Posts Tagged ‘Insects’

Wherein Science Comedian Interviews Science Writer Carl Zimmer

I am guest host­ing Dr. Kiki’s Sci­ence Hour today while Dr. Kiki is on mater­ni­ty leave.  My guest this week is sci­ence writer Carl Zim­mer, whom I met at the ScienceOnline2011 con­fer­ence in Jan­u­ary.  Hm.  In fact, that’s where I met last week’s guest, Greg Gbur, as well.  Good thing I went to that.

Carl is an amaz­ing writer.  I’m cur­rent­ly read­ing his book Micro­cosm: E. coli and the New Sci­ence of Life.  It’s about life and evo­lu­tion, as seen through the lens of the most well-researched microor­gan­ism.

His lat­est book is Plan­et of Virus­es which will be out in hard­cov­er from Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago Press on May 1.

Carl also has a book about sci­ence tat­toos com­ing out lat­er this year.  Here is a recent post about Sci­ence Ink: Tat­toos of the Sci­ence Obsessed.

His grow­ing col­lec­tion of sci­ence tat­toos resides at his Sci­ence Tat­too Empo­ri­um.

Vis­it his blog The Loom on Dis­cov­er Magazine’s web­site.

He’s also writ­ten on evo­lu­tion (Evo­lu­tion: Tri­umph of an Idea and the text­book The Tan­gled Bank: An Intro­duc­tion to Evo­lu­tion).  And I just received the brand new edi­tion of his ten-year-old book about par­a­sites:  Par­a­site Rex.

I also have his first book (which he says is his favorite):  At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fin­gers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea

Here is a recent (Sept. 2010) arti­cle on con­scious­ness at the

A list of great sci­ence books for high school stu­dents.

Carl’s Slate arti­cle about the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing the NASA study of arsenic-based life – “This Paper Should Not Have Been Pub­lished”

Fol­low me and Carl on Twit­ter:  @sciencecomedian and @carlzimmer.

My “Virus Walks Into A Bar” series of jokes on YouTube.

Dr. Richard Lenski’s Exper­i­men­tal Evo­lu­tion Lab at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty has an evo­lu­tion odome­ter on the front page, track­ing how many gen­er­a­tions of E.coli the lab has bred – over 50,000 gen­er­a­tions, so far!

Oh – and lis­ten for me on NPR’s Sci­ence Fri­day tomor­row.  The show streams live (and airs on your local pub­lic radio sta­tion, too, prob­a­bly) from 11am-1pm Pacific/2-4pm East­ern.  Lis­ten here.

Good Day, Sacramento!

This past Fri­day, I per­formed at the Sacra­men­to Com­e­dy Spot (in , uh, Sacra­men­to, CA).  To pro­mote the show, I made an ear­ly morn­ing appear­ance on a local TV show, “Good Day, Sacra­men­to.”

I said, “Good day!”

We talked about sci­ence and com­e­dy and insect pho­tog­ra­phy.  They even pulled up my pho­to blog: .

Link:  Sci­ence Come­di­an Bri­an Mal­ow on Good Day, Sacra­men­to

The Secret Life of Flies

If you know me, you know I like my insect pho­tog­ra­phy. I pri­mar­i­ly shoot (and release) live insects. But who amongst us hasn’t seen a dead bug pos­ing while repos­ing in death and felt the need to cap­ture that macabre Kodak moment?  If my eyes are the only eyes of the uni­verse to observe this detail, am I not oblig­at­ed to record it?

Any­way, that’s how I feel about it.  So, I’ve shot a few dead flies.

But this guy at Muhr Pho­tog­ra­phy takes it to a new lev­el, com­bin­ing real live dead flies with sim­ple line draw­ings. And I think they’re hilar­i­ous. I applaud the idea and the exe­cu­tion.  I’m jeal­ous!

After you start the slideshow – click the icon in the low­er left cor­ner to make it big­ger so you can see the titles  (in some cas­es, it helps you appre­ci­ate the image).  Or you can see this gallery and oth­ers here.

