Step Acuity

Please help me with a little science experiment. Measure your Step Acuity (SA) and report it here. Your SA is the number of steps before you hit a mark that you know whether you will hit the mark with your right or left foot. As you are walking down the street, choose a mark (a …

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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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Heroes

Heroes play a crucial role by showing us what we, individually and collectively, can accomplish and demonstrating that we can do great things despite long odds. Heroes play a crucial role by showing us what we, individually and collectively, can accomplish and demonstrating that we can do great things despite long odds. For many Americans …

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Ratchets Within Rachets

For those interested in political philosophy, or Trump’s travel ban, I recommend this discussion on Scott Aaronson’s blog, which features a commenter calling himself Boldmug (see also Bannon and Moldbug in the news recently ;-) Both Scott and Boldmug seem to agree that scientific/technological progress is a positive ratchet caught within a negative ratchet of societal and …

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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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Baby Universes in the Laboratory

This was on the new books table at our local bookstore. I had almost forgotten about doing an interview and corresponding with the author some time ago. See also here and here. The book is a well-written overview of some of the more theoretical aspects of inflationary cosmology, the big bang, the multiverse, etc. It also …

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Oppenheimer on Bohr (1964 UCLA)

Oppenheimer on Bohr (1964 UCLA) I came across this 1964 UCLA talk by Oppenheimer, on his hero Niels Bohr. Oppenheimer: Mathematics is “an immense enlargement of language, an ability to talk about things which in words would be simply inaccessible.” I find it strange that psychometricians usually define “verbal ability” over a vocabulary set that …

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Are quanta particles or waves?

Are quanta particles or waves? The title of this post is an age-old question isn’t it? Particle or wave? Wave or particle? Many have rightly argued that the so-called “wave-particle duality” is at the very heart of quantum weirdness, and hence, of all of quantum mechanics. Einstein said it. Bohr said it. Feynman said it. …

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The Gulf is Deep (Heinlein)

  The novella Gulf predates almost all of Heinlein’s novels. Online version. The book Friday (1982) is a loose sequel. Wikipedia: Gulf is a novella by Robert A. Heinlein, originally published as a serial in the November and December 1949 issues of Astounding Science Fiction and later collected in Assignment in Eternity. It concerns a secret society …

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Why you should hire me (feat. Hamilton)

[Anna writes..] I think I’d really enjoy being a costume designer, Broadway superstar, or Olympic gymnast. Unfortunately, I don’t exactly have the credentials for those positions. ​ Over here in reality, I will soon be “moving out of higher education in search of new challenges and opportunities” (thanks, Jobs on Toast). So I’m currently putting …

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Toward A Geometry of Thought

Apologies for the blogging hiatus — I’m in California now for the holidays :-) In case you are looking for something interesting to read, I can share what I have been thinking about lately. In Thought vectors and the dimensionality of the space of concepts (a post from last week) I discussed the dimensionality of the space of …

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Matt Townsend Show (Sirius XM)

I was on this show last week. Click the link for audio. We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance (16:46) Dr. Stephen Hsu is the vice president for research and a professor of theoretical physics at Michigan State University. His interest range from theoretical physics and cosmology to computer science and biology. …

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Can Life emerge spontaneously?

It would be nice if we knew where we came from. Sure, Darwin’s insight that we are the product of an ongoing process that creates new and meaningful solutions to surviving in complex and unpredictable environments is great and all. But it requires three sine qua non ingredients: inheritance, variation, and differential selection. Three does …

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The only eyeliner in the room

[Anna writes…] “You don’t look like a tromp-around-in-the-woods type.” ​ It was 2012, and after four years in an Environmental Studies undergraduate program and a few summers spent in various eco-jobs, I was more than familiar with the expected look. Luckily, the boy commenting was a cute prospective graduate student from Washington D.C. at my grad …

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Three Lectures on AdS/CFT

MSU postdoc Steve Avery explains AdS/CFT to non-specialists (i.e., theoretical physicists who do not primarily work on string theory / quantum gravity). Steve is applying for faculty positions this fall — hire him! :-) AdS/CFT on this blog. See also Entanglement and fast thermalization in heavy ion collisions: application of AdS/CFT to collisions of heavy ions …

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Decoding Genius podcast

I’m interviewed in episode 2 of this podcast. ABOUT THE DECODING GENIUS PODCAST What exactly is a Genius? Are they born that way or can you become a genius? The world is now so interconnected that a single genius, whether a young Aussie creating mind-controlled machines or a ten year old building a high tech …

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Why GMOs matter

[Andy writes…] There’s a debate raging in some corners of the internet regarding how we should view genetic modification of plants in our world. We can all agree that a healthy food supply and a clean environment are top priorities, but how GMOs fit in is not always clear. Earlier this week I was in the …

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Remembering 9/11

I’m going to take a “time out” from the usual September theme today to remember what I was doing 15 years ago on September 11. I had gone into my office at Purdue University a little earlier than usual, and I was busily working on something that dealt with a front page story in the …

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Speed, Balding, et al.: “for a wide range of traits, common SNPs tag a greater fraction of causal variation than is currently appreciated”

I recently blogged about a nice lecture by David Balding at the 2015 MLPM (Machine Learning for Personalized Medicine) Summer School: Machine Learning for Personalized Medicine: Heritability-based models for prediction of complex traits. In that talk he discussed some results concerning heritability estimation and potential improvements over GCTA. A new preprint on bioRxiv has the …

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#SciStuChat!

After a long wait, our How-To article on #SciStuChat is finally out! You can read it here: http://abt.ucpress.edu/content/78/7/599 So what’s #SciStuChat? Read the paper. Just kidding. You should read it, but the tldr; is that it is a monthly chat where students in science classes across the nation and the globe interact with scientists via Twitter. …

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Coming home

The second part of my project involves DNA extraction from my soil samples. For that, I travel to Nanjing and work in the lab of Dr. Fang Wang in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Soil Science Institute.  Nanjing is only about an hour from Shanghai, which makes my presence much less of a novelty, as …

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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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