Dogs rule the world, from essential worker to best friend and now master of their domain

Dogs began their descent from wolves some 130,000 years ago when an enterprising pack discovered a new source of food and warmth ripe for exploitation.  Today, there is little doubt who is in charge in most households, as canines have transitioned from essential workers for hunters and farmers to loveable, furry, spoiled parasites, doted over… Continue reading Dogs rule the world, from essential worker to best friend and now master of their domain

The miracle of spring and the endless beauty of evolution

The natural world is reborn every spring as flowers bloom and animals return like clockwork, but beneath the surface each species’ unique evolutionary history gives this rebirth an endless, almost magical variety.  In New Jersey, there are some 2,100 varieties of plants alone, each similar and unique in how they respond to the coming of… Continue reading The miracle of spring and the endless beauty of evolution

Evolutionary biology and the beauty of confirming hypotheses with data and experiments

Two groundbreaking new studies provide important evidence for key theories about the evolution of humans and the interplay between viral RNA and our own cells, offering a glimpse of how science evaluates competing ideas and a potential window into the nature of all life on Earth. Last month, a groundbreaking new study in Proceedings of… Continue reading Evolutionary biology and the beauty of confirming hypotheses with data and experiments

Can creationism and evolution be combined into a coherent whole?

Christian philosophers are using the latest genealogical and genetic research into human ancestry to reconcile evolution with the traditional concept of Adam and Eve as described in the scripture, proposing that both ideas can be true at the same time, but combining science and philosophy is always a tricky business, even for an atheist. There… Continue reading Can creationism and evolution be combined into a coherent whole?

The entire “Tree of Life” is online after the idea was first proposed over 200 years ago, and it’s a humbling, interactive experience open to everyone

Meet the “Google Earth of Biology,” the OneZoom Explorer, recently launched by the Imperial College of London.  This interactive, online experience maps the connections between 2.2 million living species in a visual, searchable format, including over 85,000 images.  Yes, the Tree of Life is now online, fulfilling a quest of over two centuries, allowing you… Continue reading The entire “Tree of Life” is online after the idea was first proposed over 200 years ago, and it’s a humbling, interactive experience open to everyone

Decoding consciousness: What can dreams tell us about how our minds work while awake?

Everyone dreams, every night, entering a strange, semi-conscious state where we experience a world created by our own minds, but our judgement, language, and senses are impaired.  No one knows where dreams come from or why.  That doesn’t mean they can’t tell us a lot about the inner workings of the mind and consciousness itself.… Continue reading Decoding consciousness: What can dreams tell us about how our minds work while awake?

Decoding consciousness: What computers can and cannot tell us about our own minds

An engineering professor believes consciousness is not computable, as in it works fundamentally different from our current mathematics, but is that really the case?  Computers, in fact, have a lot to teach us about our own minds, just not in the way most people think.  Read on for a few musings on what makes us… Continue reading Decoding consciousness: What computers can and cannot tell us about our own minds

The evolution of consciousness, reimagined

What is consciousness?  Can consciousness have evolved, naturally, like the rest of our bodies?  Why are we conscious?  Would we be better off as unconscious zombies?  One thing I know for sure:  If we’d be better off as zombies, we’d be zombies.  It’s much, much cheaper to make us that way, and in the game… Continue reading The evolution of consciousness, reimagined

Scientists reconstruct a 3.3 billion year old protein and discover an all new biochemical pathway critical to life and hiding in plain sight

We’re just starting to understand how evolution takes advantage of much more than mutations in our DNA.  Everything evolves, from the biochemical pathways to the cellular structures that support them.  Further, some of these structures are incredibly ancient, shared by all life, and still working today. The human body is constructed from four basic building… Continue reading Scientists reconstruct a 3.3 billion year old protein and discover an all new biochemical pathway critical to life and hiding in plain sight

Scientists find the oldest fossil of a multicellular animal and solve a 350 year old puzzle in the growth of both animals and plants alike

Meet Bicellum brasieri, a tiny, spherical animal measuring barely a thousandth of an inch discovered in the highlands of Scotland.  Bicellum lived a billion years ago, yet remains a critical precursor for all animal life still to come, including ourselves.  Fast forward a billion years, and scientists have also discovered the rules that govern the… Continue reading Scientists find the oldest fossil of a multicellular animal and solve a 350 year old puzzle in the growth of both animals and plants alike