Well-established by now on this blog is my love for and obsession with xenarthrans. So let it be a sign of my devotion to getting the upcoming issue of RNCSE out on time and full of awesome that I allowed not one but two xenarthran stories in the news to pass without comment. This then is the first of my xenarthran catch-up posts.
It looks like a fern, right? But it’s not a fern. It’s not even a plant. It’s Charnia, sometimes described as “Leicester’s fossil celebrity,” especially by people in Leicester—the genus was named after Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire. Charnia is especially important because it was the first described macrofossil from undoubtedly Precambrian rocks. It was originally discovered by a schoolboy, Roger Mason, who is now a geosciences professor: there’s probably a moral here about either staying in school or looking for fossils. Anyhow, precisely what Charnia was is contentious: for years, scientists thought it was a sea pen, a kind of cnidarian, but the tide seems to have turned against that interpretation. Paleontologists Jonathan B. Antcliffe and Martin D. Brasier concluded a fifty-year-anniversary discussion of Charnia by saying they “favour the idea that Charnia and its relatives may represent something quite distinct.” In any case, frondly congratulations to Dan Phelps for identifying the animal (without, it seems, breaking a sweat), and a tip of the quite distinct hat to Steven Newton for the photograph.
What is actually going on in classrooms when it comes to climate change? I’m so glad you asked. This week, we recommend NCSE’s own latest report detailing the results of our national survey of middle and high school science teachers. Plus starfish, plus neanderthal sex, plus super clear climate change graphics. And eagles—finally a web site for people who don’t care about March Madness. Enjoy!
Take a card deck (no jokers). Pull out a card. What’s the probability that you’ll see a spade?
Oh, the inexhaustible charms of the Ediacaran! The first person correctly to identify the specimen here in the comments below will find his or her name forever enshrined in the annals of Answer Monday. The first person to ask, “What are fronds for?” or to comment, “With fronds like these …” will find himself or herself to have been pre-empted. Also, they’re not fronds anyhow.
“HUXLEY’S ARGUMENT FOR CHANCE EVOLUTION IS STILL CONSIDERED TO BE VALID IN MANY ACADEMIC CIRCLES TODAY. THE JOURNAL SCIENCE RECENTLY CITED IT AS SUCH. FEW HAVE RECOGNISED THE FATAL FLAW IN HIS REASONING.” That subheadline, in all its capitalized glory, caught my attention while I was looking through a strange book that surfaced in NCSE’s archives recently. The book in question is volume 3 of something calling itself the Christian News Encyclopedia for 1984–1988. It is essentially a thematically organized collection of reprinted articles from various newspapers, secular and Christian. “Creation” and “Evolution” are both themes in volume 3, so I peeked at the reprinted articles to see if the volume was worth retaining. The capitalized subheadline comes from “Time and Chance,” by A. E. Wilder-Smith (1911–1995), and the whole article is reprinted from Creation Ex Nihilo (1986; volume 8, number 4).
Hello, readers! It’s been a while. I have a good excuse, though: I’ve been busy putting together the second issue of the “new” Reports of the NCSE (RNCSE), which you will receive sometime in early-mid April. (That’s assuming you’re a member. You’re a member, right? If not, that can be fixed.) With that giant TO DO crossed off from my list, I found myself in the market for a good blog topic. I did what I always do what I need something, whether inspiration or completely esoteric quote attribution—I asked Glenn Branch.
Remember when Pope Francis called for action on climate change? That was back in the fall of 2015. Last week I had the opportunity to see what some Catholics are doing in response to his call for action when I visited one of our local partners, The Prairiewoods Center. The Center is run by nuns; it’s a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. They provide education on evolution and climate change to tens of thousands of people.
Lots of you identified the Ordovician element of the mélange here, but I wonder how many of you noticed the hint? I advised you to write big. And as it happens, the name of the genus of eurypterid you see here before you is Megalograptus—big writing. You might wonder why a genus of sea scorpion from about 450 million years ago should be so named. After all, it’s not like they were famed for their three-decker novels.