The Dispersal of Darwin turns 7, and feedback wanted

Today marks seven years since I started The Dispersal of Darwin. Posting was heavy while I was in school, and has since declined in the last couple of years, and even more so since starting another blog and having a second child.

While I wish I had the means to post original content, I hope, my readers, that you still enjoy the smattering of videos, new article and book notices, and other posts. Is it time to retire DoD, or should I keep dispersing Darwin, evolution, and history of science content?

Staying up to date with The Dispersal of Darwin

I had used Google Reader for a long time in order to keep track of the blogs and websites I follow. Earlier this year, Google announced they would end Reader on July 1st. I switched to Feedly, and highly recommend it!

So, if you’ve followed this blog through Google Reader, please update my RSS for another feed reader, or subscribe to my posts via email through the tool in the blog’s sidebar. Also, all posts go to this Facebook page, and my Twitter.

Thanks for following!

– Michael


The Giants’ Shoulders #56

Two pound coin

Image of £2 coins from UK by Flickr user p_rocket71

Welcome to The Giants’ Shoulders #56, bringing you the world of history of science blogging over the last month all in one place. For lack of energy (I’m under the weather) and the overwhelming number of great and worthy posts (this is only a good sign that history of science blogging is healthy), there is no grand theme to this blog carnival. Instead, I will offer the posts to you in Chicago Manual Style format. Yes, CMS has citation (footnote/endnote) and bibliographic guidelines for blog posts! Awesome. I will use the citation format, as that includes the title of the blog post, whereas the bibliographic format only includes the post URL and name of the blog. For example,

John Ptak, “History of Science Reference Tools,” Ptak Science Books, February 3, 2013,

The author of the post above would like to expand his list of science reference tools, so he respectfully invites readers to share their top five go-to reference sites for the history of science, either in the comments here, or John can be reached on Twitter at @ptak. Thanks!

Also, before I bombard you with an incredibly long list of posts, let me highlight a few that go together, as they address the act of blogging:

Jai Virdi, “HPS Blogging V.2013,” From the Hands of Quacks, January 30, 2013,

Mike Thicke, “False dilemmas in science blogging,” The Bubble Chamber, January 30, 2013,

Nathaniel Comfort, “Toward a historioriography of science & social media,” Genotopia, February 4, 2013,

Mike Thicke, “Interview with James Collier of the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective,” The Bubble Chamber, February 10, 2013,

On to the #histsci!

Dan Allosso, “Birth Control in the First Half of the 19th Century,” The Historical Society, February 6, 2013,

Rupert Baker, “Our unusual ‘Chymist’,” The Repository, The Royal Society, January 17, 2013,

Philip Ball, “Righting history,” Chemistry World, January 9, 2013,

Michael Barton, “Get to Know Darwin,” The Dispersal of Darwin, January 30, 2013,

Michael Barton, “I post this without comment,” The Dispersal of Darwin, February 5, 2013,

BBC, “Five Portraits of Science,” The Essay, BBC Radio 3, January 14-18, 2013,

David Bressan, “The Forgotten Naturalist: Alfred Russel Wallace,” History of Geology, January 9, 2013,

David Bressan, “Geologizing with Darwin,” History of Geology, February 12, 2013,

David Bressan, “Men among prediluvian Beasts,” History of Geology, January 27, 2013,

B. Ricardo Brown, “Darwin, Slavery, the HMS Black Joke, and Seaman Morgan,” Until Darwin: Science & the Origins of Race, February 12, 2013,

B. Ricardo Brown, “Darwin, Slavery, and Science (2009),” Until Darwin: Science & the Origins of Race, January 24, 2013,

Michael Bycroft, “Correctives to #overlyhonestmethods,” Double Refraction, January 17, 2013,

Richard Carter, “Charles Darwin to Charles Lyell, 10th January, 1860,” The Friends of Charles Darwin, January 10, 2013,

Thony Christie, “Down a mineshaft or why historians (must) become polymaths,” Renaissance Mathematicus, February 7, 2013,

Thony Christie, “A play is not a history book,” Renaissance Mathematicus, February 15, 2013,

Thony Christie, “What Kepler and Newton really did,” Renaissance Mathematicus, February 5, 2013,

Matthew Cobb, “What is life? The physicist who sparked a revolution in biology,” Notes & Theories, February 7, 2013,

Jason Colavito, “How a (Sort of) Believer in Ancient Astronauts Almost Became U.S. President,”, February 6, 2013,

Nathaniel Comfort, “Hilary Rose on eugenics & genetic medicine,” Genotopia, January 31, 2013,

Richard Conniff, “Lost and Gone Forever,” The Opinionator, The New York Times, February 3, 2013,

Justin Cook, “International Museum of Horology (Musée International d’Horlogerie), Switzerland,” The BSHS Travel Guide, February 6, 2013,

Joanna Corden, “Piltdown Man,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 4, 2013,

Stephanie Cowell, “Poetry, pain, and opium in Victorian England: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s use of laudanum,” Wonders & Marvels, February 5, 2013,

Henry Cowles, “A Novel History of Psychology,” AmericanScience: A Team Blog, February 15, 2013,

Henry Cowles, “Up Goer Five and the Rhetoric of Science,” AmericanScience: A Team Blog, January 31, 2013,

Helen Anne Curry, “David Kinkela on DDT, American politics, and transnational history,” AmericanScience: A Team Blog, January 16, 2013,

Athene Donald, “A cracking tale: why did the world’s first jetliner fall out of the sky?,” Occam’s Corner, January 21, 2013,

Lindsey Fitzharris, “Silent Voices in History: The Searchers of the Dead,” the chirurgeon’s apprentice, February 11, 2013,

Katherine Ford, “A curious fact…,” The Repository, The Royal Society, January 15, 2003,

Katherine Ford, “A Fellow’s election card,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 11, 2013,

Jennifer Frazer, “Darwin’s Neon Golf Balls,” The Artful Amoeba, January 15, 2013,

Susannah Gibson, “Natural Histories in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Dissertation Reviews, February 13, 2013,

Greg Gbur, “Phantasmagoria: How Étienne-Gaspard Robert terrified Paris for science,” Skulls in the Stars, February 11, 2013,

Greg Gbur, “The physicist vanishes,” Science Chamber of Horrors, February 4, 2013,

Greg Good, “Romantic Science, Romantic Music: Alexander von Humboldt and Franz Schubert,” GEOcosmoHISTORY, February 10, 2013,

Greg Good, “Starting off in a new direction: Earth, Cosmos, and History,” GEOcosmoHISTORY, February 8, 2013,

Graeme Gooday, “Review: Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond,” Reviews in History, February 13, 2013,

Bill Griffith, “Lord Porter of Luddenham at Imperial College, London,” BSHS Travel Guide, February 2, 2013,

Jacob Hamblin, “Can’t Historians Predict the Future?,” Minds in a Groove, February 4, 2013,

Jacob Hamblin, “History of Science off the Beaten Path, History of Science at Oregon State University, January 31, 2013,

Ann-Marie Hansen, “Contracts and Early Modern Scholarly Networks,” The Sloane Letters Blog, February 4, 2013,

Jennifer Harbster, “Saving Science Blogs,” Inside Adams, January 25, 2013,

Tom Harper, “Stargazing with maps. In the dark?,” Magnificent Maps Blog, January 18, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Forgeries, Lies, and Deception in History,” Darin Hayton, February 8, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Gopkin on Galileo,” Darin Hayton, February 6, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Science Heroes Refuse to Die, Darin Hayton, February 3, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Tales of Scientific Heroes are Just Celebrity Biographies,” Darin Hayton, January 31, 2013,

Vanessa Heggie, “The science of Ripper Street,” The H Word, February 3, 2013,

Robinson A. Herrera, “The Ambulatory Archive: Santa Muerte Tattoos as Historical Sources,” The Appendix, December 2012,

Rebekah Higgit, “Heritage and the Royal Institution,” The H Word, January 29, 2013,

Rebekah Higgit, “Thinking about life on Mars – video,” The H Word, January 18, 2013,

 Joanna Hopkins, “Can you feel the chemistry?,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 14, 2013,

Rowan Hooper, “Wallace: Wonders of nature have been solace of my life,” New Scientist, January 24, 2013,

Virginia Hughes, “Darwin In the Age of Ebooks,” Download the Universe, January 7, 2013,

Dana Hunter, “Darwin: Geologist First and Last,” Rosetta Stones, February 10, 2013,

Ashutosh Jogalekar, “Leo Szilárd, a traffic light and a slice of nuclear history,” The Curious Wavefunction, February 12, 2013,

Eric Michael Johnson, “Macaque and Dagger in the Simian Space Race,” The Primate Diaries,” February 14, 2013,

Steve Jones, “Alfred Russel Wallace, the man who pre-empted Darwin,” The Telegraph, January 14, 2013,

Gilbert King, “The Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla and his Tower,” The Past Imperfect, February 4, 2013,

Greg Laden, “Charles Darwin, Geologist,” Greg Laden’s Blog, February 11, 2013,

Fiona Keates, “That’s Ent-ertainment,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 8, 2013,

Roger Launius, “Reflections on the Loss of STS-107: Ten Years Ago,” Roger Launius’s Blog, February 1, 2013,

Roger Launius, “Wednesday’s Book Review: ‘Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age’,” Roger Launius’s Blog, February 6, 2013,

Roger Launius, “What is the Space Shuttle’s Place in Modern American History?,” Roger Launius’s Blog, January 14, 2013,

Daniel Lende, “On Science, Social Science, and Politics,” Neuroanthropology, January 21, 2013,

Cory Lewis, “HPS could be the Corpus Callosum of the academy,” The Bubble Chamber, January 16, 2013,

Eleanor Louson, “A cold day in Ottowa,” Productive (adj), February 6, 2013,

Martin Mahony, “The slippery concept of ‘climate’,” Topograph: contested landscapes of knowing, January 16, 2013,

Adrienne Mayor, “Alexander the Great and the Rain of Burning Sand,” Wonders & Marvels, February 2013,

Patrick McCray, “Apprehending the Artifact,” Leaping Robot Blog, February 6, 2013,

John McKay, “Boltunov’s drawing,” archy, February 6, 2013,

John McKay, “An Early Description of Permafrost,” Mammoth Tales, February 3, 2013,

Adam McLean, “Lawrence Principe takes Basilius Valentinus to the laboratory,” Bibliotheca Philosophica, February 13, 2013,

Keith Moore, “The romantic Mr Edwards,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 13, 2013,

Larry Moran, “How Linus Pauling Discovered the α-Helix,” Sandwalk, February 7, 2013,

Kate Morant, “The Paramore becalmed,” Halley’s Log, January 15, 2013,

Dawn Moutrey, “Winter surprise: tiny phrenology book,” Whipple Library Books Blog, January 23, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Christopher I. Beckwith, Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, January 22, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Deborah R. Coen, The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, February 11, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Joel Isaac: Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, January 28, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Michael Gordin: The Pseudo-Science Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, January 15, 2013,

Hannah Newton, “A Bag of Worms: Treating the Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720,” The Recipes Project, January 17, 2013,

Roger Pielke, Jr., “The Authoritarian Science Myth,” Roger Pielke, Jr.’s Blog, January 17, 2013,

John Pieret, “On the First Day of Darwin” through “On the Twelfth Day of Darwin, Thoughts in a Haystack, February 1-12, 2013,

 Maria Popova, “Happy Birthday, Pale Blue Dot: A Timeless Valentine to the Cosmos,” Brain Pickings, February 14, 2013,

Maria Popova, “How Chemistry Works: Gorgeous Vintage Science Diagrams, 1854,” Brain Pickings, January 31, 2013,

James Poskett, “Django Unchained and the racist science of phrenology,” Notes & Theories, February 5, 2013,

James Poskett, “Letters of Alfred Russel Wallace go online,” Nature, January 24, 2013,

