It’s Time to Evolve. Yes, You Too.

A few years ago, I was driving back exhausted from a rock climbing trip in the mountains. My buddy Bryan Fong, was bored and feeling a little punchy. When he gets like this, he tends to bring up politically sensitive topics and starts looking for buttons to press. In this case, he honed in on […]

An Arctic Encounter

Traveling in the north country, the open-skied Arctic of North America, you can’t help thinking of the first people and their journey across the Bering Land Bridge to this side of the world. They would have arrived in what is now Alaska and the adjoining Yukon Territory. The landscape has not changed much in the […]

The Long Now of the Tiburón Bighorn

In the spring of 2012, botanist and graduate student Benjamin Wilder was camping on Tiburón Island, a large island in the Gulf of California whose flora he has studied for most of a decade. Wilder wanted to find out more about the evolutionary history of the plants on Tiburón, so he was looking for fossil […]

Guest Post: Put Your Money Where Darwin’s Mouth Is

In the fourteen years that I’ve been teaching high school biology, I’ve been asked a lot of weird questions about evolution. But, until recently, I’ve not been asked whether Charles Darwin could make you rich. Is evolution good for business? In a recent debate, Bill Nye, the popular science educator, argued it is. Actually, Nye […]

This Is a Story About Dancing Monkeys. Really.

What do you do if you are trapped in a room with a chimpanzee, a macaque, and a sea lion? The answer, apparently, is pump the tunes and get the party started. This week at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (basically the US version of the Royal Society) scientists […]

You Don’t Know Squat

The argument began, like so many arguments do, at the dinner table. My husband and I had been away for the holidays, and a few nights on an unfamiliar mattress had thrown my back into paroxysms of pain. I found this fact troubling. How is that swapping one plush, spring-loaded mattress for another could cause […]

Holiday Review: Closed-System Sibling Knowledge

This post — a proposal which, like Erik’s, could solve a significant world problem if only anybody would listen — originally ran on March 12, 2012. A week or so ago, I commented on an Abstruse Goose cartoon about probabilities.  My brother-the-statistician commented on my comment, taking me apart – lovingly — for missing the […]

Dolphins: Largely Unexceptional

When John Lilly first suggested dolphins were super-intelligent, the context was clearer. The neurophysiologist was injecting his dolphins with LSD, masturbating them to encourage cooperation and hanging out with Timothy Leary. Before understanding that dolphins were conscious breathers, Lilly accidentally asphyxiated his subjects by fully anaesthetizing them for brain studies, but as they died they […]