Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Campus Fossil Hunting

Situated as it is smack-dab in the middle of Indiana's stone belt, Indiana University is naturally a limestone-rich campus. Today on a short walk, I snapped several photos of fossils sitting right out in the daylight, in the stones comprising walls along our lovely arboretum. They're probably unnoticed by the vast majority of passersby with their eyeballs glued to the little glowing screens in their hands. Though I must concede that these photos are thanks to my recent upgrading to a new phone: I now have a great camera on me at all times.




Fossiliferous limestone

This is all Mississippian limestone, therefore composed mostly of fragments of corals, crinoids, blastoids, and brachiopods. Glorious.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Selection of Etsy Dinosaurs

I've said before that finding good dinosaur crafts and prints is a hit-and-miss operation. But it just makes the good ones shine brighter.

Mitchell Seymour runs a shop called Dinorawrs, featuring charming watercolor illustrations of prehistoric animals. This piece, featuring a raucous brood of Microraptor is a good example of what you'll find.
Picking one piece to share was difficult! I could have easily chosen his take on the azhdarchids eating infant dinosaurs meme, his literal play on the name of Bambiraptor, or his reclining Estemmenosuchus.

Though I've shared her work before, I couldn't write this without including Sharon Wegner-Larson, a frequent commenter here and a fellow blogging graphic designer. Her Omegafauna shop expands on her BFA thesis project of paleo-themed textiles.

Joanna Barnum did this cool tribute to the State Dinosaur of Maryland, Astrodon johnsoni.
Her shop is full of terrific science-art, and should be of special interest for Darwin fans.

If you're looking for nice dino-themed stationery, Etsy seller Sian's shop Drawosaur creates whimsical greeting cards with frolicking dinosaurs that should appeal to the legions of fans our friend Niroot has amassed.

Yeah, I've got one, too.
Shuvuuia and Protoceratops

Couldn't let this opportunity to hawk my own wares pass, could I? At any rate, if you have a favorite Etsy seller specializing in dinosaur merchandise, let me know in the comments. I'd love to do another post like this.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Vintage Hypothetical Dinosaur Art: Dougal Dixon in Dinosaurs!

Yes, it's Dinosaurs! magazine yet again. But you can hardly blame me - I do have the whole anthology, after all, and it's an absolute treasure trove (not to mention a provider of handy filler while I wait for my next eBay-purchased 1980s dino book to arrive).

This week, we'll be paying special attention to one of the more unorthodox features that appeared during the magazine's run. It would seem that Dougal Dixon was quite heavily involved in Dinosaurs! - he is one of the few authors to be name-checked in the final issue - which isn't really surprising. 'Prolific' doesn't even begin to describe this guy, who has heaps of popular dinosaur books to his name - ranging from the quite conventional to the utterly bonkers. This article tends more towards the latter.

Oh yes - alternate history. Dixon actually produced a book dedicated to these specul-o-saurs, but Dinosaurs! was where I came into contact with them. Positing a world in which the Cretaceous/Palaeogene extinction didn't happen, Dixon tries to imagine how the nonavian dinosaurs would have continued to evolve. The results are...mixed. The bizarre creature above - apparently a hadrosaur descendant - doesn't get things off to a good start. Hadrosaurs relied on their large caudofemoralis muscles to propel themselves away from predators, so why has its tail evolved into a giant quill?

Still, Dixon does produce some much more plausible hypothetical dinosaurs. A fluffy, arboreal theropod with an elongated finger? Wait - didn't that actually exist? It's amusing now to think that someone's vision of a hypothetical modern-day theropod was essentially real and lived over 100 million years ago. That's palaeontology for you.

Speaking of things that are 'amusing':

A 'pandasaur' evolved from hypsilophodonts may be taking convergent evolution a little too far - particularly as it looks so much like a panda, binocular vision, stumpy tail and all. "You would almost think that [the pandasaur] was some kind of giant panda," the author notes - apparently unaware of the actual giant panda. The wasp-eater just seems a little pointless, given that the arboreal dinosaur already featured looks considerably more plausible (what's with the tiny hands?), and would almost certainly be just as capable of eating wasps. If it existed. Which it did. Sort of.

