The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Plants were never my thing in college- an extraordinarily bad Botany 101 professor instilled in me a pavlovian aversion to all things photosynthetic that took years to overcome. So great writing about Plant Science is something that I grudgingly bow to. Ian Street is doing an amazing job of it at his blog, The Quiet Branches. Here he is on my favorite volatile hormone and “basis for the saying ‘one bad apple spoils the bunch’”.

It ain’t necessarily so: “Symbioses, long-term and physically close interactions between two or more species, are central to the ecology and evolution of many organisms.” Nicole Gerardo at PLOS Biology on the not-always peaceful world of symbiosis.

50 shades of diving:As a place to live, the ocean has a couple of peculiarities. The first is that in most of it, there is nowhere to hide. This means invisibility is at a premium. The second odd thing is that as you descend, the sunlight disappears. First red light is absorbed. Then the yellow and green parts of the spectrum disappear, leaving just the blue. By 700 feet deep, the ocean has become a kind of perpetual twilight, and by 2,000 feet, the blue fades out too. This means that most of the ocean is pitch-dark. All day, all night.” Olivia Judson at National Geographic on the bioluminescent creatures of the sea.

Pay some attention to the scientist behind the curtain. Meghan Duffy at Dynamic Ecology on all that work that never makes it into print: “Science is hard: culturing problems edition”.

Carrie Arnold at The Scientist and The Mystery of Missing Mouse Mojo. “The females looked fine, the males were interested, but there were no pregnancies. This was really unusual for us”.

Pseudomonas in the sky with ice crystals: “The phenomenon of weather-shifting microbes is at once global and regional”, says Ferris Jabr at the New York Times.

Linda Marsa at Aeon on the Earth as an oven inhabited by 500 million survivors. “This might sound like a fevered nightmare, but climate change has triggered the collapse of advanced civilisations dating back nearly 3,000 years. Around 1200 BCE, a perfect storm of calamities – including earthquakes, famines, and a drought that lasted 150 years or more – set in motion the breakdown of the late Bronze Age kingdoms clustered around the eastern Mediterranean in an area that includes much of what is now Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.”

To close, a double- feature in prose. First, a Stern interview with incoming Greek Finance Minister and OT impersonator Yanis Varoufakis. Sadly the editor chose to pull a bombastic quote for the title- the interview reveals a thoughtful, intelligent person dealing with a a difficult situation. “We are turning the institutions that make decisions affecting people’s lives into democracy-free zones.” Next up, an op-ed piece by the man himself at the New York Times– an impassioned cry of “this is not a game”, from a student of game-theory. Considering that when the rulers of Portugal try to speak out on a complex issue I am reminded of nothing so much as my dog chewing on an old Rubik’s cube, this is a real breath of fresh air.

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