Monday, October 23, 2017

Evolution Misconception #7: Fossil Record Gaps Disprove Evolution

Here is the seventh in a continuing series of evolution misconceptions.  Evolution deniers often argue the gap in fossil records disproves evolution.  Not so.  It is true there are gaps in the fossil records.  Some of these gaps are the result of not yet finding transitional fossils (fossils that show traits of two ancestral groups), while others are the result of fossils that do not preserve well, making it very difficult to find these transitional fossils.  However, this does not disprove evolution.  There is still a great deal of information supporting evolution.  A gap in the fossil records does not change any of this evidence.  A gap provides no new explanation to explain the fossil evidence we do have.

Very common evolution diagram. Image Link

It is important to note that the gap in the fossil record is closing with new studies and new fossil evidence.  Transitional fossils are in fact not rare.  Here's a link to a great website discussing what we know about transitional fossils.

If you haven't, read the book "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin, an evolutionary biologist.  You can also find more information, including options to watch the "Your Inner Fish" documentary, here:

I watched this documentary with my 10 year old a couple of years ago and it was fantastic!  One of the episodes focuses on transitional fossils and explains they are quite common.  Yes, there are still gaps in the fossil records, but those gaps are quickly closing as more studies are done and more evidence is discovered.  

To conclude, no, the gap in the fossil records does NOT disprove evolution.

Friday, October 20, 2017

This Blog's History: Upcoming Solar Eclipse

In case you missed it last month, here's my post on upcoming solar eclipses.  If you live in the United States and missed the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017, there's another coming in 2024.  Click the link below to read my original post and see the map of future totality paths.

Upcoming Solar Eclipses

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Scotland - Glasgow

On our second to last full day in Scotland, we took the car ferry from Dunoon to the other side of the loch and drove into Glasgow.  After parking we walked around a bit and visited the Glasgow Cathedral.  I'm not religious, but I had to admit the architecture is quite amazing!

Glasgow Cathedral - Outside

Glasgow Cathedral - Inside

After visiting the cathedral, we walked around a bit more and then took off for a car ride around the loch back to Dunoon.  This was the long way around, but we had the time and wanted to check out Loch Lomond.  Very pretty!

Loch Lomond

After this we went back to our house in Dunoon, made dinner, packed up, and prepared for our trip back to the United States.  Glasgow wasn't our favorite.  It looks more modern and after 9 days visiting historic areas, Glasgow just seemed a bit of a let down.  I'm sure there are many fun things to see and do, but we just didn't see/do those things.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Unicorn Poop Slime

Over this past Labor Day weekend, while I was out of town in Iowa, my wife and kids took an afternoon and made Unicorn Poop Slime.  Google it and you will seriously find recipes for Unicorn Poop Slime.  Here's just one website describing how to make it.

Unicorn Poop Slime

Basically you need regular school style glue, borax, shaving cream (to make it fluffier), and food coloring to adjust the color as you like.  My wife tells me you can by the biggest box of borax imaginable for less than five dollars.  The slime recipe use one tablespoon of borax, so we have quite a bit of borax leftover in our house.  LOL!

Follow the recipe, of which there are many different varieties online, and soon you have slime!  We've had the slime for about 3 weeks now (at the time of this writing) and it hasn't dried out and the kids continue to play with it.  It drives my wife and I a bit mad at times because when they toss it around, tiny fragments will break off and inevitably our kids don't fully clean up there mess.  You can see our slime in the video below I made while testing the consistency.

Despite the headaches of cleaning up bits of slime our kids don't pick up, this is a cool science experiment that is easy for kids to complete on their own with just a bit of parental guidance.  Our kids have had many hours of fun playing with their slime too, so well worth the minimal effort it takes to make.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Scotland - Inveraray

On one of our last day's in Scotland we drove from Dunoon to Inveraray, a very scenic drive along a couple of lochs, and toured the town and Inveraray Castle.  I already wrote about Inveraray Castle a few days ago, so let me have this blog post focus on the town of Inveraray.  

Map of Inveraray, Scotland and surrounding area.

After visiting Inverary Castle we parked in Iveraray and walked around.  Inveraray is located at the end of Loch Fyne and offers some very scenic views.  We were there for several hours in total so it was very cool seeing the difference in the shoreline between high tide and low tide.  While in Inveraray we had lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants (from what I'm told since we only actually ate at one of them).  I had fish and chips, which I highly recommend if you ever visit Scotland.  If memory serves correct, I had fish and chips no fewer than four times in Scotland!  All were excellent!  

After walking around a bit and checking out the shops in Iveraray, we stopped at one of the several ice cream shops in the town for a tasty dessert.  Before leaving Iverarary we stopped at The Loch Fyne, a local seller of Loch Fyne Scotch whiskies.  We tasted a couple and purchased a bottle of whiskey.  Okay, fine, we purchased two bottles of Scotch whiskey.  LOL!  

Entrance to Loch Fyne Whiskies in Iveraray, Scotland.

