31 October 2007

Rare animal paper sculptures

Forget origami where you can make animals that only sort-of look like the creature. Instead, why not fold and glue up a rare animal over at Yamaha's website (of all places). They give you an overview of the animals and their habitats and even include a stand with its scientific name for your finished creation. So go fold a Coelacanth today.

They even have a stag beetle for the entomologists on a different page.


29 October 2007

The future of human evolution, in the media

I've been seeing this topic come up over and over again lately in various places. The idea that humans are "de-evolving" or that:

"The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist."
(from the Daily Mail)

This "top scientist" is actually evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics. Yes, Economics!

Both Boing Boing and Bad Science mention this story. Follow the link to Bad Science if you want to read the press release and see the predictions for humans 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000 years from now.

(If all of that weren't sensational enough, this was a commissioned report for a TV station.)

Well, that's the latest incarnation of this idea, but I've seen it lots of other places recently, see them below the fold...

Right now I'm reading "The Gum Thief" the latest novel by Douglas Coupland (author of Generation X). In it, one of the characters mentions this as well:

"I read in a newspaper last week about this scientist who claims that the human race will, over the upcoming millennia, split into two distinct species. One will be a superhuman race, the other, Gollum-like hunch-backed retards."

The "de-evolution" of the human race is the whole premise to an actually really funny movie, Idiocracy.

And finally, Korn, an American metal band, of all people have a song about this as well.

I worry about so called "science" stories like this, but at the same time, it does get people talking about evolution which is a start. But if Dr. Curry thinks that humans will still be around and kicking on Earth in 100,000 years, he should probably spend more time thinking about global warming and the impending oil apocalypse.


Owl Pumpkin

Well, I carved this year's Halloween pumpkin, trying to bridge the gap between spooky and biological. So this year, I carved an owl.

I didn't make this pattern, but it looks like a Great Horned Owl to me.


26 October 2007

Scientific Pumpkin Carving

The weekend before Halloween is here, and it got me to thinking about scientists out there carving dorky yet awesome pumpkins. However, after scouring the internet it seems that there are few scientists, or science lovers, who also share my love of pumpkin carving (or at least, they aren't making science designs).

I myself am guilty of only carving one science related pumpkin in the past few years, featuring a DNA strand, leaves, and an insect to represent various interests in my department:

The few jack-o-lanterns I did find I'll post below the fold...

An awesome brain pumpkin carved by a brain surgeon.

Flasks of a science nature.

Some really cool jelly fish.

So come on biologists, by next Halloween I want to see lots of science pumpkin carvings.


25 October 2007

Science Tattoos

So the blogosphere is full of links to links to links, so excuse my long list of relevant sources.

This post started at my seminar on science blogs, The Reluctant Geek, where we were looking at ant blogs. One ant blog, The Ant Room, links to a entry about science tattoos over at The Loom.

Anyway, Carl Zimmer started a Flickr page [Update: Now its own website] where you can post pictures of your science related tattoos. While discussing it in my class we could come up with a few examples of people in EEB here at UConn with science tattoos, so go and post your pics! And if you do, leave me a comment here.

Some tattoos I think are cool are below:

Sea Urchin embryo development & a Tree of Life

And this is my favorite, as it combines Darwin, and a reference to an R.E.M. song (my favorite band).

It appears this is no longer just a Flickr page, it has its own website. All the science tattoos pics can now be found Here.


24 October 2007

Scientists in Sitcoms?

My previous post about Friends got me thinking, are there other sitcoms that have scientists as characters? If you know of one, let me know via comments.

I think doctors, lawyers, and police officers are overrepresented, especially doctors.

A Google search revealed that the BBC is now filming "Lab Rats" a sitcom about a university research lab. You think that will ever make it to BBC America?

I also discovered that CBS has a sitcom about physics grad students, called "The Big Bang Theory" - I'm tuning in this Monday (it also appears that you can watch episodes over at CBS's website).


Evolution among Friends

I don't like to work in silence, so I often have the TV on in the background. The other day a re-run of Friends came on, and what do you know, they were talking about evolution.

Ross, for non-watchers of the show, is a scientist who studies dinosaurs, and during the episode he tries to convince Phoebe, the resident skeptic, that evolution is a scientific reality. Thanks to the countless people out there obsessed with Friends, a transcript of the episode "The One Where Heckles Dies" exists, so I'll paste in the relevant parts below the fold...

PHOEBE: I'm sorry, but sometimes they [the recently deceased] need help. That's fine.
Go ahead and scoff. You know, there're a lot of things that I don't
believe in, but that doesn't mean they're not true.

JOEY: Such as?

PHOEBE: Like crop circles, or the Bermuda triangle, or evolution?

ROSS: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What, you don't, uh, you don't believe in

PHOEBE: Nah. Not really.

ROSS: You don't believe in evolution?

PHOEBE: I don't know, it's just, you know...monkeys, Darwin, you know,
it's a, it's a nice story, I just think it's a little too easy.

ROSS: Too easy? Too...The process of every living thing on this planet
evolving over millions of years from single-celled organisms,
too easy?

PHOEBE: Yeah, I just don't buy it.

ROSS: Uh, excuse me. Evolution is not for you to buy, Phoebe.
Evolution is scientific fact, like, like, like the air we
breathe, like gravity.

PHOEBE: Ok, don't get me started on gravity.

ROSS: You uh, you don't believe in gravity?

PHOEBE: Well, it's not so much that you know, like I don't believe in
it, you know, it's just...I don't know, lately I get the
feeling that I'm not so much being pulled down as I am being

(knock at the door)

CHANDLER: Uh-Oh. It's Isaac Newton, and he's pissed.


ROSS: How can you not believe in evolution?

PHOEBE: Just don't. Look at this funky shirt!

