Musings: Introduction

Audience; level
When are items posted; e-mail notifications
Searching the Musings collection
Lists of Musings posts
Bad links
Access restrictions
Disclaimer (health information)


Musings is an informal "newsletter". The topics are mainly science, but range widely, both in the fields of science and beyond.

We hope that most topics are fun, interesting, or maybe even important. Some may score on more than one of those criteria; that is a bonus. There is indeed some emphasis on things that are fun, but we hope they are often also instructive. There is also an emphasis on doing good science; that includes looking at individual findings in perspective, and trying to minimize hype.

Most posts are based on a recent peer-reviewed article in the scientific literature. (I am now trying to post items within six months of the publication date of the article.) A few get posted for other reasons, such as a news story or a historical item; these are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Contributions and comments welcomed. Contributions from others help to expand the breadth here. Just send me an email, and tell me that it is for Musings. (I don't just routinely post all my e-mail.) Also, let me know if I can use your name; by default, I usually use just a first name. Comments on specific items are welcomed, as are comments on the whole idea here. I prefer that you send me something that is at least a draft of a full Musings posting, but it is also ok to just send me information about an item (e.g., a news link or an article); if time permits and I am interested, I will fill out the item. I will run a draft by you before posting an item; anything that gets posted should be acceptable to you and to me.

I'll post more information on making contributions later. But perhaps the best way to learn how Musings works, including its scope and good form for posts, is to simply read it. The style does vary over time, but reading the current page (most recent few months) should give you a good sense. If in doubt, please check with me.

Audience; level

Musings developed with a diverse audience -- of scientists, science teachers, science students, and more. This contributes to the breadth of Musings. We would like for most of Musings to be accessible, and fun, for young people, such as high school students. Thus, while we try to maintain high standards of scientific argument, we also want most of the material to be accessible to a general audience. As a result, posts are short, and tend to focus on making a single scientific point, rather than providing a detailed analysis of a paper. For scientists who read Musings, the goal is to show a wide range of interesting things, rather than to provide the latest and most technical details.

When are items posted; e-mail notifications

Items may be posted at any time. I typically post 2-6 items each week, usually 1-2 at a time.

I send out a weekly e-mail listing the posts made during the previous week. If you would like to receive the e-mail notification, please see the link for e-mail announcements at the top or bottom of this page -- or of any Musings page.


Musings posts are in order by posting date, most recent at the top. There are multiple pages, by date. This format has varied somewhat over time. For historical reasons, the current page is also called the main Musings page, and older pages are called archive pages. Items are originally posted at the top of the current (main) Musings page. Each item has a posting date, and they are grouped into blocks of about one week.

The bottom of each page carries a link to the top of the previous page. This should facilitate general browsing. Further, each archive page has a "table of contents" of all the archive pages. If you are looking for a particular date, try that listing.

Some topics are split off to separate pages, for various reasons. One reason is to allow related posts to be grouped together. In any case, such items are still noted on the regular pages, in their proper date position.

Musings items are usually separated by a change in background color, and by a short horizontal bar -- as shown here.

Searching the Musings collection

There is no search function on my site.

Google allows you to limit a search to a site. Add the search term
to your search to limit it to the Musings part of my site. Note there must be no space after the colon.

Try the following Google search...
You will get 5 hits in the Musings pages (as of March 2016).

The search output will take you to the page containing the term, but not to the specific post. When you get to the page, do a simple text search there to find the term on that page.

Lists of Musings posts

Musings posts usually link to some related posts. There is no attempt to be complete, but rather to help make connections. Some connections are simple and direct; some are more tenuous, even a bit frivolous. Making connections is fun.

There is no index to Musings (and I have no particular intention of making one). There are some cases where I try to maintain lists of posts on a topic. Some of these lists are on Musings pages, some on other pages. Here are some of those lists...

Lists of related Musings posts within the Musings pages:
* CRISPR: CRISPR: an overview (February 15, 2015). I have expanded this list to include work with related gene-editing techniques, such as transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) and zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs).
* Food safety: Killer chickens (December 2, 2009).
* Homo floresiensis: The little people of Indonesia (May 14, 2009). The "hobbits".
* Influenza: Musings: Influenza (supplementary page).
* Personalized medicine: Personalized medicine: Getting your genes checked (October 27, 2009).

