Evolution happens like a movie, with frames moving by both quickly and gradually, and we often can’t see the change while it’s occurring. Every time we find a fossil, it’s a snapshot back in time, often with thousands of frames missing in between, and we’re forced to reconstruct the whole film. Life is what happens in between the snapshots.
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.
Any of my Tumblr friends in town for SXSW this week? It seems like our hosts are throwing us a party tomorrow down on Rainey St. I’d love to say hi to any of you who are visiting my town. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Nothing is more American than apple pie, baseball, the Stars and Stripes…and beats, BBQ and brews, of course! For the second year in a row, we’re proud to be partnering with Tumblr for SXSW in Austin (last year was pretty awesome). This year, The Tumblr House will be taking over Clive Bar (just one of the many plates in our Rainey Street smorgasbord) for a daytime and nighttime full of good times and good music.
Come and join us for a daytime kickback on March 14 with headlining sets by Banks and Dum Dum Girls (with support from Lucius, Splashh and Cymbals) and a nighttime throwdown with headliners 7 Days of Funk (Snoop Dogg and Dâm-Funk) and support from Sza, Vic Mensa and MØ. The evening will include a very special secret performance that we guarantee you won’t want to miss.
RSVP now for this very special showcase ( RSVP does NOT guarantee entry). Once venue is at capacity we will not be allowed to admit people on the list. All badge holders 21+ are welcome. Early arrival is STRONGLY recommended. See you there!
All events are 21+
For more to come from FILTER at SXSW, keep your eyes locked here, as well as Music.Tumblr.com.
No new It’s Okay To Be Smart video today …
Thanks to the SXSW craziness, and the fact that I crashed the crap out of my car a few days ago (thanks to a blown tire - I’m fine, luckily) and had to do booooooring adult stuff like car shopping the past few days.
BUT … (there’s always a but) …
Tomorrow morning I’ll have a special interview up on my personal channel (which I am going to start using more) with none other than physicist Brian Greene! Stay tuned.
Guys, I DO NOT COLOR MY HAIR! This blonde is natural, yo.
Comments like these are how internet rumors get started and no one wants that to happen, unless that rumor is something like “He smells like a hug” or “I hear he went salmon fishing with grizzly bears” or "He once tamed a cheetah solely by playing soft melodies on a pan flute, after which he returned it to the wild simply by looking it in the eye, because they both just understood."
How do you measure a year?
One year ago today, I uploaded the very first episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart to a completely empty page on YouTube, which was a terrifying thing to do. One lonely thumbnail on a very big page begging people to hey, maybe please come and watch it please pretty please?
After that first video was uploaded, I probably went and graded papers for the freshman genetics class I was TA-ing at the time, or stayed late on campus to work on a chapter for my dissertation. I certainly didn’t think I had just made a thing I would be doing for a job a year later.
And here we are. I feel so fortunate. I get to spend my days inspiring a bit of love for science, fanning the flames of curiosity, writing stories and translating science into visual poetry … maybe teaching folks a thing or two along the way.
Long-time followers know that IOTBS had been around for a little over a year before that here on Tumblr, but along with The Brain Scoop (which launched a couple weeks before my show), turning a sciencey Tumblr into a YouTube series was an experiment in which no one knew quite what to expect. I’d say things are going pretty well :)
I know there are people out there who look at the world and worry that people don’t care about learning, or that we’d rather watch shows about bearded Southerners and twerking child stars than to engage our curiosity organs and become a little more at home in this universe by uncovering a few of its secrets.
But I don’t buy that. I know that people are as curious as they’ve ever been, perhaps even more than they’ve ever been, even if TV doesn’t always give them credit for that. There’s millions of people, whether they are scientists, chefs, or people who don’t know what they want to be yet, who just enjoy knowing a little bit more about the world today than they did yesterday. We are but a few keystrokes away from most of the world’s compiled knowledge, and people are strokin’ those keys with vigor, folks. It’s really a beautiful time to be alive.
Thank you to everyone who supported this Tumblr from the beginning. Thank you to PBS Digital Studios for being the best in the business to work with. Thank you to my bad-ass team here in Austin who make these videos come to life. Most of all, thank YOU … the people who have watched, shared, subscribed, and kept wondering “why?”
Ok, enough of this sappy stuff, just had to get the feels out. We’ve got a whole new year’s worth of stuff to learn about!
Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer …
Someone asked me why I looked so tired last week (it was probably the drooling that tipped them off). Another person noticed that I hadn’t been posting quite as much this past couple months.
It occurs to me that I’ve written almost 9,000 posts on this humble science blog. I’ve made 14 episodes of IOTBS for the YouTubes. Plus, ya know, life. I’ve been burning my candle at three ends.
So, what have I been up to? Why was I in need of some medical-grade relaxation?
- I graduated with my Ph.D. in May. Turns out those things are rather stressful. Now, I am a wizard, +2 pipetting ability, +3 knowledge of biochemical spells, vulnerabilty = needs coffee to do anything.
- Weeks before, I birthed, with no epidural, a 150-page self-torture device known as a “dissertation”.
- I received this amazing science writing fellowship from AAAS. So just two weeks after graduating, I put all my important belongings into two suitcases, kissed my wife and dogs goodbye (worst day evar), and took off to San Francisco for the summer/winter.
- For two months, I wrote for WIRED’s science page. You can read all my articles from the summer here. I’m most proud of this one.
- I made lots of new friends at the WIRED offices.
- Must explore ALL THE SAN FRANCISCO. My feet are still tired.
- Because I had to be away from Austin all summer, I filmed all the episodes of It’s Okay To Be Smart that you’ve seen since May in the course of two weeks. That was fun, but tiring.
- I got to hang with some fans of my YouTube show and blog at an Exploratorium meetup. Exploratorium is like Disneyland for science freaks like us. It was great to meet all of you.
- I went to VidCon and it changed my life. Meeting fans and getting to know the brilliant minds behind other science shows. I never knew it was possible to love what you do as much as I love what I do.
- I changed my Tumblr avatar. This was perhaps the most difficult thing of all. The SCIENTIST shirt shall return, in its own way. The shades live on in our hearts (and on my face, when it’s sunny).
- Instead of flying home after my summer/winter in San Francisco, I went to Washington D.C. to meet with some VIPs at PBS headquarters. I also filmed a few episodes, including this scene on a carousel, because I have no shame.
I’m glad to be home, and I’m glad to be rested. I’m so excited. I’m so energized. I’m chomping at the bit and ready to rock. Now, every day when I wake up, I get to spend my day exploring the world of amazing moments of science and touring through creations of intelligence, and then I get to share them with all of you. Who could ask for a better job?
Thanks to everyone who’s helped me stay sane, who’s tuned into my curiosity frequency and come on any part of this journey with me, from my first Tumblr post to my latest YouTube video.
Let’s go see what we can discover together.
Night on the Farm
We spent Saturday night at my brother-in-law’s family farm. It’s down there in one of those south Texas towns where they have trouble fielding a full eleven-man football team and there’s more wild hogs than people.
The air was thick with moisture and grasshoppers, and despite the heat, I didn’t mind the sweat as much. Maybe because shared misery is somehow less painful. We’re all equally humble with our bangs stuck to our foreheads. Or maybe it’s because I was in one of those chairs that rocks back and forth. Perhaps those remind us of our mothers cradling us to sleep, if our moms had cup holders in their arms the perfect size for a cold beer. It was one of those hot evenings where everyone’s just fine with not talking, somehow it just seems right.
It was a much-needed trip. I didn’t realize it until the past couple weeks, but I’ve been straining my sanity pretty hard these past couple months. For me, that sunset represented a decompression chamber that reached all the way to the horizon.
I made a video about how sunsets work. Don’t worry, it doesn’t remove any of the beauty to know where the colors come from.
I tried my hand at star photography for the first time, too. It was a spur of the moment decision, so I didn’t have time to fully plan the shots, and I need some practice mastering my camera settings when it comes to long-exposure stuff. But it’s not bad for a single shot. No layerin’ or nothin’. More to come when I can get out of Austin and back to the dark again.
So. Many. Stars.
I had an amazing first day at VidCon …
I got to meet so many of my fellow science YouTubers, who I guess are my colleagues now? That’s weird to say, since I’m such a huge fan of all of them.
I got to meet everyone from Hank and John Green to Vi Hart to Derek Muller to Michael Stevens to Emily Graslie and so many more. I’m honored to be a member of this club of creative and awesome people, if I can even call myself “in the club”.
If you’re around VidCon, don’t be afraid to say hi! I’ll be the guy alternating between “totally cool” and this: