Introduction

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Immortal Amaranthe: A Science Blog! The purpose of this blog is to try to disseminate information on science in a manner that is (hopefully) accessible to all. (Speaking of accessibility, if anyone knows the most disability-accessible WordPress theme, please let me know.) I’ll probably stick to biology at first since that’s where I’m most comfortable; my bachelor’s degree is in biological sciences and my master’s degree is in biomedical sciences.

I’d like to start by sharing how I came up with the name of this blog. My pen name is Amaranthe; I named myself after the flower, not the flour. Amaranth (without the “e”, which I added because…well, if I’m honest, because there exists a Swedish metal band I like called “Amaranthe”) is a genus of plant that plays a minor role in several myths and legends. Its name comes from the Greek “Amarantos”, meaning “unfading”, or in the case of the plant, “un-wilting”. Amaranth’s “un-wilting” nature is what landed it in stories and poems; in Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote “Immortal amaranth, a flower which once/In paradise, fast by the tree of life/Began to bloom”. My blog title is taken from that quote in part because of the nature of scientific research. People go into science for various reasons, so I won’t say every scientist wants their work to go down in history, but significant discoveries will last, and many researchers would love for their work to be remembered—maybe even celebrated—in the future. “Immortal” might be a bit of an exaggerated description to apply to important scientific discoveries, but I liked the quote, so I’m going with it.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it has nothing to do with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Even though I also like the parallel of my blog’s title with immortalized cell lines. I may actually write about Henrietta Lacks later, though, probably in an entry about biomedical ethics. I will also likely write about cell culture and how much I hate it.

Speaking of what I will likely write about, the entries in blog will belong to several categories, which are as follows:

  • The History of Science: anecdotes on researchers or discoveries
  • Well, This Is Cool: entries on recent scientific discoveries that I find interesting
  • Social Justice and Science: confronting bigoted ideas with facts
  • So What Do Scientists Actually Do?: explaining protocols of common scientific procedures
  • Pseudoscience Be Gone: debunking common pseudoscientific claims
  • Found in Translation: summarizing historically important scientific papers
  • Tales From the Bench: anecdotes about what it’s like to do biomedical research
  • Ama-rants: op-ed entries

I’m currently planning to write entries in the order listed above. My first entry after this will be a “History of Science” one, my second entry will be a “Well, This Is Cool” one, etc. I also might sprinkle in some “Well, This Is Cool” entries out of order if a new discovery becomes famous enough that I want to comment on it right away. Right now, my goal is to write one entry per week. I’m not used to being such a prolific non-fiction writer—I often can’t even crank out Star Wars fanfiction that quickly—so that goal probably won’t be a reality for a bit. In all likelihood, I’m going to be posting every other week. The tone of the blog is going to be informal, so I hope you, dear readers, are not bothered by fragments, run-on sentences, and sentences starting with words that don’t ordinarily start written sentences.

What else can you expect from this blog? Well, I already have many entries planned! Here are a few topics I already have chosen to write about:

The History of Science:

  • Rosalind Franklin, especially the controversy over whether or not her work was stolen
  • Social Darwinism
  • The invention of vaccines

Well, This Is Cool:

  • How chocolate might lower chances of atrial fibrillation
  • New species discovered in 2016 (I know it’s May, but new species are still cool)

Social Justice and Science:

  • Genetics is not the weapon of transphobes
  • Medical fatphobia and why it needs to end
  • Darwinian evolution and how it is often twisted to suit ableism

So What Do Scientists Actually Do?:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (I did my thesis on this)
  • The basics of culturing cells

Pseudoscience Be Gone:

  • Vaccines do not cause autism
  • Detox cleanses are heinously misnamed

Found in Translation:

  • Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Mouse Embryonic and Adult Fibroblast Cultures by Defined Factors by Takahashi K. and S. Yamanaka (about the reprogramming of cell functions…and these people won a Nobel Prize for this work)
  • Detection of specific sequences among DNA fragments separated by gel-electrophoresis by Southern, E. M. (about a useful breakthrough in visualizing DNA fragments)
  • An epigenetic mutation responsible for natural variation in floral symmetry by Cubas, P, C Vincent and E Coen (about epigenetics, which is the study of changes to genes other than changes to the actual bases)

Tales From the Bench:

  • How college did and didn’t prepare me for bench work
  • The first time I lost several months of work

Ama-rants:

  • Eugenics is unethical
  • Women (and sexism) in science

Do you have a science-related topic you would like to see me tackle? Great! Comment on this entry or Tweet your ideas to me at @AmarantheRae. I’m particularly interested in hearing about any scientific concepts that my readers might find hard to understand but that I can hopefully elucidate a little bit.

I think that covers everything I wanted to say. Farewell for now, dear readers!

—Amaranthe