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I am not a politician!

With this title I hear by immunize myself against any criticism while I go on a political rant. After all, how many times has a politician used the line, ‘I am not a scientist’, before going on to say something that would only be imbecilic if it weren’t unbelievably dumb. Everyone has to admit that […]

The Rates the Thing

A rate is a simple enough concept; it measures change. If I’m driving my car, my miles per hour are the rate I am covering ground, if I slow down or speed up that brings in a second rate, the rate at which my speed is increasing or decreasing. As a scientist, I think a […]


Ego is as much a part of science as it of any other profession, maybe more so. The money can be decent, but it’s not a driving factor in why we play the game; recognition of your work is vitally important, so it’s reasonable to say there are plenty of egos in science. On the […]

We regret to inform you…Part II.

In an earlier part of this blog I was bemoaning the difficulties of getting funded to carry out research. It’s the most common challenge for all scientists. One obvious solution, is for there to be more funding available; however, federal funding for science not related to defense has remained largely flat for nearly a decade […]

‘We regret to inform you’…Part I.

As a scientist who secures most of my funding through federal grants, this is the most common outcome to my efforts in writing research proposals, an email that begins with these words and goes onto explain that the proposal has been declined. This is usually received anywhere from 6 – 12 months, and often longer, […]

What would Darwin think?

February 12th was Charles Darwin’s birthday, the fellow most responsible for developing our ideas around how life evolves was born in 1809. It’s been 156 years since he published, perhaps the most famous book in science, ‘The Origin of Species’. One wonders, however, if natural evolution that Darwin first described is approaching an end. Recently, […]

What is a species?

If you want to steal a microbiologist’s wallet or purse, wait until 4 or 5 of them are sitting around a table together and then pop the question, ‘What is a species?’ The ensuing discussion/argument will quickly become focused, passionate, and all-consuming, no one will be watching their wallet. The question of what is a […]


At low tide the other day I observed an interesting sight, a pair of crows crabbing. Anyone who has gone down onto seaweed covered rocks and pulled back the rock weed has observed a menagerie of small intertidal creatures, amphipods wriggling around, mussels living in crevices, and often a crab or two suddenly exposed and […]

Whither the weather

During this string of comparatively balmy December days in Maine, it’s interesting to think about what’s up with the weather. I am not a meteorologist, but I like the numbers associated with weather. For example, as we approach years end, according to the website Weather Underground, Portland has had 39 inches of rain, making it […]

Impact This!

Science is a profession that relies on being able to quantify things. Discovery is often driven by our ability to make more and more accurate measurements of whatever is of interest, whether it is the weight of an atom, or how many genes are in a cell. One of the most squishy things to measure […]