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Posts Tagged "biology"

The Artful Amoeba

Natural History is Dying, and We Are All the Losers

The Artful Amoeba

My Favorite Biology Finds in London’s Natural History Museum

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  This past year, I made a pilgrimage that every natural history lover should, if possible, make. I visited the Natural History Museum in London, the house that Richard Owen built, the home of the first dinosaur bones ever discovered, the first Archaeopteryx fossil, and a first-edition copy of  “On the Origin of Species”. If [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Mosses Make Two Different Plants From the Same Genome, and a Single Gene Can Make the Difference

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One of the most astonishing secrets in biology is this: every plant you see makes two different plants from the same genome. And, scientists recently reported, a single gene from an ancient, powerful lineage can make the difference. How can such a truth be so little known? In most land plants, including conifers and flowering [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Eight Legs? Check. Microscopic? Check. Cuddly? Check.

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Blogger’s note: I’m still away from the blog for a few weeks. In the meantime, here is another post from the Artful Amoeba archive. It originally appeared on October 4, 2010. I recently read a delightful leaflet on water bears which gave me a whole new appreciate for their anatomy (some of them have armored [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Deadly and Delicious Amanitas Can No Longer Decompose

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Amanita mushrooms — like all creatures — rot, but most of them can’t rot other things. The fact that they don’t rot other things is not news to biologists, who have long known that many, if not most, fungi have become professional partners with trees, plants, or algae. The fact that they can’t rot other [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

What Does a Marmot Sound Like?

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What happens when squirrels invade the tundra? Well, in one case, they got chubby, fluffy, flappy-tailed, and occasionally kinda cranky, sorta like a hydrophobic alpine beaver. Here in the Rockies, they’re called yellow-bellied marmots. Until recently, I’d rarely seen one and had never heard one call. They seemed to maintain a strict code of silence [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

A Final Fern Tribute, the Witch’s Hat Lichen, and an Unidentified Gelatinous Blob

It’s about time to get back to your regularly scheduled blogging. But before we leave the Southern Hemisphere entirely, let’s have one last Best of the Rest Post. It’s an assortment of stuff that didn’t fit elsewhere in my austral detour, but is nonetheless cool. I don’t know if this is the legendary New Zealand [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Proteus: How Radiolarians Saved Ernst Haeckel

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Ernst Haeckel had spent an unhappy year practicing medicine when his parents finally consented to pay for a year of scientific study and travel in Italy. It was 1859, and he was 25. He had discovered a passion for biology and a talent for art during his college years, but his parents had pushed for [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

When You Think “Hydrothermal Vents”, You Shouldn’t Think “Tube Worms”

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In 1977, scientists and the world were shocked to discover the first deep-sea hydrothermal vent community at the Galapagos Rift in the eastern Pacific (see a great story on this at NPR here). At this site, chimneys spewing black, superheated and chemically supersaturated water towered over fields of blood-red tube worms encased in white sheaths, [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Toxic Red Tides Can Attack By Air, Too

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Last week as I sat in a beach-side open-air restaurant in southwest Florida, I started coughing. Hard. I couldn’t stop, and I apologized repeatedly. Yet I hadn’t felt sick before, and the suddenness of the coughing was very weird. Our waitress came by as I was expressing my bewilderment. She said, “Oh, it’s the red [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Hangout with Kit Parker: Engineering the Body

Kit Parker of Harvard holds up nanofibers.

When I told Kit Parker of Harvard University to think about explaining what he does to teenagers who would be watching our Google Science Fair Hangout On Air earlier today, he had a great answer for me: “My job is to work on cool.” Among Parker’s many “cool” research passions are understanding cardiac cell biology [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

A Hangout IN Air–Off a Cliff Face–for Science

Jason Osborne rappelling, running Hangout On Air with phone, and looking for fossils. Credit: Aaron Alford.

When I last did a Google Science Fair Hangout On Air with Jason Osborne and Aaron Alford, founders of Paleo Quest, they were diving in a swamp looking for fossils. Yesterday, they took their fossil quest to new heights, rather literally: this time, they hung on ropes off the side of a cliff for a [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Hangout with Canopy Researcher Margaret Lowman

Margaret Lowman of the California Academy of Sciences. Credit: Google Hangout On Air

Margaret Lowman, who also goes by the nickname “Canopy Meg,” is chief of science and sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences. Her research focuses on life and ecosystems at the top of the forest canopy in far-flung places, including the Amazon and Ethiopia. In a Google Science Fair Hangout On Air conversation with me, [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Kid Scientists Make Real Fossil Finds at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Kids searching for fossils using SharkFinder kits at Scientific American's booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival.

Kids searching for fossils using SharkFinder kits at Scientific American’s booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Credit: Jason Osborne Jason Osborne was trying to grab a quick lunch away from the crowds when his wife called his cellphone. “Jason, you’ve got to come see this boy at the booth. He’s amazing!” When Osborne, [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

The Banana That Gave Its All for Science [Video]

Magicians need to resort to trick props to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But we pulled DNA out of a banana with nothing more than a few household ingredients during a Scientific American Google Hangout on December 20. (See Scientific American Goes Bananas on December 20. No artifice or foolery was involved: just [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Goes Bananas on December 20

Editor’s note: Join the Hangout by visiting Scientific American’s Google Plus page at 1 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. That’s right. Using ordinary household items and a humble piece of fruit, we’re going to perform a seemingly magical feat of science while you watch on a Google Science Fair Hangout on December 20 at 1 p.m. [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Want a Free Scientific American Subscription? Enter Our Iron Egghead Video Contest

Can you explain science with seven everyday items? We’re looking for some creative minds to say how a part of the human body works, or how a process occurs in the body, in two minutes or less. No fancy equipment is needed—a smartphone camera will do. Winners will be featured on the Scientific American web [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Meet the Science in Action Finalists

Who will win the first $50,000 Science in Action prize, sponsored by Scientific American? This award, offered as part of the 2012 Google Science Fair, will recognize a student project that addresses a social, environmental, ethical, health or welfare issue to make a practical difference to the lives of a group or community, and that [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

2012 Google Science Fair Begins: What’s Your Question?

“As any adult knows, there’s one thing that any kid can do better than any grown up: ask questions. In fact, many studies have actually shown how kids are born scientists. If you don’t believe me, watch a baby first accidentally knock something off her high chair and onto the floor. She’ll look at it [...]

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Compound Eye

The Spider Assassin

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Here’s a Belizean bug that doesn’t look like much: I’m serious. In the field the insect looked like so little I thought it merely debris in a disorganized spider’s web. I didn’t see the faint outline of a young assassin bug until the debris shuddered, ever so slightly. The dramatic contrast of the above image [...]

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Compound Eye

The Case of the Lopsided Spider

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I was entranced by this image when it appeared today in my facebook stream: Captured by the talented Malaysian photographer Liew Wk, the photo shows a developmental asymmetry in size between the anterior median eyes of this Asian jumping spider. I do not know what caused this imbalance. Perhaps each side is a molt out of sync, [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: Genetic Studies Aid Conservation

A Bengal tiger. (Photo: Prasenjeet Yadav)

Editor’s Note: “Along the Tiger’s Trail” is a  series about the efforts to monitor tigers and their prey in the Malenad landscape in southwestern India that harbors one of the world’s largest population of wild tigers. The series tracks on-going annual activities of the world’s longest running research project on tiger and their prey, implemented [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: Counting the Prey

A herd of chital sighted during transect survey in Malenadu. (Photo: Varun Goswami)

Thimmayya, a Jenu Kuruba tribesman who lives in the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve is leading the way. Following him is Killivalavan Rayar, a senior research associate working with WCS India Program. They tread along a forested trail, silent and observant. Suddenly, to the left, they hear a crack made by the snapping of a branch. The [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: Where Are the Cats Found and Why?

Grid array overlaid across Malenad landscape for tiger occupancy surveys (left). Traditional, presence-only surveys (center) underestimated tiger occupancy by 45% when compared to occupancy modeling (right), which estimated that tigers occupied 66% of the landscape.

A team of four WCS India Program field members are sweating it out in the rugged hilly terrain of Malenad. Walking neither too fast, nor too slow, they follow a trail, diligently observing and recording signs of tigers and other wildlife along the way. The solitary bark of an alarmed deer nearby instinctively makes them [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: What’s in Scat?

