Blobologist-approved reads: Blue eyes, ninja ferns, bad chemicals & national bugs.

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks for this week: The moving-house-while-writing-results-section-quicksmart edition

Ferns, Secret Ninja Ferns, and their Alluring Asexual Bits at the Artful Amoeba

I have a thing for ferns. And ever since first-year botany class, I’ve had a thing for life cycles of lower plants. Obscure and unnecessarily geeky, you say? Well, this week, fellow friend-of-the-lower-plant, Jennifer Frazer, who is travelling through the fernstravaganza that is my homeland, has helped me reclaim a bit of my cool by using the following metaphor to describe the fern gametophyte form:

“It happens on a completely separate plant that is also a fern, but looks nothing like a fern you would recognize. A secret ninja fern.”

Weirdly, this is the second time in the past week that gametophytes have had some badass PR. DrRubidium wrote a post at io9 describing a teaching aid for the plant life cycle that casts the sporophyte as the facehugger stage of the Alien life cycle, and the gametophyte as the chestbursting alien form. Now I have an image of ninja gametophytes bursting out of someone’s chest.

Nicholas Kristof and the Bad, Bad Chemical World at Speakeasy Science

Pulitzer-prize winning uber-science writer Deborah Blum doesn’t mind laying the smackdown on double-Pulitzer-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, even though she admires his social justice work. That’s because Kristof is going through a sloppily-expressed chemophobic phase.

“If I didn’t believe we actually need smarter, more thoughtful regulation of toxic compounds, I wouldn’t find Kristof on chemicals so annoying.”

Blue-eyed-people-are-all-related zombie news at Lost in Transcription

Jon Wilkins thinks that bad science reporting is like a zombie. The case study is a pretty awful video commentary on a 2008 paper about the genes that affect the blue eye phenotype, which comes out as “OMG blue-eyes, you are all descended from a common ancestor! ” Jon goes to the trouble of (snarkily) explaining exactly what the research does say, what it doesn’t, and reminds us that:

“Not only are we all related, we are all related over and over and over again.”

Three nations divided by common gut bacteria at Not Exactly Rocket Science

Picking an Ed Yong post as an editor’s pick is a bit like stating the extremely bloody obvious–I may as well just issue a blanket recommendation that you should read all of his posts. But I can’t go past this week’s microbiome story about comparing gut bacteria from people in different countries because:

a) I’m crazy obsessed with gut microbiomes since attending Experimental Biology

b) Ed gives a super lucid and thorough explanation of this particular research

c) They compared gut bacteria from people in different countries!

“Just like the Americans, carnivore microbiomes are also packed with protein-busting genes, while herbivore microbiomes are rich in the starch-breaking genes that are common in Malawaians and Venezuelans guts.”


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