Archive by category | Evolution

Top 20 books: discovering worlds

Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Kepler-186 system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

In terms of job satisfaction, discovering worlds must take the Sachertorte. Sibling astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, for instance, rejoiced in a haul that included Uranus, eight comets and several moons gleaned from what William called the “luxuriant garden” of the skies. Their final tally of deep-sky objects, with that of William’s gifted son John, numbered in the thousands. I’m sure their minds would be boggled by today’s exoplaneteering exploits — such as the TRAPPIST-1 system of seven Earth-like planets that fully emerged this year.  Read more

Crowdfunding an online tree of life

The fully revised, reissued edition of the 2004 classic by Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong.

Putting all living things, from kingdom to species level, onto a single, easy-to-explore ‘tree of life’ is an ambitious project. But a newly formed charity has just gone a long way towards that by releasing the website To crowdfund the new ‘OneZoom’ tree, biodiversity theorist James Rosindell and evolutionary biologist Yan Wong are asking the public to sponsor their favourite animals and plants. Here Rosindell and Wong talk about OneZoom, and why graphics from it have made their way into a fully revised edition of The Ancestor’s Tale – the 2004 classic Wong co-authored with Richard Dawkins.  Read more

Darwin Day: a poem on the Sandwalk

Charles Darwin (engraving from photo, ), Wikimedia Commons.

Charles Darwin famously built a circular path in the grounds of Down House near Orpington, Kent, soon after he moved there in 1842. It became known as the Sandwalk, a gravel-lined oval walk around the trees and bushes he planted. He called this his ‘thinking path’ and walked it morning and afternoon, often with his fox terrier Polly, observing seasonal changes, while mulling over his most difficult problems.  Read more