January 15, 2013

This takes me back to my days with a teeny tiny flower press, marveling at the fragile and delicate dried and pressed flowers that even I, an entirely ham-fisted child, could somehow produce. But of course this project has a far more serious goal in mind—to document and barcode every plant in existence. I love the spirit and soul of this project—and Ellen Jorgensen, of the Brooklyn-based biohacking lab Genspace, is a rockstar.

November 18, 2012

Exploding Bubbles Create Violent Liquid Sculptures, the New Scientist tells me. I could watch this all day. Here’s the explanation of what the scientists responsible were up to:

To create this slow-mo movie, they filled a fish tank with a viscous sugary syrup and then injected the surface with air to create bubbles measuring a few centimetres in diameter - large by bubble standards. Right after a bubble of this size takes shape, a jet can form inside it. If the air is flowing fast enough, it can act like a needle popping the bubble from within, causing violent jets of liquid to shoot out far above the surface.

[Story via Roger Highfield]

August 20, 2012
"Kuhn, like Popper, thought that science was mainly about theory, but an increasing amount of cutting-edge scientific research is data- rather than theory-driven. And while physics was undoubtedly the Queen of the Sciences when Structure… was being written, that role has now passed to molecular genetics and biotechnology. Does Kuhn’s analysis hold good for these new areas of science? And if not, isn’t it time for a paradigm shift?"

*Great* review of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, written in honor of the book’s fiftieth anniversary. John Naughton lays out the whopping impact the book had when it was published—and its continued influence today.

June 6, 2012
"We now spend twice as much on beer as the government spends on research."

This rather depressing fact, from the work of academic Paula Stephan, is quoted in The Health of Science, a post by Dr Arturo Casadevall and Dr Ferric C Fang that calls for a reboot of the business of science. As they put it, "we call for nothing short of a major reformation of the scientific enterprise." The piece is actually less a call to arms and more an astute analysis of the current, rather imperiled state of science. But maybe that’ll be enough to inspire people to action. Who knows?

[Story via David Eagleman]

February 3, 2012

I became totally smitten with neuroscientist David Eagleman back in April of last year, after reading The Possibilian, a wonderful profile of him in The New Yorker. Now, as apparently this has been a week of my coming across older interviews/articles that I totally missed the first time around, here’s a video interview he filmed with Wired UK editor, David Rowan at around the same time. I love Eagleman’s curious mix of self-deprecation, humor and insight, as well as his acknowledgement of — and excitement at — being a part of a truly nascent field. Meanwhile, his description of the brain as “a team of rivals,” filled with parties vying for influence, along with his research into how his work might influence incarceration policies in the United States (as he says, let’s face it, “our prisons have become our de facto mental health care systems”) make for an hour-long video that’s a delight to watch.

January 12, 2012
Power in Numbers is a simply charming profile of the incredible polymath, Dr Eric Lander, detailing his career path from math genius to human genome-finding pioneer to founding director of The Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT. I love the description of the force that has powered him throughout it all… his simple, fervent desire to understand more, to learn more, to know more, which has taken him in a circuitous but in retrospect quite straightforward path through fields from molecular biology to worm genetics. I also particularly loved his description of the meeting with Professor David Botstein that catalyzed his interest in human genomics. “We went to a whiteboard,” he is quoted as saying, “and started arguing.”

In the video alongside the piece, Lander also argues that the walls between silos that once pervaded the academy have already come down, and that young students these days couldn’t give a fig for boundaries between disciplines such as chemistry, math, biology or computer science. Instead, he describes a “fusion cuisine” of all the disciplines, and argues, buoyantly, that there has never been a better time to be a scientist. [Image c/o The Broad Institute, by Len Rubenstein.]

Power in Numbers is a simply charming profile of the incredible polymath, Dr Eric Lander, detailing his career path from math genius to human genome-finding pioneer to founding director of The Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT. I love the description of the force that has powered him throughout it all… his simple, fervent desire to understand more, to learn more, to know more, which has taken him in a circuitous but in retrospect quite straightforward path through fields from molecular biology to worm genetics. I also particularly loved his description of the meeting with Professor David Botstein that catalyzed his interest in human genomics. “We went to a whiteboard,” he is quoted as saying, “and started arguing.”
In the video alongside the piece, Lander also argues that the walls between silos that once pervaded the academy have already come down, and that young students these days couldn’t give a fig for boundaries between disciplines such as chemistry, math, biology or computer science. Instead, he describes a “fusion cuisine” of all the disciplines, and argues, buoyantly, that there has never been a better time to be a scientist. [Image c/o The Broad Institute, by Len Rubenstein.]

