Monthly Archives: December 2013

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Human evolution is stranger than we thought

This article from the New York Times is important for a couple of reasons. First, it describes the latest discovery in the long history of evidence supporting the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection, which is possibly the most thoroughly researched idea in science.

Baffling 400,000-year-old Clue to Human Origins

Screen capture from www.nytimes.com, 5 December 2013.

Screen capture from www.nytimes.com, 5 December 2013.

The second – and maybe more significant – reason this article is important is because it outlines the process by which new discoveries interplay with existing scientific ideas. No hypothesis or theory is sacred. As soon as objective evidence is unearthed, which undermines or challenges previously-held ideas, what we consider the ‘truth’ changes in response.

Non-scientists mistakenly think of this shift as somehow moving the goalposts or not actually believing in anything. I would argue that this model actually strengthens science’s claim to the ‘truth’ of human understanding because it demonstrates a faith in the process, rather than a specific set of ideas or dogma. Scientific ideas can – and should! – change as we learn more and more about the world around us. But the process of discovery, questioning, and realignment, which we call the Scientific Method, is unchanging and continues to lead to a deeper and more complete understanding of the forces which shape our world. Richard Feynman discusses this very idea in the video embedded below.

Welcome to the grade 9 chemistry unit!

We’re wrapping up the biology sequence this week as you put the finishing touches on your photosynthesis investigations and I grade the unit tests. That means it’s time to roll out the next big thing from our syllabus – the chemistry unit!

There are 3 key concepts I want you to master in this new unit:

  1. Matter is neither created nor destroyed.
  2. Chemistry is just rearranging matter in different patterns.
  3. The periodic table is based on patterns of energy and particle arrangement.

To get you started, I’ve embedded a PDF version of the master vocabulary list below. I’ve also shared it with you as a view-only Google doc, embedded it in the class Moodle page, and created a link to it on my grade 9 chemistry page on this site. That means you should have no trouble finding it. It also means I think these words are pretty darn important, and that I want you to take the time to thoroughly review and learn all of them.