Biology

Our Neighbor Australopithecus: The Anthropology of Mary Leakey

Our Neighbor Australopithecus: The Anthropology of Mary Leakey

The 1960s and early 1970s were the Rock Star era of anthropology, when each year seemed to bring a stunning new glimpse into the early development of man, and being a top anthropologist was to be a household name on par with Buzz Aldrin or Leonard Bernstein. And while individual superstars like Donald Johanson shone meteorically from time to time in the firmament, the era as a whole belonged to on... »

NOVA Vaccines – Calling the Shots Review

NOVA Vaccines – Calling the Shots Review

I found out about this special through Tangled Bank, the awesome production house that worked on Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, also on PBS. You can watch the program here. As skeptics, we know the importance of continuing to beat this dead horse of a subject. It’s one of the most important from a public health standpoint, and one of the most frustrating and infuriating on a personal l... »

Dark Meat vs Light Meat (and what kind of meat YOU are made of)

Dark Meat vs Light Meat (and what kind of meat YOU are made of)

I’m not a big chicken breast fan. Give me thighs, legs, wings any day. In short, I prefer dark meat to light meat. It tends to be juicer and more flavorful (especially when birds are cooked whole, since the two types of meats require different cooking times and temperatures). But I’ve seldom stopped to wonder WHY poultry has these two types of meats. Over on the YouTubes, SciShow answe... »

Nature, Nuture, and Social Justice

Nature, Nuture, and Social Justice

Over the past week, several articles have come to my attention for various reasons that stress the “nature” part of “nature vs. nurture”. And as I read them, I noticed that the reaction they provoked wasn’t a scientific one necessarily, but a philosophical one. Maybe even a moral one. And here’s the thing: I think that “solving” the “nature vs. nurture” debate is actually a sideline from the moral... »

The Ghost of Evolution, or Why We Still Have Avocados + Guacamole!

The Ghost of Evolution, or Why We Still Have Avocados + Guacamole!

Have you ever stopped to wonder about the avocado’s bizarrely large seed? How on earth this most scrumptious of plants could ever have propagated itself in the wild when swallowing such a seed could mean extreme discomfort when passing it or even death by choking? Unlike many other plants we eat that humans have genetically manipulated over the years to make larger, more nutritious, and more... »

Caveman genes — what our shared history with Denisovans means

Caveman genes — what our shared history with Denisovans means

A recent article in Nature determines, fairly conclusively, that a certain variant of a certain gene which allows Tibetans to thrive at high altitudes comes directly from interbreeding with Denisovans — from an extinct cousin of Homo Sapiens Sapiens. »

Neuroembryology in Wartime: Rita Levi-Montalcini and the Discovery Of Nerve Growth Factor

Neuroembryology in Wartime: Rita Levi-Montalcini and the Discovery Of Nerve Growth Factor

It is 1942, and Allied bombs are raking the city of Turin, wreaking a thudding vengeance for Il Duce’s cynical alliance with Nazi Germany. Amidst the panic and carnage, a woman carefully gathers her most precious items, a microscope and a set of pain-stakingly prepared slides, before heading into her basement to wait out the attack. A Jew, ejected from her university position in 1938 because of ra... »

Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish

Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish

If you haven’t seen any of Neil Shubin’s 3 part series, Your Inner Fish on PBS, start now! It can be streamed here. It’s in the same vein as the new Cosmos, but with a stronger emphasis on biology, anatomy, genetics, and paleontology. In Cosmos, you get NDT’s cool, calm, perhaps-slightly-baked, but always reverential delivery. In Your Inner Fish, you get Shubin’s R... »

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