Archive for biology

Batman.

“What’s the point in even having money if you can’t use it to buy better health care?” —Jonathan, my (late) brother, explaining whyhe renounced his Canadian citizenship I’ve been reading a lot about bats recently, in particular this review article from Nature. You can guess why, even if you haven’t hopped on the Batwagon yourself: […]

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The Viral Vasectomy: Covid’s Silver Lining.

“May we live long and die out.”—Motto of the Voluntary Extinction Movement We begin the new year with a glimmer of hope: Covid remains ascendant, and it might have ecological impacts far beyond what we first thought. I’m not talking about the obvious drop in carbon emissions. That was nothing, a mere blip: it didn’t […]

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N.K. Jemisin, Alpha Gal

…and picking right up from where we left off last week, some of you may remember an ancient post about the Lone Star Tick, whose bite can provoke a fatal hyperallergenic reaction to “alpha-gal” (galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose for the pedants in the audience), a monosaccharide found only in the meat of nonprimate mammals. You may remember cool […]

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The Sulfide Solution. (Also, Who Sent Me All These Wombats?)

Before we get started: does anyone know anything about these? They appeared on my doorstep a few days ago, from Australia. No card, no clue. They’re pretty awesome, but they’re also a bit suspicious: I keep remembering that giant wooden rabbit rolling up to the door of the Frawnsh Castle in Holy Grail. Who knows […]

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Extinction and the Reset Button

I’ve just finished reading The Re-origin of Species, by Torill Kornfeldt (2016 in the original Swedish). The English translation is just barely out in Australia and the UK; here in North America it’s slated for a November release. (I scored an early copy from a publisher eager for blurbs.) Re-origin is about the burgeoning de-extinction— […]

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Riding the Tiger: or, Flirting with the Antivaxxers.

[PreProda: Yeah, after some really enlightening discussion in the Comments section, I’m walking back about 90% of this post. But I’m leaving it posted both because the comments are so interesting, and as a kind of historical artefact to remind me of what happens when I don’t take the time to think things through.] [Proda: […]

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Arc Weld

“Language is a virus from outer space” —William S. Borroughs   Chest-thump to start off the year: Last year’s “ZeroS”, appearing in Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity Wars, made it into a couple of (late-breaking update: into three!) Year’s Best collections: Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year (Vol. 3), and another couple I hesitate to […]

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Dolphinese

This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: you hurt it, and keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the speech from the screams. —Blindsight Believe it or not, the above quote was inspired by some real-world research on language and dolphins. Admittedly the real-life inspiration was somewhat less grotesque: scientists taught a […]

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I, for One, Welcome Our New…

I’d just like to say that, when you read Annalee Newitz writing “If trends continue, cephalopods may be among the species who are poised to survive a mass extinction in the oceans, leading to a future marine ecosystem ruled by tentacles.” —or Cory Doctorow warning that— “To imagine the ocean of the future: picture a […]

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Viva Zika!

There’s this guy I knew, Dan Brooks. Retired now, an eminent parasitologist and evolutionary biologist back in the day. He did a lot of work on emerging infectious diseases (EIDs, for you acronym fetishists) down in Latin America. A few years back I wrote some introductory text for an online database he was compiling. Part […]

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