What We’re Reading

Ce n’est pas un football Just a few choice reads this weekend because I know you’ll all be busy watching the Super Bowl L festivities. Wait, you don’t know what that is? It’s a football game—football, it turns out, is quite popular in the U.S. This is the last football game of the year and it’s being played right here in San Francisco. Well, technically, about an hour away in Santa Clara, but don’t let the organizers know that, since they’ve taken over much of downtown San Francisco with a Super Bowl “City.” Anyhoo, once that’s out of the way, we can get back to watching the Warriors play the most beautiful basketball ever. Or reading about science. Your call.

  • Ravens Know When They’re Being Watched, Washington Post, February 3, 2016 — New research demonstrates that ravens may possess a theory of mind—a finding that chips away at popular notions of human uniqueness, and contributes to our evolutionary and behavioral picture of what constitutes sentience.
  • Mystery Meat: Was it Really Woolly Mammoth on the Menu? ABC News, February 3, 2016 — Of interest to NCSE readers, new genetic analysis suggests that no one actually ate any giant ground sloths at the famed 1951 Explorer’s Club dinner, nor did they have mammoth.  The sad truth of the matter: nobody ate any prehistoric animals at all, only poor sea turtles.
  • DNA Study of First Ancient African Genome Flawed, Researchers Report, The New York Times, February 4, 2016 — Carl Zimmer reports on a mistake in the first reconstruction of an ancient human from Africa, leading to a partial retraction. Is "the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact" the great tragedy of science, as Huxley said? Or is it the great triumph of science that it can be self-correcting?
  • A New Paper Showing the Usefulness of the Kin-Selection Model, Why Evolution Is True, February 4, 2016 — In a guest post at Jerry Coyne's blog, Phil Ward of the University of California, Davis, describes and explains the significance of a new paper in PNAS arguing (in Ward's words) that "intragenomic conflict in honey bees indeed reveals itself in a way predicted by kin selection theory."
  • Butterflies Forty Million Years Before Butterflies, Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science, February 4, 2016 — Ed Yong writes about fossil lacewings with wings uncannily similar to butterfly wings, complete with eyespots, and similar strawlike mouthparts. They just lived 40 million years before the first butterflies, and long before the first flowers.