Guest Blogger #2, checking in

Hello Pharyngulites, Danio here in my second official stint as ‘guest blogger’. Like MAJeff, I’m very honored that PZ tagged me for the task, and I hope not to disappoint.

A bit about me: I am a postdoctoral fellow at PZ’s alma mater, the University of Oregon, working on zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model organism for studying hereditary deaf-blindness. I also have a broad interest in science education and science literacy, especially at the elementary and secondary school level, so I do a fair number of tours and demos for different student groups. I don’t have as much time for more formal pedagogic endeavors as I’d like, but I have taught courses in Human Reproduction and Development in the past, and I have a special interest in the intersection of science and public policy in this area.

Why just “Danio”, you might ask? My identity is not a secret, per se. People in my field who are reading this can probably figure out who I am, and that’s totally ok. My choice to post under a pseudonym on Scienceblogs is out of consideration for my kids, who aren’t old enough to make an informed decision on whether or not they want to be publicly associated with an unapologetically godless Mama, and for my husband, who, as a healthcare provider, has to kiss a lot more ass than I ever do, and thus could also suffer by association.

I’m glad to be here and looking forward to posting somewhat regularly. In keeping with the theme that MAJeff has started us off with, here’s another question to mull over:

In reflecting upon PZ’s current journey to the Galapagos, what site of significance in the history of scientific discovery would you like to visit, and why?
(If that doesn’t do it for you, feel free to use this as an open thread).


  1. MAJeff, OM says

    Wow, that’s a hard question.

    For me, and this is incredibly personal*, it would be one of the labs where HIV/HTLV-III was discovered.

    That fucking virus. I can’t describe how much I hate it.

    I tossed in a link in my post to a recent BBC story about how the life expectancy of someone in the UK, diagnosed with HIV at age 20, can now–on average–expect to live another 49 years. I’m still astonished by that.

    No, the discovery of the virus did not lead to the promised cure. Without it, however, people–at least in the overdeveloped world–would probably still only be living fewer than 10 years after transmission. That discovery set the stage for the development of anti-retrovirals and the extension of life for so many…and so many more still need it…..


    * There’s a line in the movie Jeffrey that expresses my attitude toward the virus/condition/social aspects. I’m quoting it as close as I can, since my version is on VHS, and I don’t have a VCR anymore. “I’m a gay man. I live in New York. I’m not an innocent bystander any more.”

  2. Geb says

    As tempting as it is to say Titan, the site of scientific discovery I would really like to visit is the university of Chicago and the place where the world’s first nuclear reactor started up. Despite the military ties to the technology, nuclear power back then was still seen as potentially changing everything, making comic book technology feasable and available to all.

  3. ed r says

    In the spirit of both this question, and the previous one…

    As a place of pilgrimage, I can’t think of anything finer than the Arecibo Observatory. My worldview was very much formed by the writings of Carl Sagan — by elegance of his writing, and thinking, but most of all, by the constant sense of wonder and joy that he found in seeing the world as it is. Arecibo, and SETI’s work at Arecibo was one of Sagan’s great undertakings. What better way to celebrate science than to stand on the rim of a giant unblinking eye staring out, with all of Sagan’s child-like optimism, and hope for the future, on a universe that is far more spectacular and awe-inspiring than any of our ancestors could have imagined.

  4. says

    If I had the time and access to relevant materials, Newton’s world at Cambridge.

    Going from several disconnected universals, to a universal system during a few years of Newton’s lifetime, is perhaps the best story in science. The trouble is that it’s not easily found just by going to Cambridge.

    Still, with enough time and access, that would be the place.

    But for a short jaunt, maybe the Burgess Shale. Those are some weird little critters, and we still don’t know (for sure, anyway) why they appeared in such a relatively short time. And with evolution as a tool, we don’t need to invoke the magic Designer.

    Glen D

  5. Tim H says

    Cambridge. The Cavendish. I don’t know if they even have a museum, but I’d love to see re-creations of some of Rutherford’s classic experiments.

  6. says

    Hey heathens,

    In response to focus on the family endorsing a prayer to rain on the DNC(as seen here on Pharyngula. From a superficial study of the tax law it looks like this is grounds to get Focus on the Family’s tax exemption revoked because of political activity.

    One thing, their system is complaint bases. Focus on the family has a budget of $48 million dollars a year and getting their tax exemption status revoked will cripple their ability to inject religion into politics.

    I’m so excited about this!!

  7. Benjamin Franklin says

    OK Danio, I’ll play-

    I want to open the box and find Schroedinger’s cat both dead and alive.

    Really, what’s next? How we spent our summer vacations?

    Gonna have to crank it up several notches. Try finding something on UD or AIG that can be torn apart.

  8. DLC says

    Hmm… I’ve been to the Trinity test site.
    Also been to Kennedy Space Center.
    I don’t think Fermi’s squash court is even there anymore, let alone available for public viewing.
    As someone who’s also a history buff, I’d love to visit Darwin’s old haunts. Mt Palomar or Lowell Observatory would also be cool.

  9. Pat McComb says

    I’d love to visit the Galapagos islands. After that, I might skip off to the Nile and head south in memory of Al-Hazen’s ill-fated trip before he came up with modern optics. Then maybe a short jump to Aswan to look down a well when the sun is at 90 degrees — to celebrate Eratosthenes’ (probably) very accurate measure of the size of the globe. Dropping stuff off the Leaning Tower of Pisa sounds like fun too. That was (to quote Samuel Ting) the first particle accelerator.

    The real treat would be to visit the more recent Large Hadron Collider. The scale of the engineering and the questions it might answer are equally spectacular.

  10. hje says

    MRC at Cambridge, UK–DNA. ‘Nuf said. Intended to travel there from Oxford last time I was in UK but the unfortunate London terrorist attack intervened. Spent two days at hotel near Gattwick airport instead.

    That discovery set the stage for the development of anti-retrovirals and the extension of life for so many…and so many more still need it…..

    Unfortunately my brother didn’t live long enough, but we’ve made so much progress since the early 90s. I tell my students that the war on cancer will likely have a similar outcome in the next decade–a little progress at first, then a lot more.

    Of course with all the dazzling insights into biology that the Discovery Institute fellows have provided, shouldn’t cancer be cured by now?

  11. USAtheist says

    Tough question… I’m still waiting for the date when we can harness nuclear fusion or construct an army on nano-bot space ships that could be used to colonize the galaxy. Living long enough to see either one would be great. Sorry, about not being historical.

  12. JJ says

    I dont know if either of them still exist, but if they do, I would like to visit the patent office and the Bern cafe which Einstein frequented during his Annus Mirabilis. It still fills me with awe and inspiration tot think that a 26 year old young man just by pure sheer of curiosity and deep thought changed completely the image we had of the physical world.

  13. MAJeff, OM says

    Unfortunately my brother didn’t live long enough, but we’ve made so much progress since the early 90s

    I’m so sorry.

    I’ve only had one moment in a classroom when I was stunned into silence, and that was when, about 3 years ago, a student asked me, “You mean there hasn’t always been AIDS?”

    Having lived through the ’80s, I just wasn’t prepared for that. None of my students have known a world without AIDS.

  14. says

    I would like to go back to Costa Rica, I recently went, but spent far too much time in the Pacific. I would like to spend more time a few miles inland in the forest. Perhaps some night herp trips.

  15. Carlie says

    Wow, great question. There are a lot of places that would be wonderful and informative to visit, but for sheer significance the first thing that comes to my mind is Hutton’s Unconformity. The evidence that the earth was much, much older than anyone had thought underlies most of evolutionary theory and geology.

  16. says

    Without a doubt, the The Augustinian Monastery where Gregor Mendel bred his little peas.

    Also, though it’s not quite historical yet, I’d like to drop through the surface of Europa to see what crazy critters are swimming around down there.

  17. says

    I can think of two projects I’d like to be a part of. One would be a wide ranging genome sequencing project working not only with known specimens, but unidentified specimens as well. Hair, skin, feathers, feces, pus, whatever. To see if genome sequencing can be used to give a better picture of the life in a region.

    The second an in depth search of the Central Asian region for remains of Homo and Australopithecus. Did Homo habilis migrate outside of Africa? Did Australopithecus?

    And now that I think of it … Using genome sequencing to explore the question, have Asian Neanderthals survived to modern times? Are there extant populations? Have these modern Neanderthals integrated into our society, and have they bred with us?

    Heck with it, let me add a fourth. Learn how many species of Pan there are, and how many sub-species. Are there four or five sub-species of Pan troglodytes. Is Pan t. Schwienfurthi a separate species, and would that make the Bili Ape a sub-species of P. Schwienfurthi? I’ll stop there before I get carried away.

    But, let’s keep in mind the morphological oddities of the chimpanzee known as Oliver. :)

    Those are my main interests at the moment, though I do reserve the right to change my mind.

  18. hje says

    In response to focus on the family endorsing a prayer to rain on the DNC (as seen here on Pharyngula.

    How stupid is that prayer request? Send rain to a city that could use it. As if people in the audience will be maimed by rain drops.

    These people seem the characters on the Capitol One credit card commercials. “War kittens?”

    I say they pray for tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, locusts, etc. and when these acts of God fail to materialize, it can remind people how full of shit they are.

  19. says

    I think, if I could wiggle my fingers and manipulate history a smidge, I’d love nothing more than to visit the Library at Alexandria with a freakin’ Xerox machine.

    I mean, I know humanity’s pretty bright and all, but something tells me we’re missing something big.

  20. 938Mev says

    Oh gosh.. I’ve always liked the microscopic world. I can only imagine what might have been going through Antony van Leeuwenhoek’s head when first looked at some pond water. (I’m betting heavily is was some Dutch form of Holy Shit!) This guy made his own microscopes and presumably made them better and better so he cold see more and more. Still, there was probably one particular day on which human understanding of the world increased by a super hero like bound.

    Perhaps the he finally got a lens ground just right. Maybe the light was perfect or he found an incredible sample of some kind. Was it the regular pattern of onion skin or the semi intentional actions of protists in a drop of pond water? The exact account escapes my memory but he seemed to be a man who appreciated the great wonder he witnessed using microscopes he made.

    Yep, being one of the first people to see the wee beasties is a pretty good go and one admirable legacy. To this day, if a microscope is within arms reach, I’ll stick a sample under it just for the heck of it. It’s like temporarily changing universes.

    And I get so frustrated with my elementary school colleagues who won’t even consider using our totally cool digital scopes with our students. I mean you just plug it in and it works! It’s not like you have to make your own scope. I really have to work on that aspect of our science curriculum but I’m constantly amazed and disappointed that my adults innate curiosity rarely leads to investigate such an important historical tool.

  21. Techninja says

    Hmm, Honestly I would have to say the Galapagos Islands as well.

    I’d also like to go and see CERN and the the Large Hadron Collider there.

    And probably the location that Marconi sent the radio message (on both sides of the Atlantic)

    In other news, the bastards down at the Westboro Baptist Church seem to think that the poor kid that got his head cut off on a Greyhound bus in Canada was a message from god and they will be “protesting” at his funeral. WTF is wrong with the world. (And that isn’t even counting PETAs response to the killing. Yes, that’s right I said PETA had something to say about it as well, for their own agenda naturally, there are some seriously sick people in the world.)

    / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

    ‘Hated’ church group to protest Tim McLean funeral

    Updated Thu. Aug. 7 2008 2:03 PM ET News Staff

    A church group described in a British documentary as “the most hated family in America” says it will head to Canada this weekend to protest Tim McLean’s funeral.

    The daughter of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Ka., told she and several other church members will go to Winnipeg on Saturday to demonstrate against what she described as McLean’s “filthy way of life.” Shirley Phelps-Roper said his life was emblematic of Canada’s moral decay.

    “God handed us a gift,” Phelps-Roper said in a phone interview on Thursday.

    She said McLean deserved his death by beheading on a Greyhound Bus last week.

    “(His death was) supremely unemotional. You got God shaking in rage. There is no emotional component … He was a rebel against God. He was taught to be a rebel by his parents. He came from a rebel country … They brought this wrath upon his head. And it sucks to be him and it sucks to be them,” Phelps-Roper said.

    She said his brutal murder was a sign from God.

    “You gotta connect the dots, people … from your idols to your filthy way of life,” she said.

    “Here’s what I know. He is dead and God does not do that to people that serve in his truth.”

    Phelps-Roper described McLean — who she had never met — in an insulting, insensitive and graphic manner. Her crudest descriptions of the 22-year-old are not printed.

    “I haven’t met him personally, but he has nothing going on,” she said dismissively.

    “(His life) was all about him. Blah, blah, blah … He was a rebel … I don’t need to know anything else … I don’t need to know the minutia. Everything you need to know is right there.”

    The Westboro Baptist church has gained notoriety in recent years for setting up protest pickets at the funerals of U.S. soldiers who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Church members claim the deaths are part of God’s wrath against Americans for turning their back on his teachings. They have repeatedly called the U.S. a “fag” nation, a phrase Phelps-Roper used repeatedly to describe Canada.

    Phelps-Roper said she does not mind that her family is reviled by the majority of Americans. She claimed she rejoices when people say they despise and hate her family.

    “I say, ‘cha ching.’ That goes in our bank. God gives us tokens of his love,” she said.

    Phelps-Roper said members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which numbers about “70 souls,” is comprised mainly of a single extended family.

    McLean was killed on July 30 after being stabbed repeatedly on a Greyhound bus by a complete stranger. He was then beheaded.

    Vince Li, 40, has been charged with second-degree murder. A psychiatric evaluation has been ordered for Li.

    / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

    PETA compares bus beheading to animal slaughter

    Updated Wed. Aug. 6 2008 11:32 PM ET News Staff

    The animal rights group PETA has posted an ad on its blog website comparing the killing and beheading of 22-year-old Tim McLean to the slaughter of animals for human consumption.

    PETA planned to run the ad in the Portage Daily Graphic, a newspaper in the Manitoba town 20 kilometres away from where the shocking murder took place.

    The imageless ad reads: “Manitoba. An innocent young victim’s throat is cut . . . His struggles and cries are ignored. The man with the knife shows no emotion . . . The victim is slaughtered and his head cut of . . . His flesh is eaten. It still goes on!”

    The newspaper’s website says that the paper has refused to carry the ad.

    PETA defended the ad in a press release on its website.

    “Like human victims, animals in slaughterhouses experience terror when they are attacked by a knife-wielding assailant,” PETA’s Lindsay Rajt said in the release. “We are challenging everyone who is rightly horrified by this crime to look into their hearts and consider leaving violence off their dinner plates.”

    Another blog post on the PETA website says: “While it isn’t every day that a human is violently attacked and eaten by another human, it’s worth noting that it is the norm for many people not to give any thought to the fact that restaurants are serving flesh that comes from innocents who were minding their own business before someone came after them with a knife. How amazingly and conveniently compartmentalized the human mind is…”

    McLean was killed last Wednesday after being stabbed repeatedly on a greyhound bus by a complete stranger. He was then beheaded and according to reports from the scene, his attacker committed acts of cannibalism.

    Vinci Li, 40, has been charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of McLean. A psychiatric evaluation has been ordered for Li.

  22. BaldApe says

    If time travel is allowed, I want to see the interaction, if any, between modern humans and neanderthals. When I was a kid, my parents bought me some books in a series called How and Why Wonderbooks. One of my favorites was the one on Primitive Man.

    If time travel is not allowed, I want to go to the Moon. I wouldn’t think I would need to explain why :-)

  23. John C. Randolph says

    Unfortunately my brother didn’t live long enough, but we’ve made so much progress since the early 90s.

    That we have. I’ve only lost one friend to AIDS so far, back in 1987. He was a great guy to know, smart, funny, and interesting. He sure had a great time in the 24 years he had.


  24. Mike says

    I’d love to go to Swenet, Egypt, where on the summer solstice the sun is directly overhead at noon. I doubt any wells remain there from 240 BC (perhaps the town isn’t even there anymore). Anyway, if you aren’t following me, it was known that the sun shone directly down the well at Swenet, and this is how Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth, using the distance from Swenet to Alexandria and a measurement of the sun’s angle in Alexandria on the summer solstice.

    That’s probably my all-time favorite moment in science.

  25. John C. Randolph says


    PETA’s cult leader, Ingrid Newkirk is on the record as saying that even if animal testing produced a cure for AIDS, she would still be against it.

    PETA is a pack of vicious little misanthropes.


  26. says

    Welcome, Danio. I don’t comment here often, as I usually happen on to threads after they have already amassed hundreds of comments, so I’ll post now.

    This isn’t really a site of scientific discovery that exists now, but I would love to be able to see the laboratories of Cajal or Thomas Willis, as they were in their own times, with all the antiquated equipment and chemicals – just to experience those places where so much about the brain was uncovered, and see how they did it.

  27. JoJo says

    I’d like to be at Tycho Brahe’s side when he first saw De Stella Nova (aka (Tycho’s Supernova or SN 1572).

    As a nuclear engineer, I’d like to walk into the control room of Chernobyl Reactor #4 at about 0100 26 April 1986 and ask the shift supervisor: “Why are you violating all these safety precautions and regulations? Are you an idiot or what? Let’s get the plant shut down. Then we’ll hold a critique on your numerous errors.”

  28. says

    I think there are two things I would have loved to have been around for. One is more of an engineering feat than a scientific one (although, of course, the two are fairly interrelated, and this one was at the cutting edge of engineering in its most fun aspect – that of total ingenuity and novel development), while the other is less of a specific moment and more of wishing I could have been in a specific atmosphere.

    The engineering one is I wish I could have been part of the development team for the lunar landing project. The sense of impossibility was amazing, and, to be exceedingly dorky, it is why the opening sequence of Enterprise is probably my favourite part of that entire show. The whole aerospace industry of the sixties was extraordinarily exciting.

    The second is that I wish I could have attended some of the early meetings of the Royal Society in England. While I find many of the early practices rather abhorrent (mainly in the disregard of the existence of awareness in non-human life), I love the concept of a society devoted to thinking about any and all problems in a scientific manner. People were not afraid to move from one area to another in fantastic leaps of discipline, from working on microscopy one day to masses on springs the next or working on abstract logic and then moving on to the discussion of free will.

    Of course, these days there are very exciting opportunities as well, like robotics and artificial intelligence. Also, we are perhaps on the verge of renewed interest in space exploration (though as long as people would rather buy stealth bombers than shuttles, we might have some problems there).

  29. says

    How about the surprising fact that Mars is apparently made out of Water (as ice) and Rocket Fuel (well, some perchlorate anyhow)?

  30. Paula Helm Murray says

    I’d love to go to the Galapagos, I’m an amateur naturalist and it would be such a fascinating place.

    I’d also love to do a national zoo/aquarium tour including place like the National Zoo and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

  31. says

    Where would I like to go?
    I’ve already held Edison’s filament experiment notebook in my own hands, I’ve stood at the top of the Tower of Pisa from where Galileo allegedly dropped his balls, been in the center of Stonehenge, in the Parthenon, and in St. Peter’s. I’ve met Nobel laureates, and stood looking up from the foot of an Apollo launch pad at the vehicle just days before its launch. I have peered into the Cherenkov-lit pool of a nuclear reactor in South America, and seen the observatories on Mauna Kea. I’ve watched the tides at the Bay of Fundy and watched a Shuttle night launch from a Florida beach. Of course, I’ve visited Meteor Crater, Sandia, Los Alamos, and Grants (where the Uranium came from last century).

    The geology I saw in the Black Hills and even in Bryce Canyon put the Grand Canyon to shame for illustrating the antiquity of the Earth. I’ve also watched new land form as bright jets of lava spewed and exploded into the sea on Hawaii. I’ve seen hundreds of museums in many countries, and try to always stop at obscure markers of significant events of discovery and exploration when driving on the old highways.

    All of this without particularly intending to collect science sites. Not bad for an amateur, a dilletante.
    Where would I like to go? I find that if I just keep going, I’ll eventually have been there. Unless I press to get to Serendip (Sri Lanka). Who knows what I’ll find on the way?

  32. toucantoad says

    If all goes as the planning is progressing, I and a colleague are taking students next year to London, Paris, and Germany for a visit to museums and sites of 18th and 19th century biology development. My primary goal is to get them and me to Eichstaett and Solnhofen, Bavaria for the quarries of Archaeopteryx. I want to walk among the slate quarries and imagine another of those wonderful specimens hiding among the stone – a pilgrimage.

  33. bio teacher says

    PZ is in the Galapagos??!! That lucky &*^%^%$#5643&$%!!

    I know it’s cliche, as a bio teacher and all, but I reallyreallyreallyreally want to go to the Galapagos. I’m also a birder so Ecuador/the Galapagos are a primo destination for me. I want to see those crazy island misfits! And then I want to tell the Ecuadorian government to invest in protecting those islands from further degradation from all the damn tourists! Of course, the whole place is getting screwed up and something must be done to protect such an iconic place.

  34. says

    Rather than the tower, I’d prefer to visit the house where Galileo was imprisoned, with a side trip to the church where he was distracted from the service by timing a pendulum. Nothing big, but important nonetheless.

  35. says

    Somebody’s gotta ask, so it might as well be me – is there such a thing as hereditary deaf-blindness, or is that hereditary deafness or blindness?

  36. Brian D says

    My choice to post under a pseudonym on Scienceblogs is out of consideration for my kids, who aren’t old enough to make an informed decision on whether or not they want to be publicly associated with an unapologetically godless Mama, and for my husband, who, as a healthcare provider, has to kiss a lot more ass than I ever do, and thus could also suffer by association.

    I find it sad that, in the twenty-first century, we atheists have to take such precaution in their associations. If anyone were to utter that same passage but with “godless” replaced by any less-public-in-America religious adjective (Zoroastrian, Bahá’í, or Jain, for instance, or even one as well-known as Taoist), folks would see it as paranoia. Replace it with “Christian” and I would argue that it would still be perceived as paranoid. So why is it necessary and/or seen as rational as it stands with ‘godless’?

    (Note: I’m not an American and not very familiar with theocratic rule; this may explain my bias.)

  37. Tim says

    GEB #4, The squash court is gone, there’s a monument on the site. The places where the Manhattan project happened would be great to visit, and kinda’ safe by now, but the Cavendish where physics and biology intersected would be fun.Hope PZ’s having fun!

  38. co says

    To briefly touch upon the question: anywhere that da Vinci was, so I could speak to him. What a brilliant man.

  39. says

    Hi, Danio!

    Here’s to you and MAJeff having a relatively relaxing time of it whilst Dr. Myers is off gallivanting around.

    I’d like to go visit a few major archaeological sites, like Scara Brae or maybe Catal Huyuk, or maybe revisit the Wasa exhibit in Stockholm.

    The MadPanda, FCD

  40. says

    Hawaii while it still had its native species — long-beaked birds that fertilized strange flowers and a whole fauna of insects that had never had to deal with ants.

  41. Jeremy says

    I’m with Glen D @ #6 on the Burgess Shale. Crazy stuff to see. I don’t know if I’m allowed back in Canada though (small misunderstanding about a work visa).

    What about those caves in the Venezualan tepui with those silica-structure-building bacteria?

  42. cyan says

    Realistically: the Burgess Shale, to get a chance to uncover myself another of the Cambrian animal remains.

    Have found huge ammonites in Tx: so heart-achingly thrilling, each one, & walked in dino tracks in beaucoup places before I knew one shouldn’t do so. Living in the mind in the past with each monstrous step.

    Fascination with fossils began around age eight after reading “Quest in the Desert” by Roy Chapman Andrews. So if I’m really, really dreaming, then to explore the Mongolian desert with my noble dog, Wolf, finding huge bones & eggs while dealing with the worst nature & subset humans can throw at one.

  43. Nerd of Redhead says

    I’d like to see the labs where David Faraday and Marie Curie made their discoveries. And while there is probably nothing to see, the lab where Watson and Crick deduced the DNA helical structure. And a visit the to Kennedy Space Center for a shuttle launch.

