The Loom

Archives for May, 2006

Adapting to Life in Yogurt

Usually when you hear about the rapid evolution of bacteria, the story is typically some grim tale of antibiotic resistance or the emergence of some pathogen once restricted to animals. Here’s a nicer narrative, but no less instructive. In tomorrow’s New York Times I have an article about yogurt, and how the bacteria in its…

Talking at Woods Hole

If you’re in the neighborhood of Woods Hole, Mass., let me invite you to my talk on Friday, June 9 at the Marine Biological Laboratory. I’ll be talking about human evolution, but given that I’ll be at the Marine Biological Laboratory, I figure I’ll include some discussion of the

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a book on Escherichia coli (more on that later). To get a feel for how scientists work with the bug, I’ve been spending some time at the lab of Paul Turner at Yale. He sets up experiments to observe microbes evolve. His lab is full of…

Oliver Morton, science writer and Nature news editor, is blogging after a long hiatus at MainlyMartian. He’s reporting from the Synthetic Biology 2.0 meeting in Berkeley. Check it out. Update: Actually, you may want to check out the cross-posting at Nature’s blogs. Same entries, with comments.

In tomorrow’s New York Times I have an article about the origin of species–or rather, blocking the origin of species. The evolution of a new species can be a drawn out process, taking thousands or millions of years. First populations begin to diverge from each other. Later, those populations may become divided by significant reproductive…

Jakob the Hobbit?

It’s been a little over a year and a half now since scientists announced the disocvery of the most controversial fossil in the field of human origins: Homo floresiensis a k a the Hobbit. Scientists found bones of a dimunitive hominid on the Indonesian island of Flores, and estimated that it lived there as recently…

Grandma Manimal

Nothing gets the blood boiling like a manimal. For many people, the idea of breaching the human species barrier–to mingle our biology with that of an animal–seems like a supreme affront to the moral order. In his January state of the union address, President Bush called for a ban on “creating human-animal hybrids.” These so-called…

A few days ago I

The BBC has a short article on the first DNA isolated from a Neanderthal’s nucleus. (Previous efforts have gotten DNA from their mitochondria, which are small energy-generating organelles.) The results, announced at a meeting, are the fruits of a new method for extracting genetic information from fossils. Theoretically it should be possible to pull together…

If you keep a vegetable garden, there’s a fair chance you’ll encounter a grisly sight this summer. Some poor caterpillar will be clutching a leaf, with the pupae of parasitic wasps sprouting off its back. It has just died in a most grotesque way. A wasp has zeroed in on the caterpillar and injected eggs…