Tag: biology

The science of tall trees

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2013/01/Tall-Trees.mp3[/podcast] Sometimes science is focused on really big questions: where did life come from? How did the universe begin? But sometimes, the focus is much smaller. Sometimes, researchers set out to answer a simple question, one that many people have perhaps asked, but no one has ever set out systematically to answer. A question, for …

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Seeking for life in all the wrong places

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/06/Seeking-for-LIfe-in-all-the-Wrong-Places.mp3[/podcast] “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it,” was never actually said in the original series of Star Trek (in fact, it’s from The Firm’s popular parody song “Star Trekkin’”), but it still sums up the notion that we might not recognize extraterrestrial life when first we encounter it because it’s so different …

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Birds of a feather

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/11/Flocking.mp3[/podcast] It’s a familiar sight this time of year: enormous flocks of snow geese, covering a field, then all taking flight at once, whirling and swirling in unison. It’s almost like they’re all under the control of a single mind, but of course they aren’t. In fact, they’re under the control of a multitude of …

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Alcohol on the brain

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/10/Alcohol-on-the.mp3[/podcast] Human beings have been using and abusing alcohol for a very long time: roughly 10,000 years, give or take a long weekend. The effects of drinking too much of the stuff have been known for every one of those 10,000 years (although individuals somehow seem to forget them within a remarkably short time frame). …

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Belly-button biodiversity

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2011/07/Belly-Button-Biodiversity.mp3[/podcast] It’s summer, that time of year when belly buttons escape their natural habitat of swimming pools and beaches and wander free in the oddest places, from the library to the shopping mall (although unlike the grins of Cheshire cats, they rarely appear without their owners). But as you survey these navel maneuvers, don’t think …

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Blue’s clues

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2011/02/Blue-Cheese.mp3[/podcast] I love blue cheese. It hasn’t always been so. As a child, I was of course immersed in the done-to-death running gags of the cartoon world, where smelly cheese (always Limburger, for some reason) seemed to be thought of as a sure-fire laugh riot. Outside of the cartoon world, I simply wasn’t exposed to …

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Cloning a mammoth

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2011/01/Cloning-the-Mammoth.mp3[/podcast] One of the more striking exhibits at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is the woolly mammoth that looms over you, emerging from a forest, when you round one of the corners in the Earth Sciences Gallery. Twelve thousand years ago, you might have encountered exactly that scene while strolling through Saskatchewan: these days, the closest …

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O Tannenbaum

Time to re-roast an old chestnut, a column I wrote several years that has become fresh in my mind due to the successful completion last night of Operation Dress-the-Tree (to be followed in a few weeks, of course, by Operation Curse-the-Tree as the needle-shedding skeleton is hauled out to the alley). Is there scientific interest …

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Honeybees in decline

Honeybees, particularly in the United States, are in decline. In 2007-2008, 36 percent of apiaries surveyed by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that some of their colonies had simply…disappeared, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. In the most recent survey, covering September 2008 to April …

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Disease-Hunting Scientist: Jonathan Runstadler investigates bird flu in Alaska

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2009/06/jonathan-runstadler-and-bird-flu.mp3[/podcast] Here’s another column drawn from one of the chapters of my new book Disease-Hunting Scientist (Enslow Publishers): Every spring, an estimated six million birds arrive in Alaska to breed. Some spent the winter in Southeast Asia, home to a strain of avian influenza called H5N1. Although swine flu is getting all the attention right …

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Disease-Hunting Scientist: Dr. Laurie Richardson and black-band disease in coral

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/upLoads//2009/05/laurie-richardson-and-black-band-disease.mp3[/podcast] My newest book, Disease-Hunting Scientist (Enslow Publishers) has now been officially released, and so this week I’m giving you a column-sized version of another of the lengthy chapters devoted to individual scientists in the book. Dr. Laurie Richardson, Professor of Biology at Florida International University in Miami, is researching black-band disease in coral reefs—which …

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"I never forget a…"

Wasps have a good memory for a face Chimps never forget a bum Since I’m more closely related to chimps than to wasps, perhaps the difficulty I have in remembering people’s names simply boils down to looking at the wrong spot.

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