Friday, 26 February 2010

AWOL in the interior.

Things are busy. Going to be AWOL for the next few days. Here's a picture of one Alaska's other, other highways: River snowmachine trails. Get on one of those, and I'm not sure there's anywhere you can't end up.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

A conversation that definitely took place.

From the Tundra Drums:
The new five-acre spot at the airport, near the hangar where the Guard parks Blackhawk helicopters, is a perfect location because of the military's transformation from a Cold War force to one prepared for new threats in the wake of 9/11, Katkus said.
For example, the military today strives to better protect airports and the armory's location will help provide additional security, he said. 

Mohammed Omar  enters into the cave, and kneels on the symbol of Al Quida.

OMAR: What is thy bidding, my master.

The ghostly image of Osama Bin Laden appears above the cave floor.

BIN LADEN: There is no great disturbance among the Americans.

OMAR: I have seen it.

BIN LADEN: We must strike fear into our enemy.

OMAR: Yes my master.

BIN LADEN: We must destroy.

OMAR: But where? New York...  Washington... we have done these.

BIN LADEN: Indeed. We must strike deep into their heart. We must strike them where they will never recover. York Model Railway Station.

OMAR: Isn't that part of another skit by a much funnier fat Irish man?

BIN LADEN: Was it? Damn that bald Irishman. Make a note: We crash an air plane into Dara O'Briain's house next June.

OMAR: Yes, my master.

BIN LADEN: No, what will truly break the will of the American pigs... is if we attack the Bethel Alaska's Airport.

OMAR: Bethel? Is that... wise?

BIN LADEN: Indeed. Our strike will come suddenly, and without warning. Yes, more people are in the average Reno Casino on a given day, than have been in Bethel ever, but this is exactly why it will work.

OMAR: But... my master... they have a new armory building, which was built in part through a homeland security justification.

BIN LADEN: Damn those American rats! They'll rue the day they thwarted me with their strategic protection of Bethel.

OMAR: continues to kneel in uncomfortable silence.

BIN LADEN: Just as well. We probably should not split our resources from our plan to attack the true hub of America, Great Falls Montana.

White-Tailed deer and asymmetry

In general, we expect fluctuating asymmetry to be a sexually selected trait. How's that for an opening line? But it's generally true: Females prefer males that are more symmetric. We find that in humans, mice, rats, and about a dozen other things, so the finding is fairly robust. In fact, you can experimentally alter faces' symmetry using computers, increasing it or decreasing it artificially, and ask people to rank them. People are pretty consistent in their rankings, across cultures. 

Why? Why do animals prefer more symmetric animals? Well, there's a slew of hypotheses. Most of them revolve around the fact that the random deviations from symmetry (that's where the 'fluctuating asymmetry' term comes from) tend to be linked with past stress. It could be it was a sick child. Or a poorly fed child. Or in development, they got into problems with predators, or other sources of injury. Or it could have been environmental toxic exposure. Whatever the cause, the response tends to be pretty straight forward: do not want.

If a mouse was very sick as a pup, that means that a choosy mouse doesn't want him. After all, it might have STDs. Or it could have bad genes, that predispose it to sickness. Or it lacked behaviour that kept it away from infection. Either way, a choosy mouse doesn't want any diseases itself, and it definitely doesn't want bad genes for its offspring. No thank you! If it wasn't fed much as a pup, well, its mother gave its food finding skills/knowledge/genes, and you don't want those either. That, is, in a nutshell, fluctuating asymmetry. Or, as the cool kids call it, "Flucing A." Serious. Scientists say that with a straight face.


Most fluctuating asymmetry comes from early/juvinile development, because that's when most of the development occurs. But traits like antlers pose an interesting extension, because they're produced fresh each year. In theory, each new set of antlers is a demonstration of how the bull's life has gone up to that point, not just up until it reached adulthood. That's multiple points to demonstrate fluctuating asymmetry. If a male had a bad year, that information will be integrated into its antlers the next season. And antlers are some of the fastest growing tissues, so they easily react to stress to induce fluctuating asymmetry. They're also sexually selected traits, in that antlers mostly exist to woo the ladies, or intimidate other males.

In general, we expect the following pattern: Older males, less fluctuating asymmetry. That's because if you've lived a while a) you're good at what you're doing (and the worse ones have died off a bit) and b) you're more socially dominant. Also, we generally expect larger antlers to have lower fluctuating asymmetry, because only good males can make big antlers. Previous studies have found positive relationship between symmetry and low of parasite load, while others have found vague support for fluctuating asymmetry and antler size.

But here's the thing. Those were with 2-d measurements. Highly asymmetric antlers could numerically be recorded as symmetric because the data can't distinguish symmetry.

Well, Stephen Ditchkoff and Rachel L DeFreese decided to correct that. In their paper, "Assessing fluctuating asymmetry of white-tailed deer antlers in a three-dimensional context," (DOI: 10.1644/09-MAMM-A-134R.1.), they used 3-dimentional modelling to find out if a) Antler Size is negatively correlated with fluctuating asymmetry and b) age is negatively correlated with fluctuating asymmetry.

What was their sample size? What was the nutritional status of the deer? What was the sample site? All these I can't answer in any detail, because frankly, the descriptions in the paper were wanting. They mention two counties in Alabama  in 2002-2003 hunting season... well heck, that means nothing to me. In such an environmentally induced trait, population location, and position with respect to carrying capacity (K) matters. I'm going to assume that these were good years, in apex populations. But how many samples? I don't see it spelt out clearly. I think it's 121, because that's the largest n they have on any of their measurements. Still, I'm unhappy with that. I normally enjoy Ditchkoff papers, so this was bum.

But, when all is said and done, they tested their two hypotheses, and reject both of them. Age is at best weakly correlated (r≤0.33) without be statistically significant (P≥0.083). Further, there wasn't any consistent link between age and decreased fluctuating asymmetry. The stats on this are messy, and the tables numerous. But the take home message I think is sound.

So, WTF? I tell you all about fluctuating asymmetry, and then I tell you it's bunk? Well, I wouldn't say that. I don't think age is a big role in fluctuating asymmetry, because of Bowyer, one of our ex-faculty, who did some work in moose.  I've attached some graphs that show that males increase over age, before petering out at the end. Really old bulls then enter decline, when their antlers go to heck. I wanted a picture of clubbed antlers, but I don't have one handy - shame. So that would erode the relationship between age and fluctuating asymmetry. Antler size is a bit more troublesome... and I think the authors were on to something when they offered the hypothesis that maybe things weren't severe enough to produce patters.

Given antlers tend to hit a max with age, most bull moose (or buck deer, in this case) will have roughly the same size, within a normal distribution. When you really see a lopsided distribution (gamma) is when times are tough, and there's one shining winner, and a whole lot of losers who aren't looking so pretty any more. This is why ecological information is important in fluctuating asymmetry papers. I need to know how much the animals are getting pushed, because it's when the things get bad you know who's worth his salt.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lawyers for Lamprey?

Switzerland as a country has officially jumped the shark. Well, they would have, if they hadn't have decided that Sharks deserve better. On March 7th, they're going to vote on whether animals deserve lawyers.

They're going to vote on whether animals deserve lawyers.

The debate took on a new dimension two weeks ago when prosecutors in the canton of Zurich accused an angler of having tortured a large pike, because the battle between man and beast took about 10 minutes.
Goetschel, in his capacity as the canton's animal lawyer, was in court to represent the dead fish. He regrets that the case, which isn't typical of his work, received so much attention.
Wh... what? Huh? Who? Seriously? Seriously?
I need a lawyer to represent me for all the pain and mental anguish this story has caused me trying to wrap my head around it.
On the other hand, dead fish have feelings too, I guess.



Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Alaska: Then and Now

Click to enbiggen.
While intellectually I know that Alaska's changed a lot since 1949, it's sometimes hard to realize just how much. I've been looking at old topographical maps, which show Alaska as it was 50-70 years ago, looking at village locations to see what went away, what the surveyors missed, and what popped up since then.  In the YK, the BIA had more effect on where villages ended up than almost anything else - I suspect that might be true on the North Slope, too, but I don't know for sure.

When Goldstream didn't have a road, or anything, I couldn't help but notice this little CDP called "Happy." It's just to the east of Ester Dome. Right now, it's where Sheep Creek Rd. crosses the Goldstream Creek. What happened to Happy? Did they become sad and leave? Right now, there's a small collection of homes there, on the less cheerfully named "Aurora Borealis Drive." Bring back Happy, I say!

There's something else I've noticed, but it isn't on this map I've shown you. When I drove the Parks Highway back in July, I realized that there was an air strip right after you leave the Denali area, when you start getting into the very edge of the Susitna valley, in the Chulitna headwaters. It's called "Summit." It's a very lovely area, and there's a large lake (Edes Lake), and a couple random cabins over there. Oh, and wind turbine. I started wondering what was the story behind Summit - I tried googling it, but I can't find anything.

When I looked at the area in a 1951 topo, even ignoring the highway, Summit looks very different. It had roads going up and down a bit - rare in that area, for that time. And there are a lot of black dots that indicate cabins... more than Cantwell. Even back then it had an Air Strip. What was Summit? I don't see any signs of mining either in person, or on the map. It's a very pretty area, but it's a very inhospitable area. I really want to know what the story behind Summit was.

Edited to add: Looking at these old topos, and just thinking about challenges 110 years ago in general,  I can't help but feel like all of us alive now are frauds. We're not our grandfathers and grandmothers. We have it so easy it's laughable.
On the other hand, I'll trade being a fraud for having a mean life expectancy of twice of 1900s. That's 2x the time to feel like a fraud.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Rom's F/C shown not to work.

I suppose I'm one of those awful sceptics that people frown at. The serious sort who are no fun to be around. The ones that tell you there's no ghost, just some creaky plumbing and an old log house. Or that's how people often frame it. Truth be told, I wish there was magical cures, ESP, and all that. It sure would make life better, wouldn't it?

I have the same mixed feelings about the story of the Belgian who used Facilitated Communication to allegedly talk, after being in a coma for 23 years. Briefly, a doctor argued that he's not in a coma, but fully awake and aware based on fMRI findings (And we know what my opinion of fMRI is...). He then was paired with a Facilitated Communication therapist who moved his finger from key to key, allegedly allowing him to talk. However, when they tested it, the doctor found the patient couldn't tell him anything the FC therapist didn't know.

The Guardian would have you believe that people like me are crowing over this. I'm not. The family has been through a hell of a lot, and now they've been kicked yet again. It's entirely possible that the FC therapist thinks what she was doing was legitimate. They often do - it exploits subconscious effects, not unlike the Ouija board. She, too, has probably had the rug yanked out from under her.

The only moral of the story I can find here is that a slow, methodical approach, while unsatisfying to families, is the best way to go. I can't think of any silver lining for the family, who have obviously been through enough.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Ice Sculpture outside Signers Hall


Whereas the Museum has a confusing one, Signers Hall has a very boring ice sculpture. Very blasé idea. We already have 3 polar bears around campus!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Three new genomes

There's been some exciting stuff in the last two weeks in terms of human genetics. This week, Nature has published two new complete human genomes, from southern Africa. Right now, sampling has been focused on Europe and Asia, which to be fair represents about half the human race right there. However, in terms of where human diversity is located, Europe, Asia, Australia and the North and South America are relatively homogeneous compared to the centre of human radiation, Africa. You can really see this when you take a glance at the number of unique polymophisms shared by various genomes sampled in these diagrams.
The areas that overlap show similarity, the areas that don't overlap show unique diversity.  Immediately what stands out to me is that the African samples have almost double the unique diversity that the other sampled genomes do. This is expected, but it really drives home how much we've been underestimating divergence. This is because we haven't been looking at that diversity before now - all our DNA diversity sites have been based off of European and Asian genomes. This is great for most of the work that has focused on Europe, Asia, and America, since it targets the applicable diversity. But because we haven't been looking at the African-European and the African-Asian big differences, it's underestimated divergence within Africa, and between Africa and other human populations.

Neat stuff. Very very neat. If I were to pick two places to study human genetics, I'd do it in Africa (super high diversity!) or the South Pacific (Lower diversity lets you study gene by environment effects).

The other thing that came out recently was also from Nature, which was the Genome of ancient remains (hair) from Greenland. This is one of the longest look backs we've had, and really tells us a bit about the last migration wave to North America. People in the Eskimo-Aleut language family are generally thought to be late comers to North America, which shouldn't be a massive shock, since most the areas Eskimo live weren't exactly habitable thirteen thousand years ago (They were covered by massive, mile thick ice sheets).
I've thrown up a figure from the Nature Paper. The paleo-Greenlander is labeled Saqqaq in this diagram. Each vertical bar represents one individual. The colours in that bar represent them being assigned to a population, so all the beige bars are 100%% beige population (Koryak), and the beige and yellow are half Beige population, and half yellow (Nganasan). You can see Saqqaq is closest to the modern Chukchi, though there's considerable noise in all the assignments (real data is messy!). More interestingly, if you look at modern east and west Greenlanders, they don't have some of the diversity he has, and they have a strong blue measure of admixture. That's diversity that it shares with Europe and pre-contact Americans.

This is cool because it really tells a story about how this group represented by Saqqaq made a massive journey in an incredibly short period of time. It also helps scientists pin down when that last migration wave came in, peopling the arctic, with better accuracy. It's also cool because we can tell a man 5.5kya was balding through looking at nothing more than his DNA. And it shows how incredibly fast humans adapted culturally to the arctic. The authors of the paper claim some small number of SNPs show that he had metabolic adaptations to cold climates, but I'm suspicious of the genetic effects they're claiming. Even granting them, Saqqaq's people still had to culturally adapt to a huge amount of environment that they'd never encountered before. It's like the first human to step foot out of Africa, only to discover how cold it can get at night, but a thousand fold more severe.

Culture is a powerful and under appreciated tool. I think this ancient DNA study drives that point home to me.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

How to abuse Coffee

This is very, very cool.
A neuroscientist has written a guide for getting the most out of your Caffeine buzz. For people like me, who subsist on a pot a day, this is pure gold. His big points?

  1. Moderate your intake to small, frequent doses.
  2. Aim for tasks that caffeine improves performance, avoid tasks that it decreases performance.
  3. Consume Caffeine with the correct adjuvents.
  4. Know when to go without.
  5. Use the right sources of caffeine.
Go ahead and click on the link to get his full advise on each point. I think I'll make this mandatory reading for all my incoming grad students. It's far more useful than handouts on PCR sterile technique. ;)


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Kuinerraq gets new houses?

I thought I posted about the Cold Climate Housing Authority's Anatuvuk Pass hosing experiment, where they built semi-subterranean houses like a napik. I've got a picture to the right. I think they're possibly good ideas, because the current houses are the same that are used in Arizona for BIA housing there. They don't work there, either. Here in Alaska, they rot, leak heat, and are very vulnerable to cold and blowing snow.

So I'm really happy that they've apparently worked well in Anaktuvuk Pass, and Quinhagak is considering them too. They want to make theirs octaganal, which is an interesting idea. I have a hard time imagining living in an octagonal house, though! The problem would be arranging things, so you don't waste space.

One other thing I wonder about is how they insulate the house from the permafrost, to keep it from melting into the ground. Would permafrost melting be more dangerous to a buried house? I wonder.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Abstracts: Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations

 Disa A. Sauter, Frank Eisner, Paul Ekman, and Sophie K. Scott. Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations. PNAS 2010 107:2408-2412; published online before print January 25, 2010, doi:10.1073/pnas.0908239106

Emotional signals are crucial for sharing important information, with conspecifics, for example, to warn humans of danger. Humans use a range of different cues to communicate to others how they feel, including facial, vocal, and gestural signals. We examined the recognition of nonverbal emotional vocalizations, such as screams and laughs, across two dramatically different cultural groups. Western participants were compared to individuals from remote, culturally isolated Namibian villages. Vocalizations communicating the so-called “basic emotions” (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise) were bidirectionally recognized. In contrast, a set of additional emotions was only recognized within, but not across, cultural boundaries. Our findings indicate that a number of primarily negative emotions have vocalizations that can be recognized across cultures, while most positive emotions are communicated with culture-specific signals.

Vaguely interesting! I'm not sure I'm 100% on board with their methods, but the idea is definitely intriguing.

Recently, I was talking to a friend, who told the story of how a new teacher from the states tried to correct an elder's pronunciation. I said to my friend that I would have gone "That's nice" if it were me; my friend replied that the elder went "Mmm" and walked away (It was described as "Very Yup'ik" ;) ). And since we all know annecdotes are the best data (I say, tongue in cheek), I'd use this to suggest that there are also culture specific disapproval signals.

Robotic Snowplow

First: Today, I saw a Japanese couple discussing dish towels in detail at Fred's. I don't know what they were saying (My Japanese is limited to counting to ten, and saying "Do you speak Japanese?"), but they seemed to be having the most engrossing discussion of dish towels known to mankind, because they were still discussing them 45 minutes later.

How does this have anything to do with the title of this post?

Because I've come to the conclusion that Japan doesn't do anything in half measures. Witness, the robotic snowplow:
It's called the Yuki-Taro. It eats snow, and poops out little bricks of compressed snow. Much like WALL-E. Most places would be satisfied with a shovel, or maybe even a plow attached to a truck. Not Japan. They have to go out and build a snow eating robot.  

I have little to add to that, so here's a random picture from this weekend. You can see my shadow! My anonymity is gone!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Colour blindness

This is pretty cool. I've known a couple people who were colour blind, but them trying to describe what it's like off the cuff is like me trying to describe what things taste like (What's asveq tongue taste like... uh... like...  tongue?). So, someone made a visual simulator for colour blindness. Very neat.

Glacier Brewhouse in brief

I tried a number of beers while I was in Anchorage, some of which I even remember. Friends don't let friends review while under the influence, but there is one place I want to mention. Me and a good friend went to the Glacier Brewhouse in downtown Anchorage, and tried their wares. Without the time (or atmosphere) to do proper reviews, here's a quick list of things I tried.

  • Imperial Blonde: Thumbs down. Saccharine.
  • Belgium Imperial Stout: Thumps down. Shots of flavour? Serious?
  • Cherry XXXMas Triple Bock(?): Thumbs up. Shockingly balanced.
  • Brown Ale: ???. If you're out of a beer, DON'T RECOMMEND IT.
In all, I'll get some of their stuff to do proper reviews. But I wasn't impressed with their craftmanship.  I'd probably give them an over-all C.

Ice Sculptures outside Iriving

Not that I'm biased, but I think my department has the best ice sculptures this year, hands down. My photos don't do it justice. It's a wolf and an arctic fox.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A new trick

I learned a new trick.
Click on that to enbiggen. The raw file is mammoth. I took about three photos and stitched them together. This let me use a greater zoom on my lens, so there's more detail.  Yes, yes, I know, everyone's been doing photo panoramas for forever. But it's new to me. I've just arrived home 20 minutes ago, and I've started putting together several from the drive from Ankrits (aka, Anchoragua, Aka, Los Anchorage, aka, Little Seattle, Aka, the Capital of Alaska™). Aside from the road icing (which was considerable), the drive was gorgeous. I wish I could get someone else to drive, so I could spend the whole time clicking away with my camera. 

Sadly, my wolf picture didn't come out. But I've now seen wolves crossing the road a few times. Not surprising, since that part was a high density wolf area. But still, some of our grad students don't believe anyone has that kind of luck.

It's funny. As gorgeous as Anchorage is with its tall mountains, the ocean (I miss open water), its luxuries, and its great snow, I'm glad I'm back in dirty, musty, slightly run down Fairbanks. Fairbanks really is a place after my own heart, but large enough to have a theater and a theater bar!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A very good dog

This is M.

Back in November, I was taking care of him while his owner was out of state. I was also running the generators for the owner, but mostly watching after M. He's a useful dog. Something around 11 years old (you can see the grey on his muzzle and belly; look at the sagittal crest on his skull), but still energetic, and incredibly well trained. Not vocal at all. And he didn't get into trouble. But this is not why he is a good, useful dog.

I was sighting in my ruger 10/22, which is a small rifle you use for ptarmigan, and for furbearers (except wolf, which really takes a .223). M was along, and when he saw me get out the rifle, he got very excited. M is trained as a gun dog, and thought I was going to get him birds to carry back.

I started sighting in, and then did some free fire, and while I did, M started to get confused. Where were the birds? You could see the thought process in his canine head. There were no birds, he reasoned, because he hadn't flushed them. M ran out to flush anything he could find. Camprobbers and Chickadees went flapping as he dislodged them all from their perch. I stopped firing, not wanting to hit any.

M took my lack of firing as a sign I hit something. He started searching around under where I was aiming. Gosh, that was where he was shooting, but where's the dead birds? He dug around a bit, looked confused, and then finally found something. He carried it on back to me, and dropped it. The picture above is right after he dropped it. He apparently thought that since I was shooting at a tree (a target hanging from the tree) he should bring back some sticks.

M is a very good, and very useful dog. He's trained to hunt firewood. :}

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Yukon Quest Start

The Yukon Quest started on Saturday. Since I'm on the Road Today through Thursday, I figured Tuesday is a good day to fling up some pictures. :)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Creative thinking

Typically, you expect wiretapping laws to exist to protect us from unreasonable police procedures. My hat is off to the Boston Police Department, who is thinking outside the box - they've decided that wiretapping laws exist to protect the police from citizens with cellphones. You know, the sort who has the nasty tendency to video record police brutality.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Why things are the way they are.

There's a free video up at Hulu called "Split: A divided America." It was interesting, although off point in many places. For example, they cite Thomas Jefferson edited a bible as evidence for his religosity. That was true, Jefferson wrote the Jefferson Bible. However, the Jefferson Bible was notable because it removed every single last supernatural reference from the Bible, leaving just the philosophy. Jefferson had beliefs far outside the norm of Christianity, and would be best described as a Deist.

I also don't think you can discuss the issue without thinking about in-group/out-group psychology.

Anyhow, I think the movie's worth a watch and think. Even if the production values aren't that great.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


So, supposedly a study using brain scans found that 4 of 27  patients in a vegetative state could actually answer questions. We're invited to feel horror at the thought of being locked in. Indeed, that seems horrible.

But, on the other hand, they found that a dead salmon did a lot of thinking in an fMRI, too.

These people, in the fMRI world, have what we like to call "Problems" with their statistical methods.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Some safety dos and don'ts. I'm not sure what this Better of TED show is, but it looks interesting... Alas! No cable!


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Repost: How to make a Hare Snare

This is, hands down, my most popular posts. I get a good number of people  who come here for learning how to make a snare from wire. So for you aspiring trappers, especially all of you in Norway, here's how you can make hare snares on the cheap:

A lot of blogs have gimmics, like pictures by semi-compotent photographers, insightful commentary from brilliant minds, or daily content served up with a dwallop of good humour. But what's a blog without any of these things to do? There are many options out there for the incompotent blogger, but none as time tested as faking it. Today, as promised, I'll fake teaching you how to do a neat skill that you can fake learn, and use to fake out your friends and family! Today, we're going to learn how to make snares about the right size for snowshoe hares.

You'll need the following:
The steel wire should be about 20 gague, and you can get it cheap from any local hardware store. I recommend you have a lot of beer on hand, because crafting skill and beer consumption is linearlly porportional. The multi-tool needs a pair of pliers, and wire cutters on them!
It also helps if you have some entertainment. This can be another person making snares with you, or you could watch documenteries on TV, like the RedGreen Show. Oh Bill, when will you learn ducttape doesn't fix the mangled bodies of your horribly injured friends! So zany!
You'll want to cut off about 21 inches. That number is subject to change without reason, really. Use a tape measure if you want them consistently the same size, or do what I do, and just base each one off the previous batch.
Now take the leatherman and bend an end around into a hook about 20mm in. This translates to a good chunk of a knuck in, or about 3/4ths an inch.
Now take the end of the loop in your channel locks. I use channel locks because I like channel locks. You could use another pair of pliers, but then you'd be some sort of freak, and no one would ever talk to you. And you wouldn't want that, would you?
Next, grasp the short end of the J with the pliers, and use them and the channel lock to twist the two strands together until you have a loop. I can't show you how to do this, because I don't have a third hand to operate a camera with. After this is a good time to have some more beer. it should look like this:Now put the straight end through the loop. If you can't accomplish this, you've had too much beer too early. Your mother would be ashamed. Otherwise, it'll look like this:
Now make another loop at the end. Start with a J:
And then using the pliers and channel locks, make another loop. The first loop shouldn't be able to slide off the strand of wire, now. It should look like this.The snare is more-or-less done, now! The second loop takes a string of parachute chord, but that doesn't go on until you're ready to put down your snares. The final, final product looks something like this...
...except it's not ready to have the anchor added. I just did that to fool you into a false sense of security. First, it needs to lose some of its scent. Some people boil their small game snares, others seal them with various concoctions. But for what I'm doing, I don't really need that. I've found that hanging them outside for two+ weeks, in a safe manner, is sufficient to naturalize (though not neutralize) the odour.

And now you know! And knowing is half-the-battle. Remember, don't trap unless you have a valid license to do so. And if you trap hares for food, remember to boil them for thirty minutes, around Fairbanks, to get them good and edible. They're pretty wormy, otherwise. If you're using them for bait, obviously you don't need to!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Board of Fish makes a decision on Yukon Kings.

The Fish Board settles on something to try and salvage the Yukon King fishery. From the story from Daily News Miner:
FAIRBANKS - The Alaska Board of Fisheries on Sunday took what some fishermen say is a major and others say is a minor step toward rebuilding the declining Yukon River king salmon run.

In an attempt to get more older, bigger and more productive kings on the spawning grounds, the Fish Board voted to prohibit subsistence and commercial fishermen on the Yukon from using gillnets with mesh larger than 7.5 inches starting in 2011.
I'm not a fisheries expert, so I don't know if this will be effective - I'll ask some of the people across the hall. But I worry that for the lower Yukon, the gear change is going to hammer them. Like the news article said, people are already feeling times are tight... from Emo in the last two weeks alone, I've got two offers to sell me stuff they probably shouldn't be selling me.

We really need something other than commercial fishing down there. *sigh*

Random papers.

Here's some stuff that's not from my normal journal reading list, but I none the less find interesting:

Danger! Science jargon ahead!

Chimpanzees adopting unrelated children. (Altruism in Forest Chimpanzees: The Case of Adoption. Boesch et al 2010) So, the question is, is this an evolutionarily adaptive trait, that is to say, in provisioning these young they gain a benefit to their own fitness, or is this a spandrel - a maladaptive piece of behaviour that is the result of a more adaptive behaviour. I can see how the adaptionalist case would work - after all, rearing offspring would be a strong signal as to mate quality - but the argument that it's a spandrel seems more appealing, given the evidence. What I'd put a whole nickel on happening is that chemically, the same brain changes are going on in bonding with these unrelated individuals as it is with their actual offspring. Question: Why the heck isn't this seen in captive situations?

Positive selection in armpit odour? (A Functional ABCC11 Allele Is Essential in the Biochemical Formation of Human Axillary Odor. Martin et al 2010) So, Europeans and Africans have some components to their armpit sweat, and people descended from East Asian populations (which would include the groups that peopled the Americas?) have individuals with subtly different compositions. The frequency of the derived allele can reach upwards of 95% in those populations. Researchers found a DNA substitution that seems to result in a change in odour composition. East Asian (does this follow into American groups?) have a subtly different odorant composition, which the authors argue is the result of positive mate choice. Genomically, the show that it has benefit from strong positive selection. The allele reaches 95% frequency in some populations. I'm totally onboard with the idea that odour drives matechoice in humans (or is a driving factor), but I'm not sold on their description that this is the primary driver of this gene. Problem is, this gene also is a factor in the dry ear wax. Which we strongly suspect is adaptive. So, the adaptive tale of that gene is probably very complex.
Here's a random question for you: Is it unethical to needlessly torture an amoeba? How would you even know? I'm possibly torturing a few thousand bacteria, just by sitting on my couch.

If it's okay to cause needless harm to an amoeba, what about a lungworm? We know torturing dragon flies is not okay, so at which point between lungworms and dragon flies do you say "be nice to living things?"

These are the questions that kept me from getting into the really good schools.

While looking up the spelling for amoeba, I found this really cool link. It's a slideshow of deep sea amoeba who are the size of grapes. Single celled living critters, the size of grapes. Amazing.

Click for Fairbanks, Alaska Forecast