A quiet backwater

David Kirk‘s book is an essential resource for anyone who wants to study Volvox, even twenty years after its publication. It includes thorough but succinct reviews of volvocine diversity, ecology, genetics, development, and cell biology, along with original insights into all of these topics.

Volvox book cover

I was just returning to it for the many-th time to find a reference for a manuscript revision, and I (re-)discovered that a quote I’ve paraphrased many times comes from the Preface:

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I don’t exist!

David Klinghoffer has outdone himself. For a guy who thinks the discovery of an extrasolar planet is a challenge to materialism, the bar for the dumbest thing he’s ever said is already high, but he has cleared it with room to spare:

In a sense, there are no atheists.

He’s right, in a sense. In the sense that we can arbitrarily redefine words to mean whatever the hell we want them to mean. Let’s look at some equally valid examples:

In a sense, all mammals are descended from snakes.

This is true, in a sense, because I define snakes as small Triassic insectivores.

In a sense, there are no dump trucks.

This is true, in a sense, because I define dump trucks as wine bottles that magically refill themselves.

In a sense, David Klinghoffer is a ghost.

This is true, in a sense, because I define ghosts as human beings who occasionally say monumentally stupid things.

A Ghost Story

David Klinghoffer, in a sense. Image from A Ghost Story, downloaded from IMDB.

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Jeffrey Beall, academic terrorist!

I’ve been fairly outspoken about my support for open access publishing (On paywalls, F paywalls), so you might think that I would naturally be at odds with probably the most prominent critic of (paid) open access publishing, Jeffrey Beall. I’m not, though. I despise scammers of all stripes (This should be interesting, What good is a washing machine on Arrakis?I think Tina/Nora has given up on me), and I think predatory open access publishers are loathsome parasites.

Did Beall miss the mark with his criticism of Frontiers publishing? I think he did. I THINK he did. I hope he did, because I recently agreed to serve as a ‘review editor’ for Frontiers in Plant Science [that’s my full disclosure, folks]. From everything I can tell, they are completely above-board. If someone can convince me otherwise (and I AM listening), I will turn on them like Trump on Cohen. That said, Beall only ever claimed to have identified “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers. I think his website was a valuable resource, and I miss it (Say it ain’t so! Beall’s list shuts down).

Beall’s list is archived at https://beallslist.weebly.com/, but of course it’s not maintained, which is crucial given the rate at which predatory publishers spawn. I was looking for that the other day in response to a colleague’s question, and I thought, I’ll just check to make sure the original site is still down. I’m glad I did, because I came across one of the most egregious (and hilarious) examples of cybersquatting I’ve ever seen.

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Aquatic science orgs oppose changing WOTUS

The Trump administration is expected to announce reductions to the waters protected by the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in a couple of hours. The change is expected to remove at least some wetlands, ephemeral streams, and headwaters streams from the waters covered by the rule.

According to MSNBC,

Mark Ryan, a lawyer at Ryan & Kuehler PLLC who spent 24 years as a clean water expert and litigator at the EPA, said water systems called headwaters in high regions of the country could lose protections under the new definitions being proposed by the Trump administration.

“I think the mining is going to benefit from this because mines tend to be up in the mountains near headwater systems,” Ryan said.

Miners may no longer need to apply for a permit before pushing waste from operations, such as rubble from mountain-top coal mining in the eastern United States, into some streams.

Howe Brook

Headwater stream in Baxter State Park, Maine.

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Reminder: last day to enter the Volvox wall art giveaway

Today is the last day to enter the drawing for a ready-to-hang print of Volvox aureus on canvas. There’s no catch; all you have to do is go to freethoughtblogs.com/fierceroller/?p=5256 and leave a comment with your favorite species (of anything). That’s it!

Right now there are only a dozen entries, so your odds of winning are pretty good. The winner will be announced on Monday.

Volvox aureus

Volvox aureus by me

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Undergraduate summer internships at the Danforth Center

This is an unbelievable opportunity: an NSF-funded, paid summer internship at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. Ru Zhang is at the Danforth Center. Jim Umen is at the Danforth Center. The Fourth International Volvox Conference was at the Danforth Center. If you’re an undergraduate and you think you might want to study Volvox or Chlamydomonas (or plants), this would be a great way to get started.

Danforth Internship

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Volvox wall art giveaway!

I had eight prints made (on canvas) of a micrograph I took in grad school of Volvox aureus. They turned out much better than I expected…it’s really hard to know how the color balance of something you’re looking at on a computer screen will look when it’s printed out. I’m going to give one away by random drawing. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment identifying your favorite species (of anything; rules below).

Volvox aureus

Volvox aureus by me

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How I destroyed Freethought blogs (temporarily)

I’ve been getting frustrated because only the Publicize features seem to work only when they feel like it, and they feel like it about half the time. I don’t mind posting to Twitter manually, but only about half of my new posts were being accompanied by emails to subscribers. I got on chat with WordPress Tech support, who identified the problem as an out of date version of Jetpack.

WordPress support

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