While a nonavian, flamingo-like theropod is plausible enough, it's something that could easily have evolved in the Mesozoic (alongside the filter-feeding pterosaurs) - still a hypothetical dinosaur, but not one that could only ever have existed in the Cenozoic. And, well, even if mammals hadn't become the dominant large land animals, who's to say that flamingoes wouldn't have evolved anyway? One might say that the 'Is it true?' box hints at this very conclusion...

Ah, now this is more like it. Back in the early 1990s, it was still a widely-held belief that tyrannosaurs evolved from allosaurs as part of a 'carnosaur' lineage. As such - and in the context of Tyrannosaurus rex being the largest known theropod - it seemed that as the animals got larger and larger, their forelimbs got smaller and smaller. Hence, here we have a 17-metre long behemoth, shaped like a shoebox, with no arms whatsoever. It's safe to say that it looks pretty ridiculous. The complete loss of the forelimbs is actually quite plausible (it's easy to see abelisaurs losing them given a few more tens of millions of years), but why the stumpy, columnar legs with the retroverted toes? Even the largest theropods had the standard flexed legs, and theropods weighing upwards of five tonnes evolved multiple times in separate lineages. Still, such thinking can probably be explained by the popular lumping of all large theropods as 'carnosaurs' at the time.

And finally...on the left we have an evolved troodont that plays dead in order to lure potential prey items, before striking out with its sickle claw. It doesn't take a lot of thought to discern a slight flaw in that strategy, namely that it would also likely attract any gigantic, box-shaped, toddling predators in the vicinity. Oh well - at least it's not a 'dinosauroid'. Meanwhile, on the right we have a hummingbird as reimagined in someone's terrifying, drug-fuelled waking nightmares. Brrrr.

While some of the thinking behind these creations was a little faulty even for the early '90s, what the nonavian dinosaurs might have been like had they survived into the modern day remains an interesting, if utterly pointless, thought to ponder, and Dixon was quite prescient in that at least one of his creations, it transpires, did really exist. Kinda. One thing seems quite certain - were it not for the end-Cretaceous extinction event, you and I would not be here today. Because Hitler would have won World War II. It's just science.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mesozoic Miscellany 51

I reckon it's about danged time to hop on the dinosaur blog carousel and see what our beloved compatriots have been up to lately.

ART Evolved unveiled their mega-huge new Feathered Dinosaur gallery a couple weeks ago. It's a veritable mountain of saurians in dandy plumage, so if you've not visited it yet, do it. I had a submission too, a lil' Caudipteryx.

Brett Booth had an unveiling of his own at Carnosauria, where he shared his cover for G.I. Combat #1.

I'm sure Andrey Atuchin didn't intend it, but he gave me a little birthday present this year: a new illustration of Rubeosaurus.

At Dinosaurpalaeo, Heinrich shares an exchange with some animatronics artists who approached him to improve a Plateosaurus model in the process of being built. More of this, please! Clicking a link to a new exhibition of animatronic dinosaurs is almost always rewarded by the urge to hurl. To spend so much time and so much money and still get things so wrong...

Wondering about the sauropods of the British Isles? Nobu's got you covered at Paleoexhibit. A series: 1, 2, and 3.

Victoria Arbour has interviewed Federico Fanti at Pseudoplocephalus, asking about recent research about a nesting oviraptorosaur fossil.

Learn about Scott Hartman's process of revising his Acrocanthosaurus skeletal drawing.

Mark Wildman writes about the famous fashion statement of the iconic Stegosaurus at Saurian.

At the RMDRC Paleo Lab blog, Anthony Maltese writes about the excavation and prep of an enormous specimen of the Late Cretaceous fish Xiphactinus, nicknamed Lois.

I find good dinosaur crafts about as rarely as I find fossils in my Indiana backyard. But if you dig through enough lazy knockoffs, crummy pre-renaissance illustrations, and thoughtless silhouette, you can find gold. This week, my friend Larry Buchanan tipped me off to a set of invitations by Christine Wisnieski. Really charming illustrations that do not suck.

Christine Wisnieski's dinosaur party inviations. From designworklife.

Finally, in the filthy lucre department, my Cafepress shop is now chock-full of dinosaur fashion. Check it out, and I swear that I will only spend the money on honorable pursuits like betting on cat juggling.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ain'cha Anchiceratops?

Anchiceratops ornatus
Anchiceratops ornatus skull at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Photo by Ricky Romero, via Flickr.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum youtube channel recently posted a nifty thirty minute lecture from Jordan Mallon, "Variation in the Skull of Anchiceratops." For your enjoyment:

The Tyrrell does a super job of sharing stuff like this on their channel, so don't be a dillweed, subscribe already. Recent videos include one on the mosasaur Prognathodon and the sea-faring ankylosaur found last year at the Suncor mine. Also, Mallon is a DeviantArt member, so hop on that when you get the chance.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Collins Gem: Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life

I know what you're thinking and, yes, I probably will start sticking the word 'vintage' in inverted commas soon. After all, 'vintage' doesn't just mean 'old' - as a label it also indicates sophistication, refinement and a certain timelessness. Whereas most of the art I feature (I can't speak for David, obviously) is just cack from unwanted books that I snap up in exchange for three buttons and a short length of twine on eBay. And in that spirit, here's Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life from the Collins Gem series!

The 'Gem' books from publisher Collins(/HarperCollins) were tiny, pocket-sized compendiums of fascinating facts on child-friendly topics. Back in 1989, the printing presses spat out this fairly average little dinosaurs-and-all-that book, with text by Beverly Halstead and illustrations by Jenny Halstead. Both of which are quite bland, with a few eccentricities to liven things up. Much like my writing for Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs. A lot of the illustrations are clearly based on those by more established artists, notably Burian and Sibbick, as in the below illustration of swimming 'brontosaurs' (as B. Halstead insists on calling them).

Just some fat old sauropods paddling along. Wait a minute, those heads look a little peculiar...

Good grief.

Moving on, then. B. Halstead is quite insistent that all of the 'carnosaurs' were scavengers (with one notable exception, but we'll get to that) - not just Tyrannosaurus, but all of them. Specifically, Allosaurus and Megalosaurus are provided as examples of creatures that were "most likely not active hunters but rather scavengers", with the following evidence given:
"...the remains of a brontosaur's tail [have been found] with scratch marks made by the teeth of carnosaurs, together with some broken teeth. It is clear that a carnosaur was eating bits of meat off a brontosaur tail - a hunter would have been concerned with ripping open a dinosaur and wolfing down the entrails, not picking at what was left of the tail."
The idea of a predator opportunistically scavenging being completely preposterous, of course. J. Halstead provides a skulking vision of Megalosaurus, Neave Parker-stylee.

As if the treatment of its Jurassic theropod kin wasn't cruel enough, Tyrannosaurus suffers the indignity of being described as a fat ol' farm animal with big teeth. Apparently, the terrifying tyrant reptile "waddled along just like a about 4kph (2.5mph)", presumably while taking tiny baby steps. B. Halstead also believes that teeth "just like steak knives" would only have been good for tackling "inert flesh". Because, well, have you ever used a steak knife on a live cow? EXACTLY. At least, judging by this illustration, the lazy bastard tyrannosaur had a pretty colour scheme going on.

