• Sins of Sinclair

    A scathing review of Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by Sinclair and LaPlante (2019). While age reversal is an old grift, the latest version has reached new heights of feigned legitimacy and hype. all vertebrate animal species have a distribution of natural lifespans that are limited by their gene sets… Long-lived species like humans also provide a substantial investment in caretaking of offspring… advantages conferred to youth by parents mean that genetic selections for parental health are extant in caretaking species. Such genetic selections for post-reproductive health are not extant in non-caretaking species…

  • Rough Phage in the Diet

    Over the years, I have heard several variants of the Brenner/Zinder story. To summarize, Norton Zinder isolated the f2 phage which contains an RNA genome. Bearing in mind how little was known in 1960, when Zinder isolated bacteriophage f2; the discovery of RNA phages had great potential for use in the study of fundamental molecular processes, such as protein synthesis, including its initiation and termination. Clearly, there were good reasons why molecular biologists of the day, including Brenner, wanted to obtain their own samples of f2 phage. So, as the legend goes, Brenner, among others, requested a sample of

  • Random old COVID links

    Cleaning up my computer, and tidying up old COVID-related links that I had saved.

  • Climbing Mount Irascible

    If the scientific autobiography belongs to “a most awkward literary genre,” the scientific book review must belong to a decidedly tedious one. And Erwin Chargaff’s review of Watson’s The Double Helix is the exception that proves the rule. In 1968, Gunther Stent (a contemporary of Jim Watson and a fellow member of the Phage Group) wrote a review called What they are saying about Honest Jim in the Quarterly Review of Biology (Vol. 43-2, 1968) (DOI: This piece was what one might call a meta-review – a “review of the reviewers” – where Stent turns over (at times

  • Links and Thinks 2021-12-13

    1) Dan Graur searches for the origin of the term “junk DNA.” We remember Charles Darwin, not because he discovered natural selection (and sexual selection) or because he was the first to propose that adaptive evolution is due to selection. Others, e.g., William Charles Wells, Patrick Matthew, James Cowles Prichard, William Lawrence, and John Sebright, may (or may not) have recognized evolution by natural selection long before him. It was Darwin, however, who staked his reputation on what was considered at the time a grave heresy. It is, of course, interesting that Hunt, Brenner, De Haller,

  • A Lamentation of Poop

    I teach a capstone course for biology upperclassmen where, in a couple of lectures, we cover the subject of bullshit. So I purchased a copy of Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West’s book Calling Bullshit – the art of skepticism in a data-driven world which just arrived. I haven’t read it yet, but I thought this might be a good opportunity to do a quick (noncomprehensive) survey of the literature out there on the topic. 1) Clearly, one of the most influential pieces is the philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s essay On Bullshit. In the essay, he makes the distinction

  • To Read: Sunday, September 5, 2021

    1) India’s DNA COVID vaccine is a world first – more are coming Opinion 2) We Studied One Million Students. This Is What We Learned About Masking. 3) More than 50 long-term effects of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis | Scientific Reports 4) Public human microbiome data dominated by highly developed countries | bioRxiv 5) An Irrational Party of Rational Members: The Collision of Legislators’ Reelection Quest With Party Success in the Japan Socialist Party – Ko Maeda, 2012

  • Erwin Chargaff – a life ratioed

    In the short but eventful history of molecular biology, Erwin Chargaff must rank as one of the most interesting and one of the most tragic. I also feel that he is long overdue for – if not a reassessment – than at least a re-appreciation. Chargaff is best known for what are now called the “Chargaff Rules,” the observation that in DNA: 1) A + G = C + T (i.e. the sum of the purines equals the sum of the pyrimidines) 2) the molar ratio of adenine to thymine = 1 3) the molar ratio of guanine

  • What I don’t understand about the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

    “DNA makes RNA makes protein makes money” While it is true that, in general, scientists have not much time for history – or to put it another way: Nor do I suggest that the history of science may not be profoundly interesting as history. What I am saying is that it does not often interest the scientist as science. PB Medowar (New York Review of Books, March 28, 1968, pp 3-5) But if there is a “historical” book (and I use the term “historical” cavalierly) that every scientist has read –

  • Links and Thinks 2021-07-23

    1) New study says Fox News is responsible for low vaccine rates Apparently, they controlled for confounding factors, and there was still a causal association between Fox-watching and vaccination compliance. 2) Why bad science is sometimes more appealing than good science The authors of the citation study theorize that reviewers and editors apply lower standards to “showy” or dramatic papers than to those that incrementally advance the field and that highly interesting papers attract more attention, discussion and citations. In other words, there is a bias in favor of novelty.