Links – April 2, 2011

Extensive personal human gut microbiota culture collections characterized and manipulated in gnotobiotic mice. Open-access article in PNAS this week. I didn’t mention it in my post yesterday, but one of the techniques currently being explored to study gut bacterial flora is exposing germ-free mice to human gut bacteria and then, once the colonies are established, feeding the mice different human diets to see how diet affects the makeup of the gut bacteria.

Extra nipples – They’re just a matter of timing. Brian Switek’s guest post on Neurotic Physiology is all about the placement and development of third (and fourth, and fifth…) nipples. There’s a photo as well, if you’re particularly curious about the appearance of Mr. Switek’s superfluous nipple. I have a third nipple, but mine isn’t really as, uhh, nipple-like as Brian’s. Mine really looks more like a large freckle. I didn’t know that third nipples were supposed to grant the carrier with magical powers, but now that I do I feel a bit vexed that I seem to have missed out in the superpower department.

On the targeting of undergraduates by animal rights extremists (and the dangers of victim-blaming). Janet at Adventures in Ethics and Science tackles the recent issue of the undergraduate student that was brutally harassed by animal rights extremists.

Did Henry VIII have a blood disorder? Some believe that the Kell antigen might explain why Henry VIII’s wives had so much trouble carrying children to term and his apparent psychosis.

Cell size and scale. This is effing cool. I already shared it with my students. It’s an interactive diagram of the size of various biological organisms, structures, and compounds from a coffee bean all the way down to a single carbon atom.

Why is aspirin toxic to cats? Aspirin toxicity in cats may be related to their very limited diet.

Masturbation calms restless leg syndrome. This article caused quite a stir on Twitter a few nights ago. The funny thing is that it isn’t masturbation that reduces the symptoms of RLS, it is orgasms in general, due to the dopamine rush. I have to wonder if NewScientist isn’t making assumptions about their readership?

The danger of appealing stories: anecdata, expectations, and¬†skepticism. Hannah Waters warns us about the dangers of anecdata, “psuedo-data [sic] produced from anecdotes”.

Is bigger really better? Christie Wilcox on the problems with the penis size map that made the rounds this week.

Fanciful Designs. Color copier art using plants and shell fragments:

“The Naturalist” by Thomas Eisner

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