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Biology

Attack of the Giant Archaea

Archaea are under-rated. For one, most people don’t really know they exist – and if they do archaea are thought of as a type of bacteria. This goes not only for the general public also for some of my non-microbiology colleagues. (I had to correct quite a few “archaeobacteria” utterances.) The discovery that Archaea are a […]

Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomics Conference

Quick post: at the Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomics Conference. I’m a bad microblogger, but thankfully Jonathan Eisen and Ruchira Datta are doing a great job of covering this conference live. There is a friendfeed room. The Twitter hashtag is #LAMG10.  The science, people, food and location are all great. My student, David Ream, is presenting […]

Predator MX: Jack the Rippler

No, not a new hunter-killer drone, neither is it the n+1 installment in the sci-fi horror series. Rather, Myxococcus xanthus. Again.     M. xanthus is a highly cooperative bacterium, as we have already seen: when starved, most cells “commit suicide” while a few form spores, to survive the lean times. But M. xanthus also […]

When is it a good idea to cheat?

I have written before about bacterial cooperation, and how cheating works, up to a point, in an environment of bacterial cooperation. That post talked about bacterial quorum sensing, the collective signaling mechanism by which bacteria construct supra-cellular structures called biofilms. Biofilms are tough multicellular enclosures that allow bacteria to survive and thrive in hostile environments, […]

2010 Homology High-Low Count

Previously on our show: ‘ Homology is Not a Quantitative Term‘. Homology is a drop-in replacement for the  “common ancestry”. It does not make any sense to say “low common ancestry” “high common ancestry” “micro common ancestry” or (egads!) “70% common ancestry”. You cannot be 70% homologous any more than you can be 70% pregnant. […]

Goat breath causes aphids to drop to the ground

Some headlines just write themselves… It has been known for some time that an approaching large herbivore causes aphids to abandon ship …err plant. Makes sense since, after all, there’s not much of a point in staying on the particular bit of shrubbery that will be consumed, lock, stalk and barrel by a ravenous forager. […]

Baby Sloths

These are just ridiculously cute, I had to put them in. The sloth counterpart of Marilyn Manson appears at the end. A few interesting facts about sloths (edited from Wikipedia): Look at your forearm. Your hair grows towards your hand. In most mammals hair grows towards their extremities. In sloths, hair grows in the opposite […]

I can’t hear you, the bacteria are too noisy

Much too noisy. When looking at a population of genetically identical bacteria, the number of proteins they produce varies. The picture below shows the levels of one type of protein that was fused to a green fluorescent protein (so we can see it): clearly there is a variation in how much of the protein each […]

The Third Reviewer added Microbiology

The Third Reviewer is a website for those of us who would rather show up to a journal club late, beer in hand and in their pajamas. Which means basically 100% of all scientists I know. TTR pulls feeds form multiple journals, and posts the abstracts on its site for us to comment upon; anonymously […]

The Scope(s) of Substance

Bora Zivkovic, the BUCA (Best Universal Common Ancestor) of science bloggers has tagged this blog with with a Blog of Substance award. As a grateful recipient of this award I am obligated to do two things: 1. Sum up my blogging motivation, philosophy and experience in exactly 10 words. 2. Pass this award on to […]

Protein Function: how do we know that we know what we know?

The trouble with genomic sequencing, is that it is too cheap. Anyone that has a bit of extra cash laying around, you can scrape the bugs off your windshield, sequence them, and write a paper. Seriously? Yes, seriously now: as we sequence more and more genomes, our annotation tools cannot keep up with them. It’s […]

I’m Shipping up to Boston

Got back recently from the ISMB 2010 meeting in Boston. Five days amongst great science and scientists. I microblogged some of the talks on my FriendFeed channel, but definitely not all I attended. All the keynotes were microblogged by many of the attendees on the ISMB 2010 feed. An a conference is not just about […]

Stayin’ Alive

It’s been a while since I posted, mainly due to a convergence of conferences, work and grant writing. Not that the grant writing crunch is over yet, but I have to take a break, and prove I am still alive. Not only am I still alive, but apparently the Horton Plains slender Loris is still […]

This is what it smells like when mice cry

A pheromone in the male mouse’s tears causes a positive sexual response in female mice who smell it. The neural pathway was meticulously mapped in a study published today in Nature. Females ready to copulate arch their back and pose their behind when the pheromone, ESP1 is secreted. Females not ready to copulate usually just […]

It’s a small (RNA) world after all

The central dogma of molecular biology edit: the sequence hypothesis (thanks for setting me straight, Kamel!) as formulated 57 years ago was simple: DNA is transcribed to mRNA,and  mRNA is translated to proteins. Proteins are the business end of this process. mRNA is only the messenger: its sole function is to deliver information from the […]