Amazon Prime for Students Two-Day Shipping is Amazing!

One of the most valuable online services I use is Amazon. Because I was very recently a grad student (and poor!) I am eligible for Amazon Prime for Students.


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I use the Prime, free two-day shipping for most orders at least three times a month. I get several supplements from Amazon, all my tech toys, and I watch their movies through my Roku and laptop. I get supplies for my lab that I wouldn’t find locally (like aquarium supplies and fish food). I read a ton of books on the Kindle, and buy used books (and some textbooks).  Amazon is just amazing. And easy. And you can use it to compare prices.

And they have a cloud service!

If you didn’t know you get special deals for being a student – try it out! It’s super easy with your school email (a .edu). I just absolutely adore it. Check it out and tell me what you think!


How My Life is Like Google – As Life Changes, Creativity Helps Me Survive

There was quite the inspiring SlideShare presented this morning by Executive Chairman at Google, Eric Schmidt. He discussed his ten years at Google, and “his advice for reaching “business nirvana”: It’s best to work in small teams; listen to the lab coats, not the suits; and have fluid plans with stable foundations.” Here’s all he has to share:

Although I’ve taken quite a different path than Eric, his points resonate with me. First, the question -
(click “continue reading” for the article)

But where did we COME from? The burning question about chickens, eggs, humans, and apes.

There were two great videos making the rounds on Facebook this weekend. The first, about the origin of humans, and how we know where (geographically) we came from.

This brilliant talk  describes how “all humans share some common bits of DNA, passed down to us from our African ancestors. Geneticist Spencer Wells talks about how his Genographic Project will use this shared DNA to figure out how we are — in all our diversity — truly connected.”

Why you should listen

By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, Spencer Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man who lived in Africa around 60,000 to 90,000 years ago. Now, Wells is working on the follow-up question: How did this man, sometimes called “Ychromosomal Adam,” become the multicultural, globe-spanning body of life known as humanity?

Wells was recently named project director of the National Geographic Society’s multiyear Genographic Project, which uses DNA samples to trace human migration out of Africa. In his 2002 book The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, he shows how genetic data can trace human migrations over the past 50,000 years, as our ancestors wandered out of Africa to fill up the continents of the globe.”

Then, a little more light-hearted, but equally interesting, which came first? The chicken or the egg? Here’s how scientists break down that question:

“This question would be pretty simple if we took it literally. Egg-laying animals such as crocodiles and turtles existed way earlier than chickens as we know them, so technically the egg came before the chicken. But we all know that’s not what we’re talking about here.

The question of the chicken or the chicken egg is fundamentally about cause and consequence. If a chicken is born from an egg, where did the egg come from? Another chicken, obviously. But where did that chicken come from? An egg. So which came first? ”

At the heart of both of these videos is the burning desire for man to understand more about the world around him. Through asking questions – that often lead to MORE questions – we trace species and their change over time. The amount that we know about human ancestry is staggering, and beautiful. And, answering that question that tops all questions – which came first? – makes science priceless.


Let’s Talk About Sexy Bird Dances!

After talking in class last night about the evolution of behaviors, I ran across some interesting articles in National Geographic today. I wanted to share a few with you. The article descibes the great bustard “one of the few animals in the world that can stomach certain species of blister beetles (Berberomeloe majalis andPhysomeloe corallifer). The insects produce a potent toxin called cantharidin, which can be exuded as a blood-red goo. Great bustards of both sexes have been observed to eat blister beetles, though usually only one to three beetles at a time. If the birds eat too many, they can become intoxicated and die, as other animals do. However, Juan Carlos Alonso, the study’s project leader and research professor at the National Museum of Natural History in Madrid, said that just the right amount of blister beetles may kill the great bustard’s parasites or at least persuade them to look for a new host.”

The initial article that came across my newsfeed was this – Male Birds Poison Themselves to Appear Sexier—a First. From the article:

Scientists already knew the large birds, which are native to parts of Europe and Asia, snack on toxic insects to clear their guts of certain intestinal parasites, including bacteria, nematodes, and tapeworms.

But the new research, published this week in PLOS ONE, shows that males eat substantially more blister beetles than females, a strategy that makes them appear healthy—and thus sexier—during courtship rituals.

If true, the findings may be the first known case of a male “self-medicating” to attract females, according to the study authors. (Also see “Watching ‘Sexy’ Males Leads to Better Chicks, Study Says.”)

This goes along with the discussion from class about the evolution of behaviors – do the birds KNOW that they are eating poisonous beetles, that will kill their internal parasites? No, how could they know that? It’s scientists who study these birds who know what happens with the bird’s diet. Check out the video from the article:

Great Bustard mating ritual from Aroshanti on Vimeo.

The article goes on to state:

To look at a male great bustard at the height of his mating pomp, you might think that the female would be attracted to puffed and preened feathers at the front. But just a few seconds of watching the dance reveals that it’s actually what’s going on in the rear that matters.

