An infographic about Lyme disease

Posted by Kasra

There has been too much work overload in the current days, not letting me blog as often as I want to. Meanwhile, have a look at and share this well done infographic about Lyme disease. Click here for the source, more info and also other infographics.

What is Lyme Disease
Source: Nursing School Hub

Science is boring

Posted by Kasra:

I often think of how Richard Feynman so simply and truly describes the beauty or extra-beauty that science brings to everything around us. I believe what Feynman says is more or less obvious to scientists or people somehow involved in science. We enjoy asking questions and seeking answers that naturally lead to more questions. Then why is it that we can’t convey this feeling to more people? Why the general consensus is that “Science is boring?” Is it because it solves riddles and demystifies magic? Or is it because of the overused and misused jargon? Or mazybe it is because it replaces a preferred presumption with hard truth? With all the discoveries and advancements and technologies surrounding us, why would some people still think science is boring? Maybe science communication should not be just writing about cool stuff that happen in science, but also discussing why we find them cool and fascinating. Feynman elegantly describes the way a scientist would look at nature.

I tried to read only little bit about the interaction of pollinators and flowering plants and was overwhelmed with its complexity. At least one way that I find science fascinating is how it explains the complexity of nature by enhancing its details. It reveals and explains hidden patterns and interactions, at the end making it even more complex that it originally was, nevertheless more beautiful. Here is just a glimpse of this beauty, ultraviolet vision of butterflies and nectar guides of flowers.

From Ivory Towers to Public Tribunes

Posted by Kasra

This is in continuation of a post by my old friend and classmate in his new exciting blog Genophoria. He expressed his rightful concerns about the rise of “Entertainment Science”, where he says scientists are coming out of their Ivory towers and shouting out their impressive and sometimes controversial findings to the public. It often happens that these controversial findings, or at least their conclusions in that regard are wrong. Scientists can accept that. Science is by nature self-correcting. But at the same time, for the public, they lose their credibility as truth-seekers which they claim to be.

It just happens that at this very time, PNAS has published a study on the statistics of retracted publications. Let’s not exaggerate. The percentage of retracted papers compared to number of publications is very very small. Still, their results were a bit surprising at least to me: 67% of them were retracted due to misconduct, either fraud or suspected fraud. Only 20% or so were due to error. Many questions arise: Has it always been like this? Only is it because there are more publications now and more screening? What percentage goes unnoticed? Most importantly, what were the underlying reasons for these fraudulent publications? Were they desperate Postdocs or PIs trying to win a Cell or a Nature to renew a fellowship or a grant? Or were they seeking something further, a socioeconomical, political or cultic purpose beyond science? These questions seek immediate attention and hopefully clear answers. Without any doubt, the fight for budget has become fiercer; and no, most scientists can no longer live in ivory towers, indifferent to the public and their attention – if they ever did. By the way, hadn’t you said earlier that by turning away from the public we turned from high-ranked academics into socially excluded geeks? We need to interact with the public, to rebuke false claims and promote logical thinking. I guess as you say, we are doing it wrong.

If the scientific community is willing to share the excitement of discoveries and controversies with the public, it should be more stringent in the peer-reviewing process of such claims. In retrospect, how many of the fraudulent retracted papers can be labelled as editorial or peer-review failures? Publishing in high-impact journals is getting harder and harder. But maybe during the peer-review, there should be a new focus on skepticism and a shrewd eye for biased claims, besides asking for more and more control experiments. At the same time, when presenting discoveries to the press, more transparency and accuracy about their nature and details are needed, so that a susceptibility SNP doesn’t turn into a cancer gene and an in vitro-tested compound into its ultimate cure.

Fang FC, Steen RG, & Casadevall A (2012). Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PMID: 23027971

Two Immunology blogs

Posted by Kasra

I’ve been struck down with a cold for quite some days now and haven’t been able to put my thoughts together for my next post.  During the healing process, I would like to introduce two eloquently written Immunology blogs that I accidentally stumbled upon on Researchblogging. I am appreciating this website more and more both as a general science reader as well as a science blogger. Regular or once a while visits are definitely recommended. Now the blogs:

Memory Reactivation discusses recent research mostly around adaptive immunity and interactions among immune cells. The technical language might be difficult for those not in the field, but definitely a pleasant read for immunologists.

Lucas Tafur  takes a comprehensive look at research on relationships among diet, metabolism and immune function, an area of immunology that I personally find very interesting and informative.

Enjoy reading and come back soon!


Seeing life the way science does: The artistic animations of Drew Berry

Posted by Kasra

I had seen parts of  this animation that beautifully shows the central dogma of molecular biology, without knowing the creator and his other pieces of work. I finally discovered Drew Berry, the artist behind this work through his TED talk. There, he shares his passion and inspirations and shows pieces of his original and recent animations. Excited by the talk, I Googled him and found that has also produced a video describing the life cycle of Plasmodium. The first and second parts of this short but entertaining and educational video can be watched here and here. This video and similar works by this animator can and should be used as powerful teaching aids.

Drew Berry has tried to be as scientifically accurate as possible by getting protein structures from the protein data bank (PDB) and reading research papers to correctly animate the mechanisms according to them. Read more about his work on his website.

TWIP: The ultimate podcast about parasites

Posted by Kasra

It has been more than a year since my last post. Apparently doing science has taken over writing about science. I am going to try to put more frequent updates which means that I get to explore research being done on parasites again! I would also like to state again that parasite diary would gladly accept your diaries as well. May it be your own research, or work by somebody else that you find fascinating. It doesn’t need to be recently published either. I am pretty sure nobody has read everything about everything. Therefore, all stories about parasites (whether eukaryotic or not) can be exciting and informative to read. If you are interested in participating, send us your diaries to  parasitediary AT gmail DOT com and we will publish them under your name.

As a start to the new era of the parasite diary, I would like to introduce a podcast  that I think anyone with the slightest interest in parasites should not miss. This Week in Parasitism (TWIP)  is narrated by Dr. Vincent Racaniello and Dr. Dickson Despommier from Columbia University. This podcast teaches you  about ecology, physiology and behaviour of eukaryotic parasites and tells you stories that you have never heard before about their history and impact on human life.  Their enthusiasm  for research and for parasites pumps up your energy to continue doing your boring benchwork while listening! I need say no more. Check out TWIP and its sisters (or brothers?) TWIV (Virology) and TWIM (Microbiology).

P.S. The picture in the logo of TWIP is of the nematode Trichinella spiralsis sitting comfortably inside its nurse cell in the muscle tissue.