Tag Archives: biochemistry

Graphic design, error, and accidental learning

Graphics: Cover design for The Scientist’s Guide to Writing (Princeton University Press, April 2016). Twirling DNA: by brian0918; own work, released to public domain, via wikimedia.org. DNA structures: by Thorwald, released to public domain via wikimedia.org.

Warning: an unusual foray into biochemistry is coming at you. Stick with it, though; there’s an interesting story here, on a couple of levels.

If you’ve been reading Scientist Sees Squirrel, you probably haven’t missed my occasional oh-so-subtle references to my forthcoming writing book, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing (Princeton, April 2016). I was very excited last month to finally see the cover design, and last week to be given the all-clear to release it publicly. I did so on Twitter, but within hours three sharp-eyed followers replied to my celebratory tweet with the news that there was something wrong with the graphic design. Continue reading

Nature’s pharmacy? “Medicinal” plants in the garden

Photo: Echinacea purpurea; credit: Jamie Heard

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of CC BY-SA 88x31the Fredericton Botanic Garden. I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license . If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.


You don’t need to spend long on the Web, or talking with family and friends, to hear about the wonderful potential of plants to treat human illness. The medicinal value of plant extracts is a major theme in “alternative”, “naturopathic”, “traditional”, and “herbal” medicine – and indeed, in just plain medicine, because many of the drugs we use to restore our health have their origins in the biochemical machinery of plants.

Look around the Botanic Garden – or your own garden – and you’ll see plenty of plants with historical, and often continued, medicinal uses. Continue reading