May 2016 archive

Organism of the week #31 – Tardigrades

Tardigrades [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Tardigrades make me squee. These little relatives of the arthropods and velvet-worms are found in the water around mosses, and they are quite easy to find if you have a cheap microscope and a little patience. Like spiders, they have eight legs, but unlike the legs of a spider, they’re plump and stumpy, and end in the little ‘fingers’ …

Continue reading

Organism of the week #30 – Sticky situation

Passiflora foetida flower [CC-BY-3.0 Alex Lomas]

All science is either physics or stamp-collecting. This rather mean-spirited dismissal of chemistry and biology as “stamp-collecting” is attributed to Ernest Rutherford, the physicist usually (not wholly fairly) credited with discovering the atomic nucleus and the proton. Shortly after Rutherford’s death in 1937, particle physicists discovered the muon, pi mesons, kaons, the electron neutrino, the anti-proton, the lambda baryon, xi cascades, and …

Continue reading

Adaptations evolve in populations

Pisum sativum (white) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Rasbak]

Organisms evolve adaptations to increase their fitness There are few ideas in science that explain as much of the natural world as does natural selection, but there are few ideas in science that are more frequently misunderstood. Often the misunderstandings are deliberate or disingenuous, but I’ve seen quotes like the one above even in undergraduate essays and …

Continue reading