Posts

July 18, 2014

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7:59 AM | Anti-Evolutionists Need to Stop Talking About Thermodynamics
The anti-evolutionists just never get tired of the second law thermodynamics! The latest bit of silliness comes from Barry Arrington, writing at Uncommon Descent. Here’s the whole post: I hope our materialist friends will help us with this one. As I understand their argument, entropy is not an obstacle to blind watchmaker evolution, because entropy…
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5:14 AM | Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Silicified productid brachiopods from the Permian of West Texas
The three beauties above are productid brachiopods from the Road Canyon Formation (Middle Permian, Roadian, approximately 270 million years old) in the Glass Mountains of southwestern Texas. They are part of a series we’ve done on the silicified fauna of a block of limestone we dissolved in the lab many years ago. The calcitic shells […]
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3:15 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Why idiots succeed. Rory Sutherland on social norms. Economics incentives versus nudge (pdf). Don’t forget that basic economic mechanisms can work. We’re related to our friends. Are there really trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk? A bash of the Myers-Briggs test. Personally, I’m a fan of the big five plus g. On g, […]
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3:13 AM | Hot Springs and I.S. Frenzy
Guest Blogger:  Kelli Baxstrom (’16), member of Team Utah 2014   EPHRAIM, UTAH –  A week into Utah, and feelings are mixed between slight hysteria for those who continue to fall off the couch in the evening due to exhaustion and an ongoing sense of awe of the beautiful world that exists outside Ohio. Sunday was […]
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1:54 AM | Feathery Fossil Gives Flying Dinosaurs a Size Boost
Early last week, in the pages of PNAS, paleontologist Dan Ksepka unveiled one of the largest dinosaurs ever …

July 17, 2014

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11:28 PM | Another Perspective on British Columbia
Guest blogger: Liz Plascencia 15 days. 22 bears. 4 bald eagles. 47 rock samples. Wow. What a trip. I, a native Los Angeles city dwelling kid, have had the utmost pleasure of accompanying such a dynamic and energetic team of geologists to Mt. Edziza. Northern British Columbia is absolutely unreal. Far from the city lights […]
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7:55 PM | Stop teaching calculus in high school
Math education needs a reboot. Kids today are growing up into a world awash in data, and they need new skills to make sense of it all. The list of high school math courses in the U.S. hasn’t changed for decades. My daughters are taking the same courses I took long ago: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. These are all fine subjects, but they don’t serve the needs of the 21st century. What math courses do young people really need? Two subjects are head-smackingly […]
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6:15 PM | De Loys’ Ape and what to do with it
Purely because the time feels about right, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the cryptozoology-themed book that John Conway, Memo Kosemen and myself published last year –... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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5:20 PM | Useless research done here!
TPP must make a confession: in his long scientific career he has never studied a damned thing that was “useful” meaning studies that had immediately useful results for human problems. TPP's research was never designed to be useful or answer useful questions from the perspective of a politician, and the scientific funding that does exist already has a hugely human bio-medical bias. Mostly TPP wanted to figure out how flowers worked, and indeed, some of his work […]
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1:01 PM | The wisdom of crowds of people who don’t believe in the wisdom of crowds
MIT Technology reports new research on the “wisdom of the confident”: It turns out that if a crowd offers a wide range of independent estimates, then it is more likely to be wise. But if members of the crowd are influenced in the same way, for example by each other or by some external factor, […]
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1:00 PM | The future of teaching?
I’ve recently become a big fan of IPython Notebook – I use it to keep track of command-line analyses and the thoughts/rationale/questions I have as I’m running them. But Greg Caporaso has another good use – an interactive textbook for teaching bioinformatics. In this blog post, he describes in detail how the textbook came about […]
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11:57 AM | Systematic reviews 101: Internal and External Validity
Who remembers last summer when I started writing a series of posts on systematic literature reviews? I apologise for neglecting it for so long, but here is a quick write up on assessing the studies you are including in your review for internal and external validity, with special reference to experiments in artificial language learning […]
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4:27 AM | All Hail Weird Al!
I’ve been a fan of Weird Al Yankovic ever since “Eat It” He just keeps getting better and better. His new video, “Tacky”, a spoof of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” has just been released: Great stuff! Be sure to pay attention to the lyrics. They’re hilarious! I also like his palindrome song:
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2:46 AM | “Bigfoot” Unmasked
Bigfoot is an all-American monster. The mythical ape – a bastardized version of the Yeti – has supposedly …

