January 31, 2015

3:15 AM | Labels and Opinions
I have avoided this topic for a long time. I am not a p […]

January 30, 2015

9:13 PM | Academic bureaucracy
One of the first things to get the Rauner-roundTM here in Lincolnland are its universities.  Our new GnOPe governor says he'd like to give universities more money, but first they have to "cut their bureaucratic waste".  Now TPP is not a big fan of the administration, but he does know a few things after so many years as an academic. And TPP knows a few things about his university after having been around so many years. The state has been slowly but surely cutting its support for […]
8:24 PM | Risk, trust, and GMOs: can understanding fears help alleviate them?
It seems like the outcry against a potential trial of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys has become a national news topic nearly overnight. Though Oxitec has been considering the plan for years, a recent town hall received attention from the Associated Press, and BOOM — suddenly, it seems like everyone is talking about GM mozzies. As I explained in my last post, the bulk of the conversation is centered around fear of GM technology, though the fears of "mutant DNA" […]
4:02 PM | Chili has no beans, a topic with plenty of heat
"The chief ingredients of all chili are fiery envy, scalding jealousy, scorching contempt and sizzling scorn." (H. A. Smith, 1967, Holiday).  Sounds like this guy has participated in a chili cook-off or two. The Texas people of my acquaintance are pretty diverse, but they do agree that beans have no place in chili, let alone adding macaroni or scorn, sorry, corn. What passes for chili in Cincinnati is beneath contempt. To his credit, TPP does not claim to know more about chili […]
2:00 PM | From crocodiles to coconuts
The first plant trypanosomatids were discovered in plant tissues over 100 years ago, but we know very little about their biology, life cycle or how they have adapted to life inside plants. Jaskowska et al. (2015) provide a review of … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | That’s a lot of poop, Mr. Sperm Whale
Although known to occur in its (much smaller) cousins the dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) and the pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps), photographers recently experienced defensive defecation by the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) for the first time ever! Sperm whales can reach up to 67 feet (20.5 meters) long – with almost a thousand feet […]
8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: We see skill where none exists and are happy to pay for transparently useless advice. No evidence of the effect of parenting on criminal behaviour. Doug Kenrick on testosterone and the rationality of taking risks. Pulling apart the recent paper on perceptions of ability and the gender gap. The human guinea pig. […]
5:30 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A stromatoporoid from the Silurian of Estonia
Stromatoporoids are extinct sponges that formed thick, laminated skeletons of calcite. They can be very common in Silurian and Devonian carbonate units, sometimes forming extensive reefs. The stromatoporoid above is Densastroma pexisum (Yavorsky, 1929) collected from the Mustjala Member of the Jaani Formation (Silurian, Wenlock) exposed on Saaremaa Island, Estonia. It was part of Rob […]
4:41 AM | Questions from Jeremy Fox about the LTEE, part 2
This is part 2, I guess, of my response to Jeremy Fox from his questions about the LTEE over at the Dynamic Ecology blog. It’s not an answer to his 2nd question, but it’s a partial answer to the first … Continue reading →
1:27 AM | Texas Bill to Kill All The People
No, not really… just students. Seriously. A bill […]

January 29, 2015

11:25 PM | Metadata – You Aren’t As Anonymous As You Think
The NSA is somewhat infamous for collecting “just […]
7:12 PM | BLAST from the past
Lot's of things are conspiring to make TPP feel old especially a recent spate of things that all happened 50 years ago, e.g., Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, things he remembers very well. Here's another gee-you're-old reminder provided by The Nation: Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb debuted on this date 51 years ago. It was a marvelous movie about the trouble with relying on something as destructive as atomic bombs for your safety and […]
6:47 PM | The Dawn of Snakes
Dinosaurs are Mesozoic superstars. The largest literally overshadowed other forms of life during their prehistoric heyday, and even …
5:14 PM | Calling all plant phanatics
As lone time readers may have noticed, this blog has no ads and makes no endorsements, unless TPP has been handsomely rewarded, which he hasn't, so you may also conclude how much impact the 623,884th ranked webpage has commercially, essentially none. However as a service to fellow plant lovers, and if any one factor can describe the diverse readers of this blog that may be it, other than my kid sister who just likes to check up on me.  So here's a link to Strange Wonderful Things, a […]
3:00 PM | Monarch butterflies aren’t quite extinct yet!
The New York Times reports that monarch butterflies migrating from North America to central Mexico appear to be doing better than last year, when the over-wintering colony occupied just 1.7 acres. This year’s survey finds the butterflies have filled 2.8 acres, which seems like a solid improvement until you consider that the peak colony size, […]
3:00 PM | Discordance in ancestry inference using human mtDNA and autosomes
Mitochondrial haplotypes have been used extensively over the last few decades for inference of a population structure in humans. Key findings from these studies include what has come to be known as the “Mitochondrial Eve” hypothesis (see the controversial Cann, … Continue reading →
1:12 PM | Weekend To Do: Apply for Science Communication Awards, Fellowships & Internship Programs
Participation of broader audiences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) requires engaging under-served audiences. The conduit of this engagement is communication. Journalism, or... -- Read more on
2:36 AM | Young Earth Creationism
I met a kid (claim, not verified) on G+ a few days ago. […]
1:53 AM | Questions from Jeremy Fox about the LTEE, part 1
Over at the Dynamic Ecology blog, Jeremy Fox asked me some interesting questions about the history, philosophy, and science of the E. coli long-term evolution experiment. Perhaps mistakenly—in terms of time management, not my interest!—I agreed to try to answer … Continue reading →

January 28, 2015

9:30 PM | Eco-Evo conservation of Arctic biodiversity
The snow is falling and we just measured winds clocking at over 100km/h. Par for the course, you might think, for the region of Nunavut close to the community of Cambridge Bay where we are sampling for Arctic char. Except it’s August 23rd and we didn't really plan for a wind/snow storm. An elder with us says he’s never seen anything like it in August. We’re about 85km from the closest town, in the middle of the tundra, and our kitchen tent where we usually huddle over a warm […]
6:07 PM | Dwarf Boas
This post will soon become available in Spanish!Este post pronto estará disponible en español!Ambergris Cay Dwarf Boa (Tropidophis g. greenwayi)Now that the USA and Cuba are finally warming up to one another after a chilly fifty years, we might be poised to learn a lot more about a really interesting group of snakes that reach their highest diversity on Cuba. These are the tropidophiids, or "dwarf boas". Their name is a little misleading—like the splitjaw snakes, they […]
4:41 PM | Book Thoughts: Leviathan and the Air-Pump
A couple months ago I had the pleasure of reading the classic history of science text by Steve Shapin and Simon Shaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. It examines a dispute in the 1600s between Robert Boyle – “the father of modern chemistry” – and Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher known […]
4:00 PM | Estimating the ticks and tocks of molecular clocks
Like many undergraduate students, I learned about the linear, universal molecular clock: the homogeneous rate of nucleotide change over time. When I sat down to actually do analyses of molecular data, I was confounded by the array of options to treat DNA … Continue reading →
3:52 PM | Storify, wrap up of talk by Shirley Tilghman, ex president of #Princeton, at #UCDavis
Shirley Tilghman, ex president of Princeton, gave a talk at UC Davis yesterday as part of the Chencellor's Colloquium. I live Tweeted the talk and made a Storify of some of the Tweets and responses. Here it is [View the story "Talk by Shirley Tilghman, ex president of Princeton, at #UCDavis " on Storify] -------- This is from the "Tree of Life Blog" of Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist and Open Access advocate at the University of California, Davis. For short updates, follow me on […]
3:00 PM | A New Species of Lizard, which Speciated in a New Way
Usually new species are formed gradually, slowly, with the right conditions and mood lighting. Roughly 17,000 new species are found every year. But recently we have “discovered” a new species of lizard that speciated rapidly and under unprecedented conditions. Read about it over at The New York Times.
2:54 PM | Don't worry! Be happy!
Here you go, folks!  A handy infographic from the BBC that rates the probability of some apocalyse wiping out humans or life on Earth. Wonder if this comes in a wall poster size. Now the BBC can get away with this because in England this kind of sarcastic humor is still recognized as such, but here in the not-too-bright 'Merca, this would have cable newscasters going crazy having interpreted this as a govment report that will send survivalist digging deeper and stocking more food than […]
1:00 PM | Crawling To The Top
Biology concepts – characteristics of animals, undulipodia, gametes, nematodes, roundworms, Yes, a sponge is an animal – just like a barracuda, a platypus or a that weird nephew of yours. They are multicellular, loosely organized into a couple tissues, and eat other organisms. You can see how they filter feed in this demonstration. Not so different from that nephew.Sponges and birds – they’re both animals, but would you know it to look at them? Sponges are sessile […]

Smith HE (2014). Nematode sperm motility., WormBook : the online review of C. elegans biology, 1-15. PMID:

H. Ferris (2009). The beer mat nematode, Panagrellus The beer mat nematode, Panagrellus redivivus: A study of the connectedness of scientific discovery , J. Nematode Morphol. Syst., 12 (1) 19-25. Other:

McKnight, K., Hoang, H., Prasain, J., Brown, N., Vibbert, J., Hollister, K., Moore, R., Ragains, J., Reese, J. & Miller, M. & (2014). Neurosensory Perception of Environmental Cues Modulates Sperm Motility Critical for Fertilization, Science, 344 (6185) 754-757. DOI: 10.1126/science.1250598

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12:34 PM | Remembering NASA Challenger and #STEMDiversity
The crew of STS-51-L: Front row from left, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair. Back row from left, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judith Resnik. Monday, January 28, 1986: It was a... -- Read more on
8:00 AM | Manzi’s Uncontrolled
In social science, a myriad of factors can affect outcomes. Think of all the factors claimed to affect school achievement – student characteristics such as intelligence, conscientiousness, patience and willingness to work hard, parental characteristics such as income and education, and then there is genetics, socioeconomic status, school peers, teacher quality, class size, local crime and […]
6:08 AM | So Much For The Nightly Show
We’re only six episodes into The Nightly Show, the program Comedy Central put on to replace Colbert, but I’m about ready to write it off. Larry Wilmore, the show’s host, was pretty funny as a correspondent for The Daily Show, so I was optimistic. But it was not to be. The basic format is this:…
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