Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin!

"Beached!" by James Pergum, based on drawing by Conrad Martens (1834) & engraving by Thomas Landseer (1838) (All Rights Reserved; Used With Permission)
“Beached!” by James Pegrum, based on drawing by Conrad Martens (1834) & engraving by Thomas Landseer (1838) (All Rights Reserved; Used With Permission)

February 12th is the birthday of pioneering biologist Charles Darwin*, who developed and presented the first mechanism to explain evolution that actually worked – namely, natural selection. Today would be Darwin’s 206th birthday, if he wasn’t long dead. Today is a great day to remember not only Darwin’s massive contribution to our understanding of Nature, but also to reflect on the countless people who influenced him, helped expand or develop on his ideas, challenged him, or simply helped carry his bags – for example, spare a thought for the gardener who tended Darwin’s much written about garden. These individuals that simply make things possible surround any discovery, no matter how large or small.

Of chief importance was Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle, chronicled in his The Voyage of the Beagle. The magnitude of the task of such a voyage can be well represented in this image of the HMS Beagle beached to repair the keel and copper plating. They just had to get the ship onto the beach in the correct orientation, lean it over to one side, make repairs, lean it over to the other, make more repairs, then get the whole thing back into the water without breaking anything – not in a proper dry dock – but on a beach on the coast of South America. No biggie.

Both for fun and because the effort required to create this is a metaphor for the effort of the HMS Beagle‘s crew, we thought we would show you the scene in Legos. Lego builder James Pegrum recreated a scene originally drawn by Conrad Martens, who was also traveling on the HMS Beagle as their artist-in-residence, and later engraved by Thomas Landseer. If you want to build your own HMS Beagle, you should consider voting to support Luis Peña’s Lego Ideas HMS Beagle project.

*There is an effort to get February 12th officially recognized as “Darwin Day”. While I am all for this concept in principle, one of the major supporters of this effort has been the American Humanist Association. They run “darwinday.org” and have pushed for Congressional resolutions to recognize Darwin Day. They, however, also named Lawrence Krauss as their 2015 Humanist of the Year, ignoring Krauss’ history of support for his buddy Jeffrey Epstein, who happens to be a convicted pimp and pedophile. So, I’m sticking with “Happy Birthday, Charles!”

HT for “Beached!”: The Brothers Brick

Science Tourist: Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge

I’ve lived in Cambridge, UK, for the past three years. There are many things I don’t like about Cambridge (and I’m leaving soon) but that only makes me more appreciative of the few places I do like very much, and one of those is the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

The Sedgwick Museum is one of the museums of the University of Cambridge. It’s located on one floor of the Department of Earth Sciences, right in the centre of town. The collection of fossils and rocks is on display along two corridors, in imposing cabinets.

Sedgwick1

This could easily have been a terribly boring setup, but the museum has managed to make the most of the small space, and turned the entire museum into a geological timeline! You enter the museum in the Cretaceous Period (65-145 million years ago), and if you turn right you can walk all the way back in time to the Cambrian explosion, 500 million years ago. Along the way, you can see fossils from all over the world. Continue reading “Science Tourist: Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge”