Category Archives: biology

Matthew gets Nobel Prize prediction right—four years too early (and a contest)

Four years ago, during Nobel Prize Season, Matthew made a prediction on this site: the 2013 Prize for Medicine and Physiology would go to “Jeff Hall, Michael Rosbash and Mike Young for their work on discovering the mechanism by which ‘clock’ genes work.” Well, Matthew was wrong at the time, but, as the New York […]

Denying biology in favor of ideology

Everyday Feminism, whose goal is to make progressives feel bad about themselves, no matter how progressive they are, has a new post by James St. James called “Here are 20 examples of cissexism that we’ve probably all committed at some point”.  (About 50% of their articles are listicles of this sort, and I have no idea […]

A new paper defends the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis against the buzzword purveyors

There’s a movement afoot by money-hungry but misguided scientists to claim that the Modern Synthesis (MS) of evolutionary biology is fatally flawed. (Many of these researchers are funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which recently handed out $11 million dollars for work on this fruitless endeavor.) According to the critics, the areas that supposedly have […]

Matthew on the BBC

Matthew Cobb was too modest to tell me that he was on Radio 4’s episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage (a science/comedy show) yesterday, but reader Kevin called it to my attention. You can download the broadcast by clicking on the screenshot below, and here’s the BBC’s summary: Making the Invisible, Visible Brian Cox and Robin Ince […]

Why is life the way it is? A talk by Nick Lane

by Matthew Cobb Nick Lane of University College London has just been awarded the Royal Society’s 2016 Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture, which “is awarded annually to the scientist or engineer whose expertise in communicating scientific ideas in lay terms is exemplary”. Nick is a brilliant writer of several books, including Life Ascending and, most recently […]

How many species are there on Earth?

Okay, guess quickly: how many species do you think there are on Earth? (We’ll leave aside the problems with distinguishing species in largely asexual groups like bacteria.) A million? Ten million? A hundred million? Some estimates even go up to a trillion! This is one of those questions that’s nearly impossible to even approximate an […]

A new moth species named after Donald Trump

I suppose this is the appropriate day for a biology post relating to our new (ack!) President. In particular, reader Brigette Zacharczenko, a graduate student in Ecology and Evolution at the University of Connecticut who studies moths (and is also a powerlifter), called my attention to a new species of moth named after The Donald—as well as several […]

Merry Xmas from Oswald Avery – but what if he had died early?

by Matthew Cobb Here’s a picture of Oswald Avery (1877-1955), at an Xmas party in his Rockefeller Institute lab, in 1940. Avery – you may not have heard of him – was the man who discovered that genes are made of DNA, in a paper published in January 1944. Avery was proposed for the Nobel […]

Planet Earth II

Reader Tyler called my attention to the trailer (published yesterday) for BBC’s Planet Earth II, and it looks fantastic. Watch the 3-minutes trailer, as there are plenty of cool animals, with EXTRA FELID. It will be narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, and the Facebook page is here, though I’m not sure when the program […]

A new paper confidently claims that there are four giraffe species rather than one, but I’m not so sure

The giraffe, Giraffa cameleopardalis, was first described by Linnaeus, and gets its species name from its fancied resemblance to a hybrid beast (as Wikipedia notes, the name comes from the Greek καμηλοπάρδαλις” meaning “giraffe”, from “κάμηλος” (kamēlos), “camel” + “πάρδαλις” (pardalis), “leopard”, due to its having a long neck like a camel and spots like a leopard). It’s always […]