Fossils from a quarry in a region of central Wisconsin known as Blackberry Hill show that the first footprints on land were made by an extinct arthropod known as a euthycarcinoid, and this occurred in the Cambrian period, roughly 500 million years ago. The authors of the study, Joseph Collette of the University of California – Riverside, Kenneth Gass, a researcher from Wisconsin, and James Hagadorn of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, published their findings in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
The suggestion that extinct arthropods had been walking about on land in what is now called Cambrian times is not a new one. Sir Richard Owen had published that idea in 1852, based on fossil footprints that he named Protichnites from Cambrian beach sandstone of Quebec.
New Scientist reports that the sample comes from a recently deceased man named Albert Perry. After the African-American South Carolina man died, one of his relatives submitted a sample of his DNA to a company called Family Tree DNA for analysis.
Evidence for an earlier common genetic ancestry--i.e. evidence for an earlier time to MRCA (TMRCA, time to most recent common ancestor, a.k.a. the time to Y-chromosomal Adam)--has been growing. See Dienekes' Anthropology blog's post on May 20, 2011, "The father of us all: 142 thousand years ago." The estimate of 142,000 years ago was itself was a far cry from the then widely disseminated estimate of 60,000 years years ago.
Nothing like being more than 400% off, huh? Well, that's in part how science works: hopefully cumulatively increased precision and understanding attained by increments of new knowledge and refinements of knowledge and occasional massive leaps, and with no guarantee--it might be added--that some of those increments along the way may be a step backward. But, it's the net result of all the efforts/findings (the increments) along the way that matters. 142,000 years ago or 340,000 years ago.... It's not that the difference doesn't matter, but the difference has a significance that's profoundly minor in light of greater reality they're addressing: the story of us all.
(Photo: An X and a Y chromosome. Univ. of Arizona.)
The study fills in knowledge about the relationships between breeds, many of which are centuries old with origins in the Middle East. Darwin argued that all domestic pigeon breeds descended from the wild rock dove. Shapiro says this study puts data behind that argument, as all the breeds sequenced are more similar genetically to one another than to another, closely related, species of pigeon, C. rupestris. It also found that street pigeons are genetically similar to racing homing pigeons, which frequently escape into the wild.
The last thing we want to do is water down the teaching of biology because some people don’t recognize that evolution happened. Evolution is the basis of modern biology and, in fact, if a lot of people don’t believe it, it only means we have to do a better job teaching it. So once again, I repeat, the purpose of education is not to validate ignorance, but to overcome it. And to overcome a situation where a United States Senator can speak such manifest nonsense with impunity is vitally important to the healthy future of our society.
A trove of 84-million-year-old fossils recently discovered in western Hungary belongs to what appears to be a family of a new mosasaur species. Mosasaurs are large crocodile-like reptiles from between 66 to 100 million years ago that, until now, scientists believed only lived in marine environments. The fossils belong to a species that paleontologists have named Pannoniasaurus inexpectatus, the first mosasaur species discovered to live in freshwater. The research team, led by Laszlo Makadi, a paleontologist at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, was excited to find not just one organism’s fossil, but a number of Pannoniasaurus specimens representing a range of ages. Finding juvenile specimens’ fossils is unusual in itself, but finding them alongside adults is even rarer, and tells scientists a whole lot about how that species lived. Makadi and colleagues believe that, due to the variety of ages of specimens, these Mosasaurs lived in groups with more than one family unit, and lived their whole lives in freshwater, versus arriving there later in life from a marine environment.
Brian Cox and Robin Ince get into the Christmas spirit as they look at the science of Christmas behaviour with actor/writer Mark Gatiss, geneticist Steve Jones, psychologist Richard Wiseman and emeritus Dean of Guildford Cathedral Victor Stock.
And Matthew Tully, writing in the Indianapolis Star (December 8, 2012), remarked, "Less than a year after Kruse and others in the state Senate failed to push an embarrassment of a bill through the legislature that would have allowed the teaching of creationism in science classes, the Auburn Republican is at it again. ... It's a silly idea at a time when seriousness is needed in the General Assembly. It's a distraction when the legislature should be focused on core education issues. It's a reminder that ideology far too often gets in the way of tackling important issues under the Statehouse dome. And it's an attempt to walk through the back door a bill that — thanks to sensible lawmakers, outraged voters and the courts — can't make it through the front."
