“Some Like It Very, Very Hot”: my new Nature Education post on the champions of hyperthermophilia

Over on Student Voices, my latest blog post has been published, entitled Some Like It Very, Very Hot. It’s all about the crazy world of hyperthermophiles – organisms that can comfortably live in temperatures exceeding 60ºC – and some of the current record-breakers in the field: Pyrococcus furiosus, Geogemma barossii and Methanopyrus kandleri. There are few things more fascinating than these microbes, people, and their extreme biology continues to astound the scientific community.

Here’s a little taste:

To put these hyperthermophiles’ biochemical achievements in perspective, proteins in our body have an optimal temperature of around 37ºC — which is, not coincidentally, our normal core temperature but if exposed to the optimal temperatures of hyperthermophilic proteins, our precious proteins would instantly denature, jumbling into a quivering, biologically-useless tangle of amino acids. We didn’t evolve to survive anything like that amount of heat.

So, you’re probably all wondering:

  • What are the known limits to hyperthermophilia?
  • What are the most extreme members of this already-crazy group of creatures?
  • How hot do we know they can go?
  • I’m contributing marrow and bone to The Panda’s Thumb!

    Some extremely exciting news: I’ve been offered to become a part of the team over at The Panda’s Thumb!

    For those unaware, The Panda’s Thumb is the single greatest evolution-defending/intelligent design-attacking blog out there. It’s been running since 2004, and features such contributors as PZ Myers, John Wilkins, Nick Matzke, Jason Rosenhouse, Wesley Elsberry, Jeffrey Shallit… The list goes on. These are the big players, the ones who have been fighting against the Discovery Institute since they first opened their doors to let loose their brand of pseudoscience upon an unsuspecting world (or at the very least, since the Kitzmiller vs Dover trial).

    And surely I don’t deserve to be blogging alongside them.

    But I’ll accept it, gracefully and gratefully.

    So, any posts pertaining to intelligent design and creationism will be cross-posted to The Panda’s Thumb from now on, pushing my undergraduate ramblings onto a wider audience. Let’s hope they tolerate me.

    Carnival of Evolution No. 33 out now at Genome Engineering

    The Carnival of Evolution for March is up at Genome Engineering! No posts by me (because I’m lazy/I forgot/I secretly hate evolutionary biology1, but make sure you check out some great posts on breaking Dollo’s Law, the evolution of lizard colouration, an animal phylum’s possible loss of their anuses and disgusting worm sex. Then again, just check them all out! Do it!

    The next Carnival of Evolution (for April) will be at… actually, there isn’t a host announced yet! Put your name down if you’d like to host, and submit your evolution-themed posts as soon as you’ve finished writing them!

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    1. That last one is definitely, definitely true.

    Carnival of Evolution No. 31 out now at The Dispersal of Darwin

    The Carnival of Evolution for January is up at The Dispersal of Darwin! I’ve got two posts in there this month, but you’ve probably read those already – check out some brilliant pieces on the Denisovan genome, the motivation of Charles Darwin, a critical review of Benjamin Wiker’s anti-Darwin book “The Darwin Myth” and a 5 year-old understanding evolution instead. Then again, just check them all out!

    The next Carnival of Evolution will be at Denim and Tweed on the 1st of February, and make sure to submit your own evolution-themed blog posts.

    Carnival of Evolution No. 30 out at This Scientific Life

    Another Carnival of Evolution is out, this time at This Scientific Life, one of the blogs of Bob O’Hara (the CoE author) and Grrlscientist (not the CoE author). I actually got a post into this edition, having remembered to send one as soon as the last one was posted – but don’t worry about my submission, go read the submissions of others, that’s what’s important!

    The next CoE is at The Dispersal of Darwin, on the 1st of January. You can submit posts here.

    Carnival of Evolution No. 28 is out – Genomic viruses to eusociality

    The Carnival of Evolution is a monthly blog carnival about, well, evolutionary biology, and its 28th incarnation is out at the Carnival of Evolution blog (blog carnivals are usually hosted on a different blog every week, but for some reason the CoE’s home blog was chosen this time around – not that it really matters anyway, it’s all about the content).

    It has a feature on Sandwalk, which you should probably follow if you like blogs about evolution and religion written by biochemistry professors, but the real meat of the post is, of course, from the 19 blogs that contributed content. Topics discussed range from fossil viruses in songbird genomes to the evolution of eusociality, so make sure you check out all of them. It’s evolution overload! But that’s never a bad thing!

    I guess I’ve made it as a blogger now?

    Well, it depends what you mean by “making it”. I would consider that to be being taken seriously by the people you want to reach out to and communicate with, so I’m not sure I’ve achieved that lofty height yet. But being quoted in a Guardian piece is one step closer, right?

    Riazat Butt writes on the Guardian’s science blog, about the new Centre for Intelligent Design in the UK:

    In 2006 Elanor Taylor wrote that it was time for the UK to wage war on intelligent design, saying that while it and creationism used to be regarded like line dancing and SUVs – “peculiarly American phenomena” – they were now taking root in British life. The last few years have led to more debate about creationism and intelligent design, especially their classroom presence, due in part to Darwin’s bicentenary celebrations and the continued, sometimes acrimonious, discussion about the relationship between science and religion. Creationism in this country has its cheerleaders in museums, schools and zoos, but what of intelligent design? In Glasgow, a new institution hopes to fill that gap.

