Freedom of opinion has its place, but this PhD thesis goes too far

Alison Campbell Jan 15, 2016

One of today’s big stories, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, is of the University of Woollongong’s decision to award a PhD to a thesis that promotes a strongly anti-vaccination take on the policies and science relating to immunisation. Fellow NZ scibloggers Helen Petousis Harris and Grant Jacobs have already commented on it, and over on Respectful Insolence … Read More

Spiders as wasp incubators

Alison Campbell Jan 11, 2016

A few days ago there was a story in the Herald about an Australian huntsman spider that had been found by NZ’s border security workers at Auckland airport. With a legspan of up to 15cm these are not small creatures! And yes, we do have them in NZ as well, but they’re a different genus: NZ readers … Read More

Did Ötzi have a tummy bug?

Alison Campbell Jan 08, 2016

Well, probably not1, in the sense that most would place on the term ‘tummy bug’ (where a close proximity to the toilet is a Good Thing), but it turns out that he did have some rather interesting intestinal bacteria. Ötzi is perhaps better known as the ‘Iceman’, who died around 5,300 years ago in the Otztai Alps of the Italian … Read More

Back from the dead? Not exactly

Alison Campbell Dec 28, 2015

In one of my classes we talk a bit about cloning, in the context of discussing various biotech techniques and their applications. Sometimes someone asks if I’d clone my dog (or my husband!) after they’d died, & my response is always to say ‘no’. Not because I don’t love them both (husband much more than dog, he’ll be glad to … Read More

Silenced by the mob

Alison Campbell Nov 05, 2015

Well, this sucks, & that’s putting it mildly. From Kevin Folta’s blog, Illumination: Dr Folta has been under constant attack in recent months since it emerged that Monsanto had donated  $US25,000 to fund a science outreach program he was running. Not his research, but an outreach program. He was accused of a conflict of interest by those opposed to … Read More


shipworms, pillbugs and gribbles – oh my!

Alison Campbell Nov 04, 2015

I’ve never heard of gribbles before, & did wonder if they were in some way related to tribbles (or a certain US politician’s hair…). But no, it turns out that gribbles are small, wood-boring crustaceans. And they look rather cute. However, their cuteness should not obscure the fact that gribbles (and their partners-in-crime, the molluscan shipworms & … Read More

oh sad new world, that has such foolishness in it!

Alison Campbell Sep 23, 2015

The internet is a seething pool of ‘stuff’, and one of the challenges faced by those using it is to distinguish useful information from foolish fantasy. And there surely is a lot of the latter! Thus we find that According to a BBC news story, the Indian government’s Agriculture Minister  has said that yogic farming would “empower … Read More

Crossing the great (prokaryote-eukaryote) divide

Alison Campbell Sep 01, 2015

I’ve always enjoyed Nick Lane’s writing1, so naturally an article he wrote for the ABC Science website caught my eye. Titled “Evolution of complex life on Earth, take 2?”, it discusses an organism that appears to be neither prokaryote nor eukaryote, but something in-between. There’s a great divide between the cells that fit the description of ‘prokaryote’ and those … Read More