The Week's Best: Evolution, healthcare reform, clever apes, and Cheever in his undies


from a different Daily Dish -- 365 petri dishes, by Klari Reis

House of Wisdom, the splendid new blog on Arabic science from Mohammed Yahia, editor of Nature Middle East describes an effort to map the Red Sea's coral reefs with satellite, aerial, adn ship-based technologies. Nice project and a promising new blog.

Brain and Mind

Ritalin works by boosting dopamine levels, says a story in Technology Review, reporting on a paper in Nature Neuroscience. The effect is to enhance not just attention but the speed of learning.

As several tweeters and bloggers have noted, H-Madness is a new group blog on the history of psychiatry -- a rich and rowdy subject. Curious? Obviously the site holds clues. But Somatosphere's Eugene Raikhel gives a good overview of the new blog's plans and ambitions.

Obesity Panacea reports that simply painting lines on a playground is one of the most effective ways to get schoolkids to exercise.

Evolution (and close relations)

Carl Zimmer and John Hawks, among others, discuss papers in Cell and Nature that provide a genome sequence of a very old pinky bone from what may or may not be a new homind species. Hawks say not not not. Others weighing in Zimmer's post say maybe so. Kudos to Zimmer on this. As in a few other instances, he has used the high profile of his blog, and the breadth and strength of his connections, to make the blog itself a place of rich discussion among scientists. Students of the new media landscape, NB.

Both ScienceNews and Wired deftly covered a study finding that humans' sense of fairness to strangers seems to have developed as agricultural trading made a sense of fair play necessary. I'm not sure I agree with the Wired story's strong assertion that genes could play no part here; as the study author Joe Henrich notes in that story, the result could be completely "explained by culture," but "We can't rule out the possibility that there was culture-gene interaction." I've a visit with Henrich in a couple weeks and will explore that question a bit more.

Laelaps explains the allure of paleontology.

You can see orangutans swim, build bridges, and do other wonderful things at this great photo-essay in New Scientist. Incredible. H/t John Hawks.

For another incredible orangutan story, do do DO listen to the short, 10-minute story from RadioLab (a show on a serious roll) about Fu Manchu, a 'tan who kept escaping his quarters at the Omaha zoo. Priceless story, and the voice and presence of Rob Shumaker, the zookeeper who tells it, is much of the fun. Go. Listen. This will slay you. I promise. (The short on primatologist Barbara Smuts and baboons is equally enthralling.)

Healthcare reform & medicine

Ezra Klein and Merrill Goozner (separately), as well as Daniel Carlat look at an underplayed but vital aspect of the new healthcare reform law: A requirement that drugs companies report all payments and other gifts to physicians in a national database. Vermont has been doing this for a while, to good effect. Tremendous potential here, as sites meant to offer reviews or other evaluations of MDs -- or even basic information -- could readily include this information. (Meanwhile, the BMJ reports that a quarter of author-researchers with financial ties to pharma did not report those ties when commenting on diabetes medications. H/t Rita Rubin.)

Klein also notes that, as many predicted, polls immediately after the bill's passage showed that the bill was more popular after passage than before. (Addition: He followed up with another post showing the same thing -- with a striking rise in approval of Dems from Independents.)

The Times reports that people are slow to embrace the genomic age. H/t Steve Silberman.

Other delights

Laphan's Quarterly has a nice graphic -- a cutaway of a house -- describing where and how various writers like(d) to work. Mozart in bed. Cheever in the basement, in his undies. H/t Alexis Madrigal

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