The Loom

Archives for November, 2007

A quick heads-up: I’ll be talking about the tree of life tomorrow morning on NPR’s Saturday Weekend Edition. The segment will be archived on their “Science Out of the Box” web page. We’ll be talking about everything from animals to mushrooms to the unclassifiable viruses that graft the tree of life into a web. Update:…

Parasite Rex Makes A List

The Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology has rolled out the “Stevens Seventy,” the seventy greatest science books since 1900. If you click all the way through to Z, my 2000 book Parasite Rex ends the list. Many thanks. As the introduction to the list points out, these things are always arbitrary,…

The New Yorker Gets Infected

I just noticed that in the new issue of the New Yorker Michael Specter has written an article on the viruses in our genome. I wrote about this research in the New York Times a year ago. I haven’t had a chance to read the article through yet, but I was mortified to come across…

Borat sapiens

For my latest “Dissection” column in Wired, I take a look at the tree of life, and the way it changed dramatically thirty years ago this month. To get a sense of what the tree looks like today, I pointed readers to the wonderful interactive tree of life at the European Molecular Biology Lab. But…

Once the writers’ strike is over, anyone in the mood to make a new monster movie might consider this beast, described today in the journal Biology Letters. It’s Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, a “sea scorpion” that lived 390 million years ago. Based on a fossil of its enormous claws was found in Germany, scientists estimate it measured…

Science Tattoo Friday: Holiday Edition

"This neuron tattoo was done a few months ago. When I was 18, my dad passed away from Lou Gehrig’s, which is a disease of motor neurons that innervate muscles. His battle with neurodegeneration helped me decide on a career in medical research, and I am currently pursuing my PhD in Neuroscience."–Lindsay I fell behind…

The deja vu is hitting hard. Two years ago a Pennsylvania court was hearing a challenge to introducing intelligent design into a public school in the town of Dover. At the time, I argued that people should look south to understand the stakes of the conflict. Down in Florida the state government seemed to be…

Weird Life: Pass the Arsenic, Please

A couple months ago, I wrote a feature for Discover about the intriguing possibility that life might have originated more than once on Earth–and that maybe those alternative life forms were still alive among us today. Paul Davies, one of the scientists who has explored this idea in recent years, has written an account of…

That Old Time Complexity

My fellow bloggingheads John Horgan and George Johnson took some time on their latest science talk to dissect my New York Times article on swarms (you can jump to that section here). John wonders if I’m just discovering all the complexity stuff he and George were writing about back in the 1990s. I think it’s…

Back on the Ground

I’m back from California and the award ceremony I mentioned last week. The trip was fun but a little absurd–I flew across the country and back within 36 hours. It’s time for some serious carbon offsetting. I got to hang out with ABC’s Robert Krulwich without having to go into a forest, and was finally…