jump to navigation

Interesting post w/ many links over @ the ‘Why Evolution Is True’ blog October 18, 2009

Posted by rationalskeptic in Science Blog.
Tags: ,
add a comment

(This is a post from Jerry coyne’s blog Why Evolution is True. and I thought this post had some great information in it and wanted to share the goodness! Thanks to the writer of this post Matthew Cobb and the blog master of WEIT Jerry Coyne)

And now for something completely different…October 14, 2009 – 12:47 pm

by Matthew Cobb

Well, not completely different. As some of you may know, every week during the academic year, I send out an electronic newsletter to Zoology students at Manchester University, past and present, and to another hundred or so interested people. I just sent out the latest issue of the Z-letter, and one of my readers – Jerry Coyne – replied from Guatemala, or wherever: “Post this WHOLE THING on my website! Including the stuck skunk!” So here you are… If any of you want to subscribe to the Z-letter, send a mail to: cobb at manchester dot ac dot uk

Hello everyone

Here’s the latest Z-letter, with everything from a stuck skunk video to ideas about how morality evolved, including rapping about natural selection… Don’t forget to send in your links! 288 subscribers now!

Matthew

=========================================

OPPOSING SLAVERY WITH DARWIN

James Moore, co-author of the recent book “Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins”, will be giving a talk about his fascinating discoveries underlying Darwin’s motivations. Everyone is welcome – the talk will be in Roscoe B lecture Theatre, on Brunswick Street, at 5:30pm on Tuesday 20 October. Anyone with any interest in Darwin should go to what will be an excellent talk.

=========================================

RAPPING WITH DARWIN

When I first heard about this Darwin-themed event at the Manchester Museum, I was very doubtful – “evolution presented in the style of Eminem”. But Henry McGhie of the Museum, who’s been heavily involved with it, assures me that it really is fantastic. Baba Brinkman explores the history of Darwin’s theory combining hilarious remixes of popular rap songs with clever lyrical storytelling that covers Natural Selection, Sexual Selection, Evolutionary Psychology, and much more. Friday 23 October at 6pm in the Museum.

Baba Brinkman’s page:

http://www.babasword.com/

=========================================

THE END OF THE LINE

The new documentary about the fishing industry which was mentioned in the last Z-letter will be shown on More4 at 10:00pm on Tuesday October 20th.

The End of the Line trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bedirwk95Oc

=========================================

WHY SPONGES ARE ANIMALS

I had to address this issue in my second year lecture this morning. I was so amazed by some of the stuff I uncovered while researching the talk that I had to blog about it as Jerry Coyne’s guest blogger. See whether you’re equally convinced.

WhyEvolutionIsTrue.com blog:

http://tinyurl.com/yh99scs

=========================================

REMOTE CONTROLLED BEETLES

I had to check the date on this one, but no, it’s not date-stamped 1 April. US researchers at Berkeley are apparently able to radio control giant beetles (up to 20cm long) using electrodes implanted when the beetle was a grub. They can be “flown” round a room using a laptop. Although undoubtedly macabre, it isn’t quite so amazing as it sounds, as the electrodes are implanted into the muscles, not the brain. Stimulating the wing muscles on one side rather than the other would make the animal turn. Controlling the neuronal activity leading to that movement would be a lot more difficult, indeed impossible given our current knowledge. [EDIT – How wrong I was! Now I have been able to read the original article – see below, they did indeed plant electrodes into the beetle’s brain, which controlled flight initiation (wing flapping) and elevation (presumably a function of wing vibration speed). Amazing!] However, there are alarming implications of this work, which is being funded by the US military… Sheffield’s Professor Neil Starkey is particularly concerned by this. The work is allegedly reported in Frontiers in INTEGRATIVE Neuroscience (open access, includes movies!)  but I can’t find the original article…

BBC page:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8302903.stm

=========================================

ALBATROSS-CAM!

From the EZNews produced by John Altrincham (Leeds): Cameras fitted to albatrosses show that they follow killer whales, perhaps to take advantage of fish flushed to the surface. They also appear to dive in the company of other albatrosses and dive surprisingly infrequently.

BBC page:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8291732.stm

Original Paper in PLoS ONE (open access):

http://tinyurl.com/ygruwwu

=========================================

STUCK SKUNK

Oklahoma skunk gets its head stuck in a jar of peanut butter. Will it spray its rescuers?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8306488.stm

=========================================

THE EVOLUTION OF MORALITY

This is an issue that Darwin (again) was fascinated by, and which is growing in importance. There’s an excellent site by Douglas Allchin of the University of Minnesota which effectively functions as a textbook on the question. Essential reading.

Evolution of Morality site:

http://www1.umn.edu/ships/evolutionofmorality/

Review by me of three books on the question:

http://tinyurl.com/yzclouu

=========================================

LIFE

The Big Moment of many people’s week will have been the new BBC natural history series, Life, narrated (but not filmed) by David Attenborough. I found the music incredibly irritating, overblown and unnecessary, but the images are absolutely stunning. (The flying fish were my favourite.) If you’re in the UK, you can still watch it again on line at:

http://tinyurl.com/yghljvv

=========================================

THE STRESS OF BEING A PREY

Much of the footage in the first episode of Life was devoted to predation, with scenes of prey animals being chased by hungry predators. What are the physiological effects of such stress on prey animals? An article in a recent issue of Journal of Animal Ecology looks at snowshoe hares.

Magazine article (Sub needed to get past abstract):

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2009.01602.x

Research article (Sub needed to get past abstract):

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2009.01552.x

=========================================

ATTENTION TENSION

More from John Altrincham: Spiders adjust thread tension to improve their ability to detect prey on the web.

BBC picture:

http://tinyurl.com/yjnbmgc

Proceedings of the Royal Society article (Sub needed to get beyond abstract):

http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.1583

=========================================

THE VEGETARIAN SPIDER

Promised about a month ago by Geoff North, editor of Current Biology and assiduous Z-letter reader, this news of a salticid spider from Central America that is vegetarian. Or nearly. Its primary food are small tender shots of acacia leaves, which are guarded by ants as part of an ant-plant mutualism. The spider can jump over the ants and get the buds. Quite amazing.

WhyEvolutionIsTrue.com blog:

http://tinyurl.com/ylpbouo

BBC page, including video:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8302535.stm

Current Biology News & Views article:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2009.08.043

Current Biology research article:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2009.08.049

=========================================

MASSIVE DINO PRINTS FOUND IN FRANCE

A huge set of dino prints, covering several hectares, has been found in Eastern France. Some of the sauropod traces are over *two metres* wide. That doesn’t mean that the dino’s feet were that wide, of course. The way that prints are preserved in gloopy mud often means that they are much broader than the animal’s feet.

BBC page:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8294425.stm

=========================================

NAME THAT ANIMAL

This sent in by PhD student Neil Buttery, who spotted it on PopBitch, which is obviously what he surfs when he’s not playing Scrabble on Facebook…

http://go2.wordpress.com/?id=725X1342&site=whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com&url=http%3A%2F%2Ftinyurl.com%2Fyjtf2kz

(Jerry in Guatemala)The Mayan city of Tikal, Peten, Guatemala. Atop Temple 2, with Temple 1 in background.

(Jerry in Guatemala) The Mayan city of Tikal, Peten, Guatemala. Atop Temple 2, with Temple 1 in background.