Posted on August 04, 2015 * Comments

Alyson Miller was one of NCSE’s Grand Canyon Teacher Scholarship winners. She teaches biology, zoology, physical science, and plant science at Nashua High School North, in New Hampshire.

I blame the olivine.

There it was, the greenish crystals glittering in a large hunk of million-year old lava next to a trail. Two geologists inspected it, and when I heard one of them say that the olivine-rich peridotite had probably come all the way from the Earth’s mantle, I had to walk away.

Posted on August 03, 2015 * Comments

This past Saturday the Iowa City Science Booster Club held its first public event. Everyone had a great time, and it’s clear from the turnout that people want more opportunities to engage in science in their communities. More than two hundred and seventy people came by during our two-hour event. All kinds of people! Children, families, courting couples, single people, older adults, and the occasional sharp-dressed cyclist. Who doesn’t want to shoot lasers at things on a Saturday morning?

Posted on August 03, 2015 * Comments

Last Friday we took a look at a couple of patterned fossils. I was hoping to trick you into thinking they were plant specimens, maybe some kind of tree bark, but the location tipped you off. These specimens are, of course, aquatic, like most of those collected in the quarries in eastern Iowa.



Posted on July 31, 2015 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday we have a pair of interestingly textured specimens.


What could they be? Animal, vegetable, or mineral? Okay, most certainly mineral at this point. But what were they originally? They date from the Devonian and were collected in a quarry in North Liberty, Iowa. First person to identify them wins bragging rights for the week!

Posted on July 30, 2015 * Comments

This week, I’m attending the seventh annual Think Evolution Institute at UC Berkeley. It’s a week that mixes three of my favorite things: educators, evolution, and the crew behind Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science.

Posted on July 30, 2015 * Comments

A. Franklin Shull, via the University of Michigan

In “Whence Fact, Theory, and Path?” I was talking about what I described as “a familiar threefold distinction between evolution as fact, evolution as theory, and evolution as path.” It’s a current distinction, with its modern locus classicus T. Ryan Gregory’s “Evolution as Fact, Theory, and Path” (PDF), which appeared in the inaugural issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach in 2008. But it is also a venerable distinction, appearing as far back as the Scopes trial.

Posted on July 29, 2015 * Comments
Astronauts surveying the geology of the Grand CanyonAstronaut Roger Chaffee and geologist Elbert King explore the Grand Canyon, March 5-6 1967.
Posted on July 29, 2015 * Comments

Deer Creek Falls

Josh Rosenau and I have just returned from NCSE’s annual rafting trip down the Colorado River and through the spectacular geology and biology of Grand Canyon. Our two motorized boats were packed with an eclectic mix of scientists, teachers, NCSE members, and people who wanted the ultimate experience in Grand Canyon in the company of those who love science.

But this year there was a twist.

Posted on July 28, 2015 * Comments

In part 1, I started to pay a debt to Steve Bowden by writing about sloths. Sloths were once considered part of Edentata, which I regard as the Beatles of Mammalia, along with anteaters and armadillos, pangolins, and aardvarks. (Goofy yet

Posted on July 27, 2015 * Comments

We returned last week to Germany’s stunning Jurassic Solnhofen limestone. I gave you the somewhat useless hint that I wouldn’t ever eat one of these creatures, let alone their extant relatives. The reason? I do not eat invertebrates. I find them downright terrifying when they are dead and being eaten. Living? No problem. Dead and on ice? Puke-city. I honestly do not know where this aversion/phobia came from, but I’ve had it as long as I can remember.