Ray Comfort calls the Atheist Experience.
The Atheist Community of Austin run a live call-in show
on public access. Over the years, they have challenged Ray Comfort
to call in
. This week, he finally does, and talks to AE hosts Matt Dillahunty
and Russell Glasser
. The only banana joke
is visual. Ray reacts
. Matt D reacts
. AE fans react
. [more inside]
is a site collecting games and resources for children from UK museums. [more inside]
Consider this animal, the newest fossil discovery from Jianni Liu in China. She calls it "the walking cactus."
We have grasses and flowers and beetles in more varieties than you can imagine, and yet, in some deep architectural way, the developmental paths were set way back then, 500 million years ago. The Walking Cactus is just another souvenir of that crazy moment.
Humans, Version 3.0.
"The next giant leap in human evolution may not come from new fields like genetic engineering or artificial intelligence, but rather from appreciating our ancient brains." [Via] [more inside]
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.
Watch your computer design a 2 dimensional car
. What happens when you give a computer, instead of a predefined function to run, a set of parameters, a goal, and the ability to mutate
those parameters? You get a genetic algorithm
. At its core, genetic algorithms can best be described as Darwinian evolution of computer functions. Is it better to use a streamlined, wide-wheel-base motorcycle to cross terrain, or something that looks like a cross between a fish and a tank? This simplistic simulation shows just what's going to cause the rise of Skynet.
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 Diving for Jellies
. (Via) [more inside]
“NASA will hold a news conference
at 2 p.m. EST (11am PST) on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.” Watch it HERE
live. [more inside]
Our wisdom teeth need to be pulled because our brains are too big: The Top Ten Daily Consequences of Having Evolved
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga discusses the evolutionary argument against naturalism with philosopher Stephen Law.
Plantinga, now retired from his position at Notre Dame, is one of the most well known analytic philosophers
of recent times. The podcast
is targeted at a non academic audience and keeps things on a fairly basic level in non-technical language. Plantinga and Law conduct a congenial, mutually respectful discussion of the issue. Previously
. [more inside]
Husband-and-wife team Christopher Ryan and Calcilda Jethá
have written a book, Sex at Dawn
, that challenges what they describe as the "standard narrative" of human sexual and social relationships. In a recent Savage Love podcast
featuring Ryan as a guest, Dan Savage described the book as "...the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948." [more inside]
The panda: surprisingly good at life
- "New research has revealed that, contrary to popular beliefs, pandas are surprisingly well-equipped for survival." (via ners
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]
Influential evolutionary biologist George C. Williams
(1926-2010) has passed away
. [more inside]
Our minds boggle at how the wolf could become the chihuahua, the Saint Bernard, the poodle and the Komondor
. Artificial selection was likewise responsible for transforming the humble wild mustard plant Brassica oleracea
into cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and the breathtaking fractal Romanesco
, all in the span of a few centuries. [more inside]
" videos of talks given at the 50th anniversary of the Darwin Conference at the University of Chicago in 2009. [more inside]
"Sorry, vegetarians, but eating meat apparently made our ancestors smarter
— smart enough to make better tools, which in turn led to other changes."
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
In a fundamental re-think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs,
a research team lead by Arizona State University's Doug Kenrick
has replaced the personal need to achieve status and respect, culminating in self-actualization, with the biological imperative to find a mate and reproduce, culminating in parenting. Kenrick also replaces Maslow's strict design, in which needs replace one another, with a design in which needs overlap over the course of a lifetime. [more inside]
The silver fox, domesticated over 40 generations
by the late Siberian scientist Dmitri Belayev. Belayev and his students started this experiment in 1959 by selecting specifically for human-friendly behaviors. More on the observed differences between domesticated and wild foxes in the original paper that appeared in American Scientist Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment
(pdf). [more inside]
Past Thinking about Earth-Like Planets and Life
[pdf], presenting a brief history of thought on finding extraterrestrial life-like phenomena, is the first chapter of James Kasting
's new book, How to Find a Habitable Planet
. He participated in a discussion on BBC's The Forum
First there was Ida, the first molecule to self-replicate. (that's one hypothesis
, anyway.) From Ida, eventually, came the Last Universal Common Ancestor
, or Luca. The first substance to store information about itself in the form of a genetic code. Luca may be the form of Life from which all Life has evolved
"So I called my dad over and about five metres away he started swearing, and I was like 'what did I do wrong?' and he's like, 'nothing, nothing - you found a hominid'."
The remarkable remains
of two ancient human-like creatures
(hominids) have been found in South Africa.
Some researchers dispute that the fossils are of an unknown human species,
but others say they may help fill a key gap
in the fossil record of human evolution
. [more inside]
The Evolution of Morality
explains morality from a framework of kin selection, reciprocity, and learning. [more inside]
Affirmed evolution (and anti-intelligent design) biologist Francisco Ayala has won
the 2010 Templeton Prize
. In 1981, Ayala was a pivotal expert in overturning an Arkansas law
that required the side-by-side teaching of creationism
and evolution. Besides his nationally recognized work in evolution and genetics
, the former Catholic priest has sought to reconcile evolution with religious belief
, noting that science and religion are not mutually exclusive. [more inside]
Could depression be an evolutionary gift
? Could kindness
? Charles Darwin himself had a history of ailments
that may help to illustrate the idea.
View, rotate, and interact with fascinating 3D scans
of some of humanity's oldest artifacts. [more inside]
Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Meet the Flinstones
Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser have a new paper in the journal "Trends in Cognitive Sciences". The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product?
) [more inside]
'As part of its budget for the next year [pdf
is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign
, with the goal of eliminating "the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement."' Via Futurismic [more inside]
"These data revealed a surprisingly consistent pattern of decomposition throughout time.
This pattern shows that as these modern fish decayed, their most recently evolved features -- those characters that are most informative because they distinguish closely related animals within the same lineage -- rotted first. The last features to disappear were more ancient; those that are shared by all vertebrates, such the notochord."
Meet Edestus Giganteus
. The Edestidae family of sharks had a single row of teeth in the upper and lower jaws
, creating, in effect, a scissors. Helicoprion
's teeth grew in a buzz-saw shaped whorl in the lower jaw
! Both sharks are known only from their fossil teeth, leading to mystery and detective work
. [more inside]
Indeed, at 6 million years of separation, the difference in [Y-chromosome] gene content in chimpanzee and human is more comparable to the difference in autosomal gene content in chicken and human, at 310 million years of separation.
It is commonly said that the Human and Chimpanzee genomes share 99% or more identical DNA. In a surprising development about to be published in Nature
, the Y-chromosomes of these two species were found to share only 70% of their DNA, raising important questions about the mode and tempo by which speciation from a common ancestor occurred. This finding may point the finger
at the evolution of different patterns of sperm-competition and mating practices within these two species.
Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks.
Carl Zimmer on the duck's incredibly long, corkscrew-shaped, ballistic penis.
My tale is rich with deep scientific significance, resplendent with surprising insights into how evolution works, far beyond the banalities of “survival of the fittest,” off in a realm of life where sexual selection and sexual conflict work like a pair sculptors drunk on absinthe, transforming biology into forms unimaginable. But this story is also accompanied with video. High-definition, slow-motion duck sex video. And I would imagine that the sight of spiral-shaped penises inflating in less than a third of second might be considered in some quarters to be not exactly safe for work. It’s certainly not appropriate for ducklings.
[As Carl says, video links are possibly NSFW.] [more inside]