Sept. 10 would have been the 69th birthday of the late Stephen Jay Gould, who not only made significant contributions to our understanding of evolution, but also was one of the smartest guys ever to pound a keyboard in an effort to explain science to the rest of us. As this biographical sketch from Stanford University presidential lectures series details, Gould was the son of a court stenographer father with a passion for natural history, and his dad started taking him to New York’s Museum of Natural History when Gould was just five. After earning a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1972, he joined the Harvard faculty, where he taught for the rest of his life and became curator of the invertebrate paleontology at the institution’s museum of comparative zoology. As a scientific researcher, Gould made numerous contributions to evolutionary developmental biology, and with Niles Eldredge developed the concept of punctuated equilibrium, which envisioned evolution as long periods of status quo, punctuated by fast bursts of change. (Some called this modification of Darwinian theory “evolution by jerks,” which prompted Gould to retort that gradualism was “evolution by creeps.” But Gould became far more famous and influential as a writer. His most famous work was “The Mismeasure of Man,” a stinging 1981 debunking of biological determinism, the belief that economic and cultural differences among racial or ethnic groups are the result of genetic inheritance, rather than environmental influence. He loved to tweak old-school rigid Darwinists, but he also was a frustrating nemesis for creationists, whose pseudoscientific rhetoric crumbled in the presence of his voluminous knowledge and acerbic wit. We miss him, just as much as we miss Carl Sagan, whom he once eloquently eulogized in an essay. And with that, here are the science and technology stories of the day.
Tiny ‘Flying Saucers’ Could Save Earth From Global Warming. The small metallic disks would be elevated to the stratosphere, where they would help block some of the Sun’s rays. You think we’re kidding? Hey, we couldn’t make this stuff up.
Researchers give robots capability for deceptive behavior. And you know, it seems like harmless fun, until somebody’s electric eye gets put out.
“Here You Have It” worm strikes major organizations.
We’re talking Coca-Cola and ABC News. So remember, if somebody sends you what purports to be a picture of a scantily-clad Russian tennis star, don’t fall for it.
Do mummies have a right to privacy? We would think yes, unless they’re characters on “Real Housewives of Ancient Egypt.”
Sorghum bran has more antioxidants than blueberries. It has anti-inflammatory properties, too.
DARPA wants to create brainiac bot tots. Eat ‘em up, yum yum. Oh wait, that’s fishheads we’re thinking of. Our bad.