July 16, 2014

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7:56 PM | History of Ornithology: The Osprey
tl;dr: My first post about the history of ornithology (fulfilling the “Kestrels” half o my blog name) discusses the osprey and how various naturalists perceived it. It’s a rather messy story. Note: As is evident from the opening lines, I wrote this around the time the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in the Super […]
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7:47 PM | Returned from British Columbia
Bears = 22 Bald Eagles = 4 Wolves = 2 Stone Mountain Sheep = 4 Marmots = Too many Helicopter Rides = 2 Impromptu Trip to Hyder, AK = 1 Samples Collected = 47 Successful Trip? Most definitely Fieldwork in British Columbia was hard. We covered a lot of ground both in transit and during […]
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5:41 PM | Unique bird pollination adaptation - poofty anthers
Here's a link to a newly published study describing and documenting a very unique bird pollination adaptation. The anthers have a "spongy" bulb of tissue and they are attractive to birds.  When a bird grasps the "bulb" to pluck it from the flower, the tissue collapses and blows a puff of pollen onto the face/head of the bird, thus placing the pollen in a location to be transferred to another flower's stigma. This is a totally unique anther adaptation. The common […]
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5:27 PM | Peer review, reviewed
Rebecca Schuman, who has almost single-handedly turned Slate into one of best big websites for coverage of the many trials and tribulations of academia, turns to peer review for scholarly journals, in which an author’s academic peers volunteer to weigh … Continue reading →
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2:00 PM | HOORAY for Basic Science Research! And duck genitalia
Basic science =  scientific questions that are founded in understanding theory, or the natural world around us Applied science = scientific research that is directly applicable to humans. i.e. Cancer research The last few years of financial crisis have seen a rise in criticism over basic scientific research. NPR does a great job of summarizing […]
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1:04 PM | The behaviour genetics to eugenics to Nazi manoeuvre
Recently, I’ve tended to roll my eyes rather than respond to poor commentary on behaviour genetics. But a review by Kate Douglas at New Scientist, in which she pulls the behaviour genetics to eugenics to Nazi manoeuvre, has pointed out a potentially interesting book. First, from the conclusion to Douglas’s review (actually, not so much a review but a […]
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12:00 PM | East To West And Back Again
Biological concepts – carbohydrates, heliotropism, monoecious, dioecious I’m trying to think of a situation where quantity is better than quality. Perhaps some could argue that since quality is subjective, one person’s quality would be another person’s attempt for quantity. In friends and experiences, I go with quality. You can travel to every place on Earth, but if you don’t come back changed, there was no quality. You can have many acquaintances, but you really […]
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7:59 AM | Ruse On the Problem Of Evil
Over at The New York Times, Gary Gutting has an interview with philosopher Michael Ruse. It is part of a series on philosophy and religion. There are several interesting nuggets in the interview, but I just want to discuss this one: G.G.: Do you think that evolution lends support to the atheistic argument from evil:…
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5:09 AM | Brain-melting Heat in the Sanpete Valley
Guest Blogger:  Michael Williams (’16), member of Team Utah 2014   EPHRAIM, UTAH –Team Utah 2014 is now approaching the one-week mark of being in the field. For the past four days we’ve been working on one of Dr. Judge’s pet projects: deformation bands and fluid flow in the Sixmile Canyon Formation. This Cretaceous sandstone […]

July 15, 2014

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6:52 PM | Join the HMS Beagle book club!
This is just great!  The mapping voyage of the HMS Beagle was to last at least a year. This was the voyage of discovery that launched Charles Darwin's career in case you have never read about the voyage in Darwin's first major publications.  Here's the ship's library recreated online so you can read what Darwin was reading!.  It'll take you some time to get through it all because it totals almost 200,000 pages, and a lot of the books were in French. And he had Smith's […]
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6:32 PM | Lotus flowering on Chinese time
Never stopped to think about it before, but the Phactors' lotus always starts flowering in July too, and apparently this is when they flower in China, and why not?  While halfway around the world, it's still the northern temperate zone. Here's a really pretty photo essay which shows exactly why people revere the lotus.  It is a very photogenic flower and terribly lovely flower, and it not only graces the lead graphic for this blog, but it's been the Friday Fabulous Flower […]
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1:00 PM | A guide to the science and pseudoscience of A Troublesome Inheritance, part III: Has natural selection produced significant differences between races?
This is the third in a series of guest posts in which Chris Smith will examine the evolutionary claims made in Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance. You can read part I here, and part II here. Chris is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Willamette University. He uses population genetic approaches to understand coevolution of plants and insects, and […]
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12:00 PM | Q: What do your friends and your fourth cousins have in common?
A: Their genetic relatedness to you. A new study out in PNAS this week suggests that you may have even more in common with your friends than you think.  In particular, you are more likely to share your sense of smell. “People often talk about how their friends feel like family. Well, there’s some new […]
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12:00 PM | Q: What do your friends and your forth cousins have in common?
A: Their genetic relatedness to you. A new study out in PNAS this week suggests that you may have even more in common with your friends than you think.  In particular, you are more likely to share your sense of smell. “People often talk about how their friends feel like family. Well, there’s some new […]
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7:43 AM | Science and Religion at Christian Colleges
Apropos of our discussion of the proper interpretation of Genesis, Kelly James Clark, writing at Huffington Post, summarizes the state of play at some Christian Colleges: Shortly after the 2004 publication of his book, Random Designer, biologist Richard Colling was prohibited from teaching introductory biology courses at Olivet Nazarene College in Illinois and his book…
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5:59 AM | Meet Team Utah 2014
EPHRAIM, UTAH — On July 9, four Wooster students traveled to Utah to begin structural and stratigraphic research with me.  They will be out here until July 22, when we will all fly back to Ohio together.  I’d like to introduce these students to you!! Above is a great picture of Team Utah on the […]
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