The Loom

Fish, syphilis, and love

i-29d3aa4fa72200137cb5f3b40b9193ab-Tiime cover.jpgBefore I left for Rome earlier this month, I finished up a bunch of projects. They started trickling into public view while I was away. I was going to post them all in my article archive, but I just realized I need to update the format of my site to include stories from 2008. So, in the meantime, I’ll have to point you to other sites, some of which require subscriptions…

[Update: I’ve posted the articles on my site. You can find them all here.]

1. Your Inner Fish. Last year I wrote about the discovery of the fish with proto-hands, Tiktaalik. One of its discoverers, Neil Shubin, has written a fascinating book about Tiktaalik–and much more about how our anatomy preserves our evolutionary history. I reviewed the book for Nature and interviewed Neil for Neil brings along fossils to show off.

2. The Origin of Syphilis. Everybody was all over this item–a paper on the evolution of syphilis that puts its origins in the New World. My article appeared in Science.

3. Romance: The Commitment Device. The January 28 issue of Time includes a series of articles on the science of romance. In my first piece for the magazine, I look at the evolution of romance, exploring the work of scientists ranging from Darwin to today’s psychologists like Martie Haselton at UCLA. I guess that means I’m the guy on the right on the cover.

What’s particularly intriguing about this area of research is how it brings together the basic and the applied sides of science. On the one hand, psychologists are testing hypotheses about the selective forces that gave rise to humanity’s unique form of bonding. But many of the same researchers, Haselton included, are consulting for major online dating companies. One of Haselton’s main coworkers, Gian Gonzaga, is senior research scientist at E-harmony. To make love work, understand where it comes from.


  1. #1 luca
    January 23, 2008

    loved the syphilis (!) article and the one about Tiktaalik, I’ll get the book as soon as I am done reading your commented version of “the Descent”.

    Will keep the one about Romance for tomorrow after lunch to savour it better =)

  2. #2 Rob Knell
    January 25, 2008

    Hi Carl

    A fairly trivial correction: as I understand it, Charles VIII’s army didn’t disperse because of the disease: they were booted out of Naples because they had annoyed the locals so much with their bad behaviour, and the army dispersed shortly after that for reasons that have little to do with the Pox. My information on this comes form Quetel’s book on the history of Syphilis, so it’s second hand, but I have no reason to think that Quetel is wrong.

    Nice article aside from that, though.



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