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Ivory-billed woodpecker spotted; plays tennis

By | August 3, 2005

Well, it now appears that the ivory-billed woodpecker does exist. The three skeptics who had questioned the evidence presented in a Science paper that the birds were living in an Arkansas swamp now say they are ?strongly convinced that there is at least a pair of ivory bills out there,? according to the New York Times. Very good for ornithologists, the woodpecker, and for those who champion the millions being spent to maintain natural habitats. What was curious about the episode from a scie

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What did the President say? It's a fund-amental question.

By | August 3, 2005

So did President Bush really advocate teaching "intelligent design" in his interview with Texas reporters the other day? Or were his musings about exposing students to different ideas simply a better-than-average example of political weasel-speak? The fact is the remarks gave comfort to his religious political base while disclosing nothing of his actual beliefs about creationism. And they were mushy enough to permit a semi-benign gloss from Bush science adviser John Marburger, a professed

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Gorilla Marketing

By | August 1, 2005

This morning, fellow editor Jeff Perkel, and I ran into a hairy ape and a healthy dose of irony. A man wearing a gorilla mask and a dark grey suit passed just in front of our office. The monkey-man?s unmasked companion was wearing a yellow t-shirt with the words ?Has Evolution Made a Monkey out of You?? Catching the whiff of unchecked creationist dogma on the streets of Philadelphia, we dashed out for a quick interview. Fortunately, ID proponents haven?t resorted to ?guerilla marketing? just

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Apple on Intel: Still a BLAST?

By | July 22, 2005

One question has been rolling around in the scientific community since Apple's surprise announcement that they will switch to the Intel processor in 2006. How fast will BLAST be on Intel on Mac's latest operating system, OSX? In 2002 Apple's Advanced Computing Group announced the availability of Apple/Genentech BLAST - AG BLAST (press release here) - which promised speed increases of "Up To Five Times Faster Than 2-GHz Pentium 4-based Systems." This was gained by Apple's secret computational

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Our Comparative History

By | July 22, 2005

I had the opportunity while on vacation to get waist deep in Mutants by Armand Marie Leroi, a compelling celebration of modern human genetics through the scope of mythology, folklore, and biomedical history. Leroi cites a particularly prophetic quote from Francis Bacon: Once a nature has been observed in its variations, and the reason for it has been made clear, it will be an easy matter to bring that nature by art to the point it reached by chance. The statement supports life-science investi

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The 'miracle' of the ivory-billed woodpecker

By | July 22, 2005

By now, you have no doubt heard that three biologists are putting into serious question the reappearance of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the southern US. See the Girl Scientist?s blog for some interesting commentary and a lengthy interview with Tim Gallagher, one of the authors of the original Science report on the find. The New York Times covered the skeptical scientists yesterday (July 21). But one thing yesterday?s story neglected to mention was the Times? own awestruck editorial, on Apr

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Long live the worm!

By | June 30, 2005

In tomorrow's (July 1) issue of Genes & Development, Siu Sylvia Lee, of the department of molecular biology and genetics at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and Gary Ruvkun, of the department of genetics at Harvard Medical School, report ?the first genome-wide functional genomic screen for longevity genes.? The two teams used a library of 16,475 RNA interference constructs (created by Julie Ahringer at the University of Cambridge, UK) to inactivate genes in the nematode, Caenorhabditis eleg

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In like a lion, out like a lamb...

By | June 27, 2005

University of Washington genome scientist, Maynard Olson, spoke this weekend at a symposium at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in honor of the 60th anniversary of the phage course, where he discussed molecular evolution in chronic bacterial infections. Analysis of whole genome sequences of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen responsible for chronic lung colonization in patients with cystic fibrosis, reveals an evolutionary ?weakening? of the bacterium over time, resulting in a much less virulent or

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At the conclusion of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory phage symposium this weekend, James Watson, bedecked in tennis whites, concluded Sunday?s sessions in his inimitable fashion, touching on a range of topics and cutting straight to the point. On the subject of the advanced bacterial genetics course offered annually at CSHL, he believes it should be around for another ten years but wonders if it will be around for a 75th anniversary, since we can?t predict where science will lead us beyond

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This weekend, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Phage Course with a two day symposium led by some of today?s most notable molecular biologists. First organized by Max Delbruck in 1945, the course has been instrumental in shaping the field of molecular biology. Delbruck assembled a small but diverse group of scientists to tackle fundamental biological questions using phage as a simple model system. By the mid-1970s, cloning and transposons sparked a genetic

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