What We're Reading
Mostly evolution this week, except for one excellent piece on "what about that 3% of climate scientists who reject the consensus?" Could they be on to something? Well, spoiler alert, not so much. Start with Pokémon, work your way through Noah's Ark and wolves, and end with an update on that amazing H naledi find. And have a nice weekend. Don't forget to write.
- A Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Pokémon (PDF), Annals of Improbable Research, June/July 2012 — If you're a fan of Pokémon Go, you'll surely want to peruse "the first attempt to create a quantitative phylogeny of the Pokémon, using the underlying assumption that Pokémon evolved via natural selection independently from the animals and plants more familiar to Western zoologists."
- Evolution Is Happening Faster Than We Thought, The New York Times, July 23, 2016 — "the expanding urban sprawl is perhaps not something to be depressed about, but rather something very exciting, as entirely novel forms of life are evolving right under our noses," writes evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen.
- These Are the Best Arguments from the 3% of Climate Scientist "Skeptics." Really. The Guardian, July 25, 2016 — Dana Nuccitelli hardly breaks a sweat in debunking a less-than-impressive litany of climate science denial, concluding "if there were a valid case against the urgent need for climate action, contrarians’ best experts wouldn’t have to scrape 24 long-debunked myths from the bottom of the oil barrel."
- DNA Study Reveals the One and Only Wolf Species in North America, The New York Times, July 27, 2016 — The fundamental question in biology, “what’s a species?” keeps getting harder and harder to answer as genetics research churns out data that challenge our intuitive answers. This month, geneticists reveal that two “species” of North American wolf aren’t really wolves at all. What effect does this have on anything besides semantics? As Carl Zimmer explains, quite a big one, as our wildlife laws rely on an outdated, overly simple definition of species.
- Population Genetics from 1966 to 2016, Heredity, July 27, 2016 (advance online publication) — Brian Charlesworth and Deborah Charlesworth "describe the astonishing changes and progress that have occurred in the field of population genetics over the past 50 years," noting that population genetics "has provided important underpinnings for a wide range of areas of research in evolutionary biology."
- Ken Ham Is Luring Public Schools To His Creationist Museum, Slate.com, July 28, 2016 — Ignore the somewhat misleading title, in the article, NCSE Friend of Darwin award winner, Zach Kopplin, succinctly explains the problem with public schools taking students to the newly opened replica of Noah's Ark in Williamstown, KY: "Public schools aren’t allowed to promote one religion over another. Taking a field trip to a 500-foot Noah’s Ark would promote one very specific version of Christianity, a version that takes the Bible’s Book of Genesis literally."
- The Latest on Homo naledi, American Scientist, July-August 2016 — Observing that "the description of the species that we published last year is just the first chapter of a long scientific story," the paleoanthropologist John Hawks brings the continuing story of the investigation of Homo naledi up to date.
Photo credit: National Easter Seals Society [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons