Fun Science FRIEDay – Fasting Fights Cancer?

biology, Blogging, Fun Science FridayJuly 18, 2014

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay to everyone. FSF is back and with a new name!

After a brief hiatus to sort out some legal issues regarding the title of FSF, and a trip to the World Cup, I am hopefully back into the swing of providing you with mostly weekly, fun, and interesting science facts!

Up this week is cancer, and what we as a species are doing to kick its ass! … along w/ the involuntary help of the Mus musculus species.

Relatively recent work by Dr. Longo, of the University of Southern California, and his colleagues, has shown that a simple dietary adjustment may help combat the negative influence of chemotherapy and age on immune cell function! In short, their findings suggest that fasting, yes you heard right, FASTING, may provide benefits for cancer patients and the elderly by replenishing stem cells in the blood.


Conceptualization of the influence prolonged fasting has to promote stem cell regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. (Photo credit: Cheng et al. 2014)

Conceptualization of the influence prolonged fasting has to promote stem cell regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. (Photo credit: Cheng et al. 2014)


These things are related.

Blogging, ScienceJuly 16, 2014

Exhibit A. At Boing Boing, Maggie Koerth-Baker publishes an article talking about her disenchantment with Richard Feynman after learning that he was a gigantic womanizing creeper. Matthew Francis follows up with more information about Feyman’s inexcusable behavior. Armies of Feyman supporters rush to his defense, arguing that we should judge him as a product of his times or that he was a great physicist, so we should just ignore the fact that he was a misogynistic creep that, as a faculty member, pretended to be an undergraduate to pick up students. Janet Stemwedel has more.


Why exploding whale stories just won’t die and how we can use them to help save the ocean

BloggingJuly 15, 2014

Exploding whales are an endless source of amusement, even when they don’t explode. When a cetacean detonation made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, it was clear that we had reached peak exploding whale saturation. Now that we’ve all had a few months to decompress, it’s time to take a step back and look at why these stories are important and how we can leverage them into effective ocean outreach.

Good, effective outreach has to have a reason to exist. Outreach without a clearly defined objective is flat and meaningless. Deep-sea fauna with googly eyes exists explicitly to remind people, through the proliferation of viral images, that there is life in the deep sea, an ecosystem few people think about on a day to day basis. The Fukushima Debunking Initiative was created to help halt the proliferation of bad science and pseudoscience that distracted from the real tragedy of the Fukushima-Daichi Nuclear Disaster and shifted attention away from real problems impacting the US West Coast. was designed to leverage the mass media attention focused on the exploding whale to accomplish one simple goal: to disseminate information about what to do when you encounter a stranded marine mammal.


Charm City’s Water Wheel: The first truly feasible ocean cleaning array is already afloat

Conservation, EnvironmentalismJuly 14, 2014

The Future is Here. Photo by Andrew Thaler.

The Future is here. Photo by Andrew Thaler.

Ocean plastic is bad news. Last week we were learned that not only did every ocean have its own, personal garbage gyre, but that a huge amount of plastic is “missing” from the ocean–that is, it has been incorporated into the ecosystem in ways we don’t yet understand. While there is plenty of misinformation floating around out there about what exactly these garbage patches are (hint: they aren’t solid islands of trash), there is no doubt that they are effecting the global ocean ecosystem in both profound and subtle ways.

Friend of Southern Fried Science and Deep Sea News writer Miriam Goldstein spent her PhD working on the North Pacific Gyre. Her research has revealed invasive pathogenic ciliates living on plastic trash and plastic-eating barnacles floating in the gyre. She also points out one of the biggest problems with trying to clean up these massive, dispersed “garbage patches”:

You would almost have to clear-cut the top of the ocean in order to clean up all those little bits of plastic.


There is a sea of theoretical solutions, from dragging nets across the ocean to mooring massive floating arrays, in various states of completeness. Some have been no more than public relation stunts, while others push on despite extensive criticism from oceanographers and other marine experts. Some have promise, other appear to be no more than press releases.

Amid the TED talks, press-pushes, empty promises, and gratuitous publicity stunts, the City of Baltimore quietly built, tested, re-designed, re-built, and deployed a solar-powered, trash-eating, waterwheel-driven garbage scow that’s plying the urban waters of the Chesapeake Bay, pulling tons of trash out of the Inner Harbor every day. Say hello to the Inner Harbor Water Wheel(more…)

Frequently asked questions about Rosie O’Donnell killing an endangered shark for fun

fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksJuly 13, 2014

On Friday afternoon, Slate published an article I wrote about Rosie O’Donnell killing an endangered hammerhead shark. Since that time, there has been an active discussion about the article and the surrounding issues on twitter (follow me here) and Facebook (like my page here). Some of the same questions keep coming up, so I decided to gather these questions, and their answers, in one place.

1) Why are you writing an article about this instead of going to the police / isn’t this illegal?

Since January 1, 2012, it has been illegal to kill great, smooth or scalloped hammerhead sharks in Florida state waters. They must be “immediately released, free alive and unharmed.” Rosie killed this hammerhead before 2012, so it was not illegal at the time. I never said it was illegal.

