Category Archives: genetics

After paying $4.8 million for Jim Watson’s Nobel Prize medal, buyer gives it back to him

As the Independent reports, the person who bought J. D. Watson’s auctioned-off Nobel Prize medal, and paid $4.8 million for it ($4.1 million plus buyer’s commission), was Alisher Usmanov, the owner of the Arsenal football club, described as “the richest man in Russia.” (What is a Russian doing owning Arsenal?) From the paper: Usmanov said […]

The most racially insensitive quiz question ever

I’ve been sitting on this for a while because I wanted to confirm it, for it just seemed too bizarre to be true. But enough media outlets have now reported the story, complete with reactions from the school involved, that I consider it true. The most reliable source seems to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, […]

Remains of Richard III identified: oldest forensic ID yet

You remember these famous words from Shakespeare: Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York; And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. They are of course the opening lines of “Richard III,” and are spoken by the nefarious […]

J. D. Watson to sell his Nobel Prize medal

CNN reports that James D. Watson, who in 1962 got the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins) for revealing the structure of DNA, is selling his Prize medal in an auction: The coveted gold medal is expected to go under the hammer for up to $3.5 million in a […]

The RNA world

by Matthew Cobb I have just sent off the final version of my book Life’s Greatest Secret: The Story of the Race to Crack the Genetic Code (to appear in 2015 with Profile Books, and Basic Books in the USA). The book is mainly history, covering the period 1943-1961, but the final four chapters bring the […]

The cat genome: what does it say about domesticated moggies?

Not much, really, though there are some interesting but preliminary findings. Many readers sent me a link to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Michael J. Montague et al. (reference at bottom, free download, too many authors to list!), and I found it interesting but not definitive. That’s […]

The evolutionary psychology of politics

Today’s Doonesbury, by Garry Trudeau, echoes some old research news (trigger warning: Chris M**ney):   I haven’t read the relevant papers (I have neither the time nor the interest), but if conservatives have bigger amygdalas (amygdalae?), is there evidence that their politics, and their “innate” fearfulness, is a consequence rather than a cause of conservativism? […]

Guest post: Why the genetic code is not universal

JAC: In this post, Matthew—who has considerable expertise in this area—answers a student’s question about the genetic code that was sent to me yesterday. I immediately handed it off to Matthew, who was nice enough to turn the answer into a post.  He is, of course, writing a popular “trade” book abut the genetic code. In case […]

The wonders of genetics: a seedless melon

I haz a big melon: And it’s seedless!! There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than digging into the sweet, scarlet, crunchy meat of a chilled watermelon. And it’s even better when the watermelon is seedless: no spitting and less mess. We didn’t have seedless watermelons when I was a kid, so it’s still […]

Duke again offers free Coursera course: “Introduction to genetics and evolution”

I’m happy to see that my second Ph.D student, Dr. Mohamed Noor (now chair of biology at Duke) is again offering his immensely popular “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” course online, as a MOOC (I hate that word!). The course will start on January 2 of next year and extend until March 23, and I’ve […]


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