“The male approaches with his thumbs (like the Fonz) and mounts the female (like the Fonz.)”

Tell me that doesn’t leave you wanting more. Ed Yong delivers:

Male bats create tents by biting leaves until they fall into shape. These provide shelter and double as harems, each housing several females who the male mates with. Fruit bat sex goes like this: the female approaches and sniffs the male, and both partners start to lick one another. The male makes approaches with his thumbs (like the Fonz) and mounts the female (like the Fonz). Sex itself is the typical rhythmic thrusting that we’re used to, and afterwards, the male licks his own penis for several seconds.

But Tan also found that female bat will often bend down to lick the shaft of her mate’s penis during sex itself. This behaviour happened on 70% of the videos, making it the only known example of regular fellatio in a non-human animal.

via scienceblogs.com

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Quick dip: Healthcare reform, conflicted profs, and the vaccine shortage

Pardon my light posting lately. Flat out with big projects, travel, and the stacking of the wood for the winter.

This, however, is what has jumped out at me from the intertubez of late:

Meet the New Health Care Reform, Same as the Old Health Care Reform

At Top Schools, More Than Half the Profs Have Industry Ties

US: Shortage of flu vaccines leaves healthcare workers vulnerable Our lack of readyness for this thing is sobering — as is the complacency about same. In my own town, our much-delayed swine flu vaccines for kids is finally being administered this coming Monday. How’d I hear this? It was in an obscure paragraph in an obscure corner of the 8-page parents’ group newsletter — not even an official communication — that came to us in the pile of junk-mail-by-backpack sent home each day by the school via our 5- and 7-year-old. Otherwise, we’d be blind to it. And the substantial number of kids in this town who go to private schools or home schools — they have no clue. 


US: 11% fatality rate in hospitalized California H1N1 cases


US: 114 dead children, or 300?

It seems that

“We overpromised”

“No pity party, no macho man.” Psychologist Dave Grossman on surviving killing

Preston Gannaway, The Virginian-Pilot

When I did my story on the overextension of the PTSD diagnosis in vets (and elsewhere), I found Grossman’s take on the psychic toll of killing (and almost being killed) among the most compelling. His “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” is a unique and uniquely valuable contribution. Below, part of a story on a recent presentation Grossman (pictured above) gave at a recent Pentagon-sponsored conference on building resilience in warriors.

Dave Grossman puts humans into three categories: Ninety-eight percent are “sheep,” content to graze and likely to stampede when they’re threatened. One percent are “wolves,” psychopaths with a propensity for violence who lack empathy. The other 1 percent: “sheepdogs,” who have both empathy and a propensity for violence.

The sheepdogs are also called warriors, he said. They’re not always liked or appreciated by the sheep, but they come to the herd’s rescue when wolves threaten.

Grossman seemed to captivate the crowd Tuesday at a Pentagon-sponsored conference on warrior resiliency. Most in attendance wore camouflage military uniforms, but the two-day meeting includes civilian therapists and health care providers, as well as personnel from Veterans Affairs.

The program continues today with a video address from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and concludes with a panel of “real warriors” talking about combat experiences.

Grossman, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and former professor of psychology at West Point, acknowledges the reality of combat stress and psychological trauma. World War II’s “greatest generation” included 500,000 soldiers who were psychiatric casualties, he noted.

Still, he said, the vast majority of troops return from war stronger for their experience. Too many people believe what he called a Hollywood myth that portrays combat veterans as victims, forever scarred by their service. That myth creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that produces victims and destroys lives, he said.

Grossman is no John Wayne, however. In fact, he used the legendary Hollywood tough guy as an example of another potent myth.

“John Wayne was an actor,” he told the packed ballroom at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, letting the message sink in.

He urged the audience to avoid both ends of the spectrum.

“No pity party, no macho man,” he said over and over.

via hamptonroads.com

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Still hope for writers everywhere: Robots take over sports desk – but need writer to write lede.

By way of demonstration, the group plugged in stats from the Oct. 11 playoff game between the Angels and the Red Sox:

BOSTON — Things looked bleak for the Angels when they trailed by two runs in the ninth inning, but Los Angeles recovered thanks to a key single from Vladimir Guerrero to pull out a 7-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Guerrero drove in two Angels runners. He went 2-4 at the plate.

via mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

The importance of stupidity in scientific research (and in writing), by Randy Burgess

Just heard of a neat article about why feeling stupid on a regular basis is actually a good sign if you’re doing serious scientific research. The article is by a fellow named Martin Schwartz, a professor of microbiology and biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, and it was published in April of 2008 in The Journal of Cell Science. Here’s an excerpt:

Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.

