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 NYTimes.com.

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:  InsectPaparazzi.com .

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 Time.com.

Giant Insect Ambassadors for the Rainforest

For our newest video for Time.com, I visited an old friend, Norm Gershenz of SaveNature.org, 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.