Science & Nature

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. »

Image by David Baird and licensed for reuse CC BY-SA 2.0

Art Inquisition: Is Climate Change a Bummer?

Amid the hubbub of their grand opening, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science lost part of one of their displays. On climate change. And their grand opening was in 2012. The still-missing panel, titled “Changing Climate,” states that “Volcanic eruptions and burning fossil fuels increase the amount of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. This warms the Earth and can caus... »

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... »

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... »

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... »

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