As you know, the name of the original and best carnival o’ science comes from Charles Darwin’s opus. What you may not know is that the great work in which he first presented that analogy was not meant to stand alone. Charles Darwin had two qualities that made him a great and a frustrating scientist. He was fastidious, and the On the Origin of Species demonstrates the importance he placed on gathering all the evidence. This is part (but only part) of the reason it took decades between his conception of the intellectual core of that book and when he actually published it.

The Origin was not meant to be the final word on the subject, and until his death, Darwin was working away at his “Big Species Book,” the book to which The Origin (at 400 pages) was merely the abstract. Fastidiousness and procrastination are undoubtedly the bane of many the scientist, and Darwin was no exception.

Which is all by way of explaining that the Tangled Bank was not scheduled to be hosted at Thoughts from Kansas this week, and I regret not being more fastidious about the presentation. In order to keep procrastination at bay, we have to move fast, otherwise the next host will play Russell to my Darwin, or vice versa.

Speaking of Chuckie D, the Invasive Species Weblog has unearthed some of Darwin’s own thoughts on the invasive species clogging up many a tangled bank.

Walking the Berkshires reveals a different sort of invasion, the invasive idea that invasive species are the second leading cause of species extinction. What that means and how we’d measure that turn out to be less obvious than it might seem.

Sometimes, a microbe invades the brain and changes the way we think. Tara at Aetiology reviews a couple of recent examples of viruses that may affect memory.

Viruses are far from the only ways to affect memories. Invasive ideas are what teaching is all about after all. Discovering Biology in a Digital World reviews some strategies for teaching science scientifically.

Untangling the complex patterns we see in the world is a persistent problem in science, and we don’t always do well at it. Consider the Runes of Runamo, which Salto sobrius tells us were thought to be ancient Swedish runes, until geologists realized that the “runes” were just cracks in a crystalline formation.

On a related note, Avant News sends us a story about a message in a bottle virus. Paralinguistic decoders, a bit too much good German beer, and a divine command “Go forth, noble virus, and multiply. You are the chosen one.”

Cat Dynamics brings us Christo in Space, a look at what products of our civilization future explorers might recognize.

The Mouse Trap talks about how we recognize color, and shows how the language we use to describe color tells us something about how our eyes recognize it. Fans of Zork will appreciate an appearance by the Grue.

The brain doesn’t always work the way we’d like it to, as the Wandering Visitor reminds us in a discussion of tunnel vision.

Sometimes our brains surprise us, as with this tale of a polite question posed to a sleeping elephant, and its impolite response.

Mark Rayner of The Skwib shows us how Big Brother is watching your crotch, hoping to keep track of what’s going on in your brain.

Taking a different look at communications and nerves, The Voltage Gate asks whether the signals between nerves in our brains are really so different from communication between our bacterial ancestors.

Social intelligence isn’t just for cells, and if you thought the title of 10,000 Birds was just figurative, check out Mike’s take on fallout fun. Never fear, it isn’t a nuclear holocaust, just “a mass of birds, exceptional in both number and diversity, that descends on a given locale as a result of meteorological or seasonal forces.”

Can molecules retain an intelligent memory of what had been dissolved in them? Homeopaths say yes, but Scientia Natura explains the fraud of homeopathy.

There are other good things we can put in our bodies, which Lab Cat’s discussion of preserved meat helps us appreciate. Yes, Lab Cat is a vegetarian, but even the finest of meat-a-sauruses will learn something about the ways we can keep our tasty food edible even longer.

However, Ruth of Eating Fabulous points out that Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Does NOT Work. Clearly we should all just make ourselves into jerky.

Ouroboros takes a different view of aging, looking at how ideas in the study of aging have aged.

Fight Aging tells us how to fight aging by fighting AGE, advanced glycation endproducts.

Speaking of endproducts, Dr. Aleksandr Kavokin tells us a tale, a tale of yellow poo. It ends with a promise “Next time let?s look for other types of stools: Black, green, red, floating, greasy, blood-tingled, bright-red blood stained, foul-smelling and so on.”

That isn’t the only thing coming out of some anuses. Science Made Cool tells us about pearlfish, parasitic fish that live in sea cucumbers, venturing out of the anus at night to forage.

On a perhaps related note, Orac discusses Dr. Eric Poehlman, who faces Jail for scientific misconduct. Poehlman faked data and used that data to obtain grants and prominence, until a colleague had the courage to stand up to him.

At Biocurious, André tells us about hybrid TIRF/AFM imaging, which allows him to manipulate a cell while watching it at a resolution of an electron microscope.

PZ Myers from Pharyngula shows what we can learn by dissecting embryos from half a billion years ago. These are the youngest remains of some of the oldest animals.

Scott Bird describes his own interesting experiment with biphasic sleep ? a nap in the evening followed by a full night’s sleep.

Genetics and Health brings us an interview with Rebecca Taylor, a proudly Catholic molecular scientist. The intersection of science, bioethics, and religion produces a lot of food for thought.

The Biotech Weblog tells us about some of the best places to work in the molecular biosciences. No word on the best places to work in the Catholic molecular biosciences.

