Microbiology

Category archives for Microbiology

We, Beasties Sporulates

A little over 4 years ago, I joined up with three friends from grad school and launched a brand new science blog, “We, Beasties!” The name was meant to be a play on a phrase from Paul de Kruif’s somewhat tongue-in-cheak translation of the first-ever microbiologist Antonie von Leeuwenhoek‘s term “Animacules.” von Leeuwenhoek was the first…

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk for Tonight, I’m presenting at the Science In The News (SITN) Spring lecture series. If you’re in the vicinity of Boston, you can come watch at 7pm in Pfizer Auditorium, located in the Mallinckrodt Chemistry Lab, 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138. If you can’t show up…

[This is my latest review for Download the Universe] Honor Thy Symbionts, by Jeff Leach. Kindle In 2003, the Human Genome Project–an effort to sequence every gene in a human being–was completed. The success, announced to great fanfare, was supposed to herald a new era in health care. Unfortunately, the promises of personalized medicine, in which treatments…

One of the things that bugs me most in pop-sci and woo-woo science is the obsession with “boosting” the immune system. The immune system is in a constant balancing act – tip it too far one way and even normally harmless bacteria become life-threatening. But tilt it too far in the other direction, and you…

A “potentially historic” blizzard is barreling down on us here in New England, and is poised to drop up to two feet of snow on Boston. All of the schools in the area preemptively closed, our public transit system is shutting down at 3:30pm, and trying to buy groceries last night was bedlam. The snow is just…

[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…

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…

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…

Technology and Intent

No technology is inherently good or evil, it’s the use of that technology that determines its value. A blade can be used in surgery to save a life, or as a weapon to take one. The ballistics that enable missiles to destroy enemies also enables the launch of communication satellites and exploration of other worlds.…