Archive for February, 2009


Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 | Off topic, Web | 1 Comment

If you are reading this chances are you find it worthwhile to surf and participate on the ever expanding information cloud known as the blogosphere. And I thought I’ll share a little nifty web-service called Gravatar that is fun to have for such purpose.

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Open access is good for us

Friday, February 20th, 2009 | Databases, Publishing, Science | 2 Comments

A paper published in today’s Science Magazine1 shows that citation of scientific papers increases as journals switch to allow free and unrestrictive access of their content online. This seemingly intuitive result becomes interesting when paired with the observation that open access has a great positive impact in developing world participation in global science.

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  1. Evan, JA and J. Reimer. Open Access and Global Participation in Science. Science 20 February 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5917, p. 1025 | DOI: 10.1126/science.1154562

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Early call from Science

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 | Education | 1 Comment

BatmanMy brother had the courtesy of regressing me to a time in our childhood that may be partially responsible for our choice to become professional scientists. You see, our parents had bought us a Batman comic book that came with an audio cassette. Playing the audio cassette, one could hear the story in voice acting and special effects while following the artwork. A bell ring would indicate when to turn the page.

In the story, “Trumping the Joker”, Batman and sidekick Robin chase after the Joker that had just escaped from Arkham Asylum and stolen a famous Picasso from the Gotham City Museum of Fine Arts. Great story. After apprehending the Joker and saving the Picasso the story ends with a short dialog between our superheroes that includes a profound, final reflection by Batman.

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Homology Weekly: Propodeum

Monday, February 16th, 2009 | Ants, Comparative Anatomy, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 1 Comment
Abdomen of a <em>Manica rubida</em> worker. Roman numerals correspond to external abdominal segments. Propodeum shown in blue (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Abdomen of a Manica rubida worker. Roman numerals correspond to external abdominal segments. Propodeum shown in blue (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

The propodeum is the subversive segment of the apocritan abdomen. As explained in a previous post, at some point during the evolution of Hymenoptera this first abdominal segment decided to part ways with its serial homologues and fuse with the thorax, forming a secondary tagma we call mesosoma. It is the Texas of the body’s segments so to speak.

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Feliz cumpleaños Carlos.

Friday, February 13th, 2009 | Humor, Personalities | 1 Comment


Ever wonder how Charles Darwin gets celebrated the Mexican way? Well, with a piñata of course!

Meet the H.M.S. Beagle piñata.

If you are not familiar with Mexican culture I will just say that beating something with a wooden stick until it bursts into pieces is actually a sign of appreciation. I wasn’t there unfortunately, but I am sure the piñata was filled with exotic fruits and candy.


[Images courtesy of Rodolfo Salas]

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Happy bicentenary Darwin

Thursday, February 12th, 2009 | History of Science, Personalities, Science | Comments Off on Happy bicentenary Darwin


Charles Robert Darwin was born 200 years ago today.

As celebrations start around the globe, I just want to recommend a wonderfully written essay on Darwin by Aussie philosopher of science John S. Wilkins:

Not Saint Darwin [pdf]

It is a piece on why do we celebrate Darwin today that provides food for thought for the rest of Darwin’s year.


Homology Weekly: Stridulatory Organ

Monday, February 9th, 2009 | Ants, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 1 Comment
Pars stridents (in yellow) on the forth abdominal tergite in a <em>Pachycondyla villosa</em> worker (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Pars stridens (in yellow) on the fourth abdominal tergite in a Pachycondyla villosa worker (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Many insects produce chirping sounds by rubbing body parts against each other in a behavior know as stridulation. The structures involved have modifications specialized for this purpose thus forming a stridulatory organ.

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Darwin the taxonomist

Friday, February 6th, 2009 | History of Science, Personalities, Taxonomy | Comments Off on Darwin the taxonomist


Everybody likes popular science stories with clear and simple eureka moments. In the case of Charles Darwin’s theory of Evolution his voyage on board the H.M.S. Beagle and exploration of the Galapagos archipelago usually serves for such narrative purpose.

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Purple Pachyderm

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 | Off topic | Comments Off on Purple Pachyderm

Purple Pachyderm, Claypool cellars

If you are into rock music and wine, your dreams are about to come true this year. From the cellar of bass virtuoso and showman extraordinaire Les Claypool comes Purple Pachyderm, 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

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Homology Weekly: Tagmata

Sunday, February 1st, 2009 | Ants, Comparative Anatomy, Homology Weekly, Morphology | 4 Comments
Profile view of a <em>Ponera pennsylvanica</em> worker (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

Profile view of a Ponera pennsylvanica worker showing primary tagmosis. Red: head; yellow: thorax; blue: abdomen (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

When a group of successive segments along the arthropod body form a distinct section (by fusion, for example), the division is called a tagma (pl. tagmata). In the case of hexapods (= insects plus their primitively wingless cousins) the body segments are arranged into the three familiar tagmata: head, thorax and abdomen. › Continue reading

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And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones.
- Tom Waits