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If we're not in pain, we're not alive

You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 25, 2014 - 65 comments

Homosexuality Is For The Birds

Koryos, who previously explained how cats got domesticated using tumblr, now explains why homosexual pair-bonding can be a successful reproductive stratagem. Also, Coot Parenting Tips, Queen Cowbird Of The Brood Parasites , There's No Such Thing As An Alpha Wolf, and Can Animals Have Pets?
posted by The Whelk on Aug 16, 2014 - 9 comments

Replaying the Tape

Carl Zimmer writes for Quanta: The New Science Of Evolutionary Forecasting [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jul 22, 2014 - 3 comments

"Transmogrification event caused by incorporation of alien bacteria!!!"

Alien viruses from outer space and the great Archaeopteryx forgery [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Jul 21, 2014 - 14 comments

the three-day workweek

Carlos Slim calls for a three-day working week "We've got it all wrong, says Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms tycoon and world's second-richest man: we should be working only three days a week." also btw: The four-day work week (previously)
posted by kliuless on Jul 21, 2014 - 84 comments

Evolution is wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.

Understanding creationism: An insider’s guide by a former young-Earth creationist [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Jul 17, 2014 - 13 comments

No, that's not a video of a bee rescuing its friend from a spider

Evolutionary biologist debunks viral video. Science!
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Jun 18, 2014 - 21 comments

Paleo-pedantry

Dimetrodon is not a dinosaur! Sorry to ruin your childhood yet again, but it's not even a reptile. It's a synapsid, which makes it one of our cousins. [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on May 27, 2014 - 65 comments

All in a day's work (tendril version)

Why yes, a video about cucumber tendrils can be fascinating!
posted by mudpuppie on May 13, 2014 - 9 comments

The People Who Saw Evolution

"Peter and Rosemary Grant are members of a very small scientific tribe: people who have seen evolution happen right before their eyes."
posted by brundlefly on Apr 28, 2014 - 35 comments

HOW THE WOMAN GOT HER PERIOD

Dr. Suzanne Sadedin answers the question "What is the evolutionary or biological purpose of having periods?" on Quora with the best type of science-based storytelling.
posted by fontophilic on Apr 10, 2014 - 74 comments

Put on your dancing genes and boogie

Evolutionary biologists at Northumbria University have used science to figure out "attractive human dance moves" that demonstrate optimum genotypic and phenotypic health to prospective mates. "Cutting-edge motion capture technology" was used to record good and bad dancing. (Technoviking was reportedly unpleased.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Mar 25, 2014 - 29 comments

Get familiar with our phylogeny

Organisms Do Evolve. An evolution-themed parody of "Wrecking Ball" (possibly nsfw) by Carin Bondar.
posted by homunculus on Jan 14, 2014 - 12 comments

Ghosts of Evolution

After a species goes extinct, in some cases its "ghost" may linger in the ecosystem it leaves behind in the form of evolutionary anachronisms. [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Dec 18, 2013 - 11 comments

"‘The gene does not lead,’ she says. ‘It follows.’"

The selfish gene is one of the most successful science metaphors ever invented. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.
posted by overeducated_alligator on Dec 3, 2013 - 79 comments

"Somebody's gotta stand up to these experts!"

Creationists' Last Stand at the Texas State Board of Education
posted by brundlefly on Nov 14, 2013 - 82 comments

LET’S LEARN ABOUT CATS

CATS? WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY GOT DOMESTICATED (MAYBE??) A TUMBLR ESSAY
posted by The Whelk on Aug 10, 2013 - 52 comments

Selection pressure

Researchers have found that size does matter as it relates to overall proportions of the male body (PNAS link, PDF)
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 8, 2013 - 233 comments

Evolution: Maybe It's Not Just for the Fittest Anymore

Is it time to put natural selection in its place? Jello Biafra once famously wrote that "If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve." But while it likely comes as no surprise to specialists working in the field or to those who've been following developments in evolutionary biology closely, there's an emerging view among experts that Darwin's view of natural selection as the primary driver of speciation and evolutionary change may be incorrect or at least drastically overstated. It's long been understood that non-adaptive evolutionary mechanisms like "genetic drift" and random mutation also play non-trivial roles in evolutionary processes, but a recent study (link to abstract with full-text PDF available) casts new doubts on the primary role of natural selection, finding that "Neutral models, in which genetic change arises through random variation without fitness differences have proven remarkably successful in describing observed patterns of biodiversity." [more inside]
posted by saulgoodman on Mar 28, 2013 - 51 comments

Nagel on the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature

Andrew Ferguson explains and defends eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel, who has been stirring up outraged refutations (e.g. here or here) with his new book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Also in the defense column is philosopher Edward Feser's extensive series on Nagel's book.
posted by shivohum on Mar 19, 2013 - 163 comments

sea & sky

seaQuest: what if we could learn to live on/underneath the oceans (or in orbit)? [previously(er)] [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Mar 18, 2013 - 14 comments

