Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Anonymous asked
"Cosmos" is great and all that, but why no mention of PBS's "Your Inner Fish"?

Omg! I’m so woefully ignorant! Had no idea this existed. Thank you! I have some catching up to do.

http://www.pbs.org/your-inner-fish/watch/

s-c-i-guy:

The Cambrian Explosion
The Cambrian explosion, or Cambrian radiation, was the relatively rapid appearance, around 542 million years ago, of most major animal phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record. This was accompanied by major diversification of other organisms. Before about 580 million years ago, most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today. Ancestors of many of the present phyla appeared during this period, with the exception of Bryozoa, which made its earliest known appearance in the Lower Ordovician.
The Cambrian explosion has generated extensive scientific debate. The seemingly rapid appearance of fossils in the “Primordial Strata” was noted as early as the 1840s, and in 1859 Charles Darwin discussed it as one of the main objections that could be made against his theory of evolution by natural selection. The long-running puzzlement about the appearance of the Cambrian fauna, seemingly abruptly and from nowhere, centers on three key points: whether there really was a mass diversification of complex organisms over a relatively short period of time during the early Cambrian; what might have caused such rapid change; and what it would imply about the origin and evolution of animals. Interpretation is difficult due to a limited supply of evidence, based mainly on an incomplete fossil record and chemical signatures remaining in Cambrian rocks.
Phylogenetic analysis has supported the view that during the Cambrian radiation metazoa evolved monophyletically from a single common ancestor: flagellated colonial protists similar to modern choanoflagellates.
source

s-c-i-guy:

The Cambrian Explosion

The Cambrian explosion, or Cambrian radiation, was the relatively rapid appearance, around 542 million years ago, of most major animal phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record. This was accompanied by major diversification of other organisms. Before about 580 million years ago, most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today. Ancestors of many of the present phyla appeared during this period, with the exception of Bryozoa, which made its earliest known appearance in the Lower Ordovician.

The Cambrian explosion has generated extensive scientific debate. The seemingly rapid appearance of fossils in the “Primordial Strata” was noted as early as the 1840s, and in 1859 Charles Darwin discussed it as one of the main objections that could be made against his theory of evolution by natural selection. The long-running puzzlement about the appearance of the Cambrian fauna, seemingly abruptly and from nowhere, centers on three key points: whether there really was a mass diversification of complex organisms over a relatively short period of time during the early Cambrian; what might have caused such rapid change; and what it would imply about the origin and evolution of animals. Interpretation is difficult due to a limited supply of evidence, based mainly on an incomplete fossil record and chemical signatures remaining in Cambrian rocks.

Phylogenetic analysis has supported the view that during the Cambrian radiation metazoa evolved monophyletically from a single common ancestor: flagellated colonial protists similar to modern choanoflagellates.

source

jtotheizzoe:

explore-blog:

Rachel Sussman’s photographs of the oldest living things in the world – a masterpiece at the intersection of art, science, and philosophy.

With an artist’s gift for “aesthetic force” and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives, which seem like the blink of a cosmic eye against the timescales of these ancient organisms — organisms that have unflinchingly witnessed all of our own tragedies and triumphs, our wars and our revolutions, our holocausts and our renaissances, and have remained anchored to existence more firmly than we can ever hope to be.
Above all, however, the project raises questions that aren’t so much scientific or artistic as profoundly human: What is the meaning of human life if it comes and goes before a patch of moss has reached the end of infancy? How do our petty daily stresses measure up against a struggle for survival stretching back millennia? Who would we be if we relinquished our arrogant conviction that we are Earth’s biological crown jewel?

See more here.

I guarantee you that Rachel Sussman’s ten-year quest to chronicle the oldest living things on Earth will be the best thing you read about today. It will change the way you look at your life, and the life around you. It will change your perspective regarding your time on Earth, that everything, from fleeting mayflies to ancient mosses struggles for existence daily, and no matter how many sunrises we see, we should relish in each of them for their impermanence.
(Emphasis mine. Seriously… go to Brain Pickings and check out the rest. You can buy Sussman’s book here.)

jtotheizzoe:

explore-blog:

Rachel Sussman’s photographs of the oldest living things in the world – a masterpiece at the intersection of art, science, and philosophy.

With an artist’s gift for “aesthetic force” and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives, which seem like the blink of a cosmic eye against the timescales of these ancient organisms — organisms that have unflinchingly witnessed all of our own tragedies and triumphs, our wars and our revolutions, our holocausts and our renaissances, and have remained anchored to existence more firmly than we can ever hope to be.