Videos for Time Magazine

You can eas­i­ly access all the sci­ence videos I’ve made for Time Magazine’s web­site at this link – the results from a search on my name (Bri­an Mal­ow) at

Giant Insect Ambassadors for the Rainforest

For our newest video for, I vis­it­ed an old friend, Norm Ger­shenz of, to dis­cuss some of their pro­grams for rais­ing aware­ness and sav­ing pre­cious habi­tats that are home to strange and beau­ti­ful crea­tures like the giant thorny phas­mid.

Find out more about the Insect Dis­cov­ery Lab and how you can bring it to your Bay Area class­room.

New species of insect identified in eBay purchase

Dr. Richard Har­ring­ton, vice-president of the UK’s Roy­al Ento­mo­log­i­cal Soci­ety, bought a fos­silized insect on eBay and it turned out to be a pre­vi­ous­ly unknown species of aphid.

He bought the insect, which was encased in a 40-50 million-year-old piece of amber, for £20 (about $37).

“It’s a rather unusu­al route to come by (a new species),” Har­ring­ton explained.

I guess eBay hasn’t iden­ti­fied all the bugs in their sys­tem.

Read the full sto­ry on BBC News

Science Foo Camp 2008: Chapter 1 – The Wiki & What I Missed

[I’ve made one pre­vi­ous Sci­Foo post, in antic­i­pa­tion (and trep­i­da­tion) of the approach­ing week­end.]

Where to begin? How to cap­ture the essence of such an over­whelm­ing expe­ri­ence? Nature! O’Reilly! The Google­plex! 200 cer­ti­fied sci­ence genius­es! No less than four (4) Nobel Lau­re­ates! And oth­er incom­plete sen­tences!

By design, Sci­ence Foo Camp has no real agen­da until we get there and cre­ate it, and even then, it’s com­plete­ly flex­i­ble. But, about three months in advance, a wiki was estab­lished for every­one to post to with descrip­tions of our­selves and ideas for ses­sions we’d like to see or lead. This was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn a lit­tle bit about our fel­low campers and to be that much more pre­pared by the time we got there, since time would be so pre­cious.

[Note to Lee Smolin: I’m not sure about the rest of the Uni­verse but, at Sci­Foo, the flow of time is very real and very fast.]

If you ever get the chance to attend Sci­Foo, take advan­tage of the wiki. Start ear­ly. Most of the campers post­ed brief bios with their areas of research and inter­ests and links to home­pages, blogs, com­pa­nies, and orga­ni­za­tions.  For the ones that didn’t, there’s Google.  If they’re at Sci­Foo, you won’t have any trou­ble find­ing ’em. Most of them have Wikipedia entries.

My only wish for “improv­ing” the amaz­ing crea­ture that is Sci­Foo would be to length­en it just a bit. I want more!  Per­haps extend the Fri­day and Sun­day to full days. Give us just a lit­tle extra time to take it all in. There are so many fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple, so many intrigu­ing ses­sions.  There’s no way to meet every­one or attend every ses­sion you’d like. With as many as four­teen (14!) simul­ta­ne­ous ses­sions in each hour time slot, no mat­ter how much you expe­ri­ence, there’s still a sense that you missed out on a lot of cool stuff.

Of course, even if it were a week long, I’m sure I’d feel the same.

Betsy Devine\'s morning session

For the first ses­sion of the week­end, I missed Carl Diet­rich’s “Ener­gy for Long Dis­tance Trans­porta­tion” because I want­ed to catch Bet­sy Devine’s “5-minute Talks by Smart Peo­ple About Web 2.0 Tools for Sci­ence” (fea­tur­ing Tim O’Reilly, Esther Dyson & Anne Woj­ci­cki, Chris Ander­son, Barend Mons, and Vic­to­ria Stod­den).

And I missed Carl again, for the last ses­sion of the week­end, when he talked about his fly­ing car, because I want­ed to see Broth­er Guy Con­sol­mag­no explain why the Pope has an astronomer (and a mete­orite col­lec­tion!).

I real­ly should’ve been at “Trans­form­ing Edu­ca­tion – Mak­ing Sci­ence Fun and Rel­e­vant for Kids and Stu­dents,” but I want­ed to hear Aubrey de Grey, Chris Patil, and Atti­la Csor­das talk about Aging and Life Exten­sion.

