I miss the open vistas of western Texas, where I was outside for much of the past six days looking at fossil sites. It’s not the same back here in Missouri. You can’t allow your eyes to stretch out for 10 miles in every direction, and there aren’t many spots where you can look way down and way up at mountain tops from the same spot. I took more than a few handheld HDR series in Texas and crunched them on a program called Photomatix over the past couple of days. They are a pretty good reminder of the types of things I was seeing.
Excellent lecture by Robert Sapolsky. Scientists used to think that humans were unique in many ways when compared to other animals. The number of ways in which we are truly unique is dwindling, however, and that dwindling number is the focus of Sapolsky’s talk. There is at least one way in which we are unique, and that is our ability to entertain a contradiction. Sapolsky, speaking to a graduating class, challenges them to take on this contradiction: They are highly educated and thus privileged human animals who are educated to such an extent that they realize that it is virtually impossible for one person to make a difference in the world. The more clear this becomes that it is impossible to make the world better, “the more you must.”
Robert Sapolsky can tell stories about the biological effects of stress as well as anyone. In this short video, he reveals that a chair upholsterer discovered the dangers of having a Type A personality.
Fascinating story told by Carl Zimmer, illustrated by yeast studies.
Scientists suspect that the first step towards a complex multicellular body like ours is for cells to evolve to live in primitive clumps. There may be a lot of advantages to living this way. It may be harder for a predator to eat you, for example. At the University of Minnesota, a team of scientists led by William Ratcliff and Michael Travisano figured out a way to create this kind of natural selection in a lab. As I reported last year in the New York Times, they were able to get yeast–which normally lives as single cells–to turn into simple multicellular clumps in a few weeks.
One of my photographer mentors advised that I try to shoot SOMETHING every day. And this morning I finished reading Phil Zimbardo’s “The Time Paradox,” from which I learned (for the 800th time) that my perspective is skewed way toward future time orientation, which causes me to miss out on the present, especially ordinary things that are actually quite stunning. Therefore . . . I gave myself an assignment to take photos of leaves from the backside, illuminated from the front by direct sun. I tried to simply enjoy their beauty, but couldn’t help contemplating their incredibly sophisticated function.