Posts tagged with ‘science’

Bomb-sniffing flowers

Scientists in Denmark, the US and Canada have all been working on producing a genetically-engineered plant whose flowers will come up red instead of white in the presence of underground explosives. The idea, of course, is that you can use them to to test for the presence of landmines by dropping the seeds from the […]

Intellectuals, science, and the English Channel

Something Todd Swift said pointed me to an article in the Guardian about the lack of public intellectuals in Britain, written by Agnès Poirier, a French journalist working in London. It’s worth reading just for the culture-clash exhibited in the comments. I noticed that the unspoken assumption, from both sides of the argument, was inevitably […]

The ternness of terns

George Szirtes discusses people’s need to identify things – flowers, birds – something he doesn’t share. Indeed he sets up (but slightly backs away from), an opposition between the botanist’s way of looking and the artists’s way. He ends like this: Yet all the time I am aware that even an urban citoyen of the […]

Transitional species

I was looking back at old PFFA threads yesterday, and there was an argument about religion, evolution and so on during which someone asserted that “there are no verifiable fossil records of transitions from one species to another.” This morning I feel inclined to make a point which I don’t think is always appreciated by […]

Learning algebra

Something Kevin said sent me towards an article in the Washington Post about the uselessness of algebra to normal life, and the ensuing mouth-frothing response in the comments over at Pharyngula. Two things I’d say. It rather makes me despair to see people talk about algebra as though it was advanced mathematics. Algebra is hardly […]

Evolution, ID, Carl Zimmer, monkey-men and suchlike. Again.

I’ve just added The Loom to the linkroll. The Loom is the blog of Carl Zimmer, who wrote the excellent and rivetingly eye-opening Parasite Rex, as well as the excellent but marginally less riveting At the Water’s Edge. They’re both worth reading, but the parasite one would be my recommendation just because the subject matter […]

103 mutations of drosophila

act up (preferred name: capulet) adrift always early amalgam amnesiac anachronism arc archipelago argos armadillo armitage arrest arrow asense atonal aubergine aurora baboon bag of marbles bagpipe bantam basket bazooka Bearded beaten path bereft big brain blistered blistery boule brahma brainiac brakeless branchless breathless bric à brac Bride of sevenless brinker broad brother of odd […]

Hypergraphia for Poetry in an Epileptic Patient

I got this link from somewhere – Bookslut, maybe? – but anyway, it’s a letter to The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. An epileptic patient “complained of being driven to write poetry. For 5 years, he experienced words as ‘continuously rhyming in his head’ and felt the need to write them down and show […]

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Booby Henderson, the founder of the Church of the FSM, has produced a book, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He has decided to use the profits towards buying a missionary pirate ship to spread the word. There’s a petition you can sign to try and persudade the US government that the Church of […]

First, name your rock.

This story appealed to me.


A post at we make money not art made me laugh.

Mutants and the Dutch

I recently read Mutants by Armand Marie Leroi, which is a book that uses mutation as a way of understanding the development of the body. It’s interesting but quite medical; I have a pretty high tolerance for stuff about chemical pathways, gene mutations, hormones and so on, but I still found all the polysyllabic chemical […]

Orientalism and crying wolf

This blog-post on the Hwang debacle kind of annoyed me. As is probably obvious from what I said in the comments section. The relevant part of the post is this : It sounds like there was nothing in the paper that should have given Hwang Woo-suk away; doubtless he faked the data to be believable. […]

Galileo satnav

The first satellite of Galileo, the EU’s competitor to GPS, was launched yesterday – initially to test out the kit, with the service planned to go online in 2010. One of the explicitly stated aims is provide independence from reliance on the US government, since GPS is a military system that is made available for […]

Vatican Starman Slams ID!

“The Vatican’s chief astronomer said on Friday that Intelligent Design Theory isn’t science and doesn’t belong in science classrooms.” The ‘Vatican’s chief astronomer’? I wonder if CERN has a head priest who can be consulted for a theological perspective on particle physics. I don’t suppose the Vatican astronomer is empowered to define the Catholic Church’s […]

Singing Mice

This is a fabulous story, in the Guardian. Make sure you listen to the samples. The sound of singing mice doesn’t seem to freak out the cat, unlike slowed-down blackbird song. Via Metafilter. [I couldn’t get that blackbird link to work today – I don’t know whether it’s just a problem with my connection or […]

APOD does it again

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is often pretty cool, but even by their standards this one‘s a doozy.

‘The Mating Mind’ by Geoffrey Miller

I’ve just read The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped Human Nature by Geoffrey Miller. The book’s argument is that many of the typical characteristics of human behaviour are best understood as products of sexual selection. Sexual selection is the process where you start with some ancestral bird species where the females have a bit […]

Bad science reporting

Ben Goldacre says (full article here): There is one university PR department in London that I know fairly well – it’s a small middle-class world after all – and I know that until recently, they had never employed a single science graduate. This is not uncommon. Science is done by scientists, who write it up. […]

‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ by Richard Dawkins

I’ve just read The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins. The book traces back human descent to the earliest forms of life as a ‘pilgimage’, marking the points where other branches of our family tree ‘join’ us; the first rendezvous is with the chimps, then the other apes, then the rest of the primates and so […]

Intelligent Design

God Chimes in on Intelligent Design. Creationism seems like such a soft target. It scares me silly that anyone takes it seriously.

this made me giggle

From the New Scientist RSS feed: ‘Tenth planet’ may be bigger then expected A space telescope used to place an upper limit on the object’s size was in fact pointing in the wrong direction