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Science Blog

FOOD: Was it better before and should we go organic?

  • Written by Dr Erard

Thanks to many awareness-raising campaigns operated over the past 30 years, people are now more and more interested in what is in their plate. However, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish facts from fiction, truth from wishful thinking, and while it is tempting to go all-out organic (provided that you can afford it), one should ask oneself if doing so would really be that beneficial.

Read more: FOOD: Was it better before and should we go organic?

Unintelligent design

  • Written by Dr Erard

Far from being the outcome of a perfect design, our bodies are in reality more like a collection of quirks, flaws, and sometimes malfunctioning parts. All were added through time on top of each other, as a result from random mutations that were differentially screened by environmental pressures. Why do we have an appendix that can threaten our life when it gets inflamed? Why do we have a blind spot in our eyes and why does our retina gets detached? Why are we using the same pipe for eating and breathing, hence risking to choke to death whenever we eat mochi? The reason for all these imperfection is that of course, our bodies were not designed, but that they evolved as a result of random mutations through time. Let's have a look at some examples of "unintelligent design".

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Does homeopathy work?

  • Written by Dr Erard

There is quite a bit of confusion among the general public regarding what homeopathic remedies are. Even if a precise definition is given, there are some strong opinions expressed on both sides of the argument as to whether these remedies are actually working or if they are no more than fancy (and expensive) placebos. What does science have to say about this? Do homeopathic remedies actually work? Let's try to find out!

Read more: Does homeopathy work?

Emergent properties of multicellular organisms

  • Written by Ms Novick

Perhaps one of the most difficult concepts to understand in biology is that of emergent properties in multicellular organisms. As a teacher, I've often been guilty of explaining this idea early on in the IB by saying, "it means an organism is greater than the sum of its parts." And I can further burrow under this blanket statement that magically explains without explaining by segueing into an example that usually engenders some awe and at the least an appreciation for the massively wide scale in which biologists operate: we spend thousands of hours in the world of a neurons microns to understand the very basic mechanism of neural communication.

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The Ability to Learn: An Evolutionary Advantage or a Cost?

  • Written by Ms Novick

Close social interaction with others also means a greater opportunity for pathogens and diseases to spread between people. According to a recent article by Collin McCabe, a doctoral student in Harvard's Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, "(l)earning behaviors from others necessarily brings individuals, whether humans or other animals, into close contact with others, and so could drive the spread of socially transmitted diseases such as the flu, while learning through exploration and experimentation could expose individuals to previously unknown pathogens and parasites." But couldn't it be the other way around? As in, is disease a consequence of or a cause for social learning? Find out more by reading the article here: A cost of culture by Peter Reuell

Read more: The Ability to Learn: An Evolutionary Advantage or a Cost?

Does cursing relieve from pain?

  • Written by Dr Erard

Do you ever find yourself using colorful language and high-voltage words whenever you bump your little toe into the bedroom table? British psychologists Richard Stephens and Claudia Umland probably do and they have set out to find out whether cursing had any effect on the perception of pain.

Read more: Does cursing relieve from pain?

Why We Get Sick

  • Written by Dr Erard

Randolph Nesse is a physician and evolutionary biologist. He has a particular interest on the origin and biology of emotions. Students will find his ideas on how evolution can explain the reasons why we feel a certain way pretty enlightening and possibly liberating. Why do we feel peer pressure? Why do we feel anxiety? Why do we like so much the food that is bad for us? Many of these questions and more find their answers from an understanding of evolution.

Read more: Why We Get Sick

What would aliens look like?

  • Written by Dr Erard

Have you ever wondered why aliens in most science fiction movies looked strangely like humans? A head, two eyes, two arms, two legs... Hollywood aliens are indeed suspiciously anthropomorphic, but is it all that a mistake, mainly due to our own biases as humans?

Read more: What would aliens look like?

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