Thursday, July 03, 2008

More Links

Is this chameleon the shortest- lived vertebrate? Chameleons rarely live long in captivity-- perhaps this is less because of bad treatment than genes! HT Lauren.

A wolf shows up in northern New Mexico. I know some will find it suspicious that it arrived on Turner land, but there is no biological reason why not. For what its worth there are rumors of near- black wolves down here too, though it is not a color associated with the Mexican subspecies.

A page on birds from an interesting new site on taxonomy and cladistics. I followed it from Chas.

An excellent update and overview of "Out of Africa" theory from Smithsonian.

LabRat at Atomic Nerds hits another one out of the park. This one is on how you have to learn the basics, like history's "Kings and dates and Battles", before you can understand subtle arguments, in this case over evolution.

"Biologists get very, very frustrated with attacks on evolution, because they’re in a position where they long ago absorbed so many dull facts about biology that the overarching pattern of evolution becomes obvious...It requires a deep knowledge of anatomy, of phylogeny, and a bunch of other biological minutiae that aren’t learned except by students who’ve decided to make biology a serious priority. It’s very easy to forget that a biologist has the ability to see these patterns all over every aspect of biology- it isn’t just in context, it IS the context- but for most people, the concept of evolution is just another “fact”- and even worse, one described as a “theory”, which in common parlance means “a guess” and in science means, roughly “the context to a larger body of facts”. The “theory of gravity” isn’t a guess about gravity, it’s a term meaning “all that is currently understood about gravity”."

NPR interviews our old friend Patrick Hemingway on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. Some characteristic rue and humor from a grand old man, but I wish they could have asked more intelligent questions. The family furniture line? Does he read his father's books on planes?! I'd have been ashamed to be so banal, especially as Pat is one of the great raconteurs of all time. HT Peculiar, who knew him when he was a child in Bozeman.

(Patrick was trained as a wildlife biologist, not merely a "safari guide"as the interviewer says. Speaking of the idea that all reality is constructed, or that science is entirely subjective and culture- bound-- see evo above-- Pat would say in irritation "so these people think that if they jumped out the window they might fall up? He also once observed that Islamic fundamentalists flew on airplanes, not on flying carpets.)

Sorry for light posting-- I shall return!

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