Lateral Transfers

The whitecap’s skin glows with a golden tan of cultured xanthophylls.  Joel’s smile grows a little more brittle.  He’s heard all about the benefits, of course. UV protection, higher blood oxygen, more energy — they say it even cuts down on your food requirements, not that any of these people have to worry about grocery […]

Posted in: biology, biotech, evolution, fiblet by Peter Watts 20 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

“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

Sex, Death, and the Appalachian Trail

I’ve always had a fondness for Toxoplasma, to the point of featuring it prominently in one of my novels. It’s a protozoan after my metaphorical heart and my literal brain (specifically the part that synthesizes dopamine), and many of yours as well; in past installments (scroll down to May 6 on the right-hand side) I’ve […]

Posted in: biology, neuro by Peter Watts 37 Comments

Coincidence? I Think Not.

So, I see that some of you have noticed the endearing footage of the kleptopus making off with some hapless diver’s video camera. (For those who don’t follow the endlessly proliferating comment threads from previous posts, the smoking-gun is here.1) Oh yes, how cute. But how many of you have noticed how closely this act […]

Posted in: biology, marine, misc, writing news by Peter Watts 42 Comments

Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Tones: or, an Rx for World Peace

Fascinating popsci piece on synaesthesia over at the BBC.  It turns out that your common garden-variety hearing-colors/seeing-music synaesthete is only the tip of the iceberg. There are people out there who can literally see time, as a multicolored ribbon winding about them in mid-air. There are folks who perceive letters or numbers as personality types, […]

Posted in: biology, neuro by Peter Watts 29 Comments

A Romance to make Seth Brundle Weep

Haven’t been posting the past few days.  I really should have written something to commemorate Darwin’s 200th birthday, but how can you celebrate when the latest Gallup poll shows that over 60% of the US population is too blinkered, too misled, or too downright stupid to grasp the reality of natural selection? And I would […]

Posted in: biology, evolution, science by Peter Watts 11 Comments

Deep Sea = Deep Space

A few bits of personally-relevant science have slid down the pike the past few days:  yet another step along the road to functioning head cheeses, and a development in graphene tech that might — if you squint really hard and give me way more credit than I deserve — seem a bit reminiscent of Rorschach‘s computational […]

Posted in: biology, extraterrestrial life, marine by Peter Watts 6 Comments