Age of the Earth


Just as a lark and as a little exercise in making HTML tables (and to make clear what one error was in that last post), I threw together this table of the geological time scale, taken from Mayr’s What Evolution Is. I come from that generation of biologists where we were required to memorize the timescale to this level of detail; I’m a bit rusty on the dates now (but these are pretty much the same as what I had to learn in the late 1970s), and I was just realizing that we don’t even mention this stuff in introductory biology anymore.

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A testimonial

I occasionally put up some of the wackier/more obnoxious e-mail I get from creationists and other deluded True Believers, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression—I also get lots of friendly and supportive email. I just don’t think any of it is quite as entertaining as the crazy stuff. Anyway, for balance, and because he was nice enough to give permission to post it, here’s a message from the sane side.

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Scientists conclude that Peggy Noonan kills brain cells

Even reading Peggy Noonan through an Attaturk filter is dangerous. I read this little scrap and felt neurons popping throughout my cortex.

During the past week’s heat wave–it hit 100 degrees in New York City Monday–I got thinking, again, of how sad and frustrating it is that the world’s greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not?

Jebus. Now not only do scientists have to figure out all that complicated data stuff, they have to be able to explain it to one of the stupidest people on earth? That’s an excessive demand.

Coming to Life

Books from Nobel laureates in molecular biology have a tradition of being surprising. James Watson(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was catty, gossipy, and amusingly egotistical; Francis Crick(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) went haring off in all kinds of interesting directions, like a true polymath; and Kary Mullis(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was just plain nuts. When I heard that Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard was coming out with a book, my interest and curiousity were definitely piqued. The work by Nüsslein-Volhard and Wieschaus has shaped my entire discipline, so I was eagerly anticipating what her new book, Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) would have to say.

It wasn’t what I expected at all, but I think readers here will be appreciative: it’s a primer in developmental biology, written for the layperson! Especially given a few of the responses to my last article, where the jargon seems to have lost some people, this is going to be an invaluable resource.

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