Biology

Evolution! A game of Unnatural Selection

Evolution! A game of Unnatural Selection

Dearest Readers, I helped to design a game and kickstarted the heck out of it. It’s an evolution based tabletop card game where players compete for dominance through changing environments and challenges over evolutionary time. However, in the name of fun, the time for creatures to evolve has been substantially reduced such that the entire game can be played in under an hour. Also, evolution ... »

A Voice from the Silent Spring: The Life and Ecology of Rachel Carson

A Voice from the Silent Spring: The Life and Ecology of Rachel Carson

“Hunger, hunger, are you listening, To the words from Rachel’s pen? Words which taken at face value, Place lives of birds ‘bove those of men..” -  W.E. McCauley   The first half of the twentieth century was a madman’s gallery of horrors attended by Romantic nihilists and mourned by nihilistic Romantics.  The loss in men and resources was beyond our generation’s ability to even fathom, but the... »

NSFW Balloon Animals

NSFW Balloon Animals

For reasons too complex and bizarre to explain in full, I found myself needing to learn the craft of ballooning such that I could create sculptures of genitalia to support a lecture series at a museum. Such a ludicrous skill should not be kept secret, so I shall share it here. What follows is a not at all safe for work guide to balloon making. Sperm Let’s start with something tame, a spermat... »

Not-So-Jurassic Park

Not-So-Jurassic Park

Here’s a question for you: What do you get when you put a mammoth genome into an elephant egg? Is it a mammoth or an elephant or something else? And why would you do it? »

Biological Units: The Strength of A Single Cell

Biological Units: The Strength of A Single Cell

Several recent papers have proposed methods of seeing huge numbers of individual RNA molecules within a cell. I suspect that half the appeal of these methods is the beautiful images they generate. But they’re significant largely because they allow us to pick apart biology at an increasingly tiny scale — in this case, see how an individual cell functions, rather than how the average cel... »

Carolynn L Smith and the Astounding Richness of Animal  Communication

Carolynn L Smith and the Astounding Richness of Animal Communication

You’re a rooster who’s down on his luck.  Your comb is a bit shabby, your fighting skills aren’t up to snuff, and we’re not even going to mention the state of your wattle.  Chances are, you’re a beta male in your little social unit, and most likely, every time you start trying to attract a hen by pointing out a bit of delectable food, the alpha male comes over, pushes you out of the way, steals yo... »

The things we do with our eggs; reproductive health and genetic engineering

The things we do with our eggs; reproductive health and genetic engineering

This op-ed in the New York Times set off a few of my warning bells. There’s the refusal of the authors to actually state their specific fears. There’s the recourse to a rhetorical doublespeak in which “we don’t know if it’s safe” is used as an excuse for not trying the studies that could determine safety. There’s the distinction made between reproductive t... »

Stem Cells, Stressed Cells, Healing, and the Lure of Rejuvenation

Stem Cells, Stressed Cells, Healing, and the Lure of Rejuvenation

A recent study in Nature, entitled “Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency“, suggests that subjecting cells to dangerous but non-lethal conditions (such as a bath in acid, or a mechanical squeeze) can turn them into stem cells. Unsurprisingly, this publication set off a bit of a media blitz, and then it turned out that there were numerous problems with th... »

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