The Loom

Archives for February, 2005

Building Gab: Part One

Earlier this month I wrote two posts about the evolution of the eye, a classic example of complexity in nature. (Parts one and two.) I’d like to write now about another case study in complexity that has fascinated me for some time now, and one that has sparked a fascinating debate that has been playing…

Return of the Prodigal Bones

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that the bones of Homo floresiensis, aka the Hobbits, have at last been returned to the team that originally discovered them. The team, made up of Indonesian and Australian scientists, discovered the bones on the Indonesian island of Flores. Last October they declared that they had found a new…

In my last post, I went back in time, from the well-adapted eyes we are born with, to the ancient photoreceptors used by microbes billions of years ago. Now I’m going to reverse direction, moving forward through time, from animals that had fully functioning eyes to their descendants, which today can’t see a thing. This…

(The first of a two-part post) The eye has always had a special place in the study of evolution, and Darwin had a lot to do with that. He believed that natural selection could produce the complexity of nature, and to a nineteenth century naturalist, nothing seemed as complex as an eye, with its lens,…

Over the next week or so, I’m going to post a couple two-part posts. I’ve gotten mildly obsessed with two big topics in evolution: eyes and language. There’s been so much fascinating work done on both subjects in the past year or so that a single post just won’t do for either of them. I…

Metaphor, Me-ta-phor!

Readers of the Loom may recall an earlier post about how creationists (including proponents of Intelligent Design) misleadingly cite peer-reviewed scientific research in order to make their own claims sound more persuasive. I mentioned that when the scientists themselves find out their research has been misrepresented, they groan and protest. In case you thought I…

Scientists studying people in minimally conscious states have published the results of brain scans showing that these people can retain a surprising amount of brain activity. The New York Times and MSNBC, among others, have written up accounts. I profiled these scientists for a 2003 article in the New York Times Magazine, when they were…

Gulp

Growing up as I did in the northeast, I always assumed that the really weird life forms lived somewhere else–the Amazonian rain forest, maybe, or the deep sea. But we’ve got at least one truly bizarre creature we can boast about: the star-nosed mole. Its star is actually 22 fleshy tendrils that extend from its…

Farewell, Ernst

Ernst Mayr has died.