Above all, however, the project raises questions that aren’t so much scientific or artistic as profoundly human: What is the meaning of human life if it comes and goes before a patch of moss has reached the end of infancy? How do our petty daily stresses measure up against a struggle for survival stretching back millennia? Who would we be if we relinquished our arrogant conviction that we are Earth’s biological crown jewel?

See more here.

I guarantee you that Rachel Sussman’s ten-year quest to chronicle the oldest living things on Earth will be the best thing you read about today. It will change the way you look at your life, and the life around you. It will change your perspective regarding your time on Earth, that everything, from fleeting mayflies to ancient mosses struggles for existence daily, and no matter how many sunrises we see, we should relish in each of them for their impermanence.

(Emphasis mine. Seriously… go to Brain Pickings and check out the rest. You can buy Sussman’s book here.)

Creatures of the deep: terrifying macro pictures of polychaetes or bristle worms

These tiny monsters may look like they are from another planet but they are in fact creatures from our deepest oceans.

More

sharkchunks:

jtotheizzoe:

One of my favorite GIFs of one of my favorite NASA visualizations to preview Monday’s It’s Okay To Be Smart and get you excited and all that jazz. Think you can guess what tomorrow’s vid is about?

Blue = sea saltGreen = organicsRed = dustWhite = sulfates

Check out the full NASA video below, featuring simulated global “stuff in the air” over a two year period on Earth. Ain’t Earth beautiful? (Even if, as in this case, it’s a 3 million processor-hour computer animation)


It looks so much like Jupiter in motion.

sharkchunks:

jtotheizzoe:

One of my favorite GIFs of one of my favorite NASA visualizations to preview Monday’s It’s Okay To Be Smart and get you excited and all that jazz. Think you can guess what tomorrow’s vid is about?

Blue = sea salt
Green = organics
Red = dust
White = sulfates

Check out the full NASA video below, featuring simulated global “stuff in the air” over a two year period on Earth. Ain’t Earth beautiful? (Even if, as in this case, it’s a 3 million processor-hour computer animation)

It looks so much like Jupiter in motion.

Vsauce, the master answerer of life’s toughest questions and professional blower of minds, tackles something so philosophical in his latest video that you’ll start to wonder what in the hell our purpose is on this Earth. And if it’s any different than a purpose of a rock. It starts with the discussion of art and then fakes and forgeries of art and what forgeries really mean and what it means to be original and eventually leads into a discussion on how we’re pretty much all just forgeries too. He ends by pointing out that you are quadrillionth cousins with water, rocks and the clothes you’re wearing.

Bill Nye’s Take on the Nye-Ham Debate

…I am by no means an expert on most of this. Unlike my beloved uncle, I am not a geologist. Unlike my academic colleague and acquaintance Richard Dawkins, I am not an evolutionary biologist. Unlike my old professor Carl Sagan or my fellow Planetary Society Board member and dear friend Neil deGrasse Tyson, I am not an expert on astrophysics. I am, however, a science educator. In this situation, our skeptical arguments are not the stuff of PhDs. It’s elementary science and common sense. That’s what I planned to rely on. That’s what gave me confidence…

…After the debate, my agent and I were driven back to our hotel. We were, by agreement, accompanied by two of Ham’s security people. They were absolutely grim. I admit it made me feel good. They had the countenance of a team that had been beaten—beaten badly in their own stadium. Incidentally, if the situation were reversed, I am pretty sure they are trained to feel bad about feeling good. They would manage to feel bad either way, which is consistent with Mr. Ham’s insistence on The Fall, when humankind took its first turn for the worse. And by his reckoning, we’ve been plummeting ever since….

tedx:

At TEDxYouth@Manchester, genetics researcher Dan Davis introduces the audience to compatibility genes — key players in our immune system’s functioning, and the reason why it’s so difficult to transplant organs from person to person: one’s compatibility genes must match another’s for a transplant to take.

To learn more about these fascinating genes, watch the whole talk here»

(Images from Davis’s talk, Drew Berry’s animations, and the TED-Ed lessons A needle in countless haystacks: Finding habitable worlds - Ariel Anbar and How we conquered the deadly smallpox virus - Simona Zompi)

The Real Darwin Fish

Why creationists hate Tiktaalik.

…If evolution is true, and if life on Earth originated in water, then there must have once been fish species possessing primitive limbs, which enabled them to spend some part of their lives on land. And these species, in turn, must be the ancestors of four-limbed, land-living vertebrates like us.

Sure enough, in 2004, scientists found one of those transitional species: Tiktaalik roseae, a 375-million-year-old Devonian period specimen discovered in the Canadian Arctic by paleontologist Neil Shubin and his colleagues. Tiktaalik, explains Shubin on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast, is an “anatomical mix between fish and a land-living animal.”

