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Category Archive: Evolution

Dec 02 2013

Now you too can pretend you were at Skepticon this year

Here’s my talk on the Cambrian from Skepticon 6. Oh, hey, I just realized I could post the content of that text-heavy slide I flashed, showing the sources I used. So here you go: Web reviews from Donald Prothero, Nick Matzke, Larry Moran. Briggs, D.E.G.; Fortey, R.A. (1989). The early radiation and relationships of the …

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Nov 09 2013

The curiously limited argument from convergent evolution raises an ugly tentacle/fin again

Limpet

I am not a fan of the convergent evolution argument for humanoid aliens. I can well believe that it’s likely that intelligent aliens exist out there in the universe, but I’m not even going to try to predict what they look like: there are too many alternative paths that are possible. But for some reason, …

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Nov 05 2013

Brian Cox is the cute one of the pair, right?

coxevo

I’m pretty sure, anyway. I should pose with bears. Would confuse everyone.

Nov 03 2013

Methinks it is like a fox terrier

cellnumberchart

I’ve had, off and on, a minor obsession with a particular number. That number is 210. Look for it in any review of evolutionary complexity; some number in the 200+ range will get trotted out as the estimated number of cell types in a chordate/vertebrate/mammal/human, and it will typically be touted as the peak number …

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Oct 28 2013

Guess who’s hosting the Carnival of Evolution?

I am! So I’m going to be picking through blog posts on Halloween night. Send your submissions now — early submissions get a Snickers bar, late ones get a Bible tract. Or maybe some dental floss.

Oct 20 2013

My turn

Today is the last day of the Paradigm Symposium, which is good — I don’t know how much more my poor brain could take. But this afternoon, after lunch, it’s my turn to speak. And I’ve been doing my homework, looking into what kinds of things paranormalists often believe about biology and evolution, and it’s …

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Oct 10 2013

Darwinian bookery

We’re doomed. Evolution is an ineluctable process; once it gets started, it’s not just an optional alternative, it becomes unstoppable, short of nuking the planet from orbit (and even then, all it takes is one surviving bacterium for it to begin again). Charlie Stross has noticed that books have crossed the threshold and are now …

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Oct 08 2013

A hopeless muddle

James May, one of the presenters on Top Gear, is trying his hand at providing a little science education. I want to say…please stop. Here he is trying to answer the question, “Are humans still evolving?” In the end he says the right answer — yes they are! — but the path he takes to …

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Oct 04 2013

This cat is going to be insufferable

(a) Orthologous gene clusters in mammalian species. The Venn diagram shows the number of unique and shared gene families among seven mammalian genomes. (b) Gene expansion or contraction in the tiger genome. Numbers designate the number of gene families that have expanded (green, +) and contracted (red, −) after the split from the common ancestor. The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) has 17,841 gene families. The time lines indicate divergence times among the species.

You may have heard we’ve got this satanic feline padding about the house now, getting into mischief — she has discovered my collection of cephalopodiana, and her favorite toy is one of my stuffed octopuses that she wrestles and bats around the floor. It’s like she’s rubbing it in. Anyway, a new paper in Nature …

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Sep 20 2013

Cool free stuff

I’ve mentioned the Earthviewer app from HHMI before: think of it as a bit like Google Earth, only you can dial it back to any period in the planet’s history. There have been a couple of developments: it’s also available for Android, and it’s added some new features, including tracking for major fossils. So now …

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