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tristis's profile

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hubskier for: 1620 days

recent comments, posts, and shares:
tristis  ·  1609 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous.

GMOs are such an interesting issue because it's simultaneously so personal (the food that you put in your mouth every day) and so difficult for most people without a science background to understand. I'm a PhD student in biology and I do a lot of genetics, but even I don't understand all of the nuances of modern genetic engineering, nor, especially, the potential shortcoming of various studies that aim to test the safety of these crops.

In my mind, there are really two separate issues at hand. 1) Are GMOs, in general, as a technique, safe? (Yes, definitely) 2) Are the specific genes that are being inserted into our food safe (Yes, but that is not necessarily so in general). I really have no problem with increased oversight to ensure that the latter point is true, but a vanishingly small portion of the anti-GMO crowd seem to even realize that there is a difference. I was living in California when there was a referendum to try to mandate that GMO foods get labeled as such, but the proposed labels would not have actually told you what the genetic modification is. The argument I kept hearing from the pro-labeling crowd was, "Don't you want to know what's in your food?" Well, first of all, I'm not exactly in a position to be able to intelligently second-guess the USDA or the FDA regarding food safety. But, more importantly, those labels would not tell you "what's in your food" any more than saying "we use some kind of pesticide or herbicide" would do so.

tristis  ·  1617 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Hubski Haiku: Based on your day today --

  Suffocating heat --
  Indoors, statesmen beat old drums.
  Where to find fresh air?
I've been following the Confederate flag debate here in South Carolina all day and the heat wave has returned.
tristis  ·  1617 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Clinton Campaign Is Afraid of Bernie Sanders - The Atlantic

I support Sanders, and also think he has little chance of catching up to Hillary if for no other reason than his fundraising disadvantage, but I think the best thing about his campaign is that it seems to be giving the American Left their spine back. It's been too long since the Left had anyone serious in the national conversation.

tristis  ·  1619 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Insects may be able to feel fear, anger and empathy, after all.

I agree. Frankly, as a biologist who works with insects, but certainly not a neuroscientist or ethologist, I find all of the "evidence" for insect emotions in this piece to be profoundly unconvincing. But I did feel bad this morning when I decapitated a butterfly in the lab, but didn't go low enough, and it continued to fly around in the trash can without a head until I fetched it and put it out of its "misery."

tristis  ·  1619 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: What is your favorite national/state park? Why should I go there?

I'm cheating a little because it's not actually my favorite, but if you're ever in the Midlands of South Carolina, definitely check out Congaree National Park. It's not the largest or the most beautiful, but it's very different from anything you've probably seen before. It's technically a "bottomland hardwood forest" -- I would call it a swamp -- and there is very little of that biome left in the US. Much of the park is a floodplain with endless cypress trees with their little knees sticking up out of the water. There's a boardwalk near the visitor's center because it's almost always too wet to walk through that area, but even the boardwalk floods when it rains a lot. It's perfect if you want a break from the breathtaking mountains, valleys, and canyons that dominate many of the National Parks.

tristis  ·  1619 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres 2015 winners have been announced

It's always interesting to see the difference in games that get nominated and win the Spiel des Jahres and those that get a lot of buzz in the sort of hobbyist communities that I get most of my news from. I had heard a lot about Machi Koro, which lost, but I know virtually nothing about Colt Express. And I don't know Broom Service, either, even though the Kennerspiel des Jahres caters much more towards the hobbyist community. I'll have to check these out at some point.

Galápagos finches, though, are also famous amongst evolutionary biologists because of the work of the illustrious Peter and Rosemary Grant at Princeton, whose work on these birds over the course of decades has provided invaluable findings on rapid evolution to a changing environment, as well as other topics.