09 April 2006

Weird week

As you can see, I decided to spruce up the joint a little in a fit of mild boredom.

Not been a great week in a lot of ways. The online learning system for the entire university went down Thursday afternoon and is still not back up. Was kept busy by another job candidate visit and a guest seminar speaker. Next week: two more job candidates. Week after that: job candidate and seminar speaker. And the seminar speaker is mine invite, Jim Belanger from Louisiana State University.

Meanwhile, saw a lot of stuff that was depressing. Like the kafuffle here in Texas about Eric Pianka (documented over at Panda's Thumb). A couple of members of my department are prominent members of the Texas Academy of Science. I'm a member myself, but wasn't at this year's meeting, where Pianka was honored for his research, and where he gave the talk that precipitated the current tempest. So this story is closer to home than I'd like.

Also was somewhat worried to learn 60% of America's fresh vegetables come from one valley in California. And was extremely depressed to learn that about 30-40% of Americans don't know where food comes from. (These last two from this week's Science Show; specifically here.) When about a third of people are so divorced from anything biological that they don't know that meat requires killing an animal, is it any wonder why we can't convince people of more subtle biological theories like evolution? Or why people don't understand the ecological principles like carrying capacity that Eric Pianka talks about?

And the Dees have lost two in a row. Dang.

The announcement of the discovery of the ancient Devonian fish Tiktaalik in Nunavut was quite nice, however. I was listening to a radio interview with one of the authors on Quirks and Quarks, and was rather surprised when they said that their fossils ranged from over 1 meter to almost 3 meters! I knew they were impressive in some of the details of their limbs and neck, but I didn't quite appreciate how... you know... big they were. That said, I was a little irritated (again) when watching the CNN news ticker at the gym about the story. It read something like this fish was a link "leading to land animals with four legs and a backbone." Which implies that fish don't have backbones, which they do.

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