Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Creation film with Paul Bettany

Beneath Darwin's earth-shaking discoveries lies the private struggle of the man – his loss of faith after his eldest daughter's death; the implications of his theories of existence; and his wife's deep religious sentiment, an opposition that threatens to tear the loving family apart. In one 'Creation' , Paul Bettany plays Darwin and Jennifer Connelly plays the scientist's wife Emma.

Review by Tim Jones.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Oldest known hominin skeleton, Ardipithecus ramidus, reveals the upright origins of humankind

October 4, 2009
Briefing: The ‘missing link’
The discovery of the remains of an early hominid in northern Ethiopia has forced scientists to reassess how we have evolved over 7m years
Helen Brooks

Scientists reveal skeleton 4m years old

Scientists last week unveiled a skeleton that is the closest discovery so far to the “missing link”, the presumed common ancestor shared by humans and apes. The female remains, nicknamed Ardi by researchers, were found in north-eastern Ethiopia and are believed to be 4.4m years old. A special edition of Science magazine, with 11 papers by 47 authors from 10 countries, was dedicated to the find. Ardi — short for Ardipithecus ramidus — is more than 1m years older than Lucy, the previous oldest full skeleton, which was discovered in 1974. Tim White, director of the Human Evolution Research Centre at California University, said: “This is not the common ancestor, but it's the closest we have ever been able to come.”

Remains pieced together over 15 years

Ardi was found in Ethiopia in 1994; scientists spent the next 15 years piecing together and analysing the remains. The researchers took almost three years to sift through the volcanic ash where the fossil lay, and used the layers of soil above and below the remains to date Ardi. Erosion by desertification had caused her to come to the surface. The skeleton was found in 125 fragments, which included a skull, teeth, pelvis, hands and feet — her skull alone was broken into more than 60 pieces. One scientist said that when he saw a picture of Ardi’s pelvis in the ground it “looked like an Irish stew”. The image of the skeleton was the result of extensive digital reconstruction.

Brain, feet and teeth show nature of animal

Ardi had both human and ape-like attributes. She had big, arch-less feet adapted to clinging onto branches while climbing trees, but she would also have walked upright on two feet, albeit with a stoop and not for great distances. The size of her skull gave hints of the kind of brain she would have had. Although larger than a chimpanzee’s, it was considerably smaller than Lucy’s, suggesting that human intellect developed at a later stage. Teeth from a male skeleton were found at the same site but, unlike in apes, the canine teeth were the same size as Ardi’s. Scientists believe this shows male hominids were less aggressive than apes — which use sharp canines to fight — and were co-operative with females, which mated preferentially with smaller-fanged males.


More from ScienceMag

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dinosaurs had 'earliest feathers' - 10M older than Archaeopteryx

By Jonathan Amos 
Science reporter, BBC News

An artist's impression of how these creatures  may have looked
An artist's impression of how these creatures may have looked

Exceptionally well preserved dinosaur fossils uncovered in north-eastern China display the earliest known feathers.
The creatures are all more than 150 million years old.
The new finds are indisputably older than Archaeopteryx, the "oldest bird" recognised by science.
Professor Xu Xing and colleagues tell the journal Nature that this represents the final proof that dinosaurs were ancestral to birds.
The theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs has always been troubled by the absence of feathers more ancient than those on the famous Archaeopteryx.
 All over the skeleton, you see feathers 
Xu Xing
This has given critics room to question the idea.
But the new fossils, which come from two separate locations, are in most cases about 10 million years older than the primitiveArchaeopteryx discovered in the late 19th Century.
One of the new dinosaur specimens, named Anchiornis huxleyi, is spectacular in its preservation.
It has extensive plumage covering its arms and tail, and also its feet - a "four-winged" arrangement, says Professor Xu from the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing.
'Immensely exciting'
"The first specimen we discovered earlier this year was incomplete," he told BBC News.
"Based on that specimen, we named it Anchiornis; and we thought it was a close relative of birds. But then we got a second specimen, which was very complete - beautifully preserved.
Artist's representation of Archaeopteryx
The privative Archaeopteryx marks the transition between birds and dinos
"All over the skeleton, you see feathers.
"Based on this second specimen, we realised that this was a much more important species, and definitely one of the most important species for our understanding of the origin of birds and of their flight."
Professor Xu believes the four-winged shape may have been a very important stage in the evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds.
Details of the latest discoveries have been presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists, being held this year at the University of Bristol, UK.
The renowned Bristol palaeontologist Michael Benton said the announcement was immensely exciting.
"Drawing the tree of life, it's fairly obvious that feathers arose before Archaeopteryx appears in the fossil record," he told BBC News.
"Now these fantastic new discoveries by Professor Xu Xing prove that once and for all.
"These new discoveries are maybe 10 million years older than Archaeopteryx."

Feathered dinosaur (Xing Xu)
Some of the fossils are exceptionally well preserved

Thursday, September 3, 2009

British Council - Darwin Now

These activities are designed for teachers and facilitators to help students to look at the world around them and to see how Darwin's legacy lives on today. 

Monday, August 31, 2009

Darwin Song Project

Darwin Song Project


source: http://richarddawkins.net/article,4235,n,n

Darwin Song Project (website)

by Robin Denselow - guardian.co.uk

Thanks to Aurelian for the link.

This is an intriguing, impressive album that results from a brave and unlikely collaboration. Back in March, eight singer-songwriters from the UK and the US came together to compose new songs that had a "resonance and relevance" to Charles Darwin, who was born in Shrewsbury 200 years ago. They had just a week to write and rehearse for a concert in Shrewsbury, where this album was recorded. There are 17 new songs here, covering Darwin's life and the confusion and anger that his theory of evolution first caused - and continues to cause - for anyone from his loyal but worried wife to present-day creationists.
Continue reading

Listen to samples and buy below. UK release 31-Aug, US release 08-Sep

Link to Amazon UK

Link to Amazon US

Lots of other YouTube video's out there at this url or by searching You Tube for "The Darwin Project"

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