\ Visualizing Evolution: August 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend Art: a Painting Bear..?

As time goes on and I get more distance from my undergraduate art training, I find myself losing more and more respect for 'modern art.'

Now, a bear has won 2nd place in an art contest in Rapid City, SD. The judges didn't know the artist was a bear:

A piece of artwork at a South Dakota fair is now sporting a second place ribbon after it was judged for its color, composition and uninhibited expression.

However, it wasn't submitted by a descendant of Van Gogh, it was painted by a bear.

The bear is named Kobe.

The judges had no idea who the painting was done by as they were voting - they just saw it as a work of art.

An artist and volunteer at Bear Country USA submitted the painting.

And here it is!
All I can do is feel sorry for artist who received 3rd place.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Venn Diagrams as Cladograms

For whatever reason, this morning I was remembering back to 10th grade Biology class, and the frustration I felt when trying to correct a classmate who said "well, bees aren't animals, right? They're insects!" I tried in vain to explain how different groups fit within the group called "animals," but I believe the moment I gave up was when she said that "well, not all mammals are animals, because humans are mammals but we're not animals." *sigh*

Perhaps I should have whipped out some paper and sketched an evolutionary tree. But trees are confusing to people who are new to the idea of cladistics. However, there is another option, and that is the Venn Diagram.

Now, Venn Diagrams are usually reserved for data sets that intersect. With cladistics there are no intersections (unless you get into hybridization, which I'm not going to do), but rather, data sets embedded within other data sets. They're also not the most efficient way to show clades, especially if you want to include a lot of groupings, but they can be excellent in introducing the idea of grouping.

Case in point, here's one by Ray Troll explaining why we are fish:
This view is also rather humbling, to see our group "Hominids" so tiny and so deeply embedded within so many stacking groups. Primates to mammals to amniotes to tetrapods to lobe finned fish to bony fish to vertebrates to chordates. We are all those things because we are grouped within them.

So how does a Venn clade compare to a normal branching one? Here's an example found here, at the website for the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid:
And here another example from an entry on Clades from the blog Evolving Thoughts comparing a branching clade to a Venn diagram.

These two illustrations also demonstrate a couple of important ideas in cladistics. The first is the idea of a paraphyletic group, represented here by both "Invertebrata" and "Reptilia." The other is a polyphyletic group, represented by "Homothermia" and "Crossopterygii."

And since 1. I'm already on the topic of Venn diagrams, and 2. I don't make fun of intelligent design nearly enough on this blog, and 3. I've been on a roll lately making trouble with people, I leave you with this!:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Linkfest: All Hail The Great Asteroid!

Yes, it's been quiet around here for awhile. But the week of demotivation is finally over. So, to kick-start the new week, here are some links I've been saving up!

Cartophilia: A neat visual blog about maps.

Art in the Science of Medicine
: An article on teaching visual literacy. "The research, headed by Dr Joel Katz from the HMS Medicine Education Office, revealed that undergraduate medical students taking a class in fine art had a 38% improvement in their ability to make accurate clinical observations."

Big-Brained Animals Evolve Faster
: From Science Daily

Wolf is to Thylacine as Crayfish is to What?
The answer is Palæmon, a type of freshwater prawns. Convergent evolution rocks.

Artist gives 'life' to remains of prehistoric animals: Keny Marshall has a really cool job putting together dinosaur skeletons for exhibits.

Illustrating the Unknown: An art exhibit by Adrian Hatfield. I wish I had this man's color sense.
“What I really have tried to focus on was the visual language science uses to convey information ... And also how creative decisions and aesthetics fill in so many of the gaps that we don’t know … But for example, if a scientific illustrator is doing an illustration of a dinosaur, he has a very limited amount of knowledge. So everything else—their color, whether they had head feathers are if they didn’t have feathers—a lot of the aspects of it are just made up by the artist.” - Adrian Hatfield
And finally, from ShortMinds Webcomic:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Weekend Poetry: Coelacanth


So, what's new coelacanth?
What have you done that we can't?
Four hundred million years ago you swam
before dinosaurs walked on land.

