Wednesday Roundup


On Wednesdays I’m going to try and post a list of interesting skeptical and science links from the blogosphere that will give you something to read mid-week, and something to discuss when Drinking Skeptically rolls around again. Feel free to add your interesting finds in the comments!

Dr. Steven Novella, who you might know as one of the voices of reason on the popular podcast Skeptics Guide to the Universe, has a fascinating blog of his own called NeuroLogica. In Tuesday’s post he asks Is The Universe Logical?

Yes.

But I suppose you want a somewhat longer answer. This question comes up frequently among thoughtful skeptics, and also among critics of science. The critics often use a challenge to logic as a way of promoting relativism and the claim that we cannot really know anything. If all pretense to knowledge is ultimately vain and self-deception, they argue, then science holds no special position with regards to truth about the natural world. Therefore any crank notion is just as good as the mainstream scientific consensus.

In exciting animal news, we have Penn State evolutionary biologist, Blair Hedges, who has discovered the world’s tiniest snake. The snake, Leptotyphlops carlae, lives on the Caribbean island of Barbados, and is small enough to hide under a US quarter (if such a situation presented itself).

According to Hedges, the smallest and largest species of animals tend to be found on islands, where species can evolve over time to fill ecological niches in habitats that are unoccupied by other organisms. Those vacant niches exist because some types of organisms, by chance, never make it to the islands. For example, if a species of centipede is missing from an island, a snake might evolve into a very small species to “fill” the missing centipede’s ecological niche.

And in even bigger news — the Wildlife Conservation Society has just released a census report showing that the population of western lowland gorillas, thought to be fewer than 50,000, have more than doubled to 125,000 after successful conservation efforts in two remote swamp forests in the Republic of Congo.

“These figures show that northern Republic of Congo contains the mother lode of gorillas,” said Dr. Steven E, Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It also shows that conservation in the Republic of Congo is working. This discovery should be a rallying cry for the world that we can protect other vulnerable and endangered species, whether they be gorillas in Africa, tigers in India, or lemurs in Madagascar.”

Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, posts a hot tip for joining the American Humanist Association for free. If you don’t have Hemant on your blog reading list, you should! Yesterday he also posted the heart-breaking story of a former Jehovah’s Witness who is now a summer legal intern for the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Darren Naish gives the definitive take-down of the “mysterious” Montauk Monster that washed ashore in Long Island, NY this week, at his science-packed blog Tetrapod Zoology. Don’t stop at that post though, because there’s a ton of good stuff to read there if vertebrate palaeontology is on your many social networking interests lists. (And how could it not?)

AND And and! In news-of-the-amazing, The Amazing James Randi announced that the new President of the James Randi Foundation is everyone’s favorite astronomy blogger, Phil Plait! Here’s Phil’s post about this exciting step.

Well, that’s the scoop this week — so far.

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