Posted on October 24, 2014 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, I share another mystery fossil about which I’ll tell you very little. Hailing from the Miocene, this specimen was found in Nevada. It looks like a blob of some sort. Was it a single living blob or many smaller blobs, blobbed together? A piece of dino-poo? A very warty sloth foot? A deformed blowfish? Some of you will know right away. Can you identify what it was?

Posted on October 23, 2014 * Comments

In my last post, I told you that NCSE is collecting stories from scientists, elected officials, journalists, and anyone else whose interest in science, and commitment to great science education, was sparked by a terrific teacher. I began with the story of Stefano Bertuzzi, executive director of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). Stefano’s interest in science was sparked by Ms.

Posted on October 23, 2014 * Comments

James Ussher, 1641 portrait by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen, via Wikimedia Commons

I suppose, with my taste for gobbets of recherché historical trivia, that “Seven Myths about Ussher” is about as close as I can come to composing a headline with much in the way of clickbait appeal. But at least because today is October 23, 2014—marking the beginning of the 6018th year since the creation of the world, according to James Ussher’s estimate in his Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti, una cum rerum Asiaticarum et Aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto (1650)—it’s a timely occasion to discuss seven myths about the chronology offered by Ussher (1591–1656; seen above).

Posted on October 22, 2014 * Comments

“I’d like a Biblical check on that.”

Those were the first words I heard upon logging into Monday’s working session of the Texas board of education. The board was meeting with publishers to discuss revisions to social studies textbooks, in preparation for the final adoption vote on November 21.

Posted on October 21, 2014 * Comments

Scene from Majomszínház (1925), via Wikimedia Commons

I’m in the middle, just about the exact middle in fact, of summarizing a Hungarian play, Ferenc Herczeg’s Majomszínház (1925), a comedy in three acts. Why? Because, as I noted in part 1, The New York Times for January 2, 1927, claimed that Herczeg “is probably the first playwright to utilize the celebrated Dayton trial as the theme for a play.” Under the title Monkey Business, a translation of the play was supposed to start rehearsal in New York shortly after the Times article appeared. But as far as I can tell, the play was never produced, and the translation was never published. So I obtained a copy of the play and, despite not knowing any Hungarian, managed to produce a rough translation that’s inelegant, occasionally mysterious, but overall comprehensible: certainly enough to give the gist of the events of the play.

Posted on October 20, 2014 * Comments

Last week on Fossil Friday, I told you nothing! Was it an animal, vegetable, or mineral? I asked. Was this even a fossil from a living creature or a drip of sloth snot? You had to tell me what genus it came from and whether we could find something similar today.

And it was….a needle from the genus Pinus (aka a pine needle). Though the specimen tag did not specify the specific species, the UCMP has an interesting blog post about the Monterey Pine which is found today too:

Posted on October 20, 2014 * Comments

Within the climate communication community, blaming the messenger—climate scientists—for the lack of progress on climate action has been almost as popular as blaming deniers for interfering with the message. “If only climate scientists were better communicators,” the lament goes, “then we’d see more progress on addressing climate change.”

Posted on October 20, 2014 * Comments

Does epigenetics mean natural selection requires a makeover? In this (at least) 3-parter, we'll get into it.

Posted on October 17, 2014 * Comments

For this week’s Fossil Friday, I’ll tell you nothing. Not where this fossil came from, what time period, or even the phylum. Is it a worm? A trace fossil? Or did something just sneeze on a rock a million years ago?

You tell me! What genus did this come from? Was it an animal, vegetable, or mineral? Could you find something similar today?

Posted on October 16, 2014 * Comments

It’s October, so it’s Nobel prize season. Last week the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to John O’Keefe, and Edvard and May-Britt Moser for their work on how the brain figures out where you are. Journalists have been calling it your “inner    GPS system.” The Physics prize was awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura, for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes.