Brown Bag Lunch Recaps

Mind the (Canopy) Gap: Recap of a Talk by Dr. Julia Burton

[Photo by Aaron Carlson via CC 2.0]  The Talk: Can silvicultural practices be leveraged to maintain diversity in understory plant communities? In Plain English: How does cutting down trees affect plant life on the ground? The Speaker: Julia Burton of Utah State University The Sponsor: USU College of Natural Resources What It Covered: Julia Burton …

Why DNA is like a phone cable (Recap of a Talk by Prof. Jacqueline Barton)

[Computer rendering of DNA. Via Caroline Davis2010 on Flickr & CC 2.0]  The Talk: “DNA-mediated Signaling with Metalloproteins” In Plain English: DNA can conduct electricity–like metal wire–and that helps the cell life The Speaker: Jacqueline Barton of Caltech The Sponsor: MIT Inorganic Chemistry (invited by the grad students) What It Covered: When Jacqueline Barton’s lab …

Expectations vs. Reality: More Key Questions on Molecularization of Identity

[Above: Rendering of DNA–aka “what most people think about when they hear ‘molecular identity’”–via ynse on Flickr & Creative Commons.  Below: What scientists actually look at when they’re trying to sort out molecular identities. By Micah Baldwin via Flickr & Creative Commons] Two posts and two weeks later, I’ve only covered a fraction of the …

Hybrid Problems: Chimerism, Synthetic Life, and Mixed Heritage

[A hybrid orchid. Photo by Mark Freeth.]  [“Molecularization of Identity” Workshop Recap, Part 2] Genomes of indigenous people, which often include genes found nowhere else in the world, can be powerful symbols for nations that want to showcase their uniqueness.  But when the Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Medicina Genómica  (INMEGEN)  set out to find examples …

“Perceive. Identify. Regulate.” How to be Racist with 21st Century Science

[Image via Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary & Creative Commons] [“Molecularization of Identity” Workshop Recap, Part 1] The diagram of racism was shockingly simple: four highlighted brain regions with black arrows between them, forming an almost-isosceles triangle. [Diagram by Elizabeth Phelps’ group at NYU via The Brain Bank blog] Perception. Identification. Regulation.  Those are the …

Oceans in the Anthropocene: Forever changed but still awesome [Recap of talk ft. Jeremy Jackson]

The Talk: Uncharted Waters: Novel Ecosystems in the Marine Environment (part of the Ecological Systems in the Anthropocene series) In Plain English: Humans have messed up the ocean, so Harvard asks marine biologists, “What are you excited about?!” The Speaker(s): Mary O’Connor of University of British Columbia, Jeremy Jackson of Scripps Institute for Oceanography, Trevor …

Gaia Theory, “Irresponsible Heroes”, & Why We’re Like Cyanobacteria- Recap of talk by Dr. Andrew Knoll & Dr. David Grinspoon

The Talk: “Planetary Changes from Deep Time to the 4th Kind” In Plain English: Life doesn’t just adapt to geochemical features; it transforms them simply by…living. The Speaker: Andrew Knoll of Harvard and David Grinspoon of the Planetary Science Institute The Sponsor: Planet and Life Series, sponsored by MIT Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences dept. …

Top 23 One-Liners from a Panel Discussion that Gave Me a Crazy Idea

This past Saturday, I got to listen in on an all-star panel sponsored by the Future of Life Institute on the potential risks and benefits of technologies like artificial intelligence, personal genetics, and automated factories. We heard from George Church, one of the world’s best-known synthetic biologists, on the future of bioengineering; Ting Wu, director …