- This week, at The Molecular Ecologist: Applying DNA sequencing technology to Darwin’s back yard, the infection-fighting genes ticks borrowed from bacteria , cleaning up draft genome sequences, Data Nuggets as a new form of broader impact, clinal color variation in barn owls, and visualizing migration rates with circos plots.
- The most direct evidence yet. People who know individual LGBT folks are more likely to support us politically.
- Great! What took so long? The Creationist “Ark Encounter” theme park just lost its tax breaks for religious discrimination.
- Yow. Malcolm Gladwell, serial plagiarist.
- Desperate. The plans to save Louisiana’s disappearing coastline.
- Hopeful. U.S. economic growth sees to be decoupling from oil consumption.
- So cool. Electric eels catch prey by remote-controlling their muscles.
- One ambiguously useful step for man. NASA successfully test-flies its new spacecraft.
- Give’em time. Want answers in class? Wait just five seconds.
- You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the Tolkien estate. The devastating consequences of re-translating The Lord of the Rings.
“Deoxyribonucleic asshole” is about right. James Watson, credited as co-discoverer of the molecular structure of DNA, is auctioning off his Nobel Prize medal in a fit of pique over his recent shunning for being a racist, sexist, jerk.
- Harassing citizens doesn’t prevent crime. Following the near-elimination of “stop and frisk” police patrols, New York City has seen a slight drop in crime rates.
- The touch, the feel. A global history of cotton and capitalism.
- Incentive structures matter. Why abusive police are impossible to remove.
- “To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.” Chris Rock on racial politics in America.
- Except when it doesn’t. “My Vassar College faculty ID makes everything okay.”
- Bookmarked. A new open-access, peer-reviewed repository for biology curriculum, Course Source.
- Not sure if awesome or deeply worrying. The One Laptop Per Child people dropped a bunch of tablets in an Ethiopian village, and village kids taught themselves to use them.
- Godspeed! NASA test-launched a new spacecraft this week.
- Looks promising. The plan to restore chestnut trees to American forests.
- Evolutionary cahoots. The mutations that made plague bacteria deadly to humans are coupled with mutations that make them friendlier to fleas.
- Which means, probably, not a lot. Straight-identified men and women are more likely to show capacity for same-sex romance if they have higher levels of progesterone.
- Or any subcultural linguistic affectation, really. The quest to define “gay voice”.
- I can’t even. In a rush to prepare dinner? Try a shrimp cannon.
“Nothing on Earth sounds less like freedom to me.” A grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson for killing an unarmed black teenager. Grand juries hardly ever decide not to indict, and Wilson’s testimony before the grand jury didn’t make any sense, but police officers are rarely charged for killing civilians. There are still some options to obtain a measure of justice, but the decision has prompted renewed nationwide protests over our unjust justice system and the deeper racism it supports.
- Reckoning at last. Facing up to Bill Cosby’s history of rape
- Results mixed, at best. Whole Foods tries to attract lower-income customers.
- Paperbacks for victory. How World War II created modern book publishing.
- “… a marvelous theatricality that borders on camp.” Julia Child, queer icon.
- Elegant. Visualizing human history as a chain of ancestry.
- Promising, I think. A new attempt to replace religion with science without being a complete asshole about it.
- The prisoner’s dilemma, still a dilemma. Princeton gives up on fighting grade inflation.
- As if the bioethics issues weren’t enough. It looks like a certain internationally famous safari part is violating laws against trade in protected species.
- And here, finally, is some good news. An ebola vaccine has passed its first trial in humans.
I think I speak for the every gay science nerd when I say that we’re exceptionally proud to count you among us. The initiative you took, while still a high school student, to join a research lab and design a new rapid test for cancer is incredibly inspiring, and you’ve taken to the role of public advocate for science with aplomb.
So I was disappointed to read your recent op-ed on the website of The Advocate about the lack of queer role models in science — not because you’re wrong about the problem, but because you missed a big opportunity to start fixing it.
- This week at The Molecular Ecologist: The new genomic story of cat domestication, the evolution of salamander-algae symbiosis, and a recap of The Entomological Society of America meeting.
- Two steps forward, one step back. The FDA may soon let gay men donate blood—if they haven’t had any sex in the past year.
- I’m down with that. All the high-class cable dramas are into scientists.
- The world is changing. Not that long ago, religious extremists treated journalists as messengers, not hostages.
- Surprise! Undirected Internet trolls aren’t actually very effective activists. How Anonymous works—and how it doesn’t.
