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Facts in Context

It’s been an exciting week for me. On Monday I successfully defended my thesis! Now that I have established my scientific credibility to you all, here is a picture of me at my defense party wearing my “Trust me I’m a Dr” Dr. Pepper t-shirt and hitting my SpongeBob SquarePants piƱata. And on Tuesday I…

Symbiosis is everywhere. From the Greek for “living with,” symbiosis is simply a close association between two different species in nature. These relationships can be mutualistic, parasitic, or somewhere in between. Bacterial symbionts live inside bodies, like the bacteria that help us and other animals digest our food, and they live inside cells, like the…

In the recent articles, blog posts, and comment threads about possible biological reasons for the continued gender disparity in tenured math and science faculty positions, the discussion seems to be divided between two groups: those who emphasize the social and cultural aspects involved in gender and intelligence, and those who emphasize the scientific evidence of…

Another day, another article about how women are biologically inferior to men when it comes to high-level math and science. The fact that this one comes from the New York Times Science section, a newspaper I typically respect very highly, is all the more tragic and frustrating. I don’t have time today to write with…

There is an interesting and very thoughtful piece by Craig Venter and Daniel Gibson in today’s Wall Street Journal going through what their breakthrough is and what it isn’t, where they see the project going in the future, and why public discussion is important: [Previous genetic engineers] did not create life in a test tube,…

The J. Craig Venter Institute has just announced the creation of the first bacterial cell controlled by a genome that is entirely chemically synthesized (PDF). The group has been working towards this goal for several years now, first working out how to synthesize and assemble such large pieces of DNA and how to transplant a…

Science is Social

I got the chance to attend a panel discussion about science and the media presented by the UK-based charity Sense About Science. The audience was primarily scientists, many of whom were angry about how science is presented in the media: the outlandish claims, the hype, presenting “both sides” of stories where there is clear scientific…

Nature News has an excellent article about the hype, the challenges, and the potential of synthetic biology. The article quotes Martin Fussenegger, a leader in mammalian cell synthetic biology as saying “The field has had its hype phase, now it needs to deliver.” In order to do so researchers will have to overcome five main…