"It has a neck," says Shubin, a professor at the University of Chicago. "No fish has a neck. And you know what? When you look inside the fin, and you take off those fin rays, you find an upper arm bone, a forearm, and a wrist." Tiktaalik, Shubin has observed, was a fish capable of doing a push-up. It had both lungs and gills. In sum, it’s quite the transitional form…

skeptv:

Bill Nye Explains Magnetism and How Magnets Work

A fan wants an explanation of magnets and magnetism, but little did he know his Cosmic Query would be answered by none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy. Bill was our guest host for this episode, along with guest NASA astronaut Mike Massimino and comic co-host Eugene Mirman. Find out how Earth’s magnetic field arises and helps protect our atmosphere, and why Mars’ lack of magnetic field contributed to its loss of atmosphere. You’ll hear about MAVEN, Michael Faraday, Eugene’s plan to terraform other planets and… Insane Clown Posse?

via Star Talk Radio.


sagansense:

Earth’s upper atmosphere—below freezing, nearly without oxygen, flooded by UV radiation—is no place to live. But last winter, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that billions of bacteria actually thrive up there.

Expecting only a smattering of microorganisms, the researchers flew six miles above Earth’s surface in a NASA jet plane. There, they pumped outside air through a filter to collect particles.

Back on the ground, they tallied the organisms, and the count was staggering: 20 percent of what they had assumed to be just dust or other particles was alive. Earth, it seems, is surrounded by a bubble of bacteria.
Now what? Read the whole story over at PopSci…

sagansense:

Earth’s upper atmosphere—below freezing, nearly without oxygen, flooded by UV radiation—is no place to live. But last winter, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that billions of bacteria actually thrive up there.

image

Expecting only a smattering of microorganisms, the researchers flew six miles above Earth’s surface in a NASA jet plane. There, they pumped outside air through a filter to collect particles.

image

Back on the ground, they tallied the organisms, and the count was staggering: 20 percent of what they had assumed to be just dust or other particles was alive. Earth, it seems, is surrounded by a bubble of bacteria.

imageNow what? Read the whole story over at PopSci

You can’t disprove an unprovable hypothesis…but you can render it so preposterously unlikely that anyone who still takes it seriously has a serious problem.

Lawrence Krauss and Daniel Dennett respond to the question: Has science disproved the existence of God (a creator, god/gods)?” from Het Denkgelag’s ‘The Limits of Science conversation.

Daniel Dennett is a philosopher, cognitive scientist, and writer, who recently published a book entitled Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.” An example of this man’s insight can be witnessed in the big think interview Crazy Wisdom: Daniel Dennett on Reductio ad Absurdum.

Professor Lawrence Krauss is a theoretical physicist, Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, as well as Inaugural Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His latest book is A Universe From Nothing; however, he has authored many notable books on physics and cosmology. Enjoy his presentation for The School of Life ‘Sunday Sermons’ on “Cosmic Connections. and keep up with his cinematic duet of rational proportions in The Unbelievers to which he road-tripped with fellow colleague and vocal atheist, Richard Dawkins to discuss science literacy, reality, and the importance of submitting all views - religious or otherwise - to question and meticulous scrutiny.

(via sagansense)

biomedicalephemera:

Ankylosing spondylitis in the wrists, forearms, and spinal column

Note the fused wrist bones in the arms, and the abnormal protuberances, fusions, and cavities in the spine.

Ankylosing spondylitis (also known as Bechterew’s disease) is an inflammatory spondyloarthropathy (arthritis affecting the spinal column), and its name comes from the Greek “ankylos-”, meaning “crooked”. Spondylitis can be broken down into “spondyl-” and “-itis”, which mean “spine” and “inflammation”, respectively.

Simply put, it’s a fusion of the joints in the axial skeleton (the spinal column, ribcage, and cervical collar), but there’s little else that’s simple about this condition. While it’s known to have a strong genetic predisposition and heritability, the exact triggers that begin the process of syndesmophytosis (literally "the process of abnormal binding together") which fuse bones together is not known.

While many of the genetic and immune factors in AS similar to those in rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylopathy has been differentiated from other RA conditions as early as the second century CE, by Galen. Because of its effect on the spinal column, AS has long been known as "bamboo spine".

Unfortunately, despite many treatments and therapies being available to counteract the effects of this autoimmune condition on the bones and organs, there is no cure.

Observations on the hip joint: to which are added … other similar complaints. Edward Ford, 1810.