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Get To Know Your Inner Fish

April 7, 2009

Ran across this video via Cephalopodcast.

Tiktaalik Roseae is the name of the fossil discovered a few years ago that is thought to be a missing link between fish and land animals.

You can learn more about Tiktaalik here.

You can learn less about Tiktaalik and pretty much everything else here.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    April 7, 2009 11:13 pm

    This study is going to piss some people off. A practitioner of the dismal science has determined that smoking cigarettes cuts down on the overall health care costs of a society because smokers die so much younger.

    Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.

    “It looks unpleasant or ghoulish to look at the cost savings as well as the cost increases and it’s not a good thing that smoking kills people,” Viscusi said in an interview. “But if you’re going to follow this health-cost train all the way, you have to take into account all the effects, not just the ones you like in terms of getting your bill passed.”

    While this does make a certain amount of common sense, I wouldn’t place too much faith in the exact figures because as the article also notes, the Kipster worked as a litigation expert for tobacco companies when they were being sued by the states.

    Now I have to go do my part to boost tax revenues by having a recently-much-more-expensive-due-to-both-state-and-federal-tax-hikes cigarette.

    What else has everyone got today? Use this as an open thread.

    And if anybody can help me figure out how to center photos it would be much appreciated. For some reason it keeps chopping off my HTML “center” instructions when I go to post.

    • triv33 permalink
      April 8, 2009 7:36 am

      Believe it or not, I argued that position in a debate 30 years ago. My Everyday Living (Home Ec) teacher always assigned me the unpopular positions in any debate. If I couldn’t go for the win I would argue to befuddle or stun. As you can imagine, I loved the movie Thank You For Smoking.

      • cometman permalink*
        April 8, 2009 8:25 am

        Ha! Chuckling at the image of a teenager in Home Ec class advocating that everybody sneak into the girl’s room after class for a puff because it’s good for everyone and in the long run the revenue created will allow the school to purchase a new mixer for Home Ec class!

        I gotta quit soon but the problem is I really don’t want to. But I also don’t want my kid to start doing it either. Maybe I’ll just switch to licking cane toads instead :)

        • triv33 permalink
          April 8, 2009 9:36 am

          Oh, I did argue that the taxes paid on cigarettes paid for things that benefited everyone and that non smokers missed worked and had health care costs that were equal to if that more than smokers just by virtue of the fact that they now outnumbered them and lived longer. Back in the day this took going to the library and accessing microfilm to get data to back this shit up. Now, I had been lucky in that there had been something recently published on work missed by smokers vs. non-smokers. Needless to say the girl taking the anti-smoking position was ill prepared for my debate points. Keep them off balance was always my motto.
          I don’t want to quit either. That’s the bitch of it. I kicked opiates with no problem but it was because I wanted to. I have an e-cigarette and I was doing really well with it, it’s an excellent stand-in for the real thing, then my atomizer broke. While waiting for the replacement, I started puffing away and I’m having trouble weaning back now. Damn it.

    • sisdevore permalink
      April 8, 2009 5:46 pm

      you’ll thank us smokers someday for all the money we are saving you!

      not to mention all the programs we fund with the taxes.

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 8, 2009 7:03 pm

        Welcome Sis Miss Devore! It’s true that cig taxes have funded much good social programming in different states. It also funded 100% the cost of the medicine I used to quit, for which I was grateful. I happily now contribute money directly to similar programs without going through the Philip Morris fibrous filter.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    April 8, 2009 6:52 am

    I centered your picture by going into edit, using the insert photo picture tool in the little tool bar there, the first button. I selected “insert url” tab and pasted in the plain html jpg of your photo without all the photobucket stuff, and then selected the center button and then selected the update post button.

    I’m offline most of today so I’ll be sure to embrace my inner lizard fish. ;)

    Thanks for holding down the fish tank!

    • cometman permalink*
      April 8, 2009 8:16 am

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll try that next time.

  3. cometman permalink*
    April 8, 2009 8:54 am

    And what would Tiktaalik (or you) look like if the evolution had occurred on some other planet? Maybe not as different as you might think. From the physics arXiv blog:

    One of the great outstanding questions in biology involves the evolution of the genetic code and the fact it relies on 20 amino acids. How did this system evolve and why use 20 amino acids and not some other number? Today, Paul Higgs and Ralph Pudritz at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, put forward an answer which has profound implications for the nature of life on other planets.

    We know that amino acids are common in our solar system and beyond. Various first experiments to recreate the conditions in the Earth’s early atmosphere have produced 10 of the amino acids found in proteins. Curiously, analyses of meteorite samples have found exactly these same 10 amino acids. Various researchers have noted this link but none have explained it.

    Now we know why, say Higgs and Pudritz. They have ranked the amino acids found in proteins according to the thermodynamic likelihood of them forming. This turns out to match the observed abundances in meteorites and in early Earth simulations, more or less exactly.

    That’s a neat piece of work. They go on to argue that the first genetic codes must have evolved to exploit these 10 prebiotic amino acids. The other amino acids which are all bigger and generally more difficult to synthesise must have been incorporated later. At any rate, Nature had settled on the full 20 we see today by the time the earliest common ancestor of all organisms on the planet first emerged, at least 3.5 billion years ago.

    Higgs and Pudritz are not the first to suggest that the first genetic code consisted of 10 prebiotic amino acids but all previous arguments have differed in various ways. What’s impressive about their argument is that it is underpinned by the powerful theoretical machinery of thermodynamics.

    The implications of this are huge. Thermodynamic arguments are as valid on Earth as they are in interstellar gas clouds, where evidence of amino acids has already been seen. What’s the betting that these amino acids are the same as the prebiotic 10 that Higgs and Pudritz finger?

    These same thermodynamic arguments should also hold on Earth-like planets elsewhere in the cosmos. And if that’s the case, then ET may not be so alien after all, as Higgs and Pudritz imply with the extraordinary conclusion to their paper:

    “The combined actions of thermodynamics and subsequent natural selection suggest that the genetic code we observe on the Earth today may have significant features in common with life throughout the cosmos.”

  4. cometman permalink*
    April 8, 2009 9:06 am

    More good stuff from Bill Moyers regarding the economic crisis which revisits his recent interview with Bill Black. I liked the end:

    In the preface to his 1939 memoir, Wall Street under Oath, Ferdinand Pecora told the story of his investigation and described an attitude amongst the Rich Uncle Pennybags of the financial world that will sound familiar to Bill Black and those who seek out the guilty today.

    “That its leaders are eminently fitted to guide our nation, and that they would make a much better job of it than any other body of men, Wall Street does not for a moment doubt,” Pecora wrote. “Indeed, if you now hearken to the Oracles of The Street, you will hear now and then that the money-changers have been much maligned. You will be told that a whole group of high-minded men, innocent of social or economic wrongdoing, were expelled from the temple because of the excesses of a few. You will be assured that they had nothing to do with the misfortunes that overtook the country in 1929-1933; that they were simply scapegoats, sacrificed on the altar of unreasoning public opinion to satisfy the wrath of a howling mob….”

    According to, at his March 27 White House meeting with the nation’s top bankers, President Obama heard similar arguments and interrupted, saying, “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that…. My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

    Stand aside, Mr. President, and let us prod with our pitchforks to get at the facts.

  5. cometman permalink*
    April 8, 2009 9:59 am

    Nice profile on Emmet Sullivan,the judge who set aside the indictment on Ted Stevens, here. The way he is portrayed in the article, it does seem like he was acting on principle when he did it to restore confidence in the Justice Dept which I find admirable. It also mentions that he has been friendly with AG Holder for a while. Not sure what to make of that yet.

    However, I’d still like to know why if Holder is so concerned about the appearance of prosecutorial misconduct, he hasn’t done much about Don Siegelman’s case yet. And then of course there is Holder’s covering up for the Bushies by invoking the same state secrets privilege as Bush did.

    I’d like to see a pattern emerge that the Justice dept is seeking justice in all cases, not just in a select few.

  6. triv33 permalink
    April 8, 2009 10:37 am

    Don Siegelman would like to know what’s up with that too. I’m on his mailing list. He’s asking us to make some noise:

    ” Attorney General Holder threw out the case against Ted Stevens because the government withheld information that could have been critical to the outcome of Senator Stevens’ trial.

    There’s far more prosecutorial misconduct in my case than in the Stevens case. Please read this letter from my lawyer to the Attorney General (PDF) which outlines some of those areas of misconduct.

    After reading the letter, please email the following editors commending Eric Holder for helping to restore justice by dropping the charges against Senator Stevens but suggesting that the gross prosecutorial misconduct in my case far exceeds the misconduct in the Stevens case. Tell them the Attorney General should investigate my case and that, when he does, he will find it cries out for justice and should also be dismissed.

    Please email your comments to:

    * Adam Cohen, Editorial Page Editor of the New York Times at
    * Fred Hiatt, Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post at
    * Bruce Dold, Editorial Page Editor of the Chicago Tribune at
    * Cynthia Tucker, Editorial Page Editor for the Atlanta Journal Constitutional at

    I am also asking that you write to Attorney General Holder at to express your support for his courageous step toward restoring justice and encourage him to help right the wrongs in my case as well.”

    I don’t know how to blockquote or if the links come through on wordpress, oh well, trial and error time.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 8, 2009 11:27 am

      It amazes me that the Justice Dept could hurry to drop Stevens’ indictment but Siegelman has to go begging to get some attention for his case which from what I’ve read is based on completely trumped up charges brought against him by partisan hacks with ties to Karl Rove. I do understand that Obama doesn’t want to be seen as partisan and maybe that’s why they decided to deal with Stevens’ situation first.

      But even if Obama goes out of his way not to be partisan with his decisions, it isn’t going to stop the republicans from claiming he’s a raging communist leftwinger, despite all evidence to the contrary. So instead of playing games for the sake of appearance, why not just give us some damn justice?

      Thanks for the links triv. Here’s one for you to help with the blockquoting, italicizing, bolding, making links, etc: Or if you use the addon, you can make that same link appear like this. It only works with the firefox browser but you can use it on wordpress or on any just about any other type of blog. Basically what you do is highlight the text you want to alter, click on the option you want, and the program will automatically add the necessary HTML so you don’t have to type it all out. It’s basically the same stuff that appears in the options when you make a comment on a scoop or soapblox blog, but it has more things you can do.

      • triv33 permalink
        April 8, 2009 12:47 pm

        Cool! Thanks, I just recently switched to firefox and I am having a ball with the add-ons!

  7. triv33 permalink
    April 8, 2009 12:56 pm

    Let me try it out…

    It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.
    Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

  8. triv33 permalink
    April 8, 2009 12:59 pm

    Oh, yes! Success! Next time I will leave out the stupid [info] [add] [mail] crap, but that is great. Thank you!

    • cometman permalink*
      April 8, 2009 1:43 pm

      You’re welcome. And I love Bertrand Russell!

      Somebody showed me that tool several months ago and it really works well. Before that about all I could do was type words and hit ‘post’. I was just looking at it again and I think it may even help with my image centering problems. There is an image function on there which I’ve never really tried before.

  9. cometman permalink*
    April 8, 2009 3:55 pm

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the guy who was RIGHT, has written Ten principles for a Black Swan-proofworld.

    #9 was very good:

    9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible “expert” advice for their retirement . Economic life should be definancialised. We should learn not to use markets as storehouses of value: they do not harbour the certainties that normal citizens require.Citizens should experience anxiety about their own businesses (which they control), not their investments (which they do not control).

    People who actually try to simply save money and earn some interest off it have been looked at like fools, which is the exact opposite of how it should be. People who try to save have been punished by low interest rates, almost forcing them to invest in something so that inflation doesn’t make their savings worthless when it comes time to use them.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 8, 2009 7:15 pm

      I’ve saved the article to read later, but I completely agree with what you are saying. It’s mad hatter world where everything is backwards. We could sure use some champions of justice and fairness about now. It sure isn’t coming from the government.

  10. Stemella permalink*
    April 8, 2009 7:08 pm

    Elizabeth Warren and the Congressional Oversight Panel released their TARP report/ I’m too brain dead to read it yet, but here’s an article summarizing:
    Congressional Panel Suggests Firing Managers, Liquidating Banks

    In the report, Warren’s panel said “it is possible that Treasury’s approach fails to acknowledge the depth of the current downturn and the degree to which the low valuation of troubled assets accurately reflects their worth.”

    The group said it was offering an examination of “potential policy alternatives” for the Treasury and not endorsing any shift at this time.

    Still, it said a bank liquidation would be “least likely to sap the patience of taxpayers” and “provides clarity relatively quickly” to the markets.

    “Allowing institutions to fail in a structured manner supervised by appropriate regulators offers a clearer exit strategy than allowing those institutions to drift into government control piecemeal,” the report said.

    The report also said that past successful financial rescues were accompanied by governments’ “willingness to hold management accountable by replacing — and, in cases of criminal conduct, prosecuting — failed managers.”

    • cometman permalink*
      April 9, 2009 9:07 am

      Bank liquidation would be least likely to sap the patience of taxpayers. That sentence is now the top contender for the Understatement of the Year Award. A few heads on pikes might make taxpayers feel better too.

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