Of Schemes and Memes Blog

The Best of Nature Network: 21-27 August 2010


Eva Amsen is impressed to learn that bacteria sourced from a British cliff were able to survive a year and a half’s exposure to outer space. But she’s strikes a note of caution:

Well, that’s nice. But I also find it a bit worrying. If space is treated as a giant petri dish – which it was for this particular experiment – shouldn’t we be more concerned about the fact that we’re contaminating the very system that’s being studied? Were the bacteria well-contained? Who says there aren’t now some British sea cliff bugs propagating on a meteorite on a collision course to Mars?

Back down to Earth, or rather, the oceans, and Chris Surridge discovers a novel new technique for collecting dolphin DNA:

They trained six bottlenose dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland to blow on demand into a sample tube. But I’m not talking about exhaling through their mouths. Nope, they blew through their blow holes, the characteristic structure on the top of the heads of dolphins, whales and porpoises through which they so dramatically vent when at the water’s surface. The researchers looked for both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA in this cetacean snot and showed that the sequences produced were identical to the sequences obtained from blood samples from each individual dolphin.

On the publishing front, Stephen Moss starts a discussion on whether getting papers in top journals really is a guarantor of finding a good job, and Richard Grant criticises open access purists, drawing on his own experiences at Faculty of 1000. Meanwhile, bookish Stephen Curry reviews Ian Sample’s Massive: the Hunt for the God Particle and Tom Webb uses the book The Drunkard’s Walk to springboard into thoughts on luck, chance, correlation and causation.

Jennifer Rohn gets some new lab kit, Frank Norman gets some new iKit, Cobi Smith finds that new kit is not enough, Noah Gray provides a recipe for bad neuroscience reporting, and living-dead philosopher Jeremy Bentham muses on a threatened Russian gene bank.

Science Maps

Just a reminder that we’ve been inviting scientists around the world to map the scientific highlights of their cities in Google Maps. So far, we’ve curated maps of London, San Francisco, Münster and Malta, with more in the pipeline including New York, Boston, Cambridge, Canberra and Hong Kong. If you’d like to take part, and map your own city, please email Matt Brown (i.am.mattbrown – at – gmail.com) for details, and read our guide to making maps.

Science Online London

We’re very excited about the now sold-out Science Online London conference next Friday and Saturday. If you’re attending, don’t forget to sign up for the various fringe events, which include a choice between visiting the Diamond Light Source Synchrotron or a pub tour on Thursday evening. Hope to see you there!

And Finally…

Kausik Datta discovers a new source of science cartoons, vadio.com


  1. Report this comment

    Stephen Moss said:

    Correction required – It’s ‘Steve Moss’, not Chris Moss. Thanks.

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