Caturday Twofer: Two Posts in One Day!

I received one complaint recently (probably from my mother) about my lack of Caturday posts.  So here’s a Caturday and  Book Review (see below).

Stephen Jay Gould cat helps me read in the tub. (What? It's 100 degrees out and the tub is so cool.)

Next week I’ll respond to one reader’s questions about evolution and common ancestry.

OMG, get off my case, mom!

Book Review: The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, by Evan Marshall

Last week I paused while reading The Satanic Verses to invade a Borders bookstore that was going out of business.  I picked up a sale copy of The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, by Evan Marshall, and read it in a day.  Marshall is a novelists, literary agent, and editor.  I don’t usually read these books (though see my past reviews of The First Five Pages and Self-editing for Fiction Writers), but I found that it actually had some good advice, especially concerning the structure of novels.  However, the Marshall plan also relies on tips and tricks from commercial mysteries and thrillers that won’t work for all novels.  But being someone who enjoys outlines and structure, I thought the Marshall plan had a lot to offer. Continue reading

What’s the difference between microevolution and macroevolution? The answer straight from one fish’s mouth.
One common misconception about evolution is that the processes that produce phenotypic change between species (macroevolution) are different from those that produce phenotypic variation within species (microevolution).  For example, creationists might accept microevolution, since this can easily be observed in a lab, but would argue that since macroevolution is difficult to observe over the span of one human lifetime, there is no evidence for it and that large-scale differences must be the result of some designer.  In reality, however, there is no real distinction between microevolutionary and macroevolutionary changes: the same microevolutionary processes that result in variation within species give rise to macroevolutionary differences between species.  And this afternoon, evolutionary biologists from the University of Maryland and Syracuse University published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that nicely illustrates this link between microevolution and macroevolution.  Their study, titled “Craniofacial divergence and ongoing adaptation via the hedgehog pathway“, highlights the genetic basis of within and between species variation in jaw shape in African cichlid fishes. Continue reading

Book Review: Going After Cacciato, by Tim O’Brien

The other week I finished reading Going After Cacciato, by Tim O’Brien.  Cacciato is O’Brien’s fourth book.  Like his other famous books, The Things They Carried and If I Die in a Combat Zone, it details the experiences of a young enlisted man during the Vietnam War.  And like these other books, Cacciato is terrific, written in a way that blurs the distinction between fact and fiction, reality and dream.  It is a surreal reflection on the realities of war and the dream of leaving it, written in a way that is believable and engrossing.  It is no wonder, then, that in 1979, Going After Cacciato was awarded the National Book Award for Fiction. Continue reading

Bad Blogger’s Repost: Michele Bachmann is an IDiot

I’m a bad blogger — I’ve been too swamped collecting data and writing grants to post about the amazing science (microevolution vs. macroevolution) and books (Going After Cacciato, The Satanic Verses) I’ve been reading.   What’s more, today I’m going to repost old stuff.  I know, terrible.  But at least there’s an interesting story behind this one: Continue reading

Should We Market Prescription Medicine to the Masses?

One thing that always frightens me when I turn on the TV is the sheer volume of commercials for prescription drugs.  The commercials are usually highly-polished, with nice-looking actors and gentle piano music in the background. They’re so common that you can probably think of a few right now: Cymbalta, Advair, Ambien, Latisse.  Although it’s certainly bothersome that drug companies market drugs to people who cannot purchase them directly (without a prescription), the thing that bothers me most is that they used highly polished adds to gloss-over some very serious side effects.  This just seems so dangerous.  Should we allow drug companies to market powerful prescription drugs to the masses? Continue reading