Science & Nature Archive

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Upcoming Darwing Day Event in Wichita Falls

Darwin Day GraphicWhile reading the latest entry on The Loom, I found out that there's actually a holiday called Darwin Day. Following the link that Zimmer provided, I found that there's even an event going on right here in my own hometown of Wichita Falls. Whoda thunk it? I doubt I'll go, but it's nice to see things like that here in this part of Texas.

(Yeah, I stole that picture from Zimmer, but I figured that a caricature from the 1800's was probably in the public domain by now.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Knowledge for Knowledge's Sake

This is something I wrote the other day in the comments of a TerrapinTables thread. It's short, but I like it enough that I wanted to post it here on my own blog. It was in response to the following question posed in relation to studying dark matter (prompted by this article), "But tell me this: first, I mean, seriously, aside from knowledge for knowldege's sake, why do we need to know what comprises a galaxy cluster infinity-miles away?" Here is my reply:

First off - I think knowledge for knowledge's sake is a good enough reason to do research. In the same way that some people may find beauty in a painting, others can find beauty in a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our universe. If you're going to question why we need to know about a substance that composes 1/4 of the universe, I could just as easily ask why we have an entire profession dedicated to smearing paint on canvas, or another profession dedicated to plucking guitar strings and beating on drums. (Don't take me the wrong way - I'm not saying the arts aren't worthwhile; I'm saying that I think pure knowledge with no practical applications is just as important.)

But aside from that, who knows where knowledge will lead? Like in the 19th century, when physicists were trying to measure the ether that light travels in, could they have known that it would eventually lead to such practical applications as lasers, CDs and DVDs? Or the geologists of that era, did they really start off thinking that their theories would lead to the abandonment of a literal interpretation of the bible (at least in most of the developed world, not counting the U.S.)?

So there you go - one example of knowledge that led to practical technical applications, and another that had huge societal & cultural implications. I'm sure I could go on listing more, but you get the point.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Physical Comparison of Humans to Other Animals

Not too long ago, I made a blog entry, Request for Information - Physical Comparison of Humans to Animals I actually did receive some feedback in the form of e-mail, which inspired me to do more research. In the course of which, I found the paper, Differential scaling of locomotor performance in small and large terrestrial mammals, written by Jose (Pepe) Iriarte-Diaz, which was published in the JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY, 205 (18): 2897-2908 SEP 2002. Anyway, as part of his research into animal locomotion, he had compiled a large set of data of mammal max running speeds along with their body mass and length. This was exactly the type of thing I was looking for in order to characterize how humans compare to other animals.

Continue reading "Physical Comparison of Humans to Other Animals" »

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Request for Information- Physical Comparison of Humans to Animals

I'm throwing out a request for information for how humans fare physically in the animal kingdom. If anyone can supply me with links or recommend books on this topic, please do so in the comments. (I don't know how many people will even read this entry, but throwing it out there doesn't hurt.)

Here's where I'm coming from on this. I grew up as a kid who loved watching PBS, and then the Discovery Channel once we got cable. The types of animals that get all the attention are the fastest, the biggest, the strongest, etc.. And these animals are always compared to people, to try to put their skills into perspective. Growing up, I got the impression that humans were pathetic physically, and it was mainly our cleverness that allowed us to be so successful (along with our bipedalism and opposable thumbs). Now, my daughter watches The Most Extreme on Animal Planet, which seems to emphasize this even more.

Recently, there was an article in the 18 November 2004 issue of Nature, titled "Endurance running and the evolution of Homo." There is a very good summary and discussion of this article at the old Pharyngula site. Whether or not endurance running was a major driver of human evolution, I find it very interesting that humans are so good at long distance running, especially after all those years of documentaries telling me how pathetic of runners we are.

Hence, the request for information. Are there any places out there with comparisons similar to the above article, that show how humans fare in the animal kingdom, and not just compared to the biggest/fastest/strongest? If not, where would I go about finding this type of information, so that I could start making my own comparisons.


Selling Out