Tiger scat on the forest floor. (Courtesy of WCS India)

Editor’s Note: “Along the Tiger’s Trail” is a  series about the efforts to monitor tigers and their prey in the Malenad landscape in southwestern India that harbors one of the world’s largest population of wild tigers. The series tracks on-going annual activities of the world’s longest running research project on tiger and their prey, implemented [...]

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Expeditions

Counting Fish: Wrap Up and Conclusion

Since July 2012, I’ve been posting about a study of artificial reefs along the Texas coast. Scientists at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies in Corpus Christi conducted the research, funded by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, to determine whether these structures increase fish populations, and whether their location, type and [...]

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Expeditions

In search of the eastern tropical Pacific’s chlorophyll maximum

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Editor’s Note: Journalist and crew member Kathryn Eident and scientist Jeremy Jacquot are traveling on board the RV Atlantis on a monthlong voyage to sample and study nitrogen fixation in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, among other research projects. This is the third blog post detailing this ongoing voyage of discovery for Scientific American.com. The [...]

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Food Matters

Breaking Food Down

Original Image U. Huddersfield.

What is food? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry says “Something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies.” How beautiful. That statement captures much of the emotion and feeling surrounding food, yet it’s only part of the full definition. So where does food begin? As with most big questions, it depends who you ask. Let’s start down the reductive [...]

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Guest Blog

Botanical Sexism Cultivates Home-Grown Allergies

Pollen on a sidewalk from a male cedar tree. (Photo: Thomas Leo Ogren)

It’s the time year for watery eyes and itchy noses, and if you’re among the afflicted, you may be surprised to learn that decades of botanical sexism in urban landscapes have contributed to your woes. Arborists often claim that all-male plants are “litter-free” because they shed no messy seeds, fruits or pods. In the 1949 [...]

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Guest Blog

Cord-Blood Research Sits Poised for Therapeutic Discovery

Blood is extracted from an umbilical cord. (Blood and Tissue Bank/Flickr)

Whenever one examines any area of scientific inquiry, there are two important things to understand: where the science is today, and where it may lead us in the future. To examine only the former is to engage in half an inquiry and create the perception that things in this particular area have reached a dead [...]

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Guest Blog

Project Superhero: Using Pop Culture to Inspire Kids’ Interest in Science

Jesse as Batgirl. (Illustration: Kris Pearn)

In my pop-sci writing, mainly here, at Psychology Today, and in the books Becoming Batman and Inventing Iron Man, I use superheroes as foils for communicating science. I have encouraged other scientists to pursue similar approaches in articles such as “From Claude Bernard to the Batcave and Beyond: Using Batman as a hook for physiology [...]

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Guest Blog

Reducing Lifestyle Diseases Means Changing Our Environment

The gym. (Health Gauge/Flickr)

I’ve always found gyms a bit strange. Think about it: Dozens of people sweating in close proximity, running on conveyor belts going nowhere, lifting and dropping heavy objects for no reason. There’s a guy grunting as he flings a barbell to the ground, a woman repeatedly leaping on and off a stack of boxes, and [...]

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Guest Blog

Getting to Know Whale Vaginas in 7 Steps

Credit: Gregory "Greg" Smith via Flickr

It’s not easy to study a whale vagina. But it is necessary. Right now, penises get far more attention than vaginas in the science world. (It’s also apparent in the museum scene, too—sadly, today, there’s no vagina equivalent to rival the Icelandic Phallocological Museum). Surprisingly, the research imbalance is likely due to longstanding gender stereotypes [...]

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Guest Blog

The Frustrations of Being Scientifically Literate

Life's dirty little secret. (Credit: Debaird via Flickr)

Editors note: Craig Fay will be appearing live at the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival in New York City May 14-18. Here’s a theory for you: ignorance is bliss. If that’s true then being scientifically literate has got to be one of the most miserable and frustrating things possible. And when you think about it that [...]

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Guest Blog

Hallmarks of Cancer 7: Genome Instability and Mutation

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All cancers share ten underlying principles, also known as the Hallmarks of Cancer. You can read about the first six here. The seventh is defined as genome instability and mutation. Cancer Cells Evolve Not all cancer cells are equal. They vary, they compete, and the fittest survive to pass on their genes to daughter cells, [...]

