What We're Reading

Sure, the Olympics have the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But do they have the thrill of discovery (Neanderthal fashion, dinosaur armageddon)? And how about the agony of denial (Ark Encounter X 3, and even some flat-earthers)? No, no they don't. That's OK. As a reader of NCSE's blog, you get both.

  • What's A Native Species? That's More Complicated Than You Might Think, KCET.org, August 8, 2016 — KCET’s Chris Clarke explores the challenge of separating native plants and animals that we want to protect from the introduced species that might need to be removed to protect an ecosystem. Even if we define a native species as one that "evolved here,” what do we do when an introduced species has been around so long it’s adapted to its new home, and the ecosystem has adapted to it? Clarke doesn’t mention further complications introduced by climate change, such as species that migrate out of their usual geographic range to stay within the climate range they evolved in.
  • Notorious "Ape-Man" Fossil Hoax Pinned on One Wrongdoer, Science News, August 9, 2016 — A new study suggests that the Piltdown hoaxer acted alone. "Consistent forgery techniques employed on an orangutan jaw, four orangutan teeth and six braincase pieces from two or perhaps three humans point to [Charles] Dawson as the lone culprit who planted faux fossils in a gravel deposit near Piltdown village."
  • What Happened in the Seconds, Hours, Weeks After the Dino-Killing Asteroid Hit Earth?, Smithsonian, August 9, 2016 — Brian Switek reviews the current thinking about the immediate sequel of the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact. "By sifting through the rock record, experts are putting together a nightmarish vision of one of the worst days in the history of our planet."
  • My Trip to the Ark Encounter, BioLogos, August 9, 2016 — "[Y]ou might have predicted we would be less than thrilled with the Ark Encounter as Christian outreach," Jim Stump of BioLogos writes of Ken Ham's newest young-earth creationist extravaganza—and you would have been right.
  • A Full-Scale Ark, Adrift on a Flood of Speculation, The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2016 — Critic-at-large Edward Rothstein is ultimately underwhelmed by Ark Encounter, concluding, "There’s something hubristic about the Ark Encounter...while seeming to enlarge its subject, it ends up shrinking it instead.”
  • Meet the People Who Believe the Earth Is Flat, Mic, August 9, 2016 — Alexis Kleinman interviews four contemporary flat-earthers about their beliefs. There is no hope, alas, that Mic accidentally failed to publish the article on April 1. A very disturbing read for anyone who cares about scientific literacy.
  • Rising Ocean Temperatures Are Making Us Sick, Huffington Post, August 10, 2016, — Oceanic bacteria that threaten human health may be on the rise due to elevated marine temperatures. 
  • Parkas Might Have Helped Neanderthals Avoid Extinction, Study Suggests, CTV News, August 11, 2016 — It turns out Mom was right to tell you to 'dress warm'. Neanderthals didn't make proper winter clothing...but our human ancestors did. (Submitted by alert reader Steve Bowden)
  • What I Learned As a Hired Consultant to Autodidact Physicists, aeon.co, August 11, 2016 — Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder describes her experience as a consultant to, well, cranks. Her specialization in quantum gravity had attracted a fair share of homebrew Theories of Everything, so she advertised a chance to talk with a physicist. She came to sympathize with her clients: "They are driven by the same desire to understand nature and make a contribution to science as we [scientists] are. They just weren’t lucky enough to get the required education early in life, and now they have a hard time figuring out where to even begin."
  • When Science Stands Up To Creationism, NPR, August 11, 2016 — An absolute must read from Barbara King, who has been on the receiving end of an onslaught brought on by her recent article about the need to stop fooling our kids into thinking that evolution is up for debate. The best line: “When it comes to science, we shouldn't let our children believe anything they want.”

Photo by Reywas92 at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5763296