From impressions

WHITE SILKEN RIBBONS

“And your mother, how is her health?” I asked the cheerful young woman who had come in for a physical examination. She was draped in a blue paper gown under which her naked alabaster skin seemed translucent. Her branching veins coursed like roots close to the surface as they returned indigo blood to the warmth of her core. She smiled, albeit woefully. “My mother actually died several years ago. She had a brain tumor… glioblastoma multiforme it was called.” I stopped writing and looked up from the notes I had been scribbling in her chart. “I’m so sorry.” The young…

EVOLUTION AND THE INDIVIDUAL TALENT

“Hiccups, hernias and hemorrhoids are all caused by an imperfect transfer of anatomical technology from our fish ancestors.”–biology professor Marlene Zuk in The New York Times (1/20/09) Don’t let’s go there. We all have our instinctual phobias and obsessions, a fear of sharp-beaked shadows, or a scarcely controllable urge to upgrade that in-home lap pool, again. Maybe I should have paid more attention before clicking “accept,” but I can never remember whether to stream downloads sequentially or fluvially. No excuses, but I was a botany major. And anyway, anatomical transfer was not part of the core curriculum at my school.…

THE LABORATORY CALLED LIFE

The study of cognition and theory of mind is an emerging field of science that receives its inputs from psychology, neuroscience and behavioural biology. Children are known to develop a theory of mind around the age of three to four years, and many experiments have been conducted to test this development in young children, and test the apparent absence of theory of mind in toddlers. If you know that I know something, you are said to have cognition, while if you know that I do not know something, you would have a theory of mind. Sounds fuzzy? An illustration might…

MY SUBMISSION TO WEIRD TALES MAGAZINE

Weird Tales magazine is a horror, science fiction, and fantasy periodical established in 1923 that became famous for publishing such literary geniuses as H.P. Lovecraft of Cthulhu Mythos fame and Robert E. Howard of Conan the Barbarian fame. The glory days of Weird Tales occurred back in the 20s and 30s and after that time the magazine has been sold and purchased by different companies, but none of the various reincarnations of Weird Tales ever truly lived up to the magazine’s initial years. But even in the wonderful early days, when they were printing stories regularly by Lovecraft and Howard,…

THEY ALSO SERVE WHO ONLY STAND AND WAIT

Mr. D. is one of those guys who is just nice. He’s far from gregarious, but everyone who meets him likes him. He’s quiet, reserved, and hates to complain. He’s had his share of medical problems over the last 80 years—emphysema, lymphoma, prostate cancer—all of which he’s treated as inconveniences. When he came into my office with his wife, he looked miserable. His back was hurting so badly that he couldn’t get comfortable. It had been like that for two weeks, but he didn’t want to bother me about it. I asked him the usual questions—any fevers, weakness, incontinence—all negative.…

PROJECT STEVE: 889 STEVES FIGHT BACK AGAINST ANTI-EVOLUTION PROPOGANDA

As many scientists and science educators are aware, the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank based in Seattle, Washington, maintains a list of signatories — the Institute calls them scientists, and calls the list “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism” — under the following claim: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” In short, it’s a list of people with advanced science degrees that think evolution isn’t true.[1] Not to be outdone, the National Center…

MY FAVOURITE BIRD IS A SMALL-MOUTHED SALAMANDER

It is early on a rainy March morning. My daughter, Klara, and I stand together – holding hands in the midst of a circle of people we do not know. Rain drips off the tip of her nose and she catches it with her tongue as she waits for the formalities to end and the fun to begin. The formalities in this case consist of everybody in the circle introducing themselves, but for a six year old ready to romp in the woods this small act might as well be measured on a geologic time scale rather than passing minutes.…

WHY I DO SCIENCE

When I look out my office window, I see two sets of nucleotide bases – guanine and cytosine. I don’t mention this as an admission of psychotic delirium. The building where I work just happens to have a DNA molecule emblazoned on its windows. Admittedly, it’s an odd workplace view, but in my case it fits. I’m a molecular geneticist—genomics, gene expression, cloning, and the rest of that good stuff – and these little guys are some of the fundamentals of what I study. In many ways, my field is actually about the flow of information in genes; how a…