John Ptak, “How Old are (Some) Scientific Words? Many Not Very,” Ptak Science Books, February 3, 2013,

John Ptak, “Pre-Darwin Darwin, Without the Post-Darwin,” Ptak Science Books, January 19, 2013,

Michael Robinson, “Beyond the Extreme,” Time to Eat the Dogs, January 27, 2013,

David Rooney, “The multiple lives of Alan Turing,” Stories from the stores, February 5, 2013,

Meg Rosenburg, “Between Science and HPS: How did I get here?,” True Anomalies: Tales from the History of Science, February 13, 2013,

Steve Shapiro, and Andrew Bensley, “The 6 Greatest Acts of Trolling in the History of Science,”, February 3, 2013,

Patrick Slaney, “Audra J. Wolfe: Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, February 4, 2013,

Lisa Smith, “Hans Sloane’s New York Collections,” The Sloane Letters Blog, February 10, 2013,

Lisa Smith, “Preparing for an Epidemic in the Eighteenth Century,” The Sloane Letters Blog, January 28, 2013,

Amy Shira Teitel, “Schirra’s Stellar Navigation,” Vintage Space, January 26, 2013,

Brian Switek, “Book Review: The Complete Dinosaur, Second Edition,” Laelaps, January 29, 2013,

Brian Switek, “Fossils of Future Past,” Laelaps, January 24, 2013,

Will Thomas, “Kuhn’s Demon, or: The Iconoclastic Tradition in Science Criticism,” Ether Wave Propaganda, January 21, 2013,

Will Thomas, “R.A. Fisher, Scientific Method, and the Tower of Babel, Part 1 and 2,” Ether Wave Propaganda, February 2/9, 2013, and

UCL History of Medicine, “How To Make a Victorian Villain (or the Tale of Isaac Baker Brown) Part 1 and 2,” The UCL Centre for the History of Medicine Blog, January 17/26, 2013, and

Alberto Vanzo, “Empiricism and innate ideas,” Early Modern Experimental Philosophy, February 4, 2013,

Jai Virdi, “Popular Remedies for Deafness,” From the Hands of Quacks, February 11, 2013,

Jai Virdi, “Searching for Charlatans,” From the Hands of Quacks, February 1, 2013,

Jennifer Wallis, “Muscle and mind in the asylum,” Asylum Science, February 4, 2013,

Michael Washburn, “Floating Ideas: ‘Soundings,’ About Marie Tharp, by Hali Felt,” Sunday Book Review (The New York Times), January 25, 2013,

Brandon Watson, “Whewell on Newton’s Laws IV: The Second and Third Laws,” Siris, January 30, 2013,

Mike White, “There is grandeur in Lucretius’ view of life,” The Finch and Pea, February 10, 2013,

Emily Winterburn, “Happy familes and Nobel Prizes,” Tea and Stars, February 6, 2013,

Emily Winterburn, “Herschel’s telescope,” Tea and Stars, January 12, 2013,

Alun Withey, “‘Weird’ remedies and the problem of ‘folklore’,” Dr Alun Withey, January 24, 2013,

Ed Yong, “Scientific families: Dynasty,” Nature, January 16, 2013,

Michelle Ziegler, “History Meets Biology at the AHA,” Contagions, January 8, 2013,

Unknown, “Rankine on Entropy, Love and Marriage,” Carnotcycle, February 1, 2013,

And, since February 12 was Darwin Day AND Mardi Gras, I’ll share one more Darwin post (from last year, but too good not to):

Cyriaque Lamar, “In the 1870s, Charles Darwin was the theme of a downright deranged Mardi Gras parade,” io9, May 2, 2012,

Well, there you have it, about a month’s worth of history of science/technology/medicine blogging (and this is far from comprehensive). Just one month? Wow!

As far as I know, a host for the March edition of The Giants’ Shoulders is still needed. If interested, reach out to the blog carnival organizers here or here.

Giants’ Shoulders #57 will be hosted by Alison Boyle (@ali_boyle) on the Science Museum Blog on 16th March. Submission should as always be made direct to the host or to Thony at The Renaissance Mathematicus or to Dr SkySkull at Skull in the Stars by 15th March at the latest.

Seeking guest posts for The Dispersal of Darwin

I would like to get more original content up on The Dispersal of Darwin. Since graduating from Montana State in May 2010 and moving to Portland, and now having a second child, I am not doing any research, have no papers to write, and thus, I have less time for writing posts about some aspect about Darwin (I find myself spending more available time on my children and nature blog).


Drawing by John Hawks

Thus, I would like to open up my blog to guest posts. If you have something you would like to write and need an online venue to share it, or you already have something original about Darwin and the history of science and would like to share, consider having it as a guest post here. If you know of other students, colleagues, etc. that work on Darwin, please forward this request along. Contact me at darwinsbulldog AT gmail DOT com if interested and we’ll start a conversation.

2012 in review (WordPress generated)

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 99,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Busy busy busy

Apologies for the scarcity of posts recently. Between work, being a dad, and a forthcoming daughter (due date is August 11th), I haven’t posted much. Here’s Catherine and her bump watering in our garden:

Less than a month away

I’ve also been focusing more of my energy into my Portland nature blog, and so been neglected this here blog. I continue to share Darwin and evolution related content through my Twitter and Facebook pages (see the handy new social media logos on the right). A few things to share:

The Darwin Online project has revamped their website!

There is much that is new with Alfred Russel Wallace. The correspondence project for his letters continues to work away at transcribing (I’ve done a few myself), a campaign is set up for the 100th anniversary of his death in 1913, there is a fund to contribute to if you’re willing for a Wallace statue, and a new blog to check out.

And check out the archives list in the sidebar here to get your fix for recent history of science blogging.

The latest The Giant’s Shoulders is up

The latest history of science blog carnival is up. Via Thony C:

Dr SkySkull, founder and senior manager of your monthly history of science blog carnival, has posted the 45th edition of The Giants’ Shoulders at Skull in the Stars and as always it is a fascinating, titillating, exhilarating, scintillating and captivating potpourri of histsci delight. So put on the reading specs and mosey on over to Dr SkySkull’s abode and drink your fill at his history of science well of knowledge.

The 46th edition of the world’s numero uno history of science blog carnival will be hosted by Romeo Vitelli at his Providentia blog on 16th April 2012. We are having problems with the Blog Carnivals website so submissions please either direct to the host or to me (and I will forward them) before or on 15th  April.

The 47th edition of Giants’ Shoulders is being hosted by a newcomer to our blog carnival the Medical Heritage Library on 16th May. You can have the historic chance of hosting either the last Giants’ Shoulders #48 in its fourth year of existence on 16th June or the very first edition in its fifth year on 16th of July! Book now to avoid disappointment! Contact either Dr SkySkull at Skulls in the Stars of Thony C here at the Renaissance Mathematicus.

43rd edition of The Giant’s Shoulders: People, Places, and Things

Welcome to the 43rd edition of the history of science blog carnival, The Giant’s Shoulders. I have separated this month’s posts into people, places, and things, with all sorts of ideas within. Enjoy!


Nathaniel Comfort of the blog Genotopia talks history of science on the podcast Mendelspod (54:03).

James F. Crow, Population Genetics Pioneer, Dies at 95 – The New York Times: “James F. Crow, a leader in the field of population genetics who helped shape public policy toward atomic radiation damage and the use of DNA in the courtroom, died last Wednesday at his home in Madison, Wis. He was 95.”

Cetacean Scientists in the US – AmericanScience: “Paul Greenberg recently reviewed D. Graham Burnett’s The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century in the New York Times. Greenberg traces the arc, as told by Burnett, of the cetacean scientist from standing knee-deep in whale innards at the turn of the century to being newly enlightened by whale-ish complexity in the interwar years to fighting alongside other frustrated technocrats at the dawn of an age of international conservation to expanding the human and Cete mind in groovy ways amidst a backdrop of Cold War science. He comes away fascinated by the experience, but also wonders if the reading public wouldn’t benefit from something less that 793 pages, with footnotes for the footnotes (almost) —or actually, he wonders if the public wouldn’t benefit from more: a shortened version to accompany the encyclopedic one.”

Science and The New Inquiry – AmericanScience: “This brings us, briefly, to the hipster. Greif hinges his analysis on hipsters’ emphasis on “forms of knowledge that they possessed before anyone else,” on “a priori knowledge as a means of social dominance.” There’s something about this element of performance that feels somehow distant from the philosophical clubs of the 1800s.”

Huxley’s Apocryphal Dinosaur Dinner – Dinosaur Tracking: “I don’t know where the story about Huxley and the Christmas turkey came from. It is one of those stories that seems simply to exist in the academic ether. (Even the Discovering Dinosaurs authors voiced their uncertainty about the tale in their book.) Fortunately for us, though, Huxley’s many scientific papers trace the development of his thoughts about birds and dinosaurs.”

New portrait to mark Hooke’s place in history – IOP Blog: “Despite the folklore, however, there is now no doubt that Hooke had a profound influence on the history of physics, not least through the law of elasticity which he drew up while working as Robert Boyle’s assistant in 1660; a law of physics that now bears his name. Now, thanks to Rita Greer, a history painter, who has undertaken a project to memorialize Hooke, a portrait of the scientist will be hung at the Institute of Physics (IOP) in London.”

Google’s doodle: women have eggs – Why Evolution Is True: “Today’s Google doodle (above) is in honour of Nicolas Steno (1638-1686) – it would be his 374th birthday today (in fact it’s a bit more complicated than that, because he was actually born on 1 January 1638, but under the old Julian calendar…). The doodle fetes Steno’s principle of superposition, which is the idea that, in any geological strata, the lower layers are older than the upper layers. Furthermore, it shows fossils in the rocks – Steno was the first person to clearly show that fossils were actually the remnants of long-dead animals. But Steno was not just the father of geology. He was one of the most amazing thinkers who participated in the Scientific Revolution that took place in the 17th century. He also made lasting contributions to anatomy and physiology, and above all to our understanding of where we come from. All in the space of about 12 years.”

Hitchcock’s Primeval Birds – Dinosaur Tracking: “Lacking any better hypotheses, Hitchcock prominently featured his avian interpretation of the three-toed tracks in his 1858 book The Ichnology of New England. It was a gorgeous fossil catalog, but it also came at almost precisely the wrong time.”

Happy Birthday, William James – AmericanScience: “Today marks what would’ve been the one-hundred-and-seventieth birthday of one of the most well-regarded and enigmatic figures in American science: William James… James is a towering figure in American intellectual history – and he’s gotten lots of attention in the ensuing century as a result. Lately, it’s been picking up. The last few years marked a series of centenaries, including those of some of his best-known works: most significantly, The Varieties of Religious Experience in 1902 and Pragmatism in 1907.”

Podcast 44: Silent Spring at 50: a comparison perspective – Exploring Environmental History podcast: “2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’… In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring this episode of the podcast explores the significance of this book with Mark Wilson, a PhD candidate at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, England. Mark has written a study which compares the response to Silent Spring in the US and Britain. He also agues that Silent Spring is a typical product of its time that was closely connected with the Cold War and the rise of the counter culture at both sides of the Atlantic.”

Remarkable radium – Stories from the stores: “100 years ago today, Marie Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, becoming the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. The citation recognised ‘the discovery of the elements radium and polonium … the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element’.”

Nothing new under the sun? – The Panda’s Thumb: “I was reminded of that flap the other day while I was reading Alfred Russel Wallace’s autobiography. Wallace mentions an 1872 talk he gave to the Entomological Society in which he described Herbert Spencer’s hypothesis that segmented insects are the result of an aggregation of once-separate ancestors…”

How to bridge the Two Cultures? – The History of Emotions Blog: “Lisa Jardine, centenary professor of renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London, put forward an interesting essay on Radio 4 on Sunday, looking at CP Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’, and the rise of technocratic government (you can read her essay here). She said…”

Rudwick and Newman & Principe and the Recovery of Meaning – Ether Wave Propaganda: “In the preparation of his Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution (2005), Martin Rudwick visited some of the geological features that geographers and natural philosophers of the late-18th and early-19th centuries discussed in their works. Accordingly, he devoted a special section to “places and specimens” in the book’s bibliography (pp. 653-654). He urged that such visits be seen as akin not only to documentary resources, but to the work of ‘…some historians of the experimental sciences [who] have been demonstrating the value of reconstructing the apparatus and replicating or ‘re-staging’ the experiments of historical figures in order to understand more fully how their hands-on laboratory experience of natural phenomena translated into theoretical conclusions.'”

Hasok Chang and “Complementary Science” – Ether Wave Propaganda: “In this post, I want to talk specifically about Chang’s ideas on what he calls “complementary science” — a vision for a new relationship between the history and philosophy of science and actual scientific work.”

Happy Birthday, Johannes Kepler! – Galileo’s Pendulum: “Newton showed why Kepler’s laws worked, based on his new laws of gravitation and motion, ultimately putting all of astronomy into the realm of physics where they had previously been separate. We should still honor Kepler, though: he discovered how the planets move without the benefit of Newton’s mechanics, which is a rather amazing feat. Happy 440th birthday, Johannes Kepler. Everyone go outside tonight and look at some planets in his honor.”

A trio of posts from Thony at Renaissance Mathematicus: Only 26 and already a professor! (Newton); How Charles tried to oust Isaac from Cambridge (Babbage); and Kepler contra Fludd, science contra woo? (Kepler)

James Moore on Alfred Russel Wallace (podcast, 11:37) – To The Best of Our Knowledge: “Alfred Wallace was the co-discover, with Charles Darwin, of the theory of natural selection. Wallace was also a great 19th century naturalist who spent years collecting speciments in the Amazon River Basin and later in the Malay Archipelago. Unlike the aristocratic Darwin, Wallace always had to work for a living. Historian of science James Moore says Wallace remains a mysterious figure, unlike the more famous Darwin.”

Muslims in the History of Sciences – The Pen (magazine): “Many people think that Muslims did not play a role in the history of sciences. They suppose religion does not let man to improve in science; so in this case Islam was in no position to let the Muslims to contribute to the scientific works. These are what the schools have taught for decades even in Muslim countries. This fallacy has been collapsing for the last few years. There have been some initiatives and projects that raise awareness of scientific achievements of the Muslims from the 7th century onwards.”

Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science – The New Atlantis: “To anyone familiar with this Golden Age, roughly spanning the eighth through the thirteenth centuries a.d., the disparity between the intellectual achievements of the Middle East then and now — particularly relative to the rest of the world — is staggering indeed.”

Book Review: The First American by H.W. Brands – SomeBeans: “Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is someone who has crossed the paths of a number of protagonists in books I have read on the history of science, including Antoine Lavoiser, Joseph Banks and the Lunar Society. I thought I should read something on the man himself: ‘The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin’ by H.W. Brands.”

HMS Beagle’s Naturalist – Wellcome Library: “McCormick’s diary may not be as famous as some of our other holdings, but its (relative) unfamiliarity is arguably a virtue: it’s one of the manuscripts held by the Wellcome Library that directly reminds us that there can be disputed accounts of ‘familiar’ historical events.”

Plaque spotting: Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810) – Bloomsbury Bytes: “There is a black plaque to Henry Cavendish at 11 Bedford Square WC1, which is the north-east corner where Montague Place begins. It is difficult for the casual passer-by to notice, as it blends in rather well with its dark brick background. In this house, purchased around May 1783, Cavendish created a museum, a laboratory, and a scientific lending library of roughly 12,000 volumes contained in row upon rowsof elaborate sliding shelving, available to colleagues and other gentlemen who had been properly vouched for…”

Rhyme and reason: The Victorian poet scientists – New Scientist: “Poetry has been a long-standing tradition in the natural sciences, and Victorian scientists, in particular, had a wide-ranging education that fostered a powerful affinity with the Muse.”

They Froze for Science – and Got the Eggs – Neuron Culture: “The histories of exploration and science are littered with catastrophies like the Scott expedition, big ones like his polar push and the small ones like the penguin eggs: people and ideas and ventures embedded in ice and slowly obscured. These failures are necessary to the successes; Scott’s drive drove Amundsen, and Wilson’s questions about the origins of feathers later got answers, in transmuted forms, in today’s theories about birds’ descent from dinosaurs. The same desire, an ardor akin to Ahab’s, animates them all. It shows more in the failures. Who can’t be at their best when things go well? The real test is when things don’t quite work out.”

This dude strongly pushed the existence of intelligent Martian Canals. His initials also influenced the naming of Pluto. – Popperfont: “Science history rocks! This is a picture of Percival Lowell. More at his wiki entry.”

Maskelyne and Banks Revisited – The Board of Longitude 1714-1828: “After spending five weeks last summer as an intern and immersing myself in the NMM’s collections relating to Nevil Maskelyne, I have found myself intrigued by the character of his relationship with Joseph Banks. A previous post on this blog highlighted two episodes in the forty or so years that they knew each other, one from 1775 revealing a confident friendship between them and a shared scientific curiosity, and the other painfully polite, written in highly stilted and formal language in the months following a major dispute in 1784. Further reading has shed more light on the latter incident, and I have found documents that reveal the depth of the schism between the two men at this time.”

Art in the Lion’s Den – Laelaps: “Though Knight is best known for his restorations of prehistoric life – his dinosaur murals at Chicago’s Field Museum are arguably the finest ever composed – he could not have reconstructed primeval creatures so wondrously without instruction from the anatomy and attitudes of living animals.”

Hypotheses and Newton’s Rings – Early Modern Experimental Philosophy: “Newton’s “Hypothesis” paper provides a good example of his method of hypotheses. He remains carefully detached from his own hypothesis, using it only to ‘illustrate’ his theory and to suggest further experiments. Newton was also careful to keep his hypotheses well separate from his theory; the paper ends with a series of ‘Observations’ that contain no reference to his hypotheses at all!”

Richard Owen vs. Textbook Cardboard – Laelaps: “But this is historical hogwash. The dramatic battle between 19th century evolutionists and creationists over Archaeopteryx makes for a spicier narrative, I will admit, but does not hold together upon close scrutiny. Owen may have been an anti-Darwinian naturalist, but he was an evolutionist of another sort, and the high price he paid for Archaeopteryx had nothing to do with keeping the bird out of the reach of Huxley’s ilk. Rather, the primordial bird was to be one of many jewels that Owen set in the crown of his magisterial museum.”

£50 reward for industrial revolution pioneers on new bank note – Guardian: “Sir Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, has often voiced his yearning for a “rebalancing” of the economy towards neglected manufacturing, and he will put the nation’s money where his mouth is next month when the Bank produces a new £50 note celebrating two pioneers of the industrial revolution. The Bank will evoke the memory of the inventor James Watt and his Birmingham business partner, Matthew Boulton on the new note.”


New entires in the BSHS Travel Guide: Observatory of Tycho Brahe, Sweden; The Carlsberg Laboratory, Copenhagen; Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna; Semmelweiss Museum, Budapest; City of Science and Industry, France; and a call for Philadelphia-specific articles!

Cursed Glaciers – History of Geology: “Some historians suggest that this myth is based on observations of advancing glaciers during the period of the “Little Ice Age“, a period of cooling extending in the Alps from the 16th to the 19th centuries.”

History of science in science museums and science centers – Medical Museion: “I guess what bewildered me is that history of science has been the obvious vantage point for most science museums for more than a hundred years. In other words, science museums have by definition been museums that displayed science historically: science museums have been identical with science history museums. But then I realised that this call had been made by scholars who don’t at all take this for granted.

Science in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – teleskopos: “This post relates instead to an extra-curricula visit to another newly renovated Edinburgh institution (see my Longitude Blog post on the National Museum of Scotland) – the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.”

An 18th-century astronomical tour – teleskopos: “Bugge’s journal was discovered in the Royal Library in Copenhagen by Kurt Møller Pedersen over forty years ago. Although Pedersen quickly brought it to the attention of scholars, circulating a transcription and translation in the 1970s and ‘preliminary’ edition in 1997, this is the long-anticipated scholarly edition of a text that is of great significance to historians of scientific instruments, observatories and machinery in the eighteenth century.”

Richard Feynman’s Grave – Zoonomian: “Today I paid my respects at the grave of physicist Richard Feynman, interred with his wife Gweneth at the Mountain View Cemetary in Altadena, California. Feynman died of cancer in 1988 and his wife died the following year.”

Charlie’s Rose – Zoonomian: “I stumbled upon these today in the gardens of the Huntington (Library, Art Collection, Botanical Gardens) Estate in San Marino. According to this rose dealer, the variety is hardy, with a ‘strong and delicious fragrance that varies between a soft, floral Tea and almost pure lemon according to weather conditions’. Sounds like it would be right at home at Darwin’s former home in Kent (where it may indeed be for all I know).”


Animals or Brutes? – Anita Guerrini: “As I have been reading a number of anatomy texts from the seventeenth century, I have been struck by the ambiguity of the term “animal.” Now, these texts are all in Latin (a few were translated into the vernacular, in this case French, but not many). There is a clear distinction drawn between “animal” (the same in French), “homo” (or “homme”) and “brutus” (or “brute”).”

A Sometimes Unnatural History – BibliOdyssey: “The images below (background cleaned) are taken from the multi-volume natural history work, ‘Getreue Abbildungen Naturhistorischer Gegenstände’ (1795-1807), by Johann Matthäus Bechstein.”

Some Final Thoughts on Maps – PACHSmörgåsbord: “Judging by the increase in sophistication and nuance in student papers, it seems that this experiment in pedagogy enjoyed at least some success. Unfortunately, unlike many experiments that might seem to offer immediate results, I may never know the ultimate success or failure of this experiment. I, at least, enjoyed the process enough and students seemed to like working with old maps enough to merit using maps again the next time I teach my Introduction to the History of Science.”

Will a new HMS Beagle set sail in 2013? – Guardian: “Once launched, the new Beagle will bring the adventure of science to life, retracing FitzRoy and Darwin’s voyage, serving as an ambassador for British science, history and industry, and taking scientists and sailors to sea. Both disciplines are about looking at horizons, wondering what lies beyond, and not stopping until you, your crewmates and lab-mates have found out.” (visit The HMS Beagle Project)

The Nervous Icon – Part III – Textbook History: “‘The Nervous Icon’ is my name for an illustration of the human nervous system that found its way into dozens of anatomy, physiology and biology textbooks published between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. I began tracing its history in The Nervous Icon – Part I, where I touched on the issues of artistry, copyright, and mechanical reproduction in science textbooks. I followed up a month later in The Nervous Icon – Part II, where I went ‘over my head’ into the history of encyclopedias and the tension caused by the conflict between the assumption that cultural artifacts were the property of the dominating imperialist power and the imperatives of the emerging global marketplace. As I said then, ‘big stuff for a blog.'”

A Pictorial History of the Mysterious Wolverine – The Wolverine Blog: “The only obvious thing about wolverines is the fact that they have always been – and still are – mostly a mystery. Wolverine biologist Jason Wilmot recently unearthed three images spanning the early decades of natural history, and they neatly summarize how little was known about the animal at the time.”

Consilience: Photographers Operating at the Intersection of Art and Science – Monsters & Madonnas: “In many ways, art and science are likely bedfellows. Both support a culture of experimentation that is inspired by curiosity, while attracting individuals interested in generating fresh ideas and forging new paths. Consequently, there is a discoverable history of unifying practices, practitioners, and organizations dedicated to artists and scientists dating back to the Lunar Society. Photography has a singular place in this unfolding history.”

Intel vs. Obelisk: The Renaissance Beauty of the Single-Chip Microprocessor – Ptak Science Books: “The moment that I saw this image1 of (what I think is) the 8086 processor I thought of its great visual similarities to one of the greatest engineering works of the 16th century, so much so that with a little imagination, the older work seems a pentimento of the newer.”

Highly Recommended: The Discovery of Evolution, by David Young – ScienceDenial: “I never thought I was interested in the history of science, much, until I started reading David Young’s The Discovery of Evolution. Now I’m not even sure where I go[t] this book, but it had been on my shelf a while before I picked it up and took it some place to read over lunch one day. I hope I didn’t steal it, but if I did I’d like whoever I took it from to know I really, really enjoyed reading it. (Just kidding. I didn’t steal it.)”

In Praise of Ephemeral Astrological Literature – PACHSmörgåsbord: “Whether or not The Economist’s analogy is accurate, I think ephemeral print has a lot to offer if we spend the time studying it. These pamphlets often reveal what the most sophisticated astrologers thought, how astronomical ideas were spreading amongst the learned, how influential astrologers aligned their work with local princes and political agendas, and what the public might have known about their world.”

Botanists finally ditch Latin and paper, enter 21st century – Culturing Science: “And if you’re a botanist consulting a lengthy record of described plant species, you don’t want to lose some of those descriptions into the black hole of cyberspace. But this year, the botanists decided the web was less spooky and now can describe species in any electronic journal that has an ISSN, for the purpose of archiving.”

Dogmas in Neuroscience and Further Thoughts on the Limits of Neurohistory – The Neuro Times: “Secondly doesn’t the existence of these dogmas, as well as the observation we don’t know the origins of the claim that we have 100 billion neurons, only elevate further the fact that in order to even begin a neurohistory project we would need a clearer, deeper, and refined history of neuroscience and neurology? The dogmas that Lent et al. describe point towards other unsettled questions.”

On Collecting and Collectors – PACHSmörgåsbord: “Some areas I wish Blom had spent some time exploring include arranging, displaying and mediating access to collected objects. How is it that collectors use their collections to establish and project intellectual, social, and political authority? How is the status of the possessor enhanced by having the authority to arrange objects, to establish relationships between those objects, by displaying them in particular ways? How does that person’s authority increase by controlling access to that body of objects? It is fascinating to think about these power dynamics on a personal level, but what happens when they are transferred onto larger institutions? Institutions like academies and museums are not simply conduits for accepted scientific knowledge but instead actively shape that knowledge through processes of collecting, housing, arranging, and displaying artifacts.”

January 6, 1912: Continental Drift! – History of Geology: “January 6, 1912 the German meteorologist Alfred Wegener presented in a lecture entitled “Die Heraushebung der Großformen der Erdrinde (Kontinente und Ozeane) auf geophysikalischer Grundlage” (The uprising of large features of earth’s curst (Continents and Oceans) on geophysical basis) for the first time his hypothesis of the ancient supercontinent Pangaea, from which all modern continents split apart.”

From the Contracting Earth to early Supercontinents – History of Geology: “Already when the first maps of the American continents were published (1507 and after), the similitude between the western coast of Africa and the eastern coast of South America intrigued geographers and naturalists and this fascination continued in the following centuries.”

Hunting the Higgs – Project Syndicate: “Fifty years ago, particle physicists faced an unexpected challenge. Their best mathematical models could account for some of the natural forces that explain the structure and behavior of matter at a fundamental level, such as electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force responsible for radioactive decay. But the models worked only if the particles inside of atoms had no mass. How could huge conglomerations of such particles – proteins, people, planets – behave as they do if their constituent parts weighed nothing at all?”

Introducing “Science Studies Dissertation Reviews” – Dissertation Reviews: “It is with great pleasure that we announce the forthcoming launch of “Science Studies Dissertation Reviews,” set to go live in Winter 2012. In the tradition of the Dissertation Reviews project, the new site will feature friendly, non-critical overviews of recently defended, unpublished dissertations in Science Studies. Approximately 20 dissertations are currently under review, with more to come.”

Darwin’s Many Origins – Zoonomian: “Meet the front end of the Huntington Library‘s 252 strong collection of Darwin’s Origin of Species – all 20 feet of them. I snapped this at the permanent ‘Beautiful Science’ exhibition last month, and have just gotten around to a bit of research… Henry Edwards Huntington acquired much of his collection, now at San Marino, by buying up ready-made collections or even whole libraries. But some books he bought individually, including, in 1860s New York, an 1859 first edition of the Origin of Species in original cloth – for $22.79.”

Updating blogroll

I’ve changed the look of my blog, mainly by removing much of what was in the sidebar. Links and a blogroll are now on separate pages. To help in updating my blogroll, please let me know if I had your blog on it before and now don’t, or, if you think I should have your blog on my list, let me know!

Blogging a Darwin book: Reef Madness

Science writer David Dobbs (Neuron Culture, @david_dobbs) has been blogging his book Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral. So far he’s posted seven ten installments:

Reef Madness Begins: Louis Agassiz, Creationist Magpie
Reef Madness 2: The One Darwin Really DID Get Wrong: Rumble at Glen Roy
Reef Madness 3: Louis Agassiz, TED Wet Dream, Conquers America
Reef Madness 4: Alexander Agassiz Comes of Age
Reef Madness 5: How Charles Darwin Seduced Asa Gray
Reef Madness 6: The Death of Louis Agassiz
Reef Madness 7: Alex Finds a Future
Reef Madness 8: A Dissipated, Low-Minded Charles Darwin
Reef Madness 9: Charles Darwin & the Pleasure of Gambling
Reef Madness 10: Darwin’s Earthquake
Reef Madness 11: Darwin’s First Theory of Evolution

It’s worth checking out, in blog form or by purchasing a copy for yourself or your public library. I’m happy to have had Dobbs sign my copy at Science Online 2011:

Books signed at Science Online 2011

Books signed at Science Online 2011

The Giant’s Shoulders #36: The ABCs of the History of Science

Happy 3rd blogiversary, The Giant’s Shoulders!

Summer is upon us, and many of you are looking forward to time away from desks and books and computer screens. So, take this edition of your favorite history of science blog carnival (the only!) as a last call for intelligent, historical entertainment (but honestly, don’t forget about the July and August editions).

A is for Ancient texts, Alchemy, Agassiz, Anenomes, and Astronomy

Smithsonian: What Secrets Do Ancient Medical Texts Hold?

Science: Podcast interview about medieval alchemists

– Neuron Culture: Reef Madness Begins: Louis Agassiz, Creationist Magpie

– History of Science Centre’s blog: Love your anemones

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: The astronomical revolution didn’t start here!

– Universe Today: Newly Born: the Science of Astronomy

B is for Burtt, Bugs, Books, Bottom-Feeders, Bryan, and Botany

– The Evolution List: The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science

– Biodiversity Heritage Library: Book of the Week: Cabinet of Oriental Entomology

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: The world’s first scientific press

– Laelaps: Plesiosaurs, the Beautiful Bottom-feeders

– The Sensuous Curmudgeon: John West & William Jennings Bryan

– History of geology: A very short history of Palaeobotany

C is for Color, Childhood, Crime, Code, Creation, and Chapman

– Huntington Blogs: The Shade of Things

– Petri Dish: child-sized depictions of charles darwin to grow on

– Songbirds and Satellites: Cream o’ the Crop

– Providentia: The Turing Problem (Part 1)

– BBC News: Code-cracking machine returned to life

– Neuron Culture: Reef Madness 3: Louis Agassiz, TED Wet Dream, Conquers America

D is for Doodles, Doubt, Darwin, Discovery, Development, and Descourtilz

– Jacob Darwin Hamblin: Battle of the History of Science Doodles!

– COSMOS: Merchants of doubt

– OU History of Science Collections: New exhibit: Darwin @ the Library and The HMS Beagle

– The Atavism: Sunday Spinelessness – Flat animals and biology’s age of discovery

– Pharyngula: PZ Myers at Glasgow Sceptics in the Pub, The Crystal Palace

– BibliOdyssey: Caribbean Nature

E is for Environmental determinism, Epigenetics, Eddington, Education, Economics, and Embryos

– Jacob Darwin Hamblin: Roundtable on Mosquito Empires

– History of Science at OSU: Nature versus Nurture

– Scientific American: The Evolution of Common Sense

– Boundary Vision: Escaping the rhetoric of “the past” in science education

– Ether Wave Propaganda: Margaret Schabas on the Concept of Nature in Economic Thought

– Thoughts from Kansas: What do Haeckel’s embryos signify? (recent comments in old post)

F is for Francis Darwin, Forbes’ Folly, Fossils, Fiction, Family, and Fish

– Deep Sea News: Forbes’ Folly – Evidence of Deep Sea Life Ignored

– The Meming of Life: Screwing with Darwin 1, Screwing with Darwin 2, and Screwing with Darwin: the final chapter

– Between Death and DNA: Prelude To The Final 3: Of Physicists And Fossils

– Whewell’s Ghost: Fictional science

– Darwin and Gender: Darwin’s Invisible Workforce

– BibliOdyssey: Bloch Fish

G is for Group selection, Galileo, Glen Roy, General Electric, and Gould

– Political Descent: Evolutionary Restraints

Forbes: Galileo’s Conversion

– Neuron Culture: The One Darwin Really DID Get Wrong: Rumble at Glen Roy

– Scientific Blogging: Science History: A Look At General Electric’s Early Guest Book

– john hawks weblog: Gould’s “Unconscious Manipulation  of Data”; Why Evolution Is True: Steve Gould gets it in the neck; Quodlibeta: The Bias Sphere; or, Turning Gould into Irony; and Antropomics: Plotz biology

H is for Heliobacter pylori, Helium, House, Hahn, Harvey, Halley, and Hollow

– EarthSky: Did HMS Beagle voyage lead to Charles Darwin’s poor health?

– Scientific American: Helium Hokum: Why Airships Will Never Be Part of Our Transportation Infrastructure

– PACHSmörgåsbord: The House Where Spacetime Began

– Whewell’s Ghost: Thank You and So Long, Roger Hahn

– Early Modern Thought Online: William Harvey’s Medical Aristotelianism

– Ptak Science Books: How Fish and a Dog Nearly Prevented the Publication of Newton’s Principia

– Petri Dish: hollow heads? science, fantasy, and what’s as plain as the earth beneath our feet

I is for Images and Integration

– Early Modern Experimental Philosophy: Images of Experimental Philosophy (and a request for help!)

– AmericanScience: A Team Blog: HPS? History and vs. History of

J is for Judson, Josephine, and Joseph

– Biomedicine on Display: Remembering Horace Judson, author of Eighth Day of Creation; Genotopia: Horace Judson: a eulogy; and Why Evolution Is True: Horace Freeland Judson, R.I.P.

– Oral History of British Science: Josephine Barnes and Joseph Rotblat

K is for Kindgom

– History of geology: Roy Chapman Andrews and the Kingdom of Cretaceous Skulls

L is for Longitude, Lab coats, and Lindau

– The Board of Longitude: Across the pond

– through the looking glass: David Kirby’s ‘Lab Coats in Hollywood’

– Scientific American: Lindau Nobel Meeting–Courting Minerva with Ragnar Granit

M is for Menus, Maskelyne, Modernity, Madness, Magnetism, Mayer, and Monsters

– The Board of Longitude: A Chrononhotontologue

– The Board of Longitude: The Maskelynian revival

– William Eamon: The Age of How-To

– Biomedicine on Display: Madness and museums – collecting and exhibiting the history of psychiatry

– Highly Allochthonous: Why does a compass point north? A mystery at the heart of the story of science (book review)

– The Board of Longitude: Tobias Mayer – Our man in Hanover

– Scientific American: Anecdotes from the Archive: A Closer Look at New York City’s Tap Water Monsters

N is for Neuroanatomy, Nacktkultur, Noether, Nationalism, and Newton

– Slate: How the Brain Got Its Buttocks

– From the Hands of Quacks: Constructing the Naked (Social) Body III

– PACHSmörgåsbord: Emmy Noether

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: Nations, nationality, nationalism, history and historiography

– Ptak Science Books: Newton and his 351st Trinity Anniversary: a Note on Ending his Research in Alchemy

O is for Oral history, Oslo, and Oregon

– Natural History @ 100: Recording Our Stories

– The Pauling Blog: The Oslo Conference

– The Pauling Blog: “Oregon Experience: Linus Pauling,” now available online

P is for Popularization, Polymath, Porter, Pox, Punctuated equilibrium, Plastic, and Pterosaur

– The Dispersal of Darwin: How the Victorians Learned about Darwin’s Theories

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: A Croatian Polymath

– Wellcome Trust: Excellence attracts – Roy Porter at the Wellcome Institute (via h-madness)

– The History of Vaccines Blog: POX: Michael Willrich in Philadelphia May 12

– Not by Needs nor Nature: Punctuated Equilibrium as metaphor

– Scientific American: A Brief History of Plastic’s Conquest of the World

– Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs: Scaphognathus crassirostris: A Pterosaur in the Historical Record? and Goertzen’s Case for the Historical Scaphognathus

Q is for Quatermass

– History of geology: Five million years of terror: Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

R is for Religion, Reade, Radium, and Rutherford

– Soapbox Science: Science owes much to both Christianity and the Middle Ages

– Open Parachute: Early history of science and Clarifying some myths in the history of science (comments a must)

– Darwin and Human Nature: Spotlight on a correspondent: William Winwood Reade

– Meteorite Manuscripts: Early Use of Radium in the U.S. – George Barker’s 1903 Columbia Lecture

– Providentia: That Healthy Glow (Part 1)

– BBC News: The man who looked inside the atom

S is for STEM, Spandrels, Sins, Sasquatch, and Space

– Common Core: STEM or Not: Why Science History Matters

– Kele’s Science Blog: “Spandrels” before “spandrels” were cool

– Ptak Science Books: The 47 Sins of Isaac Newton, as Recorded by Himself

– MonsterTALK: Searching for Sasquatch

– Roger Launius’s Blog: Reconsidering the Foundations of Human Spaceflight in the 1950s

T is for Trust, Tables, Tyndall, Travel, Thatcher, Time, and Telomeres

– Scientific American: Trust Me, I’m a Scientist

– Evolving Thoughts: Quote: Eddington’s Two Tables

– World Association of Young Scientists: John Tyndall – Science Communicator

– Transcribing Tyndall: Work on Tyndall from Ciaran Toal

– BSHS Travel Guide: Welcome to the British Society for History of Science (BSHS) Travel Guide!

– through the looking glass: Thatcher, Scientist

– AmericanScience: A Team Blog: Recapping the Reinvention of Time

– Genotopia: End Times (The Telos of Telomeres)

U is for Uranium and Unicode

– History of Science at OSU: The Legacy of Nuclear Radiation on Native Lands

– Periodic Tabloid: Newton Would U+2661 Unicode 6.0

V is for Venereal disease, Venus, and Vegetal

– The Quack Doctor: Pockey Warts, Buboes and Shankers

– Vintage Space: Unraveling Venus

– BibliOdyssey: Anatomia Vegetal

W is for Water, Wales, Wells, and Wallace

– The Mermaid’s Tale: The Darwins at Malvern: the Water-Cures

– Skulls in the Stars: Mpemba’s baffling discovery: can hot water freeze before cold? (1969)

– History of Science Centre’s blog: Photography and a wet weekend in Wales

– Skulls in the Stars: H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free (1914)

– Wallace News Blog: Baldwin, Wallace and Organic Selection

X is for XX

– xkcd: Marie Curie

Y is for Year

– Roger Launius’s Blog: The Legacy of the International Polar Years and the International Geophysical Year

Z is for Zodiac

– History of Science Centre’s blog: Random reflections on Regiomontanus


Thank you for stopping by this 3rd anniversary edition of The Giant’s Shoulders! As of right now, the carnival does not have a blog host for the July edition. Think about it. In the meantime, be sure to look over my ever-updated list of history of science bloggers and tweeters, and if you’re on Twitter yourself, search #histsci.

Happy Summer!

2011-06-17 UPDATE:  The next edition will appear at Romeo Vitelli’s psychology blogProvidentia on July 16th.  Entries are due by the 15th of the month, and can be submitted directly to the host blog or through

An Inordinate Fondness #13

Ready for some beetle blogging? February is an appropriate month for The Dispersal of Darwin to host An Inordinate Fondness, for each February supporters of science and reason celebrate the birth of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) on the 12th. This year, he turned 202. Learn more about Darwin Day, and become a Friend of Charles Darwin, too. I specifically requested posts for AIF relating to Darwin and beetles or other figures in the history of science who worked on beetles. While that call for specific posts was largely unanswered, there are plenty of beetles on blogs to enjoy, and I’ll share some Darwin-related images from Flickr!

Competitive Beetle Collecting

From the exhibit Since Darwin: The Evolution of Evolution at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Dave Hubble’s ecology spot – Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain? Well, yes and no…: “Last night, over a vodka or two, a Russian friend of mine asked me whether we had Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain – we got there after chatting about how his small daughter was interested in bugs. My answer was along the lines of ‘no, but…’ and shows how the use of non-scientific (vernacular) names can be problematic i.e. it all depends what you mean by ‘rhinoceros beetle’.”

The Dispersal of Darwin – “Captured by C. Darwin, Esq”: “Darwin worked tirelessly in his home outside of London. Down House became a “country house” laboratory for his scientific endeavors, and he utilized many areas of the house and its grounds for his experiments. Yet while he worked away on his ‘one long argument,’ all he really wanted to do was get outside. To the entomologist John Lubbock, also Darwin’s neighbor, he wrote in 1854: ‘I do not know whether you care about Beetles, but for the chance I send this in a Bottle, which, I never remember having seen, though it is excessively rash to speak from a 26 year old remembrance. Whenever we meet you can tell me whether you know it.— … I feel like an old war-horse at the sound of the trumpet, when I read about the capturing of rare beetles— is not this a magnanimous simile for a decayed entomologist. It really almost makes me long to begin collecting again.'”

MObugs – Darkling Beetle: “Darkling beetles in the family Carabidae Tenebrionidaeare ( Thanks Ted for catching my faux pas) one of the most common beetles in the pet trade. These larger beetles are called Zophobas morio and the larvae are called Superworms. They are native to Central and South America, but made their way into the United States because of their large size and easy to rear nature.”


Old book plus beetle specimen

Beetles in the Bush – Featured Guest Photo – Dromica kolbei: “Although I have not collected this genus myself, I recognized it instantly as a member of such based on specimens and images I have seen. Carabidae of the World contains fine images of a number of species in this genus, of which Dromica kolbei (W. Horn, 1897) seems to be a pretty good match. However, more than 170 species are currently included in the genus, and while a modern revision is in progress (Schüle and Werner 2001; Schüle 2004, 2007), the bulk of the genus still remains to be treated. As a result, this really should be considered as just a provisional ID.”

Beetles in the Bush – Recent literature – The Coleopterists Bulletin: “I returned to the office this week after spending two weeks in Brazil to find the December 2010 of The Coleopterists Bulletin in my inbox. I don’t think there is another journal that I look forward to more eagerly than this one (with the possible exception of CICINDELA) – with each issue, I know that regardless of whether it contains any papers in my priority groups of interest (jewel beetles, longhorned beetles, and tiger beetles), it will nevertheless contain well-written articles presenting results of high-quality research on nothing but beetles – pure elytral ecstasy!”

Young Darwin Statue by Anthony Smith, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

I love this beetle adorning part of a statue of a young Darwin in Cambridge, England

Beetles in the Bush – Brazil Bugs #3 – Gorgulho Enorme!: “The second night at the hotel on the outskirts of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil), I found this enormous weevil laying on the ground underneath some windows. It was dead but completely relaxed and in perfect shape. I wondered if it had been attracted to lights in the window the previous evening and flown there as its “last hurrah.” This beast of a weevil – measuring a good 30mm from the tip of the snout to the apex of the elytra – immediately brought to my mind giant palm weevils of the genus Rhynchophorus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae).”

MYRMECOS – Friday Beetle Blogging: Army Ant Associates: “Last year army ant guru Carl Rettenmeyer posthumously published a paper documenting the tremendous diversity of animals associated with Eciton burchellii. Over 500, in fact. Eciton burchellii has a larger known entourage than any other species of animal. Although Eciton‘s associates are the best documented, all army ant species have them. Ant colonies represent a tremendous concentration of resources, and animals that have figured out how to subvert the ants’ communication systems gain access to rich stores of food.”

Skepchick – Shellac: it’s a bug AND a feature!: “For some reason, both Cochineal and Lac scales are often reported as beetles. I’ve seen this mistake made on the Straight Dope, among other places. Scale insects don’t undergo complete metamorphosis as a beetle would, so they don’t have larvae and pupae. In fact, scales have their own special freaky system of growth and reproduction in which the females loose their legs and turn into a sort of tiny insect Jabba the Hutt, and even tinier males fertilize them and die.”

Beetle activity (play God!) (at APS' Dialogues with Darwin exhibit)

Beetle activity at the American Philosophical Society’s exhibit Dialogues with Darwin in Philadelphia

MYRMECOS – Friday Beetle Blogging: Agra: “Agra is a tree-dwelling predator found from Texas south to Argentina. It belongs to the family Carabidae, the ground beetles, which is unfortunate as most Agra are canopy species found nowhere near the ground… I photographed this handsome specimen at the Maquipucuna cloud forest reserve on Ecuador’s western Andean slopes.”

Ecotrope – How bark beetles are pitting the U.S. vs. Canada: “The bark-eating beetles have been ravaging forests in British Columbia – with tens of millions of forestland acres laid to waste. Scientists worry that global warming will continue to fuel beetle outbreaks by keeping winter temperatures just high enough to allow the beetles to survive the winter and reproduce, where in the past severe cold would have killed them off. At issue is how the BC government and timber industry have handled the damaged trees – and the not-so damaged ones – on public lands.” (See a related video from Oregon Public Broadcasting.)

LabSpaces – 2 new species of ‘leaping’ beetles discovered: “Only five species of these so-called ‘flea’ beetles, out of a global total of 60, had been found to date in New Caledonia, in the western Pacific. A three-year study has now enabled Spanish researchers to discover two new herbivorous beetles – Arsipoda geographica and Arsipoda rostrata. These new beetles hold a secret – they feed on plants that the scientists have still not found on the archipelago.”

Charles Darwin's beetles collection

Darwin beetles at the zoology museum in Cambridge, England

Catalogue of Organisms – Ground Beetles for Today: “The subject of today’s post is a group of ground beetles (Carabidae) that has been treated in the past as the subfamily Zuphiinae, but seems to now be more commonly treated as a supertribe Zuphiitae within the Harpalinae. Whatever their appropriate formal name, the zuphiites are distinguished by a relatively long and thick scape (the first major segment of the antennae) and spination on the first stylomere of the female’s ovipositor; the clade is also supported by molecular data.”

Kele’s Science Blog – Solving the “adaptive recursion” in Jamaican click beetles (I) & The genetics and phenotypes of the Jamaican click beetle (Adaptive Recursion II): “In my last post I started a new short series on some biologists’ attempts to solve what they call an “adaptive recursion” or in other words, to know the full story of a trait from the bottom level of the gene to the top levels of ecology and differential fitness. Ecological descriptions frequently become “just-so stories” – claims of adaptations and how they arose but with little evidence. All levels of detail should be known before any such arguments can be proclaimed and this is exactly what Uwe Stolz, Jeffrey Feder, and Sebastian Velez, and others are attempting to do with the bioluminescence of Jamaican click beetles.”

