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Okay--after some technical difficulties I won't bore you by recounting, I have an announcement. For the third time in this blog's life, I'm packing it up and moving it to a new home. I would like offer my deepest thanks to Scienceblogs for hosting the Loom for two years. I got to know a great community of bloggers whom I will continue to follow closely as they flood my RSS stream. Virginia Hughes, Katherine Sharpe, Tim Murtaugh, and the rest of the folks behind the scenes at Scienceblogs have been wonderful to work with, always ready to get me out of whatever programming mess I fall into…
Really, it's not like I've discovered a new element or anything. See you tomorrow.
...to spill beans. Any minute now, honest.
...at 5 today. [That's 5 pm EST--sorry for the confusion.] [Hint...I've turned off the comments till then.]
I'm sure you'd like to pretend that you have nothing in common with a tapeworm. A tapeworm starts off as an egg which then develops into a cyst. Inside the cyst is a ball-shaped creature with hooks that it can use to crawl around its host before growing into an adult. Many species are made up of dozens or hundreds of segments called proglottids. Each proglottid may be equipped with both eggs and sperm-making organs. As an adult, a tapeworm also grows a head-like end often equipped with suckers or hooks of its own. This strange organ is called the scolex. (The shark tapeworm in this photo is…
Science writer Peter Dizikes reviews my book Microcosm for the New York Times. It's great to see that he gets it--i.e., he understands what I'm trying to do with E. coli in the book. I actually appreciate that more than a positive review. Fortunately, he liked the book, too, calling it engrossing, vivid, and adroit. Check it out.
I'm back on bloggingheads.tv, talking this week with Paul Ehrlich about everything from climate change to Polynesian canoe oars to the origins of human culture to why cars are best for teenagers to make out in. Check it out.
It feels like a homecoming: I'm among hundreds of people who live for parasites. I arrived in Arlington Texas this afternoon to attend the annual meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists. I'm going to give a talk tomorrow about the public awareness of parasitology, talking about my long-term relationship with the beasties in books, articles, blogs, and beyond. But till then, I get to hang out with parasitologists. I've met a lot of the people here over the years, like the leech-master Mark Siddall, and I've read the work of a lot of people I'm just meeting (work on things like how…
In 1980, Walter Alvarez, a geologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues proposed that the dinosaurs had been exterminated by an asteroid that smashed into the Earth. I was fourteen at the time, and that mix of dinosaurs, asteroids, and apocalyptic explosions was impossible to resist. I can still see the pictures that appeared in magazines and books--paintings of crooked rocks crashing into Earth, sometimes seen from the heavens, sometimes from the point of view of an about-to-become-extinct dinosaur. Suddenly the history of life was more cinematic than any science…
I'm bound for LA today to talk about Microcosm. My talk is part of the Zocalo lecture series. I'll be talking tonight at 7:30 pm at the Skirball Cultural Center. Here are the details.
The strange thing about E. coli, as I explain in my book Microcosm, is that it has played a central part not just in the modern science of life, but in the political conflicts over life. It may come as a surprise that a humble gut germ could get involved in culture wars. But you need only consider how much attention creationists have been lavishing on E. coli in recent years, hoping to use it as evidence that life did not evolve--that it was created or designed instead. Originally, creationists claimed that structures in E. coli showed clear evidence of being created--they were complex, made…
At noon EST, I'll be talking on "Word of Mouth," a radio show coming from New Hampshire Public Radio. The topic will be my recent article on global warming and mass extinctions in Yale Environment 360. You can listen live (look for the mp3 stream here, or look for a podcast on the show page.)
The British edition of Microcosm is coming out on July 3 (Brits can pre-order here, and here's a link for Americans). In conjunction with its publication, the Telegraph asked me to explain why I love E. coli so. Here's why.
It's nice to get book reviews in both the popular press and academic journals. I hope everyone will read my books, but I also hope that scientists will consider them good science. And, speaking of Science, the journal of said name just published a lovely review of Microcosm by the evolutionary biologist Daniel Rankin: A popular science book on E. coli may not sound like the most interesting read. However, Microcosm is just that. The next time you hear of an outbreak of nasty E. coli on the news, spare a thought for this minute creature, which has arguably helped advance humanity far further…
I've been pretty quiet on the blog while I've been off visiting grandparents in other states this past week. But in the meantime, Slate has published a piece I wrote for them on the beguiling mystery of octopus brains. I wonder if this guy would find it enlightening. Update: A couple readers pointed out to me that I should have said octopuses jet water, not air. Sorry for the slip--it should be fixed shortly.
Hey Angelenos! I hope you can come out to catch my next talk about Microcosm. It's part of the Zocalo lecture series. I'll be talking next Wednesday, June 25, at 7:30 pm at the Skirball Cultural Center. Here are the details.
This is a crazy day--an eight hour drive to visit relatives, followed promptly by a last-minute appearance live on the radio show Science Fantastic, hosted by physicist Michio Kaku. I'm about to go on (6 pm EST) to talk about E. coli, Darwin, and much more. Listen live!
We've all heard about the dire straits polar bears are facing if they lose their icy habitat to global warming. But just how many species may global warming drive extinct? One way to find out is to look over the mass extinctions of the past--and the picture there's not pretty, as I explain in my new article, "Biodiversity in the Balance." It appears today in the new publication Yale Environment 360, an online environment magazine from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. They've already got some pieces from some big names, like Bill McKibben and Carl Safina. So check the…
My recent post about a striking new experiment in evolution (E. coli evolving the ability to eat a new kind of food) is still drawing lots of commenters and links. Very cool! Not so cool are the claims that this experiment is evidence of creationism, made by people who have not actually read the paper itself. Unfortunately, the paper is behind a subscription wall at the journal. Fortunately, the scientists have posted it on their own web site (pdf link). So go, read, and digest. I'm also hoping that Zachary Blount, the grad student who pored over the trillions of E. coli in this experiment,…
It is a little weird to think of engineered bacteria living in your mouth or your gut, fighting cavities or Crohn's disease. I'll admit I feel a twinge just thinking about it. But is that because I have some intuition of the risks of ingesting such creatures? I doubt it. I think it's just focusing my attention on the prospect of some living thing living inside me. But we're already packed with thousands of species, and we regularly get infected (or maybe I should just say colonized) with new microbes. We even purposefully take in bacteria for our well-being when we proudly spoon yogurt into…