Books, Science and technology

Darwin’s oeuvre

Coinciding with the AMNH exhibit I mentioned previously are two new books, each compiling Darwin’s four major works on evolution: Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Prior to these releases, the four works had never been published together.

The first edition, Darwin: The Indelible Stamp, is from Running Press and is edited by James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix structure. W. W. Norton follows with From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin’s Four Great Books, edited by E. O. Wilson, the famous Harvard scientist who popularized sociobiological theories.

[via the NYTimes]

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Art and museums, Science and technology

Darwin, at AMNH

American Museum of Natural HistoryThis November, the American Museum of Natural History opens a major new exhibit on the life and work of naturalist Charles Darwin, of whom some of you may have heard. In the museum’s own words…

This exhibition will explore the extraordinary life and discoveries of Charles Darwin, whose striking insights in the 19th century forever changed the perception of the origin of our own species as well as the myriad other species on this planet and launched modern biological science. Visitors of all ages will experience the wonders Darwin witnessed on his journey as a curious and adventurous young man aboard the HMS Beagle on its historic five-year voyage (1831–1836) to the Galapagos Islands and beyond.

The exhibition will feature live Galápagos tortoises and an iguana and horned frogs from South America, along with actual fossil specimens collected by Darwin and the magnifying glass he used to examine them. Darwin will feature an elaborate reconstruction of the naturalist’s study at Down House, where, as a revolutionary observer and experimenter, he proposed the scientific theory that all life evolves according to the mechanism called natural selection.

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Reading and writing, Science and technology

Seed Mag follow-up

Christopher Mims of the Seed staff was kind enough to post here, to reassure all three of my readers that the Seed Magazine site will be relaunched soon, and that it will be “fully the equal of the magazine.”

Good news.

I see from various blogs [links below] that the print edition of Seed has indeed relaunched, with advance copies going out to prominent science bloggers. The Seed Media Group site says the mag will be available worldwide on October 1, but I’m going to sneak down to the big Hudson News in GC after work to see whether it has arrived yet.

I’m pleased to see that its cover story, a Chris Mooney piece on the evolution/intelligent design “controversy,” is already sparking debate on LuboÅ¡ Motl’s blog, even before the magazine hits newsstands. That’s both the point and the value of Seed, in my opinion: to highlight the role of science in our governance and culture. To see such a vibrant discussion appear so soon is, to my eyes, delightful.

[Links: Luboš Motl; Clifford Johnson; Peter Woit; Chris Mooney and his The Republican War on Science.]

I’m eager to get the new Seed, but this is a busy period for me, and I don’t know how quickly I’ll actually read the thing. Here’s a list of things I’m working on right now, usually at lunch and on the train:

  • the book Evolution : The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory
  • daily reads of the Wall Street Journal
  • a self-taught review of algebra, trigonometry, and calculus
  • the book The Joy of Mixology : The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft
  • a reread of Tender Is the Night, which I’ve sort of stalled on, because I pretty much hate Dick and Nicole Diver and their social circle
  • Planning a wedding
  • Revamping my website (look, Todd, color!)

All this in addition to watching cool TV shows (My Name Is Earl, Everybody Hates Chris), cooking yummy dinners, and sleeping. I don’t know where I’m going to slot Seed in, but I’ll have to find some place for it.

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Science and technology

Oh my god

Americans are scientifically illiterate, reports the Times. For example:

One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

The CIA Factbook tells me that there are roughly 235 million Americans above the age of 14. I don’t know how many of those are adults, meaning 18 or older, but let’s say 90%.

That means 42.3 million Americans believe the Sun revolves around the Earth.

42.3 million.

That is astonishing.

[Links: Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much - New York Times; CIA -- The World Factbook -- United States]

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Science and technology

Deepak, on intelligent design

I always thought Deepak Chopra was a bullshit artist and a scammer, but his questions about evolution are delightfully stupid. Various commenters on the blog address his questions, as do a few science blogs (I’ll link to one below), but here’s my favorite among his questions:

7. What happens when simple molecules come into contact with life? Oxygen is a simple molecule in the atmosphere, but once it enters our lungs, it becomes part of the cellular machinery, and far from wandering about randomly, it precisely joins itself with other simple molecules, and together they perform cellular tasks, such as protein-building, whose precision is millions of times greater than anything else seen in nature. If the oxygen doesn’t change physically — and it doesn’t — what invisible change causes it to acquire intelligence the instant it contacts life?

Let me repeat this: If the oxygen doesn’t change physically — and it doesn’t — what invisible change causes it to acquire intelligence the instant it contacts life?

So, oxygen becomes smart as soon as we breathe it in? Really? I had no idea! So that must mean that when I drink beer, it becomes super-intelligent beer! Genius beer, even!

But wait. What happens to beer’s genius when I go take a piss?

[Link: Intelligent Design Without the Bible, via Kottke; Moonbat anti-evolutionist: Deepak Chopra]

Edited to turn on comments and to add that among the commenters on Deepak entry is Steven Colbert.

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