Biology

Nature, Nuture, and Social Justice

Nature, Nuture, and Social Justice

Over the past week, several articles have come to my attention for various reasons that stress the “nature” part of “nature vs. nurture”. And as I read them, I noticed that the reaction they provoked wasn’t a scientific one necessarily, but a philosophical one. Maybe even a moral one. And here’s the thing: I think that “solving” the “nature vs. nurture” debate is actually a sideline from the moral... »

The Ghost of Evolution, or Why We Still Have Avocados + Guacamole!

The Ghost of Evolution, or Why We Still Have Avocados + Guacamole!

Have you ever stopped to wonder about the avocado’s bizarrely large seed? How on earth this most scrumptious of plants could ever have propagated itself in the wild when swallowing such a seed could mean extreme discomfort when passing it or even death by choking? Unlike many other plants we eat that humans have genetically manipulated over the years to make larger, more nutritious, and more... »

Caveman genes — what our shared history with Denisovans means

Caveman genes — what our shared history with Denisovans means

A recent article in Nature determines, fairly conclusively, that a certain variant of a certain gene which allows Tibetans to thrive at high altitudes comes directly from interbreeding with Denisovans — from an extinct cousin of Homo Sapiens Sapiens. »

Neuroembryology in Wartime: Rita Levi-Montalcini and the Discovery Of Nerve Growth Factor

Neuroembryology in Wartime: Rita Levi-Montalcini and the Discovery Of Nerve Growth Factor

It is 1942, and Allied bombs are raking the city of Turin, wreaking a thudding vengeance for Il Duce’s cynical alliance with Nazi Germany. Amidst the panic and carnage, a woman carefully gathers her most precious items, a microscope and a set of pain-stakingly prepared slides, before heading into her basement to wait out the attack. A Jew, ejected from her university position in 1938 because of ra... »

Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish

Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish

If you haven’t seen any of Neil Shubin’s 3 part series, Your Inner Fish on PBS, start now! It can be streamed here. It’s in the same vein as the new Cosmos, but with a stronger emphasis on biology, anatomy, genetics, and paleontology. In Cosmos, you get NDT’s cool, calm, perhaps-slightly-baked, but always reverential delivery. In Your Inner Fish, you get Shubin’s R... »

Life is not a ladder. Or, really, a tree.

Life is not a ladder. Or, really, a tree.

I’m going to stand on a soapbox for a second and talk about life. In particular, I’m going to talk about evolution. In a lot of common parlance, and a lot of media, we refer to evolution as something like a ladder — think the terrible image I used as my featured image. Humans are usually at the top. Even when we’re being really careful about it, we use a metaphor like a tre... »

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... »

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