After a fas­ci­nat­ing chat Sat­ur­day morn­ing with Eric Wasser­mann on the 15-minute shut­tle ride from the hotel to the Google­plex (about the expe­ri­ence of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and the illu­sion of con­scious­ness), I would’ve loved to have sat in on his ses­sion a few hours lat­er about the ethics and impli­ca­tions of brain enhance­ment. But I also want­ed to con­tribute to “Seduc­ing the Pub­lic with Sci­ence” (ini­ti­at­ed – on the wiki – by John Gilbey and Jen­ny Rohn – and includ­ing Tim O’Reilly,Seducing the Public - Tim O'Reilly, Marc Hodosh, Kevin Grazier, et al Ann Druyan, Marc Hodosh, Ben Goldacre, Euge­nie Scott and oth­ers). And, at the exact same time, I was miss­ing NASA Ames Direc­tor Pete Wor­den’s ses­sion on Set­tling Mars, and “LHC: The Uni­verse and All That” with Bri­an Cox, Max Tegmark, Mar­t­in Rees, and Betsy’s hus­band, Nobel Lau­re­ate Frank Wilczek!

Impos­si­ble choic­es that have to be made!

I missed Paul Stamets’ ses­sion on How Fungi Can Save the World, as well as Paul Davies’ ses­sion on Mul­ti­ple Ori­gins of Life and a “Shad­ow Bios­phere” on Earth, and ses­sions on the World­Wide Tele­scope and brain read­ing neu­ral pros­thet­ics, the future of quan­tum com­put­ing, 23andMe, build­ing bet­ter cli­mate mod­els, and sev­er­al more – all in the Sat­ur­day 4pm time slot – because I want­ed to sit in on a ses­sion with Lee Smolin, Max Tegmark, and Gar­rett Lisi called “Incu­bat­ing Adven­tur­ous Sci­ence and the FQXi.”

It wasn’t until Sun­day morn­ing, when I got into a great con­ver­sa­tion with the won­der­ful Dan Janzen about cater­pil­lars and moths, that I real­ized I shouldn’t have missed his pre­sen­ta­tion the day before on DNA bar­cod­ing the world’s species – all 10,000,000 of them.

But what could I do?  I was up to my ears in dark mat­ter – pick­ing the brain of Patri­cia Bur­chat, head of the Physics depart­ment at Stan­ford, who helped me final­ly under­stand how we could know – from our nar­row van­tage point – that the expan­sion rate of the Uni­verse has increased.

I could go on. And on. Expand­ing like the Uni­verse. And that’s what the week­end was real­ly about.

Look­ing over the list of campers, I fig­ure I had sub­stan­tial, inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions with at least 50 dif­fer­ent peo­ple, on prob­a­bly 50 dif­fer­ent top­ics – plus, I attend­ed about a dozen ses­sions, ask­ing ques­tions or con­tribut­ing com­ments dur­ing quite a few.

And I enter­tained per­haps the smartest crowd I’ve ever played with 45 min­utes of sci­ence humor at my own sur­pris­ing­ly well-attended ses­sion, Sat­ur­day night after din­ner (while, just down the hall, Mar­t­in Rees and Nick Bostrom led a somber dis­cus­sion called “Exis­ten­tial Risks & Glob­al Cat­a­stroph­ic Risks.”)

There was some­thing for every­one.

In the end, there were some peo­ple – like Jim Hardy and Chris Patil and Bri­an Cox and his wife Gia Mili­novich and John Gilbey and Nick Bostrom and David Bauer and Lars Jeppe­sen and Simon Quel­len Field – with whom I had mul­ti­ple chances to chat. And, yet, there are scores of peo­ple I nev­er met. I had no idea (until I was back home in San Fran­cis­co) that there were four Nobel Lau­re­ates among us; I met only one. On the final day there were some faces that didn’t even look famil­iar to me… had they real­ly been here all week­end?

[more to come]

Science Comedy Video

A mon­tage of some of my sci­ence com­e­dy rou­ti­nes, tak­en most­ly from two events at the Mar­i­an Koshland Sci­ence Muse­um of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences (in 2006 and 2007).

A cou­ple clips from my 2008 per­for­mance appear ear­lier in this blog (on cell phones and Kar­ma) and more are com­ing soon.