Posts tagged ‘history’




Sir John Gurdon, Nobel Prize winner, was ‘too stupid’ for science at school

At the age of 15, Prof Sir John Gurdon ranked last out of the 250 boys in his Eton year group at biology, and was in the bottom set in every other science subject.

Sixty-four years later he has been recognised as one of the finest minds of his generation after being awarded the £750,000 annual prize, which he shares with Japanese stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka.

Speaking after learning of his award in London on Monday, Sir John revealed that his school report still sits above his desk at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, which is named in his honour.

my mom always said grades are important, but they’re not the most important thing.

I love how he framed that. He probably looked at it every day and said, “Oh yeah?”

Here’s a bigger image of the letter.

Grades are poor measures of one’s potential to be curious.



Skulls from Sacrificial Rituals Found at Temple

Archaeologists have unearthed gruesome evidence of brutal Aztec rituals by uncovering 50 skulls and over 250 jaw bones at the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City).

Found at one sacrificial stone below a ceremonial platform called the “cuauhxicalco,” the human remains date back more than 500 years and represent the largest number of skulls ever found in one offering.

Each of the five skulls had holes on both sides, suggesting they belonged to a tzompantli. This was a skull rack on which the crania of sacrificed people were hung and displayed near temples or at other locations.

get this through your head…

That exciting moment when you’re digging and you think you found an intact skull, but really it’s a massive collections of drilled heads.

This is a fistulated cow, and that hole in its side leads to its stomach. This window has a number of uses beyond turning your cow into a submarine, from research to cow medicine. For example, when cows develop bacterial deficiencies they can be replenished by just scooping some out of the local window-stomach. 

Cows aren’t the only ones who can get fistulated; listen as RadioLab describes how a young man, shot in the stomach, ended up with a permanent hole to his digestive system. And how that led to some of the earliest knowledge on how our guts work.


Welcome Home, Endeavour


Mockup diagram drawings of the interior of the Space Shuttle, 1981

Here’s a really nice picture of the actual flight deck of the shuttle Endeavor:


I know it doesn’t look that “giant” here, but I highly recommend checking out the larger version and getting your evolutionary trace on.

This isn’t my favorite Tree of Life diagram, though. That title goes to the Hillis Plot, which is just beautiful.


The Great Tree of Life – giant infographic lets you trace any branch back through time to see how it connects to any other of life’s major branches. More on the history of using tree-like diagrams to depict evolution.

( chartporn)

Always a bit humbling to realize how insignificant we are on graphs like this. Short of actually destroying the planet, it will adapt regardless of what we do, and we will probably end up as another dead end. On the other hand, do we want to be the ones to finally mess it all up?

Also, I suppose it’s common sense that mass extinctions would be easily distinguishable. But the clarity across all domains of each extinction (especially 250-, 200-, and 65-million-years ago) is amazing. According to the Shiva hypothesis, we may be due for another one soon…besides the one we’re causing ourselves.


Opalised fossils

Australia is the only place in the world where opalised fossils are found. Fossils are usually formed when plant or animal remains are buried after death, and are slowly encased with sediments and infused with minerals, leaving a rock-like replica of the original organic material. Opalised fossils, however, replace an organism’s organic material with shimmering, solid opal. Excellent detail can be preserved both on the surface and internally, depending on how the opal forms: it’s a hydrous silicon oxide, and begins as a solution of silica in water. If an organism completely rots away, the opal will fill the empty space and create a cast of the external features—but if an organism has left organic material behind, the solution might harden to form a replica of the internal structure too. One of the richest sources of opalised fossils is Lightning Ridge in northwestern New South Wales. The fossils paint a vibrant history of animals who lived there in the Early Cretaceous Period, approximately 110 million years ago—dinosaurs, marine reptiles, fish, early mammals, molluscs, plants… Unfortunately, the opalised fossils are often cut up for jewellery or sold overseas for their beauty and value, but as they’re of significant scientific interest, researchers and paleontologists are working to preserve them.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)