[This question was originally asked on www.reddit.com/r/askscience on Jan 17, 2013] Why do microorganisms only begin breaking down our tissues after death? What stops them from doing so whilst we are still alive? The main reason is that our body maintains a multitude of barriers that largely prevent bacteria and other microorganisms from gaining entry.…

There are a lot of reasons that posts to this blog sometimes don’t happen for months at a time, but one of them is that I can often get sucked down the rabbit hole that is Reddit. If you don’t know about reddit yet, you may not want to click that link, but if you…

[This past fall, I taught a course at Emerson College called “Plagues and Pandemics.” I’ll be periodically posting the contents of my lectures and my experiences as a first time college instructor] In my first lecture, I used Powerpoint (well, technically Keynote), but I personally like chalk-talks a quite a bit more. Never mind the fact that classrooms…

Lecture 2a: Intro to Evolution

[This past fall, I taught a course at Emerson College called “Plagues and Pandemics.” I’ll be periodically posting the contents of my lectures and my experiences as a first time college instructor] Most of this post was written back in September, when it still seemed possible that I would be able to teach the class, write the…

I’m back baby!

I disappeared for a while to teach a class. At the outset I had grand plans – Not only would I design the course from scratch, give the lectures, and grade the assignments, I would also write up all of the lectures for the blog and maintain my same level pf productivity in the lab.…

[This fall, I’m teaching a course at Emerson College called “Plagues and Pandemics.” I’ll be periodically posting the contents of my lectures and my experiences as a first time college instructor] Lecture 1 That was a scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, demonstrating the lighter side of the plague. Who knew there was a lighter…

For the past 3 years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a week in a house on a beautiful lake in Vermont. Usually, this week is a chance to completely unplug. I take some photos, buy a bunch of books from Northshire and read them, and lounge around. On this past trip however, I received…

Maybe He Was Talking About Ducks

A mini furor erupted this weekend, when republican Senate nominee Todd Akin defended his position of denying abortions even to victims of rape, because in the case of “legitimate rape,” women have biological defenses that prevent pregnancy: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV…

While going back through blog archives and reviewing incoming links, I stumbled on this post from about a year ago from Zen Faulkes at Neuro Dojo: There are many reasons to argue for open access of scientific research. But this is not the best one: It’s your taxes that fund the research, you should have…

In case you missed it, over the past couple of days there have been reports of an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic  fever virus in Uganda. As of this writing, the most recent report I’ve seen puts the death toll at 16, with a few other suspected cases. Ebola is terrifying for a number of reasons – it’s…