2) If it wasn’t illegal, what’s the problem?

“Not illegal” is not synonymous with “there are no negative consequences to this action, and it is above reproach.” There are lots of things you can do that are legal but bad. There are some things that are illegal but are not bad. “Legal” and “ethically acceptable” are different thing. I do not think that it is ethically acceptable to kill an endangered species for fun and then yell at conservationists and scientists who criticize this action. Also, if the best you can say about an action is “it wasn’t technically against the law when I did it,” you may want to reconsider the ethics of your hobbies.


Can the world’s luxury yacht owners help reduce ocean scientists’ biggest expense: ship time?

Blogging, marine science, Natural Science, ScienceJuly 7, 2014

The International SeaKeepers Society is offering yachts for marine science expeditions, free of charge.

Marine scientists perform research ranging in scope from global food security to threatened species conservation to climate change, research that is critical to a healthy environment. As with other scientific disciplines, however, funding cuts threaten the future of this researchA recent Joint Ocean Commission Imitative report gave the United States government a D minus on funding for ocean sciences, and one of the primary funding programs for ocean exploration has been proposed for termination.

Even as funding is reduced, costs associated with ocean science research are rising. In particular, the fuel costs for research vessels, of which there are fewer and fewer each year, are increasingShip time often costs tens of thousands of dollars each day. This huge expense is critical, as researchers have to get to their study area before they can begin to study it. The International SeaKeepers Societya non-profit founded by a group of luxury yacht owners, wants to help reduce or eliminate this cost by hosting marine science expeditions on private yachts. “By providing scientists in need of a research platform at sea with the opportunity to work off a privately owned vessel at little to no cost, SeaKeepers helps remove one of the most costly aspects of data collection: access to the water,” says Brittany Stockman, Director of Programs and Policies for the International SeaKeepers Society.


Pondering the disruption of crowdfunding: It’s not a panacea.

Challenging the Conventional Narrative, Conservation, Life in the LabJuly 1, 2014

On my train to work, I routinely am requested to donate money multiple times (and not just by the homeless guy outside the station). One comes in the form of a new project with a homemade advertisement up in the train station – and in the corner is a ‘find us on Kickstarter!’ logo. I’m then asked by my regular podcast to support them through Maximum Fun through either a subscription or one-time support.  The author of the article I’m reading asks for support through Patreon. By the time I get to work, where I could potentially pull out my banking information and support any of these initiatives, I’m thinking less about actually doing so and more about the new phenomenon of crowdfunding, wondering how effective this new phenomenon is. Not to mention, there’s no way I can support all the wonderful creators that solicited me during my commute. Plus, I realize I’m beginning to tune out the requests.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a time and a place for crowdfunding. It can support a new business during its most vulnerable time and can provide small injections of funding when all you need is to test an idea. But it does best for people actually producing something and for ‘sexy’ topics of the day. Yet, indiscriminately choosing crowdfunding (or any other sort of funding) without consideration of which funding strategy is best can really hurt your cause, causing groups to shift their mission. So let’s think about the science of fundraising and how crowdfunding fits into a larger fundraising landscape. How is it changing the relationship between those who need support and the typical people who fund them? (more…)

10 ways drones can save the ocean

Conservation, ScienceJune 27, 2014

Over the last few months, I’ve been digging into the confusing tangle of laws that protect marine mammals and regulate the use of drones–small, semi-autonomous vehicles used by both researchers and hobbyists to observe whales and other marine mammals. You can check out the outcome of my findings over at Motherboard, where I just published Drones Would Revolutionize Oceanic Conservation, If They Weren’t Illegal. The quick and dirt summary is that there is no legal way to fly drones near whales, at the moment, but there are ways to do it responsibly while we work to catch regulations up with technology.


In working through these guidelines, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can use this new technology to aid ocean conservation. Below are my top 10 favorite ideas for using drones to save the ocean.

1. Monitor our coastlines for poaching and other illegal activities. (more…)

The communist, feminist, utopian revolutionary who Kickstarted the first submarine

History of Science, ScienceJune 26, 2014

Ictineo II. Image by wikimedia user Cookie.

Ictineo II. Image by wikimedia user Cookie.

A curious vessel sits atop a few struts in the Barcelona harbor. Passing tourists could be forgiven if they thought the small, wooden craft was a prop from the golden age of film or a quiet monument to the work of Jules Verne. It is neither. This ship, built from olive wood and clad in copper, is perhaps the most remarkable seagoing vessel of its time. She is Ictíneo II, the first true submarine.

Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol was a Catalonian revolutionary, utopian iconoclast, and proto-feminist writer who argued that the government, rather than the church, should oversee marriage licenses. He founded several newspapers–which were often shut down after a few issues–including  La Madre de Familia “to defend women from the tyranny of men” and Spain’s first communist newspaper, La Fraternidad. 


These clams are starting to bake in Bad Gas Episode 3

Natural Science, ScienceJune 23, 2014

Welcome back. In our third installment of Bad Gas, we’re finally beginning to see visible deterioration of the shells. It’s a short one for you to enjoy.

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