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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Today in the News (5 Aug 09)

Scary Ancient 'Spiders' Revealed In 3D Models, With New Imaging Technique. Early relatives of spiders that lived around 300 million years ago are revealed in new three-dimensional models, in research published August 5 in the journal Biology Letters. Scientists at Imperial College London have created detailed 3D computer models of two fossilized specimens of ancient creatures called Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestvicii, closely related to modern-day spiders. The study reveals some of the physical traits that helped them to hunt for prey and evade predators.

Human Population Expanded During Late Stone Age, Genetic Evidence Shows. Genetic evidence is revealing that human populations began to expand in size in Africa during the Late Stone Age approximately 40,000 years ago. A research team led by Michael F. Hammer (Arizona Research Laboratory's Division of Biotechnology at the University of Arizona) found that sub-Saharan populations increased in size well before the development of agriculture. This research supports the hypothesis that population growth played a significant role in the evolution of human cultures in the Late Pleistocene. The team's findings are published in the online peer reviewed journal PLoS ONE on July 29. Reconstructions of the timing and magnitude of changes in human population size are important for understanding the evolution of our species. There has been a longstanding disagreement whether humans began to increase in number as a result of innovative technologies and/or behaviors formulated by hunter-gatherer groups in the Late Pleistocene, or with the advent of agriculture in the Neolithic. Hammer's research integrates empirical genetics with discoveries in paleontology and archeology to help provide answers to interdisciplinary questions about which kinds of innovations led to the evolutionary success of humankind.

Cyber Exploring The 'Ecosystems' Of Influenzas. Predicting the infection patterns of influenzas requires tracking both the ecology and the evolution of the fast-morphing viruses that cause them, said a Duke University researcher who enlists computers to model such changes. A single mutation can put a flu virus on a new-enough path to re-infect people who had developed immunity to its previous form, said Katia Koelle, a Duke assistant professor of biology.

Australian skeptics strike back against antivaxxers!

In news that makes me want to shout from the rooftops, the Australian Skeptics have announced that a formal complaint has been lodged against Meryl Dorey and the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), a rabid antivax group that has been giving misleading information about vaccinations in their literature and on Aussie TV for months. You can read the whole complaint here (PDF).

If Ms. Dorey’s name sounds familiar, she’s the person who said that pertussis (whooping cough) doesn’t kill anybody — but it did kill 4 week old Dana McCaffery, who was too young to get vaccinated against it. You can read more of what I’ve written on Ms. Dorey, and I also suggest you take a look at some of her, ah, odd ideas involving conspiracy theories and the Illuminati.


The complaint lodged against Dorey and the AVN means she and they will be investigated by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission for breaches of the Public Health Act of 1993. Since Dorey and the AVN do dispense (bad, wrong, and I daresay potentially lethal) advice about health, they fall under this act.

I’m very happy this action has been taken, and I’ll keep you updated as I hear more.

On faith, science, and the autism debate. One thing that struck me as interesting is that currently vaccines cause mor problems than the disease we vaccinate against. The anti-vax pro-disease nutters seem to be missing a very important point in this. VACCINES ARE WORKING! If you look over at the deaths that many of these diseases caused, I'm sure you don't want those numbers again. or should I introduce you to my High School friend who is in a wheelchair because his parents didn't give him his polio vaccine?

Senate hears pleas for autism research. Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee heard pleas for more money for autism research and to help families pay for therapies not covered by health insurance. HOPEFULLY the congress critter idiots we've elected won't fall for the anti-vax pro-disease nutters, or won't cover questionable or even dangerous therapies. THIS is why we need some scientific literacy in this country.

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