685 posts tagged with biology.
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Accept your impermanence in this bag of bones, live a fulfilled life

D.S. Moss produces an occasional podcast, titled The Adventures of Memento Mori, subtitled a cynic's guide for learning to live by remembering to die. He talks about his ideas in an interview with the Eternal Life Fan Club (website), which can be summarized as embracing life by accepting death. There are eight episodes in the Adventures of Memento Mori so far, covering Plan on Dying, Communicating with the Dead, The Science of Immortality, Past Life Regression, Escaping Death, Thoughts in Passing, and Digital Afterlife. Remember to Die is also on Twitter and Instagram, and I am Mori on YouTube. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Oct 14, 2016 - 2 comments

Does the string “…CATCAT…” appear in the DNA of Felis catus?

Well, does it?
posted by Foci for Analysis on Oct 13, 2016 - 20 comments

The Great Bear, The Living Statue & The Monster In The Cave

"In recent years a promising scientific approach to comparative mythology has emerged in which researchers apply conceptual tools that biologists use to decipher the evolution of living species. In the hands of those who analyze myths, the method, known as phylogenetic analysis, consists of connecting successive versions of a mythical story and constructing a family tree that traces the evolution of the myth over time." On using biological ideas to trace the paths of evolving myths across the world.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane on Sep 29, 2016 - 12 comments

Arthropods now possibly able to employ Archimedes Death Ray

So-called 'mirror spiders' can "manipulate the mirrors in situations where they might feel threatened."
posted by Drosera on Sep 23, 2016 - 26 comments

a tumblr post beginning "As a rodent biologist…"

A Neil Gaiman tweet prompts debate on Tumblr: what is the species of the hyperintelligent rodent publicist running Lin-Manuel Miranda's Twitter feed?
posted by nicebookrack on Sep 18, 2016 - 9 comments

Eleven days

The Evolution of Bacteria on a “MEGA-Plate” Petri Dish - a cinematic approach to visualizing drug resistance
posted by a lungful of dragon on Sep 10, 2016 - 17 comments

Dataism: Getting out of the 'job loop' and into the 'knowledge loop'

From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Sep 7, 2016 - 45 comments

Welcome to the ant farm

Workers trapped for years in "a hostile environment in total darkness." - Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker.
posted by Artw on Sep 3, 2016 - 56 comments

The mesa is a little darker today. Roger Tsien 1952-2016.

UCSD Chemistry Nobel laureate Roger Tsien dies. Amongst many other achievements, he is most well known as co-discoverer of Green Fluorescent Protein, which, as well as making headlines with glow-in-the dark rats, initiated a field that revolutionized biology and our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of disease and life itself. More reaction and links from In The Pipeline. [more inside]
posted by lalochezia on Sep 1, 2016 - 14 comments

Testing Nexus on 'NIMH' mice

Nanowire Mesh Monitors Mouse Brains - "Injectable 'neural lace'* brain-computer interface works in mice for months at a time." (via) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Aug 30, 2016 - 31 comments

Jellyfish are going to kill us all

A Tiny Jellyfish Relative Just Shut Down Yellowstone River [more inside]
posted by quaking fajita on Aug 29, 2016 - 23 comments

Long in the Tooth

"She was born during the reign of James I, was a youngster when René Descartes set out his rules of thought and the great fire of London raged, saw out her adolescent years as George II ascended the throne, reached adulthood around the time that the American revolution kicked off, and lived through two world wars. Living to an estimated age of nearly 400 years, a female Greenland shark has set a new record for longevity, scientists have revealed." [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Aug 11, 2016 - 32 comments

Cathedrals inside you

Vaults are large, barrel shaped protein complexes. Found in most eukaryotic cells, their exact function is currently unknown. [more inside]
posted by lucidium on Aug 1, 2016 - 17 comments

What if it's an egg sac of some sort?

Scientists fight crab for mysterious purple orb discovered in California deep. The E/V Nautilus team are working 5,000ft below sea off Santa Barbara, analysis has revealed a foot and proboscis, making it ‘a gastropod of some kind
posted by Lanark on Jul 30, 2016 - 56 comments

So, the unknowable kicks in

Logic hacking - "Writing shorter and shorter computer programs for which it's unknowable whether these programs run forever, or stop... the winner of the Busy Beaver Game for N-state Turing machines becomes unknowable using ordinary math - somewhere between N = 5 and N = 1919." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 30, 2016 - 17 comments

Twinkle, Twinkle, Vogel Staar: On Mozart's Feathered Collaborator

If you whistle a tune often enough to a starling, the bird will not only sing it back to you, it will improvise its response and create something new. On May 27, 1784, Mozart whistled a 17 note phrase to a starling in a Viennese shop and to his delight it spat the tune right back — but not without taking some liberties first. So he bought it and brought it home. That bird lived with him for the three most productive years of his life, during which he completed more than 60 compositions, including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The piano concerto as we still understand it was built in those rooms. The “Jupiter” Symphony began and Figaro ended. Melodies that two centuries of humans have since whistled could have first been volleyed between a genius and his pet bird.
posted by zarq on Jul 29, 2016 - 21 comments

Meet Luca, the Ancestor of All Living Things

Genes that do the same thing in a human and a mouse are generally related by common descent from an ancestral gene in the first mammal. So by comparing their sequence of DNA letters, genes can be arranged in evolutionary family trees, a property that enabled Dr. Martin and his colleagues to assign the six million genes to a much smaller number of gene families. Of these, only 355 met their criteria for having probably originated in Luca, the joint ancestor of bacteria and archaea.
Meet Luca, the Ancestor of All Living Things [more inside]
posted by y2karl on Jul 26, 2016 - 36 comments

"That was the eureka moment."

Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.
posted by komara on Jul 22, 2016 - 39 comments

Music is Just Organized Noise

Culture, not biology, decides the difference between music and noise. “Consonance seems like such a simple phenomenon, and in Western music there’s strong supposition that it’s biological... But this study suggests culture is more important than many people acknowledge.” Study originally published in Nature.
posted by Joey Michaels on Jul 15, 2016 - 74 comments

Ten Degrees Above Average

Alaska is Having Its Hottest Year Since Records Began - "After a spring that was a full ten degrees hotter than normal, the northern state is on track for the most sweltering year on record." (via) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jun 11, 2016 - 82 comments

Periodically cool

Return of the Cicadas is a short film by Samuel Orr about the insects' (surprisingly beautiful) 17-year lifespans. [more inside]
posted by Gymnopedist on Jun 3, 2016 - 18 comments

New mysteries. New day. Fresh doughnuts.

Let these chipper YouTube science vids fill you with existential terror. Popular YouTube education channels CGP Grey and Kurzgesagt teamed up to produce a pair of videos designed to cause you to question everything about your existence.
posted by Johnny Wallflower on Jun 3, 2016 - 24 comments

Sapiens 2.0: Homo Deus?

In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on May 24, 2016 - 23 comments

“...tapping and talking, browsing and clicking, scrolling and swiping.”

How Technology Is Changing Our Hands by Darian Leader [The Guardian] Doctors predict that our increasing use of computers and mobile phones will permanently alter our hands. What will this mean for the way we touch, feel and communicate? [more inside]
posted by Fizz on May 21, 2016 - 34 comments


Dictyostelium discoideum - dicty to its friends - has long been recognized as the world's most fascinating slime mold. A (previously) has a good introduction from a decade ago. You might be fascinated by their life cycle, which goes from individual cells, to animal-like slug, to plant-like fruiting body. You might be fascinated by their starvation-prompted altruism, in which most cells give up their lives so that a few can reproduce, and cheaters are punished. You might be fascinated by the way they farm and protect their crops. (Or maybe the farmed bacteria are farming them; it's hard to tell.) Or you might be fascinated by a brand new study about the DNA nets they use to trap and kill pathogens.
posted by clawsoon on May 17, 2016 - 17 comments

Audubon Made Up At Least 28 Fake Species To Prank A Rival

Rafinesque (previously) was not known for his social graces; as John Jeremiah Sullivan writes, Audubon is the "only person on record" as actually liking him. During their visit, though, Audubon fed Rafinesque descriptions of American creatures, including 11 species of fish that never really existed. Rafinesque duly jotted them down in his notebook and later proffered those descriptions as evidence of new species. For 50 or so years, those 11 fish remained in the scientific record as real species, despite their very unusual features, including bulletproof (!) scales. Turns out we missed another 17 species that Audubon threw in there for fun.
posted by sciatrix on May 13, 2016 - 34 comments

Why Do Taxonomists Write the Meanest Obituaries?

