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The walking cactus

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.
posted by jjray on Mar 1, 2011 - 68 comments

Humans, Version 3.0

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]
posted by homunculus on Feb 28, 2011 - 15 comments

The words are evolving as you read!

"We all can agree...that this text is red. We can also similarly agree that this text is blue." [more inside]
posted by zardoz on Feb 24, 2011 - 82 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

My best is 802.3

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.
posted by mark242 on Jan 28, 2011 - 90 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

MetaFritter:“apple fritter is good hot, but the cold ye [should] not touch"

What species of food is 2000 years old, has evolved copious adaptive variations, and still tastes delicious as ever? [more inside]
posted by infinite intimation on Dec 22, 2010 - 31 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

I for one welcome our to be announced overlords...

“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]
posted by Sprocket on Dec 1, 2010 - 102 comments

Its not easy being human

Our wisdom teeth need to be pulled because our brains are too big: The Top Ten Daily Consequences of Having Evolved
posted by Huplescat on Nov 27, 2010 - 65 comments

Alvin Plantinga debates Stephen Law

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]
posted by fleetmouse on Nov 19, 2010 - 107 comments

Rabid Squirrel and Future Quirk.

The evolution of Line Rider.
posted by lazaruslong on Nov 8, 2010 - 31 comments

The Evolved Slut

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]
posted by kitarra on Nov 5, 2010 - 67 comments

Life goes non-linear

The chaos theory of evolution
posted by Artw on Oct 18, 2010 - 33 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

"...endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

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]
posted by overeducated_alligator on Aug 23, 2010 - 54 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

Darwin Fest Videos

"Darwin Fest" videos of talks given at the 50th anniversary of the Darwin Conference at the University of Chicago in 2009. [more inside]
posted by AceRock on Aug 15, 2010 - 16 comments

Food for Thought, Indeed

"Sorry, vegetarians, but eating meat apparently made our ancestors smarter — smart enough to make better tools, which in turn led to other changes."
posted by Houyhnhnm on Aug 2, 2010 - 160 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

You're an Animal!

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]
posted by l33tpolicywonk on Jun 30, 2010 - 126 comments

as devoted as dogs, as independent as cats, the domesticated silver fox!

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]
posted by jessamyn on Jun 21, 2010 - 63 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

Past Thinking about Earth- Like Planets and Life

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.
posted by jjray on Apr 29, 2010 - 27 comments

Early links in the chain of being

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.
posted by cross_impact on Apr 22, 2010 - 33 comments

Young Indiana Jones Discovers Missing Link (maybe....)

"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]
posted by zarq on Apr 8, 2010 - 26 comments

The Evolution of Morality

The Evolution of Morality explains morality from a framework of kin selection, reciprocity, and learning. [more inside]
posted by jjray on Apr 6, 2010 - 14 comments

Evolutionist Wins the Templeton Prize?

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]
posted by jabberjaw on Mar 25, 2010 - 67 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

Been down so long it looks like up to me

Depression's upside. Could depression be an evolutionary gift? Could kindness? Charles Darwin himself had a history of ailments that may help to illustrate the idea.
posted by stinkycheese on Mar 17, 2010 - 41 comments

Hammerstone from Kenya, Handaxe from India

View, rotate, and interact with fascinating 3D scans of some of humanity's oldest artifacts. [more inside]
posted by SpringAquifer on Mar 15, 2010 - 8 comments

Director of Research at Google and AI genius

Reddit interviews Peter Norvig (reddit discussion) related: Seeds of AI at Google -- how the internet is shaping intelligence and learning and, in turn, the role of human culture in natural selection1,2 and why we are not living in western civilization. (via)
posted by kliuless on Mar 6, 2010 - 13 comments

They're a page right out of history.

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.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Feb 21, 2010 - 177 comments

Stop. Motion time.

A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything
posted by DU on Feb 11, 2010 - 38 comments

The Evolutionary Origins of Religion

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? (via) [more inside]
posted by lholladay on Feb 10, 2010 - 28 comments

What's the worst that can happen?

'As part of its budget for the next year [pdf], DARPA is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating "the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement."' Via Futurismic [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Feb 8, 2010 - 35 comments

Fetid Fish Revise Understanding of Fossil Formation

"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."
posted by brundlefly on Feb 1, 2010 - 11 comments

"it is an unusual shark in that it has a spiral dentition."

Meet Edestus Giganteus and Helicoprion. 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]
posted by peachfuzz on Jan 27, 2010 - 10 comments

More humans are alive today than had ever lived before 10,000 BC

The human population of Earth has almost always been about 50,000. [more inside]
posted by grobstein on Jan 19, 2010 - 85 comments

Y Front Page Post

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.
posted by Rumple on Jan 16, 2010 - 21 comments

"Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes."

Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks.
posted by defenestration on Jan 4, 2010 - 258 comments

The duck's penis

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]
posted by chorltonmeateater on Dec 23, 2009 - 59 comments

The Future Is Getting Brighter Every Year

The Evolution of the Hipster 2000-2009
posted by Mountain Goatse on Dec 4, 2009 - 275 comments

The Greatest Show on Earth

Richard Dawkins, the English biologist and public intellectual well known for his passionate defense of a gene-centered view of biological (organic) evolution, and the introduction and development of the meme-concept and a meme-centered view of social-cultural evolution, to say nothing of his strong stance as an atheist has put out a new book on evolution
posted by JL Sadstone on Oct 22, 2009 - 147 comments

Proton-Powered Life

While evolution is one of the best-supported theories in science, one lay criticism is that it doesn't explain the creation of life from non-life, or abiogenesis. This is a different problem domain, of course, as survival of the fittest hardly applies if there's nothing alive yet. There have been many guesses over the years: the most commonly accepted is "the primordial soup". That's probably what you learned in school, the Frankenstein's Monster approach to cell creation. Start with a random chemical bath, throw enough lightning at it, and mysterious magic happens, somehow resulting in life.

Dr. William Martin of the University of Düsseldorf, working with geochemist Mike Russell, has presented an actual theory of abiogenesis. It neatly explains both bacteria and archaea, describes fairly closely why they function the way they do, and shows why we don't see new life being created now. Their suggestion: our original ancestor wasn't lightning-zapped soup, but rather a proton-powered rock.
posted by Malor on Oct 19, 2009 - 75 comments

Prometheus In The Kitchen

"Good, big ideas about evolution are rare." Simon Ings of the Independent reviews "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. (via)
posted by The Whelk on Oct 13, 2009 - 17 comments

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