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Science

A Walk on the Wild Side at Tufts Veterinary School

On a blustery day in mid-December, TWiV co-host Vincent Racaniello and I, along with friend-of-the-show Islam Hussein, visited the picturesque campus of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, MA. Our primary job there was to record an episode of TWiV in front of a live audience, featuring Tufts researcher Jon Runstadler and […]

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Mastering the MeSH

When I was a graduate student at Columbia University, I had the extraordinary privilege of working in the same building as one of the world’s greatest medical research libraries. When I saw a reference to a paper I wanted to read, I could usually lay my hands on a copy of it within minutes, no […]

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Science

A Fair Few Flu Cases

Since at least 1918, when the “Spanish Flu” swept across the world, leaving a trail of corpses in its wake, Americans have blamed influenza outbreaks on other countries. These days we like to point fingers eastward, invoking images of ancient agricultural practices and chaotic live animal markets in China and Southeast Asia. With a whiff […]

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75 Years of Molecular Biology

In the November 1943 issue of the journal *Genetics*, Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück settled a long-running but arcane debate among bacteriologists. The original paper is freely downloadable, and is an amazing document to read today. There’s a delightful innocence in the simplicity of the experimental design, the lengthy explication of the theory behind the […]

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Science

What The Heck Is This ‘Polio-Like’ Disease?

Most people have by now seen the news about a mysterious “polio-like” illness paralyzing children across the US. To date, the CDC has confirmed 62 cases of the condition, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), in 22 states since August. Another 65 people are suspected to have it, but haven’t had the diagnosis officially confirmed yet. […]

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Science

Oral Presentations and the Bandwidth Illusion

Which contains more information: a five-minute video or a five-page document? As anyone who’s had to pay for excess cellular bandwidth knows, the video contains far more raw data than the text file. That doesn’t mean it has more information, though. What if the video shows someone reading a Dr. Seuss book aloud? Most of […]

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Science

Bioepiphanies

The first time it happened was a hot August day in Maryland, the kind where the nicotine-saturated air inside the tiny, heavily air-conditioned house seemed to vie with the humidity and traffic haze outside, each competing to be more noxious than the other. Late in the afternoon, as I left for my night shift summer […]

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Science

The Galàpagos Islands

For a modern reader, the most surprising thing about the Galàpagos Islands chapter in Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle is probably its brevity. Darwin describes the apparently recent volcanic origin of the place, runs through a quick list of its notable species, includes a figure of some finches’ beaks, and then departs for Tahiti. […]