Romani wagon in Germany, 1930s; image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst - Zentralbild (Bild 183)
The Romani people—once known as “gypsies” or Roma—have been objects of both curiosity and persecution for centuries. Today, some 11 million Romani, with a variety of cultures, languages and lifestyles, live in Europe—and beyond. But where did they come from?
Earlier studies of their language and cursory analysis of genetic patterns pinpointed India as the group’s place of origin and a later influence of Middle Eastern and Central Asian linguistics. But a new study uses genome-wide sequencing to point to a single group’s departure from northwestern Indian some 1,500 years ago and has also revealed various subsequent population changes as the population spread throughout Europe.
King's Lomatia is unusual because all of the remaining plants are genetically identical. Because it has three sets of chromosomes (a triploid) and is therefore sterile, reproduction occurs only vegetatively: when a branch falls, that branch grows new roots, establishing a new plant that is genetically identical to its parent.
Although all the plants are technically separate in that each has its own root system, they are collectively considered to be one of the oldest living plant clones. Each plant's life span is approximately 300 years, but the plant has been cloning itself for at least 43,600 years (possibly up to 135,000 years). This estimate is based on the radiocarbon dating of fossilised leaf fragments that were found 8.5 km away. The fossilised fragments are identical to the contemporary plant in cell structure and shape, which indicates that both plants are triploid and therefore clones due to the extreme rarity of the occurrence of triploidy.
Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.
If you've followed the decades-long innanity of science-deniers who target the Theory of Evolution (yes, all of geology, biology, and genetics is wrong--magic, indeed), you'll not be surprised that science-deniers exploit scientific complexity, nor that they often exploit and sometimes simply misinterpretent or misunderstand the role of disagreements within the scientific community, disagreements that quite often exist within the context of overarching, fundemental scientific consensus.
Back to the cost perspective given in the graphic (click on the above) designed by Jennifer Daniel: The number of U.S. natural disasters costing more than $1bn was 46 in 1980-1995 and 90 from 1996-2012. (Inflation plays a very small role in that increase.)
Yet, an October 2012 Pew Research Center poll
found that two-thirds of Americans say there is solid evidence the earth is getting warmer. That’s down 10 points since 2006. Among Republicans, more than half say it’s either not a serious problem or not a problem at all."
The graphic by Jennifer Daniel doesn't include a cost estimate (it's yet to to determined) for this year's U.S. drought, which was the worst in a generation.
Also from the article:
On Aug. 30, [Romney] belittled his opponent’s vow to arrest climate change, made during the 2008 presidential campaign. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” Romney told the Republican National Convention in storm-tossed Tampa. “My promise is to help you and your family.” Two months later, in the wake of Sandy, submerged families in New Jersey and New York urgently needed some help dealing with that rising-ocean stuff.
Yes, it's global warming, stupid, and it comes with a cost--one that in the future could grow worse than need be if science-deniers' influence continues to rise.
the remains of the five most complete North American male early Holocene skeletons to examine patterns of human morphology at the earliest observable time period.... Results indicate that early Holocene males have variable postcranial morphologies, but all share the common trait of wide bodies. This trait, which is retained in more recent indigenous North American groups, is associated with adaptations to cold climates. Peoples from the Americas exhibit wider bodies than other populations sampled globally. This pattern suggests the common ancestral population of all of these indigenous American groups had reduced morphological variation in this trait. Furthermore, this provides support for a single, possibly high latitude location for the genetic isolation of ancestors of the human colonizers of the Americas.
Below are shown statements of abject folly thought by their speaker to be like beacons of truth. If followed as pedagogy in their extreme would misdirect utterly, tragically signaling others, even school children if the speaker had his way, into failure: failure to understand the universe, failure to understand human origins, failure to understand the scientific method, failure to appreciate the scope and magnitude of reality, failure to engage with the grand struggles for knowledge in the areas of evolutionary biology, genetics, particle physics, cosmology, astronomy, virology, geology, and several other fields that daily rest upon and prove again the basic tenets of evolution, the basic fact of that there is one--one--only one known scientific explanation for the origin of species, including human beings, and the basic fact that the Earth is very, very old indeed, and the universe older yet.
