The BBC Brings Sexy Back

Riding on the coattails of a movement I am spearheading (Bring Sexy Back to Archaeology), the BBC has announced plans to produce a new series that would bring sexy back to archaeology.

Life on Mars creators to make ‘sexy’ archaeology drama
Metro.co.uk

The creators of the TV hit Life on Mars are set to make a BBC1 drama series that promises to make archaeology “sexy”.

Bone Kickers centres on a team of academics who take part in excavations in the historic city of Bath.

Their investigations into the past “will unlock dangers and mysteries in the present” in the six-part series, due to be screened next spring.

Polly Hill, BBC commissioning editor for independent drama, said: “Bone Kickers takes history and archaeology and makes it sexy, accessible and exciting.”

The BBC said: “Bone Kickers is a thrilling adventure series packed with historical mystery and contemporary relevance.”

The drama is being written by Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharaoh, two of the creators of time-travelling cop show Life on Mars.

Each episode will deal with a different historical period, from the excavation of the murdered 18th century slaves to the discovery of the True Cross.

Life on Mars, which finished earlier this year, is being remade for US viewers.

Ashes to Ashes, a sequel to the time-travelling police drama which starred John Simm and Philip Glenister, is being made in the UK with Spooks star Keeley Hawes.

You know where to find me BBC.

Martin Luther King Day

“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m willing to bet most Americans don’t know what today is, unless of course they have the day off from work. I’m also willing to bet that even fewer have ever listened to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I have A Dream’ speech, despite being a masterpiece of rhetoric.

Listening to this speech is something I’ve made a habit out of for the past four years. It is a fine example of what Martin Luther King stood for – a UNITED States of America.  If you’ve never taken the time to listen to this speech, why not do it today?  If you have listened to it, why not listen to it again?

Some facts on the holiday:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15.

Martin Luther King Day represents one of four federal holidays that commemorates an individual person.

The holiday is celebrated every year on the third Monday in January.

The holiday was first celebrated in 1986 but was not fully observed in all 50 states until 2000.

Sunday Science Update #2

I’m keeping my eye on the prize and continuing my efforts to stay up to date on science news. I’ve stumbled on a horde of new websites to help me with my resolution. With out further a do, I present the second Sunday Science Update – stories from the world of science that I find fascinating.

Scroll back through the archives of windyharbor.com and you’ll find a short piece I did on dark matter. In this piece, I cited dark matter as a evidence that the kitchen sink was permanantly occupied and therefore adding my dirty dishes in it made no difference. I’ve always been fascinated on the idea that space isn’t empty, but is in fact occupied by a mysterious form of matter that amazingly accounts for most of the mass in the universe. Therefore, when I stumbled across this article, my attention was instantly fixed on it.

Astronomers produce first detailed map of dark matter in a supercluster
Physorg.com

For the first time astronomers are able to see indirect evidence of dark matter and how this invisible force impacts on the crowded and violent lives of galaxies. University of British Columbia researcher Catherine Heymans has produced the highest resolution map of dark matter ever captured before.

Next up is an older article, someting I stumbled upon over at the Scientific American website. Ignoring the picture from the failed sitcom Cavemen, I plunged into this article with great interest. Neanderthals, our larger brained, more robust, but slightly shorter cousins vanished from the Earth somewhere around 30,000 years ago. They were fascinating creatures and one of the primary reasons I became interested in human evolution. This article explores the possibility of Neanderthals being able to speak. Now you might be thinking big deal- my dog can talk. But remember, there is a big difference between speech and communication. Every creature has a way of communicating, but the ability to speak- to articulate the tongue and lips in such a way that specific sounds are produced, is much trickier. A majority of the research up to this point has been focused on studying skeletal remains, in particular a tiny hole in the skull through which passes a tiny nerve called the hypoglossal. However, there is a very limited number of Neanderthal skeletons available to study. Now scientists are turning to genetics. How cool is that? If examining Neanderthal genetics can answer this question, I’m interested to know what other questions could be answered under the microscope.

