Most Basic to Life #biology #science #poem #poetry #whatislife


Are you alive?
How do you know?
What do you look at
To see if it’s so?

Is it because
You oxidize food?
Consume and create

Or the homeostasis
That you maintain?
Do you need cells
To be in the game?

What if the planets
Hold a surprise?
Organized data
May say you’re alive.

Kate Rauner

Thanks to for raising the question, even if there’s no consensus answer. For you and me, “I think therefore I am” may work as well as any other answer.

Silurian Hypothesis – Industrial Civilization Long Before Us #science #poem #poetry #research #paleontology #civilization

Doctor Who Silurians

Silurians found by Doctor Who. Promotional material to illustrate the subject in question is fair use, or so says Wikipedia.

Deep within our history,
Four hundred million years ago,
One of the greatest dyings cleared
The Earth for them to grow.

Boney fish with moving jaws
Dodged scorpions in the shallow seas,
Hardly social it would seem,
Yet something walked the land near these.

Abundant layers, weirdly thick,
In sandstones
do imply
Industry spewed pollution slicks.

Suggestion of dead ocean zones,
Through turbation
Imply farming on
a scale vast.
That’s civilization evidence.

Not to mention oddly high
Concentrations to be found
Of antimony, lead, and chrome,
Rare earths, and gold within the ground.

Sudden population booms
Of crinoids and certain trilobites,
Indicator species these,
Increased to
impressive heights.

Shape of lipids well preserved
In geo-chemistry,
Not mono-chiral indicates
They were made

Until the late Devonian,
When life in deep oceans died,
Anoxia that changed the seas
Sent glaciers south to crush their lives.

No, there are no real facts
once industrialized,
But to think of traces
they could have left
May help us search the starry skies.

by Kate Rauner

Silurian fossils

Silurian fossils, but, no, that’s not a Silurian coin. It’s just there to indicate size.

Thanks to theatlantic for their story on this study published in the International Journal of Astrobiology: could we tell if an advanced civilization existed on Earth long before humans, even before mammals?

Such conjecture may help us ponder extraterrestrials. As the authors say, While much idle speculation and late night chatter has been devoted to this question, we are unaware of previous serious treatments of the problem of detectability of prior terrestrial industrial civilizations in the geologic past.” Download the pdf for yourself.

Evolution and One Lost Boy Produce New Species of Bird in Two Generations, and for the first time we absolutely watched it happen #science #biology #evolution #Galapagos

Visit Kate Rauner on WordPress for Science News

Scientists identified the island and species their bird came from – here’s one of his brethren

What’s a species? What separates one species from another? The word may be a handy abstraction but it’s also fuzzy. Our words aren’t as precise as we might hope.

Consider the evolution of a new species of bird, in two generations, from a single lost finch spotted by a graduate student.

The arrival 36 years ago of a strange bird to a remote island in the Galapagos archipelago… mated with a member of another species resident on the island, giving rise to a new species that today consists of roughly 30 individuals.

The newcomer was a male that sang a different song, and was much larger with a larger beak than three finch species living on the island. Because the island was small and intensely studied, researchers were able to collect blood samples of the new male and track his breeding.

A species is a population that interbreeds within its own group but not outside. That doesn’t mean individuals can’t or won’t breed outside their group – and produce offspring that can also breed. Some species are isolated because they because they never bump into each other.

“Reproductive isolation is considered a critical step in the development of a new species.” The new male’s offspring looked different and sang a different song than the fiches around them. Since they had each other, they weren’t as desperate (or lucky? insistent?) as their father, so they mated with each other. That’s why they’ve been awarded the title of species.

Such intense inbreeding can exaggerate genetic diseases and weaknesses, but that isn’t obvious yet for these finches. Who knows? Problems may arise. Perhaps we’ll watch the demise of this new species in coming years.

This new species may say more about people than birds. The Galapagos finches continue to be fascinating birds, utterly unconcerned about human-created concepts, taxonomy, or language.

More at and many other outlets.

This is the Strange Value of the Best Fossil Poo #dinosaurs #fossils #science #evolution #poetry #poem

fossilized poo - resource for science

This legendary fossilized feces specimen is named “Precious”

Brontosaurus is amazing,
And likewise is T Rex,
But what about the beetles
That hold food chains erect?
Fin rays and fish scales
And bits of parasites,
The ins and outs of ecosystems
Found in coprolites.

Ancient relationships
That underlain the world
Of millions of years ago,
Their secrets are unfurled.

Toe – mography
Without destroying fossils
Enables us to see

Deep into the past
Of ecology,
To reconstruct
just who ate whom
On life’s ancient tree.

by Kate Rauner

Thanks to, and read more on wikipedia. More poo poetry here 😀