Berfrois

Armed, Not Tentacled

Armed, Not Tentacled

In 1815, 15 years before he made his most famous print, The Great Wave, Hokusai published three volumes of erotic art. In one of them there is a woodcut print known in English as ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’...

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R. Ford Denison: Nature’s Lies

R. Ford Denison: Nature’s Lies

Most evolutionary biologists tell us that natural selection is much better at improving trees than forests. This is especially true when the interests of individuals conflict with those of the community as a whole. A more diverse forest might be less susceptible to disease outbreaks, but that won't stop...

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“O that was strong poison”

“O that was strong poison”

by Deborah Blum When people ask why I would choose to write a book about poisons (The Poisoner’s Handbook) I usually start with my brief stint as a chemistry major, my continuing affection for using poisons as a way to think about our chemical planet. But I always end...

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Pattern of the Modal Scientific Miscreant

Pattern of the Modal Scientific Miscreant

From The Nation: In the summer of 2007, while the scientist Marc Hauser was in Australia, Harvard University authorities entered his lab on the tenth floor of William James Hall, seizing computers, videotapes, unpublished manuscripts and notes. Hauser, then 47, was a professor of psychology, organismic and evolutionary biology,...

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High on the Scoville Scale

High on the Scoville Scale

#occupyucdavis, photograph by California Aggie by Deborah Blum One hundred years ago, an American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale – as you can see on the widely used chart below – puts sweet bell peppers at the zero...

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Reverse Evolution

Reverse Evolution

From Jurassic Park, Universal Pictures, 1993 From Wired: People have told Jack Horner he’s crazy before, but he has always turned out to be right. In 1982, on the strength of seven years of undergraduate study, a stint in the Marines, and a gig as a paleontology researcher at...

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donetimeofthewidowitgotaghost

donetimeofthewidowitgotaghost

From Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, illustration by Samuel Clemens From American Scientist: Perception entails not just sensing the world but also making sense of it. When you listen to orchestral music, you hear oboes, violins, timpani and so on, each playing distinct notes. But the sound...

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Order Primates, Order

Order Primates, Order

From At the Zoo, Ryan Anderson, 2001-2006 by Nicolas Ellwanger For many years now, I have spent hours describing to friends and family members why I study primates and why it fits within the field of anthropology. Unfortunately, primatologists have the unenviable task of more eloquently answering the same...

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Mighty Morphing Cephalopods

Mighty Morphing Cephalopods

by Justin E. H. Smith Jaron Lanier, of virtual-reality fame, was permitted to hold forth a few years ago in a Discover blog space on the topic of ‘morphing’ in molluscs. The result is messy: Lanier introduces the analogy between cephalopod intelligence and extraterrestrial intelligence three times, each time...

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Big Pharma started modestly, before brazenly finding ways to pervert editorial content…

Big Pharma started modestly, before brazenly finding ways to pervert editorial content…

From Life and Health, illustration by Phil Kirkland,  1972 From The American Scholar: “Drug Makers Cut Out Goodies for Doctors” and “Drugmakers Pulling Plug on Free Pens, Mugs & Pads” read headlines in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal Health Blog at the end of 2008 after, in...

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The fallacy of difference is a fallacy of science but how is it also a fallacy of art?

The fallacy of difference is a fallacy of science but how is it also a fallacy of art?

by Julia Galef It’s not often that you find something that’s a fallacy both logically and creatively — that is, a fallacy to which both researchers and artists are susceptible. Perhaps you’re tempted to tell me I’m committing a category mistake, that artistic fields like fiction and architecture aren’t...

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Nicholas Coghlan sails with Darwin’s ghost

Nicholas Coghlan sails with Darwin’s ghost

Bosun Bird at anchor at the foot of Monte Darwin, in the Northwest Arm of the Beagle Channel by Nicholas Coghlan It was the late seventies and I had just graduated from University in Britain. The economy was depressed, the country was strike-bound and rainy. On the spur of the moment...

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