Daily Archives: December 5, 2007

Blood from Stones

Certain ceremonial objects from the Dogon and other cultures of West Africa are known for their dark patina. There is plenty of ethnological evidence that the thick coating on these wood sculptures, which are often in human or animal shapes, contains blood from animals sacrificed as part of the ceremonies. But the presence of blood had not been proved through chemical analysis.

Now, don’t get too excited yet … I’ve seen this a half dozen times before. The indicators of blood are everywhere in the environment. It is almost impossible to chemically test an artifact and not find evidence of blood on it (if you use the right test). So, let’s see what this new find, just reported in the New York Times, may turn out to be…. Continue reading Blood from Stones

Woman Wakes During Surgury, Gets 11 Large

A court on Wednesday awarded $11,000 to a woman who said she woke up during major abdominal surgery but was unable to tell doctors she was in terrible pain. … The 62-year-old retiree in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia had demanded more than $57,000 in compensation for mental and physical suffering during the October 2002 operation, public broadcaster ORF reported.

Then they spilled coffee on her… Ouch.

Philippe Starck: Why design?

Legendary designer Philippe Starck — with no pretty slides behind him — spends 18 minutes reaching for the very roots of the question “Why design?” Along the way he drops brilliant insights into the human condition; listen carefully for one perfectly crystallized mantra for all of us, genius or not. Yet all this deep thought, he cheerfully admits, is to aid in the design of a better toothbrush.


Interesting Commentary on Eugenics

Eugenics in History and the Bible

I’m getting sick of the constant shrill coming out of the Discovery Institute trying to link “Darwinism” with eugenics. The creationists love to claim that such an idea could never have existed before Darwin came up with the idea of natural selection, but that is patently false.All animals in the wild abandon unfit babies the moment they’re born, even those species without advanced degrees in biology….

Read the rest here at Primordial Blog.

The African Buffalo

i-1f5e45f094e922e9955cc2356ff60451-BuffaloFish.jpgThe African Buffalo is NOT a bison, and it is NOT a “water buffalo” (it is not even the same genus as water buffalo). But like these other beasts, it is a kind of cattle.The scientific name of the African Buffalo, or Cape Buffalo, is Syncerus caffir. Only the most cynical taxonomists would support the continued use of this term. “Caffer” is the same word as “Kaffir” which in modern usage has the same connotation as “Nigger.” The term “caffir” or “kaffir” has been dropped from other species names, but as far as I know, not yet from the Cape Buffalo. I don’t know why.This particular buffalo is standing tummy-deep in the mud at the base of a fairly large dam on a river in Kruger National Park, South Africa. You can obviously see that the dam (lake) is somewhat dried up. The disturbed surface of the water that you can see off to the right of the Cape Buffalo is caused by very large cat fish who are waiting for rain. Continue reading The African Buffalo

Research on The Origins of Maize (Corn)

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchCorn (maize) was domesticated in the earlier part of the Holocene in Mexico from a wild plant called teosinte. Subsequent to the discovery of this area of origin by MacNeish, a great deal of research has gone on to track the spread of maize across the New World, its diversification, its effects on Native American lifeways, and so on.How do you tell if corn was grown in a particular area? There are several possibilities, including looking for pollen in swamps and lakes or at archaeological sites, finding macro-fossils (don’t be fooled by the name .. macrofossils are tiny, like individual corn grains) or by examining phyotliths on sites, in cores, or stuck to cooking pots. Phytoliths are silica bodies that form in many plants and that typically have shapes that can be used to identify the plant to some level of taxonomic certainty (depending on the plant species and the state of research on phyotoliths for that species).This post reports on a new paper in PNAS on the problem of distinguishing between wild teosinte and domesticated corn in areas where the two may be expected to have overlapped. Continue reading Research on The Origins of Maize (Corn)

Species Comings and Goings

From Blogfish: Blue Crabs are Disappearing from Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay’s famous blue crabs — feisty crustaceans that are both a regional symbol and a multimillion-dollar catch — are hovering at historically low population levels, scientists say, as pollution, climate change and overfishing threaten the bay’s ultimate survivor.This fall, a committee of federal and state scientists found that the crab’s population was at its second-lowest level in the past 17 years, having fallen to about one-third the population of 1993. They forecast that the current crabbing season, which ends Dec. 15 in Maryland, will produce one of the lowest harvests since 1945. *

Continue reading Species Comings and Goings

New NGS Dino Project

i-e6a66018ca5c54ad7e2eb716b558f839-DinoDeathTrap_14017_020.jpgNational Geographic has a new project called Dino Death Trap. This is a movie due to be released on December 9th, straring the Junggar Basin of western China known as “The Pit of Death” is found.Don’t miss it.In the mean time, you can go here and there is a live web cam in Central Park showing people walking by. You click on a button and it makes a dinosaur roar from the bushes near the people, and they piss in their pants and run away because they are scared of the dinosaur. Really, not kidding. Go do it now before the cops find out and remove it.

New Journal on Evolution and Outreach

An intelligent new way to support the teaching of evolutionNew journal Evolution: Education and Outreach debuts on 28 November

The world-renowned evolutionary scientist Niles Eldredge and his son Greg Eldredge, a high school science teacher, believe it’s time to help science educators fight back against the strong pressure creationists exert on public education. So they joined forces with the scientific publisher Springer and, on Darwin’s birthday in February this year, announced plans to publish a new journal, Evolution: Education and Outreach. …

Details here, at WebWire