Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Walkabout Wednesday: missed a week!

Insulin can be a weapon, who's the richest college grads again? and babies. Baby pallid sturgeon ...

My Health

This is a bit off topic, but I was intrigued to discover that insulin can be a weapon! It is sort of related, as I try hard to avoid increasing my insulin levels.

Grass fed beef costs more than twice as much as the same cut from grain finished cows. Is it worth it? These guys say no. Everything they say there is true, although the wrinkle is in how the COWS feel about their balanced meals and round the clock care. Cows eating grain can suffer sub-acute acidosis depending on the amount of grain and how quickly they are switched over to it. The other reason for eating "grass fed" meat is that the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids is better. However, the total amount of Omega-3 in beef is apparently quite low compared to our daily needs. I noticed however that article refers to Alpha Linoleic Acid; that's the precursor to the ones we can only get from animals, EPA and DHA. Humans can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but the conversion is very inefficient ( < 5 % ). Dig deeper. This review of fatty acid profiles in beef has lots of numbers in all sorts of units; there is one study that reports something meaningful to the eater. 100 g of grass fed Angus beef muscle had 25 mg of EPA and 36 mg of DHA, compared to 13 mg of EPA and 32 mg of DHA in grain fed. Grass fed has more, but either way I need to eat ~ 2 kg of beef a day to hit the RDA of 650 mg. hmmm. 

And to make matters worse, while I was reading up on beef I discovered that Omega-3 supplements mostly don't have what they advertise and are oxidized to boot. Better to eat the fish. Oh well, I guess I can finish off the bottle I've already got.

Why am I worrying about this you ask? Well, my blood tests indicate low levels of EPA and DHA in my tissues. Is that a problem? Maybe. For the moment, looks like the best reason for sticking with grass-fed beef is that the cows are happier for longer. 

Your Education

Recently President Obama proposed a plan that would make tuition for community colleges free for students willing to put in some effort. But is free community college tuition a good thing? In that article, David Brooks suggests that tuition is the least of the problems facing students who want to increase their value to employers. 

And just why go to college anyway? It hasn't been all that long since "getting a job" became the reason, rather than getting a good education. That article starts off with a quote from the newly elected Governor of California in 1967: Ronald Reagan.
Reagan was staking out a competing vision. Learning for learning’s sake might be nice, but the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it. A higher education should prepare students for jobs.
And after some pretty interesting history, it ends with another quote from the same source:
"One of mankind’s problems," the speaker said, "is we keep committing the same errors."

I'm sure you've seen the chart One of the charts that I've seen alot of ranks college majors according to median earnings. This is a new twist, that breaks down those charts by race and gender. There's another problem with those charts though. Age is probably a big predictor of income, and in a field where women are increasing in number they are more likely young, and more likely earning less. Also, women and minorities in those top earning fields are still earning more than women in other fields. So, my advice to study computer science or statistics remains good advice. 

Our Environment

In the toot your own (or at least one's academic offspring's) horn department: sometimes maximum likelihood estimates of resource selection functions don't exist.

It is important for scientists to speak up in public, but doing so isn't easy, and can have negative consquences personally. There are some good tips in that article. If you haven't already looked, I've got strong opinons about the role of science in public policy, and some of my colleagues have written usefully about this public engagement thing too.

Everyone loves babies. In this case, the newborns are larval pallid sturgeons, but that's pretty exciting news. It means that somewhere, at least once (and probably much more often), some momma and papa sturgeons did their thing, and the eggs hatched. We still don't know why we don't see naturally sourced one year old sturgeons, but this at least means natural recruitment is possible in the lower Missouri River. 

I like yuccas and yucca moths as much or even more than Pallid Sturgeons. Over the last couple of years yucca in western Nebraska mostly didn't flower. Turns out they were sick. I'm looking forward to stopping by Cedar Point Biological Station this coming summer to see if the yuccas are bouncing back. It will also be interesting to see if there are moths in the areas where flowering failed extensively. 

In the Feral Cat department, there was a new article summarizing some of the reasons why we should reduce feral cat populations and arguing that "...TNR, alone, can never be successful in resolving the overpopulation of feral cats on a wide-scale basis." That's a pretty strong conclusion ... so I tried to dig into the basis for it. Apparently there is a "Fibonacci 70% rule" that says you have to sterilize 70% of the population for the birth rate to be reduced below the death rate. Now, don't get me wrong, there is a proportion of the population that has to be sterilized before the population will begin to decline. But 70%? Where did this number come from?

And a nice, balanced, thoughtful article on trophy hunting. Another thing that suffers from a lack of thoughtful discussion. 

No comments:

Post a Comment