How The Black Death Caused Medieval Women To Shrink

The Black Death (the OG “plague”) killed a large proportion of the population of Europe in the 14th century (30%!). But even after it had run it’s course it left long lasting and interesting effects on the population left behind.

People were on average healthier after the Black Death passed through. And for some reason, women were smaller. What’s interesting is these two factors might be correlated.

What does being healthier have to do with being shorter? Read about it here!





NASA Twins Study spots thousands of genes toggling on and off in Scott Kelly

When astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth after a year floating about the International Space Station, he was noticeably different from his identical twin, Mark Kelly. For one, Scott temporarily grew two inches taller, but what really fascinated people were the change in his genes. “There are over 50,000 genes in the human genome, and when floating in zero gravity, the body is trying to manage that situation in new ways,” Chris Mason, one of the principal investigators of the Twins Study and a geneticist at Weill Cornell Medicine, told PBS NewsHour. “Both DNA and RNA were found to express genes in order to compensate for a lifestyle in space.”

Which is really cool, and really important for long periods of space flight. Say, for example, to Mars…

Read about it hereImage result for Scott and Mark Kelly


Revisiting Gattaca in the Era of Trump

I have written exhaustively about CRISPR-Cas technology, and its potential to change science and the world as we know it.

But with this change in science as we know it, we’re faced with some pretty important ethical questions (also not the first time I’ve talked about this on NiB). However, what is new is this excellent post by Osagie K. Obasogie, who researches ethical issues surrounding reproductive and genetic technologies.

He addresses how the Trump administration, and the rise of white nationalism is concerning with the new CRISPR possibilities. It’s not like we haven’t experienced scientific projects trying to engineer better humans, one only needs to remember the aftermath of the Holocaust and the public Nuremburg trials.

It’s an interesting line of thought to walk down, and I strongly recommend reading the piece here.


Where bacteria hides

It’s fascinating how terrible we are at long term combating human pathogens. It’s kind of like wack-a-mole, when one route is eliminated another springs right up.

On one hand, this is obviously a plug that we need more money dedicated to scientific research.

But on the other, it’s really just interesting! Take Gonorrhea for example. Or better yet, read about where Gonorrhea is hiding these days


CRISPR just got really real

The great things about CRISPR is its potential do all kinds of interesting things! The scary part about CRISPR is its ability to mutate human embryos and the slippery slope to designer babies. That last part might be an exaggeration… but given that scientists just removed a dangerous mutation from human embryos…. its not too far off.

You can read about it all over the place, but I particularly like this NY Times article.


Embryos before and after editing.

HPV vaccine is reducing the rate of cancer

Ok, that’s a bit of a careless title. I’ll admit it. There’s only correlation, not causation.

But ten years ago the HPV vaccine was introduced in Australia, and then rapidly in 130 other countries. Since then the number of cases of cervical cancer have been halved.

Want to know more? Read about it here.



Fear can drive people to believe the unbelievable

I had an argument with a colleague the other day about engaging people who disagree with you. She said why bother when people aren’t going to change their minds?

I’ve posted a lot about science communication, and being a voice of science and reason in the face of ignorance and fear. Even if it’s aggravating, even if it’s annoying, even if it’s frustrating, if scientist don’t engage than all people are hearing is the fear.

And this article speaks to that fear really really well. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child and fear for their autism, but hearing this perspective makes me even more resolved to keep talking.

So if anyone needs me, I’ll be engaging people on the internet (the wine helps).