Endless mysteries lurk in the depths of space. To pare the list down to eight—now, there’s a challenge



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Seal a can’t:  Acknowledging that the strange fish known as coelacanths are iconic “living fossils” famous for their lack of evolution since the Middle Devonian, disappearance from the fossil record, and surprise re-appearance doing just fine in 1938.  Since then, several populations of the lobe-finned fish have been found off the costs of South Africa, Tanzania and the Comoros islands.



European researchers “unexpectedly” found some genetic diversity among the geographically-separated living populations.  Writing in Current Biology,(Volume 22, Issue 11, R439-R440, 5 June 2012) Lampert et al. said, “Despite its undeniably slow evolutionary rate, the coelacanth still diversifies and is therefore able to adapt to new environmental conditions.”   One would expect a multitude of changes in environmental conditions to have occurred in 400 million years.  This means the fish can evolve, but didn’t — until modern times.  The lesson? — old fuddy-duddies can still jive:

  • European researchers “unexpectedly” found some genetic diversity among the geographically-separated living populations.  Writing in Current Biology,(Volume 22, Issue 11, R439-R440, 5 June 2012) Lampert et al. said, “Despite its undeniably slow evolutionary rate, the coelacanth still diversifies and is therefore able to adapt to new environmental conditions.”   One would expect a multitude of changes in environmental conditions to have occurred in 400 million years.  This means the fish can evolve, but didn’t — until modern times.  The lesson? — old fuddy-duddies can still jive:



“Coelacanths are generally viewed as evolutionary relics. Levels of population divergence and allelic diversity are low and confirm the assumed slow rate of molecular evolution in coelacanths. Obviously, even such slow evolutionary rates allow for local adaptation. As shown earlier for coelacanths and recently for cycad plantsnear extinction need not be an evolutionary dead end.”

  • “Coelacanths are generally viewed as evolutionary relics. Levels of population divergence and allelic diversity are low and confirm the assumed slow rate of molecular evolution in coelacanths. Obviously, even such slow evolutionary rates allow for local adaptation. As shown earlier for coelacanths and recently for cycad plants, near extinction need not be an evolutionary dead end.”

  • One wonders what on earth held these talented evolvers back from doing the Darwin thing till now.



We must get the evolutionary storytellers out of the science building.

  • We must get the evolutionary storytellers out of the science building.

  • On second thought: what would we do for entertainment?  Look at the fun we just had: a new Peter Pan show of bird evolution, a game of Evolutionary Strategy, a Saturday Night Live skit (since there is “so much for evolution to act upon”) of elderly fish that can still jive, and a charlatan’s promise that even YOU need not be an evolutionary dead end (thank goodness).

  • Riddle: What is an evolutionary dead end?

  • Answer: the head of a Darwinist.



Today’s transit of Venus, in which our sister planet appears to cross the disk of the sun, will be the last till 2117.  As observatories and millions of people watch the rare planetary alignment, few may know the stories of astronomers who predicted them and explorers who risked life and limb to observe them.

  • Today’s transit of Venus, in which our sister planet appears to cross the disk of the sun, will be the last till 2117.  As observatories and millions of people watch the rare planetary alignment, few may know the stories of astronomers who predicted them and explorers who risked life and limb to observe them.



Watching the 7-hour event live on the internet (see Space.com) is a privilege that was unavailable the last time the paired events occurred (they come in pairs 8 years apart, separated by a more than a century).  Because some parts of Earth are in darkness when they occur, Europeans often had to travel far to get to places where they could watch.  Only 4 pairs of transits have been observed by humans since Johannes Kepler predicted them: the pair of 1631–1639, the pair in 1761–1769, the pair of 1874–1882 (for which John Philip Sousa composed a special march), and this pair in 2004–2012.

  • Watching the 7-hour event live on the internet (see Space.com) is a privilege that was unavailable the last time the paired events occurred (they come in pairs 8 years apart, separated by a more than a century).  Because some parts of Earth are in darkness when they occur, Europeans often had to travel far to get to places where they could watch.  Only 4 pairs of transits have been observed by humans since Johannes Kepler predicted them: the pair of 1631–1639, the pair in 1761–1769, the pair of 1874–1882 (for which John Philip Sousa composed a special march), and this pair in 2004–2012.



Science Daily described how 18th century explorers had a much tougher time when they realized that important measurements could be made about the size of the solar system by observing the transit of Venus:

  • Science Daily described how 18th century explorers had a much tougher time when they realized that important measurements could be made about the size of the solar system by observing the transit of Venus:

  • The idea galvanized scientists who set off on expeditions around the world to view a pair of transits in the 1760s. The great explorer James Cook himself was dispatched to observe one from Tahiti, a place as alien to 18th-century Europeans as the Moon or Mars might seem to us now. Some historians have called the international effort the “the Apollo program of the 18th century.”




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