Archive for Science

Ask a Scientist : “What is a Parasite” Featuring the Tapeworm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 6, 2013 by neandergal
Tapeworm Specimen

Tapeworm Specimen… Click the image to view the segments (proglottids) that contain testes and ovaries.

This is a continuation of the lecture on parasites by Dr. Jim McKerrow from the Department of Pathology at the University California San Francisco. Jim presented his parasites, or rather his lecture on them, at the StrEAT Park in the Mission District in San Francisco.

The diners absorbed details of the the tapeworm over their Mexican food and beer from the various food trucks in the food park. Warmed by the overhead gas lamps in the tent, we learned how we can become infected with tapeworms from eating undercooked pork or beef.

These parasitic helminths, Taenia saginata (beef Tapeworm), or Taenia solium (pork tapeworm), reside in the intestines of its definitive host by hooking their four heads (or scolex) into the walls of the intestines and absorbing nutrients intended for the host. It can reside there for up to 25 years.

SEM tapeworm

The scolex of the tape worm. Note the four suckers.

This not so little flat worm reaches lengths of up to 6 meters… The strange sexual beast contains both reproductive organs. Each segment or proglottid making up the length of the worm contain ovaries and testes. There may be up to a 1000 proglottids making up the length of this flat worm. Remember; this creature is approximately 6 meters long. That’s a lot of balls. This parasite can create many more tapeworms as each mature poglottid breaks down and releases eggs which end up in feces of the definitive host.

The eggs make their way into the next host (intermediate host) when it consumes infected food from the feces, or eggs from the feces. The eggs hatch in the intestines and the larvae make their way to the liver, lungs and or, brain and develop a cyst. One cyst produces many scoleces (heads) or larvae. When these cysts are consumed by the unsuspecting human or animal, the scoleces (singl. Scolex) will embed into the intestinal wall of its host and the cycle continues.

Fettuccine anyone…? 

Additional sources:
Introduction to Microbiology, 9th Edition, Tortora, Gerard.J, Funke, Berdall R., Christine L. Case. Publisher: Pearson Benjamin Cummings. 2007 print.
CDC Taeniasis (Tapeworms)
Ask a Scientist website
Dr. Jim McKerrow page at UCSF

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The way from Utopia to Aipotu? A Proposal

Posted in Atheism, Politics, Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by neandergal

        Thomas More’s Utopians assumed that people without a belief in a deity could not possibly have moral values because their ethics stem from religion. Utopians contend that a person cannot be virtuous without a belief in an afterlife or a god because rewards and an eternal life depend on how a person lives in his or her mortal life. Conversely, Aipotutian society recognizes that highly religious societies are more war-like, subjugate women and reduce personal freedom by dictating what people should think and how they should live their lives. Aipotu sees religion as the root cause of many of its societal problems. Aipotu wants to increase public awareness of science and philosophy in the hope that people will discover that faith is not necessary for leading a productive and ethically good life. In order to achieve these goals, Aipotu needs to adopt a secularist agenda that stems the influence of religion in its society. The way to reduce the influence of religion in Aipotu is to limit religious institutions’ power by gradually dismantling them through public policy.

        Since the last major war, Aipotu has witnessed an inverse relationship in the decline of the knowledge and acceptance of science and an increase in religion. Aipotutians increasingly put their lives at the mercy of their faith. They give alternative medicine, astrologers, psychics and religious leaders more credence than scientists and medical doctors. A reduction in the number of scientists and the amount of funding for research is a result of the publics’ distrust of science. The fact that it is financially more lucrative (and intellectually easier) to be a TV evangelist or a quack peddling the latest woo-woo on popular TV shows than becoming a researcher working on a cure for a prevalent disease like cancer or Aids is indicative of how little Aipotutian society values science and reason. The process of increasing Aipotutian’s acceptance of science and reducing their dependency upon religion must begin in childhood, since this is where people learn beliefs. Therefore, the first step is to banish religious indoctrination of children in the schools.

        Although Aipotutian society has no established state religion, the process of religious indoctrination has become increasingly covert. There is a hidden agenda among some educators to teach intelligent design. Intelligent design assumes that because life is so complex, there had to be a designer. Many in the scientific community claim that intelligent design is creationism in disguise. This theory without evidence has found its way into some science textbooks. This method, dubbed the “wedge strategy,” refers to how organizations purporting to promote science push their doctrines into scientific texts. Publishers of biology textbooks omit the theory of evolution to avoid controversy with religious organizations that have a very powerful voice because they represent a growing number of Aipotutian believers. The Aipotutian scientific community blames the omission of evolutionary theory from text books on the country’s appalling lack of understanding of the sciences compared with other nations. Fifty percent of the Aipotutian population believe that the world was created in seven days. According to Aipotutian scientists, evolutionary theory forms the basis of educational curriculum because it is fundamental to understanding the biological sciences and provides the evidence that evolution eliminates the need for a creator. Awareness of the conflict between science and religion can only take place by allowing discussion in school classrooms. This will encourage the development of a healthy skepticism among young minds. A more skeptical mind is more likely to demand explanations for “religious phenomena” and to reject pseudo-science. However, the government recognizes the important of teaching non-denominational religious studies for gaining an understanding of religion’s historical and literary significance rather than for spiritual guidance.

        The teaching of religion is important to maintain an understanding of how people evolve culturally because it provides an insight into how peoples’ attitudes change over time. It is only through the promotion of science and a critical analysis of religion and philosophy that clarifies why the foundation of thought should not rely on faith. Therefore, it is now necessary to ban private faith-based schools in Aipotu.

        Aipotu will purchase private religious schools and turn them into public schools. Teachers previously employed by these schools have the opportunity to continue their teaching careers. The state will rehire these teachers once they become certified by the state to teach in public schools. There is no need to waste human resources. A mandate by the state will forbid the teaching of religious instruction for the purpose of spiritual guidance. Any infringement of this mandate is a case for dismissal from the school. The offending teacher is struck off the state certification register in much the same way a doctor is for gross medical misconduct. It is important for the Aipotutian government to send a clear message that it has zero tolerance for the religious indoctrination of children. The next problem that the Aitoputitian government has is dealing with families that impose their faith on their children.

        The Aipotutian government needs to adopt a firm stance against religious customs, teachings and practices imposed upon children. Aipotutian society considers the religious indoctrination of children by parents tantamount to child abuse. Ancient customs, such as baptism, confirmation and arranged marriages at birth, fall into part of the indoctrination process when imposed upon children. More barbaric customs that involve any kind of bodily mutilation, such as, female genital mutilation, male circumcision (for reasons other than medical), self-flagellation, exorcism rituals, body piercing and tattooing, are punishable by imprisonment of the parents and subsequent removal of the child from its current environment. These types of practices are considered cruel and detrimental to healthy cognitive development because of the physical pain and mental trauma inflicted upon children. The reason is that a child does not have the cognitive development to consent to these practices. Children have a right to a healthy cognitive development and an education that helps them to think freely. The Aipotutian government needs to send the message that children are not chattels. Barbaric religious practices, along with their doctrines, affect not just one country, town or village, but marginalize millions of men, women and children around the world. However, Aipotu is also concerned about not infringing upon personal freedom, despite its long-term agenda in eradicating the imposition of religious doctrine upon others.

        It is imperative to maintain adult individual freedom in Aipotu by not passing legislation that would undermine citizens’ freedoms. There should be no punishment for adults practicing their faith or the bizarre traditions that come with them. If a person makes claims of conversing with some deity or the dead, then their mental health should certainly be called into question. Visual or audible hallucinations are symptoms of mental illness should be treated as such. As in the case of other mental illnesses or delusional concepts, family or individual counseling will have access to mental health services if they want help. It is the hope of Aipotutian society that religious practices will die out with each generation, so there is no need for overly draconian measures for adults. However, Aipotu views conflicts between religious ideologies as a major cause of wars and terrorist activity that eventually lead to the breakdown in the infrastructures of society. The destruction of infrastructures destabilizes whole regions and prolongs conflicts and human suffering. Aipotu can prevent these human catastrophes in their country by dismantling its religious institutions.

        Aipotu needs to seize all religious and sect organizations, and then redistribute the finances between non-governmental agencies and find other functions for the remaining buildings. People previously employed by religious organizations are encouraged to work for non-governmental agencies or other non-church related organizations that work for the common good of society. The religious buildings used by these institutions should become historical artifacts, since they are significant from an anthropological perspective. Churches, cathedrals, synagogues, mosques and temples are not destroyed, but become state properties and are valued for their aesthetic and historical appeal. Some of these beautiful buildings have wonderful acoustics and will become prestigious concert halls. Other buildings will become parts of more sophisticated culture, such as art galleries, theaters or opera houses, and their religious significance will eventually become a thing of the past.

