Monday, February 12, 2018

Two videos from PBS Eons for Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day!  Just as I did last year and the year before, I'm celebrating Charles Darwin's birthday with a series of PBS videos on the subject of evolution.  This time, I'm not sharing clips of a television program, but videos from a PBS Digital Studios project, PBS Eons, which explores the history of life on Earth primarily through fossils.  As a paleontologist, I approve.

I begin with the one video so far in which Darwin is mentioned, 'Living Fossils' Aren't Really a Thing.  That's true even though Darwin himself coined the term.

Crocodiles, horseshoe crabs and tuatara are animals that have persisted for millions of years, said to have gone unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs. But even the most ancient-looking organisms show us that evolution is always at work.
Looks like I'll have to stop using the term and show this video to people who still do.

I conclude with a video I plan on showing to my students this week, A Brief History of Geologic Time.

By looking at the layers beneath our feet, geologists have been able to identify and describe crucial episodes in life’s history. These key events frame the chapters in the story of life on earth and the system we use to bind all these chapters together is the Geologic Time Scale.
I mention all the concepts and nearly all the people involved in my lecture on geologic time, so I may as well use a professionally produced and informative video to introduce them.  I hope my students like it as much as I do.

I plan on sharing more of these videos in the future.  In the meantime, stay tuned for posts about Valentine's Day and Paczki Day before returning to The science of the Winter Olympics from ASAPScience and the winners of 2018 WGA Awards.


  1. Hey PS, I enjoyed the vidz here, I like this kind of stuff, but no, I have no science, paleontology, or related background, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh {:-) ... (my life I done basically worked in the printing industry and played music, that's it). Darwin though, was a very importante figure, and frankly still is. Later PS

    1. Thanks for stopping by and appreciating the videos. On the one hand, they're scientifically accurate and informative enough that I learn things from them. On the other, they work as educational videos for anyone interested in science.

      I should read your blog for the answer, but what instrument do you play?

    2. I mainly done quite a bit of lead vocals with bands years back, but was also known for blues harps, I had a set to piano scale, and used effects and distortion playing them, so creating a quite different sound mixed in. But I also played a little fife and trumpet on some stuff back then, some carrib type percussions. I never considered myself a guitarist, but have played alot of guitar. I have a keyboards synthesizer at home now, for some additional fun. But also worked with quite a few artists bands, that I knew, and for a couple, had input on their sound and stage setup.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Thanks for answering. I was a musician myself, but always an amateur. I started off on French horn, but I was unsuited for it -- too big a mouth (in more ways than one). My band director switched me to tuba. I also played baritone and contrabass bugle in drum corps.

  2. I've always been a bit suspicious of the "living fossil" concept. Another animal sometimes cited is the coelacanth, but while immediately recognizable as similar to its ancestor, the modern coelacanth is much bigger and differs in other ways.

    I'd heard before about William Smith, mentioned in the second video, and known in his time as "Strata Smith". He came from working-class origins but rose to become a true giant of science, not an easy thing to accomplish in the class-obsessed British society of the time.

    I just started a subscription to CuriosityStream, and so far I'm impressed. They have a lot of programs on science, including evolutionary biology, and it's only four bucks a month. You can't embed them on a blog, unfortunately.

    1. I wrote about the coelacanth in Song for a living fossil five years ago. Yes, I perpetuated the stereotype.

      I mention William Smith and his humble origins in my lectures on geologic time every semester. I plan on giving one of them tomorrow, and I also plan on showing the second video to my students.

      If I watched documentaries with my wife instead of dramas and comedies, I'd have a subscription as well. I mentioned how impressed I am with the service when I wrote about 2017's top science stories, saying "CuriosityStream has risen from nowhere to being what I consider to be a reputable source in very little time." I'm not surprised you are impressed with it.

      You can embed their YouTube ads, which is what I do.