Rafinesque’s “absurd” botanical legacy, Gray wrote, amounted to little more than a “curious mass of nonsense.” Gray’s note wouldn’t be the last unkind obituary in the annals of taxonomy, nor would it be the worst. That’s because the rules dictating how taxonomists name and classify living things bind these scientists in a web of influence stretching far back into the 18th century. When an agent of chaos like Rafinesque enters the scene, that web can get sticky fast. In a field haunted by ghosts, someone has to reckon with the dead.
posted by sciatrix on Apr 27, 2016 - 4 comments


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology BirdCast: Bird Migration Forecasts in Real-Time. When, where, and how far will birds migrate? Our migration forecasts will answer these questions for the first time.
posted by not_on_display on Apr 26, 2016 - 2 comments

"you can't help but want to live in a world like that" - Matthew Kielty

The Raycat Solution is a 15 minute documentary by Benjamin Huguet about an idea proposed in 1981 by philosophers Françoise Bastide and Paolo Fabbri that by genetically engineering cats to be living Geiger counters, we could create a warning system for radioactive waste that would last at least ten thousand years. The idea languished for decades until Matthew Kielty did a feature on it for the 99% Invisible Podcast in 2014 [previously on MeFi]. Now biologist Kevin Chen is trying to bring the Ray Cat Solution to life.
posted by Kattullus on Apr 16, 2016 - 26 comments

a moment-by-moment decision not to escalate

Women do what they need to do to survive. "Emergencies so often don't look like emergencies as we're taught to understand them when we are children. Monsters don't look like the monsters we've been taught to avoid." [cw: rape] [more inside]
posted by amnesia and magnets on Apr 13, 2016 - 27 comments

If America Wants to Kill Science, It’s on Its Way

Science is desperate. It needs to believe itself honorable. It's threatened by the fact that it's not safe for so many of us. Period. It's just not safe.
- A. Hope Jahren, in an interview about women in science and advancement in plant biology.
posted by divabat on Apr 8, 2016 - 16 comments

A new role for an old protein

A newly discovered way for cells to die "Everything about this death process is different from apoptosis," he says. "It looks different under the microscope, it requires different genes, and it has different kinetics."
posted by Michele in California on Apr 8, 2016 - 9 comments

What what

The butthole is one of the finest innovations in the past 
540 million years of animal evolution. Why watching comb jellies poop has stunned evolutionary biologists.
posted by GuyZero on Mar 23, 2016 - 103 comments


The classification of Illinois's state fossil, the Tully monster, has been a mystery since its discovery in 1958. But now a team at Yale has determined that it is a vertebrate ancestor of the lamprey, after studying over a thousand fossils and noticing the presence of a notochord, among other distinctively vertebratey features. The (paywalled) Nature paper is here.
posted by theodolite on Mar 16, 2016 - 11 comments

Print is back in fashion

Transplantable human bone and cartilage made with 3D printer that creates a matrix in the desired shape and injects cells that can integrate with the patient's blood vessels on implant
posted by a lungful of dragon on Mar 8, 2016 - 11 comments

She wanted to do her research; he wanted to talk feelings.

Sexual harassment in science generally starts like this: A woman (she is a student, a technician, a professor) gets an email and notices that the subject line is a bit off: “I need to tell you,” or “my feelings.” The opening lines refer to the altered physical and mental state of the author: “It’s late and I can’t sleep” is a favorite, though “Maybe it’s the three glasses of cognac” is popular as well.
posted by sciatrix on Mar 7, 2016 - 171 comments

“The chilly environment for women may not be going away any time soon."