Daniel Collins tells us about Hydraulic redistribution, the ways that flows of water in and out of plant roots can tie together plant communities.

I’ll close with a couple of stories about the surprising things that bacteria can do. First, Bora from A Blog Around the Clock tells us about magnetotactic bacteria, bacteria that use the Earth’s magnetic fields to orient themselves.

Finally, my post on Radiation for Food, a community of bacteria which live entirely on energy produced by radiation deep underground.


  1. #1 Kristjan Wager
    October 27, 2006

    Josh, thank you for putting this post up with such a short notice.

    There are some rather interesting posts there.

  2. #2 coturnix
    October 27, 2006

    Thank you for putting this together on such a short notice. Tangled Bank rocks. Every time, there are a couple of new blogs to discover and a few old friends to reconnect to.

  3. #3 Hsien Lei
    October 27, 2006

    Thank you for hosting at the last minute!! You’re a star. :)

  4. #4 merle
    October 29, 2006

    one thing liberals atheists and proevolutionists always forget was darwins deathbed salvation. he accepted jesus as his lord and savior and renounced his satanistic views about us coming from monkeys

    even when he was working he knew his theory was bunk because he couldnt believe that something like an eye could evolve from nothing. but go ahead and cherry pick the facts boys and girls. dont let anything like facts get in the way of your atheism.

  5. #5 Albatrossity
    October 29, 2006


    Even though the theory of evolution will neither fall or be vindicated by the events occurring during one man’s death 124 years ago, you have let your religion blind you to the facts. According to both this CHRISTIAN website, and this secular one, your facts are wrong. As well as irrelevant in this thread.

  6. #6 Josh
    October 29, 2006

    Merle, that story about Darwin is false and irrelevant. Even if he did recant, it wouldn’t change the empirical evidence that evolutionary biologists, theist or atheist, base their scientific beliefs upon.

    As you would know if you read Darwin before mouthing off, Darwin’s comments on evolution began with an expression of skepticism (“To suppose that the eye … could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree”), but they didn’t end there. Sure, Darwin wrote, it might seem absurd, but he continued:

    Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real

    This isn’t about atheism or theism, it’s about the empirical evidence. The transitional forms that would lead from a light-sensitive patch to an eye all exist in the real world. Evolution happens.

    By the way, the great big keys on the keyboard right next to the ‘z’ key and the ‘/’ key let you type capital letters. Hope that helps.

  7. #7 merle
    October 29, 2006

    josh, the big problem as i see it is that you cherry pick the stuff you want to believe and get rid of the rest. you claim you have the evidence on your side but ignore the testimony of thousands of scientists who think evolution has problems or is outright bunk. it comes down to who you want to belive.

    i go towards the folks who find beauty and truth in creation. men like dr. gish who has been proving the case for creation before you were born. ive been to his center and museum and i think it would make even a skeptical like you come around to seeing the light. men like dr. gish have no real agenda just looking for the truth in an honest way. guys like dawkins are demigoges who want to make it illegal to teach our children religion. he said so himself. i watched that gasbag pen teller say similar things. you chose to believe men like teller and dawkins while ignorig the work of scientists you dontl ike dr. gish. the facts are all their. girafes couldnt have evolved long necks like they did because of their hearts. stuff like the grand canyon didnt happen over millions years- noahs flood explains it all yet no one wants to listen. evolution has so many holes in it it requires more faith to believe it than creation.

    anyway i wont waste anymore breath on this because i think their are probably people out their who are eager to here the truth that they didnt come from monkeys.

  8. #8 clarke
    October 29, 2006

    I’m on to you, “Merle.”

    “Merle.” Right. Next thing you know he’ll be touting Bushonomics as “Chet Pippington III” or something.

  9. #9 Josh
    October 30, 2006

    Merle, science isn’t about who I “believe,” it’s about what the evidence shows. And the evidence shows that life does evolve. Giraffe necks could and did evolve. Not because Duane Gish says anything one way or another, but because we have fossil and developmental evidence showing how the neck elongated.

    Science isn’t settled by “testimony,” it’s settled by evidence.

    I find tremendous beauty in the natural world, that’s why I’m a professional biologist. And the evidence of that world shows that there was not a global flood, that the earth is more than 6,000 years old, and that life has evolved and does still.

  10. #10 Dave S.
    October 30, 2006

    I find it hard to take you seriously merle. Even the most die-hard creationists out there don’t use the arguments you use, which have been long discredited. I think you might be pulling our chain here.

    As pointed out, science isn’t about whom you choose to believe. It’s about the evidence. It’s about making empirical predictions and testing those predictions to determine the best positive model (theory). I would explain in detail, but I suspect it’d be a waste of my time.

  11. #11 Dr m.Wainwright
    November 21, 2008

    Those who contribute to this blog seem to take for granted that Darwin(or Wallace) originated the theory of natural selection.and that every other idea in “On the Origin of Species” is novel to Darwin They may wish however, to read my latest research entitled “It’s Not Darwin’s or Wallace’s Theory” which can be found by searching
    “wainwrightscience ” on Google

    Best Wishes, Dr Milton Wainwright,Dept Molecular Biology and Biotechnology,University of Sheffield,UK.

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