The Loom

Archives for October, 2004

Intelligent Redesign

The good folks at Corante are rejiggering the design of their blogs, The Loom included. Some stuff has yet to make the transition as of this writing, but before too long it will all be back in place.

Island of the Lost Hominids

Get to know that little skull. Scientists are going to be talking about it for centuries. As researchers report in tomorrow’s issue of Nature, the skull–and along with other parts of a skeleton–turned up in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores. Several different dating methods gave the same result: the fossil is about…

Hacking Life

I’ve written a piece for Newsweek about how to program a cell. (The Newsweek International edition comes out this week; the US edition comes out next week.) I find the ongoing research exciting, but sometimes I wonder how much of its promise will become real. Programmable cells, for example, are an illustration of the exciting…

The God Gene Meme

Last month I blogged about my Scientific American review of Dean Hamer’s new book, The God Gene. I was not impressed. It’s not that I was dismissing the possibility that there might be genetic influences on religious behavior. I just think that the time for writing pop-sci books about the discovery of a "God gene"…

In The Papers

I have an article in tomorrow’s New York Times about the mystery of autumn leaves. Insect warning? Sunscreen? The debate rages. The one thing I was sad to see get cut for space was the statement by one of the scientists that the answer might be “all of the above.” This sort of multitasking is…

Genetic Ghosts of Hominids Past

Last week I blogged about the strange story of our past encoded in the DNA of lice. We carry two lineages of lice, one of which our Homo sapiens ancestors may have picked up in Asia from another hominid, Homo erectus. I always get a kick imagining human beings, having migrated out of Africa around…

The Missing Foe

Here’s the most important thing about The Ancestor’s Tale that I couldn’t fit in my review. I kept noticing how little Richard Dawkins mentioned the other celebrity evolutionary biologist of our time, Stephen Jay Gould. After all, Gould was a prominent character in many of Dawkins’s previous books, cast as the brilliant paleontologist misled by…

The Ancestor’s Tale Reviewed

The New York Times is running my review of Richard Dawkins’s new book The Ancestor’s Tale this weekend. I’m particularly grateful at times like these to have a blog, where I can add extra information and the occasional correction. Towards the start of the review I mention a remarkable tree of 3,000 species. You can…

Yesterday I blogged about how the National Park Service is selling a young-Earth creationist book about the Grand Canyon in its stores. Today the Washington Post wrote an article on the subject. It contains a response from the National Park Service, which I find pretty unbelievable. They claim that they are in fact reviewing the…

David Appell points to some depressing news about how our government deals with science. In August 2003, the Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent tried to block the sale of a book in National Park Service stores. The book claims that the Grand Canyon formed in Noah’s Flood. No vague ambiguity of the sort you hear…