In honor of today’s Boston Marathon, and in remembrance of last year’s, check out all the amazing evolutionary adaptations and biological wonders that let us run marathons: The Science of Marathons!
Perhaps there was no winner, as this was not a scored debate. Nevertheless by all, or a strong majority of, accounts, I bested him. The fundamental idea that I hope all of us embrace is, simply put, performance counts as much or more than the specifics of the arguments in a situation like this. I admit that, for me at least, it took tremendous concentration. I was and am respectful of Ken Ham’s passion. At a cognitive level, he believes what he says. He really means it, when he says that he has “a book” that supersedes everything you and I and his parishioners can observe everywhere in nature around us. I respected that commitment; I used it to drive, what actors call, my “inner monologue.” I did not choose, as I was advised, to attack, attack, attack. My actor’s preparation helped me keep things civil and be respectful of Mr. Ham despite what struck me as his thoughtless point of view. I’m sure it influenced the countless people who’ve written to me and come up to me in public to express their strong and often enthusiastic support. Thank you all.
What does a 375 million-year-old fish have to do with Sonic the Hedgehog?
I’ll give you a hint: It has to do with the evolution of thumbs! To know the rest, you’ll have to watch this week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart. Do it. Do it now.
Joining me this week is none other than Dr. Neil Shubin, discoverer of the famous Tiktaalik fossil. He’s got a three-part series called Your Inner Fish premiering this Wednesday at 10 PM Eastern on PBS. It’s basically just like this video, only with fewer Sega Genesis references and more Arctic paleontology expeditions.
I’m 100% not sorry for all the thumb puns this week :)
Ask Joe #3
This week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart features more soothing knowledge ointment for your burning sciencey questions. You’ll learn about vomit, if bananas and humans share DNA, what the heck “LUCA” means, why “c” is the speed limit of the universe, and what I think was the most important event in the history of life on Earth. Oh, and I share an inspirational message that I wish had made it on the Voyager Golden Record. Ah… if only.
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions! Have a question? You can always send them to me here on Tumblr, catch me on Twitter (use the hashtag #AskJoe), leave a comment on the video page, or that good ol’ email business: itsokaytobesmart at gmail.com.
And how about those banana puns? Right?!
This artist’s rendition* shows the scene inside the South Carolina state legislature, where creationist lawmakers recently blocked a bill put forward by an 8-year-old girl to make the wooly mammoth the official state fossil.
I bet you can’t guess why!
(it’s actually Charles R. Knight’s “Font du Gaume" but I want to bang my head against that cave wall after reading this story)
Apparently telling people they are distantly related to fish is not a popular thing to say?
That’s the impression I get from reading the comments on this week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart video, anyway. If you haven’t watched it, check it out. And if you have a strong forehead and feel like smacking hand, check out the comments (just wait 30 minutes after eating and be polite before jumping in). I knew it would get some anti-evolution reactions, but wow.
The funny thing is, as evolution goes, the video I made this week is pretty tame. I mean, I could come up with a LOT more controversial topics to talk about if that was my goal (which it isn’t… my goal is to inspire people to learn and help them connect to the beauty of the natural world around them).
While it certainly doesn’t make us happy to do it, I think it’s important that we regularly remind ourselves how many people out there still think that their beliefs, whatever they may be, mean that they aren’t allowed to make science part of their life.
There’s as many points along the line connecting science and spirituality as there are people on that line, and there’s views hitting every extreme in all directions. We may never all be able to find common ground on what we believe in in the spiritual sense, but there’s one thing I’m sure of when it comes to the science: There is magic in reality, and understanding the world we live in, and how we came to live in it, and all the science that informs that story, it can only enrich your life… no matter what you believe.
Also, we have fossils and stuff. So there.
If you were to flip through the photo album that is your evolutionary family tree, one ancestor after another, all the way back to your great-great-great-great-(etc.)-grandfish… where would the first human show up?
Guess what? There was no first human.
Wait, wut… did he just break evolution? Has Joe gone crazy? Did he fall on his head? Has his brain been taken over by mind-controlling parasites? Why is he saying these things?
Don’t worry. I’m fine, and so is evolution. The video explains everything :)
Hung out with some new fishy friends this morning: Meet Tiktaalik and Neil Shubin! I’m holding my 375 million-year-old great-great-(etc.)-fish-grandfather.
This is what almost four billion years of human evolution looks like when it’s condensed down to ten seconds, thanks to the fine folks behind the original Cosmos.
From self-replicating bags of chemistry to billions of bacteria to crude multicellular blobs to tiny swimming monsters to clumsily creeping fish to fuzzy proto-mammals to weird, naked, two-legged apes … every cosmic blink holds a beautiful story.
If you’d like to retrace your steps along the path of time that ends with you, I recommend this awesome Wikipedia page.