The Loom

Archives for June, 2006

A Letter from Stony Brook

Last night I took the ferry across Long Island Sound to spend the day in Stony Brook at Evolution 2006, the joint annual meeting of American Society of Naturalists, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Society of Systematic Biologists. About 1500 scientists were there, and there were enough talks going on–often simultaneously–to…

Hobbits: Happy, Healthy, Human?

It’s been twenty months now since scientists reported discovering fossils on the Indonesian island of Flores belonging to a three-foot-tall hominid with a brain the size of a chimp that lived recently as 12,000 years ago. Homo floresiensis, as this hominid was dubbed, has inspired two clashing interpretations. Its discoverers declared it a separate species…

Toxoplasma on the Brain

Next time I go to the doctor, I think I’ll get him to give me a test for Toxoplasma. Fifty million Americans have the parasite, so I wouldn’t be the first. And if I was carrying it around in my head, that might explain why it’s so fascinating to me.

Humans As Cat Chow

Two hundred thousand years ago or thereabouts, an African lion killed someone. Along with a meal, the big cat got a wicked stomachache. Today a record of that unfortunate death still survives, in the bacteria that make big cats sick. The trail of this strange story starts in the 1980s, when scientists discovered that ulcers…

A bunch of good reviews on natural selection in humans are coming out, reflecting the explosion of research on how evolution has shaped our genome. See here and here. Today in Science another good one is out. What sets this one apart from the others is that it comes with a slide show with audio…

Talking Yogurt Evolution

The other day I was interviewed on KUCI-FM in Irvine, California, about the evolution of bacteria in yogurt. You can listen to the podcast here.

Darwin, Meet Frankenstein

Scientists have figured out many ways to study the origin of species. They can build evoluitonary trees, to see how species descend from a common ancestor. They can survey islands or mountains or lakes to see how ecological conditions foster the rise of new species. They can look for fossils that offer clues to how…

Old and New: An Introduction

Greetings. As I bring in my html luggage and unpack, let me stop for a moment to introduce myself and this blog. I’m a science writer. I started out at Discover, where I ended up as a senior editor before heading out into the freelance world in 1999. Since then I’ve written for a number…

Small Girls with Sharp Rocks

When we speak of the Hobbit, let us not forget her tools. Last year, scientists reported discovering fossils of a three-foot-tall hominid that they named Homo floresiensis, and which I can’t keep myself from calling the Hobbit. Its bones turned up in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, dating from 97,000 to 12,000…