A pelican that looks like a urinal

Go home, evolution, you're drunk. A photo of a pelican that looks like a urinal. Brought to you by WTF, Evolution?
posted by escabeche on Jan 16, 2013 - 54 comments

State of Nature

“When I spoke at the two Ron Paul events in Tampa, a young man kind enough to pick me up at the airport told me a fascinating story. The vast majority of young Ron volunteers in offices he visited all over the country were paleo. If a kid ordered pizza — which was always the primary or perhaps only campaign food — he was practically booed,” Atossa Araxia Abrahamian writes in The New Inquiry about the paleo diet, libertarianism, and the appealing idea of a healthy, undistorted state of nature to which we can return if we are only pure enough. [more inside]
posted by escabeche on Dec 29, 2012 - 208 comments

Nudibranch of the Forest

The Translucent Jewel Caterpillar, the Nudibranch of the Forest. Gorgeous caterpillar covered in break-off gumdrops that may help it escape predators. Turns into a bright orange furry moth.
posted by AceRock on Dec 11, 2012 - 18 comments

Does success spell doom for Homo sapiens?

State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
posted by homunculus on Oct 28, 2012 - 46 comments

The Secret Lives of Raccoons

"In an effort to outwit raccoons, are we pushing their brain development and perhaps even sending them down a new evolutionary path? Using high-definition, infrared cameras that turn pitch dark into daylight ... Raccoon Nation [alt link] achieves something that has never been done before: it intimately follows a family of urban raccoons over the course of six months as the young – under the watchful eye of their mother – grow, develop, and begin to find their way in the complex world of a big city." "Raccoon populations have grown twenty-fold in North American cities over the last seventy years. And as this documentary will show, city life is changing raccoons in remarkable ways." (45:08 min. video)
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear on Oct 13, 2012 - 42 comments

Eating the plate instead of the food

With the possible exception of the Nobel awards, physicists seem to get all the press these days, whether they're doing quantum level work at the LHC, or cosmology via the latest satellite data. Biologists, not so much. It's too bad, because Richard Lenski is running one of the great evolutionary experiments of our time, and it's producing interesting results. [more inside]
posted by CheeseDigestsAll on Oct 8, 2012 - 34 comments

Sex crazed, but not too picky

Nature constantly engineers new and creative solutions to all sorts of problems—turning our stereotypes about sex upside-down along the way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Sep 17, 2012 - 16 comments

The successful scientist thinks like a poet but works like a bookkeeper.

Harvard sociobiologist E. O. Wilson explores The Origins of the Arts.
posted by shakespeherian on Apr 25, 2012 - 38 comments

I now have 100 skulls in my room!

My name is Jake and I am a bone collector. This is his room, where he keeps his more than 100 skulls (a contender for the years most awesome cataloguing and archiving effort [look at that organization!]). How Jake cleans up animal bones [more inside]
posted by infinite intimation on Dec 25, 2011 - 12 comments

Time Tree

TimeTree is a public knowledge-base for information on the evolutionary timescale of life. A search utility allows exploration of the thousands of divergence times among organisms in the published literature. A tree-based (hierarchical) system is used to identify all published molecular time estimates bearing on the divergence of two chosen taxa, such as species, compute summary statistics, and present the results . . . For those interested in published summaries of relationships and divergence times of major groups of organisms (family level and above), see the authoritative synthesis The Timetree of Life.

Here are some examples to get you started: Humans and Chimpanzees diverged 6.3 MYA; Giraffes and Dolphins diverged 58.3 MYA; Cats and Mice diverged 95.2 MYA; and Dogs and Fleas diverged 777.8 MYA. [more inside]
posted by troll on Oct 27, 2011 - 18 comments

Empire of Evolution

Evolution Right Under Our Noses. "A small but growing number of field biologists study urban evolution — the biological changes that cities bring to the wildlife that inhabits them." [Via]
posted by homunculus on Jul 26, 2011 - 42 comments

Creationism stays out of Texas textbooks (for now)

On Friday, July 22, the Texas Board of Education voted 14-0 to support scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements, rejecting the proposed creationist materials. Instead of including such material, the education board voted to let Education Commissioner Robert Scott work with the publishing company Holt McDougal to find language that is factually correct and fits the standards adopted in 2009. "My goal would be to try to find some common ground," Scott said.
posted by filthy light thief on Jul 25, 2011 - 58 comments

Digitized Darwin

More than 300 heavily-annotated books from Charles Darwin's personal library have been digitized in a collaboration between Cambridge University, which holds the collection, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a project that has so far digitized nearly 50,000 titles from the natural sciences. And if you're looking for what Darwin wrote, rather than what he read, the University of Oklahoma has digitized the first edition of each of his 22 books.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Jun 23, 2011 - 17 comments

