brain Neuroplasticity Qualia March 27, 2013 The term neuroplasticity is being thrown around more so than ever before. Popular websites such as even include this term in their slogan: “Harness your brain's neuroplasticity and train your way to a brighter life”. But what is neuroplasticity? Rat's long and important whiskers Sniff signals: Rats communicate social status by sniffing Qualia March 25, 2013 Sniffing is a common way for animals to greet each other. Most of us have seen dogs or cats vigorously inspecting a new acquaintance by sniffing, and we assume they're simply smelling each other. But there might be more to these encounters. New research, published March 7 in Current Biology, shows that rats sniff each other to reinforce their social hierarchy and prevent aggressive behavior. gelada monkey family group Cheating monkeys practice deception to conceal infidelity Qualia March 22, 2013 People who cheat on a loved one often try to cover their tracks to avoid discovery. It turns out this type of tactical deception isn't unique to humans. New research documents for the first time how wild gelada monkeys also actively try to conceal their infidelity from dominant males. 11 tips for communicating science to the public from Monica Metzler 11 tips for communicating science to the public Qualia March 13, 2013 Monica Metzler (executive director of the Illinois Science Council) gave tips on how scientists can succeed at public outreach during the AAAS Annual Meeting. Here are 11 helpful ideas from her talk.   DNA double helix Using DNA as a medium for information storage Qualia March 11, 2013 DNA, or Deoxyribonucleic Acid, is the most fundamental component of all of us. We begin our lives from an egg from our mothers that have been fertilized by the sperm of our fathers. These eggs and sperm collectively contain the DNA of our parents and provide the ‘blueprint’ for our construction. Indeed, it is quite extraordinary that the information contained in DNA, harbored in the form of paired chemical structures, can led to the development of a human being. Biodiversity may protect against spread of disease Biodiversity may protect against spread of disease Qualia March 15, 2013 Biodiversity matters when it comes to susceptibility to disease. A recent study shows a richer assortment of amphibians in a pond means more protection against the spread of a parasite that causes limb deformities. The findings support the long-held theory that biodiversity in an ecosystem dampens the spread of pathogens, and may also apply to diseases that affect humans. Can Facebook uncover underlying mental disease? Can Facebook uncover underlying mental disease? Qualia March 13, 2013 I came across a recently published study seeking to elucidate whether user’s Facebook profiles can provide insight into potential mental illness. I believe this to be indeed an interesting concept and therefore thought this would be an interesting point of discussion. Considering that according to the authors, an estimated 75% of young adults (18-29) use some kind of social networking medium, the kind of information these sites potentially provide in terms of how people interact with others has great potential to reveal social behavior. Bringing CLARITY to the study of the brain Bringing CLARITY to the study of the brain Qualia March 11, 2013 One of the major challenges of modern neuroscience is mapping how neurons are wired together—especially since most current techniques involve cutting brains into thin sections and reconstructing them on a computer. A new technique called CLARITY may simplify these experiments by making brains transparent so they can be studied without being cut. Asian Needle ants Invasive Asian needle ants thriving, spreading in U.S. Qualia March 4, 2013 There's a new invasive ant species on the block and it could mean big trouble for people and the environment. The Asian needle ant has been in the U.S. since the 1930s, but their population has exploded in the past 8 years. These stinging ants are spreading rapidly and displacing another invasive ant species, the aggressive Argentine ant, in forests and backyards across the country. Cat eating a sparrow Are domestic cats backyard superpredators? Qualia February 26, 2013 Cats are the most popular pets in the world. More than a third of American households have feline family members, and more than 600 million cats live among people worldwide. But a recent report has catapulted felines into the headlines by suggesting their cute and fluffy exteriors belie a ruthless hidden nature. Are domestic cats actually cold-blooded killers that pose a serious threat to biodiversity?