Karen Kovaka on biological individuality

psa-home

At the Philosophy of Science Association meeting in Chicago, I attended an interesting talk by Karen Kovaka, “Biological Individuality and Scientific Practice” (the abstract of her talk is here). Now the paper arising from that talk is out in the journal Philosophy of Science. It argues that biologists do not need to resolve the question of what constitutes an individual in order to do good empirical work, with which I agree. She contrasts two views of the relationship between individuality and scientific practice, the “quality dependence” account and the “content sensitivity” account:

Quality dependence: the quality of empirical work in biology depends in part on the resolution of the debate about biological individuality…

Content sensitivity: Biologists’ understanding of biological processes is sensitive to the individuals they take to be participants in those processes.

[Read more…]

Journey into Bullshit with Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil

ChopraWeil

From taking Andrew Weil’s vitamin evaluation*,  I am signed up for his email newsletter, which today included the above announcement of a “Mind-body wellness workshop” he is headlining along with Dr. Woo himself, Deepak Chopra (see “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit“). The workshop promises to help participants

…integrate easy-to-master Ayurvedic healing techniques, which originated in India over 5,000 years ago, into your modern lifestyle.

[Read more…]

Volvox the game released

Volvox the game.

Volvox the game.

Pretty much what the title says. Back in May (have I really been blogging since May?) I posted about “Volvox, the…game?,” a puzzler demoed on Steam. The developers, Neotonia, Ltd., promised a June release, so maybe a bit optimistic on that, but it came out yesterday. $7.99 for SteamPlay, which means you get Windows and Mac versions for one price.

[Read more…]

Performing the Office of Fins: Henry Baker on Volvox

Figure 27 from Baker 1764.

Figure 27 from Baker 1764.

Gilbert Smith’s foundational comparative study of the then known species of Volvox cites Henry Baker’s 1753 bookEmployment for the Microscope : in Two Parts. Although he was writing 50+ years after Van Leeuwenhoek first described his “great round particles” (see “…of the bignefs of a great corn of fand…”), Baker makes no mention of this earlier publication. Since Part II of Employment is titled “An account of various animalcules, never before described, and of many other microscopical discoveries,” it seems that he was unaware of Van Leeuwenhoek’s work [emphasis mine]. Read a Philosophical Transactions for once in your life.*

[Read more…]

Volvox in Wired

Volvox photo by Jack Challoner

Volvox photo by Jack Challoner

Wired has a short blurb featuring some photos from Jack Challoner’s new book The Cell: A Visual Tour of the Building Block of Life, including the above Volvox picture. The caption is

Algae Colonies
Each green sphere is a colony of Volvox algae with more than 50,000 cells. Scientists study these glowing, freshwater organisms as models for how living creatures develop specialized cells and tissue. Strands of cytoplasm connect neighboring cells, allowing them to communicate, and slender flagella propel the colony through the water.

[Read more…]

Pseudoscience at the University of Arizona

UACIM

The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine is an embarrassment. Its director, Dr. Andrew Weil, is a quack.

Let me get this out of the way first: I know Dr. Weil gives a lot of good advice. He also advises a lot of nonsense. A doctor who advises his patients to get their chakras aligned is a quack. A doctor who advises his patients to eat a healthy diet, get more exercise, quit smoking, and get their chakras aligned is still a quack.

[Read more…]