Last week I offered a long introduction to evolutionary trees, and I apologize that it was so long that we didn’t even get to the misconceptions. But as you realized, some common vocabulary is required if we’re going to make sense of evolutionary trees, and I felt that it was worth the time to get it all straight—even if we don’t all 100% agree on 100% of the terms (I’m looking at you, John Harshman!). This week, I again delay a bit to talk about the role of jargon in communication, but good news! I do manage to eek in our first tree misconception.
Almost every day, I take time out to think about both Miley Cyrus and Ken Ham, usually in the same context.
This Fossil Friday specimen should be a little more challenging to identify than our previous trio of organisms. This creature was related to modern starfish, but it certainly doesn’t resemble them. The fossil dates from the Mississippian period, and was collected in Anna, Illinois. Identify it in the comments and win bragging rights for the week!
In a recent post, I wrote about how listening to my students inspired my research into the language of science. In my early research, I found that some science vocabulary hinders students when they learn new science concepts. I wanted to find out what other elements of language have critical impacts on science learning.
On Thursday, June 18, 2015, Pope Francis is due to deliver his first encyclical, a major document laying out an interpretation of Catholic doctrine. His theme will be the environment, and especially climate change.
In my very first post for the Science League of America—“Did Robert E. Lee Come from an Ape?”—I indulged my avocational interest in the American Civil War by discussing a scene in the 1993 film Gettysburg and the 1974 novel The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, on which the film was based. In the novel, the Confederate general James Longstreet tells a visiting British officer about a previous conversation: “Well, we were talking on that. Finally agreed that Darwin was probably right. Then one fella said, with great dignity he said, ‘Well, maybe you are come from an ape, and maybe I am come from an ape but General Lee, he didn’t come from no ape’” (emphasis in original). In the film, the words are put in the mouth of George Pickett (he of the famous bloody charge), and he’s expressing his own opinion, not that of a third party, but the joke is basically the same.
Kate Heffernan is interning this summer at NCSE, where she is working with Minda Berbeco on teacher outreach activities. A recent graduate of the University of Florida, her undergraduate studies focused on environmental policy and education.
Last Friday we took a look at an unusually cute trio of trilobites. Of course, trilobites are a pretty broad group. The species name of these specimens is Anataphrus vigilans. These particular trilobites hail from the Upper Ordovician. While trilobites make popular fossils for home collectors, this species is rarely available for sale. Specimens are somewhat scarce and when they are found, they are almost always rolled up in defensive positions. These poor trilobites were taken by surprise. They have been really beautifully preserved in a natural setting.
Evolutionary trees are everywhere—in textbooks, museums, trade books, and journals and magazines—and they are key to understanding common descent. And yet, to interpret them properly, you need to understand some specialized vocabulary and to adopt a specific mindset. Basically: It’s tough to talk tree.
This week on Fossil Friday we have a nice little grouping of organisms. These fossils might not be as hard to identify as the last few we’ve put up, but look at them! They’re so cute! These guys were found in the driveway of somebody’s farm in Fayette County, Iowa. First person to identify them wins bragging rights for the week!