01 June 2010

Daily Digest, 01.06.2010

Today, more on mouse acupuncture, plus articles on SSRIs and suicide, the history of the "nervous breakdown," a really expensive article on the evolution of chins, free articles on the origin of life, "peak wood," and one monster sinkhole.

At the wonderfully named Respectful Insolence (over at ScienceBlogs), a strongly critical but well and clearly argued post on the recent media hubbub over the mouse acupuncture article in Nature Neuroscience, to which I linked the other day. (This article, by the way, unlike some I've linked lately, is freely available, at least as of the time I'm writing this.)

An enlightening short review at Neuroskeptic of research on the possible link between SSRIs (Paxil, Prozac, et al.) and suicide (or more accurately, as Neuroskeptic explains, suicidiality). As a sometime user of SSRIs, I try to follow relevant research as much as possible.  Admit it, some of you are users, too.

An interesting article by Benedict Carey in Monday's NYT on the history of the vague but still popular term "nervous breakdown."

Dienekes reports on a new paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology on the evolution of the human chin. Having a chin is one of the distinguishing characteristics of modern humans, when compared to, say, our cousins the chimpanzees or most of our hominid ancestors. So why did the chin evolve?  According to one theory, it provided an anchor for mastication (chewing), but this doesn't seem likely on several grounds. Alternatively, it may be that the chin evolved as an anchor for the unusual movements we came to make while talking (and I wonder, naturally, whether anyone has considered the implications of this theory for singing; think Joan Sutherland). The authors of the study, however, examine the evidence for the development of sexual dimorphism in chins as a result of sexual selection. In other words, do men tend to have relatively "broader" chins (think Doug McClure, if you're old enough to remember) in order to attract women? But what does this theory imply about Joan Sutherland?

Perhaps that's my problem: not enough chin.

The article costs $29.95 for 24-hour access to a pdf in advance of publication from Wiley Interscience. If you think it gets tedious for you to read these price quotes, imagine how I feel when I run up against them several times a day.

In welcome contrast, Cold Springs Harbor Perspectives in Biology offers 11 free articles on the origin of life (thanks to Evolving Thoughts for pointing me toward this).

John Perlin at Miller-McCune writes an eye-opening article on "Peak Wood," outlining the rapid and continuing history of human deforestation, from Gilgamesh to Indiana to the Amazon. I grew up in a lumber town in the Pacific Northwest, and witnessed first hand the environmental damage due to clear-cutting and poor forest management.

And if by some bizarre chance (for instance, if you've been living in a cave without an iPhone, or you've been at work) you haven't yet seen the photo of the >200-ft-deep sinkhole that just appeared in Guatemala, here it is.  By all accounts, it's for real.


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