The short-sighted madness of bad science fiction


The happy promoters of giant space projects are at it again. “Should we terraform Mars?”, they ask — to which I reply that we aren’t even close to being able to implement such an undertaking, so your fantasies are silly, and worse…why do you always express it in such palpably stupid ways?

Before we talk about terraforming another planet like Mars, we have to talk about Earth—and whether we should be spending our resources trying to save it, or moving on to another pale blue dot. It’s a grim debate that some scientists say it’s time to have.

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I am full up on science — we had a long day of zebrafish-inspired talks (also sticklebacks! And Amia!), and I am dazzled with how far the science has progressed since my antique days as a graduate student. I’m also impressed with the legacy my graduate advisor has created — great labs live forever.

The science part is done. Tomorrow it’s an all day party at the Kimmel farm. I’ll be home sometime around 5, so if anyone in Eugene wants to get together in the evening (in addition to the meetup on Sunday morning), I’ll probably be hanging about the Valley River Inn bar.

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: A member of the family


Good news, everyone! The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that captive chimpanzees deserve the same protection as wild chimpanzees. We’ve been living for years with a peculiar split decision that says it is illegal to experiment on some chimps, the ones still living in the wild, but other chimps, those that live in research colonies, have fewer protections.

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Jurassic World, David Peters, and how to rile up paleontologists


This new movie, Jurassic World, is stirring up a fascinating love/hate reaction from paleontologists. We all love to imagine dinosaurs resurrected, and the movies give us an image of what they’d be like, so everyone is happy to see that…and it also inspires new enthusiasm for fossils, so it helps lead to better support for good science. But at the same time, couldn’t they at least get the science right?

Kirkland, the state paleontologist at the Utah Geological Survey who has been involved in the discovery of 20 dinosaurs including the Utahraptor, admits such Hollywood blockbusters could inspire a whole new generation of fossil lovers. Yet, he frets that this movie – much like its three predecessors – will be filled with so many factual errors as to spread misinformation.

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