ERVs and ALS #2 [erv]

Theyre figuring out what the heck is going on in the saga of ERVs and ALS!

ERVs and ALS


Human endogenous retrovirus-K contributes to motor neuron disease

1– Of the many ERVs in your genome, the ones they found activated in the brains of people with ALS are HERV-Ks, at two positions: one on chromosome 7 and one on chromosome 10. ERVs degrade a lot over time, but they could find transcripts for all the major retroviral proteins, gag, pol, and env.
Why is this important?
At first, they could only find activity from the chromosome 7 locus, only in some patients. HERV-K activity from chromosome 10 is a new one, for me. There might not be only one HERV-K that can wake up and cause ALS.
Also, they only looked for pol before. It seems the previous work was focused on the enzymes of ERVs, including reverse transcriptase, possibly because RT activity has been detected in ALS patients. Theyve even tried giving people with ALS RT-inhibitors. But in this study, they looked for mRNA from all three major retroviral proteins.
2– The Env protein appears to be the one causing trouble. Again, before scientists were focused on RT. In this study, they looked for the Env protein, and found it in ALS brains. Furthermore, whether they put active HERV-K genomes or only the Env gene into neuronal cells, both were cytotoxic to the cells.
In the absence of any other environmental/physiological/anything, these HERV-K Env proteins are enough, by themselves, to cause neuronal damage.
3– This knowledge could be translated into an Env-expression based small animal model for ALS. They made a transgenic mouse that would express HERV-K Env in neurons. The prefrontal cortex of these animals was fine. It was the upper and lower motor neurons that died. Mice progressively lost motor function.
ALS. “Your mind is fine, while your body is collapsing around you”.
4– What about TAR DNA binding protein 43? In the previous study, TDP-43 was a confusing issue. It was playing a role in this ERV-ALS story, but they couldnt quite figure out where it fit. But now they know HERV-K Env expression alone is enough to cause neuronal damage/ALS-like disease in mice. Whats up with TDP-43?
Point #2? How they could put HERV-K Env in human neurons and see damage? They tried the same experiment, but but TDP-43 in human neurons. Thats it. Nothing else. Guess what happened?
They saw increased expression of HERV-K Env, and cytotoxicity.
They also found *exactly* where TDP-43 was probably binding in the HERV-K DNA to make these unwanted transcripts–>proteins.

This paper has answered a lot of questions about the relationship between ERVs and ALS (some ALS, not enough patients in this paper to definitively say ‘ALL ALS!’), but there is still a lot to do before this translates into any therapies/preventative measures for patients. The main questions for me involve TDP-43, not the ERVs. 1) Why does TDP-43 start snuggling up to ERVs? Whyyyyy? Why would it start doing this?? 2) How the hell can you prevent/stop TDP-43 activating ERVs? Not only do scientists have to figure out how to do it, they then have to figure out how to get this therapy into the CNS. It is *hard* to get any kind of drug in there– its going to suck.
So, good news/bad news with ERVs and ALS– Good news is these folks are really starting to figure out what is going on with this disease. Bad news is, its not RT causing trouble, which explains why RT-inhibitors did nothing for ALS patients. RT-inhibitors would have been a nice, already tested/approved drug. TDP-43-Env relationship will need an entirely new approach.
And, repeat after me, folks:

“The vast majority of ERVs are junk. JUNK DNA. This is a good thing. When junk DNA is accidentally reactivated, BAD THINGS HAPPEN. Not magic unicorn rainbow things. BAD THINGS.”

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Friday Cephalopod: It’s all those little tentacles, insinuating into crevices [Pharyngula]

Sanity-saving tip: never visualize a nautilus from the perspective of its prey.

Fact Zoo

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Fate of Torpedoed Ships, 1915

The tanker S.S. Gulflight, in dry dock at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, showing the massive gaping hole torn in the hull by a torpedo. The breach to American-German relations was much more serious.
Image: Scientific American, October 9, 1915Reported in Scientific American, this Week in World War I: October 9, 1915
The first American ship to be torpedoed in World War I, on May 1, 1915, while the United States was still a neutral country in the War, caused an immediate diplomatic outcry and stern warnings to the German government. The other part of the story, reported in the issue of October 9, 1915, was the fate of the ship itself:
“While the incident will perhaps be longer remembered for its serious effect on the then already strained diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany, still the successful repairing of a frail steamer, shattered by a torpedo capable of destroying the mightiest dreadnought [large battleship], is none the less noteworthy.”
The S. S. Gulflight was an oil tanker, 5,189 gross register tons, owned by the Gulf Refining Company, on her way to Rouen, France, stuffed to the gills with lubricating oil and gasoline. Although hit by a single torpedo, the cargo (somewhat miraculously) failed to ignite, and the vessel, although it was badly holed enough that the crew abandoned ship, did not sink. Three Americans lost their lives (one due to a heart attack). The repairs took five months:
“The damage sustained by the ‘Gulflight’ consisted, in the main, of a huge, ragged hole on one side of the hull and a number of smaller holes; the latter being caused by the flying fragments of metal wrenched out of place and flung through the air, piercing the steel plates on the other side. The nature of the holes was such that a large section on both sides of the hull had to be removed. At one time during the work the bow portion of the vessel was almost disconnected entirely from the after portion, only a few beams of the skeleton holding them together.”
The ship, repaired, resumed a regular and less-dramatic role of shipping cargoes of oil and gasoline to the hard-pressed Allies for the rest of the war. Reprising the same role in World War II, the ship was not so lucky, being sunk by a German torpedo in 1942.
Repairing the tanker S.S. Gulflight while in drydock: large steel plates and girders being rivetted in place within the hull.Image: Scientific American Supplement, October 28, 1916
Our full archive of the war, called Scientific American Chronicles: World War I, has many articles from 1914–1918 on shipping and the naval battles of the First World War. It is available for purchase at
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Ben Carson’s alternative cancer cure testimonial for Mannatech [Respectful Insolence]

Over the years, I’ve frequently made the points that the vast majority of physicians are not scientists and, in fact, that many of them suffer from a severe case of Dunning-Kruger when it comes to science. Even going back to the very early history of this blog, you can find examples, the most common of which seemed to be physicians denying evolution and embracing creationism. Of these, the doctor I wrote about most frequently back in the day was the creationist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, but with the onset of the 2016 Presidential race there’s been a new creationist neurosurgeon in town with arguably even more ignorant attacks on evolution. I’m referring, of course, to noted neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose creationist stylings and other idiocies have been so bad that I had to use him as a reason to update my posts regarding how physicians are not scientists and often have an inordinate and unjustified confidence in medicine as a “check on BS.”
Over the last couple of weeks since that post, unfortunately, Ben Carson has continued to spew statements that are nothing but downright embarrassing, be they his statement in the wake of the Oregon mass shooting that it would be advisable to attack an armed gunman during a mass shooting “because he can’t get us all” or his many other statements that make me wonder how someone with so little critical thinking skills could get through medical school and a neurosurgery residency to become such a respected surgeon.While I knew Dr. Carson shows an uncanny lack of critical thinking when it comes to most issues outside of medicine, I had never in general doubted his medical abilities. Oh, sure, I was disturbed and disappointed when during the second Republican debate, instead of repeating his full-throated defense of vaccines, he waffled and pandered to the G.O.P. base regarding Trump’s antivaccine views, but I didn’t think that was because he truly thought vaccines cause autism but because he was too cowardly to speak out as clearly as he had in the past. I expect behavior like this from Rand Paul, the other physician running for office, but not from Ben Carson, at least not based on his history.
Then, over the weekend, while I was away at the American College of Surgeons meeting, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Ben Carson Has Had Ties to Dietary Supplement Firm That Faced Legal Challenge. Unfortunately, I’m not a WSJ subscriber; so I can’t read the whole article. Fortunately, there’s enough of it excerpted out there in various blogs and other news outlets that I can get the gist of the story and what he said. Actually, I could experience everything he said in this 2004 YouTube clip of Ben Carson shilling for Mannatech, and now you can too:
[embedded content]
The video is 1:19 long; so I admit that I haven’t had time to watch the whole thing. What I have seen in it is quite disturbing. A bit of background was in order. Over ten years ago, Ben Carson faced prostate cancer at a relatively young age, his early 50s, and he went to an unexpected source for help:

Faced with a prostate-cancer diagnosis more than a decade ago, Ben Carson, the Republican presidential hopeful and retired surgeon, consulted an unusual source: the medical director of a Texas company that sells nutritional supplements made of substances such as larch-tree bark and aloe vera extract.
The company doctor “prescribed a regimen” of supplements, Mr. Carson told its sales associates in a 2004 speech.

The video above is basically an infomercial for Mannatech. The video was taken down from the company website, apparently after the WSJ made inquiries about it, but the Internet never forgets, and so the video is still around. Fortunately the part about his prostate cancer diagnosis is near the beginning of the video; so you don’t have to watch the whole hour and 19 minutes of it.
According to Carson, a couple of years before his talk, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He described himself as an individual who underwent routine medical screenings and annual physicals and had his PSA checked. However, he noticed that when he was in the operating room for long periods of time he became very interested in the clock because, unlike in the past, he couldn’t go many hours without having to go to the bathroom. So he went to see the chief of urology at Johns Hopkins, who thought at first that he had some prostatitis and gave him antibiotics. The symptoms, however, didn’t go away. So the urologist suggested that maybe he had some prostatic hypertrophy and gave him some Flomax, but the symptoms still didn’t resolve. His PSA was checked again, and it was somewhat elevated; so a biopsy was recommended. Now, I have to admit, Carson is a very folksy and engaging speaker, particularly the part where he described undergoing his prostate biopsy. I can see why Mannatech would want him to shill for it: A famous neurosurgeon who is a very likable speaker (or at least was, as I don’t find much of Carson’s schtick that likable any more).
In any case, he related getting the news in the operating room that he had high grade cancer. Now, personally, if I were in the operating room and received news like that, I’m not entirely sure that I could “put it out of my mind” the way Dr. Carson relates, and continue with the operation. On the other hand, that’s what surgeons do; patients must not be abandoned just because of our own personal traumas. Be that as it may, next Carson described getting an MRI and having a copy given to him without a radiologist reading. Looking at it, he saw “lesions up and down my spine.”
So how did his association with Mannatech begin? Basically, somehow the news got out that Carson had some sort of cancer, and as a result people started sending him products from all over the world. The father of one of Carson’s patients also apparently heard the news and asked him if he had ever heard of glyconutrients. This recommendation from his patient’s father led Carson to contact Mannatech and a “Dr. Reg,” who I can only assume must have been Dr. “Reg” McDaniel, who was at that time medical director of Mannatech and is now Director of Research at Wellness Quest, LLC, who doesn’t appear to be particularly science-based. Let’s just say that “Dr. Reg” is proud of having been awarded the “Discovery of the Year Award” by the American Naturopathic Medical Association n 1996 for his glyconutrient work and claims and that he’s still selling dubious dietary supplements. In any case, Carson described how Dr. Reg sent him some product and prescribed a regimen. He began to take it, and “within about three weeks my symptoms went away, and I was really quite amazed.” Carson even stated that “I actually toyed with the idea of not having surgery done, because it was recommended that I undergo surgery.”
Let’s stop right there for a second. According to his story, Dr. Carson was diagnosed with high grade prostate cancer. He apparently thought it had metastasized to his spine based on reading his own MRI scan. That’s a terminal diagnosis, although prostate cancer can be fairly indolent and even at stage IV take a long time to kill. Yet, surgery was still being recommended to remove the prostate? Something doesn’t quite add up here, because usually the treatment for metastatic prostate cancer is not surgery, but castration, because most prostate cancers are androgen-dependent. In the old days (back when I was a resident), that would have been surgical castration, but these days chemical castration is used. Castration can often give a long period of palliation before the prostate cancer becomes androgen-independent and starts growing again. As I listened, all I could think is that Carson’s surgeon must have thought that the cancer was still localized and therefore potentially curable. Otherwise, it’s doubtful he would have offered radical prostatectomy, which is an operation not without risk and significant morbidity.
In any case, Carson continued on about how he read up on the “theory behind” Mannatech, the “bolstering of the immune system,” saying “this makes an awful lot of sense,” and thought about whether the cancer could just be controlled. Now here’s why he decided not to rely solely on Mannatech:

Then I began to realize that, having a high profile, if I did that, a lot of other people might follow that example too, but they might not be quite as diligent as I was about taking the product, and there might be a lot of needless deaths, and I didn’t feel as though I could have that on my conscience. So I went ahead and had the surgery done.

So let me get this straight. He thought that Mannatech’s product would work but that others would die if they followed his example because they wouldn’t be as awesomely diligent as Dr. Carson. Yes, Dr. Carson’s rationale for undergoing the surgery was, apparently, that he might be able to cure himself with Mannatech’s supplements but others would die because they wouldn’t follow the protocol closely enough. How many times have I discussed this victim-blaming explanation for the failure of alternative cancer cures? More times than I can remember. It’s a common thread in alternative cancer cure advocacy, that if you don’t follow the protocol to the letter it will fail and it will be your fault. So, awesomely selfless guy that Carson was, he underwent major surgery in order to save people from that fate. Or perhaps he didn’t believe quite as strongly as he made it sound in his speech. Probably the latter.
Whatever the case, Carson underwent a nerve-sparing prostatectomy, which is designed to spare the nerves responsible for sexual and bladder function whose damage was a common complication of radical prostatectomy, later to discover that the MRI findings were a congenital abnormality of the bone marrow and not metastatic cancer at all. The cancer was within 1 mm of the capsule of the prostate, but still confined to the prostate, meaning that the surgery was potentially curative. Given that it’s something like 12 years later and Carson is still alive and kicking, the surgery was just curative. In his talke, Carson attributed his good fortune to prayers more than Mannatech, but he was still basically shilling for Mannatech. In fairness, Carson also pointed out that, although people have told him that it was the glyconutrients that cured him—an odd thing to say, given that he still had cancer in his prostate that was almost to the capsule—he does advocate what might be called “integrative” medicine, at least with respect to Mannatech:

Now some people have concluded that I was cured without without surgery and that I was just cured by the glyconutrients. Maybe it would have happened, maybe it would not have. I do not advocate abandoning traditional medical cures that have been shown to work. What I would, however, advocate is using natural products to supplement what’s done by traditional medicine. The two things do not have to be adversarial. In fact, they can be extremely complementary.

Oddly enough, he then said that he was not a Mannatech associate, because he didn’t think that would be appropriate, nor was he a Mannatech spokesman, because he didn’t think that would be appropriate either. Really? He just gave what amounts to a Mannatech cancer cure testimonial to an auditorium full of Mannatech associates! He might not have been an associate, but he was definitely an unpaid spokesman. He even pointed out how he set up a system in his office to people asking him about Mannatech to the “right people” and described how he and his wife were still taking Mannatech glyconutrient supplements every day and later said in a promotional video:

The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel. And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food. You know we live in a society that is very sophisticated, and sometimes we’re not able to achieve the original diet. And we have to alter our diet to fit our lifestyle. Many of the natural things are not included in our diet. Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.

Fast forwarding in time, it turns out that this wasn’t the only time Carson promoted Mannatech. He spoke at Mannatech conferences in 2011 and 2013 and spoke about glyconutrients for a PBS special just last year. His relationship with Mannatech thus went on for at least a decade, apparently only to be severed when he decided he wanted to run for President.
It must be emphasized just how dubious Mannatech is. As this National Review article points out:

Mannatech has a long, checkered past, stretching back to its founding more than a decade before Carson began touting the company’s supplements. It was started by businessman Samuel L. Caster in late 1993, mere “months,” the Wall Street Journal later noted, before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which greatly loosened restrictions on how supplement makers could market their products. Within a few years of its inception, the company was marketing a wide variety of “glyconutrient” products using many of the same tactics previously described in lawsuits against Eagle Shield, Caster’s first company.
In November 2004, the mother of a child with Tay-Sachs disease who died after being treated with Mannatech products filed suit against the company in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent misrepresentation, and conspiracy to commit fraud. The suit alleged that the Mannatech sales associate who “treated” the three-year-old had shared naked photos of the boy — provided by his mother as evidence of weight gain, with an understanding that they’d be kept confidential — with hundreds of people at a Mannatech demonstration seminar. The sales associate was further accused of authoring an article, in the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association in August 1997, explicitly claiming that Mannatech’s supplements had improved the boy’s condition, even though the boy had, by that time, died. The suit also presented evidence that Mannatech was still using photographs of the boy in promotional materials on its website in March 2004, “with the clear inference that [the boy] was alive and doing well some seven years after his actual death.”

I also note that Mannatech’s associates hawk one of its products, Ambrotose, as a near cure-all for everything from cancer to multiple sclerosis to AIDS. It’s even been described as a sham in a journal article. I might have to do a post on Mannatech, but in the meantime if you doubt the dubious nature of the company and its products, Quackwatch has a resource.
As disturbing as Dr. Carson’s advocacy of pseudoscience like creationism is, I find this revelation about his longstanding relationship with Mannatech to be far more disturbing, striking as it does at the heart of his strength, his reputation as a physician and neurosurgeon. It turns out that Carson’s lack of critical thinking skills goes beyond just evolution, the Big Bang Theory, geology, and physics. As great a neurosurgeon as he was, he was so easily persuaded by pseudoscience that he was willing to promote nonsense like Mannatech as a treatment for prostate cancer.
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Physics Blogging Round-Up: Football, Air, Relativity, Wrong Guesses, More Football, and Uncertainty [Uncertain Principles]

Another couple of weeks of science-y blogging at Forbes:

Football Physics: Deflategate Illustrates Key Concepts: In which I use the ever-popular silly scandal over deflated footballs as an excuse to talk about three-body recombination.

The Annoying Physics Of Air Resistance: Air resistance is an annoyance to be abstracted out in intro physics classes, but looking for its influence with video analysis is kind of fun.

How NASA’s Viking Mars Probes Helped Prove Einstein Right: We think of missions to Mars as primarily about searching for life, but they have also helped test fundamental physics, specifically via a 1976 experiment to test general relativity.

Predicting The Nobel Prize In Physics: I continue to suck at guessing who will be awarded a big pile of kroner.

Football Physics: Why Throw A Spiral?: Like so many other things in physics, it’s really all about angular momentum.

The Certainty of Uncertainty: Scientists Know Exactly How Well We Don’t Know Things: When physicists and other scientists talk about uncertainty in their results, they’re not admitting ignorance or covering for “human error.” They’re quantifying what’s left after all the “human errors” have been corrected, and expressing confidence in their result.

Far and away the most popular of these was the Nobel prediction post, which is no surprise. The uncertainty one kicked off a long discussion between a bunch of people I don’t know in my Twitter mentions, which was kind of odd. And the Mars thing just totally sank without a trace, which really surprised me. Oh, well, such is blogging.

