Sunday, 31 January 2010

This is not real...

Good evening and I thought I would start this post with a reminder that the preceeding article is not real. This is due to reports that yet again someone has actually mistaken my blog for the real thing. I can definitely assure people that Gavin Schofield is not in a coma although I do find the fact he described stomach pumps as rocking slightly disturbing, however, this might be due to excessive alcohol consumption after the event if this is true.

I've been following the 10:23 campaign recently and it looks very interesting.

Possibly with the combination of the recession and the campaign, MPs are expected to publish a report concluding that homeopathic remedies should not be on the NHS. I think this is a good idea and in the words of Professor Ernst may make pharmacists like Boots, healthcare professionals, not the shop keepers.

The Guardian has an article by Martin Robbins which outlines his reasoning behind joining the campaign and the evidence which shows the problems of homeopathy. Another article to read on this matter is Ben Goldacre's discussion of his Lancet article in 2007.

In all I hope this campaign has had the impact it intended. For further information please visit 10:23 Campaign Website.

500 Skeptics hospitalised in overdose horror

Journal of Imaginary Sciences, 2010, Vol 31

10:23 Campaign is marred by hospitalisations

Yesterday, tragedy struck as 500 protestors against homeopathy were rushed to hospital after suffering from the massive overdose they took.

The 10:23 campaign was designed to protest against the selling of homeopathic remedies at the pharmaceutical store, Boots. In order to demonstrate that these pills were apparently non-functional, the campaign managers suggested that the protestors should down a bottle of homeopathic pills each at 10:23, a symbolic note of the Avagadro's constant, the number of atoms that make up one mole.

The campaign was organised by Michael Marshall, head of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, a branch of Skeptics in the Pub and was carried out, outside Boots stores across the country in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, etc.

However, tragedy struck, as a few minutes after the videos were took, the protestors started to feel unwell.

"Well a few minutes after I took the medicine, I started to feel very nauseous, and promptly threw up. Thankfully I did because it stopped me from absorbing most of the effects" one protestor said.

Currently, Gavin Schofield, leader of the Greater Manchester Skeptics as seen on the video, is reported to be in hospital in a coma, whilst Michael Marshall, the head of the campagin is said to be recovering in his bed, but still in a critical condition.

Paula Ross, chief executive of the Society of Homeopaths, stated:

"This ill-advised stunt shows the dangers of skeptics becoming closed-minded in the effects of alternative medicines. I feel sorry that people are stupid enough that they overdosed on these medicines in an attempt to prove these ineffective. I hope the survivors will have more sense in future."

Ben Goldacre, author of the book Bad Science, doctor and journalist for the Guardian column "Bad Science" commented:

"I've commented several times on homeopathy being ineffective from clinical trials. After seeing the results first hand from yesterday I am shocked I ever thought homeopathy was harmless."

James Randi, the famous magician cum skeptic has also been criticised for his part in this misadventure. Years ago, Randi was noted for including in his act, a description of how he overdosed on a bottle of homeopathy pills in front of an audience and suffered no side effects. This account, along with the later attempts by Belgian Skeptics is thought to be the inspiration for Michael Marshall's foolish attempt.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The first podcast!

After a bit of work I've successfully completed my first podcast!

The Genetic Evidence for Human Evolution

Also here as well:

I apologise for sounding blocked up on it, but comments and suggestions would be appreciated greatly.

Links for the cast are as follows:

Cann, RL; Stoneking, M; Wilson, AC (1987), "Mitochondrial DNA and human evolution", Nature 325 (6099): 31–6

Jones, M. 2000, The Molecule Hunt, UK

Leakey, R. & Lewin, R. 1993, Origins Reconsidered, UK

The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, 2005, Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome, Nature, 437: 69-87

Nishikimi, M., R. Fukuyama, et al. (1994) "Cloning and chromosomal mapping of the human nonfunctional gene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, the enzyme for L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis missing in man." Journal of Biological Chemistry 269: 13685-13688.

Nishikimi, M., T. Kawai, et al. (1992) "Guinea pigs possess a highly mutated gene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, the key enzyme for L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis missing in this species." Journal of Biological Chemistry 267: 21967-21972.

