Posted by: drgeophysics | November 14, 2009

Descend with modification and the beautiful life is has produced.

Feathers that sing–what a little sexual selection can do.  Wow, this is very cool.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Enjoy.

Here is the story.

Direct link to the video and the Carl Zimmer:  Singing Wings from Carl Zimmer.

An important new fossil has been discovered and described.

What makes A. celestae so exciting is that the species, like a crucial piece in a complicated jigsaw puzzle, helps explain how some of the earliest dinosaurs, two-legged herbivores known as prosauropods, evolved into the largest creatures that ever walked Earth: the sauropods, four-legged creatures with long necks and small heads that ripped foliage off trees with their cavernous jaws.

Here is the story.

Darwin’s theory of natural selection is the most basic concept in the biological sciences and the foundation for many of the exciting new developments in the field.  In the UK education in evolution is now included for all children, as is history.

Here is the BBC story.

Charles Darwin was a genius, a dedicated, kind and gentle family man; a man of great personal courage and integrity.  He has inspired me to be more than I am and I remember fondly listening to a beautiful lecture as an undergraduate about his life.  A portion of my library is filled with his books, books about him and Admiral Fitzroy and his insight. I often reflect on this quote from his Origin of Species (1859).

A hero of science.

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Recently a fundamentalist group, led by (who else?) an ex-actor,  printed and handed out 50,000 altered copies of Darwin’s book.  These altered copies included 54 pages of material that was inaccurate, full of misinformation, and included rather stark passages including “before we die…we have to face …the law of sin and death…” blah blah blah.  You get the idea.   Pure ignorance.

These were handed out at conservative events and some college campuses.   The reception was not what the Christian publishing company expected.

“The books all have a 54-page introduction of creationist bulls— by the renowned dumbass, Ray Comfort,” said Vlad Chituc ’12, the community service co-coordinator of the Secular Student Alliance at Yale.” 

Here is the Yale Daily News college paper article describing this nonsense.

As usual, Darwin had an insightful opinion regarding this sort of thing:

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Some fringe  groups in the United States have declared a war on science.   This has happened before, when the legislature of Indiana (where else?) tried to legislate the value of pi equal to 3.000 (exactly) on the basic of biblical literalism.   Follow this link to read about the nonsense of House Bill No. 246. This bill died in the state Senate.

As an undergraduate math major I enjoyed finally understanding pi, it’s beauty, and the fantastic complexity of mathematics.   BBC4 has a wonderful program about the number pi.  Here is the link to their page (listen again) to hear the program. Here is a more detailed description of pi, including how to make approximations yourself using strings.

The dynamic is always the darkness of ignorance and want versus the light of progress.  Science is a light in the darkness.  In the end, science always wins.

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