March 16, 2015

9:57 AM | Coral reefs: secret cities of the sea | @GrrlScientist
In today’s “Museum Monday” video, we watch a time-lapse as a coral reef aquarium is set up in the Natural History Museum’s Jerwood Gallery. This aquarium will be featured in their upcoming exhibition where the public can learn about the importance of marine coral reef communities.As a lifelong fish keeper and aquascaper, my love for tropical fishes strongly influenced my love for the sciences. As a young child, my aquarium was one of my inspirations: the water test kit […]
9:54 AM | A Neutral Theory for Interpreting Correlations between Species and Genetic Diversity in Communities
Laroche et al. The American Naturalist 185(1): 59-69. A Neutral Theory for Interpreting Correlations between Species and Genetic Diversity in Communities Oh the dangers of picking a paper because you like the keywords and finding them cooked in a different way to you had imagined in your head. I have a slow-burning interest in how thinking […]
1:48 AM | Autism & Intelligence: Might Disability and Genius Have More in Common than Meets the Eye?
We’re all familiar with the caricature of the stereotypical nerd: male, glasses, nasally monotonic voice, pedantic, obscure sense of humor, highly intelligent, calculators spilling from every pocket, and woefully socially […]

March 15, 2015

6:20 PM | Probability of finding fitter promiscuous mutants (Evolvability) as a function of purifying selection
Recently, in an opinion article, Dr. Shelley Copley, had an interesting view on evolvability.. ".. promiscuity may exist simply because it is impossible to exclude all potential substrates .." Copley SD An evolutionary biochemist’s perspective on promiscuity Trends in Biochemical Sciences.Feb … Continue reading →
2:57 PM | Pi Day - Something nerdy for you
Actually TPP missed it. Pi day was yesterday, but it's a special Pi day because it's 2015, so 3/14/15 gives you 2 more decimal places, 3.1415. This is very useful if you want to know the ratio of a circle's diameter to its circumference. Supposedly if you celebrated at a particular time, you got even more decimal places but it really doesn't matter all that much because supposedly they go on forever. There's a lot more nerdy Pi stuff at the link. As a kid it always bothered […]
8:50 AM | Sunday Chess Problem
With the students returning tomorrow I’m afraid I have to blog and run. But I do want to continue my look at Circe problems this week. So here’s a minor effort of mine, published in the U. S. Problem Bulletin all the way back in 1994. The stipulation calls for mate in ten. But remember…

March 14, 2015

9:21 PM | Overselling the microbiome award: Dr. Raphael Kellman at MindBodyGreen
Well this article by Dr. Raphael Kellman has just lots of overstatements about the microbiome: Why The Microbiome Is Your Key To Glowing Skin & Healthy WeightFor example, he writes:Have you and your boyfriend or girlfriend ever gone out for a feast of delightfully unhealthy proportions only to then find yourselves picking fights with one another once you're back home and digesting?  Fueling your body with unhealthy bacteria, and then feeding it with more unhealthy bacteria, is a […]
8:48 PM | Some silly microbome ideas from @DeepakChopra and @rudytanzi
Well, just got to reading this: Big Idea 2015: Medicine, Wellbeing, and the Microbiome | Deepak Chopra MD. Yes, it was from December 2014 but I could not get up to reading it then because I saw some of the comments online about it and it seemed off.  But anyway I caught up to it today.  It has many inaccurate and misleading statements about microbes and microbiomes I just felt like I had to post something.  Some of the problemmatic parts are below with comments.Let's start […]
8:41 PM | It’s Pí Day!
It’s March 14, 2015, which, in North America at least, makes it Pi Day (3/14/15), a day where people celebrate the most well-known mathematical constant with delicious baked goods and puns. But in Middle-earth, the magical and engrossing world created by J.R.R. Tolkien as the setting for his tales of rings, hobbits, and adventure, Pi [...]
12:25 PM | Why do pet parrots mimic people? | @GrrlScientist
Since today is “Caturday”, I had to share some videos of one of my favourite birds in the world, the diminutive budgerigar named Disco. And because Disco is such a talented mimic, this gives me the opportunity to share the evolutionary reasons why pet parrots mimic people.Since today is “Caturday”, I had to share some videos of one of my favourite birds in the world, the diminutive budgerigar named Disco. Disco lives in western New York with his family, which includes […]
7:26 AM | Pi Day!
Today’s date is March 14, 2015. That’s 3/14/15. That’s the first five digits of pi! And if you’re using 12-hour time, then you have two chances to be reading this at 9:26:53. That’s the first ten digits of pi! Oh happy day! And a welcome chance to stick a thumb in the eye of all…
3:33 AM | Mating systems
In a new paper, published online in Molecular Ecology, Pannell (2015) reviews the literature on the evolution of mating systems and dispersal in colonizing species as component of a special issue called Invasion Genetics: The Baker and Stebbins Legacy.  This issue is … Continue reading →
3:32 AM | Days Five and Six – Mojave 2015
No summary available for this post.

March 13, 2015

9:24 PM | ESC Students Entered in NSERC-CRSNG Video Contest
Two student members of the Entomological Society of Canada have videos entered in the NSERC-CRSNG Science, Action! competition. The contest, open to students across Canada, aims to share NSERC-CRSNG funded research through 60 second videos, and offers a cash prize of $3,000 to the winning entries. The first round of public voting is now open, […]
9:20 PM | New Technicolor Dream Material Mimics Chameleon Skin
Chameleons are known for their vibrant color changes. While the old wives' tale that they change color to match their surroundings isn't true, they are capable of remarkable shifts in hue, a trait which has fascinated scientists for years. Now, scientists have learned from the little lizards, and have created a material that, like chameleons, can shift its colors seemingly effortlessly. The material was created by Connie Chang-Hasnain, a professor of electrical engineering at Universit
5:02 PM | Acoustic Fats, Ear Trumpets, and How Whales Hear
Up until a few days ago, I had never heard a blue whale. I wasn’t even aware they …
11:47 AM | New books party: books that arrived recently | @GrrlScientist
This week’s books include three scholarly works: one examines the language of science and how it changed from Latin to English; another probes the rise of online universities; and a third discusses the use of Victorian fairy-tales to communicate science to public.Scientific Babel: The language of science from the fall of Latin to the rise of English by Professor Michael Gordin [432 pages, Profile Books, 2015; Guardian Bookshop; Amazon UK hardcover/paperback/Kindle UK; Amazon US […]
8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: A review of Baumeister and Tierney’s Willpower by Scott Alexander (I don’t buy the comparison between exercise, money and willpower – this comment sums up my view). When we act as though all opinions are equal. Some evidence on whether we should be inducing the best and brightest into teaching. (HT: Arnold […]
6:20 AM | How photosynthesis is inspiring solar power research
SUMMARY: To meet humanity’s growing energy demands, scientists are taking lessons from plants, which perfected the process of capturing the sun’s rays and transforming that into starch. Might scientists be able to adapt the photosynthetic process pioneered by plants and adapt it to meet human demands? The impacts that people have upon the global environment has been a concern to scientists for more than 100 years. These impacts are due, in large part, to the fuels we use. To […]

Barber J. (2007). Biological solar energy, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 365 1007-1023. DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1962

Porter G. (1950). Flash Photolysis and Spectroscopy. A New Method for the Study of Free Radical Reactions, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 200 (1061) 284-300. DOI:

Porter G. (1966). Studies of Triplet Chlorophyll by Microbeam Flash Photolysis, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 295 (1440) 1-12. DOI:

Porter G. (1978). The Bakerian Lecture, 1977: In Vitro Models for Photosynthesis, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 362 (1710) 281-303. DOI:

Tyndall J. (1861). The Bakerian Lecture: On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 151 1-36. DOI:

Cogdell R.J., P. I. Molina & L. Cronin (2013). The use and misuse of photosynthesis in the quest for novel methods to harness solar energy to make fuel, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 371 (1996) 20110603-20110603. DOI:

5:50 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A new crinoid genus from the Silurian of Estonia
It is my pleasure to introduce a new Silurian crinoid genus and species: Velocrinus coniculus Ausich, Wilson & Vinn, 2015. The image above is a CD-interray lateral view of the calyx (or head), with the small anal plate in the middle-top. (This will make more sense below.) The scale bar is 2.0 mm, so this […]
4:18 AM | For Our Wooster Family
Here’s a photo of a peaceful sunrise at the Desert Studies Center to let our WOODS friends know that our thoughts are with them.  
3:49 AM | In Praise of Verbs
"I am not told. I am the verb, sir, not the object," —Alan Bennett, The Madness of King George One of the regular frustrations of studying for this blog comes from the number of papers I read by people who...
12:22 AM | Horizontal gene transfer into humans? I am not convinced. Full text of my comments to reporters here
Some news stories about a new paper claiming evidence for horizontal gene transfer into humans and other chordates. I got asked by many reporters about it and some used some of my email comments in their articles.See for exampleHorizontal Gene Transfer a Hallmark of Animal Genomes? in The Scientist by Jyoti MadhusoodananHumans may harbor more than 100 genes from other organisms by Sarah Williams in Science Here is the full text of my responses:"got asked by another reporter to […]

March 12, 2015

8:10 PM | Strange Fossil Filter Feeder Was an Ancient Survivor
Paleontologist Jakob Vinther pointed to a rust-colored boulder sitting on the black lab table. “What do you think …
3:08 PM | Colourful Chameleons and Stripy Zebras – The Coolest Animals in Africa
You can say all you like about lions or elephants being the coolest animals in Africa. They are awesome for sure but they’re not quite the top. I suggest that that title goes to the chameleon and the zebra. Why? They are just so unique: one changes colour as much as a fashion model, and […]
2:00 PM | Exploring color palettes in R
How often have you had to squint at figures with unpleasant color palettes in a manuscript online or in print, and ultimately given up on distinguishing between fifty (or maybe just around 30) shades of gray? I found the RColorBrewer … Continue reading →
1:01 PM | How photosynthesis inspires solar power research | @GrrlScientist
Plants capture sunlight and turn it into starch. Scientists are now adapting the photosynthetic process to improve the way we harness solar energyThe impacts that people have upon the global environment has been a concern to scientists for more than 100 years. These impacts are due, in large part, to the fuels we use. To reduce environmental damage, people must develop and use alternative fuel sources.“The one source of energy that is abundant across the developed and the developing world […]
8:00 AM | The patience of economists
Over four years since release of the working paper (and two and half years since I posted about it), Henrik Cronqvist and Stephan Siegel’s paper The Origin of Savings Behavior has been published in the Journal of Political Economy (follow the working paper link for an ungated copy). The abstract is as follows:  Analyzing the savings behavior of a large […]
6:54 AM | Science, climate change and controversy
SUMMARY: It’s inevitable: as science progresses, controversy happens. But sometimes, the public sees controversy where none exists. How to remedy that? “Science is often thought of as simply a collection of facts which has been handed down to us by some great authority in the past”, says meteorologist Paul Williams, a Royal Society university research fellow at the University of Reading. “But of course, the reality is a lot more complicated than that.” Science is a […]

Darwin C. (1839). Observations on the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, and of Other Parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an Attempt to Prove That They Are of Marine Origin, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 129 39-81. DOI:

3:14 AM | Days Three and Four – Mojave 2015
Day three was spent examining the sedimentology, structure and paleontology, and a bit of the wildlife biology at Owl Canyon. We even stopped at the Payless Shoestore in nearby Barstow (Dr. Wilson’s hometown).  At the Owl Canyon site students examined the geology along a wash (or it is a draw, maybe a wadi?). The big find […]
234 Results