Cockroaches lose sweet tooth to survive – Evolution rocks!

For decades, people have been getting rid of cockroaches by setting out bait mixed with poison. But in the late 1980s, in an apartment test kitchen in Florida, something went very wrong.

A killer product stopped working. Cockroach populations there kept rising. Mystified researchers tested and discarded theory after theory until they finally hit on the explanation: In a remarkably rapid display of evolution at work, many of the cockroaches had lost their sweet tooth, rejecting the corn syrup meant to attract them.

In as little as five years, the sugar-rejecting trait had become so widespread that the bait had been rendered useless…

In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, entomologist Jules Silverman and other researchers explain the workings of the genetic mutation that gave some roaches a competitive advantage that enabled them to survive and multiply.

The key is certain neurons that signal the brain about foods.

In normal cockroaches, glucose excites neurons that tell the brain “Sweet!” In the mutant insects, glucose activates neurons that say “Sweet!” and ones that say “Yuck!” The “Yuck!” neurons dampen the signal from the others, so the brain gets the message the taste is awful. This unusual nerve activity appeared in glucose-hating cockroaches collected from Puerto Rico as well as descendants of the Florida insects…

The new work is nifty science. But does it explain why you can’t get rid of the little buggers in your kitchen?

Probably not, said Coby Schal, another study author at North Carolina State…

Frankly, if the bait you put out isn’t working, it’s probably because you’re using it incorrectly, suggested Schal, who said he consults to the pesticide industry free of charge…

It’s not clear when the Florida cockroaches first encountered bait with glucose or how quickly they ditched their taste for the sugar, he said. But he said it’s reasonable to estimate that it took maybe only five years for that glucose aversion to spread to so many cockroaches that the bait was no longer effective. That’s about 25 generations of German cockroaches, which can reproduce about one to three months after they’re born, Schal said.

The glucose aversion may have arisen in an individual cockroach in response to bait. Or it may have already been present in just a few individuals when the arrival of the bait suddenly gave them an advantage for surviving and reproducing. Their offspring would inherit the trait and increasingly replace other cockroaches.

Yup. It surely helps that the scientists devising methods to counter cockroach infestation needn’t wait and rely on evolution – even the fast-paced variety – to invent their responses to natural selection.

Sexual assault – another crime our military doesn’t answer for

…Sexual violence in the military is so pervasive, even some of those who have been charged with rooting it out are themselves violent. The military just can’t seem to curb the epidemic on its own. It’s more important to pretend nothing has happened when a complaint is lodged; many are never relayed to military criminal authorities, while others are swept under the rug. It’s the victim’s fault — for upsetting camaraderie and esprit de corps. Get her (or him: the Pentagon estimates that 54 percent of victims are men) to be quiet or charge the complainer with conduct unbecoming an officer or insubordination…

It’s true, as the military is fond of saying, that the great majority of military officers are law-abiding. But when a fellow service member is accused, the law-abiding tend to side with the accused. Reporting a rape is never easy, but it’s much harder when the perpetrator is of higher rank than the victim (50 percent of the time) and when the perpetrator is in the victim’s chain of command (23 percent of the time). Join the military, where you may be more prone to sexual attack and you don’t even get the protections, however flawed, you would get at your local police precinct, because the brass close ranks.

There have been attempts to fix pieces of the problem, such as the indignity of a recruit having to salute the man who attacked her while her complaint is being investigated. In 2011 the Pentagon instituted an expedited transfer policy — but there’s no deadline on providing a move, and it doesn’t track how long a move takes. Victims’ groups say more than 60 percent of victims face continued contact and retaliation from their attackers…

Even the big boss, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, couldn’t fix one problem: the ability of commanding officers to overturn jury verdicts with no explanation whatsoever. After a general overturned a sexual-assault conviction of an airman at Aviano Air Base in Italy, Hagel pledged that no such thing would ever happen again. He found out he didn’t have such authority.

Violence and cover-up are part of the military’s culture. If the numbers are right, there are 26,000 estimated assaults but only a minuscule fraction are prosecuted. That means there are a lot of dangerous predators at large.

Gillibrand introduced legislation last week that would essentially remove commanders from the legal process. If passed, complaints would have to go to a parallel system of military prosecutors outside the command structure. No more commanders overturning guilty verdicts…

This bill, though laudable, doesn’t do anything to reduce the violence itself — just the terrible injustice that happens afterward.

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. One of my favorite slogans from the days of resistance to the VietNam War. The worst bureaucracy in the network of brainless incompetence that is a significant portion of American government – gets to prosecute and judge itself.

I’m not certain if the tradition of Congress leaving governance of our military in the hands of untouchables reflects some guilt over our post-World War 2 policy of Imperial War. More likely, political hacks find it easier to believe their own propaganda about the best in our nation fighting on our behalf, blah, blah. Regardless, leaving corruption and crime to fester does nothing to raise the standards of our several military corps – and even less to protect the victims of crime from the predators our military services seem to attract.

The end of the draft signaled an end to democracy sort of choosing who got to be grunts. Colleges and universities still funneled in a percentage of those who came into military service to learn officer skills. The small number of those devoid of class loyalties, peers of my gangbanger years who were offered enlistment as an alternative to jail time – has become a larger number. Or so I believe. That doesn’t lessen my respect for those proud to serve and especially those who challenge how and where they serve.

OTOH, innocence in perpetuity is a pretty good deal for criminals.

Pic of the Day

Brooklyn bridge builders
Click to enlarge

Brooklyn Bridge under construction – picture of the day at the Guardian Unlimited.

A photographic highlight selected by the picture desk. The Brooklyn Bridge opened on this day in 1883 linking the two New York boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Two men stand on a high catwalk, surveying the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, with Manhattan in the background. Large ships and ferries sit in docks in the East River.

Yes, I fiddled with the photo before posting it. I imagine the original photographer might have also done so – given today’s hardware and software.

Full-scale X-Wing replica is world’s largest Lego model


Unveiling in Times Square — Click to enlarge

A certain Jedi Master, species unknown, once said, “size matters not.” But he obviously wasn’t referring to the latest Lego creation from the Lego group. Taking the title of the world’s largest Lego model is a 1:1 scale replica of an X-Wing, complete with R2 unit, made up of 5,335,200 Lego bricks and taking 32 Lego master builders 17,336 hours (around four months) to complete.

As any Rebel engineer worth their salt will know, the full-size replica stands 3.35 m tall and 13.1 m long with a wingspan of 13.44 m. Its weight of almost 20,865 kg means the model will be less than easy to transport, even if you have unlearned what you have learned.

Constructed in Kladno, Czech Republic, to celebrate the upcoming premiere of the Lego Star Wars-based three-part animated series, The Yoda Chronicles, on Cartoon Network, the Lego X-Wing is currently on display in New York’s Times Square. It will be moved to Legoland California Resort in the coming months, where it will remain grounded for the remainder of the year.

Hate to break your heart; but, this is NOT AVAILABLE as a kit for consumers.