Gingerbread Daleks

I think these are Dalek cookies. Listen closely: can you hear little voices chanting, “Exterminate! Exterminate!”?

funny food photos - Ring of Terror
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Monorail cat goes commercial

It’s been a while since we had a new monorail cat. Enjoy!

Nao Aksepting Advertizemints

Evolution of feathers

Hat tip to Troy Britain for this link to a paper about the evolution and development of feathers. It just struck me as rather nice. I think this is a fairly well-known paper as it outlines hypothetical intermediate stages of feathers, some of all of which have been observed, as an evolutionary sequence.

Although feathers are diverse in form, they all share a common developmental origin in the cylindrical feather follicle. Indeed, since a single follicle can produce feathers of striking structural diversity during the life of a bird, the tremendous structural diversity of feathers is best understood in terms of the control of feather development within the follicle. The development of feathers is also essential to any discussion of feather origins because any complete theory of the origin of feathers must account not only for structure of feathers themselves but [also] for the structure and complexity of the follicle.

“Development and Evolutionary Origin of Feathers,” (1999) by Richard O. Prum. (Journal of Experimental Zoology (MOL DEV EVOL) 285:291–306)

It never occurred to me, as it has to this scientist, that the same follicle producing different kinds of feathers, e.g. a chick’s down vs. adult feathers or perhaps winter and summer feathers, is significant when we think about evolution.

Now, read Troy Britain’s article about creationist ignorance.

John Wilkins has a new book!

John S. Wilkins, who has thought long and hard about what the species concept, has published Species: A history of the idea.

Wilkins (2009) has provided an annotated list of 26 distinguishable species concepts in the modern literature (an earlier version of the list is freely available on his web page; Wilkins 2006…. Although a list can be a very useful thing, it is even more useful if it has a context, and that is what Wilkins’ new book, Species: A History of the Idea, is intended to provide. It ends with the same list, but starts by telling us where it came from.

Sweden uses old trains to plough snow


(Photo from the Swedish Railway Museum)

Sweden uses old trains to plough snow:

Two old DA locomotives normally resident in the Swedish Railway Museum in Gävle in northern Sweden, have been dusted off and put back into service to clear the tracks of snow between Mjölby and Alvesta in southern Sweden.

Furthermore a 100-year-old snowplough is in place alongside the tracks in nearby Nässjö, ready to be called into action if needed.

Posted in science. 1 Comment »

Happy Mithrastide!

The Persian god of light Mithra, or sun-god Mithras, was very popular with Roman soldiers, who brought his religion back to Rome. His birth was celebrated on December 25 and he was called the Good Shepherd. Here, he’s the answer to a question on the British quiz show QI or “Quite Interesting,” hosted by Stephen Fry.

Trans Siberian Orchestra

Now your whole house can be a color organ. The tune is Wizards in Winter by the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Here’s a less elaborate but livelier rendition.

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