Some Wrinkles in Time

Today is another milestone for the E. coli long-term evolution experiment—the LTEE, for short. I did the 10,000th daily transfer today at about noon. [Yours truly, doing the 10,000th LTEE transfers. Technician Neerja Hajela is keeping a close eye on me, and with good reason. Photo by Thomas LaBar.] Some of you will remember we …

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Asking for a Skeptic Friend

I sometimes get email from people asking, in one way or another, whether our long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) with E. coli provides evidence of evolution writ large – new species, new information, or something of that sort. I try to answer these questions by providing some examples of what we’ve seen change, and by putting …

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Privilege

At my 60th birthday party this summer, I made a few remarks about how fortunate I have been in my life: Born to parents who nurtured me. Born into a nation that values life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Born at a time and in a part of the world where science and public health greatly …

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Privilege

At my 60th birthday party this summer, I made a few remarks about how fortunate I have been in my life: Born to parents who nurtured me. Born into a nation that values life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Born at a time and in a part of the world where science and public health greatly …

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A Birthday Sonnet

This past weekend, I celebrated my 60th birthday with friends and family from all over. One of the roasters was Ben “The Bard” Kerr, a professor at the University of Washington and colleague in the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. Borrowing from another bard, Ben waxed poetic about one of the …

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Another Birthday Haiku

As I said in my last post, I just celebrated my 60th birthday with lots of friends and family. Several folks produced new artistic works, including two lovely haikus that celebrate the E. coli long-term evolution experiment. Here’s one from Mike Wiser, who did his doctoral research on the long-term lines. A highlight of his …

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Birthday Haiku

This past weekend I had my 60th birthday. I was delighted to celebrate it with wonderful colleagues, students, friends, and family. At a dinner roast and toast, everyone sang When We’re Sixty Four (Thousand), a tribute from the E. coli in the LTEE to the People of the Lab. And several friends came up with …

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A Blast from the Past

Sometimes you need a thick skin to be a scientist or scholar. Almost everyone, it seems, has encountered a reviewer who didn’t bother to read what you wrote or badly misunderstood what you said. In other cases, you realize on reflection that a reviewer’s criticisms, although annoying and even painful at first, are justified in …

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Bacterial Niche Finally Defined

The following scholarly contribution comes from my wife Madeleine Lenski after conversing with her “sister” (my former postdoc) Valeria Souza. For those with an itch for criteria, Scratch this: What’s a niche for bacteria? Don’t take me to task If I answer “a flask” – It’s a bitch from warm broth to Siberia. Tweet

A Life Well Lived

My father died peacefully at his home near Seattle this morning, before dawn, at 91 years of age. Gerhard Emmanuel Lenski, Jr. was born (1924) and raised in Washington, DC. His father went by Gerhard, and my father went by “Gerry” (pronounced like Gary) his whole life. My father did his undergraduate and graduate studies …

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Erdös with a non-kosher side of Bacon

Paul Erdös was a prolific and important mathematician. He also had hundreds of collaborators from around the world who coauthored papers with him. Years ago, Casper Goffman explained an idea, called the Erdös number, that describes the “collaborative distance” between Erdös and someone else, where that distance is defined by the smallest number of steps based …

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A Wild Weekend

My wife Madeleine and I had a wild Memorial-day weekend. Late Saturday afternoon, a dog found a baby squirrel, perhaps 5 or 6 weeks old, and chased it through our fence. The poor squirrel appeared to be in shock—its back was wet; it had probably been mouthed by the dog—but otherwise unharmed. We tried putting …

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Tiny Things that Live in Little Bottles

As I mentioned in my previous post, it can be a fun challenge to explain your scientific research to people who aren’t scientists. A week or so ago I came across a website that challenges you to explain something complicated using only the thousand most commonly used words. So here’s my effort about our long-term evolution experiment with E. …

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Thirty Years

No, the LTEE did not suddenly jump forward by almost 3 years. That milestone will be reached on February 24, 2018. Next Friday is the end of the semester at MSU and, for me, it will mark 30 years that I’ve been on the faculty: six at UC-Irvine, and 24 here at MSU. (I also taught …

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Favorite Examples of Evolution

When the cold bites, When the review stings, When the news is sad, I simply remember these evolving things, And then I don’t feel so bad! — with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein Over on Twitter, the biology students from George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, Florida, asked me and many others: “What’s your favorite example of evolution?” …

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Funding the LTEE—past, present, and future: Questions from Jeremy Fox about the LTEE, part 4

This is the 4th installment in my responses to Jeremy Fox’s questions about the long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) with E. coli. This response addresses his 5th and 6th questions, which are copied below.  ~~~~~ How have you maintained funding for the LTEE over the years, and how hard has it been? The difficulty of sustaining funding for long term work …

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Science Communication: Where Does the Problem Lie?

When concerns arise about the public’s understanding of science—say, on the efficacy of vaccines vs. their risks—I see many articles, tweets, etc., bemoaning poor scientific communication. Communication involves multiple parties and several steps. The science must be published, discussed widely, explained openly, and eventually stated in terms that non-specialists can understand. It also must be …

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Putting GMOs on a Tight Leash

Two papers appeared in the latest issue of Nature—one from Farren Isaacs’ group and the other from George Church and colleagues—that presented, developed, and demonstrated a strategy for limiting the spread of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in the event that they are accidentally released or deliberately applied to the environment. My Involvement with GMO Discussions in …

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Infectiously Fun Science

Science is sometimes frustrating. The work is often repetitive and even tedious. It can be hard to explain to our friends and families—and sometimes even to peers—what we’re doing and why we think it’s important and interesting. The current state of the academic job market is terrible. But science is also often fun. There’s the joy …

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Eppur Si Muove

Over the break, I watched a couple of episodes of The West Wing including one about political attacks on science called Eppur Si Muove. It reminded me – a lot – of an experience that I had 20 years ago, back in 1995. As in that episode, I received a phone call while at work that began …

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Valuing Nature

Carl Zimmer has written an excellent piece in the New York Times about a very important study by Robert Costanza et al. on “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services” – in other words, how to place economic value on some of the critical functions that nature provides us for free, and how to quantify the …

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Wonderful Life Times Two

No, I’m not talking about the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart, and the eponymous book Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould that presented the case for the role of contingency in the evolution of life. Rather, I’m celebrating a wonderful end to the week and a wonderful weekend, too. Last week, we submitted …

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On Time and Space

The long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) began in 1988, and the E. coli populations are approaching 60,000 generations.  That’s a long time for an experiment, and I hope it continues for much, much longer. But when I give talks about the LTEE, I also try to remind people that 26 years is only a drop in …

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