Before heading back to Dunoon, we drove a bit along the loch shoreline, taking in the views.  All in all it was an excellent day.  If you're looking for a more laid back day while in Scotland, I recommend the Inveraray area.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Science for the People Podcast

One can never have too much science in their life, so let me suggest yet another excellent science themed podcast to add to what is probably an already too large podcast listening list.  :-)  The podcast I'm recommending today is titled "Science for the People" and does an excellent job discussing various science topics.

Science for the People Podcast

Science for the People Podcast

Science for the People is produced out of Canada and self-describes as:

"Science for the People is a syndicated radio show and podcast that broadcasts weekly across North America. We are a long-format interview show that explores the connections between science, popular culture, history, and public policy, to help listeners understand the evidence and arguments behind what's in the news and on the shelves. Every week, our hosts sit down with science researchers, writers, authors, journalists, and experts to discuss science from the past, the science that affects our lives today, and how science might change our future."

I've been listening for a couple of months and really enjoy this podcast!  Check it out if you are a science enthusiast or help the science enthusiast in your family become aware of this podcast.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

This Blog's History: The End of Cassini

The Cassini mission (to Saturn) ended on Friday, September 15, 2017, when Cassini was directed to plummet into Saturn's atmosphere.  A wonderful mission that provided a great deal of information to astronomers on Saturn, Saturn's moons, and their role in our Solar System.  In case you missed my original post on this, I bring it back to you for This Friday in This Blog's History.  Check out the link below for the original post from last month.

The End of Cassini

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins

I recently finished reading The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins.  In this book Dawkins address several science topics and goes into detail in how our ancestors several generations ago explained these phenomena and compares them to how we explain them today with a much greater level of scientific evidence.  A few topics discussed are Earth's tectonic plates, evolution, the age of the Universe, tsunamis, etc.

Book cover of The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins.

Although I already understood much of the science Dawkins discusses, I still found it to be a wonderfully written book that does a fantastic job explaining complex scientific concepts to a general audience.  I particularly enjoyed Dawkins' use of various religions to explain how our ancestors explained these scientific concepts.  What we know to be true today was not obvious several centuries ago.  Although it's easy to say today the Earth is round, picture yourself as someone living hundreds of years ago without the use of today's technology.  Determining the Earth is round is a much more difficult task!

This is a book I can see my kids reading in a few years and walking away with a general understanding of these scientific concepts.  Dawkins has written several books that go into great detail, but this book does a wonderful job explaining science to an audience that may not already have a background science.  If you, or someone you know, is a budding science enthusiast, this is a great birthday or holiday gift option!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Europa Clipper Mission

NASA has produced a large number of amazing missions exploring the solar system in the past several decades, and continues to produce a large number of amazing missions.  The mission currently on the books I find the most interesting is the Europa Clipper mission.  I've shared many times that water found elsewhere in our Solar System always brings up the question of life.  Water doesn't assure the existence of life, but it greatly increases the chances.  There are several moons in the Solar System in which there is much evidence supporting the existence of liquid water underneath the surface.  One such object is Europa, one of Jupiter's Galilean moons.

Image of Europa's surface, courtesy of APOD.

Now that is super cool!!!  Europa's surface has many cracks and different colored features.  This is due to Europa's ever changing surface.  Europa has a solid ice surface, but underneath is likely an ocean of liquid water heated by tidal interactions with Jupiter.  Where there's water, there's the possibility of life.

The Europa Clipper mission is still in the planning stages with a tentative launch date in the 2020's.  This most likely means the end of the 2020's if not into the next decade.  Complicated missions such as this have a tendency to experience many delays.  This is not a lander to touch down on the surface of Europa.  That would be super cool, but adds further complications.  Right now the plan is for the Europa Clipper to orbit Jupiter and do many close flybys of Europa for a more detailed look at the surface.  

Very cool!  Keep your fingers crossed for a launch near the end of the next decade, followed by a trip of a few years to Jupiter, followed by awesome pictures and more information on Europa!!!  For more information on this mission, visit NASA's Europa Clipper website that offers further details.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Clue Board Game

The other day my wife and I were talking about board games when the topic of the conversation turned to Clue.  I played Clue many, many times as a kid with my parents, but neither of us thought we owned it.  Looking in the closet, there it was, with the other board games.  Upon opening it, it had been played before, but neither of us have any recollection playing this with our kids or playing it at all!  I'm not even sure where it came from!!!

Classic Clue board game.

A few days later we introduced our kids to Clue.  After a refresher on the game rules and explaining the goal of the game, we set out to play.  Clue has quite a bit of strategy behind it and I look forward to future games with my kids.  If you just wait until you see all of the person, weapon, and room cards, before making an accusation, you are likely to lose.  You have to pay careful attention to which suggestions are made and by whom.  Often times you can cross off a suspect (person, weapon, or room) without seeing the actual card.  This allows you to make an official accusation a few turns earlier, increasing your chances of winning.

My oldest daughter came close to making an accusation.  I could tell she was only a turn or two away from knowing who did it, with what weapon, and in which room.  Unfortunately for her, I was ready before her and made the correct accusation.  I look forward to more games of Clue with my kids as it is a great game that is easy for kids to learn, but also includes quite a bit of strategy and critical thinking.  If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of games that involve strategy and critical thinking!