Science

Pharyngula

Category archives for Science

Biology is a hard problem

New genetic disorders pop up all the time — each one represents a child who may face incredible challenges, or even be doomed to death. A child named Bertrand exhibited some serious symptoms — profound developmental disabilities — shortly after he was born, and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. So…

There’s the leak in the pipeline

We’re always talking about this curious phenomenon, that we see lots of women at the undergraduate and graduate level in biology, but large numbers of them leave science rather than rising through the ranks. Why is that? It seems that one answer is that elite male faculty in the life sciences employ fewer women, that…

What are you going to simulate?

The EU is sinking €1.2bn (and the US is proposing to spend more, $3 billion) into a colossal project to build a supercomputer simulation of the human brain. To which I say, “What the hell? We aren’t even close to building such a thing for a fruit fly brain, and you want to do that…

Closure on the Obokata/STAP affair

I’ve been following the story of stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells with considerable interest, and there’s a good reason for that: from the very beginning, it contradicted how I’d always thought about cell states, and if it were true, I’d have to rethink a lot of things, which was vexing. But on the other…

Stinky stuff! This fits perfectly with my biased preconceptions. So here are two examples of chemistry used to analyze things you’d normally run away from. The oldest traces of human poop have been dug out of a cave in Spain — and it’s Neandertal poop. It’s about 50,000 years old, and it’s been reduced to…

Credentialism always makes for convenient excuses. We love to construct simple shortcuts in our cognitive models: someone has a Ph.D., they must be smart (I can tell you that one is wrong). Someone is a scientist, they must have all the right facts. And of course, the converse: we can use the absence of a…

How kinesin actually moves

Recently, Carl Zimmer made a criticism of the computer animations of molecular events (it’s the same criticism I made 8 years ago): they’re beautiful and they’re informative, but they leave out the critical aspect of stochastic behavior that is important in understanding the biochemistry. He’s talking specifically about kinesin, a transport protein which the animators…

He hates Tiktaalik. He hates it so much he even has a hard time spelling its name correctly. Tikaalik is again being popularized through the new PBS series "Your Inner Fish.” it’s really a desperate con job on the part of evolutionists who can’t defend their evolutionary fictional story. He actually surprises me a little…

Virginia Hughes tells us about techniques to look inside the zebrafish brain. The gang at HHMI are using two photon imaging and clever image analysis to get very clear, sharp images of fluorescent neurons. Oy, that’s pretty. This old codger did some of that stuff, many years ago, but you know what we had to…

Pathways to sex

I was talking about sex and nothing but sex all last week in genetics, which is far less titillating than it sounds. My focus was entirely on operational genetics, that is, how autosomal inheritance vs inheritance of factors on sex chromosomes differ, and I only hinted at how sex is not inherited as a simple…