It seems that Intelligent Design advocates have challenged PZ Myers to answer '10+1' questions about evolutionary biology, while he's on an upcoming visit to Glasgow. PZ's published the list here. One in particular caught my eye, because it mentioned lungs (the subject of a recent post of my own), so I thought I'd have a crack at answering it myself.
May 2011 Archives
Wouldn't that make a great name for a band?
Rather to my surprise, I've discovered that 'sarcastic fringeheads' are actually...
Apparently this is a question that has been known to keep some biologists awake at night. (Can't say I'm one of them; my insomnia is caused by other, equally pressing issues LOL)
Anyway, ERV has written a lovely post looking at this: apparently it's all to do with metabolic pathways and endogenous retroviruses. Go over there & soak up the goodness :-)
(And sleep well.)
This 'bad science' letter popped up in the Waikato Times a couple of days ago. It was actually entitled "Democratic right"...
[A previous writer] condoned governmental blackmail in his letter in which he accused me of irresponsibility for defending the democratic right to choose whether to immunize or not. Does [he] know the MMR vaccine that is used in New Zealand is manufactured from aborted foetal tissue?
During a lecture to our second-year evolutionary biology class I introduced the concept of exaptations: features that have evolved in one environmental context but which have been co-opted to fill a different role in a changed environment. This was in the context of swim bladders/lungs, which I'll talk about in a minute, but right now I'm regretting not having read further through Lewis Held's Quirks of human anatomy before the lecture, as he's got a different, fascinating example (Held, 2009):
This one seems to be firmly in the 'nature good, man-made bad' camp.
Doctors, drug companies and journalists alike refuse to acknowledge that what they manufacture, prescribe and pontiificate about is harmful to each and every human being. If children become poisoned, as reported [the writer is referring to a recent case where a child died after swallowing an adult's heart medication], then why should adults be less vulnerable? Certainly not. Simply more and more body cells are destroyed.
It's a confocal microscope image of a squid embryo. The reddish areas are neural tissue (mmmm, braaaainzz) & each of those fluorescent green speckles is a tuft of cilia. (I wouldn't have known that stuff but Sven DiMilo, one of PZ's 'regulars', kindly explained it.)
Just lovely :-)
Your turn, Grant!
My sea cucumber, that is.
I was going to write something full of snark about the current brouhaha around predictions that the world is going to end on May 21st. But Darcy has beaten me to it! So instead (from the Echinoblog, and via PZ) I offer you... [drumroll]... the sea cucumber with fish residing in its nether regions!
Over on Sciblogs, Michael Edmonds has written about a report from the US, wherein a mother is castigated for putting (wait for it!) pink nailpolish on her son's toenails. Apparently the response in some quarters has been one of Shock, horror! The poor child will be scarred for life.
I came across the following diagram on Peter Bowditch's wonderful The Millenium Project. Like him, I hope it's a poe; but nonetheless, I find it has a certain dreadful fascination. Who knew that geologists could get it so wrong?
I'm marking at the moment (essays & dissertations) and also (when I need a break) reading James Lang's book On Course: a week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching. (Yes, I know I've been teaching for yonks, but I know there's always something new for me to learn & also it's nice to look at possible resources that I can recommend to others.) Today I read his chapter for week 9, Academic Honesty.
Now, marking first-year essays for a class of 200 takes rather a long time, not least because the tutor & I tend to write reasonably extensive commentaries on each one. We've already given feedback to the whole class on what you could regard as 'general' issues: following formatting rules, remembering to cite & reference properly, reminding them that the marking rubric is provided for a reason (sigh!)... This is easy to do because the same things tend to crop up each year, even though we take care to work through them in tutorials well ahead of submission date. But the students still need to know what's good, & what's not, about the content of their work; hence the individual comments.