Posted on October 30, 2015 * Comments

I’ve got a different kind of Fossil Friday for you this week—it’s different in that I’m not trying to hide anything. Here it is. All of it! It’s clearly a snail. But so what? Your mission: identify the genus and species, and explain why I went out of my way to photograph this particular specimen.

Until Monday!

Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Posted on October 29, 2015 * Comments

Recently, I was invited to the White House’s Back-to-School Climate Education Event. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, head of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), encouraged us educators to help our students understand the “dynamics of our planet”. Teaching climate science does just that.

Posted on October 28, 2015 * Comments

Photograph courtesy of Michael Barton’s The Dispersal of Darwin blog, courtesy of Michael Barton’s The Dispersal of Darwin blog,

Over the Labor Day weekend, I was visiting a used bookstore in Jackson, California, which happened to be having a sale. The sale induced me to buy a copy of Henshaw Ward’s popular exposition of evolution Evolution for John Doe (1925). John Doe, of course, is a common placeholder name in legal documents in the United States: Ward might have aimed his book at Joe Bloggs or John Q. Public or Joe Sixpack. But who was Henshaw Ward? According to the brief obituary in The New York Times for October 9, 1935, Charles Henshaw Ward was born in Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1872. After attending Pomona College and Yale University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1899, Ward taught English in the Thacher School in Ojai, California, and then at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, from 1903 to 1922. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley after leaving the Taft School, according to the obituary; it’s not clear to me in what capacity, although I found evidence that he was teaching a summer session class to English teachers in 1924. He died in 1935.

Posted on October 28, 2015 * Comments

Each year, in May, I have the distinct pleasure of serving as a volunteer judge for the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF). This year’s fair, which took place on May 1, was the most outstanding one yet for me. Each of the six projects I judged were stellar—one both figuratively and literally. I got a chance to chat with the student that knocked my dorky science socks off.

Posted on October 26, 2015 * Comments

The Zombie Apocalypse...again? Pandemics make for great drama. No TV or movie season is complete without at least one viral apocalypse—preferably involving zombies—sweeping the globe. But pandemics aren’t just science fiction. They have happened—and perhaps will happen again. (For more, see “Breakthrough: Fighting Pandemics” November 1 at 9 p.m. (ET) on the National Geographic Channel.)

Posted on October 26, 2015 * Comments

Returning to our specimen from last week, this time from a different perspective:



Frankly, it still has a somewhat vertebra-like appearance, doesn’t it? Here’s a closer look at the polished surface, to help remove doubt.



Posted on October 23, 2015 * Comments

Chimpanzee reading a SAS brochure, Uno K. Gillström 1958, via Wikimedia Commons.A cousin catching up with the literature Here are some of the stories that caught NCSE’s eye this week. Feel free to share articles that crossed your screen in the comment section, or e-mail us directly during the week with things that caught your eye. We’ll add the best to our weekly posts.

Posted on October 23, 2015 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, another lovely specimen from Dan Phelps, who has again thoughtfully provided us with a sense of scale.

Rather an interesting sight, right? Somewhat reminiscent of vertebrae. A couple of clues: it’s from the Late Devonian and was found in Kentucky. The first person to identify it wins bragging rights for the week!

Posted on October 22, 2015 * Comments

Last week, on National Fossil Day, our Stephanie Keep organized a twitter conversation where folks could ask paleontologists their pressing questions. It rocked, and you can find the whole thing on the #askapaleo Storify.

Stephanie’s icebreaker question about the disappointingly featherless dinosaurs in Jurassic World got this reply from paleontology reporter Brian Switek: