26 February 2009

Rough Guide to Evolution author won University Challenge in 1996

Turns out Professor Mark Pallen, author of The Rough Guide to Evolution (which I will be reviewing here shortly) and it's excellent associated blog, was the captain of the winning 1996 University Challenge1 team from Imperial College and has thus evidently always been rather clever2.

Mark Pallen leading the Imperial College team to victory in University Challenge in 1996.

1confused non-Brits see here
2which is, apparently, a perfectly acceptable thing to be in public as long as you are a man

24 February 2009

Zdravo Srbijo!

(That had better mean "Hello Serbia!" or else Bora is in big trouble.)

A Serbian newspaper article has mentioned The Beagle Project:
Поводом 200 година од Дарвиновог рођења, новчић са његовим портретом и – преко пута, сликом мајмуна, требало би да у Енглеској буде само један од начина обележавања овог јубилеја. Поред реконструисаног „Бигла”, очекује се и комплетирање Сабраних Дарвинових дела на Интернету.
Which means...
For the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, a coin with his image and - on the other side a picture of a monkey - will be just one of many ways the jubilee will be celebrated in the UK. Along with rebuilding of the "Beagle", we also expect completion of Collected Darwin's Works on the Internet....
The article also says that the Serbian translation of Richard Dawkins' new book and the Janet Brown biography will be published in November to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species here in England.

Bow of the sprit to Bora Zivkovic for both the tip and the translation.

23 February 2009

Introducing K2 Snowpaw

...my avatar in Second Life, shown here with to-scale HMS Beagle, champagne, and a great big red ribbon that just can't wait to be cut on Wednesday.

K2 Snowpaw and HMS Beagle, earlier today.

22 February 2009

Launching the Beagle in Second Life this Wednesday

I am now allowed to reveal that Second Nature, Nature Publishing Group's cleverly named space in Second Life, has not only rebuilt a scale replica of HMS Beagle in Second Life but they've placed her at the heart of an exciting new game called Notes from the Voyage which will be launched this Wednesday, 25th Feb at 6pm GMT (=10am Pacific, 1pm Eastern).

From the Second Nature announcement:
To complete the series of tasks in Notes from the Voyage, you will need to brave earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, swim among coral reef and uncover buried fossils, as well as encounter wildlife including jaguars, sloths and tortoises. Armed with your toolbag, compass and notebook, can you relive the highlights of Darwin's famous Beagle voyage and rediscover his key scientific findings? Prizes await all those who succeed.

Join us in Second Life from Wednesday 25th February on our stunning new addition to the Elucian Islands archipelago, which includes a lush re-creation of South America and the Galapagos Islands, as well as a Second Life scale replica of HMS Beagle.

And guess who's cutting the red ribbon at the launch event? That'd be me! You can bet I'll be thinking of it as practice for the real thing. I'll also be giving a talk about some Darwin bicentenary science projects at the Natural History Museum and of course the HMS Beagle Project. This will be the first in a series of talks on topics including "the history of Darwin and Darwinism in research today as well as themed podcasts and video". Details here.

Disclaimer: I barely know anything about Second Life and have only tried it just recently to preview this Notes on the Voyage game, but it seems pretty cool so far - if somewhat greedy of broadband - and this seems like as good a time as any to jump in, and it's free so hey, why not?

19 February 2009

Beagle Project first day covers (them's collectible, commemorative envelopes)

It's not too late to get yourself a little piece of Darwin history and support the Beagle Project at the same time with a Beagle Project first day cover:

Limited edition Beagle Project first day covers with optional signature by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston are available for purchase from Buckingham Covers.

Though Peter already posted about this, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that because it went up last week you might have missed it in the whole Darwin bicentenary media tidal wave.

Even if you had seen Peter's post you'd be forgiven for assuming from the post title that he was just linking to the shiny new Darwin stamps (a batch of which I've just ordered for my own greedy self), or you might have thought that the post was about stamps or first day covers commemorating HMS Beagle.