This yawning gap in knowledge that he'll happily and haplessly steer others towards, this shadowy, oceanically massive maw of ignorance he promises can be bridged not by structures of scientific inquiry, correction, and knowledge, but by throwing something like an idol into the void it, a collection of select verses from self-described sacred texts penned in the pre-scientific age of bronze tools.
Science gives you the adventure of curiosity and curiosity channeled toward problem-solving, question-answering, and accumulating knowledge that can be shared and can grow. It can literally take you to the moon and let you gaze into the hearts of stars; it can let you see the past by reading the stories of Earth's rocks and even those of other worlds. It can make you marvel at the limits of imagination and knowledge as you're confronted with the limitless but utterly approachable and almost certainly solvable mysteries of the cosmos.
But this man says curiosity is overrated compared to a few words--most of them in a book called Genesis and all of which could all be read in minutes--which are supposed to direct or even completely satisfy a lifetime of curiosity and settle in some fundamental way all questions you and any American school student might have about where species come from and what is the natural history of our planet and universe.
And the man who makes these statements is a member of Congress.
And he sits on the House of Representatives' Science Committee.
What he says disqualifies him for any such seat. That his constituents are not shamefaced is a profound testimony against. What he says is an embarrassment. Yet...he is a policy-influencer and lawmaker, especially as policy and law relate to science.
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.
Please click "Like" under Ashley's and Lee's photo on Blue Bridal Boutique's Facebook page to help Ashley win a wedding gown. Ashley and Lee are both paleontologists. Also, check out Philip and Susan's great story on NPR's Storycorps.
Two years ago, I was having a really hard time finding the man of my dreams in Los Angeles. I dated actors and musicians--nice guys, but not the kind of gut-wrenching, long-lasting love that movies are made of. I'd heard about OkCupid.com, a free online dating website, so I gave it a try. I went on dates, but no one really understood my love for paleontology. I catalogue and identify 70 million year old dinosaur fossils for my job (I'm asst. curator of paleontology), so I needed a guy who truly understood and shared the same passion. Not having any luck, I expanded my OkCupid search from the Los Angeles area to the ENTIRE United States. Sound desperate? I spent an entire night searching OkCupid for any keyword that might lead me to my very own Dr. Alan Grant: "paleontologists," "paleontology," "dinosaurs". I was determined.
Biologists Philip and Susan McClinton started their life together, in 1972, in a very different place.
Forty years ago this week, Philip and Susan McClinton had their first date. Today, Susan is a retired biologist and Philip is assistant curator at the Draper Museum of Natural History in Cody, Wyo. But when the two met, it was at a very different place.
The McClintons' story starts in 1972, at a topless bar in Fort Worth, Texas. Philip was a bouncer. Susan was there to compete in an amateur night, hoping to win the cash prize. To Philip, Susan was out of place.
"I thought, 'She doesn't belong in here,' " he recalls. "She didn't need to be in this place."
"At the time I had two children to support, so I needed the money. I remember at one point you said, 'I'll keep an eye on you,' " Susan says. "And I think that was the beginning of our relationship."
Philip told her he wanted to take her rattlesnake hunting. Susan thought he was crazy, but she went anyway. She loved it. "I thought, 'Hey, this is something I might want to do on a regular basis,' " she says.
On Aug. 13, the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education held a hearing. It was a very sorry affair indeed.
Four years ago, Kentucky legislators voted to tie the state’s testing program to national education standards, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. But now some of them are having second thoughts because the national science standards stress (gasp!) evolution.
“I would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom, in a science classroom, alongside evolution,” Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) told the newspaper.
How can we effectively convey a telling response to common creationist arguments in a 140-character tweet? How can we make our arguments in a public forum without coming across as condescending? Which of our common arguments and critiques are actually most telling with the lay public? How can we address the confirmation bias that seems to occur when people seek sources of information on the internet?
