Posted on September 26, 2014 * Comments

This week’s Fossil Friday may be a little too easy, as it is one of the most common fossils found at the Rancho La Brea tar pits. I’m expecting that the commenters will take a bite out of these teeth with ferocity. What species did they come from?

Posted on September 25, 2014 * Comments

Hohlwelt, 1932, via Wikimedia Commons

Even as I was writing three recent blog posts about flat-earthery—“Voliva!” discussing Wilbur Glenn Voliva, a flat-earther who hoped to be called to testify in the Scopes trial; “The Rim at the End of the World,” reviewing the flat-earth explanation of why the oceans don’t cascade off the planet; and “Taking the Voliva Challenge,” answering three questions that Voliva posed—I foresaw the likely complaint. A flat earth? How pedestrian! Why not discuss a seriously outré view about the shape of the earth? And no, “Dr. Darwin’s Golden Secret,” examining a mysterious reference to Erasmus Darwin in a circular from John Cleves Symmes, the most famous hollow-earther, wasn’t intended to answer that demand. No, when I want a really cockamamie view about the shape of the earth, I know where to look for it: Koreshanity.

Posted on September 24, 2014 * Comments

I could write a “Say What?” blog post about Glenn Beck’s recent rant about the imminent danger of newly airborne Ebola being brought to America by Nigerian prison guards. Not a doctor

Posted on September 23, 2014 * Comments

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

―Rachel Carson, “Our Ever-Changing Shore”

Posted on September 22, 2014 * Comments

There are so many things that I love about being a scientist and writing about science. It’s creative, challenging, and incredibly interesting. I mean, where else but in science can it be your job to think about why human males have nipples, or what the heck this weird protrusion on this particular vertebrae in this particular species of whale does? (Yep. That’s what I spent a couple of years thinking about—and I loved it.) But there is one thing I really really don’t like about science: Science can’t prove anything. Now, to be clear, I don’t mind that science can’t prove anything (and actually, I think it’s super cool, as I’ll explain in a minute)—what I mind is that non-scientists think that this means that we scientists don’t know anything, that we are completely unsure and wishy-washy about all of our ideas and conclusions. Not true!

Misconception: Science proves ideas.

Posted on September 22, 2014 * Comments

Last week, I unveiled a fossil jaw from the Eocene, that sure looked like a tapir, but was most definitely not!  It actually came from the genus, Hyrachyus.

From the Encyclopedia of Life:

Posted on September 19, 2014 * Comments

How much do you know about antibiotic resistance? You might want to take the Pew Charitable Trust’s online quiz to find out. I’m embarrassed to say that I scored only 60%, despite my many years hanging around microbiologists. I got the biology questions right, but I didn’t know how many more days Americans spend in the hospital because of antibiotic resistant infections, nor how much antibiotic resistant infections cost our health care system.

Posted on September 19, 2014 * Comments

This week’s Fossil Friday comes to you straight from the middle Eocene. This is a photo of a lower jaw found in what is now Sweetwater County, Wyoming. This fellow’s family has been mistaken for the tapir’s family, and though it does share an early ancestor, I can assure you it is different. 

This will be a true test of your tooth-knowledge. How much can you tell from just this lower jaw?  Can you guess what this fossil is?

Posted on September 18, 2014 * Comments


"I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere."

—Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clowns Clones


There’s a big, sandy problem with Noah’s Flood.

coconino sandstone overlying hermit formation