Tick…tick…tick…

A reader going by the handle Sylvain linked me to a cool paper a few days back; it’s something I would have killed to have had back when writing Blindsight. Are you ready for this? A tick that turns its victims into vegetarians. Look to Commins et al for the peer-reviewed details; the tl;dr version […]

Posted in: biology, blindsight, scilitics by Peter Watts 12 Comments

Geoengineering and the Evils of Conservation

Well, traditional conservation, anyway. The kind where you presume to “manage” a wildlife population by ensuring, year after year, that its population remains stable. The problem is that as any population varies, so too does its behavior. Mortality curves, reproductive rates, vulnerability to pathogens and predators — a hundred other variables — all change with […]

Posted in: climate, marine, rant, scilitics by Peter Watts 22 Comments

If You Meet Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the Road, Kill Him.

An excerpt from a talk I’m working on, to be delivered a month and an ocean away: Two thirds of North America believes in Angels ; only half accept the reality of global warming. 78% believe that human beings were created by an invisible sky fairy, and 46% believe that this fairy created them in […]

Posted in: scilitics by Peter Watts 124 Comments

Sealing Fate

I’ve got a soft spot for seals. Back in the day I built a fair bit of my truncated biology career on the little beach maggots; Pacific harbor seals formed the very heart of my doctoral thesis, in fact (Attila, Thalidomide, and Strangway: I salute you, wherever you ended up). They even netted me a […]

Posted in: biology, marine, scilitics by Peter Watts 21 Comments

Last Rites, Lost Rights

Take Roger Bradbury very seriously.  He’s no crank: coral reef specialist, heavy background in mathematical ecology, published repeatedly in Science. Chief and director of more scientific panels than you could roll a raccoon over.  So when he says the coral reef ecosystem is already effectively extinct — not the Florida Keys, not the Great Barrier […]

Fruit Flies, Forest Fires, and the Ecstasy of Being Wrong.

I’ve got this friend, known her since we were both grad students back in the eighties: well-regarded in her profession, well-published, even coauthored a few texts on evolutionary ecology. Keeps getting best-teacher awards for her work in the classroom. Occasionally she appears as the resident expert at the local Café Scientifique‘s Valentine’s Day edition, where […]

Posted in: biology, scilitics, sociobiology by Peter Watts 23 Comments

The Constraints of Time, The Limits of Reason

  As a postscript to my previous entry — and as a case study to the current one — I spent a little while over this weekend doodling the outlines of a fake nature documentary riffing off the old “Hinterland: Who’s Who” vignettes that used to run on CBC.  Mine was called “Internet:  Who’s Who”.  […]

Posted in: rant, scilitics, sociobiology by Peter Watts 352 Comments

Black & White

A couple of minor announcements before we get started: First, a quick shout-out for the benefit of the SciFi subReddit admins: Yes, I am both who I claim to be and who this circuitos dude claims I am (even though I don’t Twit); and yes, if there’s sufficient interest I’d be happy to do a […]

Posted in: legal, scilitics by Peter Watts 86 Comments

“PyrE. Make them tell you what it is.”

At the end of one of the classic novels of TwenCen SF, the protagonist — an illiterate third-class mechanic’s mate named Gulliver Foyle, bootstrapped by his passion for revenge into the most powerful man in the solar system — gets hold of a top-secret doomsday weapon. Think of it as a kind of antimatter which […]

Posted in: biology, biotech, scilitics by Peter Watts 42 Comments

Douchebags in Deutschland

“Dismay, Confusion Greet Human Stem Cell Patent Ban“, wails Gretchen Vogel’s headline in the October 28th issue of Science. The news item itself begins with a question: “Has the environmental group Greenpeace dealt a major blow to the medical use of human embryonic stem cells in Europe? That’s what biologists, patent specialists, and lawyers are […]

Posted in: rant, scilitics by Peter Watts 29 Comments