The Loom

Archives for November, 2003

The Junk DNA Preservation Society

Futurepundit has an interesting post based on a new paper about so-called junk DNA. Only 2% or so of the human genome actually encodes protein sequences. The rest is a grab-bag of broken genes and virus-like sequences called mobile elements that hijack the cell’s DNA copying-machinery from time to time and insert new copies of…

On the radio

I’ll be talking about evolution on Tuesday at 12 pm PST/3 pm EST with Alan Stahler on KVMR in California. You can listen to the live webcast here. UPDATE: I’ll be on at about 20 minutes after the hour. Andy Knoll from Harvard is on first.

Pinker’s Choice

It’s too early yet for reviews of Soul Made Flesh to start rolling in (it pubs in January 2004), so I’m still in an anxious state. But this is promising: The Daily Telegraph in London asked several leading writers to name the favorite book they read in 2003. Yesterday it printed the results. Steven Pinker…

The History of An Orange Glow

The glow of a beetle has inspired an elegant bit of evolutionary detective work that appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Americans like myself are familiar with fireflies, but in the tropics the night is also illuminated by beetles. When Darwin came to Brazil on the Beagle, he amused himself by…

Bad Memes in Oslo

Texas may be off the hook for now, but Razib at Gene Expression observes that some medical students at the University of Oslo are lobbying for anti-evolution lectures. I guess I’ll try not to be in Norway if I need antibiotics.

For everyone interested in how their brain works, I’d suggest checking out a book coming out soon called Picturing Personhood, by MIT anthropologist Joseph Dumit. Dumit shows how easy it is for brain scans to become cultural Rorschach tests. Scans of mental activity, such as fMRI or PET, are basically complex graphs that represent the…

Suffering and Knowing

The case of Terri Schiavo has moved back into the Bleak House realm of endless trips to the courthouse. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Schiavo lost consciousness thirteen years ago, and her husband has been trying for the past few years to have her feeding tube removed over the objections of her parents.…

Microbe or Mineral?

Over the past couple years, a few pounds of rock from Australia have been the subject of a fierce scientific battle between geologists and paleontologists. Some paleontologists have claimed that microscopic marks in the 3.5 billion year old rocks are the oldest fossils of life yet found. Some geologists have recently argued that the marks…

Venter’s virus

In February I wrote an article in Science about what Craig Venter’s up to these days. In the late 1990s Venter made his mark by challenging the government human genome project to a race, promising to beat them to the full sequence for a fraction of their budget. Ultimately the race was a tie, and…

Recoil from Dollo’s Law

Time always marches forward, of course, but does evolution? It’s certainly easy to impose a march of progress on the course of evolution. That’s why the sequence of apes transforming into humans as they march from left to right is so universal. Of course, there are also pictures in which Homo sapiens, having risen up…