Photography Contest X: Finalists


Here are the finalists of the 2018 photography contest. We received only 11 photographs from 5 photographers. All of the pictures were excellent, as you will no doubt see during the coming months. With assistance from our wife, we chose 1 photograph by each photgrapher and display them below the proverbial fold. The text, if any, was written by the photographers and lightly edited for consistency.

The finalists are presented in alphabetical order of last name. Please look through their photographs before voting for your favorite. Polling will close Friday, July 20, at approximately 12:00 noon MDT.

Reed Cartwright contributed to this post.

The descent of testicles


My colleague Paul Strode, a coauthor of this splendid book on evolution, once told me that, if you wanted to get a high-school student’s attention, just say “testicle.” The principle apparently works on New York Times reporters (and maybe physicists) as well.

Specifically, Steph Yin of the Times reports on a German team that studied the DNA of 71 mammals (by which I think he means 71 species) and found that testicular descent is an ancestral trait that was lost in elephants and certain other mammals. That is, elephants store their testicles internally, whereas most other mammals store theirs externally. It is uncertain precisely why testicles are generally stored external to the body, but it may have to do with the fact that sperm production is most efficient at temperatures lower than most mammals’ normal body temperatures. (I do not mean to be parochial, but you may find a short discussion of testicular descent and why it is poor design on pages 134-136 here. It was written almost entirely by Dr. Strode.)

Having internal testicles, that is, testicles that fail to descend, is called testicondy. In an e-mail to me, Dr. Strode hypothesized that eutherians (placental mammals) that exhibit testicondy might have slightly lower body temperatures than other eutherians. Wikipedia notes that aquatic mammals have special circulatory systems that cool their testicles. The normal body temperature of an elephant, however, is around 36 °C, or about one full degree Celsius lower than that of a human.

A remaining mystery, to me, at least, is what does the suffix “-condy” mean? I cannot immediately find it anywhere.

Semisaurus – another creationist on the loose


This one is literally on the loose: Semisaurus describes itself as “a mobile creation Museum that gives people answers. The realistic displays provide facts and evidence that take the creation-evolution debate head-on.” It is “a 48-foot semi trailer [that has been converted] into a state-of-the-art museum that is packed with high-end displays, animatronic dinosaurs and evidence-based information to teach the Truth (sic) about creation and evolution[.]” It has an ambitious schedule, and will be prowling around Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Missouri, and elsewhere for the next several months.

According to a credulous article in the Beatrice (Nebraska) Daily Sun, the Semisaurus is run by something called the Creation Instruction Association, whose exhibitor, Brian Young, has been traveling around the Midwest since September, 2016, and “spreading the message that science and religion can co-exist.” That claim is, of course, an experimental fact, but it says nothing about the falsehood that “[y]ou can also interpret the science according to a biblical viewpoint and see how creation can be supported by science,” as the principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School put it. The newspaper did not bother to fact-check the principal’s claim.

An equally credulous interview on Nebraska TV informed us that the exhibit cost $100,000 and, so far, 13,000 people have seen the exhibit this year. Mr. Young (no relation to me, I assure you) closed with a demonstration of a balloon that had been placed in liquid nitrogen and consequently shrunk down to virtually nothing. It is unclear whether or not he understood, but Mr. Young appeared to think that the molecules in the balloon had shrunk or decreased or something at the liquid nitrogen temperature. When he took the balloon out of the liquid nitrogen and allowed it to expand, he said something unintelligible about how God has “created an earth that is so well-designed for it to work and function properly….”

Finally, the Grundy (Iowa) Register showed that Mr. Young had learned the rote well:

“The main point of the Semisaurus is to educate people, and I believe education is knowing both sides of an issue, and then being able to make your decision based on that,” Young said. “Indoctrination, on the other hand, is only giving one side of the issue. I really believe in our society, our kids are being indoctrinated, because we’re not allowed to see all sides of an issue. You’re told you have to believe this way, or that way, even when the evidence can clearly go against it. Here, we are presenting both sides, and letting them choose.”

And that was about all I could take.

Thanks to the ever alert Dan Phelps for yet another link.

Centriroides sculpturatus


Photograph by Alan Rice.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Centriroides sculpturatus – Arizona bark scorpion fluorescing under 400 nm ultraviolet light in Telephone Canyon, Death Valley National Park. The photographer writes, "One hypotheses as to why scorpions glow under ultraviolet light is to convert the dim UV light from the moon and the stars into a color they can see: blue green. This may help them hunt insects."

¡¡ → Photography contest closes in 1 week ← !!

Photography Contest X


Dust your tripods, dig out your cameras, clean your lenses (but please not with a dry cloth), enhance your best pictures (and, if you have entered before, remember that you are not limited to 3 good pictures per lifetime). The tenth (!) Panda’s Thumb photography contest, begins – now!

Soviet-era twin-lens reflex camera. Camera courtesy of Angie Spiegel.

We will accept entries from 12:00 MDT (11:00 MST), June 18, through 12:00 MDT (11:00 MST), July 2. Mountain Daylight Time is 6 h earlier than UTC(GMT).

We encourage entries in a single, general category, which includes pictures of just about anything of scientific interest: any object of experimentation or observation, from single-celled organisms, through nematodes, fruit flies, rats, chimpanzees, and college sophomores to volcanoes, stars, and galaxies. In order not to omit theoreticians, we will consider computer-generated pictures and also photographs of equipment. Photomicrographs and electron micrographs are likewise welcomed.

Prizes will include a signed copy of Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), by Matt Young and Paul Strode, which has been donated by one of the authors; and Eternal Ephemera by Niles Eldredge, which has been generously donated by the National Center for Science Education.

If we get enough entries, consistently with Rules 11 and 12, we may add categories and award additional prizes, presuming, of course, that we can find more prizes.

The rules of the contest are simple:

We will consider any photograph that displays scientific interest – biological, paleontological, geological, or astronomical, for example.

Submit photographs in JPEG format.

Reduce photographs to an information content of 600 pixels horizontally. If creationists require a definition of information, they may apply in writing to the management.

Photographs may be enhanced but may not be montages. High dynamic range photographs are, however, accepted. Submit a maximum of 3 photographs (or 5 photographs per family) between 12:00 MDT, June 18, through 12:00 MDT, July 2. to MDT = UTC(GMT) – 6 h.

Submit the photographs as attachments to an e-mail (not embedded in the body of the e-mail). The subject line to the e-mail must have the form YourLastName_PhotographyContest. The filenames for the photographs must have the form YourLastName.Descriptor as, for example, Young.Oxytropis_sericea or Young.Table_Mountain, as appropriate.

In your e-mail, identify the subject of the photograph: common and biological name, mineral type, or geological formation, for example. Provide a link that will allow a reader to learn more about the subject.

Depending on the number of photographs submitted, we may post the best submissions and ask our readers to vote for the best photograph. Likewise, we may establish several categories with separate entries and separate ballots. In particular, students 16 and under should so identify themselves; if we receive enough entries, we will establish a student category.

By submitting a photograph, you stipulate that you are the owner of the copyright and grant The Panda’s Thumb a nonexclusive license to publish the photograph on its blog. The photograph will be subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives license.

Regular contributors to The Panda’s Thumb are not eligible to enter the contest.

The decision of the judges is irrevocable. The judges remain irrepressibly and irreducibly irascible, irreverent, and irredeemable, irregardless and irrespective.

Even though we are getting fairly good at running contests, we reserve the right to change any of the rules, or add or subtract rules at any time at our discretion.

Reed Cartwright contributed to this post.