Darwin wrote to 2000 people during his life; 14,500 of these letters still survive. The Darwin Correspondence Project
is putting annotated transcriptions of these online, and they've covered about 5,000 so far, including a letter written when he was 12 after he had got into trouble with his sister for not washing regularly while at school
. There's an intro here
. See also Darwin Online
, discussed here
. And the prolific network theorist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi has co-authored a paper on statistical similarities between Darwin's and Einstein's correspondence (#51
on the list).
posted by carter
on May 16, 2007 -
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?
This trait ... is inherited by 15 to 20% of the population, and ... seems to be present in all higher animals. Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener .... But your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed. This trait ... has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited ...
| latest research
(fascinating!) | newsletter
posted by grumblebee
on Apr 8, 2007 -
Hacking the Senses
: The brain is far more plastic than we commonly realize. Presenting new 'senses' via the old inputs works extremely well, to the point that long-term volunteers are a little lost without their new abilities to feel magnetic north or absolute orientation. Tasting direction; feeling pictures. Fascinating stuff. In a loosely related article, genetically modified mice
are able to see the full color range visible to humans, even though the last natural mouse able to see this way died out a hundred million years ago. Add the new sensors, and the brain reconfigures. [via]
posted by Malor
on Apr 5, 2007 -
The significance of the dinosaurs' death has been greatly exaggerated
. This article in Nature discusses how mammalian evolution accelerated independent from the death of dinosaurs. The theory was derived from a "supertree
" [pdf ~ 1mb] of mammals and how common ancestors have branched out. Coolest info-graphic ever.
posted by phyrewerx
on Mar 28, 2007 -
Darwin's God. "A scientific exploration of how we have come to believe in God."
This article tracks the possibility that belief in a higher power is the product of evolution.
posted by inconsequentialist
on Mar 3, 2007 -
Understanding Human Prehistory
. Mike Munford (who???
) summarises the results of his "limited study of human prehistory for the benefit of others who may have found most of the available books on it as baffling as [he] did."
posted by Effigy2000
on Mar 2, 2007 -
Rep. Ben Bridges (R-Cleveland, GA) is in trouble.
A recent memo
from his office -- one circulated this week
by Warren Chisum
, a ranking member of the Texas state legislature -- has caught the attention of the Anti-Defamation League
. They are not pleased
. And they're not alone
. Why? Because in his memo, Rep. Bridges
of a perennial anti-evolution education bill
in the Georgia State House -- claims that "so-called ’secular evolution science’ is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion."
And that's not all. It would appear that Rep. Bridges is getting his information (and templates
for his legislation
) from www.fixedearth.com
-- a website dedicated not only to the removal of pro-evolution education from schools, but to the idea that "[t]he Earth is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun." Because you see, it's all part of the Copernican Deception
, a massive conspiracy propagated by Christian Zionists
and ... Madonna
posted by grabbingsand
on Feb 16, 2007 -
Is blood plasma salinity the same as seawater?
No, but that proves evolution. "The answer is most definitely NOT that oceans were 1/3 as salty back then. It most definitely IS that the earliest vertebrates did evolve in salt water and then moved into fresh water....They have devised an extremely clever trick in kidney structure to allow salt transport pumps which really take salt back INTO the body from the urine but still manage to use them to produce urine much more concentrated that their body fluids and so excrete salt FROM the body."
posted by Brian B.
on Feb 10, 2007 -
tells the tale of Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and his friend... "Dawi told Alan the terrible secret that explained why there were so few Taron (left in the world). And then Alan told Dawi a secret of his own..." (includes audio link)
posted by ZachsMind
on Feb 3, 2007 -
Peter Watts on Vampire Domestication (embedded Flash video, must click to start).
The mythical corporation FizerPharm ("Trust. Profit. Deniability.") share their detailed research into the evolution and possible commercial applications of Homo sapiens whedonum.
You will learn: How and why the "crucifix glitch" came about. Why you should run from a blushing vampire. How many kilograms of human are needed to make one kilogram of vampire. How vampires resemble two year old humans, domestic shorthaired cats, and lungfish. And why "survival of the fittest" should be reconceptualized as "survival of the least inadequate". [more inside]
posted by maudlin
on Dec 24, 2006 -
At the beginning was the noosphere.
