Hello Again... And Bye Bye...

It's been a while. And now I'm back only to say goodbye. Well, not really. It's just that I've...

Anti-Obesity Drug?

A new compound has been shown to reduce Body Mass Index (BMI) and abdominal circumference in obese...

Beautiful Earth

This video has become quite popular the last few days, so if you've already seen it, my apologies...

The Illuminated Origin of Species

Teacher turned artist Kelly Houle has set herself to the task of creating an illuminated version...

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Gunnar De WinterRSS Feed of this column.

... Now at a new blog, called The Beast, the Bard and the Bot.... Read More »

This TED video of Christoph Adami is about life, and how to look for it. He begins by talking about the apparent difficulty in defining life (click here for a post about inorganic life) (funny that he mentions the creature that can age backwards, more about that here), and goes on with a discussion about artificial life on the computer. Finally, he answers the question 'How to look for life?' by frequency distributions. He concludes:

Males of many species guard the females they have mated with, a behavior generally interpreted as a tactic to reduce the likelihood that rival males will mate with the female. This, of course, can lead to a conflict between the sexes: where females might want to mate with other males, males will try to prevent this. In this case, the male-female association is based on conflict.

A new study on crickets (Gryllus campestris, see figure 1), however, suggests that the foundation of the couple’s association might be based on cooperation. By continuously monitoring natural cricket populations with marked individuals, the researchers were able to observe behaviors and predation. 


In which context did life arise? A problem yet unsolved. Several plausible ideas and hypotheses have been put forward: shallow seas, meteorites (see DNA, Made In Space?), and even much more extreme habitats, such as hydrothermal vents. Perhaps pumice should be added to the list?

Pumice (see figure 1), a volcanic rock formed by solidified frothy lava, is known to be porous and, once upon a time in its history, gas-rich. Now, a new study, published in Astrobiology, poses that extensive rafts of pumice have four properties that would actually make them a suitable candidate for the location where life arose.

Koalas have a reputation of being lazy animals (see figure 1). Of course, sleeping about 19 hours a day, and spending 3 out of the 5 remaining hours eating, only adds to their ‘street rep’. But even these lazy marsupials have to mate. And that’s when it gets interesting (at least to some biologists).


Figure 1: Sleeping koala. Awww...

(Source: Wikimedia Commons, author: Dingy)


To PhD or not to PhD? It seem this is a question many students face. Perhaps the results of the first Eurodoc Survey can help some of them with their decision. Eurodoc, or the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers, is an international federation of 34 national organizations of doctoral candidates, founded in Girona (Spain), and, since 2005, it has its seat in Brussels (Belgium).

From December 2008 until April 2009, Eurodoc concucted a survey among doctoral candidates in 12 European countries. The final report summarizes the answers of over 7500 respondents from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.


Sample Profile


With scientific research becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, many researchers find themselves dealing with issues they are not prepared for. A good example of this is how biologists in several fields come to rely on computer programs, and are occasionally ‘forced’ to write their own programs. Vice versa, many computer scientists, interested in bioinformatics, need background information about the biological processes underlying their topic of interest.

Luckily, the internet comes to the rescue. Web forums, mailing lists and online communities of scientists (for some examples of bioinformatics- and biology-related online communities, see table 1) allow researchers from different fields to contact each other easily.