BOOK: Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Modern Rendition

A new book from Indiana University Press, which is having a Darwin Day sale from February 12-28:

Darwin's On the Origin of Species

Daniel Duzdevich, Darwin’s on the Origin of Species: A Modern Rendition (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2014), 352 pp. Foreword by Olivia Judson.

Charles Darwin’s most famous book On the Origin of Species is without question, one of the most important books ever written. While even the grandest works of Victorian English can prove difficult to modern readers, Darwin wrote his text in haste and under intense pressure. For an era in which Darwin is more talked about than read, Daniel Duzdevich offers a clear, modern English rendering of Darwin’s first edition. Neither an abridgement nor a summary, this version might best be described as a “translation” for contemporary English readers. A monument to reasoned insight, the Origin illustrates the value of extensive reflection, carefully gathered evidence, and sound scientific reasoning. By removing the linguistic barriers to understanding and appreciating the Origin, this edition aims to bring 21st-century readers into closer contact with Darwin’s revolutionary ideas.

Duzdevich was interviewed for IUP’s podcast about A Modern Rendition, here.

BOOK: Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago

John van Wyhe and Kees Rookmaaker, eds. Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013), 352 pp.

This volume brings together the letters of the great Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) during his famous travels of 1854-62 in the Malay Archipelago (now Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia), which led him to come independently to the same conclusion as Charles Darwin: that evolution occurs through natural selection. Beautifully written, they are filled with lavish descriptions of the remote regions he explored, the peoples, and fascinating details of the many new species of mammals, birds, and insects he discovered during his time there. John van Wyhe and Kees Rookmaaker present new transcriptions of each of the letters, including recently discovered letters that shed light on the voyage and on questions such as Wallace’s reluctance to publish on evolution, and why he famously chose to write to Darwin rather than to send his work to a journal directly. A revised account of Wallace’s itinerary based on new research by the editors forms part of an introduction that sets the context of the voyage, and the volume includes full notes to all letters. Together the letters form a remarkable and vivid document of one of the most important journeys of the 19th century by a great Victorian naturalist.

You can read the introduction here.

Darwin Day 2014 in Portland, OR

Darwin Day is fast approaching – just under three weeks until February 12, 2014. You can see on the Darwin Day website if there are to be any events in your area.

I see nothing listed yet for Oregon, but I know of a few things (let me know of any others!):

CANCELED DUE TO BAD WEATHER IN PORTLAND February 9, 10am – Humanists of Greater Portland: Darwin’s Birthday Potluck

Laurent Beauregard will give a short presentation about Darwin and his work. This will be followed by time for socializing and food. (this is through a Meetup group)

February 12, 7:30-9pm – PSU’s Biology Investigation & Outreach Presents Darwin Day Lecture With Dr. Patricia Brennan

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Patricia Brennan will be joining us to present a talk about the importance of basic science research. Slate.com recently published an article by Dr. Brennan wherein she explained how her research, focused on the evolution of waterfowl genetalia is important for understanding a whole range of evolutionary questions. Please join us for cake and coffee immediately following the lecture.

February 20, 6:30pm – Secular Humanists of East Portland: Origin of Species: Movie and Discussion Night – Pot Luck

The richness and diversity of life raises two of the most profound questions in biology: How do new species form? And, why are there so many species? Our planet has millions of species, including thousands of mammals, fish, birds, and reptiles, and even more butterflies, beetles, and other animals, each adapted to one of an enormous variety of habitats. The Origin of Species series tells the stories of the intrepid naturalists who have traveled the world, from the famed Galápagos Islands to the Malay Archipelago, in search of evidence and answers. This three part presentation is an hour total, so there will be plenty of time to socialize and for discussion. Uniquely, this documentary shows the contributions of Darwin and Wallace almost equally. Also, parts II and III are only about 15 min. long each and present how biologists have demonstrated natural selection and evolution (the change in gene frequency in a population) in the field with Darwin’s finches and anole lizards, thus showing how we know natural selection and evolution are true. You’ll learn some new biology in a short, very understandable format like you were enrolled in a university biology graduate program! Join us for a time of sharing, the movie, discussion to follow, friendship and sharing food. (this is through a Meetup group)

The University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene is also holding some Darwin Day talks:

BOOK: The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life

Ever since I wrote a paper as an undergrad in history about the seed experiments Darwin conducted to answer questions about how organisms spread from one place to another,  I have been fascinated by the topic of oceanic dispersal and how this idea conflicted with one that put agency onto the Earth itself (vicariance, or how plate tectonics accounts for where plants and animal are). That said, I am looking forward to reading this new book!

