Tangled Bank #79 at Epigenetics News

The latest Tangled Bank, a fortnightly blog carnival of science writing, is up at Epigenetics News: Tangled Bank 79.

Oldest complex fossils are in Newfoundland

The oldest complex fossils are found in Newfoundland, Canada.

Fronds up to nearly 2 metres in length occur in the upper beds of the Drook Formation, 1500m stratigraphically below the approximately 565 million year old Mistaken Point fossils. Their position above the glacial marine rocks of the Gaskiers Formation (dated at 595 million years) give paleontologists an important first look at life just after the “Snowball Earth” glaciations (the largest glacial event recorded in the Earth’s geological record).

These Precambrian fossils (Charnia) were discovered in 1957 in Leicester, England, by teenagers scrambling around a quarry.

Canada’s Remembrance Day coins cause spy hysteria in U.S.

In 2004, the Canadian Mint released a commemmorative issue of “Armistice Day” quarters with much hoopla, including an advertising campaign. Canadian banks did not carry them, so advertisements directed people to Tim Horton’s coffee shops, where you could ask for them at the counter or get them in your change. The coins were unique because they were the first coloured coins: an image of Canada’s FAMOUS Remembrance Day poppy was stamped on the obverse with texture and red dye was applied. The mint hoped that the dye would cling to the textured surface. However, the dye rubbed off in people’s pockets, so the mint added a thin layer of some transparent spray or tape over the poppy to keep it red a little longer. Since then, the Mint has produced several other coloured coins.

Now we discover that Americans working in Canada reported that the unusual coins had been planted on them as nanotechnology spy devices! Apparently the protective layer over the coin’s obverse side glowed mysteriously under ultraviolet light. It was reported in newspapers that Canada was spying on U.S. contractors with bugged coins. The substance of the reports was too secret and dire to ask Canada about, so no one knew the depth of the ridiculousness until just recently. But couldn’t some fact-checker have at least scanned the numismatic news? A sillier method could hardly be invented, given the average half-life of a quarter in someone’s pocket, unless one wanted to print microphones on KleenexTM.

This means that, by Mark Twain’s definition, the tale was evaluated in the U.S. as a miracle (any old statement accepted) rather than as a fact (proof required).

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