As a frequent Amtrak rider, I appreciate this

I have ridden the Empire Builder, the Capitol Limited, the Cardinal, the Sunset Limited, the Crescent, and once as a child the Auto Train all the way from Virginia to Florida. Amtrak doesn’t own most of the rails for these long-haul routes, so freight trains always get priority. Since there’s often only one track, I’ve spent a good bit of time pulled over on a siding and waiting for a freight train to go by in the other direction.

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Counting my millions

Breaking Bad Money

Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/AMC

I’m at a net loss from blogging so far. My net income for two years (here and on the old site) has been $21.54, while I’ve paid around a hundred bucks for domain name registration and stuff like that. That’s fine; I don’t do it for the money. I have a lot of other reasons for doing this, and there have been lots of benefits both intangible and tangible. The blog was partly responsible for me being invited to write the meeting review for the 2015 Volvox meeting, and I’m working on another manuscript inspired by an exchange that played out on Fierce Roller. Still, the main reason I do this is that I like to.

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Algae porn

I track the #Volvox hashtag on Twitter, which is how I find out about a lot of the off-label uses of the name Volvox, like DJ VolvoxVolvox the ship, and Volvox the art gallery. Every now and then, it even turns up something related to Volvox the little rolling algae. The other day, @QuintaSwinger tweeted the following video with #Volvox:

The Twitter handle is about just what you think it is; apparently volvocine sex puts someone in mind of polyamory. I suppose I can see that: when a sperm packet enters a colony, it gets busy with all the ova. The video was uploaded to YouTube by Dr. Donald Ott from the University of Akron.

I think the algae in the video are not actually Volvox, though. Certainly the still photo at the beginning is Volvox. Probably not section Volvox (too few cells), and probably not Developmental Program 2 (germ cells too small in the one on the lower right). If I had to guess, I’d say V. aureus, but that’s largely a Bayesian bet because they’re so common. Maybe Alexey Desnitskiy or Hisayoshi Nozaki can comment.

The colonies in the video, though, look more like Pleodorina to me. Not P. sphaerica, since the somatic cells are all in the front, but without more information I can’t narrow it down more than that.

“…much that was human and natural found no expression.”

Fall of Giants
I discovered Ken Follet only recently, historical fiction not normally being my cup of tea. Right now I’m reading Fall of Giants after enjoying The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. Follet has, I think, a bit of Stephen King’s ability to make you care what happens to his characters, and he plays the long game, with subplots sometimes taking taking generations to play out. Religion plays an important role in his writing, as it must given the setting. His characters include skeptics and true believers, who are inspired by their beliefs to do evil as often as good. Anyway, I thought the last part of this quote might resonate with the godless heathens that frequent this site:

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Rediscovered after two thirds of a century: Pleodorina sphaerica

Pleodorina sphaerica

Figure 1 from Nozaki et al. 2017. Pleodorina sphaerica.

There really aren’t enough people looking for volvocine algae. There’s a suspicious tendency for the geographical centers of volvocine diversity — southern Africa, central North America, southeast Asia — to include the home institutions of phycologists studying volvocine diversity — Mary Pocock, Richard Starr, Hisayoshi Nozaki, respectively. I find it much more likely that this is an artifact of sampling effort than that, for example, central Africa and Central and South America are depauperate of volvocine algae.

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Dissent on Bangiomorpha

Bangiomorpha pubescens

Figure 5 from Butterfield 1990. Bangiomorpha pubescens.

In my post on Bangiomorpha, I said

…Bangiomorpha was probably a red alga. This conclusion seems to be accepted by most everyone in the field. In fact, I don’t know of any dissenters, and that kind of consensus is rare for fossils this old.

I guess I didn’t look hard enough, because reader not the FTB Stewart commented

Cavalier-Smith dissents (dissented?) from the consensus

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Look what came in the mail yesterday!

Biological Individuality

A project started five years ago has finally borne fruit. In May, 2012 I joined a group of philosophers, historians, and biologists in Philadelphia for the Cain ConferenceE pluribus unum: Bringing biological parts and wholes into historical and philosophical perspective.” The meeting was organized by Lynn Nyhart and Scott Lidgard, with the goal

…to pursue the question: How can historians, philosophers, and biologists help each other to understand part-whole relationships in biology, both today and in the past?

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Sorry about the ads

I use an ad blocker. Two of them, actually. I’m willing to add a website to my whitelist(s) if their ads aren’t obnoxious, but if it’s flashing in my face, popping up new windows, or autoplaying audio, forget it.

So I didn’t know; that’s my only excuse. I had actually never seen the ads on Fierce Roller until a friend messaged me on Twitter [Pg-13 below the fold]:

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