Alan de Queiroz, The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life (Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2014), 368 pp.

Throughout the world, closely related species are found on landmasses separated by wide stretches of ocean. What explains these far-flung distributions? Why are such species found where they are across the Earth? Since the discovery of plate tectonics, scientists have conjectured that plants and animals were scattered over the globe by riding pieces of ancient supercontinents as they broke up. In the past decade, however, that theory has foundered, as the genomic revolution has made reams of new data available. And the data has revealed an extraordinary, stranger-than-fiction story that has sparked a scientific upheaval. In The Monkey’s Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz describes the radical new view of how fragmented distributions came into being: frogs and mammals rode on rafts and icebergs, tiny spiders drifted on storm winds, and plant seeds were carried in the plumage of sea-going birds to create the map of life we see today. In other words, these organisms were not simply constrained by continental fate; they were the makers of their own geographic destiny. And as de Queiroz shows, the effects of oceanic dispersal have been crucial in generating the diversity of life on Earth, from monkeys and guinea pigs in South America to beech trees and kiwi birds in New Zealand. By toppling the idea that the slow process of continental drift is the main force behind the odd distributions of organisms, this theory highlights the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the history of life. In the tradition of John McPhee’s Basin and Range, The Monkey’s Voyage is a beautifully told narrative that strikingly reveals the importance of contingency in history and the nature of scientific discovery.

You can read reviews from Richard Conniff here and Jonathan Weiner here, a deeper analysis from Nick Matzke here, and download a PDF exceprt from the NCSE here.

BOOK: After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind

Angelique Richardson, ed. After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind (New York: Rodopi, 2013), 386 pp.

‘What is emotion?’ pondered the young Charles Darwin in his notebooks. How were the emotions to be placed in an evolutionary framework? And what light might they shed on human-animal continuities? These were among the questions Darwin explored in his research, assisted both by an acute sense of observation and an extraordinary capacity for fellow feeling, not only with humans but with all animal life. After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind explores questions of mind, emotion and the moral sense which Darwin opened up through his research on the physical expression of emotions and the human-animal relation. It also examines the extent to which Darwin’s ideas were taken up by Victorian writers and popular culture, from George Eliot to the Daily News. Bringing together scholars from biology, literature, history, psychology, psychiatry and paediatrics, the volume provides an invaluable reassessment of Darwin’s contribution to a new understanding of the moral sense and emotional life, and considers the urgent scientific and ethical implications of his ideas today.

BOOK: Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950

Marwa Elshakry, Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 448 pp.

In Reading Darwin in Arabic, Marwa Elshakry questions current ideas about Islam, science, and secularism by exploring the ways in which Darwin was read in Arabic from the late 1860s to the mid-twentieth century. Borrowing from translation and reading studies and weaving together the history of science with intellectual history, she explores Darwin’s global appeal from the perspective of several generations of Arabic readers and shows how Darwin’s writings helped alter the social and epistemological landscape of the Arab learned classes. Providing a close textual, political, and institutional analysis of the tremendous interest in Darwin’s ideas and other works on evolution, Elshakry shows how, in an age of massive regional and international political upheaval, these readings were suffused with the anxieties of empire and civilizational decline. The politics of evolution infiltrated Arabic discussions of pedagogy, progress, and the very sense of history. They also led to a literary and conceptual transformation of notions of science and religion themselves. Darwin thus became a vehicle for discussing scriptural exegesis, the conditions of belief, and cosmological views more broadly. The book also acquaints readers with Muslim and Christian intellectuals, bureaucrats, and theologians, and concludes by exploring Darwin’s waning influence on public and intellectual life in the Arab world after World War I. Reading Darwin in Arabic is an engaging and powerfully argued reconceptualization of the intellectual and political history of the Middle East.

Elshakry was interviewed about Reading Darwin in Arabic on the Ottoman History Podcast, which you can listen to here, and on New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, here.

BOOK: Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845-1929

Bradley J. Gundlach, Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845-1929 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 408 pp.

Charles Hodge, James McCosh, B. B. Warfield — these leading professors at Princeton College and Seminary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are famous for their orthodox Protestant positions on the doctrine of evolution. In this book Bradley Gundlach explores the surprisingly positive embrace of developmental views by the whole community of thinkers at old Princeton, showing how they embraced the development not only of the cosmos and life-forms but also of Scripture and the history of doctrine, even as they defended their historic Christian creed.