Beetles in the Bush – Calm waters, frenzied beetles: “Lazy waters are the domain of whirligig beetles (family Gyrinidae). We encountered this ‘raft’ of beetles in a sheltered pool near the shore of the North Fork River while hiking the Ozark Trail last October. These frenzied little beetles live almost exclusively on the surface of the water, where they feed on organisms or scavenge debris in their famously and erratically conspicuous aggregations. Such behavior might make them seem vulnerable to predation, but in actuality the reverse is true. Beetles in rafts benefit from the increased number of eyes that can better scan the environment for potential threats than can individual beetles (Vulinec and Miller 1989), and the larger the raft the more efficiently this occurs.”

Young darwin's beetle collection

Page from The Curious Mind of Young Darwin (see:

Beetles in the Bush – Diversity in Tiger Beetle Larval Burrows: “To the uninitiated, tiger beetle burrows might seem nothing more than a simple hole in the ground – anything could have made it. However, with experience one becomes able to distinguish tiger beetle larval burrows almost instantly from burrows made by other ground-burrowing organisms. The most common type of burrow is recognized by a combination of characters – almost perfectly circular except for a slight flattening on one side that gives the burrow a faint D-shape, and with the edge smoothly beveled. This is your classic tiger beetle burrow and, for most U.S. species of Cicindela and related genera, averages ~5-6mm in diameter for 3rd instar larvae (tiger beetle burrows are most often observed at 3rd instar, since it is this final instar in which the larva spends the majority of its time and the burrow becomes most noticable).”

LabSpaces – Ginger is key ingredient in recipe for conserving stag beetles: “The humble ginger root could be the key to conserving the UK’s largest and most spectacular terrestrial beetle – the stag beetle. Ecologists from Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of York have developed a series of new methods to monitor stag beetle numbers – including ginger lures to trap adult beetles and tiny microphones to detect sounds made by the larvae in their underground nests. Conservation efforts have been hampered until now because ecologists lacked a reliable way of monitoring stag beetle numbers.”

Beetles in the Bush – “All the better to see you with, my dear!”: “Cicindela formosa (the big sand tiger beetle) is a not uncommon species that occurs across much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains in deep, dry, open sand habitats. It is absent in Appalachia and much of the Interior Highlands, understandable given the rarity of deep sand habitats on these elevated landforms; however, its absence across much of the southeastern coastal plain as well as south and west Texas, despite the widespread presence of apparently suitable habitat, is not easily explained.”

descent of man

Page from Darwin’s 1871 The Descent of Man (see:

Bug Eric –Merchant Grain Beetle: “Even entomologists are not immune to pest insects in their homes. We are just a little more fascinated than we are revolted. So, when I found a tiny beetle crawling on the bathroom counter of my Tucson apartment on October 20, 2010, I naturally wanted to know more about it. I thought I had a good idea of its identity, but I was wrong about the species.”

Fall to Climb – Forgotten Photo Friday: Otiorhynchus ligustici – Alfalfa Snout Beetle: “Native to Europe, accidentally introduced to North America in the late 1800′s, declared a pest in New York in 1933, and spread to to Canada in the mid 60′s. It has only been detected in a few towns in eastern Ontario. It is supremely pesty to alfalfa plants everywhere. But, although it is pesty, it is a VERY BIG AND AWESOMELY SCALY BEETLE! And, since it is a Curculionid, it looks like Gonzo. They all do. So I love it, just a little bit.”

What’s Bugging You? – A Rare Beetle New to Virginia: “My insect survey at the VCU Rice Center continues to reveal species that are rarely collected and/or newly recorded for the Commonwealth of Virginia. While sorting through dozens of trap samples containing thousands of insects, I recently discovered three specimens of a rarely collected false click beetle (Eucnemidae), Xylophilus crassicornis. This collection represents the first records for the genus and species in Virginia.”

Cambridge 800 years - Darwin hunting beetles

Display for University of Cambridge’s 800th anniversary

cicindela – Ellipsoptera marginata: “One of the rather unique tiger beetles occurring in Virginia is Ellipsoptera marginata. I photographed this species back in late June of 2009 at Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve where I was assisting in a survey for Habroscelimorpha dorsalis dorsalis.”

The Atavism – Sunday Spinelessness – Vanuatu scarab beetles: “As promised, it’s time to add a few tropical invertebrates to the mix of more temperate bugs I usually talk about here. Let’s start by redressing a bit of an imbalance in these Sunday Spinelessness posts. Up until now I’ve only written two posts about beetles, which something of an under-representation since about a quarter of all described species are beetles. I see plenty of beetles around our garden and in my travels around Dunedin, but few of them are large enough, or sufficiently cooperative, for me to get decent photographs. I had no such problem in Vanuatu.”

The Atavism – Sunday Spinelessness – Hadda beetle: “Time for another tropical beetle from Vanuatu, and what could be more charming than a ladybird? Or its absurdy spikey larvae?”

New Charles Darwin exhibit--my favorite part

Display at the natural history museum at the University of Kansas, Lawrence

Nature Closeups – Colorful Snout Beetle: “I really love the colors on this snout beetle. Check out the detail. The image is not quite as sharp as I’d like, but just look at all those little colorful scales.” & Reddish Tortoise Beetles: “There were quite a few of these reddish tortoise beetles feeding on this banana plant.” & Mating Snout Beetles: “These beetles are tiny. Each one is only a few millimeters long.”

Dave Hubble’s ecology spot – Cretaceous Crato creature!: “Last year, I was mooching around some fossil sites online and found some insects for sale. They were from an old collection and had originally been collected from the Crato Formation in Brazil. Many interesting specimens had already been sold, but among those remaining was a rather nice little beetle (according to the seller) around 12.5mm long excluding appendages. Such items are popular with collectors (including plenty with more money than me), but this one had been broken in half and neatly glued. So, still complete, but less popular with collectors and hence more affordable. Result! I bought it…”

The Sam Wells Bug Page – Phloeodes diabolicus: “Ironclad beetles are the tanks of the insect world. They are famous (or infamous) for walking away after being stepped on. There are even reports of species being run over by cars without apparent harm. To an entomologist, they are notorious for the challenge of getting an insect pin through their thick skin (cuticle). What usually happens is the first attempt bends the pin. The second attempt bruises the thumb and forefinger to the bone. And then with a combination of anger and grit (and with two hands gripping the shaft) the pin is forced through the reinforced exoskeleton. With luck it has gone through straight and without popping the legs off on the other side. Very often it doesn’t – as verified by any number of oddly pinned specimens stuck to the bottom of unit trays in the museums of the world.”

Young Charles Darwin, Darwin Exhibition @ Gulbenkian

Young Darwin observes a beetle on his hand at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal

cicindela – Tetracha virginica: “This toothy specimen is Tetracha virginica, a fairly large species (16-25mm), widespread in the eastern United States. This species is a deep oily metallic green; largely active at night when it nimbly forages for prey and is often attracted to lights. During the day it can be found taking shelter under miscellaneous ground cover.”

And finally, for any biologists or naturalists out there who go in the field to collect beetles, take note. Here’s a list of naturalists (Wall of the Dead) who have lost their lives while investigating nature. Of particular interest:

Bečvář, Stanislav (1938-1997), Czech entomologist, shot dead, age 59, by soldiers in Laos while collecting beetles. Here’s a detailed account of the incident. His son of the same name, also an entomologist, was seriously wounded in the attack but survived and continues to do field work.

Brodsky, Otakar (19??- 1986), Czech coleopterist, died of a heart attack, age unknown, while collecting Cleridae beetles in a rainforest in Vietnam. He was reportedly seated under a tree with his collecting equipment in his hands, and his colleagues didn’t immediately realize he was dead.

And there you have it, the 13th edition of An Inordinate Fondness. The next edition of AIF will be hosted at Wandering Weeta some time mid-March. Send your submissions directly to the host there (email), or through the submission form.

Thoughts on Science Online 2011

This past weekend I attended the 5th annual Science Online conference in North Carolina (I have wanted to go for several years now but was unable, however this time I received some travel money, thanks to Bora & Anton!).

Somewhere over Texas

Somewhere over Texas on my way to North Carolina

[From the website: Read the posts and tweets, see the photos and watch the videos uploaded by our participants, hashtag #scio11]


Opening reception on Thursday night (Photo credit: Louis Shackleton)

Bora, the BlogFather

I certainly felt welcomed, Bora!

For this “unconference” about communicating science on the internet, I participating in a session on the history of science with Greg Gbur, Eric Michael Johnson, Holly Tucker, and Randi Hutter Epstein. Greg, a physicist who blogs at Skulls in the Stars (@drskyskull), discussed ways in which the history of science can help scientists in their own research, while Eric Michael Johnson, a history of science PhD (Primate Diaries in Exile, @ericmjohnson) gave a quick plea for bridging the sciences and humanities. Holly (Scientia Curiosa, Wonders and Marvels, @history_geek) and Randi (website, @rhutterepstein) both discussed, essentially, the idea of presentism in history of medicine as it related to each of their books, Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution (which all attendees received in their swagbag!) and Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. John McKay wanted to be part of this session, but was unable – he was there in spirit.

Listening to Darwin's Bulldog!!!

Me in the history of science session (Photo credit: Stacy Baker)

For my part, I discussed the creationist tactic of quote-mining Darwin, gave some examples, and called for science writers to be weary of using quotes – know thy source and know thy context in which the quotee was writing. Here are my slides:

I will put up another post with the tweets about the history of science session (future link) [EDIT: click here to see a messy Word document with those tweets]. Unfortunately, my laptop got sick and since I do not own a smartphone, I was unable to be online (kind of ironic given the nature of the conference).

The best part of this conference, first and foremost for me, was the opportunity to meet in person many people whose blogs I have read for several years, chatted with, shared information online, friends on Facebook, followers on Facebook, etc. Putting IRL personalities and faces to online personas and avatars is interesting, and it felt weird being recognized and approached by people whom I have never shared physical space with before. It was a pleasure to meet, in no particular order: Brian Switek, Carl Zimmer, David Dobbs, Ed Yong, Tom Levenson (again),  Hannah Waters, Krystal D’Costa, Stacy Baker and her biology students, Kevin Zelnio, Glendon Mellow, Louis Shackleton, Karen James (again), Miriam Goldstein, Jason Goldman, Minjae Ormes, Alice Bell, Carin Bondar, Carl Boettiger, Lucas Brouwers, John Hawks, Anne Jefferson, Blake Stacey, Sheril Kirshenbaum, David Orr, Joshua Rosenau, Janet Stemwedel, scicurious, Christie Wilcox, Jeremy Yoder, and Danielle Lee; and to meet some new faces: Lisa Gardiner, Kate Clancy, Holly Menninger, Brian Krueger, Brian Malow, Emily Willingham, Alexandra Levitt, and Stephanie Zvan.

Michael and SkySkull

With Skyskull (Photo credit: Greg Gbur/Skyskull)

Other sessions I attended were: Technology and the Wilderness (technology, i.e. smartphone apps, should be an accessory to nature experiences and education, not a replacement; #techwild, wiki); Still Waiting for a Superhero – Science Education Needs YOU! (an opportunity to hear from Stacy Baker’s biology students); Parenting with Science Online (Carin Bondar will have resources up on the wiki soon); Science-Art: The Burgeoning Fields of Niche Artwork Aimed at Scientific Disciplines (wiki); “But It’s Just a Blog!” (science blogging newbies get advice); Blogging on the Career Path (be upfront about your blogging activities when seeking employment); Keepers of the Bullshit Filter (tell people when they are wrong, publicly; use MediaBug to report errors in the media); Communicating Science: Have You Ever Wondered, “What the Hell’s the Point?” (Science Cheerleader Darlene Cavalier spreading some sciencey cheer); and Defending Science Online: Tactics and Conflicts in Science Communication (are online methods of correcting disinformation effective?).

