Last 24 Hours

“Time is the longest distance between two places.” -Tennessee Williams I’m always stoked to give you weekly recaps at Starts With A Bang, just in case there’s anything you missed. We saw some fantastic posts this week, including two amazing contributions from Brian Koberlein and Amanda Yoho! Here’s what we saw: The timeline of the Universe (for Ask…

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.” -Stephen King, The Dark Tower Ever since quantum mechanics first came along, we’ve recognized how tenuous our perception of reality is, and how — in many ways — what we perceive is just a very small subset of what’s going on at the quantum level in our…

It’s not unusual for studies on community walkability to face the perplexing question of self-selection. In other words, people who already like to walk end up moving to walkable communities and so those communities naturally have higher physical activity rates. In even simpler terms, it’s about the person, not the environment. However, a new study finds that walkable community design does influence healthy behavior — even among people with no preference for walking in the first place.

Cephalopod meeting!

Unfortunately, this event is not on my calendar: the Cephalopod International Advisory Council (CIAC) is meeting 8-14 November in Hakodate, Japan, to discuss recent advances in cephalopod science (pdf). It looks delightful. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. But alas, all I can do is tell you you should go.

How would you feel if NOAA sent a camera to snoop around your most intimate moments, huh?

I wrote up another piece about football for the Conversation, this time drawing on material from Eureka, explaining how great football players are using scientific thinking: Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets called a lot of things. He calls himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL (and Seattle fans tend to agree). Sportswriters and some…

Bio Databases 2015

Something interesting happened in 2014. The total number of databases that Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) tracks dropped by three databases! What happened?  Did people quit making databases?  No.  This year, the “dead” databases (links no longer valid) outnumber the new ones. To celebrate Digital World Biology’s release of Molecule World I’ll discuss some of the new structure databases…

In My Earbuds Lately

Here are some good albums that I’ve been listening to lately. Country Funk — Country Funk (1970). Not country and not funk: folk psych. GOAT — Commune (2014). Eclectic psychedelia with screamy female vocals and bongos! Opeth — Pale Communion (2014). When black metal ages into virtuoso prog rock. Pixies — Indie Cindy (2014). Eclectic…

Yesterday, I wrote about false balance in reporting on vaccines in the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak. For those who’ve never encountered this blog, what I mean by false balance is when journalists, in a misguided belief that there are “two sides” (i.e., an actual scientific controversy) about the safety of childhood vaccines and…

“Even in hindsight, I would not change one whit of the Voyager experience. Dreams and sweat carried it off. But most of all, its legacy makes us all Earth travelers among the stars.” -Charley Kohlhase It’s a taxing enough task to launch something off the surface of the Earth, escaping our planet’s gravity and finding…

Impending Doom (Synopsis)

“From an incandescent mass we have originated, and into a frozen mass we shall turn. Merciless is the law of nature, and rapidly and irresistibly we are drawn to our doom.” -Nikola Tesla Stability: it’s the hallmark of the Solar System. The motions of all the planetary bodies are regular and periodic. The paths of…

We’re hiring! If you have skill in teaching, and want to hone those skills at a school with a reputation for excellence in teaching, apply! Full-Time One-Year Position in Biology University of Minnesota, Morris The University of Minnesota, Morris seeks an individual committed to excellence in undergraduate education, to fill a full-time, one-year, possibly renewable,…

Bad Faith Criticism of Science

I’ve recently written about the Serengeti Strategy, a coin termed by climate scientist Michael Mann to describe the anti-science strategy of personal attacks against individual scientists in an attempt to discredit valid scientific research one might find inconvenient. Science Careers (from Science Magazine) has a new item called “Science under the microscope” looking at bad…

Math with Bad Drawings has a post about “word problems” that will sound very familiar to anyone who’s taught introductory physics. As he notes, the problem with “word problems” for math-phobic students is that it requires translating words into symbols, and then using the symbols to select a procedure. It adds a step to what…

Dan Graur has suggested some changes to the classification of DNA. It’s one more pile of terminology to keep straight, but the distinctions are conceptually useful — I particularly appreciate literal vs. indifferent DNA as subdivisions of functional DNA. The pronouncements of the ENCODE Project Consortium regarding “junk DNA” exposed the need for an evolutionary…