Pharyngula

At last! Here is the much delayed Carnival of Evolution 48!

I must begin by apologizing for my tardiness, especially since John Wilkins managed to post the last one on time. I was traveling in the 2½ weeks preceding the deadline for CoE, and the combination of spotty internet access, extreme jetlag (British Columbia to Germany to Iceland, where the sun hovered around the horizon all night long, just messed me up), and of course, the incredible distractions of exotic foreign lands, meant that I was disgracefully dilatory in putting it all together.

To reward your patience (or punish you all for allowing me to do this carnival), I thought I’d sprinkle the listing with some of my travel photos. Iceland is a lovely place; it’s also a strange place to consider evolution, in a land that’s only about 60 million years old and that is lacking in large animals (other than humans and their livestock), and mainly seems to be a place for rocks, lichens, mosses, fish, and small insects, as well as the busy bacteria…so in a sense it’s a place where we get back to the roots of evolution. Anyway, I’m just splattering the text with my photos; ignore them or get motivated to visit this gorgeous place.

On to the linkfest!

A placid lake

Bacteria

Wait a minute here…bacteria are where all the action is. I expected lots and lots of submissions about bacterial evolution, and this is all you give me? Come on, microbiologists, molecular biologists, and biochemists — give more next time.

Someday, it will fall

Plants

I’m a little disappointed here, too. As an evo-devo kind of fellow, I’m often castigated for neglecting the importance of botany in understanding evolution and development…and here again we see an important group underrepresented on the Carnival of Evolution. Get to work blogging, plant biologists!

A lovely little valley in a blasted landscape

Charismatic megafauna

Here we go. Animals are clearly very popular.

Humans

Why do we have more posts about people than about bacteria? Man, we’re a self-centered bunch.

A statue at the University of Iceland of a man smacking a devil/seal with a bible

Charismatic organs in charismatic megafauna

You know what’s really popular? The evolution of brains and penises.

Whale penises at the Phallological Museum in Reykjavik

Theory

Steaming pools of mud

History

It’s helpful to know where our ideas are coming from.

Erupting geyser

Simulations

The Blue Lagoon spa

Idiots

Here’s another popular category. Evolution is sociologically and politically contentious, even if it is scientifically rock-solid, so we have to spend a lot of time battling misconceptions and outright lies. Sometimes it’s aggravating, and sometimes it’s a source for hilarity.

Another waterfall. These things were everywhere!

A little bit of everything

At the foot of a very dirty glacier

I have to thank Hope, Einar, Þorsteinn, and Friða of Siðmennt for taking me about Iceland and instructing me on geology, and also thanks to Háskóli Íslands and Vantru for hosting me.

You can follow the Carnival of Evolution on Facebook, Twitter, or the CoE blog, and you can submit links to the next edition.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: There is currently no host scheduled for July or thereafter. Volunteer! It’s a good way to be compelled to carefully read a lot of excellent posts about evolution, so think of it as a learning experience.

A waterfall in Iceland

Comments

  1. #1 Bjørn Østman
    http://pleiotropy.fieldofscience.com
    June 6, 2012

    Thank you for hosting! I really need to go to Iceland…

  2. #2 HertfordshireChris
    United Kingdom
    June 6, 2012

    I ask because I submitted one entitled “An Evolutionary Model of the Brain’s Internal Language” (http://www.trapped-by-the-box.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/evolutionary-model-of-brains-internal.html) which does not appear in the current Carnival, and I wonder at what stage it had been weeded out, and why.

    The basic approach is to say that humans are little more (in terms of biological evolution) than animals with big brains, and to understand humans we need to start with a simple model of the information an animal will need to make simple decisions. It is then pointed out that a highly unconventional computer research language called CODIL used a similar structure – and that this research suggested that even a very simple recursive decision making model can be used to make very complex decisions. The approach also suggest a change in learning methods once learning from parent through language (rather than just copying actions) become an evolutionary advantage, and also suggests there may another step (perhaps when it comes to counting and arithmetic) where in effect, the “simple animal” brain model could actually be programmed to do things that it could never do by trial and error learning. Even if the model prove significantly incomplete, the gaps could suggest further factors to be considered in the evolution of the human brain.

    The blog was written to suggest that to understand how we got where we are we need to try and get a good overview of the evolutionary wood, rather than looking at the trees in ever greater detail. The blog does this by suggesting a possible pathway. I would be the first to agree that it does not answer all the questions, and that it has to be somewhat superficial, if it is to avoid being so long as to be unreadable. Even if I am totally wrong (and as a scientist I am always aware of the possibility) I would have thought it would be worth having a debate on whether we are making too many assumptions in assuming there is something exceptional about the human brain that cannot be explained by similar processed to the ones that created the giraffee’s neck or the elephant’s trunk.

  3. #3 HertfordshireChris
    United Kingdom
    June 6, 2012

    (correction to last post – why doesn’t the post facility have a preview button)

    How are the blogs mentioned on the Carnival of Evolution selected?

    I ask because I submitted one entitled “An Evolutionary Model of the Brain’s Internal Language” which does not appear in the current Carnival, and I wonder at what stage it had been weeded out, and why.

    The basic approach is to say that humans are little more (in terms of biological evolution) than animals with big brains, and to understand humans we need to start with a simple model of the information an animal will need to make simple decisions. It is then pointed out that a highly unconventional computer research language used a similar structure – and that this suggests that even a very simple recursive decision making model can in fact be used to make very complex decisions. It also suggest a change in learning methods once learning from parent through language (rather than just copying actions) become an evolutionary advantage, and also suggests there may another step (perhaps when it comes to counting and arithmetic) where in effect, the “simple animal” brain model could actually be programmed to do things that it could never do by trial and error learning.

    The blog was written to suggest that we need to try and get a good overview of the wood, rather than looking at the trees in ever greater detail, and it does this by suggesting a possible pathway. I would be the first to agree that it does not answer all the questions, and that it has to be somewhat superficial, if it is to avoid being so long as to be unreadable. Even if I am totally wrong (and as a scientist I am always aware of the possibility) I would have thought it would be worth having a debate on whether we are making too many assumptions in assuming there is something exceptional about the human brain that cannot be explained by similar processed to the ones that created the giraffee’s neck or the elephant’s trunk.

  4. #4 'Tis Himself
    June 6, 2012

    Does this thing work?

  5. #5 suzan
    http://hetkoolhydratendieet.net
    June 10, 2012

    Mother nature is very unique

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