What We’re Reading

David Bowie for America’s Libraries. Copyright, the American Library Association.David Bowie for America’s Libraries. Copyright, the American Library Association. David Bowie told Vanity Fair in 1998 that his idea of perfect happiness was reading, and he certainly looks happy in the iconic poster from the American Library Association. Go, and do thou likewise.

  • Genetic Flip Helped Organisms Go From One Cell to Many, The New York Times, January 7, 2016 — Carl Zimmer reports on the interesting use of ancient protein reconstruction (the evaluation of changes in protein sequences in lineages over time to infer the sequence of the ancestral protein) to posit that a single mutation in a single protein might have been enough to jump-start multicellularity.
  • You’re Probably Not Mostly Microbes, The Atlantic, January 8, 2016 — Ed Yong traces the origin of the common claim that human bodies contain ten times as many bacterial cells as human cells and explains new research that disproves it. Note that Yong recommends, “avoid mentioning any ratio at all—scientifically, it’s not all that interesting.”
  • Charles Darwin’s Evolutionary Revelation in Australia, The Conversation, January 11, 2016 — The University of Sydney’s Frank Nicholas discusses the naturalist’s stay Down Under. “Surely two distinct Creators must have been [at] work,” wrote Darwin in his journal when he encountered Australia’s distinctive fauna during the voyage of the Beagle.
  • Scientists Say Human Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have Canceled the Next Ice Age, Washington Post, January 13, 2016 — Chris Mooney reports on a new study suggesting “that pre-industrial human modifications of the climate through agriculture, fires and deforestation might have just barely staved [the next Ice Age] off.”
  • New Dinosaur Poses Question: Does This Museum Make Me Look Fat? The New York Times, January 13, 2016 — A report on the unveiling, at the American Museum of Natural History, of the cast of a titanosaur, one of the largest dinosaurs ever found. Be sure to watch the accompanying video, A New Dinosaur Takes Shape, too.
  • If Done Correctly, Refuting Climate Myths Can be an Effective Educational Strategy, Skeptical Science, January 15, 2016 — Scott Mandia discusses how he helps his undergraduate students understand climate science by asking them to write “a term paper that summarizes the myth in a way that will convince a doubter to change his or her position.”
  • Inside the Eye: Nature’s Most Exquisite Creation, National Geographic, February 2016 —How’s this for a lede? “In his lab at Lund University in Sweden, Dan-Eric Nilsson is contemplating the eyes of a box jellyfish. Nilsson’s eyes, of which he has two, are ice blue and forward facing. In contrast, the box jelly boasts 24 eyes, which are dark brown and grouped into four clusters called rhopalia.”