Decrying an intellectual world gone “evolution-mad,” the old Princetonians nevertheless welcomed evolution “properly limited and explained.” Rejecting historicism and Darwinism, they affirmed developmentalism and certain non-Darwinian evolutionary theories, finding process over time through the agency of second causes — God’s providential rule in the world — both enlightening and polemically useful. They also took care to identify the pernicious causes and effects of antisupernatural evolutionisms. By the 1920s their nuanced distinctions, together with their advocacy of both biblical inerrancy and modern science, were overwhelmed by the brewing fundamentalist controversy. From the first American review of the pre-Darwinian Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation to the Scopes Trial and the forced reorganization of Princeton Seminary in 1929, Process and Providence reliably portrays the preeminent conservative Protestants in America as they defined, contested, and answered — precisely and incisively — the many facets of the evolution question.

HHMI DVDs about evolution, DNA, and dinosaur extinction

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is known for offering to educators free DVDs and other resources about various biology and health topics, such as human evolution, disease, biodiversity and medicines, stem cells, and cloning. They are now offering three new DVDs: The Origin of Species, The Double Helix, and The Day the Mesozoic DiedThe Origin of Species consists of three separate videos telling the story of Darwin, Wallace, and evolution and action. The Double Helix covers the history of the discovery of the structure of DNA, and thankfully does not leave out Rosalind Franklin. My son has already watched the one on dinosaur extinction, and at 7 years old, was fully engrossed in the narrative.

If you are a teacher or educator in some other capacity, or perhaps run a discussion group, these are great resources to have. The ordering page is here (select “DVD” on the left to narrow down the selections).

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VIDEOS: Lectures from Darwin in the 21st Century: Nature, Humanity, and God (2009 conference)

Robert Richards: ‘All that is most beautiful': Darwin’s Theory of Morality and Its Normative Validity

Peter Bowler: Imagining a World without Darwin

Darwin, God, & Design – Evolution & the Battle for America’s Soul

Darwin’s Revolution: From Natural Theology to Natural Selection

Videos of other lectures here, conference information here.

BOOK REVIEW: Darwin and His Children: His Other Legacy

There is much to take in on Darwin – a constant barrage of books, journal articles, magazine features, blog posts, podcasts, videos on YouTube, etc. It can be a daunting task to keep up with it all and stay current with what historians and writers are discussing about Darwin: his life, his scientific work, and his legacy which permeates many fields beyond those sciences in which he worked. Sometimes new work takes an unexplored avenue, other times rehashing worn territory. A new book by biologist and previous Darwin biographer Tim Berra explores Darwin’s life from a different angle but with largely familiar subject matter. If you’ve read about Darwin at length before, then you likely know that he and his wife Emma had a large family and that Darwin was very involved in raising their children. In Darwin and His Children: His Other Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013; 272 pp.), Berra describes the lives, careers, and achievements of the Darwin children, who, Berra shares, “were devoted to their father and mother, intensely loyal to the family and to each other, and protective of their father’s reputation.”

Darwin and His Children

The book is organized chronologically by their birth years, beginning with a chapter on Darwin’s life and work (a summary, essentially), and a chapter on his marriage to Emma. The following ten chapters cover each child, so there tends to be some repetition of information, but the book is nicely organized. Illness in the family is a thread throughout the chapters, and this was a constant source of anxiety for Darwin (he felt that marriage to his first cousin may have created weakened offspring).

Darwin and Emma’s first son, William (1839-1914), “my little animalcule of a son,” he wrote to Captain Fitzroy, became a subject of infant behavior, and information from this was included in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). He was a banker, helped Darwin with mathematical calculations in a botanical study, and was an avid amateur photographer. Anne, or Annie (1841-1851), Darwin’s favorite, died young and this tore her father apart. Mary (1842-1842) only lived for 23 days, her cause of death unknown. Henrietta (1843-1927), or Etty, did much to help her father with his work. She assisted in pigeon breeding experiments, corrected proofs for The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (1868), and edited book manuscripts, including The Descent of Man (1871). She also edited a collection of family letters and biography of Emma. George (1845-1912) was a mathematician and became a world authority on tides. He befriended Lord Kelvin, who disagreed with Darwin on evolution, and defended his father against critique from St. George Jackson Mivart, speaking freely about his views on prayer and other religious matters (as opposed to Darwin’s avoidance of making public his views on religion). Elizabeth (1847-1926), or Bessy, was the Darwins’ eccentric daughter, and was helpful to her mother in household duties and caring for her father during his illnesses, and helped to raise her nephew Bernard. Francis (1848-1925) was an accomplished plant physiologist, was an assistant to his father on plant experiments, helped with his massive daily correspondence, and edited The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887) and, with A.C. Seward, More Letters of Charles Darwin (1903). Leonard (1850-1943) was a military engineer, politician, and economist who is most remembered for his work in eugenics (a term coined by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton). Berra notes: “The negative eugenics advocated by Leonard is shocking to today’s sensibilities, but it was a product of the times.” Horace (1851-1928), their ninth child, was an intelligent child (Darwin wrote in a letter about Horace’s grasp of natural selection when age 11). He was founder and director of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, which succeeded due to World War I, a public servant in a variety of matters, and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (joining his father and brothers George and Francis). Charles Waring (1856-1858), their tenth and last child, was their third to die in childhood. His funeral allowed Darwin to avoid the joint reading of his and Wallace’s papers on natural selection at the Linnean Society in July 1858.