If actual fact, these puppies are specifically about The HMS Beagle Project and a portion of proceeds will go to support the project ...but what are they?

When I first heard the phrase "first day cover" I was left scratching my head (as us primates are wont to do). I'm not sure we even have anything like this in the States (though it would be surprising if some enterprising person hadn't thought to import the idea). Anyways, enough about my ignorance; a first day cover is a commemorative envelope bearing special edition stamps and a special postmark. I am told they are collectibles.

These particular first day covers are made by Buckingham Covers, they feature a Beagle Project banner and are postmarked in Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire, where The Beagle Project is based. If you're willing to pay a little more you can even get your cover signed by none other than Sir Robin Knox-Johnston CBE RD, the first person to sail single handed and non-stop around the world and patron of The HMS Beagle Project.

17 February 2009

Follow Pete Goss

as he sails his 37 foot lugger to Melbourne. Spirit of Mystery is half way between Cornwall and Australia, recreating the voyage made by seven Cornishment who 154 years ago sailed to Australia to take part in the gold rush. Goss is a legend after sailing through a hurricane to rescue Raphael Dinelli on the 1996 Vendee Globe race.

Pete and his crew have 2329 miles to go, and you can follow their progress (50 knot storms and all) on his blog.

H/t Timmynocky.

Dispersal of Darwin on the BBC

Failing to sleep last night and which Darwin disperser par excellence comes out of the radio? Michael Barton author of the Dispersal of Darwin blog. Which, if it isn't on your blog roll or feed list really should be. He was on the pods and blogs section of BBC Radio 5 Live's Up All Night and gave an excellent interview.

Up All Night, especially when Rhod Sharpe is presenting on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 1 am - 5 am GMT is BBC Radio at its finest. You were on a quality show there Michael.

15 February 2009

Yours truly, animated!

You know you've made it when you've been drawn in cartoon form for an animation by one of Miss Baker's high school biology students:

Darwin's Mockingbirds! by spudinski01, made at DoInk.com

If for some reason the animation doesn't work for you, here's a screen capture of 'me':

The avatar possibilities here are truly mindboggling.

The animation was made by Erik Martin a.k.a. spudinski01 to accompany his stellar Darwin Day blog post on Darwin's mockingbirds. I answered a few questions for Erik by email and sent a few links but this post is entirely his own doing. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

It took me a minute to figure out exactly where Erik got the inspiration for this image of me, but then I realised it must have been from watching the mockingbird video on the NHM website.

14 February 2009

Darwin Day in London: my live-tweets, pics, vids and thoughts

By popular demand, and as promised on Twitter, I have a clutch of photos, video and a few reflections of my Darwin Day in London to share with you.

I figured the best way to do this is to paste the text of my string of Darwin Day live-tweets right into this post, then add the pictures and video in-line with the feed, all the better for your vicarious enjoyment of Darwin Day as experienced from inside those hearts of Darwindom on Earth: the Linnean Society of London and the Natural History Museum.

A few notes before I begin so that you can tell what's what:
  • The tweets are in reddish italics and my retrospection is in plain 'ol black.
  • I've deleted some of the less relevant tweets, for example automatic twitterfeeds from this blog, replies to other tweeps that make no sense in this context, boring links, etc.
  • #Darwin and #Beagle are 'hashtags' which, according to hashtags.org are 'a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post.'
  • @gruts and @cephalopodcast, for example, are Twitter "@replies" which indicate that I am either replying to someone else's tweet or linking to someone else's Twitter feed.
  • I imported the tweets into this post last night around 10pm, which is useful to know when you get to the entries that say, for example, "11:06am yesterday" or "about 23 hours ago".
Okay, here goes!

Test tweet from virgin mobile (in more ways than one).
8:39 PM Feb 11th

@gruts @rdmpage See penultimate tweet. W00t! Looks like I'll be live-tweeting the VIP #Darwin event at the Natural History Museum tmorrow.
8:42 PM Feb 11th in reply to gruts

Wondering whether I will get presents under my evolutionary tree in the morning. #Darwin
10:55 PM Feb 11th

Nope, but I did get my free copy of Open University's Tree of Life poster through my mail slot, which is a pretty darn close second. Even closer would have been a shiny new Beagle, but I guess that's a little too much to hope for (or is it?).

Good morning one & all and happy Darwin Day! There is indeed 'grandeur in this view of life' (psst don't forget to use the hashtag #Darwin )
9:21 AM yesterday

@rmacpherson Won't go to Westminster (entry fee is daylight robbery), but WILL live-tweet #Darwin Day culminating in NHM VIP party @ 7:30pm
11:54 AM yesterday in reply to rmacpherson

Though I didn't go to Westminster Abbey, Rick, it looks like Mark Pallen did, and he brought with him very special guests Lauri Lebo (a journalist who covered the Dover Pennsylvania trial and author of The Devil in Dover) and Cindy Sneath (one of the plaintiffs in the Dover trial). Lauri wrote a guest post on Pallen's blog about their trip to see Darwin's gravestone (right).

All dressed up for museum #Darwin do; even wearing special Pampas (not pompous!) bracelet, a nod to #Beagle voyage.
1:42 PM yesterday

Just scored last-minute ticket to Linnean Society for awarding of Darwin-Wallace medals http://tinyurl.com/bmg7o4 (Fellows only) #Darwin
2:29 PM yesterday

The Darwin-Wallace medals (front and back of the medal, above, respectively) are awarded only every 50 years. The first medal (the only gold medal) was awarded to Wallace himself in 1908. Subsequent medals have all been silver. This year the medals were awarded to '13 outstanding scientists for work in “major advances in evolutionary biology since 1958”'.

Tweeting from London Underground, on my way to Linnean Society for #Darwin-Wallace medals (7 months late, ahem)
4:08 PM yesterday

Am in Linnean Society now right next to the big paintings of #Darwin and Wallace, am sitting next to Adrian Glover.
4:23 PM yesterday

Left: the painting of Darwin in the Linnean Society seminar room.
Right: enlargement of the plaque under the painting.

Linnean pres reviewing former winners including wallace, hooker, fisher, haeckel, haldane, mayr, watson. #Darwin
4:39 PM yesterday

Linnean Society President David Cutler reviewing previous winners of the Darwin-Wallace medals, including Joseph Dalton Hooker, one of Darwin's mentors and director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Now onto this year's medalsts including 3 whole women! (lynn margulis, linda partridge and rosemary grant) #Darwin
4:54 PM yesterday

At the Linnean Society, the stairs from the seminar room, where the medal ceremony took place, up to the library, where there was a post-ceremony party complete with wine, nibbles and singing...

Awesome: On (medalist) Joe Felsenstein's request, whole room sang happy bday to charlie, including not a few FRS's. #Darwin
6:22 PM yesterday

I had hoped that I might capture the singing on my camera for YouTube but I wasn't quick enough ...nor was I brave enough to ask the room for a reprise.

The library of the Linnean Society (not my photo - reproduced from Linnean Society website)

My rather terrible photo from inside the Linnean Society library, looking out across the street at the Wedgwood shop ...seemed appropriate!

Almost time for main event at NHM. Apparently NZ & Aussie high commissioners & Chinese ambassador are coming. #Darwin
6:50 PM yesterday

Me: Tonight Linn Soc gave medals to eminent scientists. Friend: Were you one of them? *snort* excellent!!
7:04 PM yesterday

Museum looks gorgeous; big 200 cake; Just saw Steve Jones & chatted w George Beccaloni, 'Wallace's Rottweiler'
7:36 PM yesterday

As I said the other day, I'm a little miffed at Steve Jones for writing this piece in the Telegraph last week. I have a special rant I've been writing for the last few days. Hoping to post it tomorrow, the last day for Blog For Darwin.

View of Darwin's birthday party in the central hall of the Natural History Museum, taken from just in front of Darwin's statue, looking back towards the entrance of the museum.

It's moments like these that I think I must be one of the luckiest people on earth.

Speeches now about 'darwin's paternity claims' in so many fields of science, ..and humanitarianism!
7:46 PM yesterday

One of the speakers was Melvyn Bragg of BBC Radio 4's In Our Time fame. I caught most of his speech (missed out the first couple of sentences) on digital video and uploaded it to YouTube:

Melvyn Bragg on Darwin, whose statue looms, illuminated, in the upper right-hand corner of the frame.

Rarrgh! It's the natural, not national, history museum, mr. Secretary of state. #Darwin
7:56 PM yesterday

Even after all that #Darwin-ising, still have just enough time to nip to Apple store & pick up newly repaired laptop.
9:05 PM yesterday

Party favours! Royal mail #Darwin stamps & special Newcastle beer 'Darwin's Natural Selection'!
9:51 PM yesterday

Party favours included the Royal Mail Darwin Presentation Pack containing the Darwin Stamp Set (top) and the Darwin Miniature Sheet (middle - note Floreana mockingbird!) and a limited edition Pale Ale, "Natural Selection" (bottom) made by Newcastle's Centre for Life and the Darwin Brewery in Sunderland.

Mad sprint to Apple to pick up repaired laptop upon which debate w 'Genius' about whether #Darwin truly greatest Briton!
10:16 PM yesterday

Nom nom nom #Darwin's 200th birthday cake at Natural History Museum bash was dark chocolate w plenty of frosting; pre-nom pics coming soon
about 24 hours ago

Surprisingly fancy dinosaur poo Darwin's birthday cake surrounded by orchids (appropriate!) just under the tail-end of the cast of the huge Diplodocus fossil that dominates the central hall.

@gruts 'Are you sure you're allowed to announce the itineraries of foreign diplomats like that?' Uh.. er.. probably not, but too late now!
about 23 hours ago in reply to gruts

Happy birthday not only to #Darwin but also to the much more extant @cephalopodcast
about 23 hours ago

Me 'n' Charles on the occasion of his 200th birthday. Note the new plaque which reads ‘Freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science.’ Excellent, only that both the plaque itself and the NHM website attribute this quote to Darwin but searches on Darwin Online for "freedom of thought", "gradual illumination" and "best promoted" did not yield any hits. I'm concerned. Maybe Mark Pallen, Richard Carter or Michael Barton would care to chase this up.

Update: Here comes Michael Barton to save the day! He notes in comments that I should have searched both Darwin Online and the Darwin Correspondence Project, and that if I had I would have seen that the quote is in fact attributable to Darwin. See Michael's comment for the full context of the quote, i.e. the text of an 1880 letter from Darwin to E.B. Aveling.

13 February 2009

Ashok Kumar MP

marked Darwin Day by tabling an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons:
"That this House notes the extraordinary achievements of Charles Darwin; notes that 2009 marks both the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species; welcomes proposals for the creation of a Darwin Day in recognition of the ground-breaking work of the British scientist responsible for the theory of evolution by natural selection; and calls for Darwin's birthday, 12 February, to be designated a public holiday in honour of one of the fathers of modern science and one of Britain's greatest, if not the greatest, scientific minds."

65 other MPs have signed, go here and check whether yours has and if not give him/her a poke. Congrats Mr Kumar, you are a founding Friend of the Beagle Project.

Nothing from the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown but hell, when you've got President Obama remembering your 200th...6 mins 20 secs in.
H/t Greg Laden.

It's not too late to blog for Darwin for 'Blog For Darwin'

I'm glad to learn that the Blog For Darwin blog swarm runs through the weekend, because it is now 1 am and after all that live-tweeting from both the Linnean Society Darwin-Wallace medals ceremony and the VIP party at the Natural History Museum, I am beat. Exclusive pictures and video tomorrow.

Over the next few days I have some doozies planned here, though, not least a long-overdue setting straight of Steve Jones the unexpected Darwin party pooper and a very, very special reveal of some Darwin art relating to the mystery of the Beagle's figurehead, so stay tuned.

12 February 2009

More Darwin Day links....

Hello Bowsprite a New York Harbour Sketchbook, nice post and worth a visit for the fantastic Darwin's Botanical Garden artwork.

Adam Turinas' blog Messing About In Sailboats is for anyone who knows that feeling when you're sailing and there comes the moment boat gets up on her toes. He has been a long-term supporter of the Beagle Project, and celebrates Darwin Day here. (I really owe him a post...)

And to celebrate his 200th, what better way than with haddock (sustainably fished, I am sure) and chips with Guiness?. And a square rigger firing a cannon on the blog header. Who could ask for anything more?

The Oyster's Garter (science served wet and salty) brings in the barnacles for Darwin Day. I mean,what's not to like aout an orgamism that cements its head to a rock? Makes Prometheous looks wimpy, I say.

Adrian at Evolving Complexity does a great juxtaposition of beards Darwin birthday card. We like.

Mike at Tuibguy has a great collection of Darwin Day announcements and includes a splendid looking proclamation declaring 12 Feruary Darwin in Minnesota. (Here in Yorkshire, from where Darwin posted the first copies of The Origin to the world, our Mayor tried to ban a local artist serving tea and cakes to celebrate Darwin Day.)

Biochemicalsoul (how cool a blog name is that?) writes about Darwin and the heart of evolution. I'd always taken my ticker for granted, now I know how I got it.

Rick Macpherson of Malaria, Bedbugs, Sealice and Sunsets (the inspiration for the song 'these are a few of my favourite things') admits that his prize posession is a copy of Darwin's Zoology Notes and Specimen Lists from HMS Beagle. Elsewhere Rick asks us to consider and conserve the world's coral reefs, Darwin's second obsession.

Also at the wonderfully named Quiche Moraine.

If I've missed your Darwin Day post, apologies. Leave a comment or drop an email to peter at thebeagleproject dot com and we'll continue the round ups.

Darwin Day linkfest 2

Hurrah for Expresion Patterns over at Nature Network for telling us about the Darwin who wrote about the Expression of Emotions of Animals and Man.

At the same gaff, The Scientist tosses off a few lines One The Dead Bloke's Birthday. Bonzer.

Deep thoughts and silliness lives up to the first part of his moniker but not the second with Darwin WAS wrong. He also plugs the Beagle Project. Yes Bob, that's the way to get a voyage. But the cat does the claws thing on the mainmast and there'll be trub. DTAS also sends us in the direction of Propter Doc, which makes some good points in a short post.

Pyranaemata asks what he's wearing for Darwin Day and quelle surprise its his own t shirts. Beagle is front and centre so we can't conplain.

A Developing Passion is well worth a click with a clever post on the Far seeing implications of the Origin of Species.

And for Matt Brown's knit up of Darwin and Harriet: applause!

PS: Bob at Deep Thoughts flags up Richard Wintle's post about Darwin's unorthodox method of specimen collection. He bashed its head in with a hammer.

Darwin Day linkfest.

Digital Cuttlefish in on smokin' form with Happy Birthday Charles Darwin (you were right). DC is looking for a tune, if anyone has a tune looking for some topical words.

Bora picks up Google's DD banner. PZ's happy birthday thread gets to 70 comments before a troll knuckledrags in.

John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts demolishes a myth about the Origin of Species. Brian at Laelaps gives an account of Darwin's Heartache expressed in his letters around the time of the publication of the Origin of Speciesin November 1859. Those letters were written from Yorkshire, not too far from where this post being written.

More later.

Donate: now with added gift aid.

OK. This is the year we raise the cash to build the Beagle. Now UK taxpayers can extra bangs for their Darwin buck because we have gift aid enabled, which means if you're a UK taxpayer your donation gets a 25% top up courtesy of the taxman. So if we get £4 million in in UK donations, the government kindly builds the remaining 20% of the replica Beagle. Gift aid paypal buttons on the blog (scroll down a touch) on the home page and donate page.

Kevin (and other Americans), we will shortly be able to do the same thing in the USA.

In the field with Darwin's mockingbirds

Hands down, Lukas Keller and Paquita Hoeck win the prize for best Darwin Day celebration activity - I mean, how can you beat doing field work in Galapagos ...on Darwin's mockingbirds ...on Darwin's 200th birthday?

Yes, my friends and collaborators at University of Zurich are there, now, taking a census and sampling DNA from the remaining mockingbirds on satellite islands near Floreana, where Darwin first saw them and subsequently remarked (for the first time evah) in his ornithology notes that these observations could "undermine the stability of species".

The point of all the field work (and impending lab work) is to understand not only the evolutionary history of mockingbirds but also the genetic structure of the remaining populations, to help make better decisions when it comes to reintroducing the birds back onto Floreana, a process which we hope will begin very soon.

The good news is you don't have to imagine it in your mind's eye, because the BBC has gone there and filmed them! Check it out:

BBC coverage of Floreana mockingbird, starring Lukas Keller and Paquita Hoeck.

You can help the Floreana mockingbird reintroduction project by donating at the Galapagos Conservation Trust website.


3 things to do on Darwin Day...

Join the Friends of Charles Darwin (it's free!)...

Donate to help us rebuild HMS Beagle.

Blog for Darwin.

Darwin Day links....

Darwin's Galapagos under threat, according to the BBC. (I'd like to think it's the Galapagosians Galapagos.)

Science News for Kids treats us to an essay on Darwin, but didn't mention that as a kid he spent a lot of time doing amateur chemistry in a garden shed, blowing stuff up and getting the nickname 'Gas'.

The Guardian publishes an interactive video.

The Telegraph gives us a canter through Darwin's life in The Man behind the theory of evolution.

The Times tried to be funny with If Charles Darwin were alive today he'd be Simon Cowell (TV talent shows bring analogous to evolution, you see). It also celebrates the other hero of the piece (Beagle!) with a feature on The Coffin Brig that sailed round the world. The Times also celebrates Charles Darwin the meteorologist (at which I am sure Captain Robert FitzRoy would raise an eyebrow).

The New York Times writes of "The unconventional force of his great idea" (registration reuired)

Scientific American airs their Darwin Day special podcast.

Michael Goldfarb in the Global Post starts his piece with pics of the mockingbirds and a great write up of the Darwin exhibition at the Natural History Museum, saying if you read one thing on Darwin....

8 February 2009

New Beagle Project gear just in time for Darwin Day!

A couple weeks ago I asked, with the help of Rufus Wainwright, "what are you doing Darwin Day?" - and I sure hope you've got something lined up by now (with so much to choose from including this do-it-yourself gem there's really no excuse) - but today I'm asking what is perhaps an even more important question: what are you wearing Darwin Day?

Well look no further, fellow Darwin groupies, because I have got the new gear (USA/UK) that will answer your wildest dreams, and not only that, but if you order now*, it can be delivered in time for the big day!

Here's a small sampling of what's in-store:

The new gear features a very special inscription, "Charles Darwin, H.M.S. Beagle", found (and scanned) by Randal Keynes on the inside front cover of a German translation of the New Testament that Darwin had with him during his voyage around the world on HMS Beagle, 1831-1836. Our sincerest thanks to Randal and The Charles Darwin Trust for the use of this image in support of The Beagle Project.

And while you're in the Darwin spirit, why not show your science- and reason-loving Valentine you care by making a donation in your sweetheart's name to the HMS Beagle Trust? The reward could very well be a chance to walk if not sail aboard her one day in the not too distant future!

*teh small print: please check estimated delivery times when you place your order; no guarantees but if you are order from our Spreadshirt shop in the UK, or from CafePress in the USA, you will likely get your delivery in time for Charlie's b-day; if it really matters, consider the express delivery options that both sites offer

6 February 2009

Oceanographer and conservation activist Sylvia Earle, director of nascent American Friends of the Beagle Project, wins Ted 2009 wish prize

"Hero for the Planet" Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and Explorer in Residence at National Geographic, and an agreed Director of The Beagle Project's nascent "American Friends of..." partner organisation based in Rhode Island (about which more at a future date) has won one of this year's TED Prizes!

From the TEDPrize website: "The TED Prize is designed to leverage the TED community’s exceptional array of talent and resources. It is awarded annually to three exceptional individuals who each receive $100,000 and, much more important, the granting of “One Wish to Change the World.”

Here is Sylvia’s wish:
"I wish you would use all means at your disposal — films! expeditions! the web! more! — to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet."

The Plan: To bring knowledge of our oceans to a wide audience and galvanize support in favor of marine protected areas. We invite a variety of responses from TEDsters in pursuit of this goal.

Possible Responses:
  • Development of technologies that would permit deep sea exploration in order to make the invisible visible
  • Supporting (or organizing) expeditions to explore proposed “hope spots”
  • Helping make the scientific case for a network of MPAs
  • Identifying and exploring candidate MPAs
  • Creating a media campaign in support of MPAs
  • Backing the upcoming Oceans documentary to ensure wide viewership
  • Offering media space/distribution
  • PR and marketing assistance
  • Offered use of a suitable boat or ship for TED@SEA, a “brainstorming expedition” on the oceans
  • Event management
  • Website that highlights the issue and nurtures a network of supporters
  • .…and/or your suggestion of what you could best offer.
More here including how you can offer your own help to make Sylvia's wish a reality! I plan to offer my continued time as a volunteer director for science for The Beagle Project, the aims of which significantly overlap with Sylvia's wish list above. I will also add into the Beagle's scientific agenda the exploration of Sylvia's proposed "hope spots", and maybe one day the new Beagle can host one of Sylvia's TED@SEA "brainstorming expeditions"!

4 February 2009

"...as if it were a ship on a violent sea."

A little while back I crowed over reported on NASA's Expedition 19 to the International Space Station, which was then due to launch on the 25th of March, carrying Beagle Project collaborator Mike Barratt into the wild black yonder. Susan in comments kindly sent a link that led me to this USA Today item (my bold italics):
NASA delays shuttle launch, space station's relocation
Traci Watson

A scheduled move of the International Space Station today has been delayed until March after a relocation in January went awry, the space agency said Tuesday. NASA also postponed a launch of space shuttle Discovery.

The shuttle was to visit the station Feb. 14, but technical worries about Discovery prompted NASA to delay the blastoff until no earlier than Feb. 19.

Discovery will carry a new crewmember and solar panels to the station.

The decision to delay moving the station is likely to push back a scheduled March 25 launch of a Russian spacecraft ferrying two new residents to the station, space station program manager Mike Suffredini said Tuesday.
"...two new residents" - that's our Mike!
Last month, rockets were commanded to fire to move the space station as usual, but because of erroneous commands sent to the rockets, they cut off so suddenly that the station shook vigorously, NASA said. The station is regularly repositioned to maintain its altitude above the Earth and to meet visiting spacecraft.

The vibration was so strong that the three station residents alerted Mission Control. Engineers were concerned about whether the jostling weakened the station's joints and solar panels. A NASA video taken by a camera inside the station shows the interior shaking as if it were a ship on a violent sea.

Engineers found that the station had not been harmed, but managers opted to delay the next relocation of the station until March so calculations could be double-checked, Suffredini said.

...continued here.
A ship at sea, eh? An appropriate analogy considering NASA's link with a certain UK-based maritime project. Here's the abovementioned video:

Considering the proximity of the shaking to the void of space, and to quote Peter McGrath in our BBC Radio interview last Darwin Day, "Now, as a sailor, that almost makes me wet myself."

3 February 2009

Welcome Google Ocean.

The wet extension to Google Earth is with us. Google has partnered up with some impressive partners including National Geographic to add some of the undersea world to Google earth. The project comes with the endorsement of none other than NGS explorer in residence Dr Sylvia Earle. Dr Earle is also director of the American Friends of Beagle, and her latest book Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas is on the way to The Beagle Project Blof for review.

Great though Google Ocean is, it serves to remind us how little we actually know of the seabed. We have surveyed less of the ocean bed than we have of the Moon. Given the importance of the seas in photosynthesis, feeding us and in sequestrating carbon it's something we need to know more about. So donate to the Beagle Project.

Guardian write up of the launch of Google Ocean here.

2 February 2009

The lore and language of the sea.

A geat deal of the English we unthinkingly use has its origins on the decks of sailing ships. Cock up. Three sheets to the wind (drunk). Not enought room to swing a cat. Between the devil and the deep blue sea. Devil to pay. Gone by the board. Taken aback. Bitter end. Just a few top of my head examples.

This delightful Radio 4 programme by Stephen Fry examines maritime English and metaphor. You have 6 days left to listen, and it will be a well spent 30 minutes of your time.

One contributor laments the increasing 'sea-blindness' and 'sea-deafness' of the British who are, after all, an island race. So here's a gratuitous pic of a square rigger. The eagle eyed among you will notice that her yards are not 'all square', an offence for which a flogging skipper might 'let the cat out of the bag'.

Snow day costs Britain £1.2 billion

...or so says the Telegraph*. So does this mean that global warming might, at least in the short term, save Britain billions per year in restored productivity? If so, can't just a teeny tiny bit of that be used to celebrate British maritime and scientific history in the form of a new Beagle? While we're all scratching our heads over that one, here's a bit gratuitous of snow-day photo blogging:

Wimbledon Common, London, earlier today.

*The Telegraph also bestows the honour of 'editor's choice' on Steve Jones' recent exercise in plot loss (about which more later), for whatever that's worth in relation to how trustworthy their reporting above may be.

Darwin's tree of life (BBC/Attenborough)

Intelligently discussed and extravagently linked in The Times here.

1 February 2009

Are you reading Lord Drayson?

This evening any Briton with enough brains to make a mockingbird fly crooked will be watching David Attenborough present Charles Darwin and the tree of life on BBC1.

Yet, 150 years after Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species, The Guardian is reporting a poll that indicates....
25% of Britons believe Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is "definitely true", with another quarter saying it is "probably true". Half of the 2,060 people questioned were either strongly opposed to the theory or confused about it.
I would like a look at the survey before it went through the media mangle, but if the report is an accurate reflection of the state of British knowledge of the basic of biology, we are a sadly ill-educated country. What have successive secretaries of state for education and ministers for science been doing for all these years? Not getting the basics right in the classroom.

We obviously need an icon to help science teachers get across the great theory that is evolution. We can't put the feet of schoolchildren on the Galapagos, but we could put them on an HMS Beagle. Lord Drayson, the letter wil be in your inbox Tuesday AM.

The poll was done for the thinktank Theos, who are currently trying to 'rescue' Darwin. I think transient form like a thinktank, doomed to extinction having the hubris on stilts to think it can rescue Darwin, or that such a towering scientist needs their puny, soluble lifering is a bit rich.

The poll was by Comres, and despite the newspaper report the detailed poll has not yet appeared on their website or on that of Theos. Data please.