What I like about this excerpt – and about the entire article – is that with a very few changes, it could be speaking of writing. Writing seriously, regularly, searchingly, means feeling stupid on a regular basis. For that matter the same applies for writing even reasonably well, at least for me. I’ve had writing students come up to me anxiously after class and say, “There must be something wrong; I find writing is terribly hard work. It takes me hours.” And I tell them, “You can relax – that’s normal.”

via raburgess.com

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Top 5 Neuron Culture Posts for October

A bit early yet, but as I’m traveling the rest of the month, here’s my top 5 over the last month.
1. The Weird History of Adjuvants, in which we ponder the inclusion of eye of newt and such in vaccines, and the strangeness of the fact that dirty is good.
2. Why is the swine flu vaccine so late? Who are you to ask such a question? was a close runner-up despite appearing only yesterday. Includes bonus trash-talk from a Canadian.
3. Embargo? Embargo? The case of the missing swine flu paper In which rumor runs not just amok, but quite a bit of policy as well. A particularly interesting comment thread on that one.
4. Our screwed-up malpractice system. Whose fault is that? Let’s try ‘nobody’. Is there a better way? A Swedish model says “Ja!” Heavy plagiarism from my own Slate piece.
5. Swine flu vaccine ‘nightmare’ — and neither flu nor vaccine is even here yet, from October 5, on the chaos created by our disjointed vaccine delivery system.

Why is the swine flu vaccine so late? Who are you to ask such a question?

In a disturbing post at ScienceInsider, Jon Cohen and Martin Enserink explain why the swine flu vaccine is running so late. Or at least they try to explain why it’s so late. For while all the suppliers are running into problems, we’re not allowed to know what they are.
The delays are substantial and critical. They leave us naked as the flu spreads through the country. The flu has now killed 1000 people, over 100 of them children. Even as this happens, the delivery dates keep moving back and the delivery amounts keep shrinking. As recently as a month ago, the CDC was telling us that we’d have 40 million doses by the end of this month. Last week, they were saying 30 million doses. Now they’re saying 16 million doses and not making any promises beyond that.
The U.S. contracted with five companies to supply vaccine. Only one, MedImmune — the company supplying the adjuvanted FluMist product — has come close to its promised delivery schedule. But because we’re so leery of adjuvanted product, we ordered only 12.8 million doses from MedImmune. The other four companies, meanwhile, are all running badly behind. Why? When ScienceInsider pressed Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, for answers, she essentially she couldn’t say.

Continue reading →

“YouTube! That’s why I became a writer!”

“Book Launch 2.0” This kills me — but maybe just because I’ve written books. (Oh yeah — the links to the books. First two here. Reef Madness here. Buy ’em. Read ’em. They’re better than the stuff you’re reading now.)

This video should follow or be followed by Ellis Weiner’s “Our Marketing Plan” from the New Yorker:

Once we get back from Frankfurt, we’d like to see you on morning talk shows like the “Today” show and “The View,” so please get yourself booked on them and keep us “in the loop.” If I’m not here—which I won’t be, since after the book fair I go on vacation for two weeks—just tell Jenni, my assistant, when she gets back from jury duty.
Remember in your blog to tabskim your readers’ comments. You can use Twitter, Chitt-chaTT, or Nit-Pickr. When you reply to comments, try to post at least one photo per hour of you doing everyday tasks around the house, such as answering comments and posting photos. Please make sure they’re pre-scorched. Let me know, when I get back from Retreat a week after my vacation, if self-surging is a problem.

Nate Silver’s top ten reasons the public option is surging

1. The tireless, and occasionally tiresome, advocacy on behalf of liberal bloggers and interest groups for the public option. Whatever you think of their tactics — I haven’t always agreed with them — the sheer amount of focus and energy expended on their behalf has been very important, keeping the issue alive in the public debate.

2. The fact that the CBO thinks it will save money.

3. The seeming inevitability of health care reform, which neuters the voices of those who aren’t opposed to the public option per se so much as the entire project of health care reform.

4. The fact that the locus of power has shifted from the Gang of Six — Bingaman/Conrad/Baucus/Snowe/Grassley/Enzi to the Group of Six — Pelosi/Dodd/Obama/Reid/Baucus/Snowe.

5. The “innovation” of the opt-in/opt-out family of compromises, which have more liberal “street cred” than co-ops or triggers and are potentially also much more politically advantageous.

6. The fading from memory of the tea party protests and the “government takeover” meme.

via fivethirtyeight.com

There are four more — I didn’t want to steal the thing outright, so you should follow the link below. Also of interest is Aaron E. Carroll’s HuffPo piece on why, even as a single-payer advocate, he feels the public option is less than vital. His valid point is that the option doesn’t necessarily provide coverage to more people than other measures do. But I think he downplays one important aspect and misses another. First, he says that it’ll save only about $110 billion over 10 years. We need to save more — but that’s plenty of reason to include a public option. And he misses altogether the other reason people want a public option: It will, symbolically at least, declare that coverage of everyone is a direct public good and even obligation, just as Medicare establishes that we agree we’ll look after the elderly. This has not just symbolic significance but long-term political and policy significance. And it gives people (and potentialy companies, down the line) at least the chance to vote with their feet and their wallets for whether they want private insurance or a government payer to look after their insurance money. These are less than feel-good issues. . That said, a public option runs a risk of collecting just the highest-risk, most heavily subsidized part of the risk pool. You can call that a zero-sum game, I suppose, if you figure those people will be insured anyway (as they should be) in a heavily subsidized, take-everybody private market. But on the books, it’ll weigh heavily on public monies and look like more a loser than it really is: the public option market would bleed while the private market would gather the healthier, wealthier customers and look healthier than ever. Which could in turn be used as an argument against public solutions.

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker