Life Science

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Evil Rising

We’ve had a very wet summer so far here in the upper Midwest — the potholes are full of water, our backyard is sodden, the plants are thriving, but that also means that this plague is drifting in vast clouds everywhere. The horror. The horror.

In a previous life (of mine) my father-in-law, an evolutionary biologist, kept an oil painting of a fish on the wall of the living room. At every chance he would point out, to visitors or to anyone else if there were no visitors, that he kept a portrait of his distant ancestor hanging in a…

The debate about intelligent, extra-terrestrial aliens goes on, with the usual divide: astronomers insisting that the galaxy must be swarming with alien intelligences, which is popular with the media, and the biologists saying no, it’s not likely, there are probably swarms of single-celled organisms, but big multicellular intelligences like ours are probably rare. And the…

My zombie story

The zombie plague was a dud. When the first cases emerged, scattered around the globe, everyone knew exactly how to put them down: destroy the brain. The world had been so saturated with zombie comic books, zombie TV shows, zombie novels, and zombie movies in the greatest, if unplanned, public health information program ever, that…

It’s been cephalopod week, and on Science Friday, they featured our old friend, the vampire squid.

Chris Mooney is galloping around on his anti-science education hobby-horse again. That’s a harsh way to put it, but that’s what I see when he goes off on these crusades for changing everything by modifying the tone of the discussion. It’s all ideology and politics, don’t you know — if we could just frame our…

Stinky stuff! This fits perfectly with my biased preconceptions. So here are two examples of chemistry used to analyze things you’d normally run away from. The oldest traces of human poop have been dug out of a cave in Spain — and it’s Neandertal poop. It’s about 50,000 years old, and it’s been reduced to…

  It is not surprising that Biwa salmon (image above), a subspecies of Oncorhyncus masou, do not adapt to seawater very well after having been landlocked in Lake Biwa, Japan for the last 500,000 years or so.  Researchers from Hokkaido University and Shiga Prefecture Fishery Experiment Station in Japan wanted to know what caused the salmon to…

New research published in PLOS Genetics shows that starving C. elegans (Caenorhabditis elegans) during the late larval stage of development when the worms are undergoing tissue growth and formation halts cellular activity at previously unknown checkpoints in their development. These findings show that nutrition is an important cue to signal whether or not the worms should…

The bad science of World War Z

World War Z was on the Netflix last night, so I made the mistake of watching it. It was terrible. Spoilers abound, so stop here if you care.