02.26.2016

What We're Reading

1,000 more suggestions Marley Dias asked a question: "Can I find 1,000 books with black girls like me as central characters?" So far she's collected 4,000! And Marley's only 11 years old. Pretty inspiring. Hope you'll be inspired by this hand-picked collection of articles about climate change and evolution.

  • Seas Are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries, The New York Times, February 22, 2016 — Scientists are estimating a sea level rise of 3-4 feet by the year 2100.  Gulp!
  • Mo' Parsimony, Mo' Problems, February 22, 2016 — At Extinct, the Philosophy of Paleontology blog, Leonard Finkelman discusses ParsimonyGate—the dispute over a recent editorial in Cladistics announcing the journal's insistence on analyzing phylogenetic data using parsimony—from the point of view of the paleontologist. He provocatively concludes: "paleontologists always have an a priori reason for favoring methods other than cladistic parsimony whereas other life scientists do not."
  • When Biology Meets Ideology, MIT Technology Review, February 23, 2016 — Discussing Loren Graham's new book Lysenko's Ghost (2016), Maggie Koerth-Baker compares the political uses of creationism in the United States and of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union. "The ways that politics, religion, cultural norms, and ideologies of all kinds distort science is at the heart of ­Lysenko’s Ghost."
  • Similar Data, Different Conclusions, The Scientist, February 23, 2016 — Richard E. Lenski and Zachary Blount—known for their work on the Long-Term Evolution Experiment with E. coli—criticize a scientific paper coauthored by a Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture for claiming that "no new genetic information evolved" when E. coli gains the new ability to grow on citrate in the presence of oxygen.
  • One NCSE blogger recommends: Three Days to Mars: How laser propulsion could revolutionize space travel, Christian Science Monitor, Feb 23 2016 — This article describes a new, theoretically possible mechanism by which manned spacecraft might be able to explore our solar system "ideally without crushing any passengers".  However, another blogger points out that Ethan Siegel thinks this is oversold in Sorry, But Lasers Aren’t Taking You to Mars Anytime Soon.
  • The Origin of Left and Right, The Atlantic, February 25, 2016 — The inimitable Ed Young reports on a new study on the deep evolutionary roots of asymmetry. "[T]he team exposed embryonic frogs to the same formin-blocking chemicals, and found that many grew up with mirror-imaged internal organs. Snails and frogs have been separated by almost 900 million years of evolution."
  • Will Evolution Doom the Cheetah? Understanding Evolution, February 2016 — Guest author Christopher Emerling explains how two genetic bottlenecks, 100,000 then 12,000 years ago, conspired to dramatically reduce the genetic variability of cheetah populations. For once, it seems a species landed in extinction-adjacent hot water without the help of humans…hooray?

photo credit: Andrea Cipriani Mecchi