spacerzimmer topbars
spacercz bottombooksarticlestalksblogcontactsearchspacer

Article Archives

[ 2017 ] [ 2016 ] [ 2015 ] [ 2014 ]
[ 2013 ] [ 2012 ] [ 2011 ] [ 2010 ]
[ 2009 ] [ 2008 ] [ 2007 ] [ 2006 ]
[ 2005 ] [ 2004 ] [ 2003 ] [ 2002 ]
[ 2001 ] [ 2000 ] [ 1999 ] [ 1998 ]



Scientist of the Year: An Interview with Jay Keasling
Discover, December 2006 (cover story)

It's easy to be amazed by 21st-century feats of genetic engineering. Genes can be moved from one species to another, creating, say, goats that secrete drugs in their milk or bacteria that make human insulin. But that's not enough for Jay Keasling. Instead of the simple manipulation of single genes, he wants to engineer many genes to work together, like transistors wired in a circuit.

Devious Butterflies, Full-Throated Frogs and Other Liars
New York Times, December 26, 2006

If you happen across a pond full of croaking green frogs, listen carefully. Some of them may be lying.

Adapted to Follow Their Noses Underwater
New York Times, December 26, 2006

You may enjoy the smell of coffee in the morning, but it is not the coffee itself that you are smelling. The human nose can only smell molecules that escape liquid, float into the nostrils, and dissolve into the thin layer of slime coating the olfactory nerves. Stick your nose directly into the coffee, and you will be too busy coughing and sneezing to enjoy the bouquet.

Games Animals Play, December 14, 2006

To write about the natural history of games and play, I decided to consult an expert. The other day, as I was twirling my 5-year-old daughter around so that she could pretend she could fly with her fairy wings, I asked her why she likes to play.

A Fin Is a Limb is a Wing
National Geographic, November 2006

The father of evolution was a nervous parent. Few things worried Charles Darwin more than the challenge of explaining how nature's most complex structures, such as the eye, came to be. "The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder," he wrote to a friend in 1860.

Old Viruses Resurrected Through DNA
New York Times, November 7, 2006

Thanks to advances in DNA technology, scientists can now reconstruct new copies of old viruses. Last year United States government scientists reconstructed the virus that caused the influenza epidemic of 1918. Now a team of French scientists has rebuilt a virus that infected our apelike ancestors several million years ago.

Are We Alone?
Popular Mechanics, September 2006 (cover story)

There are many strange landscapes in the solar system, but perhaps none stranger than that of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Deserts blanket Titan for hundreds of miles, rippling with wind-sculpted dunes that rise more than 300 ft. Images taken by the Cassini spacecraft over the past two years also reveal riverbeds sculpted by liquid methane, canyons, and what appear to be a volcano and a shoreline. When Cassini dropped the Huygens probe onto Titan’s surface in 2005, the 701-pound craft landed in a substance with the consistency of wet sand. Shrouding it all is a smoggy, orange-hued atmosphere 10 times thicker than Earth’s and made up of complex organic molecules.

This Canít Be Love
The New York Times, September 5, 2006

Across the eastern United States, a gruesome ritual is in full swing. The praying mantis and its relative, the Chinese mantis, are in their courtship season. A male mantis approaches a female, flapping his wings and swaying his abdomen. Leaping on her back, he begins to mate. And quite often, she tears off his head.

Newfound Island Graveyard May Yield Clues to Dodo Life of Long Ago
New York Times, July 4, 2006

Everyone knows about the death of the dodo, but no one knows much about its life.

A Common Parasite Reveals Its Strongest Asset: Stealth
The New York Times, June 20, 2006

On paper, Toxoplasma gondii looks as if it ought to be the most famous parasite on earth. This single-celled pathogen infects over half the world's population, including an estimated 50 million Americans. Each of Toxoplasma's victims carries thousands of the parasites, many residing in the brain. As if that were not enough of an accomplishment, Toxoplasma is equally adept at infecting all other warm-blooded animals, as disparate as chickens and kangaroos.

Evolution in a Petri Dish
Yale Alumni Magazine May/June 2006 (Cover story)

Charles Darwin never thought he could witness evolutionary change. He relied instead on indirect clues. He looked at its effects after millions of years -- in the fossil record and in the similarities and differences among living species. He got clues to the workings of evolution from the work of pigeon breeders, who consciously chose which birds could reproduce and thus created birds with extravagant plumage. But that was artificial selection -- not natural selection that had been operating long before humans came on the scene. Darwin was pretty sure that natural selection worked too slowly for him or anyone else to witness.

Bacterial Evolution in the Yogurt Ecosystem
The New York Times, May 30, 2006

About 5,000 years ago, cattle herders discovered how to make yogurt. Scientists are now discovering that they also mounted an unplanned experiment in evolution.

Humans May Have Limiting Effect on the Origin of (New) Species
The New York Times, May 23, 2006

Humans can threaten species with extinction in many ways, including overfishing, pollution and deforestation. Now a pair of studies points to a new danger to the world's biodiversity: humans may be blocking new species from evolving.

Did DNA Come From Viruses?
Science, May 11, 2006

Scientists who deal in the history of life have never been quite sure what to do with viruses. One measure of their uncertainty is the Tree of Life Web Project, a collective effort to record everything known about the relationships of living and extinct species. The first page of its Web site--entitled "Life on Earth"--shows the broadest view: From a single root come three branches representing the domains of life ( One limb, Eubacteria, includes bacteria such as Escherichia coli. Another, Archaea, includes microbes of a different lineage that are less familiar but no less common. The third, Eukaryotes, includes protozoans as well as multicellular organisms such as ourselves. And just below the tree there's a fourth branch floating off on its own, joined only to a question mark. It is labeled "Viruses."

Starlings' Listening Skills May Shed Light on Language Evolution
The New York Times, May 2, 2006

The warbles and rattles of a starling seem innocuous enough. But starlings are now the object of a fierce debate about the nature of language.

Scientists Again Debating How Snakes Came to Slither
New York Times, April 25, 2006

Charles Darwin was fascinated by snakes -- in particular, by the tiny hip and leg bones nestled inside boa constrictors and other species. They were some of the most striking cases of evolution's imprint. Snakes descended from walking ancestors, and as they adapted to slithering, their legs dwindled to a few vestiges.

Silent Struggle: A New Theory of Pregnancy
The New York Times, March 14, 2006

Pregnancy can be the most wonderful experience life has to offer. But it can also be dangerous. Around the world, an estimated 529,000 women a year die during pregnancy or childbirth. Ten million suffer injuries, infection or disability.

To David Haig, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, these grim statistics raise a profound puzzle about pregnancy.

Sweating It
The New York Times Book Review, March 12, 2006

Reviews of
THE WEATHER MAKERS: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth,
by Tim Flannery

and FIELD NOTES FROM A CATASTROPHE: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, by Elizabeth Kolbert

It would be hard to imagine a better time for these two important books to appear. The science of global warming has been making dramatic headlines. NASA scientists recently reported that 2005 was the hottest year on record. Researchers studying the oldest core of Greenland ice yet extracted have also reported that there is more heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any other point in the past 650,000 years. The vast majority of climate scientists agree that if we continue pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere the world's temperature will climb significantly, and new computer models project a grim scenario of droughts and rising sea levels. Global warming is a fiendishly complex scientific puzzle, and "The Weather Makers" and "Field Notes From a Catastrophe" help show how the individual pieces fit together into a worrying whole.

Chimps Display a Hallmark of Human Behavior: Cooperation
The New York Times, March 3, 2006

One of the hallmarks of being human is cooperation. No other primate exhibits the same kind of helpfulness to others. Humans have made even violence a highly cooperative effort, and scientists have wondered how far back in evolution this trait goes.

In New Studies, Palm Trees and Lake Fish Dispel Doubts About a Theory of Evolution
The New York Times, February 21, 2006

Sooner or later, everyone encounters a kentia palm. Its ability to grow in low sunlight has made it one of the world's most traded houseplants.

''If you've been to a wine bar or to Starbucks, there may have been one in there,'' said William Baker, a botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England.

''Whether you realize it or not, you're familiar with this palm,'' he said.

As ordinary as this houseplant may be, however, Dr. Baker and colleagues have found that it has an extraordinary story to tell about evolution.

Scientist at Work: Mark Siddall. His Subject: Highly Evolved and Exquisitely Thirsty
The New York Times, February 7, 2006

The tub full of leeches sat on a table in Mark Siddall's office at the American Museum of Natural History. The leeches, each an inch long and covered in orange polka dots, were swimming lazily through the water.

Fossil Yields Surprise Kin Of Crocodiles
The New York Times, January 26, 2006

Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History have discovered a fossil in New Mexico that looks like a six-foot-long, two-legged dinosaur along the lines of a tyrannosaur or a velociraptor. But it is actually an ancient relative of today's alligators and crocodiles.

From Bacteria to Us: What Went Right When Humans Started to Evolve?
New York Times, January 3, 2006

Why, Michael Lynch wants to know, don't we look like bacteria?

Evolutionary biologists generally agree that humans and other living species are descended from bacterialike ancestors. But before about two billion years ago, human ancestors branched off.

Content Management Powered by CuteNews