September 17, 2014

4:22 PM | Proposed: A new gender-parity benchmark, you guys!
So Science, that lovable institutional behemoth of scientific publishing, has just produced a list of “top 50 science stars of Twitter” that manages to contain, by my count—I’ve triple-checked—four women. Eight percent. Looking at the list, it hit me: Seriously, … Continue reading →
2:54 PM | Totally meaningful lists and stuff
Science magazine, ‘inspired’ by Neil Hall’s (borderline?) offensive ‘Kardashian-index’ paper (which has been torn apart by far better people than me, so I’ll just direct you here), has just published a list of ‘The Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter’. Their methods seem strangely flawed for what is considered one of the most prestigious scientific […]
2:03 PM | Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: The key to a secure global future is evolution
Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense, I discuss a big new review article on all the ways understanding evolutionary biology will be critical for human health and development in the next hundred years: The long list of authors, led … Continue reading →
2:00 PM | If the National Parks had a Twitter Account…. Oh Wait! They do!
This is the coolest thing on Twitter. By. Far. Check it out, or follow them on twitter for more awesome photos.
1:00 PM | To thrive in the twenty-first century, can we learn to steer evolution?
Thinking that we can entirely contain or stop the evolutionary change that we do notice is more Quixotic than Quixote, like trying to joust with forests and oceans. But I do think that with the kind of strategies Carroll et al. outline, we can stop worrying about the never-ending wave of evolutionary change, and learn instead how to surf it.
12:00 PM | Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Biology concepts – bacteria, motility, flagella, quorum sensing, bacterial swarming, biofilms, pathogenesisNomads are wanderers. They come in different flavors. Hunter-gatherers follow the animals as they graze in different places. Pastoral nomads have animal herds and move them around to where the grazing is best. But the interesting ones are the peripatetic nomads. These are people that move around within cities and other populated areas, often to sell services or trades. Romanis, or […]

Gloag ES, Turnbull L, Huang A, Vallotton P, Wang H, Nolan LM, Mililli L, Hunt C, Lu J, Osvath SR & Monahan LG (2013). Self-organization of bacterial biofilms is facilitated by extracellular DNA., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (28) 11541-6. PMID:

Deng P, de Vargas Roditi L, van Ditmarsch D & Xavier JB (2014). The ecological basis of morphogenesis: branching patterns in swarming colonies of bacteria., New journal of physics, 16 15006-15006. PMID:

McCall J, Hidalgo G, Asadishad B & Tufenkji N (2013). Cranberry impairs selected behaviors essential for virulence in Proteus mirabilis HI4320., Canadian journal of microbiology, 59 (6) 430-6. PMID:

Alteri CJ, Himpsl SD, Pickens SR, Lindner JR, Zora JS, Miller JE, Arno PD, Straight SW & Mobley HL (2013). Multicellular bacteria deploy the type VI secretion system to preemptively strike neighboring cells., PLoS pathogens, 9 (9) PMID:

3:40 AM | Being International Part 1: Culture Shock and My Academic Path
Like many of my other blog posts, I’ve been planning this series for ages but needed something to actually spur me into writing and posting them. Here, the impetus has come from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This book is perfect; go … Continue reading →
12:29 AM | Bone From the Outside In
Our skeletons are made of bone. This is a fact so simple as to seem mundane. It’s easy …

September 15, 2014

10:23 PM | Dolphins Know Each Other by Name
Signature whistles can be heard in a variety of dolphin species. Suppose I had an eight-month old baby who liked to say something like gork, and I told you that one day I heard the baby's two-year-old brother make a...
9:53 PM | Always looking for bargains
There are certain things in life that you continue to seek, for example, an excellent wine under $10 a bottle and great bargain plants. This is the time of year when big box stores heavily discount their plants to empty out their garden centers. Mostly the plants are  not worth the effort, however, it doesn't cost anything but a little time to take a quick look. TPP was pleasantly surprised to see a number of small shrubby magnolias that were in particularly good shape for late summer. […]
8:48 PM | A Mosasaur’s Last Meal
Look into the jaws of a Mosasaurus and you will gaze into a nightmare. The seagoing lizard’s curved …
3:06 PM | How Wolbachia Learned to Help Bedbugs
Wolbachia , Wolbachia , Wolbachia ! Though these ubiquitous insect symbionts a...
1:45 PM | Birdbooker Report 338
SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read […]
1:32 PM | The ideal experiment...
[ This blog post is by Sinéad Collins; I am just putting it up.  –B. ]In a previous blog post, Andrew outlined the “ideal approach” for investigating whether plasticity facilitates evolution, and to my delight, he proposed experimental evolution. Not only that, but he proposed the experiment my group got published this week in Proceedings B. I was pleased to be accused of doing anything ideal, much less an ideal experiment, even if Andrew doesn’t seem to […]
11:49 AM | Should we test all women for breast cancer-causing mutations?
In this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association, famed geneticist Mary-Claire King argues that all women over age 30 should be tested for cancer-causing mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. King, who made the original discovery of the link between BRCA1 and breast cancer, is one of the world’s leading experts on how mutations in these genes cause cancer.But her proposed new universal testing policy, which fellow Forbes contributor David Shaywitz calls […]
7:46 AM | Sunday Chess Problem
This week I want to build on something I discussed near the end of last week’s problem. I mentioned that a problem’s genre should in some way complement its theme. So, if your problem is a selfmate, it is better if the theme employs logic that is specific to the selfmate genre. If your idea…

September 14, 2014

11:43 PM | Everything You Wanted to Know about the Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomes meeting #LAMG14
The Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomes meeting, which happens every other year, is starting tonight.  I love this meeting.  No bias here since I am now a co-organizer.  But I really love this meeting.  I am posting here some background information about the meeting for those interested.  We will be live tweeting the meeting using the hashtag #LAMG14.  This years program is here.Posts of mine about previous meetingsMarch 02, 2014: Save the dates / preliminary […]
10:18 PM | New POTW Posted
The title pretty much says it all. I have a new teaser for you, along with some discussion of palindromes that you might enjoy. The solution to last week’s problem has been posted as well. Let me know what you think!
7:42 PM | Brain Size in Autism: Some New Preliminary Reports
I attended a conference last week in La Ciotat, France, called the EMBO Conference on Brain Development and Disorders. While the title may suggest a width breadth of research, it […]
11:22 AM | Modern Humans Coexisted, Outlived Neanderthals: A Not-So-Neighborly Replacement
If modern humans replaced their archaic predecessors, when was this replacement, and did the two groups overlap?
1:15 AM | Mystery CT 13: Zounds, It’s Round!
Here’s an image that struck me as cool and possibly perplexing. And so we have another Mystery Anatomy post! Brought to you by some free time on my current trip to Gondwanaland. Stomach-Churning Rating: 1/10; simple CT scan slice… of something. Mystery Anatomy 2014: same rules as before; remember that the scoreboard has been reset. Identify the […]

September 13, 2014

1:50 PM | Murmuration over Otmoor
SUMMARY: Tens of thousands of starlings produce spectacular sky shows with their movements at sunset as they gather together every evening during autumn and winter. September has arrived, so you all know what that means: the beginnings of huge bird flocks in autumn and winter! Just as humans spend more time congregating in pubs in autumn and winter, starlings also gather together in large numbers at these times. Every evening as the sun sets, small groups of a dozen or... Read more
12:44 PM | From the shadows, they come.
Drawn by the scent of their hapless prey. Their victims are powerless to defend themselves… Sweet, delicate flesh is ripped and torn as attacks come from all sides… They shiver with feverish excitement… …as the attack turns into a frenzy of shredding, chewing maws… Some emerge from the writhing mass, their faces slick with gore… […]
12:42 PM | The future of taxonomy | video | @GrrlScientist
This lovely video describes important work of Kew Botanical Gardens to publicly share taxonomic information about the monocots online and in one place for the first time.Ever since the first human ancestors realised that some plants were safe to eat whilst others were not, and some promoted health or well-being or created desirable altered mental states, weve been interested in identifying plants. And of course, being human, our brains are particularly well-designed to function as […]

September 12, 2014

6:19 PM | Brief 3.8 million year history of plants
Here's the front and back covers of a brand, spanking new book about plant diversity. Armstrong writes OK and he knows his stuff pretty well, in my opinion. Most importantly this book wasn't written for botanists, it was written for everyone else who might be interested in learning more about the history of plants, about plant diversity, a subject that isn't known well outside of botanical circles. Plant diversity usually is presented in textbooks as a group by group plant menagerie […]
6:11 PM | How to Recycle an Ichthyosaur
Whales have very active afterlives. Once they settle on the ocean bottom, their bodies become both food and …
6:09 PM | Friday Fabulous Flower - paper art
Every now and again TPP likes to present you with a bit of culture in the form of botanical art.  This floral image is made of paper, the product of Yulia Brodskaya, a very talented artist. Your first impression is that these are small works of art, but actually some of them are the size of a wall.  Check out her webpage for more.  Enjoy.  HT to HuffPo for calling attention to this artist. 
5:06 PM | I am a botanist
Just a couple of days ago, TPP explained that he was a botanist. This was because the Botanical Society of America started a campaign for its members to loudly (?) proclaim themselves botanists. If you want to see some of the hundreds of responses from social media adept people who are botanists, click on over and have a look. These are TPP's colleagues and he's proud of them!  Here's a nice article at the Philadelphia Enquirer explaining what some of my colleagues are doing […]
2:28 PM | Fun read of the day: On whimsy, jokes, and beauty: can scientific writing be enjoyed?
This is such a fun paper: On whimsy, jokes, and beauty: can scientific writing be enjoyed? by Stephen Heard in Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 7: 64–72, 2014  I found out about it in an email from Heard, who sent it to me because he had earlier commented on a blog post I had written: The best writing in science papers part 1: Vladimir Nabokov in Notes on Neotropical Plebejinae (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera).Anyway - enough about me - what about this paper?  It has so many nuggets […]
1:00 PM | Stuff online, disappearing shorelines and thoughtful fingertips edition
Nickel-and-dime misgovernment. How local governments, especially small ones, are way worse than the Feds—and how they’re shaking down their poorest citizens with court fees and traffic fines. If we’d just spend the money. There’s a system in place to mass-produce … Continue reading →
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