So what exactly is the female looking for?

“If I can be a bit crude, it’s probably not to see whether the male is well-endowed,” said Daphne Fairbairn, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside, who was not involved in the study.

Instead, it’s likely that the female is evaluating the male’s cloaca—an all-purpose hole that serves reproductive, urinary, and intestinal functions—to see if it might give her a sexually transmitted disease. (By the way, this kind of mating is sometimes called a “cloacal kiss,” which is about as lovely as bird sex gets.)

Sexy, right? You thought we were going to discuss sex, and now we’re talking about “all-purpose holes” and STDs!

Following one of the links from the article, “Watching “Sexy” Males Leads to Better Chicks, Study Says.” Watching attractive males strut their stuff makes female birds more fertile and leads to healthier chicks, a new study suggests. Here is a description of that experiment:

For the experiment, the team allowed 90 female Houbara bustards to watch other birds before being artificially inseminated. Of that total, 30 females watched healthy-male displays, 30 watched poor-male displays, and 30 saw nondisplaying females.

Females that had watched the healthier males dance laid eggs containing about twice as much of the growth hormone testosterone as the eggs laid by females that watched inferior dances or no dances at all. Testosterone in both genders is associated with building bone density and muscle mass.

Or this brilliantly titled article, “Flashier Great Tits Produce Stronger Sperm, Bird Study Shows.” The tits in this article are BIRDS! What do you think I’m going to show you? But these articles go on to show you that behaviors are extremely complex, and can be learned or innate. There are advantages to using your energy to put on a great mating ritual – you go on to pass your genes along to your offspring. Maybe you’ll be thinking about biology and the evolution of your own behaviors next Saturday night when you go out with your friends. You may notice elaborate rituals that both males and females go through, trying to meet their potential mates. How much of what you do is your own decision, and how much of it has come from your ancestors? Think about that the next time you see two guys in a fist fight over a girl (AKA every episode of Jerry Springer!)

Becoming a Mindful Student

I have found that – when I am stressed at school – I can often change the way I approach my days, and make them better. Below are 20 suggestions for becoming a mindful college student.


1. What do you eat when you study? Crap, or nutritional snacks that fuel your brain?
2. Identify how the subject you are studying makes you feel. If it’s not a subject you are personally interested in, how could you relate the materials to what you are majoring in?
3. You can’t multitask. You just end up doing both things poorly. Learn how to focus, and shut out the outside world while you really work.
4. Every hour you spend studying, go take a five minute walk. Not with music blaring, but focusing on the beauty of the world around you, and making a plan for how you will work when you return.
5. When you feel stressed, journal the source. Keep a running blog or journal in a Google Doc about what you feel, what you think, and why you think that.
6. Put your problems in perspective. Think about what’s happening in your community, state, country, world, and solar system. Ask yourself, “Is this really going to kill me?” (the answer is most likely no)
7. Notice how the people around you make you feel. Do they empower and energize you? Or make you feel disorganized, stressed, or pressured? You can choose who is allowed around you. Do they bring you up, or weigh you down?
8. Before you begin to study, make a ritual. Gather your materials, sit in a specific place, block out the world around you, relax your body, turn off your phone, and begin.
9. Practice serving others, and being kind. If you made a study guide, share it with a friend who helps you. Offer to proofread for your roommate. Make a video about how to solve a problem, and share it on youtube. When you share your helpful study tips, people will share with you. Be collegial (relating to or involving shared responsibility, as among a group of colleagues).
10. Simplify your surroundings. Clean off your desk. Shut down all those tabs. Simplify to focus on the task at hand – both physically and mentally.
11. Meditate. Go outside, sit on a bench or in the grass, and listen to the sounds of nature.
12. Listen to a guided mediation.

13. Note the thought process that occurs when you feel bad, stressed, or emotional. Avoid those thoughts in advance.

14. Spend five minutes each morning to plan your day. Pack a healthy lunch, snack, and water bottle. Get the right books and notebooks in your backpack. Note the weather. Note your work schedule. Plan the important things in half hour or hour long chunks. Use a timer.

15. Be fully present in each conversation. Pay attention to who is talking. Look them in the eye.

16. Practice compassion to those who are suffering. Maybe that’s your friend, roommate, classmate, professor, or family member. Tell them, “I’m sorry you are hurting.” Being kind to a person who is in pain is the best remedy.

17. Close your eyes, and breathe in and out ten times. Focus on relaxation and mental clarity.

18. Recognize the beauty all around you.

19. Pay attention to things that may have gone unnoticed.

20. School is not going to last forever. You will get past that paper, exam, semester, year, or degree. You will get it done. Just hang in there.


What Scientists are Saying About Ebola

If you are looking for credible information about Ebola, then check out this video. How can you tell if this is good information or not? Check out the sources, listed below.

Published on Aug 7, 2014

SciShow News give you the facts about ebola, one of the world’s deadliest diseases that’s making a stand in West Africa.