Mismeasure remeasured

A Mismeasured Mismeaurement of Man. Stephen Jay Gould's classic The Mismeasure of Man argues that 19th century scientist Samuel George Morton inflicted his own racial biases on his data to demonstrate that Caucasians had larger brains than other races. A new paper in the Public Library of Science: Biology debunks Gould's account by remeasuring the same skulls Morton used. Whatever biases Morton may have had, they are not reflected in the data.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Jun 10, 2011 - 55 comments

The Cartoon Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything

Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Jun 6, 2011 - 29 comments

Inclusive fitness theory and eusociality

Big dust up about kin selection. Biologists E.O. Wilson, Martin Nowak, and Corina Tarnita publish a paper attacking kin selection, the idea that the reproductive success of a gene is influenced not only by its effects on its carrier, but also by its effects on related individuals (kin) carrying the same gene. 130 some odd other biologists respond. Richard Dawkins weighs in. Some talking bears offer a summary. [via]
posted by AceRock on Apr 17, 2011 - 46 comments

Animals

The Creature Connection: Our love for animals can be traced to our capacity to infer the mental states of others, which archaeological evidence suggests emerged more than 50,000 ago. This article is part of a NYTimes series on the relationship between humans and the animals we raise. [more inside]
posted by homunculus on Mar 18, 2011 - 21 comments

It made Tyrannosaurus rex. It made Bin Laden too.

Evolution Made Us All
posted by brundlefly on Feb 7, 2011 - 52 comments

The Soul Niche

Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it. It all depends how you think it.
posted by 0bvious on Feb 4, 2011 - 17 comments

get your group on

The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jan 15, 2011 - 9 comments

CreatureCast

CreatureCast is a collaborative blog and podcast from evolutionary biologist Casey Dunn, who uses it as a teaching tool at the Dunn Lab at Brown University. The Lab investigates ways in which evolution has produced a diversity of life, and the blog includes neat, invertebrate zoology-related videos that may cover anything from "mating when you're stuck to a rock" to Flying with Squid to Multicellularity to Diving for Jellies. (Via) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 16, 2010 - 2 comments

panda defence

The panda: surprisingly good at life - "New research has revealed that, contrary to popular beliefs, pandas are surprisingly well-equipped for survival." (via ners)
posted by kliuless on Oct 16, 2010 - 35 comments

The beauty of Molecular, Cell, and Microbiology

There has been a new discipline developing in molecular biology for some time now, Bioanimation! Projects have ranged in size from WEHI's colossal compilation to Harvard Biovision's magnum opus "Inner Life of the Cell" to commercially produced masterpieces to smaller projects by university PIs and enthusiasts. much [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Sep 25, 2010 - 29 comments

George C Williams

Influential evolutionary biologist George C. Williams (1926-2010) has passed away. [more inside]
posted by AceRock on Sep 10, 2010 - 10 comments

nom nom nom OH MY GOD

You know what's great about Hawaii? Its isolation can produce interesting forms of life, such as Eupethecia staurophragma i.e. carnivorous caterpillars! Don't believe it? Watch the video or view the photos (via boingboing).

Aww, are you giant carnivorous centipede lovers feeling neglected? No, problem Mefi has covered that.
posted by nomadicink on Aug 18, 2010 - 21 comments

The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin

New Adventures in Recent Evolution - In the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome have found evidence of recent natural selection. cf. Social Darwinism: 21st century edition [previously] (via ip) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 20, 2010 - 19 comments

Adaptation to High Altitude in Tibet

Tibetans May Be Fastest Evolutionary Adapters Ever. "A group of scientists in China, Denmark and the U.S. recently documented the fastest genetic change observed in humans. According to their findings, Tibetan adaption to high altitude might have taken just 3,000 years. That's a flash, in terms of evolutionary time, but it's one that's in dispute."
posted by homunculus on Jul 2, 2010 - 12 comments

The Authors Forgot About Rock and Roll

An article in the June issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society of the Biological Sciences finds that "differences in reproductive strategies are driving individuals' different views on recreational drugs": namely, that views on sexual promiscuity are more closely related to views on recreational drug use than religion, political affiliation or other predictors. The study suggests attitudes against recreational drug use are an evolutionary attempt to promote reproductive stability.
posted by l33tpolicywonk on Jun 16, 2010 - 21 comments

Misunderstanding Darwin

Misunderstanding Darwin: Natural selection’s secular critics get it wrong. Ned Block and Philip Kitcher review Jerry Fodor's (previously) and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini's book What Darwin Got Wrong. Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini respond: “Misunderstanding Darwin”: An Exchange.
posted by homunculus on Mar 20, 2010 - 62 comments

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