Blobologist-approved reads: Time for some navel gazing, DNA testing, natural selecting and group decision making

My ScienceSeeker editor’s picks for this week: The dying swan edition

Thanks to the chaos of becoming a full-time student again, it’s been mostly impossible to blog my ScienceSeeker picks for the last few months. But today I’m stuck at home with pleurisy and a mandate to take it easy, so here goes:

Weaving together the DNA of parenthood by Nathalia Holt at Backstory

Backstory is an interesting new blog at SciLogs, and last week’s post was the moving story of a mother who responded to her son’s rare genetic disorder by starting a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company. It’s easy for me to get cynical about DTC genetic testing, but I had never thought about it from exactly this perspective before.

The Death of Natural Selection by Laura Jane Martin (a guest post at Scientific American Blogs)

This post is a reflective response to recent chit-chat about nature’s “right to evolve,” a proposal that to me sounds deeply confused and misguided. Martin poses a seemingly simple question: “…is there a species, anywhere, with an evolutionary trajectory that has not been affected by humans?”

Political animals by Miss Behavior at The Scorpion and The Frog

Given its obvious relevance to politics this week, Miss Behavior asks a pertinent question about how social animals make group decisions, given that the individual members are neither terribly bright, nor terribly well informed. This is awesome.

After 2 Years Scientists Still Can’t Solve Belly Button Mystery, Continue Navel-Gazing by Rob Dunn (another guest post at SciAm blogs)

So you’ve probably heard of Rob Dunn’s belly button biodiversity  project. If you haven’t, you are missing out big time and you should read his post, and possibly all of his other guest posts at SciAm. If you have heard about it, you should read this anyway, not so much because it describes the interesting results that they just published in PLoS One, but because it does a great job of describing what it’s like to fall down the rabbit-hole of a new research problem. One question leads to another, and another, and the more work you do, the richer and more interesting and more confusing it gets. And then you meet the guy who hasn’t washed in years.


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