  44. LisaJ says

    Cliche again, but really my Science destination dream is to go to the Galapagos. I will make it there someday! I also would like to go to Down House. Those are on the top of my list.

  45. david c. says

    There are too many to list in the past. But how about the future. Cern’s LHC startup next month!!!!!

  46. Brad says

    For some reason, Foucault’s Pendulum in Paris was the first of many that came to mind.

    Geb@#4, if you want to see the first reactor, you’ll have to travel to Oklo, Gabon. Chicago was the first man-made one…

    Seeing a black smoker from a deep-sea submersible, or Lake Manicouagan impact structure from the space station would be cool.

    Techninja @#26, if I was closer and had the time, I’d be tempted to counterprotest with a big sign that says, “If God exists, he thinks Fred Phelps is a douche.” I know I do.

  47. Sara M. says

    I’d have to go with the Burgess Shale for my science pilgrimage destination. The Cambrian explosion is just too cool. Where else can you hope to uncover an unknown, extinct, new phylum??

  48. Rick T says

    I would like to see the footprints of Australopithecus Afarensis in East Africa as well as the bones of Lucy.
    And it’s said, as if it were fact, that we have no transitional fossils. We have hundreds and a whole trees worth leading to modern man. I would like to see the evidence in person that led to my seeing the truth that my religious upbringing tried to hide from me.

  49. says

    Science pilgrimage? Damn, how to choose?
    Down House (yes, I saw the reproduction of Darwin’s study in the travelling exhibit).
    Burgess Shale.
    I’ve already been to Joggins, but I want to go back.
    Palomar (already been).
    Newton’s old haunts.
    I could probably go on all night…..

  50. says

    Just a note: if you want to go to CERN, book your visit with them well, well in advance. I know they advise 3-4 months, but if you are planning on a summer visit, you may want to book a year or so in advance.

    One of the few things I’ve won in my life was a trip to Switzerland. Since I didn’t predict that a year beforehand (!), the tour was already fully booked in the summer.

    They didn’t even have their visitor center open when we visited, so we had to make do with looking around the front entrance, where they have some retired equipment, and eating in the cafe and soaking up the atmosphere. I have a few pictures in my incomplete travel journal here (note what they call their specials in the cafe :).

  51. Sphere Coupler says

    If time travel were permitted I would like to walk in on Albert Einstein at the moment of his epiphany of relativity and assure him that he was not crazy. He must have felt very exited and very alone. Can you even Imagine the thoughts that ran thru his mind?

  52. says

    I’ve been to see Lucy, and visited JPL for their open house. Beyond those, I would love to visit Galapagos, but I realize that the tourism is starting to take its toll, so would settle for Darwin’s home.

  53. Danio says

    Thanks for the welcome, all! (with the exception of Benjamin Franklin, who’s apparently dissatisfied with the non-controversial tone of these introductory posts)

    Somebody’s gotta ask, so it might as well be me – is there such a thing as hereditary deaf-blindness, or is that hereditary deafness or blindness?

    No, the hypenated condition exists. I’ll do a post on this in the next day or two, so stay tuned if you’re interested.

    I find it sad that, in the twenty-first century, we atheists have to take such precaution in their associations. If anyone were to utter that same passage but with “godless” replaced by any less-public-in-America religious adjective (Zoroastrian, Bahá’í, or Jain, for instance, or even one as well-known as Taoist), folks would see it as paranoia. Replace it with “Christian” and I would argue that it would still be perceived as paranoid. So why is it necessary and/or seen as rational as it stands with ‘godless’?

    I agree, it’s sad. But in America it is truly a valid concern. Remember Monique Davis (D-Chicago) a few monts ago, screaming (on the record) about how dangerous it is for children to know that atheists even exist? Did you hear Rick Reilly, ESPN commentator, a few weeks ago, declaring that it was a ‘lousy night to be an atheist’ when a born again Christian baseball player hit a bunch of home runs? Imagine if the word ‘atheist’ in those situations were replaced with ‘Taoist’ or ‘Hindu’ or ‘Jain’, or whatever. The PC hammer would drop in a heartbeat. But there are, apparently, no unpleasant consequences associated with publicly bashing the godless.

    There are some undeniable risks with coming out as atheist in any forum, and the relatively high-profile of this blog heigtens those risks to some degree. If I had just myself to think about I wouldn’t bother hiding behind a ‘nom de blog’, but the possibility–however remote–that people I love could be adversely affected by my publicized opinions justifies such precautions.

  54. James R says

    There are a lot of good candidates, but the clear leader in my mind is the Moon. The rest of the list is way, way behind.

  55. Wowbagger says


    I don’t think Benjamin Franklin’s alone; we had a solid month of posts on the cracker incident, and there are a few of us who spent a lot of time sparring with trolls – and sometimes each other. It became the standard.

    Coming back to the ‘normal’ Pharyngula mix of science with only occasional anti-theism posts is going to take a bit of getting used to. But we’ll cope.

    That being said, I hope you enjoy your co-reign of terror!

  56. leki says

    OH OH! I’ve been to the Burgess Shale!

    Pure awesome.

    I’ve always wanted to spend time on a deep-sea mapping ship. It isn’t glamorous, I know, but I am always way too excited when I watch programs where you can ‘see’ the bottom of the ocean.

  57. azqaz says

    Where? When?!?!?! Umm. So many. So worthy. I’ll have to think on this one. Hopefully I can decide before the thread is closed.

  58. pipsqueak says

    Top of my (realistic) travel list is a few months spent with a kayak/small boat pottering around the islands on both sides of Wallace’s line. (

    Basically I want to hop back and forth investigating the intersection between Australian and Asian plants and wildlife. Plus of course, there’s the forests on Flores where, just maybe in some remote pocket, a hobbit is still hunting the last dwarf stegodon.

