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Turkish Plane Crash

Image from Boston.com

The chances of you being involved in an air accident are about 1 in 11 million plane journeys. So this guy must be considered to be one of the unluckiest (or luckiest) people on the planet. Two aircraft accidents in just over a week, a probability factor of 121 trillion to one..

“Last Thursday De Knecht was on his way from Istanbul to north Iraq for his work when the plane he was on hit a lamp post while taxi-ing to the runway and had to be evacuated. And now he has been left with four broken ribs and a head wound after this week’s crash near Schiphol.”

From DutchNews.nl

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Today marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin, the co-discoverer of one of the greatest scientific explanations in history: why life is so complex, so wondrous and so diverse. Why life can survive against all manner of odds, and why some forms of life die off, never to be heard of again.

Darwin’s theory, properly called the theory of Evolution through Natural Selection, has not remained constant since it’s publication 150 years ago. Advances in our understanding of heredity, of genetics and of sexual selection have acted to improve our understanding of the ways in which living organisms adjust to the vagaries of nature and each other. The theory is being constantly refined and improved, but one thing is absolutely certain: The supporting evidence continues to flow in. For biologists, geologists, biochemists and a whole class of scientists, it acts like a map, allowing them to better understand what is going on, providing great clues as to the underlying reasons for particular phenomena, and governing the course of research worldwide.

To some, the theory may seem harsh, hopeless and random. It is too far an intellectual leap, directly challenging the core of their beliefs. This is a huge pity, because it’s explanatory power reveals so much about our origins and the diversity in nature that we see every day. It is no more a moral codebook than the theory of gravity. It provides us with an understanding of the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. When we strive to make the world a better place for all of us, surely we are enrichened by this knowledge rather than denying it outright?

So today I celebrate Darwin Day, remembering not just Darwin, but also Wallace and all the scientists who came after him. Thank you for all the efforts you have made.

 

Pescadero, California

I spent most of the day yesterday in transit between Cork and San Francisco. It was a relatively uneventful flight: reading about the Afghan quagmire in Newsweek, watching a pretty good Leo de Caprio movie (Body of Lies), getting some sleep, listening to a pre-recorded Skeptic’s Guide podcast, reading my book on the Permo-Triassic extinction event, and then listening to some Mozart on my iPod. The jouney was comfortable and although I had a small twinge in my back after the jouney, I didn’t feel the 10 hours pass by.

After dropping our bags off in Cupertino, I and some work colleagues decided to drive down the coast road (Highway 1) between Pescadero and Santa Cruz. The weather was foul: cold and rainy, so we confined ourselves to the car apart from one foray down to a beach near Pescadero.

The coast here is very different to home. Gone is the intimacy of the rocky Irish coastline. There is a great sense of scale: the cliffs and beaches stretch into the far distance, conveying the impression that it’s like this all the way down to Patagonia.. The cliffs are soft and chalky, and there is active erosion here. Not great places to be in a large earthquake, I’ll bet.

Total darkness had set in by the time we reached Santa Cruz. The journey back to the hotel was difficult for me with heavy rain, twisty roads, oncoming night-time traffic and the looming burden of sleep deprivation all taking their toll.

A quick bite to eat and I was in bed by 8.30, utterly, utterly exhausted.

A long time from now, Ireland and the UK will be just beneath the Tropic of Cancer, hugging the coastline of Africa. Japan will be on the Equator and the Arctic Ocean will be the largest ocean in the world. A large shard of Africa (the area east of the Rift Valley) will have split off and hit western India, and a two-thousand mile gulf will separate North America from South America. Only two major continents will exist: North America / Greenland and a supercontinent comprising Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Antarctica and Australasia.

This is what the world will look like in 120 million years time, according to the German Research Centre for Geosciences

Continents have always been on the move. During the Carboniferous Period (around 300 million years ago), most of Europe and eastern North America was lush tropical rainforest, as evidenced by the very extensive deposits of coal (dead trees) in this region today. Over a long period of time, the continents have steadily moved across the globe like big pieces in a toddler’s jigsaw. Continents can be thought of as large rafts plying the oceans, occasionally bumping into each other, flooding, and splitting up due to internal processes in the Earth’s interior. 

For some snapshots of Earth when it was a young ‘un, check out this site.

Happy Monday everyone,

Here’s a video my twin boys discovered that will help you get into the week. Base Jumping! Bicycles, triple headstands, and reverse jumping, it’s all there…

(If you liked that and you haven’t seen the Wingsuit video go there now. Now! What are you still doing here?)

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