The Loom

Archives for May, 2006

Viruses have a special place at the Loom–they’re ubiquitous and have some pretty profound influences on the evolution of their hosts (including us). But a French scientist named Patrick Forterre wants to take it up a notch. He’s arguing that our very DNA is the creation of viruses some four billion years ago. It’s a…

In case you were worrying that life on Earth would be wiped out by a catastrophic burst of gamma rays, rest easy. It turns out that our galaxy may not be a very good source of gamma ray bursts. I found this particularly interesting given recent speculation that gamma rays bursts might have triggered mass…

Talking Tiktaalik

For those interested in

Crayfish Psychoanalysis

It’s always great to hear senior scientists talk about the bad old days, when one computer could fill an entire room and no one could say what genes were made of. Eric Kandel of Columbia has been studying memory since the 1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work. These days he’s…

X-Men may be closer than you think | CNET News.com I suspect all science writers have had the unhappy experience sooner or later of busting their butts to translate tough science into clear writing, only to have a headline writer top it off with a load of nonsense. For more on the unhappy collision between…

In March, six men entered a London hospital to receive an experimental drug. The men were volunteers, and the drug–a potential treatment for arthritis and leukemia–appeared from animal tests to be safe. But within minutes of the first round of doses, there was trouble. The men complained of headaches, of intolerable heat and cold. The…

Speak, Starling

Today I’ve got an article in the New York Times about the report in Nature that starlings can recognize syntax-like patterns in songs, and what that might mean–if anything–for the evolution of language. The blogs have been buzzing about the study since it came out on Wednesday, with the Language Log logging in several complaints…

Snakes, Universes, and the Rest

The Loom gathered a bit of dust over the past couple weeks as I grappled with another round of deadlines for work that actually pays the mortgage. Life should now get relaxed enough for more blogging, I hope–starting this evening. And as the articles I’ve been working on come out in the next few weeks,…