Lists of Musings posts on topic-specific pages for Biotechnology in the News (BITN):
* Genome and DNA sequencing issues: DNA and the genome: Posts in my Musings newsletter.
* Cloning, stem cells, and more: Cloning and stem cells: Posts in my Musings newsletter. The list here has been expanded beyond the original scope of that page. It not only lists posts in the fields of cloning and stem cells, but also the broader and related fields of regeneration and replacement body parts, including prosthetics. For now, there are actually two separate lists there, one right after the other.
* Agricultural biotechnology (GM foods) and Gene therapy: Posts in my Musings newsletter.
* Prions (BSE, CJD, etc): Posts in my Musings newsletter.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Biotechnology in the News (BITN) -- Other topics:
* Aging. Also includes a list of posts about "individuals who reached age 100".
* Alzheimer's disease.
* Anthrax.
* Antibiotics.
* Autism.
* Bio-inspiration (biomimetics).
* Brain.
* Cancer.
* Dengue virus (and miscellaneous flaviviruses).
* Diabetes.
* Ebola and Marburg.
* Emerging diseases (general).
* Ethical and social issues; the nature of science.
* Hormone replacement therapy.
* Malaria. Includes posts on mosquitoes that cause other diseases.
* Measles. Includes rinderpest.
* Polio.
* SARS, MERS (coronaviruses).
* Sudden Oak Death. Includes other diseases caused by Phytophthora species.
* Vaccines (general).
* Zika.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Introductory Chemistry -- Internet resources:
* New chemical elements (112 and beyond). Includes links to announcements of discovery, official recognition, and naming of the newer elements. The page also includes some related sections; these may get consolidated into this section later.
* Atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy (AFM, EM).
* Nuclei; Isotopes; Atomic weights.
* Nucleosynthesis; astrochemistry; nuclear energy; radioactivity. Includes posts about nuclear accidents, such as Fukushima and Chernobyl.
* Lighting: halogen lamps, etc.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Introduction to Organic and Biochemistry -- Internet resources:
* Introduction; alkanes.
* Aromatic compounds. Includes graphene and carbon nanotubes.
* Aldehydes and ketones.
* Lipids. Includes fat metabolism and obesity.
* Amines, amides. List of posts focuses on melamine.
* Amino acids, proteins, genes. List of posts focuses on silk.
* Energy resources.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Internet resources: Chemistry - Miscellaneous:
* Chemiluminescence.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Internet resources: Biology - Miscellaneous:
* Medicine: color vision and color blindness.
* Medicine: history.
* Microscopy.
* Nutrition; Food safety.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Science on the Internet: an introduction:
* Ed Yong, Not Exactly Rocket Science. Scroll down to #6.
* Why Files. Scroll down to #7.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Internet resources: Miscellaneous:
* Art & Music.
* Mathematics; statistics.
* Science: History.

Lists of Musings posts in sections of my page Unusual microbes:
* A huge virus. The giant viruses of amoebae.

Bad links

Please let me know of any broken links you find. Personal reports are often the first way I find out about such a problem.

Access restrictions

Some web sites restrict access to subscribers, or charge for viewing content. This isn't the place to debate the merits; it simply is true -- and relevant to Musings.

In general, I link to two types of web sites. One is scientific journals, such as Nature or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The other is "general" sites, such as news media. I intend that the general sites I link to are freely accessible, though some may require a free registration. For scientific journals, the story is more complex. Journals vary in their access rules. Articles in the same issue may have different access rules, and the rules may vary over time. (For example, PNAS opens their files to free access a few months after publication. Some of their articles may be open access from the start -- because the authors paid an extra fee.) Making it even more complicated, sites may change their access rules from time to time.

As noted above, I intend that the general sites I refer to are freely available. If you have a problem with access, please let me know, and I will check. When necessary, I will remove a link to a news story that is not freely available, and, if possible, replace it with a similar item that allows access.

Sometimes it is possible to find a freely available copy of a scientific article at a site other than the journal site. For example, the author may post the article at the lab web site. Google Scholar (GS) can be good at finding such copies. Copy the article title from the post and paste it into GS. It may be good to use Advanced search: copy the title (or at least some significant part of it) into the field "with the exact phrase", and set "where my words occur" to "in the tittle of the article". GS will return a list of available copies; you will have to check them individually to see if there is a copy you can access. Be sure to check "All versions", at the end of each item GS shows.

Disclaimer (health information)

Musings discusses topics with health implications. Some of these topics are controversial, and many are incomplete stories; that is what makes them interesting.

Nothing in Musings is to be considered medical (or nutritional) advice. For one thing, I have no formal qualifications to give medical advice. Second, proper advice needs to consider your personal situation; one size does not fit all. Importantly, what is presented here is typically only part of the story. Musings often discusses one new finding, and perhaps a tentative one at that. If you find an item here of interest, read more about it, and be alert for new findings that are relevant. But do not treat a Musings post as "advice."

Top of page

Main (current) Musings page

Older items are on the archive pages.

E-mail announcement of the new posts each week -- information and sign-up: e-mail announcements.

Contact information       Site home page

Last update: March 18, 2021