You had limbs that would be legs
before reptiles hatched from eggs.
If you had just one free wish
would you be a lobed-fin fish?

Not long ago you were unknown
except from fossils cast in stone.
We thought that you were long extinct,
your portrait drawn in books with ink.

And then on that fateful day
you were caught and put on display
for all the world to see and wonder,
to be dissected and pulled asunder.

There's much that's new since you were born.
Now there're creatures in human form.
I don't know how long they'll last,
but you'll be here when they've passed.

- Craig Gosling

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Visual DNA

Visual DNA!
There's more where that came from. I have nothing to add--the site's not in English, but the images sure are neat looking.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Reading Darwin can be dangerous...

Thanks for the link, Ku'mah!

Monday, August 4, 2008

XVIVO lawsuit update

Finally, an update on the XVIVO plagiarism case against the makers of the 'documentary' Expelled from back in April. It seems they've reached an agreement in which "Premise Media documentary does not infringe on any of XVIVO's intellectual property rights."

I'm not sure why XVIVO decided to not pursue it further. From what I saw it seemed they had a rock-solid case of plagiarism on their hands. However, I have not seen the "Expelled" video in its entirety, and I also have no legal knowledge beyond what I've learned from Judge Judy, so instead of getting all nasty about it, I'm going to hold my opinion for now.

Just do me a favor and read this next part while I sarcastically play this sad violin:
'John Sullivan, Executive Producer of EXPELLED, said, "EXPELLED is an important movie with an important message. Even before the movie was released, various parties were trying to silence us. They will continue to be unsuccessful. This walk away agreement is another indication that we have done nothing wrong. Our message will carry on both in theaters throughout the summer and with our DVD roll out this October."'
Ugh, these people lie and steal and still have such a persecution complex. It's become so ridiculous that it's not even amusing anymore. It just makes me sick.

You can see the original XVIVO animation here, on their animation page.

Related, here's another very nice animation by Hybrid Medical Animation. Beautiful stuff, but a bit too much of the wave/ripple filter. Made me a bit seasick. Though I still may be reeling from that article on the lawsuit.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Weekend Art: Tuft of Grass

My photography skills could use some improvement, but I saw this little tuft of grass growing out on my back patio this morning and was instantly reminded of one of my favorite George Carlin quotes.
click for big

Weekend Poetry: Devonian Blues

This week's evolution poem is actually a song called "Devonian Blues," written and performed by paleoartist Ray Troll. Click here to listen!

Devonian Blues

Thinking 'bout my momma and I'm thinking 'bout you
Got those Sarcopterygian Devonian Blues, yeah

My momma told me something few people know
We were all a bunch of fishes a long time ago

So wave your fins in the air it's plain to see
You are a wayward fish, and it will set you free

Out of the ooze and we were born to cruise
For burgers in cars with nothin' to lose, yeah

I can't really say if it was part of a plan
But it took millions of years to go from fish to man

Did we lose our way when we left that pool?
Well, sometimes I think so when we act like fools
(That's why I'm gonna tell you )

Yeah your momma oh she was a lobefinned fish
Oh my momma, she was a lobefinned fish

Every single girl and every little boy
Was born from the clan of the wayward Dipnoi

Don't let the preacher man spoil all the fun
But it took a lot more than six days to get this job done

Amphibians and reptiles, birds, mammals and man
All belong to the fish tribe, doncha' understand?

Yeah your momma, oh she was a lobefinned fish
Oh my momma, oh she was a lobefinned fish

It's all there, locked in the stone
The truth is told in fossilized bone, yeah

Fish had fingers, and fish had arms
Crawling onto land like a charm

Changing the world, the rocks revealing
On and on and on in the chain of being

Oh your momma, oh she was a lobefinned fish
Oh my momma, oh she was a lobefinned fish
(that's right)

Changing the world, the rocks revealing
On and on in the chain of being

- Ray Troll