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Carnival of Evolution, February 2014 Edition

Wow, I haven’t posted anything in quite a while. Things are busy outside blogoland. But committing this blog to the February edition of the Carnival of Evolution just made me do it, so here goes. We’ll do this by scales, bottom up. Molecular Prions are the infective agents that cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as […]

The Black Queen Hypothesis

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same […]

Life Stands on the shoulders of Giants (Viruses)

Back to ancient life, what exactly defines life, and where does life end and non-life begin. One of my favorite subjects, and one of which I am the least knowledgeable. Doesn’t stop me writing about it though. Viruses are… well… not really life. Or so says common wisdom. They have some elements of life: a […]

Not “Ancient”. Still Cool.

 This commentary appeared in Nature  recently. Title:  Ancient Fungi Found in Deep Sea Mud. Quote: Researchers have found evidence of fungi thriving far below the floor of the Pacific Ocean, in nutrient-starved sediments more than 100 million years old….To follow up on earlier reports of deep-sea fungi, Reese and her colleagues studied sediments pulled up from […]

DNA half life, and my dream of an Allosaurus Army

Let’s get this clear: Tyrannosaurus rex, the best selling figurine of class reptilia is not my favorite bad-ass top-of-the-food chain predator. Come on. Did you see its arms? I mean…   As a kid, I always thought the Allosaurus was much cooler. For one thing, it was on the cover of my favorite dinosaur book, “The […]

ISMB 2012 Vignettes Pt. 3: Swag

Promotional materials are part of any conference. In scientific meetings, the swag usually comes from the booths of product promoters, science publishers, and scientific societies. It was a nice surprise to see a Federal funding agency, the US Department of Energy give away decks of cards. I’m a sucker for cards, so I took a […]

ISMB 2012 Vignettes Pt. 2: Phylogenomic Approaches to Function Prediction

I chaired the Automated Function Prediction meeting at ISMB this year. The meeting, held every year (almost) deals with the latest approaches to predicting protein function from genetic and genomic data, and also discussing the Critical Assessment of Function Annotation This year we were fortunate to have Jonathan Eisen as our keynote speaker. Ever wondered […]

The Evolution of Music

A collaboration between a group in  Imperial College and Media Interaction group in Japan yielded a really cool website: darwintunes.org. The idea is to  apply Darwinian-like selection to music. Starting form a garble, after several generations producing  something that is actually melodic and listen-able. Or a Katy Perry tune. Whatever.  The selective force being the appeal of […]

Phound phage phootage

I am finishing up a great weekend at HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus. The occasion is an annual symposium celebrating the Phage genomics Course taking place in dozens of universities in the USA. Here are two of our students, Erich Goebel and Morgan Light, next to the poster they presented at the meeting: This post […]

Repost: the Scope(s) of Substance

This tweet from Neil Degrasse Tyson jolted me from a pleasant rest before tomorrow’s race:   …which led to the (in)famous Scopes Trial. On May 5, 1925 John Scopes was charged and subsequently tried, found guilty, and fined $100 for teaching Evolution, a violation of Tennessee’s Butler Act. The trial became a battleground for science […]

You. Want. This. Job.

NSF grant funded, woohoo! Now I am hiring a programmer. So if you want to be part of a dynamic, growing lab, do lots of interesting stuff and upgrade yourself from just a great bioinformatician to a super-bioinformatician, this job’s for you.  You’ll be working primarily on microbial genome evolution, including setting up a kick-butt […]

So what’s new with humans?

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be. — William Hazlitt We like to think that we are the only species capable of emotional self-awareness and therefore the only “animal that laughs […]

The power of science blogging

  Hats off to Jonathan Eisen for hosting this activity on his blog. (I’ll keep mine on, thank you. It’s raining cats and dogs here right now). A couple of weeks ago I posted a discussion about two papers that challenged the ortholog conjecture. Briefly, both papers stated that orthologs may not be such great […]

Zombie science roundup

  I am fascinated with zombies. Always have been, but even more so since I took an interest in microbiology. The zombie apocalypse is the best known and best chronicled viral infection which hasn’t happened. But it could happen any day, so stock up on non-perishable food, medical supplies, water purification tablets, chainsaws, machetes, baseball […]

Life is not a tree, it’s more of a…

  OK, I think the tree of life is obsolete. I have been spending a lot of time looking at horizontal gene transfer, reading about it, looking at it in genomes until my eyes water and my brain dessicates, occasionally blogging about it and soon to be publishing about it. Life is not a tree. […]