The Loom

DailyKos Interview

Over at DailyKos, DarkSyde has been interviewing science bloggers. Here’s our exchange. Greetings to visitors from DailyKos–make yourself at home. If you’re looking for a few samplers of the stuff I write, you may want to check out the “Starting Points and Old Favorites” list in the righthand column. I had hoped to respond to comments at DailyKos, but for some reason I can’t set up an account. (And yet I still have the audacity to claim to be a blogger….) In the meantime, I’m happy to field any questions through the comments here.


  1. #1 LeftyLimblog
    February 11, 2006

    I followed the links in Darksyde’s DKos Main Page post. It looks like I might have been the first but I will likely NOT be the last.

    A couple of questions, please?

    1) Are you considering coming to Yearly Kos? I’d like to get a book signed if you do.

    2) Darksyde writes of his concern that right-wing political animals have been ‘editing’ education. Do you agree? Please amplify.



  2. #2 Carl Zimmer
    February 11, 2006


    1. Can’t make it. FYI, I keep a list of my upcoming talks here. And I keep meaning to look into how to get autographs to people. I know other authors have various systems, but don’t know the details.

    2. As for editing education, just take a look at Kansas, where the supernatural is now fair game for scientific inquiry. Sign me up for astrology class!

  3. #3 John Kubie
    February 11, 2006

    I got here by way of daily Kos. Greatly enjoyed the interview.

    I was a bit taken aback by Bush’s proposal in the State of the Union to increase the number of AP courses in math and science.
    The last place I would look for leadership in Science Education is the Bush White House. The proposal itself seems progressive and innocuous. But it had a funny taste. Two days later the NYTimes rain a terrible article praising the AP process.

    Turns out, the Times article was a rahash of a press release by College Board, the company that runs the AP exams and gets paid $80 per student.

    Could the AP proposal be more Bush sleaze, a way to get money to business friends? It may be worth keeping an eye open and doing some spade work.

    The question of whether the 50 year old AP movement has produced results is an interesting one. I spent an evening doing some googling and was not impressed, but the data seem weak. Certainly, no one would seriously argue that the 50 year history of the AP movement has been accompanied by a parallel increase in high school quality and scientific literacy.

    I don’t think much of the AP system and I think its the wrong way to promote science and science literacy — but that’s another topic.

  4. #4 Howard Garrett
    February 11, 2006

    Thanks for your fascination and your ablity and willingness to tell us about the wonders you find.

    Here’s something you might not have heard of that could give you a thrill. It’s a current look into whale evolution, especially the progression of Orcinus orca to symbol use and cultural faculties. You can find it at:

  5. #5 Luke ~
    February 11, 2006

    I just wanted to say thank you for your hard work and thoughtful essays. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. What topics would you like to explore more in the future?

  6. #6 john
    February 11, 2006

    OK, we really DON’T NEED a bunch of new people from DailyKos crowding in here. A couple of months ago The Loom hit the half million visitor mark. In that short period it has gone up nearly another quarter million. It’s jam packed in here. I can hardly breath. There were friggin’ 200 comments last week on a post about a cockroach getting stung. I’m outta here. I need fresh air.

  7. #7 Jeff Coleman
    February 11, 2006


    First, I want to thank you for a terrific blog. I came across it doing some research for a debate on a web forum over creationism vs evolution. I found answers here, but more than that, was inspired all over again by the incredible discoveries in science. Your recent post on the wasp parasitoid was chilling and amazing.

    I have one question, that has come up in the debate I’m involved in–

    Why does DNA mutate?

    My opponent is suggesting the traditional creationist argument that “Mutation is so rare it could only have been done by a Higher Power”. I’ve used logic and common sense to show how even if we don’t know why something happens NOW, it’s simply something that’s worth investigating now and in the future, to learn why.

    My opponent suggests that science has absolutely no idea why DNA mutates, that experimentation has been done on it and they still are completely unable to discover why it happens.

    I was just curious, what’s the current scientific thought on why DNA mutates in the first place? Do we know?


  8. #8 Janne
    February 12, 2006

    Jeff, IANAB (I Am Not A Biologist), but basically, DNA goes to great lengths _not_ to mutate; that it happens anyway is due to the general contrariness of the universe. Nothing is perfect. You get copying errors, background radiation breaking stuff unexpectedly, a virus interfering with the process and botching it – the list of reasons is wrong.

    It’s the same reason stuff breaks in general – there’s many more ways for things to go wrong than right, and sooner or later it’s going to bite you.

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