July 21, 2014

6:43 PM | Turning down an endowed lectureship because their gender ratio is too skewed towards males #WomenInSTEM
Just got this invitation.  I have edited it to remove some of the identifying factors since I think the specific details do not matter.Dear Dr. Eisen: I am writing to invite you to present a lecture in the endowed XXXX Lecture Series at XXXX Univsersity.  The XXXX Lecture is a platform to allow leaders in the areas of XXXX to communicate research advances to a general audience.  Recent speakers include XXXX and XXXX and XXXX.  For your talk, we were hoping you could […]
3:41 PM | Footage of the 8th International Congress in Genetics! (Stockholm, 1948)
While searching for information regarding Åke Gustafsson, a plant breeder who practiced mutagenesis (and cited by Stebbins as providing experimental data for mutation studies), I stumbled upon an amazing video: footage from the 8th International Congress in Genetics held in Stockholm in 1948! Bengt Bengtsson and Anna Tunlid of Lund University digitized and annotated the video (the […]
1:00 PM | SURVEY: How bad was that Science cover and do you care?
The July 11 cover of Sciencegot a lot of press coverage last week. You can read about the variety of responses here, here, here, here or here (to name a few). But if you haven’t heard, Science chose to feature transgender sex workers from Jakarta on the cover of their “Staying a step ahead of […]
8:51 AM | Friends Are Genetically Similar
You and your friends are surprisingly genetically similar, according to a study ...
4:31 AM | Iron Flows and Camera Blows
Guest Bloggers:  Sarah McGrath (’17) and Chloe Wallace (’17), both members of Team Utah 2014   EPHRAIM, UTAH — No longer rookie bloggers Chloe and Sarah here, coming at you from the sweet comfort of our couch in Utah. Before collecting pounds of oncolites and encountering countless kill sites, we were just two inexperienced field […]
4:27 AM | Oncolites and Kill Sites
Guest Bloggers:  Sarah McGrath (’17) and Chloe Wallace (’17), both members of Team Utah 2014   EPHRAIM, UTAH –  Rookie bloggers, Sarah and Chloe, coming at you from beautiful Ephraim, Utah! We’ll admit early on that are blogging skills are not the most proficient, but we’re giving it a shot (mostly because we are being […]

July 20, 2014

10:09 PM | Sunday Chess Problem
My renewed interest in chess has not just extended to tournament play. I am composing chess problems again as well. Here’s one I came up with recently, and which will eventually be published in The Problemist magazine. In the position below, white is looking for selfmate in thirteen moves: Recall that white is always moving…
10:04 PM | How to kill an iZombie
Sometime back TPP commented on iPhone zombies, but a similar affliction can also occur due to ear buds and whatever they are delivering from an iPod, so the result is an iZombie. Like all zombies, you have to know the right way to kill them, but based on recent events that may not be too difficult. You turn an ordinary person, often a student around here, into an iZombie by giving them a smart phone and a set of ear buds either attached to the iphone or an ipod, either or both […]
7:40 PM | Robert Kennedy's Anti-Vaccine Craziness
Robert Kennedy is obsessed with the notion that vaccines cause autism. He’s particularly obsessed with the discredited idea that thimerosal, a preservative used in some vaccines, causes autism. Now Kennedy is about to publish a new book on this topic, and he’s promoting it both in the press and, as described in today’s Washington Post, in the halls of Congress. He’s recently had personal meetings with U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Bernie Sanders to try to convince […]
5:29 PM | Cooperative sperm, killer sperm and the competition for reproductive success
In the closing paragraph of on the origin of species Darwin famously said that nature was a war in which individuals struggle against each other and the environment for survival. […]

Moller, A. (1989). Ejaculate Quality, Testes Size and Sperm Production in Mammals, Functional Ecology, 3 (1) 91-96. DOI: 10.2307/2389679

Moore H, Dvoráková K, Jenkins N & Breed W (2002). Exceptional sperm cooperation in the wood mouse., Nature, 418 (6894) 174-7. PMID:

Pearcy M, Delescaille N, Lybaert P & Aron S (2014). Team swimming in ant spermatozoa., Biology letters, 10 (6) PMID:

Byrne PG, Simmons LW & Roberts JD (2003). Sperm competition and the evolution of gamete morphology in frogs., Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 270 (1528) 2079-86. PMID:

Mackie JB & Walker MH (1974). A study of the conjugate sperm of the dytiscid water beetles Dytiscus marginalis and Colymbetes fuscus., Cell and tissue research, 148 (4) 505-19. PMID:

Bjork A, Dallai R & Pitnick S (2007). Adaptive modulation of sperm production rate in Drosophila bifurca, a species with giant sperm., Biology letters, 3 (5) 517-9. PMID:

Buckland-Nicks, J. (1998). Prosobranch parasperm: Sterile germ cells that promote paternity?, Micron, 29 (4) 267-280. DOI: 10.1016/S0968-4328(97)00064-4

Baker, R. & Bellis, M. (1989). Elaboration of the Kamikaze Sperm Hypothesis: a reply to Harcourt, Animal Behaviour, 37 865-867. DOI: 10.1016/0003-3472(89)90074-2

Moore, H., Martin, M. & Birkhead, T. (1999). No evidence for killer sperm or other selective interactions between human spermatozoa in ejaculates of different males in vitro, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 266 (1436) 2343-2350. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.1999.0929

5:10 PM | Creature Feature VI: Bee-eaters
Here is my next piece in the Creature Feature series, on the social lives of bee-eaters. The only thing I have to add is this delightful video of a Rainbow Bee-Eater digging its tunnel nest to the accompaniment of cheerful … Continue reading →
2:35 PM | Excitatory GABA
gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, otherwise more commonly known by its acronym, “GABA,” is a primary neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. While most of us may be more familiar with the concept […]

July 19, 2014

1:41 AM | Church Youth Groups and Apologetics
Over on Facebook, Nancy Pearcey responded to a post about young people and deconversion from churches with a modest proposal: let them read apologetics. Age at which people leave the church — Tell me again why youth groups focus on games and goodies instead of majoring on apologetics? One study found that the age at […]

July 18, 2014

10:45 PM | Barbarians and their enablers
You give a kid a BB gun, and sooner or later he'll shoot it at some windows. It's a given of human nature. You give rebels, terrorists, or even some other type of militia under limited central control some big boom-booms, and sooner or later they'll shoot at something they shouldn't have.  And of course giving an implement of destruction to anybody who is more likely to shoot than to think makes you partly responsible for the outcome. This means you really have to think […]
10:19 PM | Baby Mammoths Yield Hi-Res Details for Paleontologists
There’s only one fossil that ever made me cry. Lyuba, a one month old woolly mammoth, made me …
4:47 PM | Talk to the Animals: BBC series on Animal Communication
The BBC have got a new series on animal communication, so far they’ve covered mongooses, hippopotamuses, vervet monkeys, chimpanzees, dolphins and other animals but I haven’t actually watched it yet. Someone’s uploaded the first episode to youtube here: But of course you can watch it on iPlayer too if you’re in the UK.
4:42 PM | Fraud, Deception And Lies: How Discovery’s Shark Week Became The Greatest Show On Earth
In 1842, the infamous showman P.T. Barnum unveiled a truly bizarre creature. In his autobiography, Barnum described it as “an ugly, dried-up, black-looking, and diminutive specimen… its arms thrown up, giving it the appearance of having died in great agony.” The Feejee mermaid, as the mummified remains were called, possessed the torso of a monkey with […]The post Fraud, Deception And Lies: How Discovery’s Shark Week Became The Greatest Show On Earth appeared […]
3:00 PM | Scientists at work among the Joshua trees
When he’s not dismantling racist pseudoscience, Chris Smith studies the evolutionary ecology of species interactions. Willamette University sent along a videographer on Chris’s last field trip to study Joshua trees and the moths that pollinate them in central Nevada, and the result is now posted on Vimeo. It’s mainly geared toward showcasing how Willamette undergraduate […]
2:32 PM | Passport required to reproduce: Local adaptation persists despite frequent dispersal
[ This post is by Daniel Peterson; I am just putting it up.  –B. ]Alaska contains roughly half of the wilderness in the United States. That’s over 230,000 square kilometers of pristine habitat – a place where ecosystem processes disrupted almost everywhere else can be observed in a natural state. Of course, that also means a large proportion of the state isn’t accessible by road, a fact I could barely comprehend as a brand-new grad student stepping off a plane from […]
2:12 PM | Gordon Research Conference on Speciation: March 15–20, 2015
Hi everybody.  An upcoming conference on speciation has just been announced:Gordon Research Conference on SpeciationModes of Diversification, Ecological Mechanisms, and Genomic SignaturesMarch 15–20, 2015Ventura, California, USAA preliminary program is up with a great list of speakers.  More information is available at the conference’s home page.  Save the date!
1:00 PM | Stuff online, feet of clay edition
This week, at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! Dismantling A Troublesome Inheritance, part III: has natural selection created differences between racial groups? And at The Molecular Ecologist: Further thoughts on peer review. Not a great week. A series of not … Continue reading →
1:00 PM | What we’re reading: Experimental evolution of beetles’ immunity, adaptive introgression in mussels, and sexual harassment in the field
In the journals Joop G., O. Roth, P. Schmid-Hempel, and J. Kurtz. 2014. Experimental evolution of external immune defences in the red flour beetle. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 27: 1562–1571. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12406. Intriguingly, we found indication for an interme- diate … Continue reading →
11:09 AM | The Ten-legged Spider
Every word in the title is a lie. The creature I’d like to introduce isn’t a spider and it doesn’t …Continue reading →
7:59 AM | Anti-Evolutionists Need to Stop Talking About Thermodynamics
The anti-evolutionists just never get tired of the second law thermodynamics! The latest bit of silliness comes from Barry Arrington, writing at Uncommon Descent. Here’s the whole post: I hope our materialist friends will help us with this one. As I understand their argument, entropy is not an obstacle to blind watchmaker evolution, because entropy…
5:14 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Silicified productid brachiopods from the Permian of West Texas
The three beauties above are productid brachiopods from the Road Canyon Formation (Middle Permian, Roadian, approximately 270 million years old) in the Glass Mountains of southwestern Texas. They are part of a series we’ve done on the silicified fauna of a block of limestone we dissolved in the lab many years ago. The calcitic shells […]
3:15 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Why idiots succeed. Rory Sutherland on social norms. Economics incentives versus nudge (pdf). Don’t forget that basic economic mechanisms can work. We’re related to our friends. Are there really trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk? A bash of the Myers-Briggs test. Personally, I’m a fan of the big five plus g. On g, […]
3:13 AM | Hot Springs and I.S. Frenzy
Guest Blogger:  Kelli Baxstrom (’16), member of Team Utah 2014   EPHRAIM, UTAH –  A week into Utah, and feelings are mixed between slight hysteria for those who continue to fall off the couch in the evening due to exhaustion and an ongoing sense of awe of the beautiful world that exists outside Ohio. Sunday was […]
1:54 AM | Feathery Fossil Gives Flying Dinosaurs a Size Boost
Early last week, in the pages of PNAS, paleontologist Dan Ksepka unveiled one of the largest dinosaurs ever …

July 17, 2014

11:28 PM | Another Perspective on British Columbia
Guest blogger: Liz Plascencia 15 days. 22 bears. 4 bald eagles. 47 rock samples. Wow. What a trip. I, a native Los Angeles city dwelling kid, have had the utmost pleasure of accompanying such a dynamic and energetic team of geologists to Mt. Edziza. Northern British Columbia is absolutely unreal. Far from the city lights […]
7:55 PM | Stop teaching calculus in high school
Math education needs a reboot. Kids today are growing up into a world awash in data, and they need new skills to make sense of it all. The list of high school math courses in the U.S. hasn’t changed for decades. My daughters are taking the same courses I took long ago: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. These are all fine subjects, but they don’t serve the needs of the 21st century. What math courses do young people really need? Two subjects are head-smackingly […]
208 Results