Let’s Go Exploring! #7: In April nothing is certain, except poetry and taxes.

We’re posting late this week because ONE of us (cough Cas cough) left her taxes until the last minute and had to frantically hunt down all of her various forms. Good thing she’s enough of a hoarder to keep literally all of her papers!


As a result of this last minute tax-travaganza, this week’s newsletter was written in the relief/vague dread that comes immediately after filing tax returns… a mix of “Thank god that’s over” and “I DEFINITELY did that wrong”. Enjoy!

Tax month, otherwise known as April, is also National Poetry Month because somebody has a gross sense of irony. We’ve been enjoying our daily dose of poetry via Poem-A-Day and NPR’s All Thing’s Considered, as well as various people on twitter and other social media platforms. There is a special place in each of our hearts for science-themed poetry (obviously) so we both keep an eye out for that. This one by Samuel Illingworth was inspired by the awesome story about growing heart tissue on spinach that we talked about last week:

Translucent Vessels

Running beneath my skin –
Like the network
Of a tightly-knit
Urban sprawl.
All closely ravelled together –
A well-trod map to my
But too complex to build
Or print. Our greatest
Artificial cartographers cannot reconstruct
The interlacing web of hidden alleyways
And ginnels lurking beneath the surface.
So instead we turn to nature;
Bleaching away the fertile exterior
To make translucent scaffolding
From which we can once more
A bustling Metropolis.
Amid the fading
Memories of
Water and chlorophyll –
A network of
New life now grows.

Crispr’s all time favorite science-themed poem is this one by Alison Hawthorne Demingabout mosquitos:


First came the scouts who felt our sweat in the air
and understood our need to make a sacrifice.

We were so large and burdened with all we had carried,
our blood too rich for our own good. They understood

that we could give what they needed and never miss it.
Then came the throng encircling our heads like acoustic haloes

droning with the me-me-me of appetite. We understood
their pleasure to find such hairless beasts so easy to open and drink.

We understood their female ardor to breed and how little
they had to go on considering the protein required to make

their million-fold eggs. Vibrant, available, and hot,
we gave our flesh in selfless service to their future.

Have a science-themed poem you like? Wrote your own? Tweet at us! For now, enjoy the link-stravaganza!

The Links

Crispr is reading:

  • Apropos for National Poetry month, I read this great article about robot poetry! Not, unfortunately, poems about robots (although those exist too) but about how robots (computer algorithms) write their own poetry. Here’s a choice phrase constructed by one of the algorithms featured in this article: “The withered city, sweating with haze, spoke to him like a friend.” Why are the robots better at us than everything???
my robot
  • On the Lenny Letter I read this story about Krysta Rodriguez’s battle with breast cancer, specifically about what cancer did to the things about herself she considered “womanly”. It’s so sad, but with a message I found really inspirational. Womanhood isn’t about breasts or periods. It’s about the choices you make and the way you live your best life. The same can, of course, be said of men and manhood. (Speaking of manhood and what makes a man: I proceed through life assuming everyone has already listened to the This American Life episode about testosterone. If you haven’t, now is a GREAT time to do that.)
  • Also on the subject of womanhood, Monica Byrne wrote a scathing note to Microsoft about their Stay In STEM ad campaign. The gist: why blame girls for dropping out of STEM careers when men make staying there so shitty?
  • And finally, are you as obsessed with David Sedaris as I am? Probably. He published a new piece up in the New Yorker! It’s called The IHOP Years, which is, incidentally, also what I call my short-lived marching band career.

Cas is reading:

  • If you need a fun yet emotional longread, Taffy Brodesser-Akner is always a good bet. This article is about the cult of Wellness, and it’s both intriguing and personal. As a skeptic at heart, the idea of Wellness makes me frustrated and uncomfortable. This article made me reconsider the people wrapped up in this cult, while also crystallizing some of the key problems I have with it: namely the idea that “ultrahealth” can really only be achieved with a high pricetag, thus restricting its vague “benefits” to the wealthy elite.
  • There’s an emerging Yellow Fever virus crisis, which has been exacerbated by the vaccine being in short supply. A lot of our emerging disease energy has been focused on Zika lately, which might actually be a boon in this case because Zika and Yellow Fever virus are closely related. All that Zika research MIGHT be translatable to this epidemic…. although since there’s already an effective vaccine available what we really need is better and faster distribution of developed prevention. Fund healthcare!!!
  • I’m reading Richard Harris’ book Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions (more on that next week) and this article on the study of model organisms (animals used in scientific studies) bubbled up to my attention.  The authors propose a new word, therioepistemology, which is a) a mouthful and b) supposed to mean “the study of how knowledge is gained from animal research”. Why is this important? Well, as also discussed by Richard Harris, model organisms are highly inbred, genetically similar, and kept in very standardized conditions. This can be problematic when scientists use small sample sizes of these animals for experiments and then draw generalized conclusions. This is especially important in drug studies, when the conclusions from these kinds of experiments result in drug trials for human treatments. Studying how to make experiments in animals better is really important, so I think the authors of this paper have the right idea. I’m interested to see if this word catches on, despite being impossible to read or say without preparation and fortitude.
  • This Atlas Obscura article about woman in the 1920s who formed their own explorer’s club warmed my heart. ❤
  • I just realized we’ll be posting on Bat Appreciation Day! Bats are awesome, did you know they can eat 1000 mosquitos an hour? Please support your local bat population.

Hope y’all had a good Easter! Next week we’ll be sending this out on Sunday because we want to share our experience of March for Science. Looking forward to it already! Keep exploring! 

Crispr & Cas

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