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The Dark Matter Metaphor in Biology

Dark matter is a proposed kind of matter that cannot be seen, but that we believe accounts for most of the mass in the universe.  Its existence, mass, and properties  are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. The most favored hypothesis is that dark matter is not  composed of baryons, the basic components […]

Wool / Omnibus: Make your Choice

I finished reading Wool / Omnibus a few days ago. If you want one captivating book (or rather pentalogy) to read by the end of the year, then this is it. The five books  grew from a short story, Wool, published electronically. The author, Hugh Howey, continued to publish Wool 2-5, and then compiled all […]

Life is short

Continuing with rather philosophical musings about life, Ed Trifonov has recently suggested a new approach to defining life:  let’s just vote on the definition. So how does that work? And why should it work in the first place? Note that I am diving straight into the subject, and not prefacing this post with a review […]

The Search for Small finds Life on a Gradient

In Chapter 3 of The House at  Pooh Corner, Rabbit organizes a search for Small, “One of my friends and relations.”  Like a good manager (or scientist) Pooh lays out a program: As soon as Rabbit was out of sight, Pooh remembered that he had forgotten to ask who Small was, and whether he was the […]

Protein function, promiscuity, moonlighting and philosophy

I recently received an email from a graduate student in Philosophy regarding protein function. Not sure if that person wants his name advertised, so I will keep it to myself. “I am a fan of your blog, and interested in the philosophy of biology. One particularly interesting question is what makes something have a function; […]

Highly Evolved

If the title of this post makes you cringe, then you belong to a minority of people who realize why the phrase “highly evolved” is so wrong. Unfortunately, “highly evolved” (as an absolute term) and “more evolved” (as a comparative term) seem  to be used all-too frequently.  They are uttered not only by non-scientists and […]