However enjoyable this book is, I can’t help but point out the many myths about Darwin that continue to remain in popular treatment of the subject (this is not to blame Berra, of course, for it will be some time before corrections to these myths become mainstream). Darwin was not knighted, because “he was much too controversial for Queen Victoria’s taste (but Darwin did not carry out work in service of the British government, for which knighthoods were given). Darwin kept his ideas private, “except to broach them to his closest scientific colleagues” (Berra lists Lyell, Hooker, and Gray, however the list of who Darwin shared with is much longer). However, Berra rightly notes that Darwin was indeed the appointed naturalist on HMS Beagle, and that the common story of the Huxley-Wilberforce debate in 1860 is exaggerated. 

Berra’s sources are already published: Darwin’s Life and Letters volumes, his autobiography, reminiscences from some of the children as well as Darwin’s granddaughter Gwen Raverat. Given this, there are no grand revelations here. This is straightforward narrative history, and here Berra provides a charming, detailed narrative that gives due credit to Darwin’s children, whom he loved and shared in their griefs and successes in life. “Darwin” continued to be a very recognizable name in England, if not for Darwin’s own work, but the achievements of his descendants. An important takeaway from Darwin and His Children is how involved they were, from youth to adulthood in the case of some, with Darwin’s science: as editors, experimentalists, subjects of study, ambassadors (George and Francis traveled to the United States in 1871), and a variety of other roles. Several became respected scientists themselves, not too surprising given the nature-rich atmosphere and encouragement in which they were raised. The Darwins were truly a scientific family. 

VIDEO: Joe Cain on “Darwin in London”

From March 2013: “Everyone knows Darwin lived in central London early in his career. In his inaugural lecture as Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology, Joe Cain will explore that period. We’ll pay close attention to daily life and its locations around town. What does local history add to the biography of a scientist? We’ll identify local Darwin landmarks and link some key Darwin stories to a bit of recently discovered material. Some of this proved quite unexpected.”

PODCASTS: Alfred Russel Wallace lectures from AMNH and Royal Society

The American Museum of Natural History has put up the audio from David Attenborough’s talk, “Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise,” on November 12 here.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough unveiling the statue of Alfred Wallace at the Natural History Museum London, photo by “Greta dark”

The Royal Society has also put up audio from several lectures given at a conference on October 21-22, “Alfred Russel Wallace and his legacy” (each link is direct to an mp3):

Dr George Beccaloni, Natural History Museum, UK
Wallace’s life

Dr John van Wyhe, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Wallace and Darwin: what really happened?

Professor Janet Browne, Harvard University, USA
Natural selection a la Wallace

Professor Steve Jones FRS, University College London, UK
Wallace and the Limits to Natural Selection

Professor Charles H. Smith, Western Kentucky University, USA
Early Humboldtian Influences on Alfred Russel Wallace’s Scheme of Nature

Professor Lynne Parenti, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USA
The Modern Biogeographical Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace

Professor R.I. Vane-Wright, Natural History Musuem, UK
Wallace and Colouration

Professor Tim Caro, University of California, Davis, USA
Colouration today

Professor James Mallet, University College London and Harvard University, UK and USA
Wallace’s understanding of species and speciation

Professor Tim Birkhead FRS, University of Sheffield, UK
Wallace, Darwin and female choice

Professor Ted Benton, University of Essex, UK
Wallace and human evolution

Professor Chris Stringer FRS, Natural History Museum, UK
Old and new views on human evolution

Martin Rees FRS, University of Cambridge, UK
Wallace and the universe

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz FRS, University of Cambridge, UK
The Vaccination Controversy

Dr David Stack, University of Reading, UK
Wallace, a social scientist’s perspective

Dr Andrew Berry, Harvard University, USA
The Wallace legacy

BOOK: Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

Sara Levine, Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publishing Group, 2013), 32 pp. Illustrated by T.S Spookytooth.

What animal would you be if your finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Or what if you had no leg bones but kept your arm bones? This picture book will keep you guessing as you read about how human skeletons are like—and unlike—those of other animals.

Although this book does not discuss evolutionary relationships (homology, common descent), it is a fun introduction to comparative anatomy for elementary students!

VIDEOS: Alfred Russel Wallace talks from Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta

These videos are from a lecture series in October at the University of Alberta, “More than Natural Selection.”

The time travelers: Alfred Russel Wallace and Peter Kropotkin
Kathleen Lowrey – Associate Professor Anthropology University of Alberta

Alfred Russel Wallace, Mars, Extra-Terrestrials and the Nature of the Universe
Robert Smith, Professor, History and Classics University of Alberta

Alfred Russel Wallace, Collector
Andrew Berry, Lecturer on Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Harvard University

Wallace on Science and the Problems of Progress
Martin Fichman, Professor, Department of Humanities York University

Capstone Address – Other Worlds: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Cross-Cultures of Spiritualism
Christine Ferguson, Senior Lecturer, English Literature University of Glasgow

VIDEO: James Moore on “Darwin’s Sacred Cause”

“In his lecture at Oregon State University on October 29th, James Moore questioned the established view of Darwin as an objective scientist and showed how passionate opposition to slavery motivated his research and gave him courage to challenge the scientific and religious establishment of his day.”

BOOK: The Princeton Guide to Evolution

Jonathan B. Losos, editor in chief; David A. Baum, Douglas J. Futuyma, Hopi E. Hoekstra, Richard E. Lenski, Allen J. Moore, Catherine L. Peichel, Dolph Schluter & Michael C. Whitlock, editors, The Princeton Guide to Evolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 880 pp.

The Princeton Guide to Evolution is a comprehensive, concise, and authoritative reference to the major subjects and key concepts in evolutionary biology, from genes to mass extinctions. Edited by a distinguished team of evolutionary biologists, with contributions from leading researchers, the guide contains more than 100 clear, accurate, and up-to-date articles on the most important topics in seven major areas: phylogenetics and the history of life; selection and adaptation; evolutionary processes; genes, genomes, and phenotypes; speciation and macroevolution; evolution of behavior, society, and humans; and evolution and modern society. Complete with more than 100 illustrations (including eight pages in color), glossaries of key terms, suggestions for further reading on each topic, and an index, this is an essential volume for undergraduate and graduate students, scientists in related fields, and anyone else with a serious interest in evolution.

- Explains key topics in more than 100 concise and authoritative articles written by a team of leading evolutionary biologists
– Contains more than 100 illustrations, including eight pages in color
– Each article includes an outline, glossary, bibliography, and cross-references
– Covers phylogenetics and the history of life; selection and adaptation; evolutionary processes; genes, genomes, and phenotypes; speciation and macroevolution; evolution of behavior, society, and humans; and evolution and modern society

BOOK: Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory

Robert J. Richards, Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 280 pp.

In tracing the history of Darwin’s accomplishment and the trajectory of evolutionary theory during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most scholars agree that Darwin introduced blind mechanism into biology, thus banishing moral values from the understanding of nature. According to the standard interpretation, the principle of survival of the fittest has rendered human behavior, including moral behavior, ultimately selfish. Few doubt that Darwinian theory, especially as construed by the master’s German disciple, Ernst Haeckel, inspired Hitler and led to Nazi atrocities. In this collection of essays, Robert J. Richards argues that this orthodox view is wrongheaded. A close historical examination reveals that Darwin, in more traditional fashion, constructed nature with a moral spine and provided it with a goal: man as a moral creature. The book takes up many other topics—including the character of Darwin’s chief principles of natural selection and divergence, his dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace over man’s big brain, the role of language in human development, his relationship to Herbert Spencer, how much his views had in common with Haeckel’s, and the general problem of progress in evolution. Moreover, Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitler’s atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian? is intellectual history at its boldest.

Historian of science Carla Nappi interviewed Richards about Was Hitler a Darwinian? for New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, saying that “the essays in Richards’ collection are wonderfully reflective considerations that reward the time and attention of both specialists in the history of biology and thoughtful general readers alike.”

