Science

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... »

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... »

Understanding the Lost Children: The Life and Science of Anna Freud

Understanding the Lost Children: The Life and Science of Anna Freud

Humans have a profound genius for generating terrible ideas.  Slavery.  Theocratic government.  But there is one particular idea we hung onto for an unfathomably long amount of time before finally questioning, and that is the notion that Children Are Property, and therefore may be treated more or less however we please.  Our appreciation for the importance of their early environment, and the respo... »

#MALCosmos Live-Tweet: Week 2!

#MALCosmos Live-Tweet: Week 2!

Once again, your friends at Mad Art Lab will be live-tweeting tonight’s episode of The Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Feel free to join us on Twitter using the #MALCosmos hashtag. Here is the episode description for tonight’s episode, “Some of the Things That Molecules Do:” Host Neil deGrasse Tyson is on a voyage to explore the relatedness of all livings things and the po... »

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... »

From Sailor Mercury to Twilight Sparkle: The Top Nine Cartoon Girl Scientists

From Sailor Mercury to Twilight Sparkle: The Top Nine Cartoon Girl Scientists

For any kid born after 1970, cartoons were where we sought our future.  They taught us how ideals tumbled against each other under the strain of adventure and discovery, and gave us a whimsical glimpse of what we might become.  And for a long while, if you were a girl, that future had more than a bit of monochromatic sting to it.  Fortunately, the last two and a half decades have raced to catch up... »

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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