  59. says

    DanK # 37,
    calculated your carbon footprint lately?
    /sadness and irony

    When I do overseas travel (it’s been 15 years since) I mainly visit zoos and museums as much as possible (okay, usually working museum visits are the reason for being there in the first place). I don’t get much of an urge to do actual tourism (something to do with several years in the UK as a youngest child, visiting hundreds of fabulous historic locations willy-nilly – ruins for playgrounds – and learning more by watching BBC than actually being there), but I do love being able to work in interesting locations sometimes. Living in outback northern Australia and doing science on reptiles, that’s OK. And digging fossils in a World Heritage Area, just up the road; no complaints.
    In Greece with a then-girlfriend in the early 90s, I took a bus trip (by myself) to Delphi and (recapturing old times) played in the ruins, in particular finding and entering a cleft in the rock under the floor of the sanctuary (practical reason: it was raining quite heavily). Can’t say I detected any psychoactive hydrocarbons, but I took a photo out through the opening to remember the moment.

    We have the opportunity to experience all the best bits of the world in the comfort of our own homes, with the important stuff pointed out and explained by expert guides – who may no longer be alive (Sagan, Magnusson, the young Attenborough who wrassled Komodos and bumped into cannibals while out walking; not to mention those who wrote before television). Many early posts have invoked time travel to get to their preferred destinations, and TV does that (as well as saving the actual trip) quite well.

  60. MikeM says

    I hope you enjoy your stint.

    I visited one of the more fascinating spots (to me, at least) this summer: Yellowstone.

    I imagine that areas around the various thermal features must be the kind of place where life on this planet first developed. Nice energy source, plenty of water, lots of chemicals… Plenty of life around those features that still, to this day, can only exist around thermal features.

    (Note to creobots reading this: This does not mean geysers produce gorillas. Many, many things happened between the first single-cell creatures and gorillas. So go ahead and stand next to a geyser and wait for a gorilla to emerge. Sounds like a great way to waste your limited time on earth, if you ask me.)

  61. John C. Randolph says


    If animal welfare matters to you, there are organizations that really do help them. Lots of cities have no-kill animal shelters (PETA kills most of the animals they take in), and the ASPCA has been working against animal cruelty for longer than anyone else I know of.


  62. says

    I can’t really say that I have any site that I’d like to visit except perhaps Galapagos (due to its magnificent nature). I would love to see a number of places (e.g. CERN) but not due to the discoveries done there.

    If I could choose any place and time though, I’d love to be there when Niels Bohr was running the physics department in Copenhagen, especially in the early thirties. Think of the minds gathered in that place.
    For those who don’t know about the significance of Bohr and his department, I recommend Segrè’s Faust In Copenhagen.

  63. Helioprogenus says

    That’s quite a difficult question to ponder. Hmm, although the Galapagos is the obvious choice, I think having been at Cavendish physics laboratory in Cambridge, the lab where Watson and Crick finally truly uncovered the nature of DNA, would be the place I’d most want to visit second to the various voyages of the Beagle.

  64. says

    Three places come to mind.

    First, CERN. Mostly because if you use the word “holy” for awe and respect, then CERN is the holiest place on earth.

    Second, whatever remains of the Scottish Cafe in Lviv. (Sigh… I guess nonmathematicians will now say “What cafe?”)

    Third, Hilbert’s grave. Partly because he was a great mathematician, partly because of the inscription: Wir muessen wissen. Wir werden wissen. (We must know. We will know.) A scientist could do a lot worse for an epitaph.

  65. Samantha Vimes says

    That’s easy– the moon landing site! Because it would mean landing on the moon again, and getting to see the earth hanging in the sky. Like most geeks, I have always wanted to be an astronaut.

  66. Vjatcheslav says

    I would want to visit Sarov, or another closed city that was important in the Soviet nuclear program. Baikonur would also be nice.

  67. says

    Where? That’s easy: Würzburg, where Röntgen discovered X rays.

    Why? That’s easy, too. Because on a sunny summer day, nothing beats sitting on the Sternplatz with a cool, refreshing, Distelhäuser Hefeweizen fresh from the barrel.

  68. Noam Zur says

    Posting responses like crazy today ;-)
    I would have to differentiate between terrestrial sites and anywhere else in the universe… I would love to go to the Galapagos myself, which is why I am completely and utterly jealous of PZ at the moment. I wanted to go on the amazing cruise this year, but my place of employment comes back from summer vacation at those precise dates, so no can do… On the other hand, I am also amazed at geology, archeolgy, and marine biology. I’d also like to visit CERN and the LHC – so many places, so little time!
    As for leaving Earth, the sky is the limit, if you’d excuse the bad pun, everybody. Apollo sites, Rover sites, Jupiter orbit, Kuiper belt, not to talk about leaving our little insignificant little solar system…

  69. clinteas says

    Hello Danio,and welcome !!

    A great question,I had to think about that one for a little while…

    I guess I would have loved to been there to watch the Big Bang,or that classic Star Trek moment of the slimey stuff forming the first proto-amino acid !
    Oh,and the TV studio where they filmed the moon landing LOL

  70. says

    I’d like to go to Nikola Tesla’s old laboratory in Colorado Springs, if it’s still there. Tesla was a genius (moreso than Thomas Edison, whom I hear about incessantly due to the fact that I live near Fort Myers), and a lot of inventions I want to make would be impossible if it weren’t for his experiments with electricity.

  71. John B. says

    I don’t even have to think about this one: East Africa. The hominid fossils pulled out of Olduvai Gorge excited me to no end when I read about them in National Geographic as a kid. And just being there and experiencing the place itself and its incredible array of wildlife would all kinds of awesome. The pull I feel toward that part of the world makes me wonder if there is such a thing as genetic memory.

  72. Rick Schauer says

    Warm welcome to all the guest bloggers…great job kicking things off while PZ and the Trophy Wife visit Galapagos!

    March 26 to April 2, 2009 my wife and I are going to Italy to retrace Galileo’s steps and help celebrate 400 years of the telescope with a tour group from Astronomy magazine. We land in Rome and tour the “forces against science” aka the Vatican. Following that, we venture to Florence via Tuscanny and check-out the telescope and other stuff Galileo used to make his observations. Cool or what?

  73. chezjake says

    Welcome, Danio.

    I’m torn. The great paleontology sites like Olduvai Gorge would be fascinating, but if I could visit Pasteur’s original lab and the early Institut Pasteur that would be really awesome.