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Guest Blog

A plea for basic biology

These days, science funding is like a cage fight—utterly brutal. It’s even harder to compete for funding when you work on microscopic nematode worms that live at the bottom of the ocean. As an undergraduate at King’s College London, I watched with great sadness as the university abolished departments—first chemistry, then biological sciences. At the [...]

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Life, Unbounded

In Defense Of Metaphors In Science Writing

(James Gillray)

“Science is all metaphor” Timothy Leary We live in an elegant universe. The cosmos is like a string symphony. Genes are selfish. There is an endless battle between thermodynamics and gravity. Do you love these statements, or hate them? The reading world gets pretty divided over whether or not it’s okay to apply metaphors and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Defining Life: Scientists Squirm, Chickens Carry On

It's a rubber chicken, in space, really (Credit: Earth-to-Sky, Bishop Union High School, CA)

What is life? Simple question, thousands of years of human intellectual torture trying to answer it. The truth is that ‘life’ really does seem to defy easy definition. We can say that it’s a natural phenomenon – yes, OK. Actually it might be better thought of as a number of deeply connected natural phenomenae, OK, [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Favorite nuclear flavors

Light or heavy? The nuclear choice

On the heels of #SciAmChem day I thought I’d pull a post from the Life, Unbounded archives that could use a little airing and has a chemical slant. It’s all about the isotopic favoritism that organisms, or at least some of them, display. I’ve not heard more about the particular, and surprising, heavy isotope preference [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

“Optocapacitance” Shines New Light on the Brain

Francisco Bezanilla. (Photo: Kaspar Mossman, Copyright (2008) National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.)

A novel twist on the young field of optogenetics may provide a new way to study living human brains as well as offering innovative therapeutic uses. From time immemorial, philosophers, anatomists and scientists have pondered the inner workings of the brain. Efforts to look inside the black box consistently yielded far more questions than answers. [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Plenty of Pheromones in the Sea

As we sat in my car outside a silent movie theater in Los Angeles, my friend anxiously opened a plastic bag containing a white T-shirt she’d slept in for the past three nights. “Does it smell like me?” she asked nervously, gesturing the open end toward my face. I stuck my nose into the bag [...]

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Observations

Science Far from Center Stage in Obama’s State of the Union

Pres. Obama delivers his State of the Union

President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, his first before a Republican-led legislature, was studded this evening with references to science and technology amidst talk of middle class tax cuts, thawing U.S. relations with Cuba, economic empowerment and closing the pay gap between men and women. The speech included mentions of climate change, [...]

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Observations

Readers Choose the Top 10 Scientific American Stories of 2014

Entering a closed timelike curve tomorrow means you could end up at today. Credit: Dmitry Schidlovsky

World events left many marks and losses in 2014, but Scientific American readers kept calm and carried on for the most part, as your top picks among the stories we published this year reveal. We added in behind-the-scenes information for some of your favorites, listed below: 1. Time Travel Simulation Resolves “Grandfather Paradox”—Our online managing [...]

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Observations

Ants Abound in Manhattan’s Slivers of Green

Pavement ants (Tetramorium) on human food in a Manhattan street median

Ants—they’re everywhere. Charging across your picnic blanket, sneaking into your sandwich and, naturally, marching one by one (hurrah! hurrah!). Throughout the temperate zone you’ll find ants swarming in almost every forest, ducking beneath blades of grass in virtually every prairie. Forests and prairies are hard to come by in New York City. But in a [...]

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Observations

3-D Print a Rib, or Better Yet, Have Someone Else Do It

Courtesy of HP's new Multi Jet Fusion 3-D printer.

Even as 3-D printing’s impact on science, healthcare and consumer electronics grows, these devices aren’t likely to find their way into your home anytime soon. In fact, the closest most people will get to a 3-D printer in the near future will be ordering custom-made products from retailers that build objects the way Kinko’s and [...]

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Observations

CDC Launches Ebola Response Team

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In the two days since the second U.S. Ebola patient was diagnosed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has assembled a new team to battle the threat of Ebola. This team has no steady lineup, but it will be deployed anywhere in the country that sees a new case of Ebola, CDC [...]

