Chemistry

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... »

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... »

Clean Water, Breathable Air, and the Science of Food: The Legacy of Ellen Swallow

Clean Water, Breathable Air, and the Science of Food: The Legacy of Ellen Swallow

Every morning we wake up to a feast of assumptions.  We assume that the place our sewage gets dumped is not the same place our drinking water comes from.  We instinctually expect a complete list of ingredients to be found on the side of all of our food purchases, and know as a matter of course the relative merits of carbs, proteins, and sugars.  We know that our children, be they sons or daughters... »

You are your gene expression: why it’s not surprising that meditation changes epigenetics

You are your gene expression: why it’s not surprising that meditation changes epigenetics

A study came out that was a rather nice demonstration of some molecular changes that actually drive the benefits of mindfulness meditation, and the response to it was all out of proportion. Which, I suppose, is where I come in. Because headlines like “Scientists finally find how meditating can CHANGE YOUR GENOME!” give me hives. »

A toast to sparkling wine!

A toast to sparkling wine!

New Year’s Eve is upon us, which means it’s time to break open the bubbly! Want to drop a little knowledge along with your toasts? Here’s a rundown on this most festive of beverages (including a video that changed my life forever): 1. Champagne is sparkling wine from a specific region of France east of Paris and can be made from white chardonnay, pinot noir, or pinot meunier. The... »

Hot Cocoa to help Light the Night

Hot Cocoa to help Light the Night

Congratulations to the Skepchick teams for raising over $2,500 for Light the Night and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! I promised to create a warm non-alcoholic beverage in honor of this achievement. However, I’m so proud of you all that I decided to make two recipes, one with booze and one without! Both are variations on hot cocoa, and I hope you enjoy–the treat is well-deserved!... »

Crowdfunding Science

Crowdfunding Science

As a scientist just beginning her career, the prospect of fishing for federal grant money in an increasingly overfished and under-populated lake is something I dread. As a denizen of silicon valley, I am surrounded by people whose go-to method for funding big, crazy ideas is crowdfunding. I’ve been party to endless debates on which platform to use, whether you need a platform at all, and whi... »

“Breaking Bland:” the Story of MSG

“Breaking Bland:” the Story of MSG

A while back, I wrote an post about the much-maligned, flavor-enhancing food additive MSG, its history, how it tastes, and where our unsupported concept of its harmful nature comes from. If my post whet your appetite, you might be interested in an article from John Mahoney posted to Buzzfeed a couple weeks ago. “Breaking Bland: The Notorious MSG’s Unlikely Formula for Success” lo... »

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