Humanity’s earliest ancestor was dug up a while ago. Well, when I say ‘our’ ancestor, it’s also the ancestor of fish, amphibians, reptiles and starfish among other things. It’s 540 million years old, it’s called Saccorhytus coronarius, and it’s a primitive deuterosome, a type is thought to be one of the earliest common ancestors of quite … More Our earliest ever ancestor had a big mouth and spewed – er –
Back when I was a kid, paleontology was simple. Life had evolved from one-celled creatures to fish to lizards to dinosaurs to mammals and finally to Tory-voting, club-going Englishmen – all in a giant and wonderful ‘advance’, a relentless march of ‘progress’ during which each new form automatically doomed the last to extinction. Today we’ve … More I like my dinosaur cooked with eleven secret herbs and spices. Do you?
On 3 February 1931 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand – particularly hitting the town centres of Napier and Hastings. It remains the worst natural disaster ever to strike New Zealand in historic times – despite some doubt as to the precise casualty figure, it was still 50 percent more than the … More It’s 85 years since the Hawke’s Bay quake and we still don’t know how many died
I went for a walk the other day in a patch of podocarp forest – New Zealand’s classic bush, a temperate jungle that is little changed since the Jurassic. The forest is filled with huge trees – especially rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), the undergrowth lush with silver ferns (Cyathea dealbata). These days the undergrowth is less than … More A walk in a Jurassic forest
The other day I spotted something on sale in a sandwich bar and decided I’d seen it all. Paleo Muesli, a Paleo Roll and other Paleo-labelled products, all described as ‘decadent’. I almost rolled about laughing, because one of the reasons why the ‘Paleo diet’ is so popular is because it rejects the foods that have fuelled … More In which I discover ‘decadent’ paleo food
In what has to be one of the biggest ‘ewwww-factor’ experiments in a while, paleontologists at Yale recently tweaked chicken DNA to give the birds toothed jaws, a bit like Velociraptor. Although there was a lot of work involved in finding out which two DNA strands to tamper with, the process apparently didn’t add anything … More Chickenosaurus lives! But should we really play God with genes?
My book Coal: The Rise and Fall of King Coal in New Zealand was published late last year by David Bateman Ltd. It was my second science-oriented book in a month. It’s not often that authors are able to publish books in quick succession with major publishers. In point of fact, my schedule included four releases between … More Does what we write define us as writers?