The questions' larger context:
It is no longer necessary to visit an expert at all, even indirectly through his books. Instead, learners can get their information from a wide variety of sources with trivially small amounts of effort and all manner of people have taken advantage of the new technologies to post their pet theories and claims for the world to see. The result is a stupendously huge mass of “information” which has not been tested, vetted or critiqued in any way. To make matters worse, there is evidence that people respond to such diversity by selectively accessing information which confirms their existing opinions (see Knobloch-Westerwick and Meng 2009). The information market is now very clearly a buyer’s market to which the sellers—experts like us—have yet to adapt. ..... [T]raditional methods of presenting science are not always well suited to the world of modern media. It’s my belief that we can win on this new battlefield, but it will require a new strategy for marketing scientific ideas— something the science community typically has not valued highly. What we need to do is spend some time thinking very seriously about how to meet this new challenge with new techniques.
Then, there are other active scientists such as Fabrice Leclerc @leclercfl, who is not only (re-)tweeting science-related findings, but also publishing a regular "online-paper" with evolution-related topics based on Tweets: The evolution daily.
Maria-José Viñas, AGU science writer, also wrote about Twitter and science communication.
(Image courtesy of id-iom via a Creative Commons License.)
Geoff Marcy has spent the better part of his career peering into the depths of space in the search for exoplanets and brown dwarfs. His pioneering work has resulted in the discovery of over 110 planets outside of our own solar system - including the first system of planets orbiting a distant star. But now, Marcy has decided to shift his focus and direct his efforts at detecting something just a bit more elusive: extraterrestrial intelligence.
Half a billion years ago, sea creatures fled from a terrifying new creature: a gigantic primordial shrimp with pin-sharp vision. It is one of the oldest known animals with compound eyes, the hallmark of modern insects and crustaceans.
Anomalocaris – the name means "strange shrimp" – is the earliest known example of a top predator. At 90 to 200 centimetres long, it was the largest animal in the Cambrian seas. It had formidable grasping claws, which allowed it to grab its prey and pull it into its mouth. Lacking legs, it must have swum in open water.
That raises a question: how did it find its prey? It had eyes, but all fossils discovered until now have been in poor condition, so we didn't know how well it could see. Now John Paterson of the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues have found a pair of exceptionally well-preserved eyes, 515 million years old, on Kangaroo Island off Australia's south coast.
"Anomalocaris had remarkable vision, rivalling or exceeding that of most living insects and crustaceans," Paterson says.
Scientists are trading telescopes for aprons this week to sell Milky Way cupcakes, Saturn cake, and chocolate chip Opportunity cookies in an effort to salvage U.S. planetary science projects.
The 2013 budget proposal submitted by the Obama administration earlier this year would cut funding for NASA's planetary science projects by about $300 million. While Congress is still deliberating over the federal budget, groups of scientists are planning a series of demonstrations — in the form of bake sales, car washes and other events — for Saturday (June 9) to plead their case. ..... For Central Florida residents: The planetary bake sale is planned for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT Saturday at the Chevron adjacent to the University of Central Florida campus on 1640 E. McCulloch Road in Orlando.
One of his sons pointed out what he thought was a ball in the creek below to his family. Once they got closer, John, who has an interest in archeology, noticed a marrow line at the top of the object, said reporter ABC5-WOI reporter Katie Eastman, who interviewed the family.
Wonders of Life is the BBC science department's follow up to Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of the Solar System, hosted by Professor Brian Cox OBE. Brian's blog related to the series is at http://wonders.posterous.com/.)
In addition to hosting the three documentary series, Brian Cox also co-hosts the BBC Radio 4 series The Infinite Monkey Cage with comedian Robin Ince.
Photo: Brian Cox with a scorpion in the Mojave desert. Scorpions' exoskeletons contain a chemical that makes them fluorescent under the UV light ("black light"). No one knows why this.
From the NCSE: I thought that you might like to know that Richard Milner will present an illustrated talk about his new book Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time -- the life and art of the "father of paleoart" who brought dinosaurs, mammoths, and cavemen back to life at the American Museum of Natural History. The artist's granddaughter, Rhoda Knight Kalt, will be on hand to share her personal reminiscences.
Check out The Evolution Store. "NYC's premiere retail outlet for science and natural history collectibles, artifacts, gifts, and home furnishings. Our store offers a museum quality atmosphere creating a unique and intimate shopping experience." They have a blog.
After doing a couple of dozen deep dives like I've illustrated above you'll begin to realize that, if a creationist makes a scientific claim in support of creationism, the claim is either wrong or trivial. After another couple dozen deep dives you'll start to see patterns in the errors. And at some point you'll be comfortable reaching the (tentative) conclusion that if the first fifty claims you investigated were wrong or trivial then then you can start making increasingly confident predictions about creationist claims in general.
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline. A little over two hundred years ago a small group of friends founded the Geological Society of London. This organisation was the first devoted to furthering the discipline of geology - the study of the Earth, its history and composition.
Although geology only emerged as a separate area of study in the late eighteenth century, many earlier thinkers had studied rocks, fossils and the materials from which the Earth is made. Ancient scholars in Egypt and Greece speculated about the Earth and its composition. And in the Renaissance the advent of mining brought further insight into the nature of objects found underground and how they got there. But how did such haphazard study of rocks and fossils develop into a rigorous scientific discipline?
Paleontologists have long thought of the coelacanth as a stodgy old slowpoke: Two modern-day species of the fish—considered living fossils because of their remarkable similarity to ancient coelacanths—typically swim in a slow, almost dawdling manner. As a group, coelacanths had apparently kept the same basic body plan for hundreds of millions of years. But now, researchers have found fossils of a sleeker coelacanth—one that likely was a speedy, shark-like predator in the ancient seas west of the supercontinent Pangaea about 240 million years ago.
Thursday, May 3, 7:30 PM Ian Tattersall discusses Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins with Will Harcourt-Smith
50,000 years ago - merely a blip in evolutionary time - our Homo sapiens ancestors were competing for existence with several other human species, just as their own precursors had been doing for millions of years. Yet something about our species separated it from the pack, and led to its survival while the rest became extinct. So just what was it that allowed Homo sapiens to become Masters of the Planet? Curator Emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History, Ian Tattersall takes us deep into the fossil record to uncover what made humans so special. Surveying a vast field from initial bipedality to language and intelligence, Tattersall argues that Homo sapiens acquired a winning combination of traits that was not the result of long term evolutionary refinement. Instead it emerged quickly, shocking their world and changing it forever. Tattersall discusses our ancestors' precarious path to dominance with Will Harcourt-Smith, his colleague at the American Museum of Natural History and a noted teacher and scientist.
A quarter honoring a dinosaur whose remains were discovered in Alberta back in 1974, the Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai., is being made available for purchase on April 16, 2012. It glows in the dark to reveal a likeness of the fossilized skeleton.
The species of Pachyrhinosaurus honored in the coin was named after its discoverer, Al Lakusta, who found the bone fragments while hiking around Pipestone Creek. He wasn’t aware of the coin until a local post office employee told his wife about it after reading about it in a brochure.
Conservatives, particularly those with college educations, have become dramatically more skeptical of science over the past four decades, according to a study published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review. Fewer than 35 percent of conservatives say they have a "great deal" of trust in the scientific community now, compared to nearly half in 1974.
"The scientific community ... has been concerned about this growing distrust in the public with science. And what I found in the study is basically that's really not the problem. The growing distrust of science is entirely focused in two groups—conservatives and people who frequently attend church," says the study's author, University of North Carolina postdoctoral fellow Gordon Gauchat
Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)...confessed that she was now "scared to death" by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.
"We are sliding back into a dark era," she said. "And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms." ..... [I]nstitutions, acting as covers for major energy corporations, are responsible for the onslaught that has deeply lowered the reputation of science in many people's minds in America. This has come in the form of personal attacks on the reputations of scientists and television adverts that undermine environment laws. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for blocking mining and drilling proposals that might harm threatened species or habitats, has become a favourite target.
"Our present crisis over the rise of anti-science has been coming for a long time and we should have seen it coming," adds Oreskes.
This point was backed by Francesca Grifo of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), although she added that one specific event had brought matters to a head this year: the decision by the United States supreme court to overrule the law that allowed the federal government to place limits on independent spending for political purposes by business corporations.
