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The Panda's Thumb is the virtual pub of the University of Ediacara. The patrons gather to discuss evolutionary theory, critique the claims of the antievolution movement, defend the integrity of both science and science education, and share good conversation. Movable Type Pro 4.381
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Origin-of-life puzzle cracked?

Wed, 2015-03-25 21:36
A pair of recent articles on the Science website seems to think so. Staff writer Robert Service says Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum and writes, Chemists report today that a pair of simple compounds [HCN and H2S], which would have been abundant on early Earth, can give rise to a network of simple reactions that produce the three major classes of biomolecules—nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids—needed for the earliest form of life to... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Ice stalagmite

Wed, 2015-03-25 21:36
Photograph by James Rice. While we are still thinking of icicles, here is another ice stalagmite that James Rice sent us. We showed his picture of a natural ice stalagmite here, as well as another anthropogenic ice stalagmite here.... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Pi Day

Sat, 2015-03-21 01:48
Today is Pi Day, and the time will be exactly pi at 3/14/15 9:26:53, or a little thereafter. We will not see another Pi Day till 2115, but I am sure that someone next year will point out that pi = 3.1416 within a thousandth of 1 percent or so. Won’t be the same, though!... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

SISRS: A new way to analyze genomic data

Sat, 2015-03-21 01:48
Remember the two studies published at the end of last year that produced groundbreaking evolutionary trees of birds and insects? The researchers in these studies used data from whole sequenced genomes to construct these more reliable trees. This is a practice that is somewhat novel but gaining importance in phylogenomics. But we’ve talked about how large data sets, like genomes, can lead to incorrect conclusions if analyzed improperly. How did the researchers avoid this problem?... Emily Thompson http://cartwrig.ht/people/
Categories: Pro-Science News

Teachers first, scientists second

Sat, 2015-03-21 01:48
That is one of the disquieting results of a new survey, Enablers of doubt, by Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer. The two Penn State professors interviewed a total of 35 students on 4 Pennsylvania campuses in 2013. All the students were training to be biology teachers; many were not comfortable with the theory of evolution, and many were “concerned about their ability to navigate controversy initiated by a student, parent, administrator, or other members of... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Anybody remember Prof. Steve Steve and the Ig Nobels?

Sat, 2015-03-21 01:48
In 2005, Prof. Steve Steve visited Harvard for the Ig Nobels. We have had a request to use one of the pictures taken on his trip. If you are the photographer, please get it contact with us.... Reed A. Cartwright http://dererumnatura.us/
Categories: Pro-Science News

Icicle ripples

Sat, 2015-03-21 01:48
An Icicle showing ripples due to impurities in the water. How the impurities cause the ripples is unknown.... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Troubles in Paradise: an amazing pro-science resource by James Downard (summary and interview)

Tue, 2015-03-03 04:55
I would like to introduce everyone to James Downard, and his website Troubles in Paradise (TIP). TIP is available at http://tortucan.wordpress.com/ or http://www.tortucan.com. James Downard is an activist with decades of experience tracking the creationists, stretching back to encounters with Stephen Meyer in Washington state in the early 1990s. In 2010, he did a guest post for PT, “An Ill Wind in Tortuca”, available at: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/201[…]wind-in.html Troubles in Paradise is a massive review of the... Nick Matzke http://www.talkdesign.org
Categories: Pro-Science News

Physics trumps biology

Sat, 2015-02-28 19:17
Or, perhaps more precisely, Did dark matter kill the dinosaurs?, which is the way that an article in ScienceNOW put it. Readers of PT doubtless know that there have been a half-dozen or so mass extinctions in the history of the earth, and they appear with a periodicity on the order of 30 million years. You can see an early graph here. The vertical arrows are separated by approximately 30 million years. Not every vertical... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Tell me who funded the research ...

Sat, 2015-02-28 19:17
… And I will tell you the outcome. I cannot find the origin of that quotation, and I am pretty sure it is not original, but I thought of it when I read this article in Science. In a nutshell, Willie Soon, a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution, has published a number of articles linking changes in Arctic air temperature with changes in the sun’s output. His conclusion is at variance with the well... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Q&A in the WASP nest

Sat, 2015-02-28 19:17
By Steven Mahone. What would happen if a dyed-in-the-wool secularist was given the opportunity to speak with students from one of the most religiously conservative school districts in the country? Well, I had the privilege of finding out first hand. The Classical Academy (TCA) is an affluent, public charter high school in north Colorado Springs, so imagine my surprise at receiving an invitation to represent the secular and scientific viewpoint for a week-long seminar titled... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Pygoscelis papua

Mon, 2015-02-23 22:11
Photograph by Dan Phelps. Pygoscelis papua – gentoo penguin, Danco Island, Antarctica.... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Improving the Accuracy of Genomic Data

Thu, 2015-02-19 20:23
Imagine that you want to analyze the 3.2 billion bases of the human genome. If you recruited every undergraduate student at ASU, all 70,000 of us, to type those data into a spreadsheet, it would still take about 13 hours. So you develop a computer program that analyzes the data for you. But then you find out that your huge data set amplified small errors in your algorithm and gave you the wrong answer. This... Emily Thompson http://cartwrig.ht/people/
Categories: Pro-Science News

Chinese pandas have canine distemper

Sat, 2015-02-14 01:34
Four pandas in a captive breeding population have died of canine distemper, one is “stable,” and four are “sick,” according to an article in today’s Science magazine. The pandas have been quarantined, and close contact with tourists, who may carry the disease, has been eliminated. The authorities have also repaired fences to keep dogs out. There is, fortunately, no indication that the disease has spread to a wild breeding population, which is apparently on the... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Chelepteryx collesi

Sat, 2015-02-14 01:34
Photograph by Jim Foley. Chelepteryx collesi – white-stemmed gum moth, Canberra, Australia. Mr. Foley writes, “The caterpillar is about 12 cm long! Yet another member of the Australian fauna you don’t want to mess with. … We seem to have more venomous stuff than most places: lots of snakes, stonefish, spiders, jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, etc., not to mention the crocodiles and sharks.”... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Lying, fake supplements, and the placebo effect

Sat, 2015-02-14 01:34
A somewhat outraged (but entirely justified) article by Timothy Egan in the Times reminded me of an interview I heard the other day on Fresh Air. First, the Egan article: Mr. Egan is properly outraged at the New York Attorney General’s finding that dietary “supplements” sold by major retailers often contain none of the “active ingredient.” Sorry, the scare quotes are mine, not Mr. Egan’s, but I think they are entirely apt. Indeed, the fact... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Tenth annual Evolution Weekend; Darwin's birthday

Sat, 2015-02-14 01:34
The tenth annual Evolution Weekend, February 13-15, is almost upon us. To check out what’s going on in your neighborhood, click here. This year’s theme is Science and Religion in Dialogue: Past, Present, and Future. The Evolution Weekend website notes, Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. An ongoing goal has been to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic, and to... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

Ark Park will sue over employment discrimination

Mon, 2015-02-02 17:42
Wave 3, which appears to be Channel 3 in Louisville, Kentucky, reported yesterday that the Ark Park indeed plans to sue the state over tax incentives that were denied last month. Wave 3 reports, Lawyers say this encounter is about to make an appearance in court and it’s all over tax incentives. The lawyer for the Ark Encounter says it will sue the state in federal court to try to regain the rebates it believes... Matt Young http://www.mines.edu/~mmyoung
Categories: Pro-Science News

The Third Way of Evolution announced, but fails to cohere

Mon, 2015-02-02 17:42
At Jerry Coyne’s bl*g Why Evolution Is True he has a new post calling attention to a web site on The Third Way of Evolution. It was apparently put up last year by James Shapiro, Denis Noble, and Raju Pookottil. It presents statements by 43 people expressing their view that a new Way of Evolution is needed. It has apparently been up for over 8 months, but only recently was mentioned by Denyse O’Leary at... Joe Felsenstein http://evolution.gs.washington.edu/felsenstein.html
Categories: Pro-Science News

Delving into the History of Insects

Mon, 2015-02-02 17:42
What comes to mind when you think about insects? For a lot of people, the word sends a shiver up their spine as they imagine the tiny, creeping legs, buzzing wings, stinging tails, and biting fangs. But what those people may not know is that insects comprise one of the most important classes of animal; there are more species of insect than any other animal group, and they can claim being the first animals... Emily Thompson http://cartwrig.ht/people/
Categories: Pro-Science News