The Peer Perception Gap. The Washington Post describes a study in PLOS One which had a goal of identifying peer gender bias in the biology classroom: Men over-ranked their peers by three-quarters of a GPA point [...] In other words, if Johnny and Susie both had A's, they’d receive equal applause from female students — but Susie would register as a B student in the eyes of her male peers, and Johnny would look like a rock star.
posted by frumiousb on Feb 18, 2016 - 42 comments

The Elwha River Comes Roaring Back

Eighteen months after removal of the last chunks of two dams on Washington State's Elwha River, an event marked on Metafilter by this brilliant post by edeezy, the Seattle Times documents the remarkably fast recovery of the Elwha ecosystem, from headwaters to saltwater. Complete Seattle Times' Elwha coverage
posted by Rumple on Feb 13, 2016 - 10 comments

Taking race out of human genetics

In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome in the early 2000s, genome pioneers and social scientists alike called for an end to the use of race as a variable in genetic research. Unfortunately, by some measures, the use of race as a biological category has increased in the postgenomic age. Although inconsistent definition and use has been a chief problem with the race concept, it has historically been used as a taxonomic categorization based on common hereditary traits (such as skin color) to elucidate the relationship between our ancestry and our genes. We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way. - An editorial in Science exploring the conundrum facing genomic researchers where race is both fundamentally flawed as a scientific model and violently dangerous but still the only consistent lens through which study participants understand the information they have about their own connection to human diversity [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Feb 11, 2016 - 34 comments

No, not another story about the voting public

Kept in the dark for 60 years, fruit flies begin to reveal their genetic adaptations. In 1954, seven years after their cousins returned from space, a colony of fruit flies was plunged into a darkness which would continue through 1500 generations right up till the present day. The results of this study shed considerable light on the role of genetic variation in physical adaptation. Spoiler: [more inside]
posted by fairmettle on Feb 10, 2016 - 12 comments

A protruding strut of bone. A sticky-outy bit. A chin.

We're the only animals with chins, and no one knows why. "I always get entertaining emails from lay people trying to help me so let me thank you in advance for what I'm about to receive."
posted by Metroid Baby on Jan 29, 2016 - 73 comments

Sampling involves “at least 5 solid whacks” above a net

Adventures of a pine cone spider collector
posted by bismol on Jan 28, 2016 - 8 comments

Venus Flytraps Are Even Creepier Than We Thought

When it comes to digesting its prey, the plant is a calculating killer.
posted by ellieBOA on Jan 23, 2016 - 13 comments

Shin Kubota and The Jellyfish of Immortality

Vice Motherboard on the immortal jellyfish and Shin Kabota, the man who sings their praise. Shin Kubota music video.
posted by Foci for Analysis on Dec 26, 2015 - 3 comments

Goodnight, gorillas!

Sleepy gorillas make their nests in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. You can visit these gorillas by going on a virtual gorilla trek in Democratic Republic of Congo!
posted by ChuraChura on Dec 22, 2015 - 9 comments

Sometimes, a whale dies.

One of the most beautiful, amazing, and depressing things I’ve ever done is participate in a whale necropsy. This work helps us understand the patterns of whale mortality, and determine whether whale deaths are natural, or possibly man-made. This is important stuff. In fact, their work has helped guide changes in policy, especially when it comes to designing the shipping lanes that go into and out of San Francisco Bay. Their research helped establish new, longer, and narrower shipping lanes that reduced the chances of ships hitting, and often killing, whales. This work saved whales’ lives. [more inside]
posted by sciatrix on Dec 10, 2015 - 17 comments

What if Wayne Gretzky got hit by a bus before having kids?

Creatures avoiding planks - "After around a thousand generations of training, the agents became half decent at avoiding planks. Please see the final result in this demo." [more inside]
posted by a lungful of dragon on Dec 10, 2015 - 19 comments


Engrossing Portraits of Parasites and the Creatures They Zombify
posted by Artw on Dec 8, 2015 - 33 comments

Why Vaginas?

Sure, we may be a little weird compared to our close relatives for not having a baculum (penis bone), and maybe that's the sort of thing you want to explain for whatever reason, but does human penis size and shape need a uniquely human story? Assuming it's correlated to the vagina like it probably is in many other species, then no it doesn't... unless the size and shape of the human vagina has an exceptional story. Does it? We wouldn't know. [more inside]
posted by sciatrix on Nov 25, 2015 - 46 comments


Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Nov 16, 2015 - 69 comments

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