About two thousand students in the eighth grade in California’s Rialto Unified School District—outside San Bernardino, in what Californians like to call the Inland Empire— were recently asked to “read and discuss multiple, credible articles on this issue, and write an argumentative essay, based on cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you [accept the view under discussion].” Students were reminded to “address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim.” Evidently the teachers who devised the assignment wanted to encourage critical thinking, to teach the controversy, to expose the students to all sides of the evidence, to present the strengths and weaknesses. A member of the school board explained, “Teaching how to come to your own conclusion based on the facts, test your position, be able to articulate that position, then defend your belief with a lucid argument is essential to good citizenship.”
Last Sunday's episode of Cosmos nicely weaves together the history of science popularization with the development of a theory of electricity, the theory that makes it possible to disseminate shows like Cosmos so widely.
Not the likeliest of pairings, of course, whatever the latter is supposed to be, but bear with me while I explain.
This week’s Cosmos episode, “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth,” was an extraordinary tour of geologic ideas, exposing television audiences to fascinating events most had probably never heard of. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s fact-rich explanations enlightened and informed even as they entertained the eye with dramatic visualizations.
Now that spring has arrived, I thought I'd share a leaf that might seem a little too familiar! Well it should—it's from a genus that is found all over North America today. Its closest living species is still found in the Southeast. Can you tell me the modern species, as well as this ancient one that dates back to Miocene? Their names are almost the same!
First person to correctly identify the fossil wins bragging rights for the week!
In part 1, after a cryptic reference to The Mariner’s Mirror, I was discussing how, while writing a review of Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr’s excellent Darwin: A Graphic Biography for Evolution: Education and Outreach, I became preoccupied with two questions of underwhelming historical significance. Did Captain FitzRoy of the Beagle have a mustache? And if not, why might Gurr—whose “depictions of historical figures are clearly based on a study of contemporary portraits and photographs,” as I approvingly wrote in my review—have thought otherwise?