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Posts Tagged ‘Darwin

“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.”*…

 

From James Vaughan, via From Deco to Atom

* Mae West

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As we peel ’em, we might spare a thought for Josiah Wedgwood; he died on this date in 1795.  An English potter and businessman (he founded the Wedgwood company), he is credited, via his technique of “division of labor,” with the industrialization of the manufacture of pottery– and by his example, much of British manufacturing.

Wedgwood was a member of the Lunar Society, the Royal Society, and was an ardent abolitionist.  His daughter, Susannah, was the mother of Charles Darwin.

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Written by LW

January 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”*…

 

A diagram from Poe’s Eureka

I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical—of the Material and Spiritual Universe:—of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny. I shall be so rash, moreover, as to challenge the conclusions, and thus, in effect, to question the sagacity, of many of the greatest and most justly reverenced of men.” —Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, 1848

Eureka was the last major work Edgar Allan Poe published before his premature death in 1849.

In Eureka, Poe claimed to have intuited, among other discoveries, that the universe is finite, that it came about by the “radiation” of atoms out from a single “primordial Particle,” that what Newton called gravity is nothing but the attraction of every atom to the other atoms with which it once shared an identity, that countervailing forces of repulsion keep matter as we know it “in that state of diffusion demanded for the fulfillment of its purposes,” and that, eventually, the universe will collapse back into its original, unitary state.

Poe’s verdicts, as Marilynne Robinson and many others have pointed out, sometimes eerily predicted developments in twentieth-century astrophysics. For Poe, however, all the imaginings contained in Eureka—the prescient as well as the flighty or far-fetched—had the weight of indisputable truths…

Now Poe’s prose poem is the organizing principal of a show mounted through August 28 at the pace gallery in New York.  From Alexander Calder and Edgard Varèse to Sun Ra (replete with Arkestra) and James Turrell, the group exhibition features artists “who observe and map the cosmological, metaphysical and scientific through painting, sculpture and music.”

Read more about Poe’s Eureka in the Paris Review; visit the show at the Pace Gallery.

* Niels Bohr

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As we contemplate the cosmos, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Robert FitzRoy; he was born on this date in 1805.  A scientist (hydrographer, meteorologist) and career officer in the Royal Navy who devised a storm warning system that was the prototype of the daily weather forecast, invented a barometer, and published The Weather Book (1863), he rose to the rank of Vice Admiral.

But he is surely best remembered as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s famous voyage (FitzRoy’s second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone)… though he might rightly also be remembered for his tenure as Governor of New Zealand: during which he tried to protect the Maori from illegal land sales claimed by British settlers.

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Written by LW

July 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”*…

 

Photographer Ryan Deboodt and his team hiked (for days)…

… then flew a drone even further into the belly of Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest known cave.

email readers click here for video

See more extraordinary photos (and larger versions of those above) on Ryan’s site.

* Joesph Campbell

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As we go spelunking, we might send crusty birthday greetings to Adam Sedgwick; he was born on this date in 1785.  One of the founders of modern geology, he proposed both the the Devonian and the Cambrian periods of the geological timescale.  Sedgwick was a fierce critic of the theory of evolution when it appeared, calling it “”utterly false… from first to last it is a dish of rank materialism cleverly cooked and served up”; nonetheless, he and Charles Darwin (one of Sedgwick’s students at Cambridge) were friends until Sedgwick’s death in 1873.

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Written by LW

March 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Intoxicated? The word did not express it by a mile. He was oiled, boiled, fried, plastered, whiffled, sozzled, and blotto”*…

 

The expanded fifth edition of Glaswegian surgeon Robert Macnish’s The Anatomy of Drunkenness (1834) examines inebriety from a wide range of angles.  Though alcohol is the main focus, he also explores the use of opium (popular at the time), tobacco, nitrous oxide, and of various (real or reputed) “poisons,” like hemlock, “bangue” (cannabis), foxglove, and nightshade.  Macnish’s examination includes wonderful descriptions of the different kinds of drunk according to alcohol type, methods for cutting drunkenness short, and an outlining of the seven different types of drunkard (Sanguineous, Melancholy, Surly, Phlegmatic, Nervous, Choleric and Periodical).

The seventh chapter of the book examines the phenomenon of “spontaneous combustion” which, Macnish reports, tends to strike drunkards in particular.

Page through at Public Domain Review.

* P.G. Wodehouse, Meet Mr. Mulliner

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As we ask for a club soda, we might consider just how far we have– and haven’t– come, as it was on this date in 1859 that Charles Darwin published The Origin of the Species.  Actually, on that day he published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life; the title was shortened to the one we know with the sixth edition in 1872.

 Title page of the 1859 edition

 

Written by LW

November 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Dinosaurs did not walk with humans. The evolutionary record says different. They gamboled”*…

 

Emily Graslie, host/writer of the educational YouTube series The Brain Scoop, has branched out to manage the wonderful Tumblr “…is not a dinosaur.”

This blog is a result of an erroneous mistake; one day I referred to Dimetrodon as a mammal-like reptile in front of a vertebrate paleomammalogist. These animals are not at all members of Reptilia; they are Synapsids – four-legged, back-boned animals that span back 315 million years on a completely different evolutionary branch on the tree of life.

