All you could want in a post about science.  Research that is helping us to better understand how our brain works, a study on human behavior, and a story about a really creepy creature, with link to photo.

First a question.  Rank these potential scientific developments based on which you think is the most likely to happen first. 

1. Treating illness at the genetic, DNA, level.

2. Discovering life on another planet

3. Cheap, and clean, energy source.

4. Being able to rewire the brain to treat people who are suffering from dementia.

5. Discovering that based on a mathematical equation the existence of God can be proven.

1) Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have now discovered that establishing the neural wiring necessary to function normally depends on the ability of neurons to make finger-like projections of their membrane called filopodia.

In laying down the neural circuitry of the developing brain, billions of neurons must first migrate to their correct destinations and then form complex synaptic connections with their new neighbors.

When the process goes awry, neurodevelopmental disorders such as mental retardation, dyslexia or autism may result. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have now discovered that establishing the neural wiring necessary to function normally depends on the ability of neurons to make finger-like projections of their membrane called filopodia.

The finding, published as the cover story of the Sept. 4 issue of the journal Cell, indicates that the current notion regarding how cells change shape, migrate or differentiate needs to be revisited.

http://www.unchealthcare.org/site/newsroom/news/2009/September/polleux

2) Rewards go further than punishment in building human cooperation and benefiting the common good, according to research published this week in the journal Science by researchers at Harvard University and the Stockholm School of Economics. While previous studies have focused almost exclusively on punishment for promoting public cooperation, here rewards are shown to be much more successful.

The new study, which finds that rewards robustly build compliance and cooperation, could help in developing solutions for thorny problems requiring the cooperation of large numbers of people to achieve a greater good. It was conducted using a computer-based public goods game, a classic experiment for measuring collective action in a laboratory setting. The study contradicts previous research, which has stated that peer punishment is the only effective mechanism for promoting public cooperation.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163550.htm

3) A rare parasite which burrows into host fish before eating and replacing their tongues with itself has been found off the Jersey coast.

Fishermen near the Minquiers – islands under the jurisdiction of Jersey – found the isopod, a type of louse, inside a weaver fish.

Marine researcher Paul Chambers, from the Société Jersiaise, was one of the fishing party and identified the find.

He said he was surprised to find the isopod away from the Mediterranean sea.

Isopods are normally about 2cm (1in) long and live in fish, surviving on the animal’s blood, in warm waters.

Mr Chambers told BBC Jersey: “When we emptied the fish bag out there at the bottom was this incredibly ugly looking isopod.

“Really quite large, really quite hideous – if you turn it over its got dozens of these really sharp, nasty claws underneath and I thought ‘that’s a bit of a nasty beast’.

“I struggled for weeks to find an identification for this thing until, quite by chance I stumbled across something that looked similar in a Victorian journal.

“Apparently there’s not too much ill effect to the fish itself except it’s lost its tongue.”

Experts at the University of Southampton confirmed that the creature was an isopod and that there had been several sightings of them in Cornwall in 1996.

Mr Chambers added: “It doesn’t affect humans other than if you do actually come across a live one and try and pick it up – they are quite vicious, they will deliver a good nip.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/jersey/8246001.stm 

Link to blog post with picture, if you dare.  🙂

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/09/isnt_nature_beautiful.php

Question for my Christian friends.  How did these guys make it onto the Ark, but the Unicorns didn’t?  🙂

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