Defending Science Online: Tactics and Conflicts in Science Communication

Looking on as Josh Rosenau discusses attacks on evolution education

Robert Krulwich, NPR science correspondent and co-host of Radio Lab was the keynote speaker, and he shared his experiences turning scientific topics into stories for the public (the key: use words/language not for scientists but for everyday people).

Robert Krulwich

Robert Krulwich (of NPR and Radio Lab) was the keynote speaker

All I can say is, he had the room’s attention. He also shared this video, which is astonishing:

Kevin Zelnio sings “Wayfaring Mollusk” during the open mic session:

And Christie Wilcox does her rendition off Meridith Brooks’ “Bitch,” “Extinction’s a Bitch” (lyrics/audio):

Christie singing about evolution

itʼs not easy to survive / but at least youʼre still alive / and thatʼs way more than a trilobite can say!

Some other pictures:

Restaurant at Marriott, fitting for Science Online

Restaurant at Marriott, fitting for Science Online

Science Online 2011 logo

Science Online 2011 logo

Brian Switek reads from Written in Stone

Brian Switek reads from his Written in Stone

Technology in the Wilderness session: Karen James

Technology in the Wilderness session: Karen James of The HMS Beagle Project

Miss Baker's biology class at Science Online 2011

Miss Baker's biology class

Parenting Science session: Eric Michael Johnson

Parenting Science session: Eric Michael Johnson

Science & Art session: David Orr, Glendon Mellow, and John Hawks

Science & Art session: David Orr, Glendon Mellow, and John Hawks

Lisa Gardiner enjoys a science cookie

Lisa Gardiner ( enjoys a science cookie

Science books

Science books

Science Cheerleader

Science Cheerleader

Science education

Science education

Defending Science Online session: Josh Rosenau of NCSE

Defending Science Online session: Josh Rosenau of NCSE

Science Online attendees on way to airport

Science Online attendees on way to airport

Miss Baker at the airport

Miss Baker at the airport (a highlight of Science Online was Stacy coming up to me in the hotel and saying she uses my blog in her biology class!)

Sunset from plane in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

Sunset from plane in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

And what about the tour of the Duke Lemur Center? I’ll share those photos in another post… [EDIT: Photos here]

The latest Giant’s Shoulders is out…

Via The Giant’s Shoulders (or as @beckyfh has asked, should it be ” Giants’ “? –

Morning Coffee Physics has found a new source of caffeine and on his bright shinny new revivified blog he has posted The Giants’ Shoulders #31. For a dose of the best history of science from the last month make yourself a mug of the finest Arabica sit back in your most comfortable chair and cruise through the intertubes with your host Morning Coffee Physics.

Host for The Giants’ Shoulders #32 is on 16th February is still to be announced, submission as usually by 15th February. If you wish to host GS contact Thony C at the Renaissance Mathematicus or Dr SkySkull at Skulls in the Stars.

Update by Dr. SkySkull: I’ll be hosting the 32nd edition, as I’m due again, but we still desperately need more.  We’re happy to have folks who have hosted before do so again, so please let us know.

I’m hosting the next An Inordinate Fondness

I’ll be hosting the next edition of the blog carnival An Inordinate Fondness, all about beetles. It will be a Darwin edition for February 2011 and any beetle posts looking at history of science connected to beetles or naturalists who worked on beetles are encouraged. Submit by commenting here, emailing me, or through the carnival’s webpage no later than February 17th!

The current installment is up at Bug Girl’s Blog

Science Online 2011

One week from now I’ll be in North Carolina for Science Online 2011. For the last couple of years I haven’t been able to go, so I am excited that now I can. I’ll be participating in a session about the history of science:

Making the history of science work for you

Michael Barton, Greg Gbur, Eric Michael Johnson, Randi Hutter Epstein & Holly Tucker (Presenter bios)

Most scientists know just enough history of science to share a story or two about the quirky characters and events that shaped their scientific field. However, history can do so much more for scientists to help them as bloggers, as researchers and even as citizens. In this session we will have a discussion of the ways in which using the history of science can help you connect to your readers, combat misinformation (such as quote-mining) on the web, and find common-ground between the sciences and humanities. (We’ll also share some of our favorite historical anecdotes along the way.)

I look forward to seeing some familiar faces, but first time to meet in real life…

Start 2011 off with some evolution, the Carnival of Evolution!

Here it is – to start off the new year – the 31st edition of the Carnival of Evolution! (CoE is on Twitter, @CarnyEvolution)

To start off this edition, let me remind you that, yes, evolution kicks ass!

Ode to Charles Darwin and The Original Tree of Life a Surly-Ramics Design

Two evolution-related topics have received much attention in December, not only for their interesting nature, but how the media has spun the conclusions of the research.

First, the arsenic-based life:

Pharyngula: It’s not an arsenic-based life form (oh, sorry!) & There are people meaner than I am; Homologous Legs: When life gives you arsenic, make arsenate-backboned DNA, non-alien Halomonadaceae!; The Loom: Of Arsenic and Aliens & What the critics said; Sandwalk: Arsenic and Bacteria; Byte Size Biology: A new life form? Not so fast; oh what the heck, just check out Bora’s post of links to lots more about this!

Second, some anthropology news:

The Loom: Meet the Denisovans, the newest members of the human tree of life, Denisovans: Ordinary humans with extraordinary genes? & Oldest Homo sapiens fossil? Journalistic vaporware; Laelaps: A Fistful of Teeth – Do the Qesem Cave Fossils Really Change Our Understanding of Human Evolution?; and Gene Expression: The paradigm is dead, long live the paradigm!

And now to the rest…


Kele’s Science Blog, The Mario Genome!: “While I am sort of familiar with the idea of genetic algorithms, and many are cooler than what this does, I think the Mario Genome easily illustrates what the idea is all about to someone with little prior knowledge.”

Smithsonian, The Top Ten Daily Consequences of Having Evolved: “all species inhabit bodies imperfect for the lives they live. Our own bodies are worse off than most simply because of the many differences between the wilderness in which we evolved and the modern world in which we live. We feel the consequences every day.”

john hawks weblog, The Denisova genome FAQ: “Today, a paper by David Reich and colleagues presents the nuclear genome of the Denisova pinky bone. This is the second “whole genome” of an apparently extinct population of Pleistocene humans. This genome is nearly as distinct from Neanderthals as the draft Neanderthal genome is from living people.”

National Center for Science Education, “Molecular Insights” videos on-line: “Featured are four exciting speakers whose research in molecular evolution is revolutionizing our understanding of familiar and compelling examples of evolution.”

Neurotic Physiology, Friday Weird Science: Female Orgasm, Evolutionary Byproduct? Or not?: “Evolutionary biologists have debated the “purpose” of the female orgasm for a good long while. They have debated WHAT the purpose is, to be sure, but even more so, they have debated whether there IS one. Is the female orgasm just an evolution byproduct?”

The Atavism, Sunday Spinelessness – The origin and extinction of species: “Extinction is a natural part of life, and the fate of all species eventually, but when it’s driven by human short-sightedness and robs us of not just a wonderful product of nature but a window through which we might have understood nature’s working it’s very hard to write about.” (this could go in the History section, too)

Anthropology in Practice, The Evolutionary Roots of Talking With Our Hands: “The role of gestures in communication has been on my mind recently because my goddaughter is just beginning to communicate beyond crying and laughing. She recently celebrated her first birthday, and she’s begun to speak her first words. It’s extremely exciting. I find it really interesting that she points with increasing frequency to emphasize her exclamations—Elmo isn’t just a word, he’s a recognizable part of her world, from the decorations that were a part of her birthday celebration to her stuffed muppet that laughs when shaken. Her gestures help her bridge a communication gap.”

Why Evolution Is True, “Reinforcement” and the origin of species: “Curiously, though, the “reinforcement” seen in the wild applies to gametic isolation but not sexual isolation.  While sexual isolation (mate discrimination) quickly became stronger in forcibly-coexisting lab populations, it’s no stronger in nature in areas where the species coexist than elsewhere.  It’s a mystery to us why both forms of isolation evolve so quickly in the lab but only one is seen in co-occurring populations in nature.”

archy, Blood of the mammoth: “Catastrophists love frozen woolly mammoths. It doesn’t matter what their preferred catastrophe is–Atlantis sinking, falling ice moons, the Noachian flood, abrupt changes of the Earth’s axis, or a near miss by a pinballing planet disguised as an ancient Near Eastern god–at some point, they will trot out the frozen mammoths as proof positive of their theory. Frozen mammoths have already been spotted milling around 2012. What is it about mammoths that make them so attractive to catastrophists?”

13.7 – Cosmos and Culture, Our Family Tree: Chimps, Bonobos And Our Commonality: “So here’s the six-million-dollar question: What was the human-chimp-bonobo MRCA like? A great ape for sure. But what about behavior? Was it Homo-like? Pan-like? And what do we mean by such distinctions?”

Quodlibeta, Island of the Hobbits: “My best guess – going on past performance – is that the culprit is a yet to be discovered species, Hamster Giganticus, which polished off the islands inhabitants in a violent feeding frenzy and died of starvation shortly afterwards. The evidence will arrive any day now, you’ll see.”

Greg Laden’s Blog, There are two species of African elephant: “Everyone knows that there are two kinds of elephants in this world: Asian and African… Once again, everything you know is wrong. But you knew that.”

Denim and Tweed, Under the mistletoe, coevolution is about s and m: “Plants and plant products, from sprigs of holly to pine boughs, have been traditional winter holiday decorations since before Christmas became Christmas. Nowadays, if we don’t resort to plastic imitations, we deck our halls with garlands from a nursery and a tree from a farm. But seasonal decorations have natural histories apart from mantelpieces and door frames—ecological roles and, yes, coevolutionary interactions with other species.”

Denim and Tweed, Coevolutionary constraints may divide Joshua trees: “Scientists love it when the real world validates our more theoretical predictions. It helps, of course, if those predictions are rooted in the real world to begin with. This is more or less what happened in my own research, with results reported in two just-published scientific papers.”

The Mermaid’s Tale, A new broom sweeps gene?: “The idea that strong directional or ‘positive’ selection favored a single gene grew out of the Mendelian thread, but nobody in quantitative genetics (such as agricultural breeders or many working in population genetics theory) and those who understood gene networks, should have known that most of the time, especially given the typical weakness of selection, selection would not just find and fix a single allele in a single gene.”

The Mermaid’s Tale, Should we cut Darwin out of parts of the human skin color story?: “But it’s difficult to go into the details and nuance of these issues about skin color variation and vitamin D while introducing evolution to students. For many of my students, this is the first time that they’ve learned about evolution in a scholarly setting and we perform activities to illustrate the differences between Lamarckian evolution and Darwinian selection. Of course we also discuss all the known evolutionary forces—mutation, gene flow, drift, and selection—not just selection.”

Why Evolution Is True, New genes arise quickly: “What role does the appearance of new genes, versus simple changes in old ones, play in evolution? There are two reasons why this question has recently become important… The first involves a scientific controversy…   The second controversy is religious.”

Wired Science (Brian Switek of Laelaps), 6 Strange Fossils That Enlightened Evolutionary Scientists: “Even so, Darwin brought the subject of evolution to the forefront of Victorian science. And with an eye toward evolution, his colleagues began to pick through the traces of ancient life for clues about how organisms changed. This is a gallery of some of the key fossil species that have both confounded and inspired scientists in their efforts to understand the history of life and, placed in context of what we know today, have confirmed Darwin’s vision of a branching tree of life produced by natural selection.”

360 Degree Skeptic, Insight into the Minds of Turtles and Dogs: “Because most animals behave in a way foreign to our own minds, we tend to overlook and belittle what is going on in their minds. So to speak. The following two studies got my primate brain thinking about the minds of other species.”

Dr. Carin Bondar, The Fish-Stache: A Whole New Level of Sexual Selection: “Sexual selection is alive and well in the animal kingdom… Case in point: males of the Mexical guppy Poecilia sphenops seem to get by just fine with a little peach-fuzz on the upper lip. Yes, you read that correctly. Researchers hypothesized that epidermal outgrowths on the upper maxilla of these male fish (aka fish-staches) may be a sexually selected characteristic.”