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Source: Phy Science blog

Piltdown Man Came From The Lost World… Well, No, It Didn't

Walsh (1996), a volume consulted during the creation of this article.
In 1908, amateur geologist and solicitor Charles Dawson claimed the discovery of a new and exciting fossil that, so it was thought, shed substantial light on the ancestry of humans. Dubbed Piltdown man, and technically named Eoanthropus dawsoni, it was (… spoiler…) eventually shown to be a hoax – one of the most nefarious, infamous and successful scientific hoaxes of all time.You know all of this already. In the previous article we looked at the fact that Piltdown man never was accepted with open arms by the scientific community as a whole. On the contrary, experts in the UK, USA and continental Europe all expressed considerable doubt about the homogeneity of the material. But there are a great many stories attached to the Piltdown man arc, and this time I’m going to cover another one.
Regular Tet Zoo readers might know that I have a long-standing research interest in the fossil dinosaurs (and other tetrapods) of the Lower Cretaceous English rock unit known as the Wealden Supergroup. The Wealden is one of the most famous rock units in the world and is formed of sediments deposited in both the Wessex Basin (corresponding to the Isle of Wight) and the Weald Basin (corresponding to the Weald of south-eastern mainland England). But the Weald doesn’t just have these Cretaceous, Wealden fossils – far younger ones, dating to the Pleistocene, are preserved on top. Among these young fossils of the Weald was, supposedly, Piltdown man and a contemporaneous fauna of proboscideans and other mammals.
But how is any of this relevant to a famous scientific hoax?
Arthur Conan Doyle, photographed in 1914 by Walter Benington. Image in public domain.
In 1912, Arthur Conan Doyle published his novel The Lost World. The story’s general theme is well known, as is the fact that Doyle essentially single-handedly invented what is today a mainstream sci-fi trope. Far less well known is the claim that Maple White Land, The Lost World’s fictitious Brazilian plateau, was based on the Weald. At least, this is what researchers John Winslow and Alfred Meyer proposed in 1983, this being one small aspect of a far grander story in which the perpetration of the Piltdown hoax was pinned on Doyle (Winslow & Meyer 1983). Doyle lived only about 11 km from Barkham Manor (the Piltdown man discovery site), visited the excavations at least once, and was extremely knowledgeable as goes anatomy, geology, palaeontology, and the science and art of sleuthing and hoaxing. This is the man who invented Sherlock freaking Holmes. Could, Winslow and Meyer asked, Doyle have been behind the Piltdown hoax?
No. Not only was Winslow and Meyer’s case wholly circumstantial and involved a great many speculations and guesses (maybe Doyle did this, maybe he did that), pointing the finger at Doyle ignores his upstanding character, strong moral conviction, and packed schedule during the years concerned. Sure, we know that Doyle visited Barkham Manor once, but the planted fossils that were found there were discovered on over twenty separate occasions. A vague idea that Doyle’s strong interest in spiritualism instilled in him a desire to belittle or ruin the ‘realists’ of the day (Winslow & Meyer 1983) is also erroneous, since Doyle didn’t properly develop this belief until 1916 (it was mostly catalysed by the events of World War I) and it cannot be linked with any hypothetical involvement in the Piltdown affair. Winslow & Meyer (1983), incidentally, weren’t the only authors to propose Doyle as the hoaxer, but this idea has always come under heavy and appropriate criticism when put forward.
Maple White Land (above) compared to a simplified, schematic map of the English Weald. From Lucas (1994).
Also part of Winslow and Meyer’s case was their claim that Doyle’s map of Maple White Land is (cough) clearly based on the Weald (Winslow & Meyer 1983). Maple White Land had a lake in the middle, a river running north-south in its southern half, an ‘Iguanodon glade’ to the east of the river, a place where giant deer were seen in the west, a precarious ‘pinnacle of ascent’ in the south, and a place where a battle occurred in the east. In the Weald, a rock group known as the Hastings Group (originally, and traditionally, the Hastings Sands) forms (so claimed Winslow and Meyer) a vaguely lake-shaped outcrop in the centre of the region, the River Ouse runs north-south, Lewes (where Iguanodon was first discovered) is close by, Harting Down is in the west (‘Harting’ = obvious link with deer), the precarious Beachy Head is in the south, and the town of… Battle is over to the east (sort of).
In The Lost World, Marlowe (the main character) encounters an ape-man, and does so near the Iguanodon glade (Doyle 1912). When we compare the map of Maple White Land with that of the Weald, we see (so claimed Winslow and Meyer) that this spot corresponds approximately with the real-life location of Piltdown. Was Doyle’s ape-man a heavy-handed reference to Piltdown man? Winslow and Meyer thought so, but what they missed is that the ape-man in The Lost World is categorically unlike Piltdown man, a point emphasised by John Walsh in his critique of Winslow and Meyer’s case (Walsh 1996). Piltdown man was supposed to have a big, human-like brain, flattened brow region, and an ‘ape-like’ jaw (albeit with straight canines far smaller than those associated with ‘apes’). But Doyle’s ape-man is very different, with a thick, heavy brow and prominent, curved canines (Doyle 1912).

As if it’s not already obvious, those supposed similarities between Maple White Land and the Weald are all terribly vague and not especially compelling – the locations don’t really match at all and the real-life geographical features that Winslow pointed to are not similar to the features of Maple White Land (Walsh 1996). In any case, we have quite good reasons for thinking that Doyle invented Maple White Land after learning about some key localities in South America, most notably the Huanchaca Plateau in Bolivia. Winslow and Meyer’s idea was discussed favourably (as if it were likely true) in Spencer Lucas’ Dinosaurs The Textbook (Lucas 1994), though Winslow and Meyer are neither mentioned nor cited in that book. No comment.
In the end, this whole proposal of a link between Piltdown man and a fictional land full of dinosaurs and pterosaurs never did warrant serious consideration, nor was there ever a good case to be made for Doyle being the hoaxer.
For previous Tet Zoo articles on Piltdown, and on hominins and other primates, see…
Refs – –
Collins, J. 1981. The Lost World. Ladybird Books, Loughborough.
Doyle, A. C. 1912. The Lost World. Hodder & Stoughton, London.
Lucas, S. 1994. Dinosaurs The Textbook. Wm. C. Brown Publishers, Dubuque, Iowa.
Walsh, J. E. 1996. Unravelling Piltdown. Random House, New York.
Winslow, J. & Meyer, A. 1983. The perpetrator at Piltdown. Science 83 September 1983, 33-43.
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Should I Upgrade My Mac To El Capitan? [Greg Laden's Blog]

