Posted on August 11, 2014 * Comments

I’ll get back to misconception Monday posts next week, but when Genie Scott sent me this idea for a post, I couldn’t resist it. If you’ve been following the news, you may have seen reports that a potential Ebola therapy, cultured in tobacco plants, has been used on two Americans that contracted the disease. And chances are, you didn’t think much of the fact that the drug is coming from a plant, after all, we get drugs from plants all the time. But the treatment in question is not a naturally occurring plant compound, or even a modified plant compound—it’s a mammalian antibody. That’s right—tobacco plants are producing mammalian antibodies. Weird, right?

Posted on August 09, 2014 * Comments

This past week on Fossil Friday, I gave you a fossil from our Fossil Fan, Dan Coleman. Dan told us that he wasn't quite sure what it was, but he had some thoughts. You all had a lot of great guesses too.

Posted on August 08, 2014 * Comments

 

This week on Fossil Friday, I bring you a true fossil mystery from Fossil Friday Fan Dan Coleman! Dan tells me that he found this specimen on the Taylor Ridge I-75 road cut in Ringold, Georgia, and it dates from the late Ordovician to early Silurian. 

Posted on August 08, 2014 * Comments

In this preview of the second chapter from Climate Smart & Energy Wise, Teaching (and Learning) About Climate Challenges and Energy Solutions, we begin with the story of Nobel Prize winner in physics Dr.

Posted on August 08, 2014 * Comments

Since the end of the last Ice Age some 14,000 years ago, the Earth's human population has risen from at best a few million to well over seven billion, with projections of 9.6 billion by 2050. It is no surprise, simply by our sheer numbers, that humans have become a force of nature. (Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Climate Smart & Energy Wise) 

Posted on August 07, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Over at The Week, Keith Blanchard recently contributed a piece under the headline “Why you should stop believing in evolution,” with the subhead, “You don’t believe in it—you either understand it or you don’t.” The prose is engaging; I particularly liked the sentence, “Poodles, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Hollywood red-carpet purse dogs—all this fabulous kinetic art was created, and continues to be created, by humans manually hijacking the mechanism of evolution.” (Did you notice the perhaps inadvertent echo of the last sentence of the Origin of Species, “…from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved”?) And the piece is well-intentioned: Blanchard recognizes that there’s overwhelming evidence for evolution, acknowledges that the bulk of the rejection of evolution is motivated by religious concerns, and understands that people of faith have managed to make their peace with evolution nevertheless. But I’m a nitpicker, and I want to register five quibbles.

Posted on August 07, 2014 * Comments

I noticed the "vacancy" signs first. Two motels, three motels, five, ten, twenty. Their parking lots empty, the swimming pools undisturbed, the hopeful ice machines churning out cubes for guests who never came. This, at the height of the tourist season.

Was it the still-sluggish economy? Steep gas prices? Or something else, something extraordinary?

Posted on August 06, 2014 * Comments

It's down to the wire as I complete the proofs of my upcoming book, Climate Smart & Energy Wise, which Corwin Press will release around the autumnal equinox, September 23—one of two times in the year when day and night are roughly balanced at 50/50—and which also happens to be during

Posted on August 05, 2014 * Comments

Wilbur Glenn Voliva

Which is more amusing: the fact that a geocentrist was actually considered to testify for the defense in the McLean v. Arkansas trial, or the fact that a flat-earther wanted to be considered to testify for the prosecution in the Tennessee v. Scopes trial? True, in the twentieth century, thinking that the earth is flat is even nuttier than thinking that the earth is at the center of the solar system, so it’s tempting to give the nod to the flat-earther. But if you look beyond the beliefs to the context, and remember that the Arkansas attorney general’s office took Gerardus D. Bouw seriously enough as a potential expert witness to include him on a list of witnesses submitted to the court (see “In the Orbit of McLean”), while the Scopes trial attracted all sorts of self-publicizing eccentrics not taken seriously by the attorneys involved, then you might be inclined to favor the geocentrist. Well, I’ll tell you about the flat-earther, and you can decide for yourself.

Posted on August 05, 2014 * Comments

When someone says, “the science isn’t settled yet—it’s too soon to make a decision,” why are we suspicious?