Since then, I’ve found Dimetrodon partying with members of Dinosauria across the pages of coloring books and frolicking in the aisles of toy stores, surrounded by lifeforms which evolved some 66 million years after those ancient mammalian relatives…

And she’s shared; for example…

aurusallos:

isnotadinosaur:

This is one of my favorites – I’ll reblog whomever points out all of the discrepancies in this one image. You’ll also get a puppy*
*probably not

Upper-left feathered thing: probably an Archaeopteryx, but they have been proven to have black feathers. Although kudos to the authors/artists for allowing feathered dinosaurs to somewhat grace the cover! (Darn publishing logos)

Left green thing: an aetosaur, most likely. NOT DINOSAURS

Dimetrodon: PELYCOSAUR, NOT A DINOSAUR, SYNAPSID NOT A DIAPSID, UGHHHHHHHH. DIDN’T EVEN LIVE IN THE MESOZOIC.

Stegosaurus: head shape wrong, and dopey tail is not anatomically correct

Blue Ornithomimus thing: FOUR TOES ON THE GROUND? I don’t think so! And pronated wrists, not to mention the lack of feathers…

Protoceratops: legs sprawled out to the side instead of underneath, also missing the lower beak

Velociraptor pair: NO FEATHERS, TOO BIG, BROKEN HIPS (Sauruschian hips followed a 90 degree rule, meaning the femur does not bend back more than 90 degrees), more pronated wrists, wrong skull shape, and what are toe claws

Assumed Pteranodon: wimpy arm and shoulder musculature, missing pyncofibers, and wrong skull shape (although it might be viable, I’m scared to continue going through and trying to find pterosaur skeletals right now because of David Peters and his misleading work).

Also, many of these creatures are geographically misplaced, so even if they weren’t all from different time periods (Permian-Cretaceous), they probably wouldn’t have interacted much.

And, of course, the slightly off-center type of the title of the book is bugging me as a graphic design freak, but oh well.

ETA: More about the Dimetrodon: This illustration shows it with erect legs when it actually had sprawling legs, and the skull/mouth shape is not accurate either.

They just messed up bad with this one.

ETA2: While I do not know that much about paleobotany, I believe that most of the plants presented are fairly accurate.

I’m so proud I could cry.

 More disambiguation of the distant past at … is not a dinosaur.

* Steve Martin

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As we make Jurassic judgements, we might spare a thought for The Right Honorable John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury PC FRS DCL LLD; he died on this date in 1913.  A banker by trade (and family tradition), Lubbock was an avocational scientist who made significant contributions to ethnography, several branches of biology, and– as a friend and advocate of Darwin– the debate over evolution, and was a central force in establishing archaeology as a scientific discipline.

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Written by LW

May 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

Squatch Watch…

 

 click here (and again) for larger version

Every now and then a dataset comes along that just has to be mapped. This is one of those times.

Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Skookum. Yahoo. Whatever you call it, the towering man-like ape is a folklore staple. From stories of Yeti in the Himalayas to Wildmen in the Pacific Northwest, people have been talking about and trying to find the creature for ages. Occasionally, some form of evidence – like Patterson’s famous 1967 film – emerges and either feeds our fascination or gets dismissed as a hoax. In either case, it’s easy to see why believers search for proof and skeptics remain doubtful.

Through archival work and reports submitted directly to their website, the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has amassed a database of thousands of sasquatch sightings. Each report is geocoded and timestamped. Occasionally, even photos and videos of the alleged evidence are included. I’m not quite sure how I stumbled across this, but I’m glad I did.

After crawling the data and converting it to a more convenient format, I mapped and graphed all 3,313 sightings that were reported from 1921 to 2013…

Read Josh Steven‘s fascinating notes on “92 Years of Bigfoot Sightings in the U.S. and Canada”  (and do browse the comments…)

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As we we ask Nessie if she’s seen him, we might recall that it was on this date in 1836 that HMS Beagle called at the Island of St. Michael’s (north of the Azores) for letters, then sailed for England.  The ship’s naturalist, Charles Darwin, did not sight Bigfoot.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 25, 2013 at 1:01 am

Firing blanks…

 

Since the early 70s, academics and NGOs concerned with population growth have understood that the single most effective “lever” a society can pull to achieve population “control” (short of authoritarian birth bans, a la China) is the enhancement of women’s roles in the economy and society– the better educated, the more engaged a country’s women, the lower its fertility rate– and almost always, the more robust its economy, the more stable its polis, the healthier its environment, etc., etc. [c.f., e.g., here].

While experience continues to support this understanding, research is also suggesting that there may be another, complementary force at work; Pacific Standard reports that “French Semen Is Not What It Used To Be.”:

French men are losing sperm, and not in the fun way, according to a new study in Human Reproduction. Researchers examined semen samples given by 27,000 French men at fertility clinics, and found that the average sperm concentration fell more than 32 percent between 1989 and 2005.

Those findings echo a growing heap of research going back to the 1970s suggesting that the semen quality of men in industrialized countries is steadily declining. The most commonly-cited explanation is chemicals in the environment. Bear in mind, though, the supposed sperm-concentration drop is not a settled matter – many of the studies over the years were poorly designed, had overly-small sample sizes or were otherwise flawed. But if the ranks of men’s sperm are being thinned, for whatever reason, it could have serious implications for couples’ chances of conceiving.

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As we ponder potency, we might send biological birthday greetings to Erasmus Darwin; he was born on this date in 1731.  Erasmus was an accomplished doctor (he declined an offer to be personal physician to Charles III), but is better remembered as a key thinker in the “Midlands Enlightenment”– a founder of the Lunar Society of Birmingham and author of (among other works) Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life, which contained one of the first formal theories of evolution… one that foreshadowed the theories of Erasmus’ reader– and grandson– Charles.

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Written by LW

December 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

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