BOOK: The Great Human Journey: Around the World in 22 Million Days

Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, The Great Human Journey: Around the World in 22 Million Days (Piermont, NH: Bunker Hill Publishing, 2013), 48 pp. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne.

Wallace and Darwin, the Museum Mice from the Halls of the American Museum of Natural History, are off on another adventure! It’s amazing what you can find in a museum and how far you can travel in a small time machine made from a yoghurt cup! Have you ever wondered where we humans all came from and how there came to be so many of us? The answers, as our two mice will show you, lie everywhere including in our own DNA. So there is the Big Picture of The Great Human Journey from the middle of Africa to Australia, America and Asia and then there’s the Tiny (really tiny) Picture too of molecules and cells that we can trace inside ourselves and our Genome like long strings of letters that tell us where we came from and who our ancestors were, and where they were when and how they got there! In their 22 Million Day Journey our intrepid mice, Wallace and Darwin, trace the biggest genealogy of all and find that all humans are 85% African and only 15% from the rest of the world! That is if you start counting our Genes – all 25,000 of them give or take an overlap! We took all this with us on our long walks from East Africa to Australia and from Australia to Asia and Europe between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. 35,000 years later it only took us a few thousand years more to get from Alaska to Chile! We took our sweet time creating cultures and civilizations as we went. And we did it without GPS! And we even know we wore clothes 170,000 years ago. How? Because Lice too have DNA. It is amazing what our genes can tell us and what the genes of other species tell us too! Mitochondrial DNA we inherit from our mothers tells us where they have been. And from the tiny threads of our Y chromosomes we inherit from our fathers we can tell where they have been too. And then there’s the Rats! They followed us in our canoes and boats and stayed on islands with us where we can trace their journeys too. Wallace and Darwin have appeared in two previous adventures: Bones, Brains and DNA: The Human Genome and Human Evolution [2007] and Brain: A 21st Century Look at a 400 Million Year Old Organ [2010]. Their creators Tattersall, DeSalle and Wynne have plans to send them on further excursions in The Tree of Life and The Anatomy of Evolution. Stay tuned!

BOOK: National Geographic Science of Everything: How Things Work in Our World

National Geographic Science of Everything: How Things Work in Our World (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2013), 400 pp.

National Geographic answers all the questions about how things work–the science, technology, biology, chemistry, physics, and mechanics–in an indispensible book that reveals the science behind virtually everything. How does the voice of a distant radio announcer make it through your alarm clock in the morning? How does your gas stove work? How does the remote control open your garage door? What happens when you turn the key in the ignition? What do antibiotics really do? Divided into four big realms–Mechanics, Natural Forces, Materials & Chemistry, Biology & Medicine–The Science of Everything takes readers on a fascinating tour, using plain talk, colorful photography, instructive diagrams, and everyday examples to explain the science behind all the things we take for granted in our modern world.

Also see: National Geographic Illustrated Guide to Nature: From Your Back Door to the Great Outdoors

BOOK: How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial

I think this illustrated look at science denial complements Donald Prothero’s Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (my review) very well:

Darryl Cunningham, How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial (New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2013), 176 pp.

Climate change, fracking, evolution, vaccinations, homeopathy, chiropractic, even the moon landing – all hut-button controversies to which author-artist Darryl Cunningham applies cool, critical analysis. Using comics, photographs, diagrams, and highly readable text, Cunningham lays out the why and wherefores to expose the myths of science denial. Timely and well researched, How to Fake a Moon Landing is a graphic milestone of investigative science journalism.

PODCAST: Charles Darwin and the practice of science

The Royal Society of London has posted the audio from an October lecture with Alison Pearn of the Darwin Correspondence Project, “‘We are arriving at very curious results': Charles Darwin and the practice of science”:

He never wore a lab coat, and is famous principally for a theory, yet Charles Darwin’s contribution to scientific method is considerable and often overlooked. Working surrounded by his family in an ordinary Victorian country house he devised ingenious experiments on everything from human expression to insectivorous plants, worked out the taxonomy of barnacles, and observed unsuspected behaviours in organisms from ants to earthworms. In devising some of the most influential ideas ever formulated, he used everything that came to hand from the vegetables in the kitchen garden, to the drugs prescribed for his stomach complaints, and, along the way, he pioneered the use of the scientific questionnaire, and conducted perhaps the first ever recorded ‘single blind’ experiment.

Enjoy!