type that no longer exists,” he says. That life could have even come from another planet, like Mars. “At this point we cannot actually disprove or disregard this type of extreme scenario,” he says.

But how did this odd cellular form turn into a virus? Abergel says it may have evolved as a survival strategy as modern cells took over. “On Earth it was winners and it was losers, and the losers could have escaped death by going through parasitism and then infect the winner,” she says.

Eugene Koonin, who wasn’t involved in the research, isn’t buying this theory. “These viruses, unusual as they might be, are still related to other smaller viruses,” he says.

The virus’s size is probably part of its survival strategy. Amoebas and other simple creatures could mistake it for bacteria and try to eat it, opening them up to infection. “The internal environment of the amoeba cell provides a very good playground for acquiring various kinds of genes from different sources,” Koonin says. He thinks that the Pandoravirus’s unusual genome may be a mishmash of random genetic material it’s sucked up from its hosts.

Nevertheless, Koonin says, the new virus is fascinating. And he predicts this is only the beginning. “We are going to see many, many more giant viruses discovered around the world, some of which, probably will be bigger than Pandoraviruses.”

Follow a discussion among life scientists at Larry Moran’s blog.


July 19, 2013 - Posted by | astronomy, biology, evolution, health, nature, obesity, social/political | , , , , , ,

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