Ode to the Fruit Fly, by Curt Stern.

This week I was browsing trough this new book the Drosophila world is happy to place on the lab shelf, next the the red book*, blue book**, and fly pushing***. It’s the Atlas of Drosophila Morphology, written by Sylwester Chyb and Nicolas Gompel. It’s absolutely beautiful, and will be helpful to all fly pushers.(here is a  professional review)

At the beginning, there is this citation of Curt Stern I just love. I think this is a beautiful description of how every true fly pushers feels when looking at flies under the binocular microscope.

“For more than 25 years I have looked at the little fruit fly Drosophila and each time I find fresh delight. When I see Drosophila under moderate magnification of a binocular microscope I marvel at the clearcut form of the head with giant red eyes, the antennae, and elaborate mouth parts; at the arch of the sturdy thorax bearing a pair of beautifully iridescent, transparent wings and three pairs of legs; at the design of the simple abdomen composed of a series of ringlike segments. A shining, waxy armor of chitin entirely covers the body of the insect. In some regions this armor is bare, but in others regions there arise short or long outgrowths – the bristles – strong and wide at the base and gently tapering off to a fine point. Narrow grooves, as in fluted columns with a slightly baroque twist, extend along their lengths.” -Curt Stern, 1954. Two or three bistles, American Scientist, 42, p. 213.

Don’t you feel exactly the same way when looking at your flies ?

* The Genome of Drosophila melanogaster, by Dan L. Lindsley and Georgianna G. Zimm

** Drosophila: A Laboratory Handbook, by Michael Ashburner , Kent Golic and R. Scott Hawley

*** Fly Pushing, by R. J. Greenspan

Science pick: Nature PastCast

podcastNot sure I already mentioned this earlier, but I am a podcast junkie. The one I listen to every week is This week in Virology, and it’s “spin-offs”, This week in microbiology, and This week in Parasitism. I also listen to the Nature/Science podcast here and there, and discovered recently a new podcast made by Nature Publishing Group, the Nature PastCast.

The idea is to talk, once a month, about these old legendary papers published in Nature. The presenter and producer of these episodes gives more details about it here. The first episode is a tribute to the discovery of the structure of DNA which was 60 years ago. They feature Raymond Gosling, a 86 year-old men now, who was a PhD student in the lab of King’s college at the time of the discovery.

I thought this was a super good idea, and to come back to This week in Virology, some epidoes also consist of interviews of these “legends” of biology. One of the most amazing was the one with Pr. Marcus, the first scientist to clone HeLa cells. He talks about the whole process, and has crazy anecdotes, like his mentor calling Princeton one day and saying “I’d like to talk to Einstein, please.” I would really really recommend this podcast to everybody !

Here are the links to :

The first PastCast about DNA structure.

TVIW with Pr. Marcus 

-Many other nowadays/legend scientists guests on TVIW

And you, do you have any good podcasts to recommend ?

10 ways to insult a scientist

Although the scientific world is relatively civilized, people developed subtle ways of insulting each other without really saying it. Here is my top 10.


1- Does mainly applied research. The rivalry, despise, and even haste between “fundamental” and “applied” researchers is just as legendary then the one between New York and New Jersey, France and England, Mac and PC’s. Somebody coming from the “fundamental” side will use the sentence “does mainly applied research” if they want to say “Basically, does no research at all“. Baaam.

2- Is a good teacher. Can be the correlate of ” … but, is bad at science”.

3- Has been tenured since a long time. Sounds positive at first, but actually means this person has been like a mussel on the rock. Inactive, boring, and aggregating foam on the back. Motivation to do novel and innovative research is close to zero.

4- Publishes in specialized journals. Sneaky one. Although publishing sounds like a good thing, the “specialized” part of this sentence actually means low-impact, low-interest or low-quality.

5- Is often gone on conference. Generally said of big wigs. Actually means they spend all their time attending meetings and doing PR, rather then taking care of their lab and research.

6- Research is mainly based on correlations/descriptions. That’s an other way of saying that the research lacks depth, or mechanistic details. Ouch.

7- Is good at bench work. Implies that this person is basically a technician, and is not interested/capable of sitting down to read, write, or think. You never want to hear this about yourself.

8- Is present during work hours. Again, seems like a nice comment at first, but this is actually a hidden way of saying “is present only during work hours”. Means this person is never in the lab late or during week-ends. Possibly implies low motivation level, or low output.

9- Is a nice person. Hum, like in other relationships, the adjective “nice” is generally used when nothing else is applicable. Smart, pretty, funny, etc … In science, the “nice person” is the one people like to hang out during lab outings; and chat with, but not about science. So it basically means not-very-good-at-science-but-nice-person, again.

10- Is too busy to attend seminars. Missing a seminar here and there, because a crucial experiment is going on is understandable. But some people might always claim being too busy. This means, uninterested in anything else then there own little subfield, and lazy to walk up a few floors to the seminar room.


So, do you recognize some of these ? Isn’t science a cruel world to live in, after all ?