        One day, Aipotutians will view religious thought and rituals as archaic as those buildings. Future generations will view religious practices as bizarre and often inhumane. They will read with dismay about long gone societies that forbade the use of birth control and the termination of unwanted pregnancies, even in the case of rape. They will read with dismay when they learn how women in some societies were forbidden to show their face or expose any part of their body in public and were cruelly punished for doing so. They will read with dismay about the horrifying day when religious fanatics who believed in the promise of an eternal life as a reward for murdering thousands of people by flying two planes containing hundreds of people into buildings containing thousands of people. They will read with dismay how children were taught in those religious relics how an eternal life of damnation would await them upon death for misbehaving. Adults will find it ironic how the faithful viewed sex only for the purpose of procreation. Adults will be amused by the irony of poverty, pollution and overcrowding caused by overpopulation while the poor were told that abortion and the use of contraception was a sin. Most of all, future generations will find it astonishing when they learn how their ancestors believed in almost anything they were told without question. And they will wonder why and how 7th century belief systems existed in a sophisticated 21st century scientific and technological society?

Will Aipotu become a “utopia” if any of these changes ever come to pass?

Vaccinations Give Anti-Vaccine Movement the Needle

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2010 by neandergal

        Malcolm Gladwell introduces several ideas about the development of trends in his book, The Tipping Point. The “tipping point” refers to the point at which a product or an idea becomes a trend. Gladwell suggests that we should think of trends as, “…epidemics. Ideas, products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” Gladwell contends that an idea or product need only a few people to make a trend epidemic and calls this phenomenon, “the law of the few.” Trends can be fairly innocuous and come and go very quickly as in the case of fashions or music. However, more harmful trends mirror his theories. In 2003, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced the eradication of Measles, Mumps and Rubella in the United States. The eradication was due to the combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and mass vaccination program. Unfortunately, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and other western nations have seen MMR vaccination rates decline and increases in the incidences of these diseases start to rise again over the last five years. The continuing trend of declining MMR vaccination rates contribute to the return of measles, mumps and rubella in the population.

        Historically, vaccines have protected children from diseases that once maimed and killed. In the last 50 years, the world has witnessed the eradication of smallpox and polio in most of the world, yet a growing distrust of medicine is leading parents to not vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects children against the potentially life threatening diseases, Measles, Mumps and Rubella. Viral vaccines work by injecting low doses of a less virulent form of the virus. Vaccinations stimulate the immune system to produce specific antibodies which mark foreign bodies and infected cells for destruction by other types of cells of the immune system. The more people that are vaccinated against a specific virus means that more people are protected against these viruses including the few that are not immunized. Therefore, the more people protected by vaccination helps prevent the spread of disease within a population. This means that individual protection not only works for the individual, but contributes to the protection of whole communities and populations. Immunologists call this protection herd immunity. Viruses become less virulent with herd immunity so less virulent strains of the virus are needed for vaccinations. Herd immunity leads to the eradication of diseases such as smallpox and polio. The downward trend of MMR vaccination rates began due to the harmful effects of one piece of bad science.

        Bad science attributed to the downward trend of vaccination rates. A highly publicized research paper by a group of British doctors led by Dr Andrew Wakefield claimed a link to the MMR vaccine and autism. The Lancet Journal published the paper in 1998. In February 2010, the Lancet Journal fully retracted Wakefield’s paper based on the results of a hearing by the General Medical Council because it was found to be bogus and unethical. The scientific method states that subjects in experiments must be randomized. Wakefield’s subjects were not randomized, but cherry-picked to acquire desired results. This single piece of research by Wakefield, et al, was the “Tipping Point” in the trend of people deciding not to vaccinate through fear of their children acquiring autism. Wakefield then engaged in an anti-MMR vaccination campaign and persuaded parents not to vaccinate their children. His campaign was a significant cause in the decline of vaccination rates, because it led to fear among parents who subsequently stopped vaccinating their children.

