Posted on July 24, 2015 * Comments

Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University We’re going back to the Solnhofen this week because I just can’t help bringing you another example of how breathtakingly gorgeous these specimens are. I mean…just look at it! The details! These are 155-million-year old details, people! Nature is amazing.

Posted on July 23, 2015 * Comments

A while back, on Twitter, the wonderful anthropologist/dog-rescuer @Paleophile and I were talking about our favorite xenarthrans. Hers: sloth. Mine: pink fairy armadillo and two-toed sloth (tie). Then I said:

Can we also talk about how [X]enarthra would be the perfect clade if the pangolin was a part of it?

I recently promised Steve Bowden a sloth post, so I’m going to use this tweet as the basis.

Posted on July 23, 2015 * Comments

Will Saletan has an amazing, thoughtful, and compelling essay on Slate, exploring the hypocrisy and science denial of certain GMO opponents.

Posted on July 22, 2015 * Comments

Adrian Duplantier. Photo via United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.

Prompted by his unlikely appearance, bragging of his youthful exploits eating oysters, in Jason Fagone’s Horsemen of the Esophagus (2006), a book on competitive eating that I happened to be reading, I’m discussing Adrian Duplantier (1929–2007), in particular his role in the legal history of the creationism/evolution conflict. (I’m not really all that interested in competitive eating, after all, although I recommend Fagone’s book.) As explained in part 1, Duplantier was the district court judge who oversaw Aguillard et al. v. Treen et al., the case that eventually produced Edwards et al. v. Aguillard et al., the 1987 Supreme Court case that established the unconstitutionality of teaching creationism in the public schools. At issue in the case was the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act, enacted in 1981. But, as it turns out, there was a competing lawsuit, which delayed—and indeed threatened to derail—Aguillard v. Treen.

Posted on July 21, 2015 * Comments

We're about to find out...

A few weeks ago, my colleague Stephanie Keep wrote about the expansion of NCSE’s efforts from a focus solely on evolution and climate change to a larger effort to “support the development of a ‘science-savvy’ citizenry”.

As she pointed out:

Posted on July 20, 2015 * Comments

I’ve been pretty busy out here in Iowa City, what with tracking down sweet, mysterious fossils and all. This is the place where we’re piloting one of our new initiatives, the Science Booster Club Project. I’ve been working to organize science-loving people in this community so that they can support local science teachers. It’s been three months now, we have over two hundred members, and we’re getting ready to host our first community science event.

Posted on July 20, 2015 * Comments

Here’s another look at our specimen from last Friday, to help you get a sense of scale:

See? Quite a sizable fossil, and yet the pattern really reminds me of the many patterns I’ve seen at the cellular level. It looks like scaled skin, but this fossil is not from an animal at all. This is an impression from the trunk of an ancient tree: it’s inverted bark from the genus Lepidodendron.

Posted on July 17, 2015 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, I’m sharing one of my favorite specimens from the University of Iowa fossil repository. I found this fossil particularly cool because I love organic patterns. You see so many repeating motifs across time, space, and species. What do you think this pattern came from? I’ve seen shapes like this when doing microscopy on mammalian cells, but I promise you, this fossil has very little to do with that. The specimen is from the Pennsylvanian subperiod, and was collected in Pella, Iowa. Be the first to identify it in the comments, and win bragging rights for the week!

A fossil!

Posted on July 16, 2015 * Comments

Miss Misconception Mondays? You're in luck. Science writers and communicators don’t seem to be reading this blog. Or, at least, they are offering me ample opportunity to revisit some old favorites.

Posted on July 16, 2015 * Comments

Not every educator experiences pushback when teaching about climate change. When it does happen, though, it can be surprising, particularly for someone who has been teaching for many years. Jana Dean is a middle school science teacher in Olympia, Washington. She has been teaching for over 20 years, but that doesn’t mean that new challenges never arise in her classroom.