Cave Speak: Did Neanderthals Talk?
SciAm.com

Discovery of the human variant of the FOXP2 gene in Neandertals suggests they may have had language skills.

Lastly, a link to a website that deserves everyones attention. Sciencedebate2008.com seeks to hold a presidential debate on science and technology among the candidates. Considering the shit thats’ come out of Huckabee’s mouth the past few months, this could be one hell of a show. But in fact, much to my disappointment, this debate would not be about finding out which candidate is smarter, but rather a forum for them to share their views on specific facets of science and technology. With everything that is happening in our world today (especially global warming), this is more than a great idea, it is a necessity. The debate already has the support of dozens of influential figures, including Nobel prize winners, politicians, respected educators, scientist, and Bill Nye the Science Guy! Please take the time to head over to the website and sign the petition showing your support for a Presidential Science Debate!

That’s all for this week!

Update on the violence in Kenya

Press release from ICROSS:

Since December 27th, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured in post electoral violence across Kenya. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly the very poor, have been displaced and are homeless. ICROSS is working in communities devastated by the violence and is doing all it can to help. Currently, all of our projects are running normally with AIDS home care, vulnerable children and child survival programmes fully operational. In many villages, however, the conditions have worsened with many people still fleeing or becoming victims of violence. The challenges we will face over the next few months will be daunting. All staff have cancelled their leave; we are bringing in more volunteers and redeploying teams to areas of need. We in turn need as much help as we can get to provide essential assistance to victims of violence in our project areas, specifically Nakuru in the Rift Valley. The humanitarian crisis facing so many who have been forced to flee is stretching all Government, NGO and international resources. We are asking all our friends worldwide to help by donating anything they. We assure all our friends that all core projects are running normally and will continue to do so. We will be updating this news throughout the current crisis.

Dr. Michael Elmore-Meegan
International Director ICROSS, Kenya
www.icross.ie

Sunday Science Update #1

As part of my resolution to add more content to the website, I’ve decided to set aside each Sunday to post links to fascinating stories in science. The stories will be plucked from several different fields, anything from archaeology to zoology. Some will be controversial, others may be a tad bit bizarre, but its all in an effort to get myself more involved in science. Hopefully you get something out of it as well. So, here we go:

The first item I found a few weeks ago. This deals with the evolution of the human brain and new evidence that suggests our diets were responsible for our growth in brain size.

Evolving Bigger Brains Through Cooking: A Q&A with Richard Wrangham
Scientific America

A couple of million years ago or so, our hominid ancestors began exchanging their lowbrow looks for forehead prominence. The trigger for the large, calorie-hungry brains of ours is cooking, argues Richard W. Wrangham, the Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

The second article comes as quite a shock. I never imagined that paleontologists would find a mummified dinosaur, but there it is. This is a huge breakthorough in paleontology. It was only after some deeper delving that I discovered this is the fourth dinosaur fossil to be considered mummified.  Now the tissue has decayed over the past 77 million years, replaced by minerals, but this fossil will provide scientists with loads of data that is normally absent from fossil finds.  Definitely something to keep an eye on.

Mummified Dinosaur Heads to Texas
Physorg.com

A mummified dinosaur discovered on the Hi-Line is heading to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, where it will be studied and displayed for more than a year.

Next up, this one. Pretty straightforward, but nonetheless interesting. I’m amazed how radically our understanding of the universe has evolved just in my lifetime. While we can never know everything about its development, its good to see constant breakthroughs being made.

Distant star sheds light on birth of planets
Physorg.com

Astronomers poring over a young star 180 light years from Earth have found evidence that stellar birth can lead to the formation of a planet only millions of years later, a mere blink on the cosmic timescale.

I may comment further on these stories at a later date. In the meantime, check them out – really fascinating stuff.

The world just got a bit crazier…

Stumbled across this beauty today. Thought I’d share it with everyone who was looking for a good laugh.

Green Light for Institute on Creation in Texas

By Ralph Blumenthal
Published: December 19, 2007

HOUSTON — A Texas higher education panel has recommended allowing a Bible-based group called the Institute for Creation Research to offer online master’s degrees in science education.

