Won for All

Last night, I had to read this book RPM mentioned. It’s not very long—about 100 pages, counting a preface, an epilogue, and an afterward, and it has lots of pictures—but be warned: it’s very inside baseball.

The book is Won for All: How the Drosophila Genome Was Sequenced(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) by Michael Ashburner, and its subject is the rush to sequence the Drosophila genome in 1998-1999. It’s a rather strange twist on what I expected, though. While the subtitle says “How the Drosophila Genome Was Sequenced,” there is almost no science at all in the body of the book; instead, it’s all about the people and the politics, with Ashburner flitting about from place to place, yelling at people and eating sushi. It’s phenomenally entertaining.

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Ask me a question!

Or rather, don’t. Here’s this week’s “ask a science blogger” question:

Do you think there is a brain drain going on (i.e. foreign scientists not coming to work and study in the U.S. like they used to, because of new immigration rules and the general unpopularity of the U.S.) If so, what are its implications? Is there anything we can do about it?

Just read Mark. His answer is perfect.

The one thing we could do about it is kick a lot of Republicans out of Washington, and a lot of spineless Democrats, too. I don’t see it happening.

(Oh, and do go say hello to Good Math, Bad Math, a member of the new cohort of sciencebloggers here.)


This silly noise about tomorrow being 06/06/06 and therefore tying in to Christian End Times malarkey is all numerological nonsense. There’s not going to be anything particularly memorably evil about tomorrow, I suspect.

Except perhaps one little thing.

I’ll mention it at 06:06:06am on 06/06/06.

Words mean nothing, so I’ve decided I’m now a mollusc

There were some interesting responses to my post on the god worm. There were some that were just annoying. I’m not impressed with the ones that make excuses for religion by calling me “naive” and lacking an impression of the diversity of religious belief out there; one bothersome strategy that I also saw in Barbara O’Brien’s post was an attempt to defocus religious belief.

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No connection to reality at all

Isn’t this so symptomatic of Republican stupidity?

…the FDA released an internal memo showing that one high-ranking FDA official was sincerely worried about adolescents forming “sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B.” Seriously.

The evidence, which may not be relevant to the Bush administration, shows no link between access to Plan B and risky sexual behavior, worse yet “sex-based cults.” How Bush-appointed “scientists” come up with such nonsense is a mystery.

If the administration said, “We’re morally opposed to emergency contraception,” we could at least have a reasonable debate. If the administration said, “We could go for this, but the Dobson crowd would kill us,” we would at least be facing political realities.

Instead, the Bush gang insists on a bizarre approach, in which they claim to base decisions like these on science, but ignore their own experts, hide embarrassing facts, and then lie about it. In the case of Plan B, the result is more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.

For reasons that are unclear, the GOP’s religious right base seems to think this is a great idea.

I have an idea. Instead of blindly restricting the use of a safe and useful contraceptive, how about if we increase the level of sex education so that these mythical kids planning imaginary “sex parties” would realize that Plan B actually has a fairly high failure rate and doesn’t block sexually transmitted diseases at all? Then they’d know that this whole idea was very, very bad.

Oh, wait…the religious right opposes that, too.

Second option: how about if we require FDA bureaucrats to get instruction in how sex and reproduction works? They could hire me to give the birds and the bees talk to a roomful of stuffed shirt Washington drones.

I’m back!


Well, sorta. I arrived back home around midnight last night, and to be honest, I feel like I need another six hours of sleep right now. I also feel like I need to reply to some of the comments on that last godless post. And I also know I need to go take care of my fish for a while. I’ll be back in full ranty action in a little while, but meanwhile, contemplate this work of art, “Bob decided it was time to put his degree in philosophy to work.”