From commentary

ADVICE FOR POTENTIAL GRADUATE STUDENTS

(CLICK HERE FOR PIN-UP POSTER – pdf file ~85k) – We suggest photocopying at 129% – LTR to 11×17 – We currently have room in the lab for more graduate students. But before you apply to this lab or any other, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be realistic about graduate school. Graduate school in biology is not a sure path to success. Many students assume that they will eventually get a job just like their advisor’s. However, the average professor at a research university has three students at a time for about 5 years each.…

ASK NOT WHAT YOUR URBAN FOREST CAN DO FOR YOU…

It’s time that we upped the ante on the level of public discussion on the urban forest. What is the urban forest you ask? Well it’s those pleasant remnant stands of forest that speckle the urban landscape, like Vancouver’s Stanley Park – but it’s also every other tree in the city, from that old oak tree on the front lawn to those pitiable and short-lived trees sprouting from the concrete downtown. Trees have been the recipient of a growing urban celebrity over the past years. I subscribe to Google News alerts, so whenever the words “urban forest” appear in a…

A moment of your time: about Bill C-398 and how Canadians can contribute to global health

Dear Canadians: On wednesday, a very important piece of policy will be discussed in parliament.   It’s called Bill C-398 and it deserves our attention.  It seems that it has been challenging for some to see its merits, and so, I’d like to take moment to clarify what it’s all about.  It turns out that it’s not just important – the narrative is intriguing as well: it has a rich history of political intrigue; it is a story where viruses factor in prominently; it has a plot that involves armies of angry grandmothers; and above it all, learning about Bill…

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT JOHN MICHAEL GRIFFIN, JR.

- FROM THE ARCHIVES – Griff, as he was known in high school, was a friend of mine. In fact, late in the first half of our lives, he stood up for me physically and philosophically, for being a science geek. Truth is, John’s endorsement was the first time I was ever deemed cool for wanting to be a scientist. It is also 10 years ago, that Griff died an engineer and a hero in the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers. We lost touch almost twenty years before, but his kindness and generosity formed not only…

SHOULD EVERYONE HAVE ACCESS TO LIFE SAVING MEDICINES?

If you’re a reader from Canada, don’t forget to check out aidsaction.ca. Here, you can look up your candidates and send off an email to support the Call to Action to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime and help save lives! – – – 30 MINUTES, 70 FATES. You don’t know it, but as I write this piece, there is some serious procrastination going on. My attention span is weak and sidetracked constantly by a variety of diversions, and if you must know, it’s taken me close to half an hour to write these first two sentences. Still, one could…

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

(Re: In the continued debate over high school science textbooks in Louisiana, whereby a local opponent of evolution, Judge Darrell White, insisted on connecting the Columbine High School massacre to the teaching of evolution through the phrase “survival of the fittest.”) – – – When we summarize things we have to be careful that we don’t lose meaning or invite misinterpretation, for instance the phrase “survival of the fittest.” This was first used as a summary of natural selection, which is one of the mechanisms of evolution, but today it is mistakenly and inaccurately used to summarize the entire theory…

BOILING LOBSTERS AND OTHER THINGS PEOPLE DO

Is it OK to boil a lobster? Short answer: Yes, of course it is. Long answer: Let’s consider the life, or rather the death, of a lobster. In nature lobsters begin very small and die a million horrible deaths in a million horrible ways. As they get older the death rate drops. We have ample evidence that lobsters do not go gentle into that good night, dying peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age. Instead, once mature, a lobster that doesn’t go into the pot might face off with cod, flounder, an eel or two, or one of…

SEXTING: THE “PERFECT STORM” OF EVOLUTION, CULTURE, AND TECHNOLOGY (SOME THOUGHTS)

The “modern” human is the product of evolution, a natural process that operates on scales ranging from millions, to hundreds-of-thousands, to tens-of-thousands of years. The average individual of today is little changed from the average individual 30,000 years ago. We are literally prehistoric when we are born. Culture, our ability to pass information, artifacts, and other non-genetic material from one generation to the next, operates on much smaller time scales: millennia, centuries, even decades. The larger cultural landscape consists of religion, language, governments, laws, etc. and many of these change so quickly that they have only been in their present…