This is a question everyone is asking. For any mac OS upgrade, the first thing you have to ask yourself is this: Did Apple create a system update that requires me to buy a new computer? They do that every now and then. If so, then you have to decide if you want to buy a new computer, and if so, if you want to commit to the Apple ecosystem, because this will happen again.
In this case, the new OS version does not require new hardware, but, iOS 9 and El Capitan are both needed on your various devices to get all the cool interoperability that most Apple users live for. For this to happen, you may need a new iPhone or iPad because the Apple mobile OS’s do not tolerate old hardware very well at all. So upgrading to El Capitan may require a significant investment of cash even if the OS itself is free.
Performance Changes and compatibility
According to one site, “OS X El Capitan is compatible with many Apple computers, including some that are as old as 2007, but many users will see the best performance gains on slightly newer hardware. That is a bit ambiguous. According to Apple, opening apps will be close to 140% faster than for Yosemite, and switching between apps is faster. So that indicates a performance improvement rather than downgrade.
Overall, according to Apple, system level graphics rendering is to be 40% faster, or better.
Apparently El Capitan fixes some problems people were having with WiFi in Yosemite. Other Yosemite bugs are fixed as well.
We look forward to Apple’s eventual adoption of a more Linux like model, where bug fixes and such are pushed out every week rather than with major upgrades.
The new OS is said to be compatible with these hardware:
iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)Xserve (Early 2009)
That is the same exact list as for Yosemite.
As mentioned, if you use iOS 9 and/or want to integrate across devices in cool ways, you will have to upgrade sooner or later. But if you have mobile devices (phone, tablet) and have not upgraded them to OS 9, be aware that older hardware may have to be purchased in order to do that. As a rule, all your Apple devices have to have the same level of OS, and to do that you will have to replace the hardware regularly.
Why you should AVOID upgrading
If you like hacking around with your Mac, install it and take your licks and have good time. If you need your computer for important things, wait for a while to make sure the apps you use are properly upgraded and compatibility issues are worked out, etc.
It is said that Microsoft Office 2015 and El Capitan get along about as well as faculty members in a social science department. If you have mission critical work using Office, do not upgrade at this time. Let the dust settle.
Overall this upgrade has a lower than average number of problems, apparently.
El Capitan Desktop Changes
There are look and feel changes such as a new font (San Francisco) and different icons and such. You can now hide/show the menu bar on the top.
A very major difference is the ability to “snap” applications (programs) to the screen edges, and to have more than one snapped on a screen/monitor, side by side, in a two app split view. This could be very nice for some peoples’ workflow. Looks like this:

Mission control is updated and improved. Much more Linux like in some ways (depending on your Linux distro). Here’s a video that explains it well, including info on Mail, which is the Apple mail program that does not recognize Gmail as a valid mail system:
[embedded content]
Disk Utility is updated to be easier to use.
The notification center is changed a bit.
When you lose your curser, you can wiggle the pointing device and it will become momentarily huge.
El Capitan has a new look to its spinning beachball of death.
Spotlight is “smarter.”
Spotlight, which is the searching utility you never use but slows your computer way down rebuilding indexes it will never use, has gotten “smarter,” meaning it will search for more stuff you don’t need to now about instead of the files on your computer that you are looking for. Like stock market prices, sports scores, etc. Interestingly and possibly usefully, Spotlight also has some primitive AI, and you can ask it plain language questions and may be it will find the appropriate thing for you. If you use that, let me know how it works!
New El Capitan Notes
To a Linux user (and Mac user) such as myself, this is an LOL upgrade. Notes is improved. Lets you add more different kind of contents like pictures and stuff. Lately I’ve not used notes because I don’t use it as a text editor and I no longer use it for syncing to a phone, which was really handy, because I no longer use an iPhone. But I will certainly give it a try. (This is an LOL upgrade because a text editor is not part of an operating system.)
Anyway, the new Notes looks cool. It will allow relatively rich formatting, graphics, and be more searchable. You can also use Notes as a kind of service, sending it information from other apps. Maybe a bit like Evernote.
Safari has many changes
Safari lovers are very excited about the new version of Safari that comes with El Capitan.
You can pin sites and they stay up to date in the background. Your Twitter and Facebook feed can thus be constantly soaking up your computer resources even while you are not using them! You can now integrate your web sites with your Apple TV.
A really cool feature that I’d love to see in all browsers is a “mute all tabs” button. This is for when some bone-headed web site that is one of a gazillion you have open starts playing a video or something and you don’t have time to hunt it down and kill it.
The new Photos app…
…which replaced iPhotos, is different. Personally, I would prefer to drive hot soldering irons into both eyes than use an Apple photo application. But if you use Photos, you should know that there will be third party editing extensions that you can use. Maybe I’ll give it at try, but I will get frustrated because it will suck and I will uninstall it. If something other than that happens, I’ll let you know Watch this space: _
Maps is different
Maps has adopted a Google Maps feature or two. To make use of this you’ll need either a very long extension cord or a mobile device with iOS 9.
The final answer? Yes, but later, but looking forward mainly to the desktop improvements.
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Source: tech feed