  74. says

    Without a doubt the University of Gottingen for me. Where Riemann, Hilbert, Born, Courant, Noether, Gauss, and other all did a lot of their best work in math and physics. They still have Riemann’s Notebooks, though the geeking out over that would be because I’m a math grad student…

  75. SteveM says

    Being a lowly EE, I guess my current “Mecca” would be Bletchley Park. One of the key birthplaces of modern computing.

    I’ve been to Stonehenge at dawn near the summer solstice (just as awesome but without the crowds). I worked for a summer (back in ’78) at the PETRA ring at DESY installing Ting’s “J” machine (as a tech, not as a student, Ting thought EE’s were lower than dirt). So while I would love to visit the LHC, I feel I have already had a very intimate experience at a large collider, the LHC is just bigger.

    Fantasy vacation spot: Tranquility Base.

  76. Tony Sidaway says

    Bletchley Park for me too. Not the least for all those thousands of Wrens. One aspect of my last visit to Bletchley a couple of years ago was to see all these octagenarian women, now quite frail, but still bright in mind, come back to show their grandchildren and great grandchildren where they had worked. One of them was working there as a tour guide.

    That place must have buzzed with bright young women at one time, and there were very few men. What’s not to like about that?

  77. Falyne, FCD says

    Wow… so many choices.

    Well, of course, I want to visit the site of the first colony on Mars. In the time I’ve got to kill before then… I’d want to visit the site of the Library at Alexandria most, I think, although I’m definitely taking notes on the rest of this.

    And, MAJeff… I was born in 1985. I definitely didn’t know a world without AIDS. I also didn’t know a world that didn’t know what caused AIDS, either. I vaguely remember at one point hearing about how people with the disease were ostracized, or how other people were afraid of letting their children near them or something. I was really confused, because I knew, and had always been told, that you couldn’t transfer the disease through casual contact, and there was nothing to be afraid of. It was weird for me to hear that this WASN’T always known… and to learn about mass panic.

    So. Yeah. CA schools, at least, had lots of good, anti-sensationalistic, PSA information broadcasting to kids. Gives the Anti-PC brigade fits, but I’m glad I had it. Yay good brainwashing, heh.

  78. Cliff Hendroval says

    I think seeing my family’s old stomping grounds at Olduvai Gorge would be pretty cool.

  79. MAJeff, OM says

    And, MAJeff… I was born in 1985.

    *shaking my cane* You kids!

    I was really confused, because I knew, and had always been told, that you couldn’t transfer the disease through casual contact, and there was nothing to be afraid of. It was weird for me to hear that this WASN’T always known… and to learn about mass panic.

    My students this summer were shocked when I told them about the Ray brothers, the kids who got fire-bombed out of their home for attempting to attend school. I still remember watching an Oprah episode–she took the show on the road–to a small city where the swimming pool had been evacuated and drained because someone who was HIV+ had dared to go swimming. A few years ago, at one of the protests at the Statehouse over marriage, a couple of really old bigot ladies got into an argument with a guy standing near me. One of them shrieked at her colleague, “Don’t touch him, you’ll get AIDS!” He was a straight, married man.

    We’re, overall, in a better place–generally!–with regard to knowledge about HIV transmission and the like, but there are still some amazingly ignorant (and hatefully stupid) people out there.

  80. tony says

    Lot’s of places earthside I’d like to visit – The great pyramids, Machu Picchu, stonehenge, the great wall, arecibo, CERN, and many others.

    Off earth, I want to visit the ISS, en route to the moon (and the apollo sites) and then off to Ganymede – to pitch a tent under the watchful gaze of Jupe – And then to Mimas, for a birds-eye view of the rings from the center of the death star crater!

  81. says

    John S #66: My Carbon Karma?

    I work from home (no commute, no allocated office parking space). When I travel domestically, it is with the family in a 40mpg non-Hybrid sedan. We get about 200,000 miles per car by proper maintenance. As dollar cost is an approximation of carbon cost to produce and deliver manufactured items, well-tuned older cars save a lot of carbon.

    All those European sites? Eurail Pass and Youth Hostels, and fully loaded planes each way (but I can’t take credit for that).

    My 1894 house in the city is landscaped to suit certification, much better than an at-best carbon neutral lawn. No central air, and efficient water radiators instead of a forced air system. My diet is largely local and low on meat.

    Though I have been to those and many other locations (some mentioned by others) my overall carbon footprint including wide travel is arguably lower than that of a typical couch potato virtual traveler.

  82. Radwaste says

    Obviously there aren’t any “normal” people on here. I don’t see anybody clamoring to visit the “new Target store in town!”

    I suggest that for a stunning example of practical science brought forth by engineering, one might wish for time at altitude in an F-16, or watching the “waterfall” of the sonar display on an American submarine. Or by just zooming around the Earth via the Google Maps “Satellite” view. I recommend a look at southwestern Africa. Look for the paved highway to and from nowhere in Namibia so that trucks can bring water to Windhoek from wells drilled where the river disappears in coastal desert, before it reaches the ocean.

    Photography of Earth looks a lot like HIRISE pics of Mars in a lot of places.

    Sometimes the things you take for granted are a big surprise when you look into them.

  83. says


    I grew up in the SF Bay Area in the eighties, so I remember quite a bit about the early history of AIDS. I especially remember the palpable fear that hung around, when so many people were dying and no one knew how the disease was spread–casual contact, for all we knew. I remember my mom telling me to always put down a toilet seat protector in public bathrooms, lest I catch AIDS. (I was so young that I thought she said “A’s”.)

    Then they discovered HIV, and the fear abated. Now we knew how the dread AIDS was transmitted. Now we knew how to protect ourselves. Now we could start to look for a cure. As I look back on it, it’s a stunning example of the power of science against fear.