        Declining vaccination rates propelled by fear of the vaccination lead to a loss in herd immunity which slowly led to an increase in the incidences of measles. Investigative journalist, Brian Deer of the British newspaper, The Sunday Times shows graphs supplied by the UK Department of Health that show a steady decline in the proportion of mothers’ confidence in the vaccine. The decline in confidence mirrors a steady decline or MMR uptake at 16 months. For example, at the time of the release of the paper, MMR uptake (the proportion of children receiving the vaccine) was around 85%. In 2003 it had dropped below 70%. The incidence of measles was slow to begin with because of herd immunity. As the proportion of children completing their two year vaccination program declined, incidence of measles increased. For example, measles cases slowly increased over a five year period then steadily increased; 50 children in 2001 to over 400 in 2003. When people stop vaccinating their children in even small numbers, there is a reduction in herd immunity and the virus can become endemic again. Target vaccine rates to ensure herd immunity rates are usually around 90%. Out of this fear sprouted the anti-vaccine lobby. The mass media gave, and continues to give, the anti-vaccine lobby a voice and in doing so, exacerbated and sustained the continuing decline in vaccination rates by propagating the autism-vaccine myth.

        The biggest anti-vaccine advocate and propagator of the autism-vaccine myth is actress and ex-playboy model Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy claims that her autistic son developed symptoms of autism after he received the MMR vaccine. This gives considerable weight to her crusade as she spins the victim of “big pharma” yarn. Her anti-vaccine organization, Generation Rescue has a glossy website. full of name drops, references studies since disproven by the scientific community and misrepresents reports by omitting key information that would otherwise negate their claim. For example, the site cites the CDC’s January 2003 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on VAER (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), that “VAERS received 128,717 reports of adverse events, of which 14% were described as “serious” which means “death, life-threatening illness, hospitalization or prolongation of hospitalization, or permanent disability.” The figure quoted out of context makes it meaningless, but is intended to give the false impression of a high number of reports. The site fails to mention that the report goes on to state that over 1.9 billion doses were distributed during the same 10 year period. Note that the VAERS does not distinguish between types of vaccines. McCarthy’s celebrity status and personal interest stories give her unlimited access to mainstream media like the Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN to propagate the autism-vaccine myth to a very large audience. McCarthy is able to resonate with an audience in a way that faceless scientists and doctors cannot. Her disciples help spread her gospel and instill fear into parents convincing them not to vaccinate.

        Despite years of subsequent research showing no evidence of a link between autism and the MMR vaccination, the anti-vaccine lobby continues to cite and defend Wakefield’s research blaming persecution by what they call “big pharma.” The underlying cause for the years of suspicion of the MMR vaccine is that no one knows exactly what causes autism and this generates distrust and frustration towards the scientific community who cannot provide the psychological need for definitive answers to concerned parents — particularly those parents of autistic children. What the scientific community does know and what medical history has shown, is that vaccination programs work. To suggest that parents should not vaccinate their children is tantamount to telling people to stop washing their hands because they might get catch a cold. The benefits that vaccinations provide overwelmingly outweigh the very small risk of serious harm from vaccines.

        The anti-vaccine lobby provides comfort to parents of autistic children desperately needing answers that can give them a glimmer of hope, relieve them of guilt and give them someone, or something to blame. Gladwell calls those individuals responsible for “epidemic transmission” the “The Law of the Few.” The thing about these people is that there is a “stickiness” quality to what they say. Usually, the ideas are simple and “memorable and move us to action.” McCarthy says my son has autism because of the MMR vaccine, so people stop vaccinating their children. People do not want numbers, they want comforting. Jenny McCarthy’s celebrity status allows her to reach out to parents in a way that the medical community devoid of personal interest cannot. It is doubtful that the audience she attracts understands statistical concepts like the difference between causation versus correlation. If they did, they would know that correlation does not signify or prove causation. Correlations show possible relationships. Unlike Jenny McCarthy, science does not have a pretty face. Like her role in Playboy, Jenny McCarthy is also the centerfold for the anti-vaccine movement People will listen to celebrities with their anecdotal “evidence” because it’s easier to have a definitive answer to blame than to examine and understand why we have autism. For the anti-vaccine lobby and their followers, it has become a belief system and McCarthy is their God. It’s impossible to reason with the unreasonable. All we can do is point out the fallacies in their beliefs and prevent others from subscribing to the same falsehoods that continue to put the lives of children at risk.

