Posted on June 11, 2015 * Comments

We recently reached an interesting milestone: for the first time in human history, the global monthly average carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm). This wasn’t the first time that the 400 ppm barrier had been broken; that occurred at Mauna Loa back in May 2013.

Posted on June 10, 2015 * Comments

People who downplay or deny evolution often forget that evolutionary processes have major, dynamic impacts on the quality and future of their lives. Case in point: microorganisms.

Posted on June 09, 2015 * Comments

Recently delegates from around the world gathered in Bonn, Germany, for a UN conference to discuss how the nations of the world can reach a “new, universal agreement on climate change.” This agreement is meant to outline how nations will work together to reduce greenhouse gases and limit, to the degree still possible, the worst effects of global climate change. These are good, laudable goals. But as you may suspect, there is a catch.

Posted on June 08, 2015 * Comments

In Part 1, I told you about my work with the 1918 influenza virus, and promised to tell you more about why the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N2 (HPAIH5) influenza strain that is currently rampaging through chicken farms in the Midwest is unlikely to jump to humans.

Posted on June 08, 2015 * Comments

For our last Fossil Friday, we took a look at a particularly graceful little specimen rising out of the rock:

But what was it? A crinoid, as many of you probably guessed, but not just any crinoid. This particular fossil is a holotype specimen for the species Cupulocrinus crossmani, as published in the Journal of Paleontology.

Posted on June 05, 2015 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, we have a beautiful little specimen collected in Stewartville, Minnesota. Dating from the Middle Ordovician, this specimen is 460 million years old—give or take twenty million. What is it? Guess right and win bragging rights for the week!

Posted on June 04, 2015 * Comments

Ralph Cudworth (via Wikimedia Commons)

A few months ago, I devoted a two-part post (part 1; part 2) to a particular argument and counterargument concerning the age of the world in David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779). I’m returning to the Dialogues now to discuss a different passage, with two aims in mind. I want to identify, first, what may be a previously unnoticed influence on the passage, and second, what may be a previously unnoticed—and certainly is a fairly amusing—typographical error quoting the passage.

Posted on June 03, 2015 * Comments

A friend asked me recently why I kept calling out scientists on their public comments. They’re scientists, my friend said, they’re on your side, so stop being so nitpicky and mean!

Am I being mean?

I certainly don’t intend to be mean, so perhaps it is worth a few lines to reiterate the point of these “Say What?” posts.

Posted on June 02, 2015 * Comments

Those are pretty shocking words to read in a classroom, and even more so when coming from a student. But that is exactly what S.K. saw scrawled across the last page of a biology exam she graded last year.