Despite the white beard, Charles Darwin isn’t Santa Claus, but like Christmas, Darwin Day comes once a year, and when it comes it brings good cheer. Across the country and around the world, at colleges and universities, schools and libraries, museums and churches, people assemble around February 12 to commemorate the life and work of the British naturalist. But it’s not just about Darwin: it’s about engaging in—and enjoying—public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education.
In 1620 the great philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon published the Novum Organum, a work outlining a new system of thought which he believed should inform all enquiry into the laws of nature. Philosophers before him had given their attention to the reasoning that underlies scientific enquiry; but Bacon's emphasis on observation and experience is often seen today as giving rise to a new phenomenon: the scientific method.
The scientific method, and the logical processes on which it is based, became a topic of intense debate in the seventeenth century, and thinkers including Isaac Newton, Thomas Huxley and Karl Popper all made important contributions. Some of the greatest discoveries of the modern age were informed by their work, although even today the term 'scientific method' remains difficult to define.
With: Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; John Worrall, Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science; Michela Massimi, Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at University College London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Kruse has been on this crusade for a number of years and has introduced versions of this bill before. They always died. But Republicans now control the state Senate, and Kruse is chairman of the Senate Education Committee. From this powerful perch, he can agitate for this misguided legislation.
It looks like Baba Brinkman is moving things into a new arena with the content of his live show, The Rap Guide to Evolution. Below is an update from his website. And if you happened to see his show, remember, you're a African! (Not "an"!) We all are!
We Are Made of DNA
Babosted onSeptember 21, 2011byBaba Brinkman
The Wellcome Trust Music Video Project continues to bear fruit, if perhaps a bit behind schedule. Earlier this year we completed a Crowdfunder.co.uk drive to fund the post-production phase of the project, adding £12,588 from more than 300 funders to the original Wellcome Trust grant. For those of you in the US, Crowdfunder is the UK version of Kickstarter, and they still list our project as their main successful case study.
During the crowdfunder drive we had hoped/intended that all twelve videos would be finished and ready to distribute on DVD by now, but the intricacies of coordinating a talented and underpaid team of in-demand video editors, animators, researchers, science consultants, and administrators has slowed our progress down considerably. Still, the end is in sight! Since most of the videos are mostly done and require only small fixes or tweaks, my best call at this point is that all twelve videos will be completed by the end of the year and we’ll have the educational DVDs ready for schools and funders by January. In the meantime, we’ll keep releasing the videos on the website as they are finalized, one every few weeks until the collection is complete.
The newest addition, DNA, features amazing James Bond-inspired animation from Tommy Nagle, with sultry belly dancers Sadiyya Vahed & Emmanuelle Julien illustrating the undulations of the DNA double helix, and gorgeous vocals from Noa Bodner. Science has never looked or sounded so sexy… you know, for the kids. Enjoy!
Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or ‘intelligent design’ theory is such a rotten theory.
What any theory of life needs to explain is functional complexity. Complexity can be measured as statistical improbability, and living things are statistically improbable in a very particular direction: the direction of functional efficiency. The body of a bird is not just a prodigiously complicated machine, with its trillions of cells - each one in itself a marvel of miniaturized complexity - all conspiring together to make muscle or bone, kidney or brain. Its interlocking parts also conspire to make it good for something - in the case of most birds, good for flying. An aero-engineer is struck dumb with admiration for the bird as flying machine: its feathered flight-surfaces and ailerons sensitively adjusted in real time by the on-board computer which is the brain; the breast muscles, which are the engines, the ligaments, tendons and lightweight bony struts all exactly suited to the task. And the whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape to fly like a swallow, soar like a vulture, or ride the oceanic up-draughts like a wandering albatross. Any theory of life has to explain how the laws of physics can give rise to a complex flying machine like a bird or a bat or a pterosaur, a complex swimming machine like a tarpon or a dolphin, a complex burrowing machine like a mole, a complex climbing machine like a monkey, or a complex thinking machine like a person.
Darwin explained all of this with one brilliantly simple idea - natural selection, driving gradual evolution over immensities of geological time. His is a good theory because of the huge ratio of what it explains (all the complexity of life) divided by what it needs to assume (simply the nonrandom survival of hereditary information through many generations). The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life - creationism - is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. What it postulates (an intelligent designer) is even more complex, even more statistically improbable than what it explains. In fact it is such a bad theory it doesn’t deserve to be called a theory at all, and it certainly doesn’t deserve to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.
