Tuesday, September 14, 2004

New PLoS Biology Issue

PLoS Biology - www.plosbiology.org

This month's issue of PLoS Biology is an especially worthwhile read. Some recommendations:

* The Case of the Noisy Neurons, which summarizes the equally interesting (but much more technical) Amplification of Trial-to-Trial Response Variability by Neurons in Visual Cortex.

* The Conservation Business, on the increasing tendency of conservationism to use economic categories

* From my favorite PLoS Biology feature, "Unsolved Mystery," What Is Life—and How Do We Search for It in Other Worlds? There's some great food for philosophical thought here. (I notice, though, that the article by Pace which he cites actually has a much stronger argument for the universal nature of biochemistry than one can get from the article. McKay makes it sound as if Pace argues for it by appeal to natural selection: "because there is one best way to do things and that natural selection will ensure that life everywhere discovers that way." This would be an extremely bad argument. But having looked it up online (it's free only in extract but I can see the full article because I'm looking at it at the University of Toronto, which has a subscription), I don't see that this is Pace's argument at all. Pace's article (which is worth reading) argues that we should expect all life in the universe to have more or less the same biochemistry for chemical and physical reasons. He mentions natural selection as a qualification to this, citing it as a reason to expect some definite biochemical variation. This is clearly a much better argument.)

* Paradoxes of Difference, on the politics of sex and race in scientific research as portrayed in the play "Relativity"

* Bridging Psychology and Mathematics: Can the Brain Understand the Brain? an interesting article that seems marred, alas, by a rather absurd ending

* the two primers, Adaptation and Immunity and Hormonal Regulation of Plant Growth and Development

This issue's even better than usual. I can't wait until PLoS Medicine comes out (19 October). In the meantime, I'll be perusing the articles above at a more leisurely rate.

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