Stop the presses, though, for there is at least one 'carnosaur' in this book that gets a favourable press. What's more, it had only recently been described when this Gem was published. That's right - it's the British spinosaur Baryonyx. Although B. Halstead notes that its narrow jaws and conical teeth had been interpreted as being similar to those of "fish-eating crocodilians", he considers the idea that such a large creature could have subsisted on fish as being nonsense. Rather, B. Halstead is keen on the idea that
"...the specialisation of the skull was so that they could thrust their heads into the body cavity to drag out the entrails - 'Claws' [a popular nickname for Baryonyx at the time] was...a specialised visceral feeder."
You heard it here first. Probably. Even though it's in a book from 1989. In any case, we are subsequently treated to an unusually gory, graphic and grim depiction of Baryonyx ripping an Iguanodon corpse to bits. Happily, the popular ornithopod maintains its characteristic thumbs-up gesture, even while being feasted upon by specialised intestine scoffers.

Fortunately, B. Halstead has no eccentric opinions on Archaeopteryx - following the long-established consensus view that it evolved from other theropod dinosaurs. Unfortunately, J. Halstead opted to go for the 'stick-on fingers' look so favoured by artists who are apparently unaware of what a bird's skeleton looks like. I do like a blue Archaeopteryx, though...

...certainly much more than I like a beaked, distressed-looking Sordes. Apparently, pterosaurs shouldn't be classified as reptiles because they've been found to have had a furry covering. Good old fashioned paraphyletic taxonomy - donchaluvit?

The following image makes it probable that, at least on a few occasions, J. Halstead just couldn't be bothered. The poses match up quite well with the real fossils, but the dinosaurs themselves look...horrible. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but note the similarity of this Velociraptor to the one featured in Know the World of Dinosaurs. Could it be that one is merely a copy of t'other, or is it simply coincidence - a case of artistic laziness/tight deadlines/lack of advice from the 'consultant/s' convergently producing a similarly snub-nosed result? It's one to ponder, that.

And finally...Lystrosaurus just loves to be eaten. What does it care? It pretty much dominates the planet! Until next time...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2012

We should just change the name to Love in the Time of Chickadees, shouldn't we? Yes, this is another post about extant avian theropods, but what can I say? If apologies are required, I give them willingly, though if you'll indulge a little whining I'll let you know that this semester has been a real bear. In addition to my school work proper, I'm working on an (almost done) catalog for our school's graduating MFA class, which is my first cover-to-cover book design. Exciting, but a mountain to climb. Still, I regret the scarcity of my posts here lately, and I'll try to correct it when possible. Anyway, back to those little theropods.

This weekend is The Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual event "that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent." Today, I was able to do three observations of fifteen minutes or more, thus meeting the minimum requirement. The feeder in my dogwood tree was full of oiler seeds, the suet cage was stocked, and I'd spread some seed for the ground foragers to have at. Here are the results of the three periods, all dutifully reported at the count's website.

Count 1
Mourning Dove: 2
American Crow: 2
Black-capped Chickadee: 2
Tufted Titmouse: 1
White-breasted Nuthatch: 2
Carolina Wren: 1
Northern Cardinal: 3

Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse, by me. From Flickr.

Count 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker: 1
Black-capped Chickadee: 2
Tufted Titmouse: 1
White-breasted Nuthatch: 2
Northern Cardinal: 1
House Finch: 3

Black Capped Chickadee
Black-Capped Chickadee, by me. From Flickr.

Count 3
Mourning Dove: 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker: 1
Downy Woodpecker: 1
Black-capped Chickadee: 1
Tufted Titmouse: 2
White-breasted Nuthatch: 2
Dark-eyed Junco: 3
Northern Cardinal: 3
House Finch: 2

White-Breasted Nuthatch
White-Breasted Nuthatch, by me. From Flickr.

All in all, the usual suspects came by, with a few lamentable absences, including a nice, big Northern Flicker, the gang of Goldfinches, and blue jays. Still, a satisfying little foray into citizen science. Speaking of which, have you heard about the American Kestrel Partnership? In its early stages, it's an attempt to bring citizen scientists into the task of collecting data that will be used to study why American Kestrel populations are declining in some eastern states in the US. It's also the inspiration for my next project in my screenprinting class, so this won't be the last you've heard of it here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nightmares of a six foot turkey

One of the most common complaints of the stick-in-the-mud 'I heart the 1990s' crowd regarding fully feathered-up restorations of (predominantly) dromaeosaurs is that they end up resembling some form of oversized, toothy poultry, typically chickens or turkeys. Obviously, this is absurd foremost because there are plenty of birds with better public images to choose from when making such a comparison. On the other hand, it also implies that the person lodging said complaint hasn't been around turkeys recently, because turkeys are awesome. The little brat in Jurassic Park clearly didn't consider that even a literal six foot turkey would be potentially bloody terrifying. Particularly if it had long fingers with huge claws to grab you with.

More than this, turkeys - being very familiar and common domestic birds (I'm referring to Meleagris gallopavo here) - are excellent for education. Tom Holtz wrote a superb guest post for Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings back in 2009, which included a handy diagram illustrating the dinosaurian traits of a turkey's skeleton. In addition, their often quite grotesque and fantastical facial protuberances (which Darren Naish has blogged about before) are a perfect demonstration of how sexual selection can produce some truly bizarre results, and also how a living animal can look very different from what its skeleton might imply. While pointing out how this can be applied to palaeoart is not remotely new (SV-POW did it ages ago, for example, and one can point to a lot of Luis Rey's work), there's no harm in delivering a timely reminder now and then.

Really, though, this whole post was just an excuse to publish photos of some freaky freaky turkeys. And here they are. These specimens are to be found roaming free in Tilgate Park Nature Centre. Enjoy! And try not to picture a man-sized turkey waving its gigantic snood in your face. It'll give you nightmares.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: I-Spy Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

Last week, a canny commenter noted that, of late, I have been stretching the definition of the word 'vintage' somewhat. Contrary to what one might expect - pleasantly matured, refined artworks from the history of palaeoart - I was just peddling a load of 1990s nonsense featuring dinosaurs working for the police. Will I learn my lesson, and switch to true historical works? Of course not. So here's a book from 2001, although almost entirely (bar one page) unchanged from its original 1991 edition, and featuring a lot of art considerably older than that. So maybe I can redeem myself.

(I am a bit tired though, so forgive me if it's a short 'un...)

I-Spy Dinosaurs & Prehistoric Animals is the natural successor to I-Spy with David Bellamy: Dinosaurs. (Sometime around 1990-91, Michelin - they of the tyres - acquired the rights to the I-Spy series.) However, it is also a completely different book - while the Bellamy book featured original illustrations, much of the artwork here has been cribbed from other places, some of it even dating back to the 1950s. As in many early '90s dinosaur books, this can result in some bizarre juxtapositions, where archaic-looking art from the likes of Zdenek Burian is placed directly opposite a much more modern-looking restoration - as below.

While the Corythosaurus restoration on the left was hopelessly obsolete even by 1990 (even if it remained a superb artistic accomplishment), the juvenile Parasaurolophus sculpture on the right remains astonishing. In fact, it looks like a taxidermy specimen. Typically, there is a strange, uneasy mix of old and new at play here. 'Strange' is certainly the best way to describe some of the dinosaurs on show. The grotesque, if beautifully painted, zipper-mouthed man-in-suit tyrannosaurs on the cover are one thing, but inside we are treated to the likes of this:

Ignore the very Bakkerian Deinonychus (with only three toes) and feast your eyes on that gangly, pin-headed Struthiomimus. Still, while the animals' anatomy looks very suspect, the artist has skillfully created a stirring scene, with ominous, billowing dark clouds and a threatening tyrannosaur that is the focal point of a pale, haunting glow (which certainly increases its resemblance to Godzilla). I often think that what's missing from a lot of palaeoart today is this sort of invocation of mood, perhaps because finding someone with the required artistic and scientific talents is very rare.

Of course, some illustrations are a little more light on the redeeming features. Quite why this artist saw fit to give Protoceratops a mouth full of pointy teeth, I guess we'll never know (maybe they were inspired by bargain bucket dinosaur toys?). At least the animal is recognisable. Some of the most old-fashioned illustrations in this book - that aren't used in an historical context - enter a terrifying Twilight Zone of saurian mutants that pretty much defy explanation. Which is where the Bizarro-world ankylosaurs come in. Oh yes, them again.

Once upon a time, certain scientists thought that ankylosaurs might have had sprawling limbs. Somehow, this was transmuted into them having very short limbs. And a stumpy tail, and no neck. Either that, or they were just confused with glyptodonts. In any case, the Ankylosaurus in the above illustration looks utterly, utterly weird, and pretty much defies explanation. How did anyone ever think that they looked like this? That said, it's hard to fault the artist's technical skill - these spiky little bundles of fun look worryingly plausible as real animals. It's easy to imagine them curling up to hibernate in a bonfire.

And finally - old and new ideas in the same image.

The plesiosaur launching its snaking neck through the air to grab a Pteranodon looks hopelessly out of date, but the Pteranodon itself has a covering of pterosaur fuzz in keeping with more modern restorations. Neatly sums up popular prehistory books in the early '90s, I think.

Monday, February 6, 2012

David Christian's Big History

Enthusiasts in natural history need little convincing as to the value of paleontology and other avenues of research into the deep past. We have a seemingly innate attraction to artwork and writing which can conjure images of lost vistas teeming with prehistoric life. We look around, and where others see gravel, building stones and fuel for our engines, we see the evidence of Earth's deep history. It's an immense field to explore, which can be daunting. But it's a benefit, too, as it offers all manner of peculiar areas where we can engage our interests. There are those vulgar sorts like us, who find the draw of the saurians irresistible, but there are myriad other hooks to grab those with the right strain of curiosity. And that's a good thing, because a deep understanding of humanity's place in the cosmos allows us to make better decisions about how to manage civilization.

That's a message we try to deliver here, no matter how silly things get. Luckily, there are people like David Christian out there, doing a much better job of it.

A tip of the hat goes to Jeff Martz for mentioning this on Facebook, and to Greg Laden, who posted this video on his blog last spring.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Gee whiz, for a state without a sliver of Mesozoic strata, Indiana sure has settled in here. Hope you all are not tired of my use of this space to improve my home state's science communication culture yet. Time permitting, I plan on moving my Indiana content to its own page here; that way it's accessible and updateable, but not intruding so rudely in the main flow of dinosaur content. Thanks to those of you who have offered a word of support in comments as well as on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook.

I'll keep this quick. In yesterday's post, I bemoaned an apparent lack of a motivated science communication community in Indiana. I asked Tony Martin, he of Great Cretaceous Walk and Life Traces of the Georgia Coast fame and a fellow Hoosier, if he knew of any other Indiana natives communicating science on Twitter. He didn't, which led to him inventing the hashtag #IndianaScientist. I thought it was a good idea, so I cooked up a little graphic.

#HoosierScientist Banner

I really have no clue how to get a hashtag off the ground (in fact, urgently wanting to raise awareness about something I care about this deeply has laid bare just how tiny a reach I actually have). But for now, I'm posting this in hopes that more science boosters, communicators, educators in Indiana get involved on Twitter and other social media networks. Maybe even represent the state in numbers at ScienceOnline 2013! How novel!

I've also started a public list on twitter called Hoosierscientist. I've got four folks on there, including Indiana natives and those who came to Indiana and are contributing to science. I hope to see it swell.

Rectangular web graphic

Once again: my Indiana Anti-Creationism graphics are available on flickr in a variety of sizes, and I will make print-ready files available to anyone who wants them! Please distribute widely. Hell, I've even got a banner for the new Facebook timeline in there.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An update from Indiana

Yes, more about my home state's current flirtation with muddying its science classrooms with creationist teaching. This post will serve as an update about the SB 89's progress as well as a clarification on an amendment which has been somewhat misinterpreted in the blogosphere.

