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Biology Talks: PZ Myers and Carl Zimmer


It was a busy week, so I didn’t have time to write individual posts for the events around Seattle. So here is a summary of what I happened to do last week.

I missed Richard Florida’s talk on the Importance of Place. [EDIT: It looks like a fellow Seattle Blogger covered Richard Florida’s talk.] If I had not already figured out that Seattle is cooler than my hometown in Indiana, I would have attended the talk. It certainly sounds like an interesting look at population studies. However, I decided to attend a talk by Carl Zimmer on his new book Microcosm. Town Hall Seattle had the following blurb:

E. coli, known to most of us for its deadly outbreaks, has actually played a pivotal role in the history of biology, and continues to lead the way in the search for life-saving drugs, clean fuel, and a deeper understanding of our own genetic makeup and the history of life. Award-winning science writer (The New York Times and Scientific American), Carl Zimmer, presents an enlightening biography of this humble germ in Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life. Presented as part of the Seattle Science Lecture Series, with University Book Store.

This is the third time that I have attended a Town Hall event and ended up walking away with a signed book. I never would have thought that ecoli would be very interesting, but it turns out that it is used in bioengineering to produce human insulin, among other things. Carl also discussed a recent discovery about ecoli evolving to consume citrate.  [EDIT: Another blog had this to say.] I also had the opportunity to meet Alan Boyle from CosmicLog; he was interviewing Carl afterwards and I was invited to tag along for drinks with a small group.

Coincidentally, PZ Myers was in the audience of the Carl Zimmer talk.  I’m assuming the reason he wasn’t asked to leave was because security didn’t spot him.  He also assured me that he was not in town to egg the Discovery Institute.  He seemed to be a fairly mellow guy, which you might not have realized if you read his blog.  I later bumped into him at the Seattle Skeptics dinner where he was giving a presentation on the evolution of eyes.  His presentation was informative and amusing.  However, the material was rather dense for a nonbiologist — it would be great if he reworked his presentation into a small book. It also looks like someone has written up a blog about a similar article by PZ Myers.

It turns out that Science Blogs has chosen Carl Zimmer’s new book for its first book discussion. It sounds like an interesting read with lots of valuable information on biology. I will be participating in the discussion.


1 Comment

  1. monado says:

    I generally wait until these books drift across my ken in the reduced tables at Book City or even in thrift stores. But maybe I should just order this one so I can take part in the discussion.

    One thing that most people don’t realize is that when we test water for E. coli, it’s not because that bacterium is especially dangerous but because it’s a marker for recent fecal contamination. E. coli lives outside the body for about six weeks, so if you have , you likely have other, more fragile and more dangerous organisms.

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