In case you couldn’t make it to my World Science Festival panel this afternoon, check out my conversation with co-panelist/journalist/book author Peter Pringle on bloggingheads.
I’m heading to the New York Botanical Gardens to moderate a World Science Festival panel on crops, biodiversity, seed banks, and the amazing life of the Soviet scientist Nikolai Vavilov. (For some background, see this New Yorker article from last year.)
If you come to the panel, stick around for the Cafe Scientifique afterwards. And check out the “Darwin’s Garden” exhibit. You’ll find me snooping around the cycads and ferns.
E. coli is, arguably, the one species that scientists know best. If you type the name “Escherichia coli” into PubMed, the database of the National Library of Medicine, you’ll get over a quarter of a million titles of scientific papers. Scientists have sequenced about 30 genomes of different strains of E. coli. It’s the microbe of choice for those who want to figure out how to tinker with life. There’s one problem with all this attention–how are scientists supposed to make sense of all this data? Scientists have created sites to aggregate E. coli data in one place. The newest and broadest site is now up: E. coli Hub. To put the site in historical context, the scientists who set it up asked me to write an essay. It’s now online here.
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I have been meaning for some days now to point your attention to my new article in the June issue of Scientific American called, “What Is A Species?” The hard copy is worth tracking down because it’s got a lot of excellent illustrations and sidebars. SciAm has the full article online for subscribers, and I’ve posted the text over at carlzimmer.com.
There’s so much I could say on the topic–pointing out how the recent news on polar bear extinction raises the question of how distinct polar bears are, for example–but I am scurrying in the shadow of a rising wave. (Attention people of Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle: please look at my book tour schedule!)
So let me direct your attention to a typically insightful blog post by John Wilkins about my article. John helped me enormously in understanding the nature of the species problem–especially its long tortured history.
After things settle down, I will take charge of my own blogging…
Jaana writes, “I am a chemist and work on the legislative side of science. I also have a bit of a temper, so when choosing this tattoo, the choice was obvious. Its a modified version of the chemical hazard sign for ‘explosive’ and while hidden under a lab coat most of the time, depicts my personality quite well.”
“I am an evolutionary biology graduate student working with some of the world’s earliest known HIV samples, trying to clarify the early evolutionary history of the virus. I was inspired by an elegant circle tree phylogeny my PI put together for a publication submission and I decided I had finally found something I connected with enough to get permanently put on my body.”
As I mentioned previously, I’ll be moderating a panel at the World Science Festival in New York on Thursday. It will be about art, science, and homeland security.
In 2004 artist Steven Kurtz was accused of terrorism when police came across bacteria and biological equipment in his house. After the terrorism charges were dropped, Kurtz still faced charges of mail and wire fraud until last month.
Kurtz will be speaking for the first time in public about the case since the charges were dropped, and he’ll also be joined by critic Eugene Thacker and bioethicist George Annas. Here are the specifics on the time and place…
Mike writes, “I know that I’m supposed to provide some sort of explanation, but I feel like everyone can probably tell that this is DNA. Every once in awhile someone will ask what’s on my arm, in which case I respond that it’s a futuristic staircase. Then they stare quizzically and I laugh.”
“I am a Mechanical Engineering undergrad at UC Berkeley and I got this tattoo about a month ago. It’s the golden ratio in the shape of a rectangle, with the ratio of the sides of the rectangle actually being the golden ratio! I have been obsessed with this number since I heard about it in high school, and it is the reason why I became so fascinated with mathematics. The golden ratio is known to be the closest mathematical explanation of beauty. It has been used a lot in architecture, art, and music around the world, and has some amazing mathematical and geometrical properties.” Carl: Like DNA and atoms, the golden ratio is a favorite at the emporium. See these geometrical version.