More on Brains vs Brawn in Human Evolution

After considering the failure of genetic analysis to confirm the trade-off of brain vs. brawn, I checked what the evidence is that the chimps are so much stronger than humans. The answer is: they are not. The difference in strength is on the order of 1.5 times greater for chimps, not 3 to 5 times.… Continue reading More on Brains vs Brawn in Human Evolution

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Brains vs Brawn in Evolution of Humans

I had an email discussion with fellow blogger Eilif Heyerdahl recently, and I speculated that we humans have traded muscular strength for brain power, based on the notion that chimpanzees are 3 to 5 times stronger than humans. This is by no means my original idea. Trade-offs are well known in evolution. But the literature on human evolution offers… Continue reading Brains vs Brawn in Evolution of Humans

Yes, Mass Shootings Are Caused by Guns

  An article by Max Fisher and Josh Keller appeared in the November 7 New York Times that explains convincingly why the US has so many mass shootings: A graphic at the top of the article points out that "The United States has 270 million guns and had 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012;… Continue reading Yes, Mass Shootings Are Caused by Guns

Yet Another Mass Shooting

The headlines about Las Vegas had barely subsided when we were assaulted by yet another mass shooting. Once again, Trump made sure to place his political spin on it, characterizing the killer as mentally disturbed without waiting for a police investigation. The man has no conception of his proper role in government. He is a… Continue reading Yet Another Mass Shooting

Visions and Insights in Biology: What the Pea Hen Sees

James Gorman of the New York Times has a great series of videos, called Science Take, and one of my favorites for showing students is this one, where a pea hen is equipped with a head-mounted video camera, so that scientists can figure out just what she is looking at. The lesson from this experiment… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: What the Pea Hen Sees

Visions and Insights in Biology: Forensic Paleontology

  The fossil record is a catalog of unexplained deaths, almost by definition. Of course part of the job of the paleontologist is to attempt to provide an explanation: climate change, competition from other species, giant asteroids colliding, the list of possible reasons is long, and the cases made range from modest to very persuasive.… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: Forensic Paleontology

Visions and Insights in Biology: Electrical Signaling and Counting in Plants

A colleague of mine, a plant physiologist and biochemist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was a professor at Cornell, a connoisseur of music and art, and an amateur violinist. The Cornell campus sits on a hill overlooking downtown Ithaca (New York). My colleague told a story many years ago about giving a ride back… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: Electrical Signaling and Counting in Plants

Visions and Insights in Biology: People Playing with Animals

People play with animals, and animals participate whole heartedly - think for example of playing fetch with a dog. This turns out to have deep evolutionary roots. One of my favorite clips to show students is this, where a little girl called Kayla plays with a baby gorilla at the zoo. Separated by a glass… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: People Playing with Animals

Buying Loyalty

I read in the Times that Trump is planning to give over $400,000 to his subordinates to help pay their legal fees in connection with the investigation of collusion with the Russians. How is this not prima facie evidence of obstruction of justice? If a subordinate accepts the money, is that not making an implicit promise not to… Continue reading Buying Loyalty

Visions and Insights in Biology: Stephen Colbert and Ötzi the Iceman

A number of years ago I took part in the development of an Introductory Biology course with several of my colleagues. Our concept was to create the materials for a course that any instructor could use, and pool resources, such as examination questions or the updating of lessons, so that all instructors could benefit from… Continue reading Visions and Insights in Biology: Stephen Colbert and Ötzi the Iceman