    The Centre for Intelligent Design features a video introduction from Dr Alastair Noble, who has argued that ID should not be excluded from the study of origins. He says, among other things, that he is part of a network of people who are “dissatisfied with the pervading Darwinian explanation of origins and are attracted to the much more credible position of intelligent design” and criticise the “strident strain of science” that says the only acceptable explanations are those depending on “physical and materialistic processes”.

    It’s actually a good article, you should read the whole thing. It’s a little light on the criticism, but that’s to be expected, right?

    Plus, I’m quoted for some reason!

    Blogger and anti-Creationist campaigner Naon Tiotami notes that the support of “prominent academics” suggests “they may stand a fighting chance at being taken seriously by the media, something that Truth in Science hasn’t accomplished,” before adding: “All we can do at the moment is hope that this new project crash-lands before it even properly gets its feet off the ground.”

    Surely I could have used a better metaphor for the CID’s campaign than a possibly-crippled bird? Actually, no, that’s a perfect metaphor. Spreading its avian flu of pseudoscience far and wide…

    But yes, I’m thrilled to have been mentioned. Who wouldn’t be?

    Holy mild expletive, I’m a finalist in the running for Australia’s Best Science Blogger!

    Vote here! Remember, you can only vote once. Make it count!

    That’s right, I’ve been selected by judges as one of the ten finalists in the Big Blog Theory, a science blogging competition for Australia’s National Science Week! This was truly unexpected. I’m still in shock, actually.

    From the Big Blog Theory website:

    We are pleased to announce the following ten finalists for the blogging category of The Big Blog Theory (in no particular order).

    Marc West Mr Science Show

    Captain Skellett A Schooner of Science

    Maggie The Skeptics Book of Pooh Pooh

    Barry Brook Brave New Climate

    CJA Bradshaw Conservation Bytes

    Kylie Sturgess Pod Black Cat

    Bec Crew Save your Breath for Running Ponies

    Sara Phillips Environment blog

    Natasha Mitchell All in the Mind

    Jack Scanlan Homologous Legs

    I’m going up against an ABC blog, Kylie Sturgess’s Podblack and Dr Rachie’s Sceptics’ Book, among other brilliant blogs that have readerships many times the size of my own? I’m doomed! Doomed!

    What’s the prize? Let me remind you!

    The winner of The Big Blog Theory, as determined by public vote, will be named the official National Science Week 2010 blogger and will receive a four-day blogging trip to their choice of events during National Science Week (14 – 22 August) and a Huawei U8230 Android Smartphone with $100 prepaid credit.

    As the official National Science Week 2010 blogger the winner will have the opportunity to blog about the events they attend, the people they meet and some of the interesting things they learn.

    The tour prize will include travel, accommodation and entry to events during the four-day tour.

    Gah, what an excellent prize. If you like Homologous Legs, have a grudge against the other bloggers, or… have some other reason that I can’t think of for doing so, then please consider voting for me.

    Remember, a vote for me is a vote for someone who is basically representing young science bloggers! Can I, a relatively unknown student science blogger, beat the big players? Can I? CAN I?

    If you REALLY like Homologous Legs, then consider sharing this blog post with your friends and acquaintances – Twitter, Facebook, your own blogs… I won’t complain. In fact, I’ll probably be extremely grateful.

    You’re Not Helping implodes with a wet squishing sound

    Oh dear. The semi-infamous blog You’re Not Helping, which criticises the tactics of prominent bloggers such as PZ Myers and Greg Laden, has met a nasty fate – the author (yes, singular) revealed himself (yes, himself) as William, a student from the University of Alabama, as well as the person behind many of the suspected sockpuppet commenters on the site.

    It’s all rather sad, really. He made some legitimate points, but those points were spread thinly upon a backdrop of whiny hypocrisy and self-absorbed writing. I’m not one for conflict and humiliation, so I hope the backlash against this revelation isn’t nasty or overly mean, but I don’t blame the people who have gotten and will get angry about this.

    Richard Hughes over on Divisible By Pi has shared his thoughts on the matter, and so has PZ Myers and his cohort of outraged commenters. They make far better points than I ever could, mostly because they’re easier to provoke than I am (well, maybe not Richard on this particular occasion, but in general). You need a tidal wave of hypocrisy, lies, deceit and stupidity to make me break out the anger-blogging – and I keep it all saved up for the Discovery Institute, because I know they can deliver.

    You know, I was so close to blogging about You’re Not Helping a few months ago… I’m glad I didn’t waste my time.

    Update: Russell Blackford brings the smackdown. Ouch.

    Further update: The blog seems to be protected (ie. not accessible without a password) – it looks like William couldn’t handle all the criticism. That’s a shame.

    Homoblogous Logs – A Meta-tastic Look at a Student’s Skeptical Blogging

    This post is a part of SheThought’s “We Only Like You Because You’re Good in Blog” skeptical meta-blogging collaboration. You can find the full list of posts here – make sure you check them all out.

    Meta, meta on the wall, who is the fairest skeptical blogger of them all? Clearly not me (unless you’re referring to skin and hair colour, in which case I might have a chance), but I’m still going to talk about myself like I’m somehow important.

    In this post I’ll be taking a look at why I set up a blog, how I chose the name “Homologous Legs”, why I think blogging is important in the skeptical movement, and what I think bloggers should aim to do in order to become better. Hopefully I have some insights that might be helpful for people thinking of starting a skeptical blog of their own, especially if they’re students. The Internet needs more serious student bloggers! Get to it, peer group!

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