Episode #22: Ape Evolution, Mars and Poisonous Rats

The 22nd episode of Consilience is out! You can download the mp3 here (29.7mb) and the file’s page on Archive.org is here.

Teaching Angela to appreciate history

August the 7th, 1903 was the birthday of Louis Leakey, a Kenyan Archaeologist whose work

Louis Leakey examining skulls from Olduvai Gorge

was important in establishing the history of human evolution in Africa. He was a supporter of the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and founded the Leakey Foundation which funds human origins research.


The story linking IQ and internet browser use was revealed to be a hoax since we covered the story. Tanrandeep Gill, the creator of the AptiQuant website which made the original claims, has come forward and admitted to creating the hoax after viewers of BBC news called him out.


Photographs taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show changes on the planet’s surface that are reminiscent of liquid water. This adds to the evidence for a water cycle on the red planet and hints, once again, at the possibility of life.

The Fox network is going to make a follow up to Carl Sagan’s ground breaking Cosmos series. This time ’round the show will be hosted by the fantastic Neil deGrasse Tyson. Look out for it on prime time TV in 2013!

Rosie Redfield, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, is live-blogging her attempt to reproduce the study, published in December 2010, which claimed that GFAJ-1 bacteria can grow using arsenic in a phosphorous depleted medium. Her progress is extremely interesting, but not too promising for those who support the arsenic-life paper.

Two space mission updates: Juno was successfully launched this Friday (the 5th of August), and the Dawn spacecraft entered into orbit around the planetoid Vesta. Mike mentions a video of Vesta rotating.

There is some evidence that climate change played an important role in human evolution. Mike has some doubts. About the effect on evolution, not about the climate change.

A 20 million year old fossilised skull of a tree-climbing ape has been found in Uganda, it will be taken to France for cleaning and investigation, and returned to Uganda.

More African Wildlife that will kill you: the East African Crested Rat coats a section of it’s fur with insanely strong poison to defend itself against predators.


The Big Instrument

In “Big Instrument” this week we look at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, an array of detectors buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice and watching for neutrino annihilations.

The Borat Sagdiyev Award for Excellence in Science

This week we introduce a new feature, a monthly award for people and organisations that have stood out above the crowd for scientific idiocy.

This month the award goes to Greenpeace for destroying AUS$ 300,000.00 worth of genetically modified wheat with no just cause.


Sci-Fi Quote

“You must have faith… that the universe will unfold as it should…” – CAPT Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country


The SciBono centre in Newtown, Johannesburg, is running an exhibition called Dialogue in the Dark which introduces people with “normal” sight to the world as it is experienced by blind people. Gauteng Skeptics is organising a group outing to the centre to attend a DitD session.

Owen’s Star Trek fan club, the USS Dauntless, will be getting together to donate blood on Saturday 13th August. They will meet at 10:00 at McDonalds in Bruma for breakfast before heading across the road to donate blood. If you’re in the Joburg area, please feel free to join them. If you can’t donate blood for whatever reason, please feel free to join them anyway for moral support and good conversation.

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2 Responses to Episode #22: Ape Evolution, Mars and Poisonous Rats

  1. Rallick says:

    Wow, the sound quality has really improved. What did you do differently? Interesting episode, I particularly enjoyed the Big Instrument segment. Thanks for the work you put in.

  2. Angela says:

    Hey Rallick,
    Thank you for the compliments. We upgraded our recording rig significantly, from a single omni-directional mic plugged into one laptop that had to cope with all of us crowded around it, to a proper mixing desk with Shure microphones.
    The new rig was sponsored by the Gauteng Skeptics.

    Glad you enjoyed the new insert, we will add it to the regular schedule.


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