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Richard Dawkins

Multiple heads, not a good evolutionary choice.

Multiple heads, not a good evolutionary choice.

Richard Dawkins spoke at University of Washington today as part of the book tour for his new book. I went to hear him speak because he is Richard Dawkins, I tend to agree with what he says (funny how that sometimes makes events more appealing) and the event was free. Free was a big part of it.

The format was about half an hour of selected readings from his book followed by questions and answers. The excerpts were good, nothing really compelling enough for me to buy the book; I still have not finished The God Delusion. The best part was the question and answer session. Instead of the normal line up to ask a question or write them in and submit them, all of the questions were texted in and selected from a pool of texts.

The best question of the evening was essentially “What is your proof of evolution elevator speech?”. I thought this is a really good question since I have been in situations where I need easy, fast and concrete proof of evolution. He would use either the geographic distribution of species or genetic relationship.s

Geographic distribution is how species are located around the world. All the marsupials in the Australia area, penguins in the antarctic but not arctic and alpacas are only in South America. If Noah’s arc was true then the distribution should be peaked in the middle east with little to no diversity on the edges. Not to mention the tough swim some animals would face.

Genetic relationships are bit tougher to explain quickly, it is the tracing of particular genes among species. From that tracing a family tree of life can be made, no matter which gene is traced the tree comes out the same every time. It might be more convincing (well it is) however it is a harder concept to grasp compared to penguins and kangaroos.

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Reflections in Rick Carpenters' art studio.

Reflections in Rick Carpenters' art studio.

It tends to be a dreaded moment when going to purchase books only to find that the textbook for the class is written by the professor. On one occasion I dropped a class because not only was the textbook by the professor but several others were by other faculty members (this was hardly the only reason though). The fact that they have a book is a sign that they know what they are talking about, it is bad because they might just be bad writers and they are assigning it because it is theirs. Furthermore there is then only one perspective for the class: the professor’s.

So when I signed up for Astrobiology the books was written by the professor (Kevin Plaxco) but as it was only twenty dollars used I did not feel so bad. I also skimmed through it and there was fortunately little chemistry diagrams or tables. Since astrobiology is a relatively new field I felt that it would be okay (compared to a professors book in English or Political Science).

The second week of the class the professor did something that I felt was just a good thing to do. He reimbursed everyone of us for the money he made from us buying his book. Turns out he only makes fifty cents a copy sold.

He did this because when he was an undergraduate a professor did it for him and it made a lasting impression, he said that if he ever published a book and taught a class with it he would do the same. Now I am going to say that if I ever publish a book and am lucky enough to teach a class using that book I will also pay back the students the money I make off the book.

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One fish, two fish, three fish, blue fish.

One fish, two fish, three fish, blue fish.

I thought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was going  to be good. I told my friends about it and most asked if it was going to be a movie.

They have been answered.

Now the classic will be treated to a touch of cinema art by having aliens thrown into the mix. What could make it better? The aliens and Austen are brought to us by Sir Elton John.

As a form of art I am more hopeful about the zombies, there the story will be integrated with the original, the alien one will rewrite it completely. I wonder if Gort will make it in?

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