- Guess I’m on Lyft, now. The increasingly nasty behavior of app-based car service Uber.
- Progress, but enough? Migrating monarch butterflies seem to be doing better this year.
- And pays for it out of his own damn pocket. The war on science is politicians crying “waste” over a biologist who builds his own equipment.
- Seriously, if they’d just added some Jell-O, no one would’ve blinked. The New York Times explains to Minnesotans that they should make grape salad for Thanksgiving.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels were among the first grown-up science fiction I read. I still remember picking up the tattered dime-store paperback copy of Foundation in the high school library, opening it up, and getting sucked into the story of a galaxy-spanning Empire that was about to collapse from its own cultural-historical inertia, and a rogue colony of “psycho-historians” who use a sort of historical physics to guide the galaxy through the coming dark age to a Second Empire even better and more stable than the first one.
Word on the Web is that HBO is planning a television adaptation of the Foundation series, and I am totally excited. But it’s going to be very interesting to see how this adaptation proceeds. For one thing, the first stories in the series date back to the early 1940s, so their ideas about “futuristic” technology need some serious updating. The first novel, Foundation, implies that it’s possible to have faster-than-light travel and interstellar war without understanding nuclear fission.
For another thing, the first stories in the series date back to the early 1940s, so very nearly every character who does anything meaningful in them is a man. (There is one story, in the later books, that revolves around a precocious teenage girl, and another that centers on a husband-and-wife couple.) But this, it has occurred to me, is not a problem! The Foundation novels are fundamentally not about interpersonal interactions—their recurring theme is that people are swept along in broad historical currents. The story, and its drama, is literally about the Fall and Rise of Empires, not about individual people. So it actually doesn’t matter what gender anyone in the Foundation stories is. As a bonus, everyone’s names are in Asimov’s concept of future-ese, which makes many of them less obviously gendered: Hari Seldon, Salvor Hardin, Bel Riose. Those are all dudes in the original, but don’t tell me they couldn’t each be women.
So my challenge to the folks working on this adaptation: Gender-swap every other character that you adapt from the original Foundation books. You’ll end up with a more human vision of the future, and you might just end up creating the next Starbuck — or several of them — in the process.
- This week, at The Molecular Ecologist: The evolution of the insect immune system, the vital importance of genetics for habitat restoration, how to make admixture maps in R, and reproductive isolation in chickadees.
- And, at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! A whole-body microbial map.
- Hope, restored. President Obama made a big new climate-change deal with China.
- Infuriating injustice. In many states the law treats fetuses as more valuable than the women carrying them.
- No, but really. The Minneapolis police union claims the mayor threw a gang sign; Mayor Hodges responds with snark and steel.
- From the front lines. How the Republican war on science funding is hurting the natural world.
- Cool. A map of the Africa that might have been.
- Food for thought. Another great personal perspective on PreP.
- Uh-oh. Does Bill Nye’s science advocacy end at crop improvement?
- The loss of collections is the loss of data. The troubling decline of taxonomic collections.
- Of course. The bacterium whose presence in your gut is most strongly determined by genetics is barely understood.
- One giant leap for mankind, one step backward. The success of a European mission to put a robot on a comet is marred by a mission rep’s sexist clothing choice. Update: He’s given an unforced, heartfelt apology.
- Going to come in handy later, I hope. Tips on writing a recommendation letter.
- This week, at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! Tracing the genetic origins of migration in monarch butterflies.
- We’re living in the future, item umpteen. We have photos of sunlight shining on the seas of Saturn’s moon Titan.
- Ugh. The midterm voters have spoken: they want a better deal for working folks, but also Republican control of Congress, which is going to be terrible for science and the environment.
- Requiescat. Tom Magliozzi, half of NPR’s essential “Car Talk.”
- Bad aftertaste. The cultish, multi-level, millennial-focused marketing of a line of soft drinks.
- One for the reading list. The definitive account of the fight for marriage equality.
- Your inoculation against the hype. If there’s one thing we know about the human microbiome, it’s that there’s no (single) healthy version.
- Because evolution, and because humans. The lesson of Ebola is that we’ll always have epidemics.
- Even in viral videos. How the problems with a video expose of catcalling reveal the importance of research design.
- Well played, Michigan State. How one of the best biology departments in the country responded to a creationist convention on campus—by ignoring it.
- Handy. A compendium of all iPhone apps for natural history.
It’s still pretty jarring to see Disney’s sparkly branding all over the original anti-Disney take on fairytales, but man, this looks pretty good.
I’m on board just for Chris Pine’s delivery of “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”