The existence of a "sphere of ideas", beyond the "sphere of life" (biosphere) and the "sphere of matter" (geosphere) was apparently first postulated by the pioneering Russian-Ukrainian geochemist V.I. Vernadsky
. Vernadsky thought not only that the biosphere had entirely reshaped the geosphere, but that the burgeoning noosphere of interconnected thought would ultimately change the biosphere just as much.
French jesuit and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
took the concept and ran with it
posted by Skeptic
on Nov 28, 2006 -
New research from evolutionary scientist Bruce Lahn suggests that humans and the now extinct
Neanderthal species mixed, and humans snatched up a valuable brain gene in the process. (The gene, MCPH1, and Lahn, discussed last year
on MeFi) This comes on the tails of yet another new study providing morphological evidence
that there was nontrivial interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals in Eurasia, despite the fact that Neanderthals may have been genetically closer to chimps
than humans. Contrary to popular imagination, though, the Neanderthal species had bigger brains and sophisticated intellects
, at least roughly on par with that of human beings. The gene regulates brain size during development, but its exact utility to humans is still unknown (and controversial
). The origin of this gene and the question of Neanderthal mixing will soon be answered more definitively by the, just launched, 2 year project to map the Neanderthal genome
, headed by Svante Pääbo (profiled in recent Smithsonian
articles). Pääbo calls
Lahn’s study "the most compelling case to date for a genetic contribution of Neandertals to modern humans."
posted by Jason Malloy
on Nov 8, 2006 -
"Pandas are endangered because they are utterly incompetent... Pandas are badly designed, undersexed, overpaid and overprotected. They went up an evolutionary cul-de-sac and it is too late to reverse."
posted by kliuless
on Jul 2, 2006 -
Sexual ornaments grow out of all proportion
It seems that men will be men throughout the animal kindom, not just our little lonely corner of of it.
Most body parts grow proportionally with the rest of the body as individuals of a species become larger, although scientists have long known that visual cues of reproductive prowess are a special case.
But is this the case with everyone
posted by pezdacanuck
on May 23, 2006 -
the origin of fun bags.
The age old question of where breasts came from may
have finally been answered!
[boobs] first evolved as an immunoprotective gland that produced bacteriocidal secretions to protect the skin and secondarily eggs and infants, and that lactation is a highly derived kind of inflammation response. [...] Milk is actually a kind of anti-microbial snot mixed in with a lot of fat and sugar.
All vertebrates have an innate immune system consisting of molecules which are hostile to microbes. It appears that the nutritional content of the milk is a product of mutation and repurposing of these immunological molecules! Xanthine oxidoreductase, which produces natural preservatives and disinfectants is also responsible for the essential role of encapsulating fat droplets which promotes suspension in water. Lactose (sugar) "requires a specific synthetic complex consisting of β-1,4 galactosyltransferase and α-lactalbumin for its production." As it turns out, α-lactalbumin is a modified (mutated) version of an awesome little molecule that literally skins bacteria alive - lysozyme!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht
on May 20, 2006 -
just won't go away. New evidence suggests the development of the human embryo
mirrors our species' course of evolution. This guy
seems to be stirring up all kinds of trouble these days. It makes me wonder: does this new information help determine the quality of being human
? From the link: "Another supposed vagary produced by the abortion issue is the question as to when the embryo or fetus becomes human. Rivers Singleton, Jr. states in his article in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, that, for some, conception defines the point of being human, whereas, for others, various periods of development suffice to 'distinguish human from non-humans
posted by narwhal
on May 19, 2006 -
evolution of cooperation
apparently the evolution of cooperative behavior has been something of a rough spot for evolution researchers. Some guys (Mikhail Burtsev & Peter Turchin
) developed a computer simulation that helps to explain how the essential selfishness of survival is not mutually exclusive to altruism and cooperation as well as how these behaviors can arise naturally. (further reading from google: ###
posted by Tryptophan-5ht
on May 8, 2006 -
- an interesting read on artificial life
and evolutionary computation
, from the game of life
), through core wars
and on to genetic programming
. This approach has recently borne fruit to genetic programming pioneer
and inventor of the scratchcard
, John Koza
, who last year patented his invention machine
, actually a 1000 machine beowulf cluster
running his software, which has itself created several inventions
which have been granted patents.
[See also: BBC Biotopia artificial life experiment
, another odd BBC evolution game
, Artificial Life Possibilities: A Star Trek Perspective
posted by MetaMonkey
on May 3, 2006 -