Posted on May 18, 2015 * Comments

you  have died of dysenteryA pair of fierce, angry eyes followed me as I moved toward the exit of the conference room.

Posted on May 15, 2015 * Comments

Let it be known that I love, love, love Tobin Grant’s work at Religion News Service. The political scientist at Southern Illinois University examines the role of religion in politics (and vice versa) using beautiful and informative data visualizations. I’m particularly enamored of this graphic, showing how members of different denominations fall out in terms of belief that the government should provide more services, compared to the degree to which they believe the government should promote morality.

I love it so much, in fact, that I decided to make my own version, exploring church memberships’ views on evolution and other scientific topics.

So I downloaded the 2007 version of Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey (a new version of this survey was just published, but the raw data aren’t available, nor have results from any questions on evolution been published), and broke it down the same way Grant did.

Plot of religious groups’ attitudes on the environment vs. evolution

Posted on May 14, 2015 * Comments

In previous installments, my friend Corwin Sullivan of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, China and I covered the basics about everybody’s new favorite batwinged dino-pigeon Yi qi. In Part 1, we discussed what’s so special about it, and in Part 2, what we know about how it might have flown and why we don’t know more.

Posted on May 13, 2015 * Comments

In Part 1, I introduced you to my friend Corwin Sullivan of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, China, co-describer of the enigmatic Yi qi fossil that hit the media last week. Yi qi—the name means, roughly, “strange wing”—is a close bird relative with wings sort of like those of a bat. So naturally, everyone wants to know if and how this critter flew.

Posted on May 12, 2015 * Comments

Frederick Bridge, via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t want to be morbid, so blame Dan Coleman, who, commenting on part 1 of “Darwin’s Pallbearers,” asked, “Will you also include the anthem that was specially commissioned and written for his funeral?” Well, okay.

Posted on May 11, 2015 * Comments

Warning: I am not a climate scientist. To say that Freeman Dyson is a highly respected scientist is an understatement. Over his 91 years, he has made seminal discoveries in mathematics and physics; written evocatively (and provocatively) on what it means to be a scientist, the role of science in society, and the culture of science; shared the fruits of his imagination about possible future discoveries and their implications for humanity; and generally offered up one fresh and unexpected view after another on topics from space travel to genetic engineering and beyond.

By all accounts, he’s a modest and funny man, a loving husband and father, and a continued source of inspiration to his colleagues at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. However, since 2007, he’s been purporting to be the voice of “moderation” on the topic of climate change. Casting himself in the role of objective, outside observer, he has declared that climate scientists are caught up in their own hype, in love with their own models, and distracting society from ills far more important than climate change.

I wish that he were right. It would be swell if climate change were really not a big deal. But he’s not, and it is.

Posted on May 08, 2015 * Comments

When I decided to leave my PhD program in paleontology to pursue other endeavors, one of the reasons was a lab mate named Corwin Sullivan. Not because he was smelly or mean or anything negative—in fact, it was exactly for the opposite reason: Corwin was (and is) awesome.

Posted on May 06, 2015 * Comments

“Climate change is a children’s issue!”

Posted on May 05, 2015 * Comments

When I was in college—way back when Veruca Salt was wildly popular and you surfed the “World Wide Web” using Netscape—I saw a presentation in my environmental science class on e-books. What were the environmental benefits of e-books? Would they save paper? Be more economical?