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Observations

Mechanical Forces Affect Cell Development and Disease [Video]

Genes alone do not control a cell’s fate. Physical forces pulling on that cell can determine how a cell becomes a complex organ.

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Observations

U.S. Agency Aims to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

CDC’s Kitty Anderson holds up a 96-well plate used for testing the ability of bacteria to growth in the presence of antibiotics. Credit: CDC

When patients take too many unnecessary antibiotics it inches us ever closer to a world where essential drugs are no longer effective. More than two million people in the United States develop antibiotic resistant infection each year and some 23,000 of them die as a result. Yet understanding the origins of the problem remains a [...]

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Observations

Nasty Mosquito-Borne Virus, Now in Puerto Rico, Expanding Its Reach

Image: Thinkstock/iStock

It’s summertime so when the weather is fine many of us head outdoors. But there lurk mosquitoes, an all-too-familiar menace.  What’s more, a wave of mosquito-borne tropical disease that first appeared in the Western Hemisphere in late 2013 has now spread across the Caribbean, stoking concerns about a debut in the continental U.S. The painful [...]

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Observations

How the Body’s Cells Hold on Tight

Credit: Timothée Vignaud and Colleagues, CEA, France

Using mathematics to model a cell’s force-producing machine

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Observations

Human Antibodies Given Sharklike Armor to Fight Disease

A swimming shart

Human therapeutic antibodies often break down. Now chemists have grafted on more rugged features, taken from sharks

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Plugged In

On this Blogging Business, and Regarding Scolding

Last weekend, the Scientific American blogger community blew up as only a blogger community can, over a somewhat complex issue. Many of us are blogging in response, and as much as I hate to I’m joining in the madness. I’ll try not to dwell on what actually happened, because it’s barely what I want to [...]

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Roots of Unity

Measure Yourself by the Standard of the Capybara

Are you more or less of a fish than this capybara? Image: VigilancePrime, via Wikimedia Commons.

We all know a lot of measurements about ourselves. You are some number of feet or meters tall. You weigh some number of pounds, kilograms, or stone. Your BMI is some number of kilograms per square meter, even though humans are not two-dimensional. You have some number of milligrams of cholesterol in each deciliter of [...]

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Symbiartic

In Case You’re Tempted to Think 3D Modeling All Looks the Same

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I initially contacted Bryan Christie to request permission to feature his spectacular cheetah illustration in this year’s blitz. He agreed, and so here it is, in all its glory: But he also tipped me off to his fine art work that is equally worthy of note: How could two such disparate styles emanate from the [...]

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Symbiartic

Unveiling The Universe Within

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Almost five years ago to the day, Neil Shubin’s first book (and my first foray into illustrating popular non-fiction), Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body debuted. It was by all accounts hugely successful, far exceeding the publisher’s sales expectations in the first few months and going into multiple [...]

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Symbiartic

If Audubon Had Painted His Dreams…

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Have you ever tried to draw what you see in your dreams? Sometimes even the act of describing a dream in words makes it evaporate, as though imposing the order of grammar and syntax is too much for its fragile structure to bear. Tiffany Bozic does not paint her dreams, per se, but she does [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: What’s Under the Hood?

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Artist Mike Libby of Insect Lab Studio creates these one-of-a-kind sculptures using insects and antique pocket watch parts. Playing upon our perception of insects as somewhat robotic, Libby “lifts the hood” so we can see what really makes these bugs tick. Insect Lab Studios Mike P. Libby Portfolio (including a series – miniature satellites, full [...]

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Symbiartic

Spongelab: gaming the art of science education

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“What famous painting does this remind you of?” I was sitting in the offices of Spongelab Interactive about a month ago speaking with  Jeremy Friedberg, molecular genetics and biotechnology professor, now science education game-guru, and we were discussing the interactive opening image of History of Biology, an expansive mystery game. The image in question, above, contains [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Herring gull eats sea star, and other tales of larid gastronomy

My photography skills – if I can call them that – are pretty atrocious. While on a break in Wales recently, I managed to photograph a sequence in which a Herring gull Larus argentatus (one of our most frequently encountered gulls) swallowed a Common sea star Asterias rubens. Yeah, that’s right, get into the habit [...]

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