Throwback Thursday: What should we build after the LHC? (Synopsis) [Starts With A Bang]

“It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge.” –Enrico Fermi

At 13 TeV of proton-proton energy collisions, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider gives us the greatest number of the most powerful particle collisions ever seen on Earth, far more than any cosmic source from the Universe and far more energetic than any other terrestrial accelerator. It’s already found us the Higgs boson and has helped better measure other Standard Model particles’ properties, but has yet to turn up anything beyond the Standard Model.

Image credit: Gordon Kane, Scientific American, May 2003.

Image credit: Gordon Kane, Scientific American, May 2003.

But that could all change if we built a machine that went to even higher energies! While the particle physics community focuses on an electron-positron linear collider at lower energy, the real frontier would come from going bigger: possibly even around the Earth’s circumference!

Image credit: Artist’s conception of the ILC, via MIT’s Knight Science Tracker.

Image credit: Artist’s conception of the ILC, via MIT’s Knight Science Tracker.

Come learn about the physicist’s dream machine, what it’ll take to make it real, and why making it all happen might be so, so worth it.

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Source: Phy Science blog

New Poll Reveals Science And Technology Will Be Important To Voters–Across Parties–In The Upcoming Presidential Election

Regular readers know that I often write about the intersection of energy and politics, especially when we’re gearing up for an election.Historically, science and technology issues were often treated as a special interest or altogether ignored in politics. However, times have changed. A new nationally representative poll out today commissioned by Research!America and ScienceDebate* suggests that Americans want to hear more about research, innovation and global leadership from candidates. For example, the vast majority of Americans (86%) agree with the statement:

In fact, 87% say it’s important that candidates for President and Congress have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues. And this isn’t a partisan sentiment, but a priority across parties:

Make sure to read more from the full survey and scroll through some of the findings.
The results of this poll reveal that Americans are keenly interested in the science and technology policy priorities of candidates running for office. And personally, I hope they address a myriad of related topics shaping how we live over the coming decades.
Regardless, what all of us–and presidential hopefuls–can be sure of is that when it comes to science policy in the next election, voters are certainly paying attention.
* Full disclosure: I serve as executive director of ScienceDebate.
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Source: New feed

038/366: Cloudy Conjunction [Uncertain Principles]

In yesterday’s crude astrophotography post, I mentioned that the conjunction of Venus and the Moon would be closer this morning, but I took a shot of it yesterday because there’s no telling with the weather here this time of year. When I first went outside this morning, though, the sky was beautiful and clear and I said “Wow, that’ll be a great shot after all.”

Then I went inside to eat breakfast, and when I came back out, clouds had rolled in.

There were occasional breaks, though, and I did manage to get a fortuitous alignment of two of those with the bodies in question. which let me make the following composite from consecutive days:

Shots of the Moon and Venus from yesterday (left) and today (right).

Shots of the Moon and Venus from yesterday (left) and today (right).

These are cropped so the vertical scale is the same for both, and Venus is on the 1/3rd line up from the bottom. Today’s shot wasn’t quite framed the same as yesterday’s, though, thus the white space on the right, which would’ve been filled if I could get a full 4×6 crop at that scale.

Here’s a closer crop of today’s shot with the usual 4×6 aspect ratio:

Venus and the crescent Moon through clouds.

Venus and the crescent Moon through clouds.

That composite of the two gives a nice sense of how things move in the sky, and I have other stuff I need to work on today, so we’ll call it the photo of the day, and move along.

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Source: Phy Science blog