A falcon’s eye view of flight

September 27, 2010

This video has been doing the rounds, and its so cool I just have to post it here.  The video shows the amazing maneuverability and speed of birds of prey in flight, thanks to “on bird” cameras mounted on a peregrine falcon and a goshawk.

hat-tip: Ars technica

3D animation for teaching ecology and evolution

July 29, 2010

The Plant Ecology and Evolution group at the University of Vigo in Spain has been making 3D animation videos about their research, which are free to download for teaching purposes.

Here’s a sample of their work, showing how lizards disperse seeds

A full list of their videos is available on their website.

A plea for exploratory research

June 8, 2010

On more than one occasion I’ve been asked what the commercial applications of my research are, usually by people who have no background in science themselves. When I tell them I do basic research in evolutionary genetics that doesn’t have any commercial application there often follows outrage that the government actually gives out money to pursue this research (and of course I would argue that there isn’t nearly enough funding to do this type of research).

In this TED talk, Brian Cox makes the case for curiosity-driven research.  Although his examples come from physics and astronomy, there are countless similar examples in biology.  I particularly like the quote from British chemist and inventor Humphrey Davy that he ends with:  “Nothing is more fatal to the progress of the human mind than to presume that our views of science are ultimate, that our triumphs are complete, that there are no mysteries in nature, and that there are no new worlds to conquer.”

In tough economic times, our exploratory science programs — from space probes to the LHC — are first to suffer budget cuts. Brian Cox explains how curiosity-driven science pays for itself, powering innovation and a profound appreciation of our existence.

Freaky bioluminescent creatures from the deep on TED.com

April 20, 2010

A great new video out on TED.com today has Edith Widder describing some clever applications of bioluminescence in deep sea organisms.

Some 80 to 90 percent of undersea creatures make light — and we know very little about how or why. Bioluminescence expert Edith Widder explores this glowing, sparkling, luminous world, sharing glorious images and insight into the unseen depths (and brights) of the ocean.