Category: science

My review of A Troublesome Inheritance for the Los Angeles Review of Books

My review of A Troublesome Inheritance for the Los Angeles Review of Books

World Map - Abstract Acrylic
Image by Lara Mukahirn.

I’ve written (another) review of Nicholas Wade’s “science of race” book A Troublesome Inheritance, this time for the Los Angeles Review of Books. If you’ve read the my previous review for The Molecular Ecologist, you won’t find much new here, but the LARB piece is pitched at a less technical audience, and takes a somewhat different point of entry:

CHARLES DARWIN is more usually cited for his scientific discoveries than his moral insights. In the closing pages of his travelogue The Voyage of the Beagle however, he condemns the practice of slavery — which he observed firsthand in the colonized New World — in blistering, heartfelt terms worthy of an Old Testament prophet

In this testimony against the great social sin of his age, Darwin makes an observation that should unsettle us even here and now: “if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”

I’m extremely pleased for the chance to contribute to a great literary magazine, and I’m also quite happy to see that LARB went with my suggested, punny headline: “Cluster-struck.”
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Science online, warped factors edition

Science online, warped factors edition

ixspreparation2

This is a spacecraft NASA wants to build. Photo by Mark Rademaker.


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Science online, may the odds be ever in your favor edition

Science online, may the odds be ever in your favor edition

Hurricane Eugene

Hey there, Eugene. Photo by NASA.


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Science online, sweetening the stats edition

Science online, sweetening the stats edition

Splenda in the Grass

Photo by Kate Ter Haar.


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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why evolutionary biologists are stoked about pot

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why evolutionary biologists are stoked about pot

Verde

Photo by Diego Charlón Sánchez.

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, guest contributor Daniela Vergara explains how CGRI, the initiative to sequence the genome-wide genetic variation of Cannabis, will answer cool evolutionary questions.

At the CGRI, we would like to understand first, how much genetic variation there is in the numerous pure C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis accessions and heirloom varieties. This will lead us to understand the relationships among the major lineages within the genus, the spread of Cannabis throughout the globe, and rates of historical hybridization between the named species.

For Daniela’s detailed run-down of important evolutionary questions in Cannabis, go read the whole thing.◼
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Science online, take the stairs edition

Science online, take the stairs edition

 

Bang Rak Fire Station
Photo by Minette Layne.


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Science online, cracks of doom edition

Science online, cracks of doom edition

bees on Asclepias, enhanced a bit

Photo by Martin LaBar.


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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Making sense of pollination syndromes

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Making sense of pollination syndromes

 

2010.07.15 - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Pollinator at work. Photo by jby.

Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! I’m discussing pollination syndromes—suites of traits held in common by plants that use similar pollinators.

  • Bee-pollinated flowers are usually blue or yellow, often with contrasting “guides” that point towards nectar rewards, and they usually have some sort of scent.
  • Bird-pollinated flowers tend to be red and tubular, and often open downwards. They produce lots of relatively weak nectar, and generally don’t have very strong scents …
  • Moth-pollinated flowers are usually white, opening in the evenings, and strongly scented.

To find out how evolution makes sense of these handy rules of natural historical thumb, go read the whole thing, and check out the new meta-analysis of pollination syndromes that I discuss.◼
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Science online, cologne and Faraday cages edition

Science online, cologne and Faraday cages edition

Follow the Leader

Photo by Bo Insogna.


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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Chipmunks have no respect for species boundaries

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Chipmunks have no respect for species boundaries

A yellow pine chipmunk, Tamias amoenus. Photo by Noah Reid, via Nothing in Biology Makes Sense.

At Nothing in Biology Makes Sens, Sarah Hird explains some of her own research, recently published at the journal Heredity, which documented just how “leaky” species boundaries can be in the chipmunks of western North America.

While doing a comparative phylogeography study, the Sullivan lab discovered that one particular subspecies, T. a. canicaudus, had a mitochondrial genome that was most closely related to the red-tailed chipmunk (T. ruficaudus), instead of the other yellow-pine subspecies. Additional data show that the T. a. canicaudus nuclear genome is in fact most similar to other yellow-pines – it’s just that the mitochondria is of red-tailed origin.

For all the sordid phylogenetic details, go read the whole post, and check out the original paper.◼
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