The simplicity of Darwin’s idea, then, is a virtue for three reasons. First, and most important, it is the signature of its immense power as a theory, when compared with the mass of disparate facts that it explains - everything about life including our own existence. Second, it makes it easy for children to understand (in addition to the obvious virtue of being true!), which means that it could be taught in the early years of school. And finally, it makes it extremely beautiful, one of the most beautiful ideas anyone ever had as well as arguably the most powerful. To die in ignorance of its elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature, or a beautiful sunset.
“…by and large, he proselytizes about evolution not by attacking its deniers, but by revealing the subject’s scope, from natural selection to the evolution of human culture and language. At the same time, he teases the audience, sends up post-modernism, mocks himself and satirizes the genre of hip-hop, all with fizzing energy and spell-binding charisma. Like I said, astonishing.” - The New York Times
“Brilliantly conceived and effervescently performed…not only is it factually correct, it’s also dazzlingly intelligent…after seeing this show, you'll never look at a hip-hop music video in the same way again!” ★★★★ - The Scotsman, Edinburgh
“One of the world’s great intelligent rappers…what Baba does is amazing - his knowledge of rap genres and styles is encyclopaedic…a flash of verbal fireworks!” ★★★★ - BroadwayBaby.com, Edinburgh
“The juxtaposition of hip-hop with Darwin is striking. By boldly making use of hip-hop in a most unusual but still provocative way, Brinkman harmoniously fuses art with evolution.” ★★★★ - Time Out Magazine, Hong Kong
“A work of genius. Never since Charles Darwin have we had a more eloquent exposition” ★★★★ Dr. Mark Pallen, author of The Rough Guide to Evolution
“With lyrics that were sometimes sly, often hilarious, and always smart and thought-provoking, Brinkman married the fast, complex, literate delivery of Eminem with the evolutionary expertise and confrontational manner of Dawkins… Anyone provided with an open mind and a hint of musical rhythm should rush out to see this show if they’re fortunate enough for it to make an appearance nearby.” - Science Magazine, Cambridge
Begun in 2009 as a "blog carnival" for the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth (Feb. 12th, 1809) and involving 165 online participants from the Galapagos, Catalonia, Britain, Turkey, the US, and elsewhere, and including paleontologists, poets, geneticists, visual artists, biologists, members of the clergy, nanotech experts, and others, Blog for Darwin continues to highlight news and information about evolution, Charles Dawin, science education, and other related topics.
A miner has found a fossil from a shark jawbone deep in a central Kentucky mine and now it is on display at the University of Kentucky.
The fossil was found in February in Webster County, Ky., where 25-year-old miner Jay Wright was working to bolt a roof 700 feet underground. The 300-million-year-old black jawbone is believed to be from a shark from the Edestus genus that once swam the seas over what is now Kentucky.
Wright said in an interview Friday with The Lexington Herald Leader that his first thought was "Gosh, what is this thing?"
Jerry Weisenfluh, associate director of the Kentucky Geological Survey in Lexington, said a fossil this large is rare. It's now on display in the lobby of UK's Mines and Minerals building.
165 bloggers participated in the Blog For Darwin "blog carnival" (or "blog swarm") February 12th-15th in celebration of the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth (February 12th, 1809). Hailing from the Galapagos, Catalonia, Britain, Turkey, the US, and elsewhere, participants included paleontologists, poets, geneticists, visual artists, biologists, members of the clergy, nanotechnology experts, historians, oceanographers, and others.
It was when I first drew a life-size skeleton that I became mesmerized by bones--and also seriously curious about what I had always been taught about the "higher" nature of humans over animals. Since then, I have been an artist, and through my art-making, a lover of science. I am completely amazed and grateful for the work Darwin carried out and for those who found his work believable, obvious even (after he helped us see it). These photographs are of a paddlefish skeleton I found washed ashore on the banks of the Mississippi River this past summer. I am a bone collector, a bone drawer, and a bone photographer. Thanks for allowing me to participate in the celebration of Charles Darwin. Happy 200th Birthday!