A casual conversation about science

Hey, friends! How about if I try another shot at this YouTube thing? I’m going to try to go live tomorrow, Saturday 7 December, at 2pm Central for what I’m calling A Casual Conversation About Science. I figure I’ll just start talking about what I’ve been reading about lately, or at least what I’ve been reading that maybe you’d find interesting.

There is no homework — this is casual, informal, all that stuff — but here’s a reading list. I figure I’ll just start at the top and work my way down, without an expectation that I’ll get to everything within an hour or so. I’ll take questions, and if there’s a lot of clamor for something, I can change up the order or talk about something completely different. I’m going in with an intent for some structure, but I can ramble if necessary. The reading list is mostly about genes and evolution.

Can new species evolve from cancers?

How Many Genes Do Cells Need? Maybe Almost All of Them

Light-regulated collective contractility in a multicellular choanoflagellate

The Early Ediacaran Caveasphaera Foreshadows the Evolutionary Origin of Animal-like Embryology

Developing an integrated understanding of the evolution of arthropod segmentation using fossils and evo-devo

I put the stuff I’m sure everyone can read first, but then the paywalls start going up in the last three. If you haven’t read it, don’t feel frustrated, we can still talk about it and I’ll try to explain it.

Note also: no spiders. OK, maybe a tiny bit about arachnid evolution in the last paper, but otherwise, this is mostly a spider-free session. Maybe we can have a spider conversation some other time.


  1. says

    Are you implying that there is some other kind of science than biology?

    Trust me on this: you don’t want me disseminating misinformation about physics. I’ll talk about what I know.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    PZ @4:

    you don’t want me disseminating misinformation about physics

    I’d love that! Then I get to be even more cranky.

  3. says

    I’d love to see a video chat with several experts in different areas asking each other questions. It wouldn’t just be what the biology expert can teach me, but what in biology interests the physicist? Likewise with the things I could learn from a material scientist and the questions about material science a biologist would find interesting. In my work, I’ve been particularly interested in the biology of perception all the way from how the eye works to how visual signals are processed by the brain (and so on for other senses) as well as psychology’s investigations of not just what we think but how we think and why we think the way we do. How much of any given psychological heuristic is hard-wired, how much learned?

    My consulting work, my anti-violence work, the small amount of teaching I’ve done, and yes also the work I’ve done in the law are all informed by those things and I never feel like I can learn (or remember!) enough. I imagine that things are similar for many people who are experts in fields very different from anything I’ve studied, but I can’t necessarily anticipate what any of those cross-field interests would be.

  4. says

    #6: Discovering what in biology interests the physicist would probably horrify me, because every time I’ve encountered a physicist with a fascination with some aspect of biology, they also have a simple and wrong idea about how it works. See Paul Davies, for instance. I’d rather they stayed in their field so I can continue to respect them, rather than striding off into gibberish and exposing their ignorance.

  5. dianne says

    Re 6 and 8: I have occasionally seen NdGT say things about biology. I have winced every time. Know the limits of your expertise.