The Loom

Archives for October, 2003

Rime of the Ancient Parasite

Biologists these days can paint many different portraits of the same organism. They can follow the tried and true style of Aristotle and paint with a broad brush, describing what they can see with the naked eye–number of legs, color of hair, live young or eggs. Or they can paint a creature at the cellular…

Heartache is brainache

There’s been a fair amount of press about a new paper in Science that shows how the brain responds to social rejection. The kicker is that a region of the brain known as the insula becomes active. As I mentioned yesterday, that’s the same area that responds to pain and physical distress. It’s an interesting…

A Picture of Not Thinking

One reason that I’m so riveted by neuroscience is the way it can blow the lid off of philosophical conundrums that have dogged Western thought for centuries. Case in point: in a recent study, scientists at Dartmouth asked subjects about something that was on their mind–an exam, a girlfirend, and so on. Then, while scanning…

The New Pangaea

Thanks again for the comments on my previous two posts about eugenics. As a novice blogger, I was surprised by their focus. I expected comments about the past–the historical significance of the eugenics movement–but instead the future dominated, with assorted speculations about the possible futures that genetic engineering could bring to our species. By coincidence,…

Consciousness and the Culture Wars

It’s never pretty to see journalism transformed into propaganda, especially when you’re the one who wrote the journalism. I recently did an article for the New York Times Magazine about the grey zone between coma and consciousness. The National Right to Life web site then posted a long “News & Views” piece by one Dave…

Dreams of a Eugenicist Planet?

Ask and ye shall receive. In a recent post on eugenics, I claimed that the connection between early 20th century genetics and early 21st century genetic engineering was weak. I asked if anyone thought I was wrong, and in no time I got a comment from Razib at Gene Expression. He suggests that I’m limited…

A New Species of Genius

The folks behind the Macarthur genius grant chose wisely this week when they gave one to Loren Rieseberg, an evolutionary biologist at Indiana University. Rieseberg does fascinating work on the origin of new species (that little subject). Specifically, he’s shown how new plant species emerge from hybrids. When two species of plants form a hybrid,…

Fear of a Eugenicist Planet

Today Daniel Kevles, a Yale historian, has an interesting review in the New York Times of a new book about eugenics. The book in question is War against the Weak, by Edward Black. It’s a cinderblock of a book, and it’s got a lot of chilling material to offer on how popular eugenics was in…

Divine Worms

As someone who writes a lot about evolutionary biology, I’ve often had people say to me, “I just can’t believe that evolved.” Originally, that referred to the lovely side of nature–the beauty of flowers, for example, or the grace of birds in flight. The implication was that these things were so beautiful and intricate that…