11 June 2010

Daily Digest, 11.06.2010

Today: Leonardo as paleontologist and ichnologist; testosterone vs. oxytocin; humans in the Philippines 67,000 years ago?; yet more on Hare-gate; how deep is the ocean, how high is the sky? (a really cool graphic shows us); the D.C. Revolving Door (elected officials becoming lobbyists)

Brian Switek has a wonderful brief post at Dinosaur Tracking (at Smithsonian.com) on Leonardo da Vinci's investigation of fossils, both "body fossils" and "trace fossils." Leonardo, who left notes in the Codex Leicester concerning his investigation of fossils, apparently recognized that they represented creatures who had lived in environments (such as ancient seas) that had since disappeared, something that was not understood at the time. He also seems perhaps to have been the first to recognize the true nature of trace fossils.

Switek seems rapidly to be joining the ranks of outstanding science writers on the web. The article on which his post is based is: Andrea Baucon (2010), "Leondardo da Vinci, the founding father of ichnology," in PALAIOS. The article (here identified as a "chapter") is behind a paywall, and costs $15.00.

Deric Bownds' Mindblog points to a new study showing that testosterone decreases feelings of trust, thus making it (as Bownds says) essentially an "antidote" to oxytocin, which increases trust. Nicholas Wade at the NYT has published a good summary. The article is Peter A. Bos et al. (2010), "Testosterone decreases trust in socially naïve humans," in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The article is behind a paywall, and costs $10.00.

"Humans in the Philippines 67,000 years ago" is the title of Julien Riel-Salvatore's post today at A Very Remote Period Indeed. Who could resist clicking on that? Sure, it turns out only to be a single third metatarsal found in Callao Cave, but the implications are, at least potentially, very interesting. The article is A. Mijares et al. (2010), "New evidence for a 67,000-year-old human presence at Callao Cave, Luzon, Philippines," in Journal of Human Evolution. The article is behind a paywall at ScienceDirect, and costs $19.95.

Yet another take on Robert Hare vs David Cooke and Jennifer Skeem, whose paper criticizing Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) remained unpublished for four years after Hare threatened legal action (as I pointed out yesterday, Cooke and Skeem's paper just finally, and rather suddenly appeared in Psychological Assessment). This new take, "What's this psychopathy hoo-ha all about?," appears at BPS Research Digest. The post points to the curious fact that Cooke and Skeem had published another paper in 2007 in the British Journal of Psychiatry (the article is said to be freely available), which, as the authors described it, was the "analytical" companion to the "logical and theoretical" paper that Hare's threat blocked. The BPS Research Digest post summarizes the quite reasonable criticisms that Cooke and Skeem made in that 2007 paper.

A great graphic by Karl Tate, posted at ourAmazing planet (via David Smith, via R bloggers), shows, to scale, the height and depths of various things across the full span of the Earth's "surface" (counting the atmosphere), from an airliner and a Ruppell's Vulture cruising at around 32,000 feet, to the depths at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 35,814 feet down. One notable example in the graphic is the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, showing not only the depth of the failed blowout preventer (ca. 5000 ft), but also the depth of the drill hole itself (around 18,000 ft!). I'd post the graphic here, but it's really tall (it's to scale, remember?)

An excellent and eye-opening piece by Emily Badger at Miller-McCune Online on the "revolving door," whereby former elected officials and Congressional staffers become industry lobbyists after (sometimes immediately after) leaving office. The article is based on an analysis released last week by the Center for Responsive Politics and Public Citizen.  (The analysis is freely available here.) The statistics are startling; as Badger writes:
  • "At least 73 former members of Congress are currently registered to lobby on behalf of the financial services sector...." (The list includes Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Armey, Dick Gephardt, and Dennis Hastert.)
  • "Another 66 former staffers of the House and Senate banking committees are now lobbying those same committees for industry."
  • "In total, CPR and Public Citizen counted at least 1,447 former federal employees who have lobbied on behalf of the financial services sector since the beginning of 2009."
One wonders how many former federal employees lobbied during that same period for ordinary people with pensions, mortgages, or student loans.
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