Genitals are the fastest-evolving organs in the animal kingdom. Here’s why:

Genitals are weirdly shaped, which is strange. They only really NEED to be a pipette like device to inject sperm into a cup like device. But what we see in nature is way more complicated and bizarre. The reason? “They’re the result of a furious evolutionary tango of sex, that has been going on of millions of years.” Check out this cool video from TED-Ed to marvel at how odd genitalia are:

The Immortal Life of HeLa Cells

The problem with research on humans is that everyone wants it, but no one wants to be the guinea pig. Enter cell lines! The problem is that most human cells don’t survive in the lab. In fact, prior to HeLa cells, all cells died within 24 hours or so.

The excellent book by Rebecca Skloot The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, details how the HeLa line came into being, and raises the questions if she should have had consent over what was done with the cells from her tumor. And while I think that it’s misleading to say “Henrietta lived on through her cells” (hence the title of this post), it is worth considering the bioethical quandaries that have resulted from the HeLa lines, and other potential cell lines.

And the new Oprah movie, these questions are likely to be raised again soon.

Read about it here!

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Thanks for Marching

I am not sure how to measure the success of protests, but the March for Science was unquestionably heard around the world. People Marched in 600 locations around the globe to stand up for scientific research in the face of the US President being an unabashedly against science funding/communication/reality. So to celebrate scientist and science enthusiasts standing together, I have collected a few of my favorite videos. Or read more about the march here.

March of the Penguins for Science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

The Underwater March for Science at Wake Island:

And a video summarizing some great signs from the March for Science on Washington DC.

And just remember, this is only the first 100 days. Curbing the potential damage this administration can have on the planet will require staying vigilant for the next 4 years. As Aminatou Sow said during the women’s march “I can do this every week”. Bring it.

Arguments against anti-science arguments

In the best titled blog post ever “Scientists aren’t Stupid, and Science Deniers are Arrogant” the anonymous author Fallacy Man openly confesses:

“Debating those who reject scientific facts has been a hobby of mine for several years now. It’s not a very rewarding hobby, and it comes with high stress levels and periodic fits of rage, so I don’t particularly recommend it.”

This in and of itself would make me love this post. But he then goes on to talk about how the biggest problem with science deniers is their arrogance. They genuinely believe that they know more than people who have years, and sometimes decades of experience studying science. While this makes my blood boil, the more important part of post for me was an outline of different arguments that science deniers have made, and good peer-reviewed sources to respond. 

Read it here!

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Science for the People

The March for Science has gained scorn, ridicule, and enthusiasm since the inauguration. Confused? Concerned? Want to help anyway?

Check out Science for the People, a new organization who’s primary goal is :

  • Growing an international organization of STEM workers, educators, and activists who work to serve the people — ­especially in poor, oppressed, and marginalized communities

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They give an excellent overview of the controversy and go into lots of interesting detail about the march, and what their goals are specifically.

 

The Ethical Quandaries of Synthetic Embryos

The breakneck speed of scientific research is resulting in a pile of unaddressed ethical questions.

For example: scientists have moved beyond invitro fertilization to assemble stem cells into embryolike structures. While this may be innocent at the moment, it’s a short walk tissues and organs and eventually take on the features of a mature human being.

All of a sudden ethicists are talking about “synthetic human entities with embryolike features”. It’s a slippery slope.

Read Carl Zimmer’s piece over at the Times for more.

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Why science is important to everyday citizens?

Since the election, I have found myself wondering fairly frequently “What is the role of a government?” Answering this question will lead to the ability to answer other questions, like should we fund healthcare/unemployment/social safety net, and should we fund science?  I’ve mentioned before, that because scientific advances are often not immediately profitable, but rather, scientific discoveries now can lead to changes that we all use in the future. Knowledge is great! And addressing the problem of fear of/disbelief of science is going to really hurt us, now and down the road.

SAY IT NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON!