The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

Monday Morning Smörgåsbord

John Rasko and Carol Power at the Guardian take a scenic slide down a slippery slope to understand what can compel scientists to lie. “Carrel’s most famous experiment was a sham, but not why. If it was fraud, it was one of the most outrageous cases in the history of science. However, the cause may have been carelessness rather than dishonesty.”

Of course, sometimes it may just be about money. Justin Gillis and John Schwartz at the New York Times report on climate change denialists’s go-to scientist and the 1.2 million conflicts of interest he failed to disclose. “Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard.”

Love the freaks, says Graham Warren at the Journal of Cell Biology. ”Should one tailor one’s research question to the prevailing models? This is an obvious strategy, but fashions are fleeting and rooted (in the distant or forgotten past) in work with humble, often descriptive beginnings. So it seems to me to make far more sense to use whatever system can best answer the questions that most fascinate you, even if it means straying beyond the confines of the crown eukaryotes. Such an approach requires passion, persistence, priority, publications, and presence.”

Freeman Dyson at the New York Review of Books on a scientific spy story- was physicist Bruno Pontecorvo working for the USSR?  And if so, did it matter? “Technical spies were unimportant because the Soviet Union had plenty of first-rate scientists working in the relevant areas of nuclear physics.”

Kenan Malik at Pandemonium considers the new medical frontier of mitochondrial therapy and asks “what’s immoral about alleviating suffering?”.

Phil McKenna at The Big Round Table (and PBS/NOVA) tells an incredible story of natural history & friendship along the Iron Curtain. “To find out where the birds went in the daytime, and why, he would need help. He had an aunt, Nelli Ruppert, an older woman who lived in the West yet visited his family in Sonneberg from time to time. Soon after Gunter started counting birds in 1980, he asked Nelli if she knew anyone in the West who could tell him how the birds spent their days. With Nelli’s help, a fourteen-year-old East German boy and a twenty-one-year-old West German college student, both mad about birds, began exchanging letters.”

Eat the egg, don’t eat the egg. Ken Weiss at the Mermaid’s Tale on the questionable science of Big Nutrition. “The real conclusion is to shut down the nutrition megaprojects at Harvard (singled out by the op-ed) and the other genetics and public health departments that have been running them for decades, and do something different.  The megaprojects have become part of the entrenched System, with little or no real accountability.”

At her blog, Leah Cannon explains how modern DNA sequencing works.

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