What We're Reading

Perhaps, over the Labor Day weekend, you'll be able to find somewhere to read where you won't be interrupted by cats, owls, and clarinet-playing apes! If so, here are a few pieces, ranging from a new encyclopedia article on the Scopes trial in 1925 to a data-driven interactive feature on climate change through 2100, to keep you happily engrossed. If not, then give my regards to the menagerie.

  • The Scopes Trial, American History (Oxford Research Encyclopedias), August 2016 -- The historian Adam R. Shapiro (the author of Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools [University of Chicago Press, 2013]) offers a succinct yet compendious account of the World's Most Famous Court Trial (as it was immediately dubbed), Tennessee v. Scopes.
  • A 3.2 Million-Year-Old Mystery: Did Lucy Fall From a Tree?The New York Times, August 29, 2016 -- Cold Case Afar? Carl Zimmer reports on a new study about the cause of the australopithecus Lucy's death: by fall from a tree. "If they're right, the discovery could yield an important clue to how our ancestors evolved from tree-dwelling apes into bipeds that walked the African savanna."
  • His White Suit Unsullied by Research, Tom Wolfe Tries to Take Down Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky The Washington Post, August 31, 2016 -- In a review that nicely illustrates the difference between scientific and magical thinking, Jerry Coyne writes, of Tom Wolfe's odd and poorly informed excursion into evolutionary biology and linguistics: "Wolfe joins those creationists who, if they can't personally and immediately see how evolution could produce something complex, declare that the problem is insoluble and that an entire scientific edifice has crumbled."
  • Claims of Earth's Oldest Fossils Tantalize Researchers, Nature, August 31, 2016 -- A new report on signs of life from 3.7-billion-year-old rocks from Greenland. But not all paleontologists are convinced. "If we found something like this on Mars would we stick a flag in it and call it life?" one asks. "I don't think we would."
  • Witness Climate Change Anywhere on Earth With This Mesmerizing Visualization, Gizmodo, September 1, 2016 -- Remember this? Well, Ria Misra of Gizmodo reports that Ed Hawkins, the scientist who created that stunning visualization of how average global temperatures have changed since 1850, has produced another image that allows you to follow how temperatures have changed where you live.
  • How to Survive in a Warmer World, Scientific American, September 2016 -- "Scientific American worked with Earth scientists at NASA Ames Research Center" using "high-resolution climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to generate climate data for nearly every point on the planet for every month of every year through the end of the century."