Archive for the 'Palaeontology' Category

Why Ducks are better than Dinosaurs

Most people prefer a good Tyrannosaur to a lowly duck. It’s a matter of choice of course, but when thinking about dinosaurs you probably have visions of ruthless predators with teeth the size of meat cleavers, or titanic herbivores bigger than small buildings, whereas ducks tend to float around in ponds inquiring after handfuls of bread.

However palaeontologists and biologists have revealed evidence that the humble duck may have triumphed over the mighty dinosaurs.

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Goldilocks, and other Habitable Zones for Life

Heard of the Goldilocks zone?

It’s the idea that an area of space around a star will be at the right temperature for life to exist. Not too hot, not too cold, hence Goldilocks.

It’s a bit like standing around a campfire on a very cold night. Stand too far away and you freeze, stand too close and you catch on fire and burn to death.

It’s the same with planets orbiting stars too, if they’re too far away then water freezes and life can’t emerge, and if they orbit too close the planet is roasting hot and nothing can live.

It gets a bit more complex than this though, but complex in a fun way. Oh and its also got some pretty big implications for the search for extraterrestrial life…

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How does evolution work?

Most people have some pretty vague ideas about what evolution is, but most of us don’t really know how evolution actually happens.

(Some people even claim evolution isn’t real, but that’s about as sane as saying the Earth is flat, or that the Phantom Menace is better than the Empire Strikes Back).

In this post I’ll try and explain how evolution happens as simply as possible, and tell you why in the future human’s won’t evolve six fingers, wings, or two heads.

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The Invention of Sex

This is an article I’ve written and just submitted for a science writing prize in the UK, the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize. If you’re interested in entering, unfortunately the deadline was today, but there’s always next year, details are found through the link just above. The article is about why, and roughly when, sex was invented. At least on Earth…

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The Open University, a different way to study.

OK, this post is going to be an unabashed advertisement for the Open University. I don’t work for them, I’m not doing this for any personal gain, I’m doing it because I’m a student at the OU (I’m working towards a degree in Geosciences), I love it, and I’d like more people to know about it.

If you’ve ever wanted to earn a degree, or just want to study a subject you found interesting, but feel that you can’t attend a traditional university for some reason, be it not enough time or money, or you haven’t got great qualifications from school, or you’re getting on-a-bit and you can’t face all those over-excited teenagers, then the OU may have something for you.

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Why the Universe may be full of life, but not intelligent life

In three previous posts (part 1, part 2 & part 3) I summarized the key highlights of the history of life on Earth, beginning with the Earth’s creation (hint, not by God), and ending with humans’ inventing the radio. I described the most important events, but I didn’t spend any time looking at their implications, particularly what this means for the search for alien life.

What can the history of life on Earth can tell us life on other planets?

Continue reading ‘Why the Universe may be full of life, but not intelligent life’

Life on Earth: the highlights – Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 I looked at the key events in the history of life, from the birth of the Earth up to the evolution of the dinosaurs.

In part three I’ll continue from the dinosaurs right up to the appearance of humanity, and its finest work, Ellen Page.

As with the previous posts I’ll give approximate times for each event millions of years and I’ll use the label Ma for millions (mega-annum). I’ll also show the time in terms of a 24-hour clock. The last event I looked at was 225 million years ago, or 22:49 on the 24-hour clock. The next event is…

Continue reading ‘Life on Earth: the highlights – Part 3’

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