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  • Darwin as slayer of werewolves

    Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution certainly transformed the way we view life on Earth. Brian Regal (right) thinks it also had an impact on mythical creatures. Regal, a science historian at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, says that with the publication of On the Origin of Species, canine-man hybrids went out of fashion, making way… Read More
  • Sex: a solution to microbial invasion?

    We’re halfway through the Origins series of essays in honor of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, and I’d wager that the other writers who have contributed to it will agree that it’s a guaranteed recipe for glorious failure. The origin of life in 2000 words? That’s just enough room to give a taste of the wide range… Read More
  • Evolutionary psychology takes its lumps in Newsweek

    Science writer Sharon Begley, who in 2007 returned to her old job at Newsweek after 5 years of writing the “Science Journal” column for The Wall Street Journal, has long reported skeptically about anything smacking of biological determinism. In the 29 June issue of Newsweek, she pens a 4300-word critique of evolutionary psychology, the t… Read More
  • Ötzi finders hit pay dirt, and scientists fret

    When I visit researchers in the field, they always bristle when writers compare their search for fossils or antiquities to treasure hunting. Few modern researchers ever profit personally from their discoveries, and in fact they often tell local people that fossils and mummies are worthless in monetary terms. “If you start buying and selling fossi… Read More
  • Darwin returns to his local museum

    Robert Farren, Duria Antiquior (An earlier Dorset), ca 1843, Calotype photograph, National Media Museum, Dorset.
    Robert Farren, National Media Museum, Dorset
    In March, historian Harriet Ritve reviewed for Science the U.S. opening of a new Darwin-focused art exhibit. This week, the show debuted at the United Kingdom’s Fitzwilliam Museum, a place with special significance to Darwin. Origins asked Swedish biology Ph.D. student Anna Ehrlund to share her impressions. CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Charles Darwin… Read More
  • Honey-loving chimps handy, too

    A wild chimp
    Christophe Boesch/MPI EVA
    Life for human evolution researchers was so much simpler 50 years ago. There seemed to be a clear distinction between the cognitive capacities of humans and that of all other animals. The proof: Humans made tools, other species did not. The concept was perhaps best expressed in the title of a 1949 book by British… Read More
  • Oldest Asian hominins? Never mind

    It’s not often you see a paper that announces “I was wrong,” especially if you’re reading journals like Science and Nature. But that’s what paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, says in an essay in this week’s issue of Nature. In a 1995 paper, he and colleagues had trumpeted a two-tooth jaw fro… Read More
  • The wonders of after sex

    When I sit down to read a scientific paper, I usually brace myself for the worst. I prepare to slog through esoteric, murky language—to have to dig deep to find the buried beauty of science. But every now and then, you sit down and read a paper that starts like this: “Picture a pile of… Read More
  • Darwin’s life in verse

    “I found that his questions were mine, everything from ‘Why is life short?’ to ‘Why do monkeys cry?’” On a visit to Cambridge last week to read her latest work, novelist and poet Emily Ballou offered that reflection on her 5 years researching the life of Charles Darwin. The result, her book The Darwin Poems, attempts to uncover the… Read More
  • On the Origin of Sexual Reproduction

    Sex gives nature much of its spice. Fireflies flash through the night to find mates; a flower’s perfume lures insects to carry pollen to distant partners; male bullfrogs croak to impress females. Currently, biologists understand the molecular nuts and bolts of sex fairly well. But the why of sex is still fairly mysterious. Bacteria don’t have… Read More