Redefining secular ethics…or not

LAMP Symposium

Last month, I attended the Fourth Annual LAMP Symposium, “Religious and Scientific Perspectives on the Future of Life” at Emory University (LAMP is the Georgia Tech/Emory Leadership and Multifaith Program). The talks were an interesting mix, including some straight-up science, some thoughtful discussions of the interactions between science and religion, and a bit of absolute pseudo-profound bullshit.

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Chlamydomonas 2018


Image from

The website for the 18th International Conference on the Cell and Molecular Biology of Chlamydomonas is live at The meeting will be at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC June 17-21, 2018. Abstract submission is open, with submissions due by May 26, 2018.

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Asking the wrong questions: still no evidence of a sonic weapon

Back in October, AP reported that they had “obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana,” a high-pitched whine “sort of like a mass of crickets.”

A new technical report tests the idea that the audible sounds recorded by AP in Cuba could have been caused by two (or more) ultrasonic sources (a less technical description is here). What the paper shows is that sounds similar to those in the AP report can be produced from the interference of one ultrasonic source on another. This much seems convincing. I don’t have a deep understanding of the physics, but the real-world demonstration is hard to argue with.

But just because the sound can be reproduced this way doesn’t mean it was produced this way. I have seen “Eye of the Tiger” played on dot matrix printers. That doesn’t mean Survivor recorded it using dot matrix printers.

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That beautiful animalcule: Andrew Pritchard on Volvox

Pritchard figure

Plate from Pritchard 1834. Image from Google Books.

Andrew Pritchard’s 1834 book The Natural History of Animalcules includes several species he classifies as Volvox. Most of them were probably not Volvox, but his Volvox globator certainly was. His description of Volvox begins on page 39. A scanned version is available online at The Biodiversity Heritage Library, but I have used the slightly higher quality scan in Google Books for the plate above.

The animalcules belonging to this genus are of a globular form, and revolve in the water. Some of the species are so large as to be discerned by unassisted vision, while others are very diminutive. Ehrenberg has not demonstrated their digestive organization; but in a note to his table, conceives they ought to follow the monads. In this genus is included that beautiful animalcule, called the Volvox globator, which forms so interesting a spectacle in the Solar and Gas Microscopes.

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