Posts Tagged ‘science’

James and Daniel Kelly

The two teenage boys sitting on the sofa opposite are different in almost every way. On the left is James: he’s black, he’s gay, he’s gregarious, and he’s academic. He’s taking three A-levels next summer, and wants to go to university. Daniel, sitting beside him, is white. He’s straight, he’s shy, and he didn’t enjoy school at all. He left after taking GCSEs, and hopes that his next move will be an apprenticeship in engineering.

So, given that they are diametrically opposed, there is one truly surprising thing about James and Daniel. They are twins. They were born on 27 March 1993, the sons of Alyson and Errol Kelly, who live in south-east London. And from the start, it was obvious to everyone that they were the complete flipside of identical. "They were chalk and cheese, right from the word go," says Alyson. "It was hard to believe they were even brothers, let alone twins."

The boys’ colour was the most obvious, and extraordinary, difference. "When James was born he was the spitting image of Errol, and I remember seeing his curly hair and thinking – he’s just like his dad. It was another two hours before Daniel was born: and what a surprise he was! He was so white and wrinkly, with this curly blond hair."

It wasn’t the first time nature had shocked Alyson and Errol. Daniel and James were the family‘s third set of twins: Errol and Alyson each already had a set with a previous partner. Errol’s first set are fraternal boys, Shane and Luke, who are 21; Alyson’s are identical boys, Charles and Jordan, 20. The only singleton in the house is the couple’s youngest child, and only daughter, 14-year-old Katie. "Apart from her, it’s twin city," says Alyson. "At least life was made a bit easier by the fact that we always had two of everything."

But it was clear that having one black and one white twin was going to mark the family out, wherever they went. "We’d go on holiday and people would say, ‘Is that one a friend you brought along?’" says Alyson. For Errol the response of strangers was harder to deal with. "People didn’t believe Daniel was mine," he says. "They didn’t always say anything, but I could tell it was what they were thinking."

So how does it happen that a white and a black partner – who would usually produce, as Alyson and Errol did in their other children, black-skinned offspring – have a child who is as white as his mum? I spoke to Dr Jim Wilson, population geneticist at Edinburgh University – and his first question was, "What is Errol’s heritage?" Errol is Jamaican – and that, says Jim, is the basic explanation.

How fascinating is this? I remember back to when I was inspired by stories like these to study genetics. Now, I’ve realized that study people and the one-off genetic differences and how it manifest culturally and what ‘aberrations’ experience. Amazing. (more…)


Identical Snowflakes

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Everything
Tags: ,

via Tumblr


“Scientists were today able to dispel the age-old belief that no two snowflakes are the same, using state of the art microscopy and by catching flakes as they fell in specially designed equipment while sitting at a table outside a pub in Norwich. The team of researchers, backed by a £20m grant, were able to make an identical match to the famous Bentley flake, photographed 47 years ago by amateur snowflakeologist Wilson Bentley.”

via Goodbye forever fatty

Interesting, huh?

via NYT

A research grant application from a black scientist to the National Institutes of Health is markedly less likely to win approval than one from a white scientist, a new study reported on Thursday.

Even when the researchers made statistical adjustments to ensure they were comparing apples to apples – that is, scientists at similar institutions with similar academic track records – the disparity persisted. A black scientist was one-third less likely than a white counterpart to get a research project financed, the study found.

"It is striking and very disconcerting," said Donna K. Ginther, a professor of economics at the University of Kansas who led the study. "It was very unexpected to find this big of a gap that couldn’t be explained."

The findings are being published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

At the N.I.H., which commissioned the study, top officials said they would follow up to figure out the causes of the disparity and take steps to fix it.

"This situation is not acceptable," said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the N.I.H., a federal medical research agency. "This is not one of those reports that we will look at and then put aside."
The researchers said they did not know whether the panels that reviewed the grant applications were discriminating against black applicants, whether applications from black researchers were somehow weaker, or whether a combination of factors was at play.

In the study, Dr. Ginther and her colleagues looked at 83,000 grant applications from 2000 to 2006. For every 100 applications submitted by white scientists, 29 were awarded grants. For every 100 applications from black scientists, 16 were financed.

After the apples-to-apples statistical adjustments, the gap narrowed but still existed.

The medical research community has long struggled to recruit more minority scientists. For example, about 2.9 percent of full-time medical school faculty members are black, Dr. Collins said; according to census figures, blacks make up 12.6 percent of the population. But the study now shows that the few blacks who do enter research are not on an even playing field.


6 Creepy DNA – Some interesting things lurking in your genes…

Blonde Dykes – Kanye got mad, Whiz was like ‘wut wut’ and then all was fine.

Science delivers! – Some of the questions science has actually answered!

Awkward life moments – An illustrated guide to awkward life moments

Fire (Ants) meet Water

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Videos
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[categories videos]

Science is Cool: Bubbles x Weather

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Videos


Science x Religion

Posted: December 22, 2010 in Everything
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via Goodbye forever fatty


Perhaps inappropriate for the holiday season?

Immunity x Social Aversion – Viewing sick people leads to more immune reaction than fear of seeing a gun.

Nobel in Physiology – I think it’s awesome that the man responsible for In-vitro Fertilization has won the 2010 Nobel for Medicine/Physiology

Faster Maturity, More Sex – In news that’s not shocking, boys that grow faster in their first 6 months, have more sex. Still, it’s interesting.

Social Fetuses – Fetuses in utero are social in a distinct way, interacting differently with their siblings than with themselves or their surroundings.

I found a few cool articles on Twitter from my favorite science magazines (Scientific American, Science and Discover).

Busy Brains Make for Deeper Sleep – It seems that the number of sleep spindles, a signifier of deep sleep, is related to how ‘sound’ of a sleeper you are. Given how impossible it is to make me up, I’m going to assume I have a little more than average number of spindles.

‘Mind Meld’ Enables Good Conversation – Scientists used to consider talking and listening to be two independent processes, yet this new study has shown that there’s significantly more overlap between the two. Once a pattern in conversation is established, speaking partners are more likely to mimic grammatical structures, speaking rates and body posture when they are in sync – mentally.

Internet Use & Depression – In my favorite example of the inappropriate use of causality in psychological studies is this NYT article. Read the article and you’ll see what I mean (it’s super short).

Can Money Buy Happiness – A few studies put together, but one result that stands out says that accumulating money makes it harder to enjoy positive experiences when exposed to money. I think it’s a quick and good read overall.

Singing & Empathy – Apparently, the more sing-song-y your speech, the more likely you are to score highly on measures of empathy.

Dads are (necessary) for neuronal development? – Neurogenesis in young children is influenced by the presence of a father-figure. Interesting, especially the part about the biparental degu rat.

Monkeys shed light on childhood anxiety – Monkey behavior is being studies to look for precursors to childhood anxiety.