What We're Reading

And the winner, by universal acclaim, was the story of Inky, the Houdini of octopuses, who escaped his aquarium in New Zealand and found his way back to the ocean. Is it possible that this story was so popular in the U.S. because we all yearn for a way to escape the endless presidential primary season?

  • In Science, It's Never "Just a Theory", The New York Times, April 8, 2016 -- As part of a series on misconceptions about science, Carl Zimmer takes on the "It's Just a Theory" slogan, often used to deprecate evolution. Bonus: a video showing a cat in the liquid state of matter.
  • Scientists Unveil New "Tree of Life", The New York Times, April 11, 2016 -- Carl Zimmer reports on a new paper in Nature Microbiology that redraws the tree of life using genomes from hundreds of new microbial species. "One of the most striking results of the study was that the tree of life is dominated by species that scientists have never been able to see or grow in their labs."
  • Consensus on Consensus: A Synthesis of Consensus Estimates on Human-Caused Global Warming, Environmental Research Letters, April 13, 2016 -- Responding to criticism of earlier work on the scientific consensus on climate change, the authors "examine the available studies and conclude that the finding of 97% consensus in published climate research is robust and consistent with other surveys of climate scientists and peer-reviewed studies."
  • Science Fairs Are As Flawed As My Solar-Powered Hot Dog Cooker, Stat News, April 13, 2016 -- Carl Zimmer recounts his daughter's successful experience with a school science fair and reflects on President Obama's final White House Science Fair. He wonders what we can do to make the best parts of the science fair experience accessible to every student, not just those lucky enough to have parents with time and access to scientific mentors.
  • Octopus Slips Out of Aquarium Tank, Crawls Across Floor, Escapes Down Pipe to OceanThe Washington Post, April 13, 2016 -- What does this have to do with NCSE's mission, you might ask? Nothing much, but what a great story: a captive octopus in New Zealand managed to get out of his tank and down a drain to freedom. Besides, the Twitter reaction was most excellent: for example, "watch out, he's heavily armed" and "I don't eat octopus bc I'm not convinced they won't one day rule the earth & have detailed records on who ate what". Stephanie Keep would agree; she won't eat cephalopods either (or any other invertebrates for that matter). 
  • Unnatural Selection, The New Yorker, April 18, 2016 -- Elizabeth Kolbert (the author of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Sixth Extinction) examines attempts to use artificial evolution--selective breeding and genetic engineering--to help coral reefs and chestnut trees weather environmental challenges.