Lab Rat, Levels of evolution: “From a bacteriologists point of view this is a fascinating example of just how variable a single strain of bacterial species can be. From a medical viewpoint it’s more worrying. The ability of highly virulent bacteria to chop out large portions of their genome and pass them onto other, potentially non-virulent strains could help to spread not just antibiotic resistance, but also other tricks like biofilm formation and different enzymes which help the bacteria to cope with antibiotic challenges.”

Teenage Atheist, Unintelligent Design: Blind Cave Fish: “When discussing evolution with Creationists, I love to bring up the case of the Mexican Tetra, more commonly known as Blind Cave Fish. These fishy critters are wondrous emblems of the blind processes of evolution and prove to be conspicuous hollows in the Intelligent Design movement.” (this post could go in the Culture Wars section, too)

Pharyngula, The molecular foundation of the phylotypic stage: “Two recent papers in Nature have examined the real molecular information behind the phylotypic stage, and they’ve confirmed the molecular basis of the conservation.”

The Scientific Fundamentalist, Is This Why Teenage Girls Don’t Swoon for Middle-Aged Billionaires?: “The parent-offspring conflict theory of mate choice that Bram Buunk and his students have been advancing for the last several years questions the assumption of individual mate choice commonly used in evolutionary psychology. The pioneering work of David M. Buss and others since then all implicitly and explicitly assumes that men and women choose each other in mate selection according to the criteria that they consider important. Buunk and others question this assumption of individual autonomy in mate choice, and instead suggest that, both throughout human evolutionary history and in most traditional societies in the world today, parents may have exerted significant influence and control over their children’s mate choice.”

Pharyngula & Why Evolution Is True both discuss why “There’s plenty of time for evolution.”

NeuroDojo, The lonely places: Where could life exist, but doesn’t?: “While as a biologist, even microbes would be a spectacular finding, the question of whether habitats are vacant for complex, multicellular life is almost as interesting. And if Mars is ever found to support microbial life, why doesn’t it support macroscopic life?”

Pleiotropy, Pleiotropy is 100 years old: “This year, the term pleiotropy was defined 100 years ago, and Frank Stearns, graduate student at the University of Maryland biology graduate program has written a perspective in Genetics, which I highly recommend.”

Kele’s Science Blog, Of Lobsters, Sticklebacks, and Google Chrome: “The following is the last take-home essay for my developmental class. This essay is about the concept of modularity and how it is being used in biology today. It’s fairly basic stuff and if you are reading this blog, you probably know most of it already! I do hope you find the comparison to Google Chrome convincing though.”

Genome Engineering, Oh darling I love your bacteria: “Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) can be annoying in the summer when they cluster round the kitchen compost crock, but they are also a vital weapon in evolutionary and genetic research. Research published in PNAS has suggested that fruit fly evolution may be driven by something as simple as diet and bacteria.”

Greg Laden’s Blog and Pharyngula both look at whether it’s okay to use term “missing link”


Brian Switek (Laelaps) for Smithsonian, Guest Blog: Breaking our link to the “March of Progress”: “I hate the phrase ‘missing link’. It immediately sends up a red flag in my mind, and is almost always a sure indicator that the person employing it has only a very superficial understanding of the way evolution works. To understand why this is, however, we have to inspect the intellectual baggage that the phrase carries with it.” (I reviewed Switek’s first book, Written in Stone, here)

Evolving Thoughts, Darwin’s motivation: “For some time now I have been convinced that Darwin’s original and most pressing problem was not adaptation. It was the existence of taxonomic diversity.”

Whewell’s Ghost: [Review] Wiker “The Darwin Myth”: “But all of this serves as a mere 134 page prelude to real argument that Wiker wishes to make. Three chapters (“What to make of it all”, “Darwin and Hitler”, “Christianity and Evolution”) repeat a series of creationist canards. Natural selection is a tautology. Darwin lied to himself when he felt that morality and natural selection could co-exist. Darwin’s ideas led to, or supported, eugenics, Nazism, abortion, euthanasia, sex education and contraceptives for the poor, and pornography.  Indeed, Darwinism can be used to justify cannibalism.”

The Dispersal of Darwin, This is why history of science is important

History of geology, Island Life: “Even the first naturalists noted that islands display important peculiarities in the animals and plants found on them, but it was only with the formulation of Darwins and Wallaces theory that these phenomeas could be explained.”

History of geology, The greatest show on Earth: “But Darwin’s theory by killing many of the old monsters created a lot of new ones. It is interesting to note that the classic cryptid monsters in modern pop culture since the late 19th/ early 20th century are in fact such “missing links” as imagined by the layman. Cryptozoologists are searching, based on presumed sightings, for Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Orang-Pendek and other cryptids, all described as the classic ape-man creatures. Even if all these creatures lack physical evidence, the theory of evolution somehow provided to these animals a plausible background.”

Culture Wars

National Center for Science Education, Top Ten Evolution Stories of 2010

Sandwalk, Students vs Icons of Evolution: “Students have to read Icons of Evolution and write an essay analyzing the arguments in one of the chapters (their choice). They have no problem recognizing the flaws in the logic and the outright mistruths in that book. For typical university students with a rudimentary understanding of evolution it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The Discovery Institute sees it differently but they must live on another planet.”

World of Wonders, How Does Understanding Evolution Make Us Better Citizens?: “It is not so much our understanding of the fact of evolution that is so important to being an informed, responsible citizen. It is our understanding of how we know that evolution is a fact that is critical.” (want to understand evolution better, then check out Understanding Evolution, which just won a Science Prize for Online Resources in Education for 2010)

Dipping in the Toe, On Evolution: You are a Mutant: “The problem was there was a point that could have been made – perhaps a clarifying moment for some in the audience – to wipe away one of the very many misunderstandings surrounding evolution. Neither you, nor I, have ever (in the biological sense) evolved. You were born, you live, you die. And, genetically speaking, the essence of the physical “you”, your body, is a result of that one one event, when you were first conceived. What your body became was locked in at that moment. Yes, environment and other factors have their roles – some quite dramatic, but the genetic component is the core of it all. From birth to death, YOU do not evolve. But… when you were conceived and then born, there was something different about you. Something that does have to do with evolution. I’ll tell you what it is…”

National Center for Science Education, “Evolution and its rivals”: “‘Evolution and its rivals’ — a special issue of the philosophy journal Synthese focused on the creationism/evolution controversy — was just published.”

Skeptic, Top Ten Myths About Evolution: “This concise pamphlet provides answers to common objections to evolution, such as: If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans?; Only an intelligent designer could have made something as complex as an eye; The second law of thermo-dynamics proves that evolution is impossible; Evolution can’t account for morality; and more…”

The Panda’s Thumb, Chapman U. welcomes Evolution Education Research Center: “I’m particularly happy to see this because a few years ago, as readers will recall, the Chapman Law Review published a terrible creationist article. As an alumnus, I was so embarrassed to see the school’s name on such a piece of tripe that I responded with an article of my own. It’s nice to see Chapman step up for science!”

The Mermaid’s Tale, Encounters with Evolution… or… the Ark-etype of ignorance: “In the foreseeable future, it’ll be us Americans who are sitting around a meagre campfire gnawing raw meat (probably rat-meat, or maybe just McBurgers), while people in other countries, who value real education, will be dining on caviar…..and smiling patronizingly at our plight.”

Homologous Legs, The ID community isn’t Lönnig from their mistakes: “Once again, a touted “pro-ID, peer reviewed paper” hasn’t made a positive case for its favoured hypothesis. It’ll be interesting to see how much positive publicity this paper will get in the ID community, but it deserves no praise from the scientific one.”

Homologous Legs, BIO-Complexity’s opinion on intelligent design isn’t complex: “As you can see, all of the editorial board members (expect one) are either sympathetic to or supporters or proponents of intelligent design. The odd one out is Branko Kozulic, about whose ID viewpoint I could find very little. I doubt he’s a hardcore ID critic, however. So, make up your own mind: do you think BIO-Complexity is a journal with an editorial board that has “a wide range of views on the merit of ID”, or is it simply another place for ID proponents to submit “research” to uncritical peer review and pass it off as legitimate science?”


World of Wonders, Lamarck is Alive and Well Living in Language: “And yet, nearly three centuries after his birth, we describe evolution with language that more closely suggests Lamarck’s idea than Darwin’s. We write that ‘snakes modified their lungs—one lung has been slimmed and elongated and the other reduced to a functionless relic.'”

Charlie’s Playhouse, Winners of the Evolution & Art Contest!: “In this contest we asked kids to think of an animal alive today, imagine a bunch of them stranded in a different environment, and draw a picture of how the animal might evolve to fit its new environment after a long time. And boy, did the kids think, imagine, and draw!” (interviews with two of the winners, here and here; and my own son’s entry)

She Thought, My 5 year old just worked out evolution: “I don’t mean she’s intuited natural selection or anything like that, she’s 5 and not even I’m that deeply into Mummy pride.  And honesty compels me to admit that we’re just a little bit into ‘science activities’ around here so she probably has a head start on 99% of the population.  But I can track the way her understanding has developed and it’s fascinating to see.”

Richard Dawkins, “History of the Earth” in C Major:

The Flying Trilobite, Calvin Mellow: this is a wonderful, evolutionary welcome to a new life (congratulations, Glendon!)

Drawing Files, THIS JUST IN: Reviews!: “We are tantalizingly close to having a finished book! Here are the first two reviews of Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth. So far so good!” (the NCSE has a free preview)

Jon’s Blog, Best Birthday Gift: “Marvel Apes: The Evolution Starts Here”: “The best part this series of one-shots, IMHO, was a serial about the time that Charles Darwin pissed off the Ancient One (Earth’s now-deceased Sorcerer Supreme) and got mystically exiled to the Planet of the Marvel Apes for a couple weeks.  He immediately drew the attention of L-ook-i (God of Mischief), who proceeds to split Darwin into three forms (Human Darwin, Ape Darwin, and Future Human Darwin).  Eventually, Future Human Darwin uses super-science to transform Human Darwin into the Low Evolutionary and super-evolved hijinks happen.  I won’t spoil how things turn out, though I will gleefully reveal that at least one of these three Darwins survives the storyline and is traveling the cosmos and just begging to return to someday to comics.”

There were some fun evolution-themed images and cards for the holiday season: Need some holiday cards…, With Frosty in mind…, Tree, from xkcd, and Darwin Phylogenetic Christmas tree

Why Evolution Is True, Redundant parts: “We are bilaterally symmetrical, bipedal organisms descended from bilaterally symmetrical fishes. In some cases having two of something isuseful.  Our two eyes give us binocular vision, but we have two not because of that facility, but because our fishy ancestors had two eyes that enabled them to see, nonbinocularly, on both sides of their bodies.”

Babel’s Dawn, Riding A Two-Horse Shay: “David Sloan Wilson has an online essay, ‘Take the Evolution Challenge,’ calling for the extension of “evolutionary theory beyond the biological sciences to include all things human.” It is a radical proposition, perhaps overstated as a way of encouraging people to take the idea to its limit. I’m not sure what new insights the theory of evolution has to offer a history of, say, the crusades, but you never know. And I have to say that I have been amazed by how much I have clarified my understanding of language simply by taking an evolutionary approach to its origins. It turns out that evolutionary theory forces a series of questions that, at least in the study of language, pays off handsomely. So, despite my uncertainties, I want to endorse Wilson’s call. No study of anything human should ignore what evolutionary theory has to offer.”


Thus ends this New Year edition of the Carnival of Evolution. The next edition will be hosted by Jeremy Yoder at Denim and Tweed. Submit your posts on this page. Take note, also, that CoE is seeking help in creating another logo.

Happy New Year!