Sources:

Deer, Brian. The Lancet Scandal: Brian Deer, Web. 14 Apr. 2010.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point. Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 2000. Print.

Melloni, L. Melloni, Ida G. Dox, B. John Melloni, Gilbert M. Eisner. “Infantile autism” Melloni’s Pocket Medical Dictionary: illustrated. 2003. Print.

McCarthy, Jenny. Generation Rescue. 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2010.

National Health Service. Immunization Information. Immunization: The Safest Way to Protect Your Child. NHS, 2008. Web. Apr 2010.

Tortora, Gerard J., Berdell R. Funke, and Christine L. Case. Microbiology: an introduction. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin-Cummings, 2007. Print.
United States. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles, Mumps& Rubella (MMR) Vaccines – What You Need To Know. 2008. Print.

United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 50 Years of Vaccine Progress. CDC, Oct 2006. Web. Apr 2010.

United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines and Immunizations: Some Common Misconceptions. CDC, May 2007. Web. Apr 2010.

Wakefield, Andrew Dr. et. al. “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children,” Lancet Journal. 1998. Web. 14 Apr. 2010. (Via Brian Deer website)

January, 2003 Morbidity and Mortality Report

The New Age of Comfort

Posted in Atheism, Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by neandergal

Breakthroughs in science and technology make the world a better place for a large part of humanity. We are within an information and scientific age that provides us with information and sophisticated technology that only an elite educated few had access to twenty years ago. Better quality of life and life expectancy are a result of improvements in medicine, sanitation, air quality, public health and safety. Sixty years of medical history has witnessed the eradication of smallpox. The discovery of DNA allows us to map genomes that help us diagnose and treat disease. The relatively new sciences of molecular and cell biology led to the creation of the biotech industry that continues to develop drugs and vaccinations that fight and control disease. The reduction in infant mortality and morbidity rates are due in part to the development of vaccines that protect children from childhood diseases that once maimed and, or killed. Despite an endless list of scientific progress, there is another endless list of pseudoscience, junk science and superstitions that extend beyond the boundaries of mainstream religion and in turn discredit science leading to harmful ramifications.

The likes of TV shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show have served as platforms to help, albeit perhaps unwittingly, to propagate quack remedies and other types of misinformation. According to a recent article in Newsweek, in 2007, Playboy model and actress Jenny McCarthy appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show to tell of her experience with autism. Jenny went on to explain how she was convinced that the MMR (Measles Mumps and Rubella) vaccine caused her son’s autism. This is one example in a long line of unfounded claims regarding the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Pediatrician Paul A. Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets that featured in a January article, in the New York Times discusses the scientific evidence in favor of the vaccines. The vaccine provides protection against these diseases to millions of children. However, Measles is now endemic within the population and it is increasing. The June issue of Skeptic magazine features an article by Harriet Hall, MD who discusses the history of how the “manufactroversy”, evolved. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows no link between autism and the MMR vaccine, the “manufactroversy” continues highlighting a general distrust in medical science. As a result, measles is now endemic and we’re losing the herd immunity we once achieved through mass vaccination.

More recently, the UK Guardian reported that British Scientists called upon the World Health Organization to condemn homeopathic remedies for treating serious diseases such as HIV, malaria and influenza in poor developing countries. Homeopathic remedies have served as cheaper ineffective substitutes for effective medicines. The promotion of homeopathic alternatives to conventional medicine compromises the health of others, undermines science-based medicines and propagates misinformation and ultimately results in more untimely deaths.

Despite huge advances in scientific progress, why are the vast majority of people in the richest nations of the world walking around with their minds in the 12th or 13th century? People reject the boundaries of religious doctrine in exchange for not reason and science, but a different kind of faith such as psychic powers, astrology, faith healing, alternative medicine and other new age nonsense. Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and author illustrates the extent of these beliefs and attempts to answer in his book, “Why People Believe Weird Things.” Shermer cites a 1990 Gallup poll that shows a staggering two-thirds of the 1,236 adults surveyed believe that they have, “Actually had a psychic experience.” 42% believe in “communication with the dead.” A similar 2001 Gallop poll shows significant increases in belief in every category of the paranormal over a decade. So, shroud some scientific terms in mysticism and you have a perfect recipe for nonsense that fits most people’s psyche like a glove. Quack medicine uses the language of science lending it more credence to the claims that its proponents make.