  84. Azdak says

    I had to sleep on this, and what I came up with wasn’t a “where,” it was a “who.” I’d love to go back in time, snatch Turing off the street Bill-‘n-Ted-style, and sit him down today with some contemporary geneticists. I’d love to hear his take on the idea that we’re all, in a sense, Turing machines…

  85. Don't Panic says

    While CERN and the not yet turned on LHC might be in the news a lot, for those in the US Fermilab outside Chicago might be as awe inspiring.
    Time your visit right and you can take a guided tour though I think there are interesting things to see in the publicly accessible areas of the lab. For those who happen to be in the Tower-Soudan-Ely area of Minnesota, visit the Soudan mine and take the scientific tour (MINOS + CDMS experiments).

    Geneva Switzerland (not to be confused w/ Geneva IL ~3mi from the Fermilab — wow, is that a funny coincidence or what) is a pretty neat town. When at CERN I took a day to walk up the banks of the lake. There I stumbled across the quaint little Musée d’Histoire des Sciences which was kind of fun; outside they also had a number of science experiments to play with.

    My personal place to visit? For those of us lacking in time travel equipment, I’d like to see a number of the places already mentioned: Trinity site, Arecibo, Kennedy Space Center …

  86. says

    Terrestrially: Madagascar, hands-down favorite, while it’s mostly still there. Don’t know about the chow, but the humans and the music are great sidelights; mostly I want to see those weird landforms and wonderful plants and animals. Things are still being discovered there, and it’s this teeny little island!

    The Galapagos would be in second place to that. And Hawai’i. I want to go back to Hawai’i. I’d visit the observatory, sure, and I’d have more time to look for the remnants of the native birds, and I’d get to stand on the rim of Halemaumau Crater and watch the nesting tropic birds soaring underneath like angels at home in hell.

  87. Whateverman says

    I’d give one half of a pair of bodily organs or members or components otherwise to visit the LHC.

  88. says

    Galapagos: me just sitting with my wife and the marine iguanas and penguins, watching PZ as he explains to Darwin & Wallace what stuff they got right and wrong.

  89. Nick Gotts says

    Galapagos, and Down House, which I’ve already visited once, long ago, and before I knew that this – not Galapagos – was where Darwin had his crucial insights!

  90. Sili says

    Ooooh – good choice. I recognise the name and associate it with goodness – even if I can’t recall exactly what you educated us all on a coupla months back.

    I’m sorry you have to stay incognito for the sake of your husband, but I guess I can understand your worry over your kids.

    Tough one, really. I guess I’d rather make the discovery, myself, to be honest. Somehow the idea of ‘just’ visiting feels a bit boring. I guess I’d rather go to a museum with plenty of stuff to learn!

  91. Mooser says

    Danio! Swim for your life! Do you have any idea what they do to a poor little fish like you around here?

    Danios get the short end of the stick here, along with needles and blades.

    Leave, before they cut you down to your genes!

  92. says

    So many places I’d like to visit, the Cavendish is of course on the list, the Badlands and Burgess Shale, of course the Galapagos, Amazon, Borneo, see the amazing animals and plants in those areas, diving with giant cuttlefish in Australia, and the ultimate dream would be to go down in a deep sea submersible to see hydrothermal vents in person.

  93. BMcP says

    In reflecting upon PZ’s current journey to the Galapagos, what site of significance in the history of scientific discovery would you like to visit, and why?

    Mars… Seriously, it is a place of bountiful scientific discovery, abet all done by unmanned probes and rovers. Still it would be wonderful to actually be able to touch another planet, as much as a fantasy for me that really is.

  94. Qwerty says

    Danio, congrats on being another PZMinion with opinion.

    I agree with MAJeff on HIV. It sure changed things. And it was amazing the fears that people had about it, but then, people have been afraid of disease since antiquity.

    I guess I’d like to go to East Africa to see where they found all those old bones. I could also work in a visit to Eritrea where I stationed while in the Navy. (Yes, the Navy.) We had a base in the middle of no where about 28K from Asmara. Talk about primitive.

    The sad thing about AIDS is that it is a scourge in Africa.

  95. Qwerty says

    From # 95: For those who happen to be in the Tower-Soudan-Ely area of Minnesota, visit the Soudan mine and take the scientific tour (MINOS + CDMS experiments).

    As a Minnesotan, I’ll have to do this. Especially since I visit my uncle’s cabin “up north” every year. You forgot to mention how scenic it is. A visit can include a wilderness trip from Ely.

  96. Jim Thomerson says

    I’ve been to the Abby of St. Thomas in Brno. I was there, in 1991, when the abby was closed for the construction of the Mendel Museum. I got a guided tour and it was really neat. I did not go to Mendel’s grave, which is nearby. I highly recommend going to the museum. If I could be young again, there are places in Venezuela, Colombia, and Guyana where I have not been. Places where I have question marks.

  97. Techninja says


    Of course animal welfare matters to me, as it should for an other person with positive morals. Suffering and abuse should not be tolerated in any form to anything.

    No I am not a veg, I eat meat, and I have no problem with it as long as the death of the animal is quick and painless.

    I have absolutely nothing positive to say about PETA and I am well aware of there actions with regard to what they consider ‘surplus’ animals. I want to make perfectly clear that I was in no way supporting PETA. Period.

    I included the PETA reference to show how wacked out they are, and that the religious loonies don’t have a 100% market share on it.

  98. themadlolscientist, FCD says

    KoT is king of typos.

    I was wondering about that. Glad you’ve decided to quit keeping us all in suspenders.

  99. John C. Randolph says

    I want to make perfectly clear that I was in no way supporting PETA. Period.

    I hadn’t drawn that inference. My comments on PETA were only aimed at adding a bit of background.


  100. John C. Randolph says

    “I’ve only had one moment in a classroom when I was stunned into silence, and that was when, about 3 years ago, a student asked me, “You mean there hasn’t always been AIDS?””

    The stunning thing to me about that is that the student in question had such a poor education in recent history.


  101. Leigh Williams says

    Bletchley Park . . . that’s a great idea. Mr. Science and I are both in IT. I wish I could go back and snatch Alan Turing to get him away from the homophobes and save his life. What a waste of genius.

    I also wish I could spend some time with Benjamin Franklin (the Founding Father, not our friend who posts here, though I’m sure he would be fun to hang around with, too). Brilliant self-made polymaths are a weakness of mine. Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t be a bad date, either. I would have loved to have helped him with his Biblical editing.