November 11, 2011

Oh, this is amazing. “Onward to the Edge” is the twelfth installment of Symphony of Science, a musical project by John D Boswell designed “to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.” This episode features auto-tuned insights from science world luminaries such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox and Carolyn Porco, and it’s ridiculous and uplifting in equal measure. I particularly love Tyson’s concluding sentiment: “There are times when, at least for now, one must be content to love the questions themselves.”

[Video via Open Culture.]

June 24, 2011
Erez Lieberman Aiden is the subject of a fascinating story in Nature. The molecular biologist and applied mathematician is a prolific polymath who happens to do some work at Google, mainly in the field of “digital humanities,” that is, on the Google Books project (which, it should be noted but is not mentioned in the piece, hit a roadblock in March.) Lieberman Aiden isn’t himself concerned with policy or bureaucracy; his role is as inventor and experimenter. As well as developing the Books Ngram Viewer for Google, he has also invented a groundbreaking protocol related to DNA, is CEO of iShoe, “a company that is testing sensor-stuffed shoe inserts to help the elderly with their balance”. Oh, and he co-founded Bears Without Borders, an organization that sends stuffed animals to children in the developing world.
I loved the detail of Lieberman Aiden staying away from his computer during the Sabbath, less for religious reasons, more to enforce a break. “Doing so forces him to detach, clear his mind and go for walks in the park with his wife and son,” notes writer Eric Hand, who adds: ”And yet the boundary between work and play—just like that between the sciences and the humanities—is not one that Lieberman Aiden respects. That might just be what makes him successful.”
(Story via Henry King.)

Erez Lieberman Aiden is the subject of a fascinating story in Nature. The molecular biologist and applied mathematician is a prolific polymath who happens to do some work at Google, mainly in the field of “digital humanities,” that is, on the Google Books project (which, it should be noted but is not mentioned in the piece, hit a roadblock in March.) Lieberman Aiden isn’t himself concerned with policy or bureaucracy; his role is as inventor and experimenter. As well as developing the Books Ngram Viewer for Google, he has also invented a groundbreaking protocol related to DNA, is CEO of iShoe, “a company that is testing sensor-stuffed shoe inserts to help the elderly with their balance”. Oh, and he co-founded Bears Without Borders, an organization that sends stuffed animals to children in the developing world.

I loved the detail of Lieberman Aiden staying away from his computer during the Sabbath, less for religious reasons, more to enforce a break. “Doing so forces him to detach, clear his mind and go for walks in the park with his wife and son,” notes writer Eric Hand, who adds: ”And yet the boundary between work and play—just like that between the sciences and the humanities—is not one that Lieberman Aiden respects. That might just be what makes him successful.”

(Story via Henry King.)

April 17, 2011
Stories about the plight of the honey bee have become more common in recent years. Now here’s another reason to be concerned about Colony Collapse Disorder: honey might just be useful in preventing infection. New research from Professor Rose Cooper from the University of Wales Institute Cardiff is looking in molecular detail at how manuka honey interacts with three types of bacteria that commonly infest wounds. Read a great interview with Cooper to understand the implications of this research. (Link via Jose Gomez-Marquez.) (Picture by Vicky Brock/Flickr.)

Stories about the plight of the honey bee have become more common in recent years. Now here’s another reason to be concerned about Colony Collapse Disorder: honey might just be useful in preventing infection. New research from Professor Rose Cooper from the University of Wales Institute Cardiff is looking in molecular detail at how manuka honey interacts with three types of bacteria that commonly infest wounds. Read a great interview with Cooper to understand the implications of this research. (Link via Jose Gomez-Marquez.) (Picture by Vicky Brock/Flickr.)

April 16, 2011
"Figure out where altruism comes from, you might say, and you’ve figured out the magic ingredient that makes human civilization the wondrous, complex thing that it is."

Where Does Good Come From? is a *wonderful* story by Leon Nayfakh about the spat in which revered biologist and entomologist E.O. Wilson currently finds himself embroiled. Wilson has dared to refute kin theory (the explanation for altruism he first championed in the 1965 and the basis of Richard Dawkins’ pop-sci book, The Selfish Gene.) Much of the rest of the scientific community is outraged at Wilson’s volte-face. Wilson himself is unperturbed and unapologetic. “I think that’d be a pretty poor scientist, who couldn’t reverse his view from new evidence.” (Story via Roger Highfield.)