Shermer speculates that belief in weird things stems from a need for instant gratification. For example, seeing a psychic offers instant comfort in the face of grief or other life stressors such as faulty relationships or jobs. People seeking psychic guidance hear things that make them feel good and they return for more reassurance. The reassurance is the reinforcement which prompts them to return for more readings. It’s a similar effect of playing slot machines. Slot machines are designed to reward enough times to keep people playing. This psychological process is a form of learning called operant conditioning. The behavioral psychologist BF Skinner’s Skinner box experiments with rats demonstrated the behavior of reward and punishment with positive and negative reinforcement. Reinforcement is the reward that keeps people coming back for more of what provides them with comfort. It is why people continue to seek quack medicine, psychics and astrologers. Skinner demonstrated that “organisms tend to repeat those responses that are followed by favorable consequences.” All this may be an over simplified answer to a complex question. What does seem clear is how simple explanations to complex problems are more comforting to people because they’re easier to understand and offer definitive answers. Science offers no definitive answers. The complexity of the science behind natural phenomena requires more effort to understand and requires people to think.

The vast majority of peoples’ beliefs stem from their place of birth and the religious doctrines of their parents. Unfortunately, it appears that loss of mainstream religious faith is not synonymous with more reasoned thinking but replaced with a new age of comfort found within pseudoscience, astrology, psychics and probably the most dangerous of all, quack medicine.

What is more troubling with the new age of comfort is the concept that all ideas are equal and that science is just another alternative. Science is not an alternative and alternative medicine is not science. Science is based on empirical evidence and is apt to change based on new evidence. Pseudoscientific “evidence” is generally testimonial evidence and does not change. Testimonies do not constitute evidence because they are not the result of the scientific method of experimentation.

It is hard to imagine a solution to combat the proliferation of medieval remedies and other superstitious nonsense when the power base lies in a whole industry geared to play on people’s desires and needs. It is self-evident to see what sells. Go to any bookstore and look at the books that sell, self-help, astrology, special diets, peoples’ testimonies to their battle with [insert name of disease here]. The list is endless and unfortunately so is the road leading to reason, healthy skepticism and science. We should not be content with a new age that promotes comfort without reason.

A Most Bizarre Sex Act

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by neandergal

Spiders weave a tangled sexual web that leads to stiffer competition for passing on their genes. Scientific American reports on a recent study published in the May 2009 issue Evolution that shows how the genitalia of Nephilid and Golden Orb Weaver spiders evolved from simpler to more complex structures.

Male spiders that had more hooks, ridges and twists on their palps stood a greater chance of passing on their genes then their less complex competitors. When the male copulates with the female, the palp breaks off inside the female so there is a greater chance of his sperm fertilizing the female’s eggs. He is not only content from giving her his all, but will stick around her web and chase off any competitors. Female ducts evolved from those that gave straight easy access to more convoluted ducts with twists and turns making it harder for penetration by males lacking the right equipment.

The Longest Penis in the Animal Kingdom!

Posted in Science with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2009 by neandergal

According to a report in New Scientist, hermaphroditic filter-feeders have the longest penises in proportion to their body size in the animal kingdom. Their penis can reach up to eight times their body length. And what’s more length isn’t everything. It appears that stoutness is more beneficial for mating. A stouter more muscular penis is better than a long flexible one…

Dinosaurs, Camels and Bears, Oh My!

Posted in Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by neandergal

The animals went in two by two… A model of Noah’s Ark on display at a UK zoo has dinosaurs happily boarding the ark between the polar bears and camels. Noah dolls and other biblical tat are for sale in its gift shop. Sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch, doesn’t it? Alas, it is not.

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol in the UK, has a distinctly Christian theme and openly discredits science in favor of creationism on its page, Evolution: A Theory Under Pressure.

The Facebook group Sink the Ark protests the zoo on the grounds that it markets religion to children and schools. The group page includes a collection of photographs. Among the pictures is a photo of a happy looking Noah for sale in the gift shop. Unfortunately, some of the pictures (including the one of the Noah’s Ark model) are no longer available due to a Facebook account closure. This blog will post a link to them when they reappear which they undoubtedly will at some point..

One can only imagine the look on Noah’s face if he saw two Stegosauruses walking up the plank especially alongside the camels and polar bears.