Darwin sought to not only produce a new scientific truth, but also to put an end to polygenism, the current scientific discourse on human origins that gave tacit and at times explicit support for slavery: ‘... when the principle of evolution is generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute between the monogenists and polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death.’ (Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 235)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Depiction of the Earth 38 million years ago (and Afrotarsius)

It is often forgotten that in attempting to think about the past, one must think of the earth itself as a very different place.
From Science Daily, an article about the identification of Afrotarsius libycus and its possible significance for understanding the origins of early hominids had with it a nice depiction of the earth 38 million years ago.  Afrotarsius Libycus was, as its name implies, found in what is now Libya.
"The image shows two fossilized upper molars. The molar of Afrasia from Myanmar is to the right. The molar of Afrotarsius from Libya is to the left. The map shows the ancient geography of this part of the globe, approximately 38 million years ago. The 3D model is an artist's reconstruction of Afrotarsius. (Credit: Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History)"
See also
"Topography Reconstructions at 1Kyr intervals since the Last Glacial Maximum by W. Peltier." at NOAA  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alan Saunder's The Philosopher's Stone: The Philosophy of Astronomy

The next to last episode of The Philosopher's Stone before the untimely death of host Alan Saunders. Philosopher's Stone and  Melvin Bragg's In Our Time on BBC4 are both unique radio shows and it is well worth undertaking an adventure through their archival recordings.

The Philosopher's Stone: The Philosophy of Astronomy
"What is the ideology that propels scientists to go to so much trouble? Think, for example, of the hazards involved in a voyage from Europe to our part of the world in the 18th century. Why would you go to all that effort just to observe the transit of Venus? This week, with the next transit just a few days away, we explore the philosophy of northern astronomy in the southern hemisphere with Simon Schaffer, professor of the history of science at the University of Cambridge."
 One nice touch is that the music for the show is a composition William Herschel:
 "And a word about the music on this week’s show, which is a tribute to 18th century astronomers; William Herschel, who in 1781 was the first person to identify the planet Uranus and also discovered two of its major moons, two moons of Saturn and infrared radiation, began his career as a musician and composer. Our music is from one of his symphonies. Our sound engineer this week was Leila Schunnar, I’m Alan Saunders, I’ll be back in orbit next week."