Ohta, Y. and Nishikimi, M. (1999) "Random nucleotide substitutions in primate nonfunctional gene for L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidiase, the missing enzyme in L-ascorbind acid biosynthesis." Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1472: 408-411.

Futuyma, D. (1998) Evolutionary Biology. Third edition. Sunderland, MA, Sinauer Associates.

Todaro, G.J., Benveniste, R.E., Callahan, R., Lieber, M.M., and Sherr, C.J. (1975) "Endogenous primate and feline type C viruses." Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 39 Pt 2:1159-1168

Lebedev, Y. B., Belonovitch, O. S., Zybrova, N. V, Khil, P. P., Kurdyukov, S. G., Vinogradova, T. V., Hunsmann, G., and Sverdlov, E. D. (2000) "Differences in HERV-K LTR insertions in orthologous loci of humans and great apes." Gene 247: 265-277.


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Podcast next week


I'm currently preparing a podcast to be posted next week. It will explore the genetic evidence for Human evolution in about 15 minutes and try and show how scientists have constructed phylogenetic trees in accordance to the evidence. I may also include another podcast detailing the fossil evidence for human evolution too.

See you then.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Human Evolution 101

In this series I hope to point out the specific areas which show that Humans evolved. In this I will be covering the fossil record, showing that humans evolved from a common ancestor with chimps.

As pointed out earlier, there are a number of fossils which show Evolution between humans and our last common ancestor with chimps.

Here we see a number of fossils from the hominins. Names are below:

* (A) Pan troglodytes, chimpanzee, modern
* (B) Australopithecus africanus, STS 5, 2.6 My
* (C) Australopithecus africanus, STS 71, 2.5 My
* (D) Homo habilis, KNM-ER 1813, 1.9 My
* (E) Homo habilis, OH24, 1.8 My
* (F) Homo rudolfensis, KNM-ER 1470, 1.8 My
* (G) Homo erectus, Dmanisi cranium D2700, 1.75 My
* (H) Homo ergaster (early H. erectus), KNM-ER 3733, 1.75 My
* (I) Homo heidelbergensis, "Rhodesia man," 300,000 - 125,000 y
* (J) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, La Ferrassie 1, 70,000 y
* (K) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, La Chappelle-aux-Saints, 60,000 y
* (L) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, Le Moustier, 45,000 y
* (M) Homo sapiens sapiens, Cro-Magnon I, 30,000 y
* (N) Homo sapiens sapiens, modern

Notice how they start to look like us as we go forward in time? The increase in brain size also confirms this.

The picture includes the relevant study as well.

Now we know that all ardipithecines, australopithecines and the ones from the genus homo are bipedal. This can be deduced from the fact that the structure of bone in their femur shows the cancellous bone to be adapted for bipedal walking according to Wolff's Law. Another piece of evidence is the foramen magnum. In all of these fossils, the foramen magnum is more vertical than chimps, highlighting that these are bipedal animals.

For more information on the subject of bipedalism read these papers:

Crompton, R.H., Vereecke, E.E. & Thorpe, S.K.S., 2008, Locomotion and posture from the common hominoid ancestor to fully modern hominins, with special reference
to the last common panin/hominin ancestor, Journal of Anatomy, 212: 501–543

Harcourt-Smith, W.E.H. & Aiello, L.C., 2004, Fossils, feet and the evolution of human bipedal locomotion, Journal of Anatomy: 204, 403-416

Richmond, B.G., Aiello, L.C. & Wood, B.A., 2002, Early Hominin Limb Proportions, Journal of Human Evolution, 43, 529–548

Rodman, P.S. & McHenry, H.M., 1980, Bioenergetics and the Origin of Hominid Bipedalism, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 52:103- 106

Stanford, C.B., 2006, Arboreal Bipedalism in Wild Chimpanzees: Implications
for the Evolution of Hominid Posture and Locomotion, American Journal Of Physical Anthropology 129:225–23

Steudal-Numbers, K.L., 2006, Energetics in Homo erectus and other early hominins: The consequences of increased lower-limb length, Journal of Human Evolution, 51: 445-453

Furthermore, for more papers which show the evolution of humans from a common ancestor with chimps read:

Bastir, M., O’Higgins, P., Rosas, A., 2007, Facial ontogeny in Neanderthals and
modern humans, Proceedings of the Royal Society B; 274, 1125–1132

Cobb, S., 2008, The facial skeleton of the chimpanzee-human last common ancestor, Journal of Anatomy, 212: 469–485

Dean, C., 2006, Tooth microstructure tracks the pace of human life history evolution, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 22;273(1603):2799-808.

