Whose skull is this? If you think you know the answer, write it on a postcard or on the flyleaf of a first edition of On the Origin of Species, and mail it to NCSE, PO Box 9477, Berkeley CA 94709-0477. Or just leave a comment below.
NCSE recently learned that there was a new evolution game on the map: Go eXtinct! Of course we wanted to give it a whirl. But would playing it in the office, with a team of evolution experts, be the best way to review the game? Maybe not. We thought it might be fun to try it on people with less background in evolution, to see if the game was truly educational. I agreed to assemble a focus group.
A young person of my acquaintance, reading Scott Westerfeld’s young-adult novel Peeps (2005)—which has a disturbing amount of scientific information about parasitism in it— drew my attention to the following passage:
“Evolution is mostly about mutations that don’t work, sort of like the music business.” She pointed at her boom box, which was cranking Deathmatch at that very moment. “For every Deathmatch or Kill Fee, there are a hundred useless bands you never heard of that go nowhere. Same with life’s rich pageant. That’s why Darwin called mutations ‘hopeful monsters.’ It’s a crapshoot; most fail in the first generation.”
“The Hopeful Monsters,” I said. “Cool band name.”
I assume that you are already shaking your head no. After all, Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)—no apostrophe—wasn’t a band; rather, it was the fourth studio album (as well as the first gold record) of the band R.E.M. Oh, and the bit about “hopeful monsters” is wrong too.
On the first day of every school year, I ask my students to draw a scientist. After questioning looks and a round of giggles, the majority of them draw the well-known ‘Einstein’ figure, an older white male with crazy hair and eyeglasses.This figure will inevitably be drawn next to a table of smoking chemicals, and even if it’s just a stick figure, it becomes obvious that his scientific intentions are not necessarily for the good of humankind.
In November, I attended WGBH’s forum on digital media in STEM learning. The topic: climate education. NCSE’s friends from the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) were there in force, as were representatives from NOAA Education, NASA, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, and Young Voices for the Planet.
Last week’s Fossil Friday specimen was, as I’m sure all of you could see, little more than a humble jaw. The question, of course, is whose jaw was it? Let’s take a look at the full picture:
Tanks to our loyal readers! (The illustration shows a temporary library facility established in an abandoned water supply reservoir in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.) And best wishes for the new year from all of us at NCSE.
This week in Fossil Friday, I have a specimen from a species that is part of an interesting story, although sadly my photo quality is rather poor.
The fragments from which this specimen was reconstructed were found in Italy, and I think that, with all the hard work I did obscuring the text in the photograph, that is all I’m giving you by way of clues this week. What is it? The first person to guess right wins bragging rights for the week!