Oct 192017

Some interesting recent developments:

Atlas Of The Underworld

When a continental plate is subducted beneath another, you’d imagine that it would melt away to liquid hot magma and become part of the gooey inner mess. but as it turns out, some of these plates can stick around in a more or less solid state for a *long* time, and they can be mapped using seismic tomography. Around a hundred of these slabs have been mapped out, down to several hundred kilometers in depth, still recognizably more-or-less solid chunks drifting in the mantle. This means that there *could* *maybe* *possibly* be some really interesting things down there where we’ll almost certainly never get to see them. Say, 300 million years ago something truly remarkable evolved on some small continent… say, an archosaur developed smarts *real* fast and became human-smart and built a whole civilization on their island, then they were wiped out by disease or aliens or a high tax rate married to an unwise nanny-state system of government. Their cities of concrete and stone were buried under dust and mud and ash, then fifty million years later the plate was subducted. Meaning that a hundred miles below your feet there might still be recognizable evidence of a far-pre-human terrestrial civilization, one you’ll almost certainly never get to hear about.


Detection of intact lava tubes at Marius Hills on the Moon by SELENE (Kaguya) Lunar Radar Sounder

These aren’t piddly little tubes, either. These are big enough to plant whole cities within, inside where they’d be protected from radiation and thermal cycling.

 Posted by at 9:54 pm
Jun 102017

So, some scientists announced that some almost-modern human skeletal remains were found in Morocco. What made it newsworthy was that these remains were abut 300,000 years old… 150,000 years older than any modern humans. Neat, huh?

Well, to some folks, finding out that human evolution is more complex and interesting than previously understood means that it didn’t actually happen:

Stop the Presses! Human Evolution Falsified!

Give it a read. It is… remarkable. It reads like the sort of thing someone would write if they were trying to spoof creationists. The icing on the crazycake is the anger the writer expresses at the “hoax” of Darwininan evolution.

 Posted by at 3:02 am
Mar 012017

And if this is confirmed, both the age and the fact that it’s a fossil, it’s really, really, REALLY old:

Earliest evidence of life on Earth ‘found’

These “fossils” aren’t of recognizable critters, but hematite filaments, which are the traces of life. The age is somewhere between 3.77 billion and 4.28 billion years.. If it’s on the older end, it’s really rather astonishing; the theorized collision of the early Earth with the hypothetical planet Theia, resulting in the creation of the Moon, is believed to have occurred about 4.5 billion years ago. This collision would have turned the entire surface of the planet into liquid hot magma, so it seems life *could* have arisen less than a quarter billion years after the Earth was a molten ball of fire.

 Posted by at 8:31 pm
Jan 312017

Say hello to Saccorhytus coronarius, a truly fugly ancestor of yours from about half a billion years ago.

Meiofaunal deuterostomes from the basal Cambrian of Shaanxi (China)

This little guy (about a millimeter) is an ancestor to vertebrates. Embarrassingly for the family tree, the digestive tract, which starts with a clearly oversized mouth, terminates with… the mouth. Bleah.


 Posted by at 10:58 am
Dec 172015

Creationists expanding institute to include the ‘Dallas Museum of Science and Earth History’

Oy. The same cranks and crackpots that brought the world the “Institute for Creation Research” now want to build a dubiously named “Dallas Museum of Science and Earth History” that will teach that the Earth is a grand total of 6,000 years old. Even better, they’re proposing to build a 3D planetarium, also to promote the 6,000-year nonsense, in direct contradiction to everything astronomy has discovered.

Kinda like making a laser light show to prove that coherent beams of monochromatic light are a myth.

Behold the bullshit (yes, I generally prefer to avoid such colorful metaphors in posts… but there’s really no other world for the idiot lunacy spouted here). And before you hit “play,” ask yourself this: “Are they going to ask for money? ARE THEY?!?”


 Posted by at 2:10 am
Aug 312015

If for some reason you’re looking for an actual animal from the actual fossil record that’ll make you go “huh,” then Atopodentatus should probably do the job for you.

Atopodentatus was a reptile from the Triassic, found in China and described in 2014. On the whole it looked like a more or less standard aquatic reptile, something like a big iguana… but there was something really, really wrong with its head.



Scary as this beast looked, that funky jawline full of fangs would have been largely harmless to anything much bigger than a bug. It seems this thing was a filter feeder, using that immobile vertical “mouth” in its upper beak as a trap for the worms or shrimp or whatever it likely scraped up from the mud on the ocean floor.

Still: yeeeesh.

 Posted by at 2:11 pm
May 072015

I’ve probably mentioned once or twice my love of the movie “Jurassic Park.” Like “Star Wars” a decade and a half earlier, JP was a game changer… prior to this, a dinosaur seen on screen was either stop motion or a dude in a rubber suit. But the reveal of the CGI brachiosaurus early in JP changed for all time how dinosaurs would be presented. That scene is high on my list of all-time most emotionally affecting scenes in movie history. Aiding the emotional impact was how the character of Alan Grant responded… just like any fan-of-dinosaurs kid would, with uncontained glee followed by collapsing. And the final kicker was the masterful score by John Williams.

Here, at last, you can see the aft end of that scene with the music as it was meant to be heard!  Crank it up!

Let’s hope that “Jurassic World” lives up to its heritage. I can’t honestly see it surpassing or even approaching JP in impact, though. Not JW’s fault… it’s just that it is now long since past time when seeing a realistic dinosaur on screen is a revelation of the first order.

 Posted by at 4:56 pm