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  • It's your DNA—Use it 10 Nov 2019

    After I sent my DNA sample to 23andMe and got back my genetic data, I uploaded the whole thing to opensnp.org, a public collection of genotypes. I did this because scientists like myself can use this collection to make discoveries about human genetics. As a bonus, I’ll never have to worry about keeping my genetic data private—that’s no longer an option.

  • Dandelion 17 Oct 2019

    Animated dandelion

  • Wriggling 29 Sep 2019

    Animation of wriggling worms

  • Swarm of swarms 22 Sep 2019

    Animation of swarming particles

  • Rustled roots 07 Sep 2019

    Animation of moving plant roots

  • Argue more 14 Aug 2019

    One thing I like about science is that scientists argue all the time. Likewise, I usually don’t join existing political conversations because in that context people rarely argue.

  • The logic of donation matching 24 Jul 2019

    Suppose there is a charity fundraiser, and wealthy supporter Alice wants to help by donating $1000. But to make a bigger impact, she designates it as “matching funds”, and as we all know, donors are more willing to give when they know their donation will be doubled.

  • Biology using adversarial AI 06 Jul 2019

    As observing biological systems becomes cheaper and more automated, I see an opportunity to build increasingly complex models of life. Here is an idea to accomplish that using adversarial artificial intelligence agents, a strategy based on the concept of generative adversarial networks.

  • Are you awake? 14 Jun 2019

    “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Unlike Freddy Mercury, most of us do not actually question whether we are perceiving the real world. And it’s not because most of us can easily tell the difference – those of us that don’t question it are often wrong.

  • Using Make for research 23 May 2019

    At some point near the beginning of grad school I was amassing code, data files, and plots, and was feeling a little uneasy. It was the first research project I had full domain over. Which raw data were contributing to which results? Was I reluctant to make changes to what I had done for fear of introducing inconsistencies? I mentioned to my advisor that I was trying to sort things out and she suggested a tool that handled that very task. Wanting to avoid extra work, I made a “mental note” and never tried it.

  • Disposability: Reproduction vs. regeneration 04 May 2019

    Disposable goods cause environmental damage on both the production side and the waste side, yet they remain pervasive because of their convenience. They don’t need to be designed as robustly as durable goods because they will be used for a single purpose and then discarded. Ironically, though, we aren’t the originators of disposability. It is the norm for life on Earth – even we are disposable.

  • The butterfly effect of protein mutations 14 Apr 2019

    DNA gets mutated in every cell of every organism. Some mutations cause a substitution in the string of amino acids that fold into a protein. This could make no difference, or it coud be deadly.

    A diagram of a protein mutation affecting a cell and then
tissue.

  • Princenser: 3D-printed incense sticks 22 Mar 2019

    Burning incense is a nice way to freshen the air and enjoy different scents in your home. If you’ve only experienced the skinny corndog type that smells like a detergent bomb went off, try the smaller solid stick type, and you’ll be born anew.

  • Understanding small things 27 Feb 2019

    Tools have two main purposes: to help us sense and to help us do. In science, we use tools to help us sense. Science advances in two ways: building directly on the knowledge of previous scientific findings, and using tools to extend our senses further.

  • The algoraphics library 01 Feb 2019

    In the last six years I’ve written numerous Python scripts to generate graphics. By using algorithms that incorporate both repetition and randomness, I can produce images that would be infeasible or at least time-consuming to draw by hand.

  • A biologist's work 06 Jan 2019

    When I would tell people I do computational biology, they would nearly always remark on the ‘computational’ part, saying either that it sounds way beyond their comprehension or asking what on Earth it means. I would inwardly groan, because isn’t it obvious what it means? More recently I realized why ‘computational biology’ was so confusing to people, including both non-scientists and scientists in other areas: because it isn’t a real field.