I did a fair amount of photo research when
I worked for an educational publishing company. On one occasion, I needed a nice photograph of a scientist “at work” to decorate our introductory chapter on science methods. You know what I found? Photo after photo of people in lab coats looking at or holding flasks or test tubes of colored liquids. It was almost comical, but not unexpected. I have a friend who works for a pharmaceutical company, and he once told me that when the board of directors came in for a visit, the staff members were told to fill up some containers with colored water so they’d look busy—apparently, their incredibly scientific jobs weren’t showy and sciency-looking enough! This stereotypical idea of what science looks like embodies this week’s misconception:
All science is done via experimentation.
This past week on the Fossil Friday, I gave you what looked to me like a turkey leg. But actually it was a dino femur. Who was it that it belonged to? It was a Diplodocus!
From Live Science:
I’ve just returned from NCSE’s annual rafting trip down Grand Canyon, where Josh Rosenau, Genie Scott, and I regaled our fellow rafters with our unique “two model” approach.
There are all kinds of Grand Canyon rafting charters that specialize in everything you can think of: yoga, en plein air painting, bluegrass music, nudism—and, I imagine, trips combining all of these.
This week on Fossil Friday, I bring you the world's largest turkey leg! Well, no, not really, though the animal once attached could have tasted like chicken. This came from a pretty well-known dinosaur from the Jurassic, so I will give you no clues.
What is this fossil and what animal is it from? Can you identify where it is now being displayed? And how did it taste with mint jelly?
I don’t know who put it on the Netflix queue, but a copy of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) arrived in my mailbox recently. That, of course, is the mockumentary starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the eponymous Borat Sagdiyev, a Kazakh journalist touring the United States. Much of the film, as I understand it, consists of unscripted interactions in which Baron Cohen behaves badly with unsuspecting Americans on the pretext of not understanding American customs and/or adhering to fictitious (and frequently repulsive) Kazakh customs. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, and I don’t know that I’m going to bother to watch it. Maybe I’m too tenderhearted, but I felt sorry even for the young-earth creationist Kent Hovind when he was similarly treated by Ali G—also a character played by Baron Cohen. But receiving Borat in the mail reminded me that I’ve been meaning to discuss public opinion about evolution in Kazakhstan. (My to-do list is as eclectic as it is extensive.)
Don’t get me wrong; I love it when fossils make the news. Paleontology is my first intellectual love—frustrating, illuminating, amazing, and did I mention frustrating? Seriously, you don’t know frustration until you spend weeks chipping sandstone away from a rock, grain by grain under a microscope. It’s excruciating. If I ever meet Steven Spielberg, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind regarding that Jurassic Park scene where the scientists, like, blow gently and expose a perfectly preserved dinosaur. If only! But I digress…
Many years ago, I moved to Paris with only high school French to sustain me. Parisians have a reputation for—shall we say—brusqueness, and I had no shortage of embarrassing encounters that I interpreted as scorn for my weak French and wretchedly obvious American-ness. Over time as my French improved and my wardrobe shifted to the local norm, I noticed that I was still encountering a heckuva lot of brusqueness. But as I developed the ability to understand the conversations going on around me, I figured something out: Parisians weren’t singling me out for my accent or my clothes—they were hard on everyone, including each other. Made me feel better, somehow.
I mentioned recently that I was rereading Ray Ginger’s Six Days or Forever? Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes (1958) in order to prepare for a talk about the Scopes trial. While doing so, I took notes about more than just the ornate vocabulary, which I discussed in “A Ginger Glossary” (part 1, part 2). Here’s a passage I marked: “Three days later [i.e., on June 22, 1925], as Albert Einstein was declaring in Berlin that ‘any restriction of academic liberty heaps coals of shame upon the community which tolerates such suppression,’ Clarence Darrow arrived in Dayton to get the lay of the land.” That was nice to see, if not especially surprising. After all, I knew that Marie Curie—a Nobelist in physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911—had deplored the prosecution of Scopes (see “Marie Curie’s Voice for Evolution”), so it wouldn’t be odd for Einstein—a Nobelist in physics in 1921, for his work on the photoelectric effect—to raise his voice for evolution as well.
This past week on Fossil Friday, I gave you a stack of fossils all the way from Danville, Kentucky! What were they?
Last week, I discussed the misconception that everything is adaptive. This week, I want to talk about ways we can help our students see and appreciate the wonder of life without their adaptation-everywhere goggles on.