Steve Cook

Nerd of this parish.

Most commented posts

  1. Educational RCTs — 17 comments
  2. The Michaelis-Menten model is not applicable to most enzymes in a cell — 6 comments
  3. Modular origami — 6 comments
  4. The magnolia misunderstanding — 5 comments
  5. A brief history of rubbish — 5 comments

Author's posts

Far from the light of day, and somewhere near Hampstead

Paddock door with fungus [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Paddock is the codename of a bunker that was built in the late 1930s as a back-up for the better known Cabinet War Rooms located in Whitehall. The bunker was abandoned at the end of the war, and was only used intermittently after that by the Post Office, whose Research Station sat atop it. In 1998, the surface site and the bunker were sold off, …

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A brief history of rubbish

Contents of the human genome [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

In 1972, the geneticist Susumu Ohno coined the term “junk DNA” to explain why the genomes of closely related organisms vary so much in size: The mammalian genome […] contains roughly […] 3.0 × 109 base pairs. This is at least 750 times the genome size of E. coli. If we take the simplistic assumption that …

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Beautiful butterworts

Pinguicula moranesis glands [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]: microscopic stalked glands covering the leaf surface secrete mucilage

A recent hike in Königssee to see Germany’s highest waterfall was a little underwhelming but the hydrological shortcomings were entirely forgotten when I spotted this beauty growing in a crevice above the lake: Butterworts are amongst my favourite carnivorous plants: their murderous ways are so delicately concealed. Who would suspect such a pretty bank of flowers to be a veritable morgue …

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Farewell Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal [Carl van Vechten 1948]

There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise Being an avowed atheist, a form of words appropriate to death has always eluded me: “rest in peace” has always seemed inappropriate, implying – as it does – that something is left after death that could be at rest or …

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The magnolia misunderstanding

Angiosperm phylogeny stressing magnoliids [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]: thistle appears as an outgroup to the ((magnolia,bay),(pepper,birthwort)) clade

T. Ryan Gregory has a great post at Genomicron on the ‘Platypus Fallacy’. He imagines a platypus professor explaining the wonders of the Human Genome Project to a group of student platypodes: “The lineage of which humans are a part is a very ancient offshoot of our mammalian family tree, so it was 166 million …

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Why living fossils need to die

Blue-tit feeding at bird-feeder, London 2012 [cc-by-sa-3.0 Steve Cook]

I’m the proud owner of a Madagascan cycad. He or she (I won’t know until s/he gets older) gets an annual decking with baubles at Christmas, but spends most of the rest of the year getting in the way of the television. Cycads look a lot like palms, but rather than producing flowers and fruits, they make cones …

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Community payback for undergrads

Brocchinia reducta, Hampton Court flower show 2003 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Two acquaintances of mine, both teachers of one kind or another, tell me that they no longer feel comfortable steering students away from Wikipedia, because they can no longer maintain the prim pretence that they themselves aren’t consulting it on a daily basis. I’ve long appreciated Wikipedia for its convenience; and been amused by its unforgivable mis-prioritisation. On the other hand, I’ve been …

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Version 2

Utricularia (Polypompholyx) mutifida [CC-BY-SA-2.0 h3_six@flickr]

Several years ago, I pulled my old website, as it had become a compost-heap of reformatted lecture notes that I no longer had time to maintain, and which Wikipedia had rendered redundant in any case. The pleasures of writing HTML by hand had begun to pall, and the hand-rolled CGI guestbook made even a coding …

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