Lost Tomb of Jesus

Last week, I promised I’d watch this documentary about the “lost tomb of Jesus” because it was being advertised here on Pharyngula. Promise fulfilled, but the ghastly program was two hours long—two hours of nothing but fluff. I’ve put a bit of a summary of the whole show below the fold, but I’m afraid there’s nothing very persuasive about any of it, and it was stretched out to a hopelessly tedious length.

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Classic octopus

Adam Cuerden sent me a scan of this interesting article from the 1871 Illustrated London News, and I decided I was being terribly selfish keeping it to myself, so here you go — don’t say I never share. The image that accompanies it is a wonderful example of old-time illustration; click on it for a larger version.

As the media usually does, it plays up the horrible danger of this alien creature.


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I’ll go see it

A new movie about Darwin is in the works—

Jeremy Thomas is set to produce Annie’s Box about Charles Darwin, and hiring John Collee to write and directed by Jon Amiel.

The film will be based on a biography of Darwin by Randall Keynes, the great-great grandson of the Victorian scientist. Variety notes it focuses on the period when Darwin was writing The Origin of the Species, his ground-breaking treatise on evolution, while living a family life at Down House in Kent, near London.

The ‘Annie’ of the title is Darwin’s first daughter, whose death aged 10 left him grief-stricken. With his scientific discoveries leading him toward agnosticism, he was unable to find consolation in belief in an afterlife, but coped with his loss by plunging into his work.

Thomas plans to start production on Annie’s Box next year in Down House; he’s hoping for a release in 2009, the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth.

The book it is based on is Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) by Randal Keynes, and it’s an excellent choice. There’s a great deal of potential for family-centered drama in the story—it’s all about his family life, and in particular the effect of the death of a daughter at the age of 10—but there’s also some difficult material on Darwin’s tussle with religion that’s going to be hard to capture. (It’s also not easily summarized; Darwin left Christianity behind, but his ideas about a deity were conflicted).

Basics: Gastrulation, invertebrate style

The article about gastrulation from the other day was dreadfully vertebrate-centric, so let me correct that with a little addendum that mentions a few invertebrate patterns of gastrulation—and you’ll see that the story hasn’t changed.

Remember, this is the definition of gastrulation that I explained with some vertebrate examples:

The process in animal embryos in which endoderm and mesoderm move from the outer surface of the embryo to the inside, where they give rise to internal organs.

I described frogs and birds and mammals the other day, so lets take a look at sea urchins and fruit flies.

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The Haeckel-Wells Chronicles

Lately, the Discovery Institute has stuck its neck out in response to the popularity of showings of Randy Olson’s movie, Flock of Dodos, which I reviewed a while back. They slapped together some lame critiques packaged on the web as Hoax of Dodos (a clunker of a name; it’s especially ironic since the film tries to portray the Institute as good at PR), which mainly seem to be driven by the sloppy delusions of that poor excuse for a developmental biologist, Jonathan Wells. In the past week, I’ve also put up my responses to the Wells deceptions—as a developmental biologist myself, I get a little cranky when a creationist clown abuses my discipline.

In case you are completely baffled by this whole episode, here’s a shorter summary.

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Miss Prism has a brilliant idea

You all recall the Beagle Project that I recently mentioned was trying to raise money to reconstruct the Beagle and sail off to Patagonia (with me hiding belowdecks, of course). Miss Prism had a terrific idea: she’s knitting a Darwin puppet that she’ll sell off to some lucky commenter on Darwin’s birthday, with all the proceeds sent off to build the Beagle.

I should get in on this, although I have no talent for knitting. Any suggestions? Is there some little personal Pharyngula tchotchke I could convince people to bid on, knowing that their pennies would go to the construction of a boat? I was thinking that one possibility would be to draw a cartoon about the lovable character, Squidbert, and get the Dilbonians lining up to buy it so they could put it on the web for mocking/savaging purposes (since I have no talent for cartooning, either, that would be easy to do.) It seems a little unfair to give those baying hounds a bit of red meat to sate their appetites, when others here are more deserving of reward. Make suggestions, and I’ll see what I can do.

The Beagle Project

Here’s a sweet idea: rebuild Darwin’s ship, the Beagle in time for the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth in 2009 (and also the 150 year mark for publication of the Origin).

2009 is the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth, an event which will be celebrated throughout the world. The Beagle Project will rebuild a working replica of HMS Beagle in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales. It will provide the striking icon of Darwin’s achievement around which the celebrations will coalesce, and which is already attracting the attention of TV and film companies on both sides of the Atlantic.

The replica Beagle will recreate the 1831-36 circumnavigation with international crews of aspiring young scientists aboard, following the same course and making similar landfalls to those made by HMS Beagle when Darwin was aboard. The crew will take part in modern sampling, observation and experiments in a range of disciplines: biology, geology, oceanography, physics and meteorology. Their work will be followed in labs and classrooms worldwide through an interactive website. They will also compare the climate and wildlife observations made by Darwin and the crew of the Beagle in the 1830s with conditions today.

They’ve got plans, they’re looking for support, and of course they have a blog.