ROSS: Pheebs, I have studied evolution my entire adult life. Ok, I
can tell you, we have collected fossils from all over the world
that actually show the evolution of different species, ok? You
can literally see them evolving through time.

PHOEBE: Really? You can actually see it?

ROSS: You bet. In the U.S., China, Africa, all over.

PHOEBE: See, I didn't know that.

ROSS: Well, there you go.

PHOEBE: Huh. So now, the real question is, who put those fossils there,
and why?

ROSS: Ok, Pheebs. See how I'm making these little toys move? Opposable
thumbs. Without evolution, how do you explain opposable thumbs?

PHOEBE: Maybe the overlords needed them to steer their spacecrafts.

ROSS: Please tell me you're joking.

PHOEBE: Look, can't we just say that you believe in something, and I

ROSS: No, no, Pheebs, we can't, ok, because--

PHOEBE: What is this obsessive need you have to make everyone agree
with you? No, what's that all about? I think, I think maybe
it's time you put Ross under the microscope.

ROSS: Is there blood coming out of my ears?


PHOEBE: Uh-oh. It's Scary Scientist Man.

ROSS: Ok, Phoebe, this is it. In this briefcase I carry actual
scientific facts. A briefcase of facts, if you will. Some of
these fossils are over 200 million years old.

PHOEBE: Ok, look, before you even start, I'm not denying evolution,
ok, I'm just saying that it's one of the possibilities.

ROSS: It's the only possibility, Phoebe.

PHOEBE: Ok, Ross, could you just open your mind like this much, ok?
Wasn't there a time when the brightest minds in the world
believed that the world was flat? And, up until like what, 50
years ago, you all thought the atom was the smallest thing,
until you split it open, and this like, whole mess of crap
came out. Now, are you telling me that you are so unbelievably
arrogant that you can't admit that there's a teeny tiny
possibility that you could be wrong about this?

ROSS: There might be, a teeny, tiny, possibility.

PHOEBE: I can't believe you caved.

ROSS: What?

PHOEBE: You just abandoned your whole belief system. I mean, before, I
didn't agree with you, but at least I respected you. How, how,
how are you going to go into work tomorrow? How, how are you
going to face the other science guys? How, how are you going
to face yourself? Oh! That was fun. So who's hungry?

RACHEL: I am. Let me just get my coat.

Phoebe makes a pretty elegant argument at the end there - so scientists, as the Rosses of the world, don't cave in the face of evolution doubters. While our understanding of evolution may be evolving, it is the only possibility that currently explains a large body of scientific evidence.

(except if maybe you're a Pastafarian and believe that an invisible and omniscient being called the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe in one day)


22 October 2007


This cartoon over at PhD Comics made me laugh:


19 October 2007

TV versions of evolution (and creationism)

Here is this week's video:

Someone out there also seems to be paying attention when animated sitcoms mention evolution and creationism, and spliced together this video comparing them. The Simpson's version of evolution is pretty awesome, and fairly comprehensive.


16 October 2007

Gummy Tapeworm

Well, it's official, I've spotted my first displays of Christmas items for sale (before Halloween this year even). So, for your winter holiday gift giving occasion, why not give a gummy tapeworm from Archie McPhee.

Not only good for your parisitologist friends, but anyone brave enough to eat its gummy proglottids. Or if you're like me and would rather not be thinking about the commercialism of December already, why not buy some and give them out to trick-or-treaters.


13 October 2007

Bacterial Art

In a search for a image to use as a header for this blog, I came across this awesome art made from colorized bacteria grown on petri dishes.

From Echel Ben-Jacob's website:
"The colony structures form as adaptive responses to laboratory-imposed stresses that mimic hostile environments faced in nature. They illustrate the coping strategies that bacteria have learned to employ, strategies that involve cooperation through communication. These selfsame strategies are used by the bacteria in their struggle to defeat our best antibiotics. Thus, if we understand the mechanisms behind the patterns, we can learn how to outsmart the bacteria - for example, by tampering with their communication - in our ongoing battle for our health."


12 October 2007

Purple loosestrife

It's the (youtube) video of the week:

Okay, really this is a pretty bad song, and I wish who ever edited this included actual pictures of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), but I see this as a great karaoke song at a meeting of botanists.

Purple loosestrife is a very aggressive introduced plant invading wetlands all over the U.S. (and elsewhere).

(insert bad segue here)

Speaking of songs botanists would enjoy however, check out my link for Songs about Plants (over there in my links bar), and send me suggestions of popular songs that include references to plants (although please, not songs about roses).


11 October 2007

Alton Brown and Good Eats

If you're a foodie and a scientist (like me) you are probably a follower of Alton Brown's cooking show, Good Eats. If not, and you have the Food Network on cable, it's a can't miss.

Alton Brown is a chef and a science nerd!

Highlights include a demonstration of how squid chromatophores work on "Squid Pro Quo II" (using balloons) and I learned a lot about avocados in the episode "Curious Yet Tasty Avocado Experiment". Such as, did you know avocados only ripen after they are picked from trees? So, growers just leave them on trees until they are needed - and that is why we can buy avocados year round. Now, if only the price of avocados weren't so darn expensive in CT.

I mention Good Eats now because episodes full of biology goodness will in no doubt warrant comments on this blog in the future.


06 October 2007

Insular dwarfism

This comic from Dinosaur Comics is a great comic summary of insular dwarfism:

The insular dwarfism wiki article has some great examples. And don't forget the opposite phenomenon of island gigantism, the removal of predators (and other constraints) on islands often can result in animals being able to grow larger after many generations. I learned something new, who knew that the dodo is just a giant form of a pigeon? Would that make Mr. Dodo the vice-mayor of Gigantic Towne? I think so.