Square web graphic

SB 89 passed, with 28 of 50 state senators agreeing with sponsor Dennis Kruse that our school districts should have the option to require the teaching of competing theories of the origin of life to counterbalance those offered by science (video of the short proceedings available here). I especially appreciated the impassioned arguments of Sen. Karen Tallian, who kicked royal ass. It was personal to her, and it was affecting to hear her stand up for the constitution. "I can't even believe we're even considering this," she said. "We made this decision more than 200 years ago. I speak for the Constitution, and the Constitution sheds a tear today that we're even talking about this."

This does not constitute a law, not yet. As the NCSE reports in the above-linked story, "The bill now proceeds to the Indiana House of Representatives, where its sponsors are Jeff Thompson (R-District 28) and Eric Turner (R-District 32), who is also the house speaker pro tem."

This is idiotic, wasteful legislation. It's depressing that it was proposed, considered, and passed.

Before the bill came up for vote, it was amended by my own state senator, Vi Simpson. It states that the "curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology." This is indeed part of the bill now moving to the House. Various folks around the web, uninformed of the amendment's intention, have interpreted it as another example of the bill's stupidity. At Pharyngula, PZ Myers aims his scorn at Simpson's language in particular, writing that "They really don’t get it. None of them are science, and they shouldn’t be taught as if they were." PZ (and the creator of the cartoon included) is missing the point; this wasn't meant to improve the bill, make it more legally palatable, or soothe offended parties. It was intended to torpedo the bill. I have yet to hear back from Simpson regarding her intention, so this is nothing more than an educated guess based on her track record.

Here's the rub: even if PZ and others are missing the intention of the amendment, they're not missing its ultimate effect. Though I was tickled by the effort - and hearing Kruse include Scientology in the array of creation stories that may be taught was pretty funny - the fundies called Simpson's bluff. They know too well that there is only one creation story any school district in Indiana is going to favor in its curriculum. As Kruse himself admitted in regards to the amendment, "It wasn't something I initiated and I wanted, but it does open the door I think for the potential of allowing all religious views to be taught. To make it so it might stand up even better in a court challenge". Mr. Kruse: RELIGIOUS VIEWS DO NOT BELONG IN SCIENCE CLASSROOMS. Also, a middle finger held aloft to you for taking for granted the work of generations of scientists who make your comfortable American life possible.

Imagine being an upright science teacher put in such a position. What's next? Shall we dispense with the germ theory of disease? I mean, it's but one possible explanation for sickness, and perhaps our young children should have the choice to believe that their sniffles and coughs are actually the work of gremlins in Tudor gowns (that's what believe, and I'm highly put off that my views are not represented in our science curricula).

Better yet, imagine a young science teacher looking for a place to teach. What incentive would she have to come to Indiana? The vicious irony of it is that rural districts that would benefit greatly by giving their children a well-rounded science education would be the ones most likely to undermine it by watering down their science classes with lessons in the supernatural.

I also continue to be disappointed by the lack of a truly motivated science communication community in Indiana. Bloomington, in particular. For a research institution, Indiana University seems to have a remarkably passive community of scientists. The single post about SB 89 on the Facebook page of the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers garnered a single comment. One. Maybe I'm wrong about science teachers in these districts. Maybe it's not a big deal. Or maybe I'm just not looking in the right places or tuning to the right channels. If so - and I truly hope so - correct me. If you're an Indiana scientist or science communicator who is active on the web, let me know and I'll follow you (as well as the legion of others like you who must be hiding somewhere).

Love in the time of chasmosaurs

I'm sure you've long been wondering - what would chasmosaur love look like? Well, thanks to deviantArtist Durbed (aka Arioch, aka Josep), you need wonder no more.

'Chasmosaurus love'. © Durbed 2012.
Oh dear. Don't forget to give Durbed's gallery a visit sometime, and yes, we did feature his work before.