Category Archives: Follies of the Human Condition

Beatles-inspired author photos

In 1994, Bruce Alberts and his co-authors released the third edition of their popular textbook Molecular Biology of the Cell. On the back cover, all the authors are photographed crossing Abbey Road, because they worked on the book just around the corner from the famous crossing.


When they published another text book, Essential Cell Biology, they stuck with the joke and took a photo in the style of With The Beatles.


Now committed to a running gag, almost all subsequent editions of both textbooks have included author photos in the style of a Beatles album. I’ve listed them all on, with sliders to compare them to the corresponding album. I couldn’t get the sliders to work on this blog, unfortunately, but I will leave you with my favourite author photo, of the fourth edition of MBOC. Who do you recognize in the collage?


Images: Abbey Road parody: I photographed the back of my copy of Molecular Biology of the Cell, 3rd edition (1994). With The Beatles parody: This image comes from the blog of Svenn, who misidentifies it as the second edition of Essential Cell Biology – it’s the first (1997). Sgt Pepper parody: I found this posted on Reddit by a user called hookp. Don;t know if they took the photo, but it’s the back of the 4th edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell. All books published by Garland Science, and obviously all images are inspired by the Beatles.

Biological Determinism is False

Disproving sex-based biological determinism in one graph from No Ceilings, with more data on the phenomenon at their website.

Source: No Ceilings

Source: No Ceilings

HT: @Bailiuchan

Amateur Racism

NBA basketball, well all basketball, well, really, all sports are not what a metaphysical philosopher would call “important”. University of Michigan* professor Yago Colas’ deconstructing criticism of LeBron James to reveal the inherent class and racial biases in perceptions of modern basketball is important. You don’t need to care about the NBA or LeBron James to need to read this post. You simply need to care about how our cultural idioms reinforces social inequality – and, if you don’t care about those things…WOW:

Referring to the athlete who plays for the love of the sport, the concept [ameteurism] came to imply…the amateur is motivated by rewards intrinsic to the sport, rather than by extrinsic rewards such as fame or money…This effectively kept working class athletes, who had neither the resources nor the leisure time, from challenging upper-class domination of sport so that, in effect, amateurism “established a system of ‘sports apartheid’ with white males from the upper classes enjoying the advantages.”

Because the amateur ideal took root in basketball culture while the sport was still segregated, the values came unconsciously to be associated with whiteness.
Yago Colas, “On LeBron James and Coaching”

I also thoroughly endorse Yago’s suggestion that LeBron become the first player-coach-owner in forever.

*It take a lot for me to say nice things about the State Up North. GO BUCKS!!!

Science for the People: Biohacking

sftp-square-fistonly-whitebgThis week Science for the People is talking about do-it-yourself biology, and the community labs that are changing the biotech landscape from the grassroots up. We’ll discuss open-source genetics and biohacking spaces with Will Canine of Brooklyn lab Genspace, and Tito Jankowski, co-founder of Silicon Valley’s BioCurious. We’ll also talk to transdisciplinary artist and educator Heather Dewey-Hagborg about her art projects exploring our relationship with genetics and privacy.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Sunday Science Poem: How Fossils Inspire Awe

Lindley Williams Hubbell’s’ “Ordovician Fossil Algae” (1965)

To become a fossil, it takes a lot of luck. Your carcass needs to be buried rapidly and then lie undisturbed for tens of thousands, hundreds of millions, or even billions of years. It’s a process that seems best suited to tough, hardy organisms – ancient sea shells, armored trilobites and giant dinosaur bones are what typically comes to mind when we think of fossils. Delicate and beautifully detailed fossils of the gently curved leaves and stems of exotic plants, the veined wings of strange insects, and the mussed feathers of dinosaurs defy our expectations. Fossils that capture such fragile details are a startlingly clear window to an alien world. At the same time they make that world seem very familiar.

In Lindley Williams Hubbell’s poem about fossils, it’s this defiance of expectations that induces a sense of awe and a feeling of the continuity of life across “some odd billion years.” Hubbell is particularly inspired by the fern-like fossil algae from the Ordovician Period, which followed the Cambrian, beginning about 490 million years ago and lasting for about 45 million years. The Ordovician was a great period of invertebrates and algae, all living in the oceans. Vertebrates, particularly jawless, armored fish, were also beginning to show up in greater numbers. And by the end of the Ordovician, there was a major development: the earliest fossils of land-dwelling organisms appear. It was a time of major change and and also major extinction. Continue reading