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Nobody needs to be a card-carrying biologist or climate scientist to recognize that things like belief in intelligent design or climate change denial are based on some deeply flawed thinking. Not that science is all-knowing or always right per definition. But there's a big difference between, say, criticizing the flaws inherent in hallowed concepts like academic objectivity, and rejecting a widely-supported scientific fact because you don't believe in science.

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Theo Gray, element collector and many other things, constructed a table with a hand-carved wooden tile for every element in Mendeleev's periodic table. Each tile hides a sample of the element inside the table. It's a beautiful piece of work, and I love how it shows that there are real, physical, interesting things behind that perfectly boring grid full of letters I was presented with in high school and forgot as quickly as I could possibly manage. Maybe I'd have tried harder to take an interest in chemistry if the periodic table had been presented as this intricate ordering of actual materials that look and feel absolutely fascinating. Most of the video is Gray showing off his collection of element samples, and oh, I wish I was in that room right now and could touch all that stuff. (New thing learned today: tungsten is an incredibly heavy element, and one actual use of tungsten powder is sprinkling it on wax in dog's ears so the ears will lie flat.)

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The reason why this talk delights me beyond anything I can express is rather long and convulted, so I've put it after the video. tl;dr version: It's Jurassic Park for real, and Jurassic Park pretty much made me.

Jack Horner: Building a dinosaur from a chicken (16min)

Summary from TED:

Renowned paleontologist Jack Horner has spent his career trying to reconstruct a dinosaur. He's found fossils with extraordinarily well-preserved blood vessels and soft tissues, but never intact DNA. So, in a new approach, he's taking living descendants of the dinosaur (chickens) and genetically engineering them to reactivate ancestral traits — including teeth, tails, and even hands — to make a "Chickenosaurus".
 
Video under the cut )
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Quick recap: Kristina Busse's keynote "Affect and the individual fan" was given at the Textual Echoes conference and can be viewed in its entirety online. Read more... )

Really stopping now. Part three will be on affect (still Kristina's keynote) and cute little kittens! (Edited for major html fail)

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