Lewin, 1999, Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction, Blackwell Science, UK

Lucas, P.W., Constantino, P.J. & Wood, B., 2008, Inferences regarding the diet of extinct hominins: structural and functional trends in dental and mandibular morphology within the hominin clade, Journal of Anatomy, 212: 486–500

Sherwood, C.C., Subiaul, F. & Zawidzki, T.W., 2008, A natural history of the human mind: tracing evolutionary changes in brain and cognition, Journal of Anatomy, 212: 426–454

Tocheri, M.W., Orr, C.M., Jacofsky, M.C. & Marzke, M.W., 2008, The evolutionary history of the hominin hand since the last common ancestor of Pan and Homo, Journal of Anatomy, 212: 544–562

Wood, B. & Richmond, B.G., 2000, Human Evolution: Taxonomy and palaeobiology, Journal of Anatomy, 196, 19-60

Wood, B. & Lonergan, N., 2008, The hominin fossil record: taxa, grades and clades, Journal of Anatomy, 212: 354–376
Wynn, T., 2002, Archaeology and cognitive evolution, Behavioural and Brain Sciences 25, 3: 389-402

If human evolution is false then we would not see links between these species, which we do as I have many more papers which also detailed the cognitive evolution, showing how society has evolved in co-existence with the physical evolution of humans.

Another conundrum which Evolution solved is Lucy's hand. Chimps and gorillas have a feature in their wrist which allows them to do a form of quadrapedal walking called knuckle walking. It locks the wrist so that it cannot bend back like ours can, evidenced by Smith fractures. Now somewhere, we have lost that trait in our ancestry. Strait, et al, in an anatomical examination of Lucy the Australopithecine, found that these hominins have it whilst later ones such as Homo erectus do not!

Paper is here

This provides proof that this species is not a chimp nor humans as it is bipedal and has a feature only found in other Great Apes excluding ourselves!

Furthermore, if Evolution was false, we would not find this transition in the fossil record. Instead of this gradual increase in brain size, etc, we would see fossils like Homo erectus in the wrong place, a typical "Precambrian Rabbit problem." This shows that the fossil record supports Human Evolution.

Next week, Genetics!

Any papers you want to read? Please leave a message and I'll get back to you.
Hello again,

Firstly I would like to draw people's attention to this campaign.

The 10:23 Campaign

I've signed the petition, and just for you lucky people, I'm going to link back my favourite homeopathy article from when I started this blog. Homeopathy Kills

Over on Greater Manchester Skeptics, Gav brought my attention to it. I recommend signing it as it as Chemists such as Boots shouldn't really have expensive crap on their shelves, it should be real medicines.

Also, I did this overview of Human Evolution, 101, setting out the reasons why experts know that Human Evolution happened from the fossil record. Next week, I'll discuss the genetics......

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year

Hello and welcome to the first edition of the Journal of Imaginary Sciences in the new decade. I hope everyone has had fun this Christmas. I managed to get a illustrated version of the first edition of Origin of Species which I'm enthralled with and a review will be written once I've read it.

I have recently watched Man on Earth, a climate change documentary with Tony Robinson. Tony Robinson, aka, Baldrick, has spent many years narrating Time Team and you can tell that it has rubbed off. I'm impressed with some of the theoretical archaeology that is discussed in this programme with an extremely deft touch. Whilst some critics are arguing that the Neanderthal extinction fails to examine the latest evidence (Banks et al, 2008 and this if you can't access it), I find that considering there are so many views on this area, that this is just another of the many plausible scenarios to consider. Things such as the conservative nature of the Neanderthals could have played a larger role in adaptation to the new conditions. The researchers in this seem to fail in studying the "human element", whether the Neanderthals might have been influenced by cultural choices, problems with a food supply, etc. As one archaeologist that I know has commented, we don't even know whether they ever met! They may have been around certain areas at different times, we don't know.

Anyway, if you wish to see a more subtle and intellectual programme, try and catch up on this. It will be worth it.