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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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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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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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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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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. […]