The action comes weeks after the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer, lost her job after superiors accused her of displaying bias against creationism and failing to be “neutral” over the teaching of evolution.

The state’s commissioner of higher education, Raymund A. Paredes, said late Monday that he was aware of the institute’s opposition to evolution but was withholding judgment until the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meets Jan. 24 to rule on the recommendation, made last Friday, by the board’s certification advisory council.

Henry Morris III, the chief executive of the Institute for Creation Research, said Tuesday that the proposed curriculum, taught in California, used faculty and textbooks “from all the top schools” along with, he said, the “value added” of challenges to standard teachings of evolution.

“Where the difference is, we provide both sides of the story,” Mr. Morris said. On its Web site, the institute declares, “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week” and says it “equips believers with evidences of the Bible’s accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework.”

Please apply pressure to the brakes right the fu*k now. Is this guy for real? Apparently this gentleman has never opened a grade school text book. As an individual with great interest in the creation of the universe as well as the evolution of life on this planet, I have a hard time understanding how anyone can consciously brush off the amount of scientific evidence that has disproved the “six days of creation” story presented in the bible. Ever heard of a little group of creatures called dinosaurs? There are mountains (full of fossils) of evidence to back up evolution and absolutely zero evidence to back up the smut the creationists are peddling.

It also says “the harmful consequences of evolutionary thinking on families and society (abortion, promiscuity, drug abuse, homosexuality and many others) are evident all around us.”

How did evolutionary thinking suddenly become responsible for abortion, promiscuity, drug abuse, and homosexuality? If anything, evolutionary thinking has brought us to a better understanding of how life, not just human life, but all life functions and survives.

Asked how the institute could educate students to teach science, Dr. Paredes, who holds a doctorate in American civilization from the University of Texas and served 10 years as vice chancellor for academic development at the University of California, said, “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”

Dazzle us anyways…

He said he had no ready explanation for the panel’s recommendation. “I asked about the decision,” Dr. Paredes said Monday in a phone interview from Austin. “I got a three-inch-thick folder an hour ago. We’re going to give it a full review.” But, he said, “If it’s approved, we’ll make sure it’s of high quality.”

Approval would allow the institute, which moved to Dallas this year from near San Diego, to offer the online graduate program almost immediately while seeking accreditation from national academic authorities like the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges within two years.

California wasn’t crazy enough.

In California, the only other state where Mr. Morris said the institute was offering degrees, it won recognition from the state superintendent of public instruction in 1981 but was denied license renewal in 1988. The institute sued and in 1992 won a $225,000 settlement that allowed it to continue offering degrees; it now operates under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Dr. Morris said his program was accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which is not recognized by Texas.

Last month, in a sign that Texas was being drawn deeper into creationism controversy, Ms. Comer, 57, was put under pressure to resign as science director after forwarding an e-mail message about a talk by a creationism critic, Barbara Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana State University.

Lizzette Reynolds, a deputy commissioner who called for Ms. Comer’s dismissal, later told The Austin American-Statesman she was surprised she resigned. Ms. Reynolds did not respond to a message left at her office.

The Texas Education commissioner, Robert Scott, told The Dallas Morning News that Ms. Comer was not forced out over the message, adding, “You can be in favor of science without bashing people’s faith.” He did not return phone calls to his office.

Ms. Comer said the commissioner should show her where she was bashing anyone’s faith. “He just doesn’t get it,” she said.

When are people going to stop riding the Intelligent Design train? Likely never, but I thought I’d ask anyways. Can you imagine spending an entire year working on your one page thesis?

“God did it.”

Here is your diploma, best of luck!

Sometimes, I can only shake my head and wonder how some people made it out of the womb.

Flickr Update

I had a chance to use my new Canon Rebel XTi this week and can say with out a doubt its the best camera I’ve ever wielded (even when compared to my Nikon FE, and that’s a classic). I’ve got a notebook full of photography ideas I’ve compiled over the last few years and now, with a shiny 10.1mp camera, I can start taking some shots.