Playing hooky in nerdtopia

You may have noticed it was a bit quiet here on Pharyngula yesterday. I took the day off. My daughter Skatje has been away for a few weeks, visiting her sweetie-pie in Kentucky, and we had to make the long drive to the airport and back, so we decided to make a day of it in the big city as long as we were there. I also had to drop by the Big U and sign some papers.

When my boys and I decide to paint the town red, guess what we do? We headed to Dreamhaven Books, Comics and Art, Phoenix Games, Uncle Hugo’s (what is it with the remarkable concentration of geekdom on Lake Street in Minneapolis?), and The Source Comics & Games. After eating lots of Chinese food, we headed to the airport, only to discover Skatje’s plane was delayed.

So we sprawled on the floor of the Humphrey terminal and played Zombies until she arrived. I have discovered that when faced with the shambling horrors, I will roll lots of “1”s, slapping ineffectually at them until they grapple with me and gnaw on my brains. My sons Alaric and Connlann will grab shotguns, fire axes, and grenades and cut a bloody swath through them on their way to the helicopter pad, where they will fly away leaving me in a slowly closing circle of implacable moaning flesh-eaters.

When Skatje finally showed up (she had a fine time with her boy toy, who apparently works in a comic book shop and plays D&D), it was midnight, and we had the long drive home to face…we finally staggered into the house after a long day of nerd decadence at 3AM.

As you might guess, now I’m feeling exhausted and my brains have been repeatedly chewed upon. And you all know what weirdos we are here at Chez Myers.

Deep homologies in the pharyngeal arches

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PvM at the Panda’s Thumb has already written a bit about this issue in the article “Human Gland Probably Evolved From Gills”, but I’m not going to let the fact that I’m late to the party stop me from having fun with it. This is just such a darned pretty story that reveals how deeply vertebrate similarities run, using multiple lines of evidence.

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Cephalopod gnashers

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Cephalopods can inflict a nasty bite. On their underside, at the conjunction of their arms, they have a structure called the beak which does look rather like a bird’s beak, and which can close with enough force to crush shellfish. Many also dribble toxins into the wound that can cause pain, tissue necrosis, and paralysis. They aren’t the best animals to play with.

If you think about it, though, cephalopods don’t have a rigid internal skeleton. How do they get the leverage to move a pair of sharp-edged beaks relative to one another, and what the heck are they doing with a hard beak anyway? There’s a whole paper on the anatomy of just the buccal mass, the complex of beak, muscle, connective tissue, and ganglia that powers the cephalopod bite.

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Minor Dover aftershocks

Hank Fox reports that a pair of administrators who wasted the school’s time and money on Intelligent Design creationism are losing their jobs:

The Wilkes-Barre, Penn., Times-Leader reports that the Dover school board has “decided not to guarantee contract renewals for two top administrators who helped implement an intelligent-design policy that a federal judge overturned last year.”

“The Dover Area School Board voted Monday to open the jobs of Superintendent Richard Nilsen and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa to other applicants. Nilsen’s contract expires June 30, 2007, and Baksa’s contract expires July 1, 2007.”

Awww. Here’s the funny part, though.

Both men are allowed to reapply for their jobs, but Nilsen said after the board meeting that he is looking for another job and could leave before his contract expires. He said he had “no idea” why his contract was not being renewed.

The incompetent are often blissfully unaware of the reasons for their failure, that is true.

Please go laugh at UncommonDescent

DaveScot is one of those genuinely deranged ID supporters, and I don’t like giving him any attention…but Richard Hughes just sent me a note mentioning this long defensive thread he has started at UncommonDescent, and he’s just done something so darned funny and stupid I can’t resist.

He’s arguing about gravity. At one point, he claims that “By the way, gravity is the strongest force in nature.” As you might guess, he’s jumped on for that, and so he rushes off to find some supporting evidence…and gets it, he says, from John G. Cramer, professor of physics. Here’s the part he quotes:

Curiously, in some ways gravity is also the strongest force in the universe. It always adds, never subtracts, and can build up until it overwhelms all other forces.

The hilarious bit here that is so characteristic of creationists is that this is a highly selective quote. He left out the first sentence of the article.

Gravity is the weakest force in the universe.

Doesn’t that just say everything about IDists approach to science?