The 'show why science is awesome' thread:


They’re also good for insulation.


In a very real sense, birds are dinosaurs. And their closest relatives among the other dinosaurs include the thing whose tail got left in the amber (and Velociraptor, too).

There are tons of things that evolved for one use and later turned out to be useful for other things. Like our spine. That sure as heck did not evolve specifically to hold us up as we walk on two legs (it is barely adequate at that job - just anyone with a bad back). The vertebral column didn’t even evolve to hold 4-legged critters up off the ground while they walk and run, though it is actually pretty darn good for that. It did evolve as a flexible but solid anchoring place for muscles that were really useful in swimming using a side-to-side fish-like motion.

I don’t think everyone in the paleo world is totally convinced that feathers did not evolve directly for flight, but that idea is looking less and less and less likely.


That last sentence was sort of a septuple negative or something, @ron_debry. 😳


Allow me to deconstruct it so that even @Dave_Perkins can understand:

I don’t think

Thinking is hard. Why bother? (I think)

everyone in the paleo world

There are people riding dinosaurs (and stomping around in the mud to leave footprints next to dinosaur footprints). Those are the people in Paleo World. General Admission tickets go on sale in February.

that idea is looking less and less and less

That idea used to look a lot. But now it doesn’t look quite so much.

Got it?


I get it!


Yeah, that last sentence gives me a headache.


@ron_debry, I am actually curious what your last sentence said!


There are still a few paleontologists who think that feathers evolved because they were useful for flight (I think, but maybe they’ve all given up). But the evidence is pretty overwhelming that some critters had feathers before any of them had wings. If that is the time sequence, then feathers were eventually useful for evolving flight, but they evolved in the first place because they had some other advantage.

A much more technical treatment


Many thanks! I was pretty sure that you were saying that. But it’s good to confirm.


Proof that birds are dinosaurs:


The intelligence that so many bird species have never ceases to amaze me. If you were to think about IQ per ounce of brain matter I bet birds would be #1. And with modern day birds being so smart it makes me giddy to think how cool and amazing dinosaurs may have been.

Where’s that damn time machine?!


There was some evidence some species of dinosaurs were chimp levels of intelligence or higher iirc.


While it’s obviously more obvious in retrospect, anybody who doubts birds are descended from dinosaurs has clearly never seen a large bird up close. An emu or even a large turkey? If you really look at them, they’re clearly fucking terrifying prehistoric alien monsters.


If you ever come across that specific article I’d love to read it.


The Smithsonian has an interesting-science-stories-of-2016 list up, which I enjoyed looking over. My favorites are the shipwrecks (#3) and CRISPR (#6).


This is both frightening and intriguing.

I love the idea of made-to-order organ replacements, but I’ve read way to much dystopian sci-fi to be comfortable with anything based on “human-* hybrid.”


Scientists may have created solid hydrogen finally.


I sure hope so, but we’ll see:


It beats actually implanting pure pig parts into humans, which we’ve been doing for decades (Schwarzenegger himself had a heart valve replaced with a porcine one back in the 90s).

Plus, if we can get rid of the organ shortage, and for organ recipients to have to take immune suppressors the rest of theirs lives, that’s a double-win.


Solid Hydrogen is so fucking metal.