Science…sort of Episode 240: Moon Rocks Don’t Glow

I co-hosted an episode of Science…sort of recently. I pasted the show notes below, but you’ll have to head over to the Science…sort of page if you want to listen to it!

Show Notes

00:00:00 – Kelly is back and she’s got an update on some scientists that seem to have found a way to stem the spread of the chytrid fungus affecting all those poor froggies. Hope on the horizon? Maybe, but it’ll be a hard technique to apply large scale. We also spend some time talking about a Civil War story involving glowing wounds the help soldiers survive. A science fair project may have found the answer, but Ryan still thinks a body farm experiment needs to be done.

Sso_White00:28:10 – A stiff drink used to be the only painkiller you might get. Kelly’s drink isn’t stiff but it still provokes a strong reaction: water kefir. After painstakingly explaining what is and how she made it, Abe and Ryan have nothing good to say. Abe tries to salvage the conversation with some Romantic Chemistry, but alas it falls a bit short. Ryan tries to avoid Kelly’s wrath when talking about the Pinchgut Hollow Buckwheat Moonshine his Dad gave him.

00:40:50 – Did you know China has a rover on the moon? Turns out China has a rover on the moon. And it did some science! Researchers have announced that they’ve found a new type of lunar basalt. Sounds straightforward enough but Abe explains the complexities.

01:01:58 – PaleoPOWs are a lot like Chinese lunar rovers; most Americans don’t even know they exist. Kelly has an e-mail from former guest of the show Zeka Kuspa, who wants to know if the now extinct Condor louse makes her list of eradicated parasites. Abe reads an e-mail from Steven who’s asking for some help tracking down a particular SoCal beer. We don’t have a specific answer, but it sounds like he just needs to keep trying Imperial Pilsners. Ryan rounds out the show with a new recurring donationfrom Leong all the way in Taiwan. Thanks, Leong! Ryan, of course, plugs his ongoing crowdfunding campaign, go watch the video and consider donating here!

Thanks for listening and be sure to check out the Brachiolope Media Network for more great science podcasts!

Books on parasites

I’m often asked by students to suggest books they can read about parasites. Below is a list of books that I’ve read and enjoyed. The list will be updated over time. Please feel free to suggest books that I should add to the list in the comments.

Textbooks or textbook-like books



Host Manipulation by Parasites edited by David Hughes, Jacques Brodeur, and Frédéric Thomas


Foundations of Parasitology (textbook) by Larry Roberts and John Janovy Jr.


Evolutionary Parasitology by Paul Schmid-Hempel




Parasitism and Ecosystems edited by Frédéric Thomas, François Renaud, and Jean-François Guégan (thanks to Alex Ley for reminding me to include this great book)


More pop sci-esque parasite books



This book played a huge role in my decision to become a parasitologist. Highly recommend.



Stories about how we become connected to our parasites through our long co-evolutionary history.


People, Parasites, and Plowshares by Dickson Despommier


This book is about one of my favorite topics: What have parasites “learned” through the process of natural selection about how human physiology works? How can we take the lessons these parasites have learned and use them to treat human disease?



Amazing stories of past and present parasites that jumped from wild hosts to human hosts. Also lots of stories about scientists being badasses.



Robert Desowitz talks about his experiences working with parasites (particularly neglected tropical diseases), and the people infected with these parasites.  He is an amazing story-teller, and really connects the reader with the human-suffering caused by these diseases.



More stories from Robert Desowitz.



The mind-blowing story about how D.A. Henderson led the battle against smallpox, and all of the hurdles he had to jump through in order to eradicate this disease.



An extremely well-researched overview of the Hygiene Hypothesis.  Moises Velasquez-Manoff provides a balanced view of the evidence for and against this hypothesis, and walks the reader through his experience with helminth therapy to treat his autoimmune diseases.

ASP Student Workshop Talk on Outreach

I gave a talk on outreach through blogging and podcasting for the Student Workshop at this year’s American Society of Parasitologists conference. The slides from the presentation are available below (click on image or link).

Outreach Talk

ASP Outreach Talk slides

Thanks to Emily Kasl for inviting me to give the talk!

Bay Area Science Festival!

The Bay Area Science Festival is coming up (October 23rd – November 1, 2014)! I’m involved in three different events, all of which I’m super excited about:


Nerd Nite Block Party with Science…sort of


On Friday, October 24th I’m going to be recording a live podcast with Ryan Haupt and Ben Tippett of Science…sort of! In addition to being a geektastic good time, it will be the first time I’ve met Ben in person!  The event is being held at a motorcycle shop run by folks with PhDs in BioChemistry. It’s going to be epic, and it’s going to be free.

Join us at 630 PM at the Piston & Chain (1285 Folsom St at 9th St.)!


NerdNiteBlockParty BlockParty



logoWI’m MC for the west coast’s Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses (BAHFest). BAHFest is a “celebration of well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory.” Six contestants compete for the best theory, and there will be a keynote address by Matt Inman (The Oatmeal). Judges for the show are Dr. Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer), Dr. Elizabeth Iorns, and Dr. Andy Sih.

BAHFest West is at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco on October 25th. The show is selling out fast and only balcony seating remains!




Creatures of the Nightlife at California Academy of Sciences


The California Academy of Sciences opens its doors to adults only on Thursday nights for an event called NightLife. The October 30th NightLife is Halloween themed, and the Weinersmiths will be there to geek out. I’ll be giving a short talk about parasites as part of a series of spooky science talks, and Zach and I will be recording a podcast live. See you there!

Nerd Nite East Bay talk

Nerd nite posterI was recently invited to give a talk at Nerd Nite East Bay! Before the show and during intermissions I hung out at a table with some fantastic folks and talked to attendees about parasites. Jennifer Janes brought over some parasitized fish loaned to us for the evening by the Ichthyology Department at the California Academy of Sciences. Bart Bernhardt and I talked to people about the samples, and it was awesome seeing people transform from disgusted to fascinated as they learned about the parasites.

Frankie and Clay from CellScope tabled with us as well, and brought their iPadScope. They let me use one of their scopes to view live Euhaplorchis californiensis cercariae. (Huge thanks to Alejandra Jaramillo for sending me E. californiensis-infected snails!) Folks really got a kick out of watching a brain-infecting parasite swim around! The CellScope guys also brought zebrafish eggs, and zoomed in on the fish’s heart. The CellScope images are really good, and you could see blood flowing through the fish’s heart. Really, really cool.

I also gave a ~20 minute talk and answered some questions about brain-infecting parasites. The YouTube video for the entire show is below, and is cued up to where my talk starts. The talk before mine was about picture books and the Caldecott Medal, and the talk after mine was about a proposal for a new way of treating snake bites. The snake bite talk was by Dr. Matthew Lewin, who allowed himself to be paralyzed so he could show that his proposed cure for paralyzing snake-bites was effective. He talks about the experience in his talk, and talks about how hard it has been to find money to follow up on this line of research. I’m pretty sure my mouth was agape the entire time Matthew was giving his talk. It was mind blowing. Both talks were super cool.

Huge thanks to Nerd Nite East Bay organizers Rick Karnesky and Rebecca Cohen for having me, to Kishore Hari for putting me in touch with the Nerd Nite folks, and to everyone who tabled with me.