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22 February 2017

The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins

I just finished Richard Dawkins’ book for younger readers and/or a general audience, The Magic of Reality. It’s a general-interest science education book, written in Dawkins-speak – very conversational and emphatic about key points. It consists of a series of chapters about different topics, with each chapter guided by a big question, like “What is a rainbow?” or “What are things made of?” or “Who was the first person?” Dawkins …

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6 February 2017

Q&A, episode 1

A new series takes science and nature questions and answers them. Read the answers to the first two questions and submit your own!






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31 January 2017

Three kids’ books

Cosmology, evolution, and ethics for the four-year old set? It can be done! Join Callan for a brief review of three excellent books for children.






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13 December 2016

The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Over the weekend, I finished an excellent popular summary of genetics, The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It’s an excellent, thoughtful, current tome, that covers everything from Mendel to Darwin to Lysenko to Rosalind Franklin to CRISPR, written in a personal, accessible way. He begins and ends with a trip to India, examining the genetic roots of madness in his own family. There is a constant attention to …

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1 March 2016

How to Clone a Mammoth, by Beth Shapiro

I just finished an interesting book with a provocative title. How to Clone a Mammoth, by Beth Shapiro, is a readable, sober assessment of de-extinction, the idea of bringing back extinct species through a variety of techniques. She defines very clearly at the outset that the purpose of de-extinction is ecological – to restore critical / desired organism/organism or organism/abiotic environment interactions in ecosystems. It is, in other words, a …

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14 April 2015

Compare and contrast: Two Chesapectens

Two new GIGAmacro images of fossil scallops from Virginia’s Coastal Plain – Chesapecten nefrens: link Chesapecten jeffersonius: link My vision is to get the opposite side of each of these samples as well as a half-dozen other species in this genus, perhaps even multiple individual specimens of each species, to allow students to do a lab where they plot morphological changes over geologic time as an example of what the …

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21 January 2014

Virginia House Bill 207: encouraging pseudoscience is a bad idea

I was first alerted to the proposal of a new bill in the Virginia House of Delegates last Wednesday by a colleague at James Madison University, Eric Pyle. Eric and I serve as state Councilors for the state of Virginia in the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. As such, we are sincerely concerned about any policy that would weaken science education in the Old Dominion, in particular when it comes …

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9 September 2013

Monday macrobug: pine sawfly larvae

These “caterpillars” are the larvae of the pine sawfly, Neodiprion sp. They were grazing on a small pine in my front yard. Sawflies are relatives of bees, wasps, and ants – they’re members of the Hymenoptera. But their larvae look so much like the larvae of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) and flies (Diptera), don’t they? Beetles, too (Coleoptera) have “grubby” larval morphology. They’re wormy things, long bags of hungry guts …

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14 February 2013

The Discovery Institute feels sorry for my students

Periodically, I get requests to use my images in publications. It’s very easy to find my photos, because I publish a lot of them on this blog, or on my NOVA website, and they always rise to the top of a Google image search. I got a distinctive one on Monday: Dear Mr. Bentley, My boss Dr. Stephen C. Meyer at the Discovery Institute is finishing up a book that discusses …

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20 February 2012

Honey, I shrunk the grad students

On the airplane ride back from Texas, I bought a copy of Michael Crichton’s semi-posthumous final novel, Micro, which was co-authored by Richard Preston after Crichton’s death in 2008. Preston wrote a superb book about Ebola virus in the DC area, so I was intrigued to see his influence. Plus, and of utmost priority, I just wanted some light reading for the plane. It was mediocre. If you’ve read Sphere, …

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