Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Interesting Science News

I was just skimming through my newsreader headlines from the past week, and came across a bunch of interesting science articles. I present them here with little comment:

• The naming committee for the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) is renaming the human versions of some fruit fly genes. Why? Because the sometimes whimsical names might offend people who have mutations in those genes. On the list: lunatic fringe, radical fringe, manic fringe, sonic hedgehog, Indian hedgehog and others. The proposed solution: refer to them by their initials. (news@nature.com article, background from HUGO)

Of course the bloggers have weighed in: The Neurophilosphier's weblog notes ""Offensive" gene names to be changed", Evolgen opines "Human Geneticists Suck", Pharyngula shouts "Hands off those genes". In the course of discussion, they point out lots of interesting fly gene names.

• Toddlers learn complex actions from picture-book reading (press release, article: Simcock & DeLoache "Get the Picture? The Effects of Iconicity on Toddlers' Reenactment From Picture Books" Dev. Psych 42:1352-1357 (2006) (pdf))
Parents who engage in the age-old tradition of picture-book reading are not only encouraging early reading development in their children but are also teaching their toddlers about the world around them, according to a study in the November issue of Developmental Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). This finding shows that interactions with life-like color pictures can aid in children's learning.
I think that anything that promotes reading is good advice!

• Chronic jet-lag conditions hasten death in aged mice (ScienceNOW report, article: Davidson et al.: "Correspondence: Chronic jet-lag increases mortality in aged mice." Current Biology 16, R914-R916 (2006) (abstract))
Researchers have found that aged mice undergoing weekly light-cycle shifts--similar to those that humans experience with jet lag or rotating shift work--experienced significantly higher death rates than did old mice kept on a normal daylight schedule over the same eight-week period. The findings may not come as a great surprise to exhausted globe-trotting business travelers, but the research nonetheless provides, in rather stark terms, new insight into how the disruption of circadian rhythms can impact well-being and physiology, and how those impacts might change with age.
This is important research for both frequent travelers and shift workers.

• Cake Cutting Milestone! Actually, I don't really follow the math, but the methodology could be used for dividing land fairly, for example (New Scientist article, article: Brams et al. "Better Ways to Cut a Cake" Notices of the AMS 53:1314-1321 (2006) (pdf))
Traditional methods, such as the "you cut, I choose" method, where one person halves the cake and the other chooses a piece, are flawed because though both get equal shares and neither is envious, the division is not equitable - one piece may have more icing or fruit on it than another, for example.

Enter the “Surplus Procedure” (SP) for cake-sharing between two people, and the "Equitability Procedure" (EP) for sharing between three or more. Both involve asking guests to tell the cake-cutter how they value different parts of the cake. For example, one guest may prefer chocolate, another may prefer marzipan.

Under SP, the two parties first receive just half of the cake portion that they subjectively valued the most. Then the "surplus" left over is divided proportionally according to the value they gave it. EP works in a similar way: the guests first get an equal proportion of the part of the cake they each value the highest – a third each if they are three; a quarter each if they are four, etc – and then the remainder is again divided along the lines of subjective value.

The result is everyone is left feeling happy, Klamler says. Two people, for example, may feel they are each getting 65% of what they want rather than just half.
Cocktail Party Physics has a fuller explanation.

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Anonymous Gillian said...

My mind is amazed at the negotiation potential the argument potential in achieving 65% satisfaction from eating cake.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:39 PM  

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