Neil Shubin on The Universe Within

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before today, I had never heard of Dr. Neil Shubin – paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, University of Chicago professor, and author.  And yet, today, I’ve heard about him twice.

First was when I was listening to Forum on NPR – not something I normally get a chance to do during a work day -and Dr. Shubin was on the air being interviewed by Michael Krasny. The topic is Dr. Shubin’s new book, “The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People“, and the conversation wanders from the beginning of the universe, to evolution of humans, to what links all things together.

Like Brian Greene, Dr. Shubin is very well spoken and personable. He speaks to Mr. Krasny – and thereby, you, the listener – as if they are old friends. And his subject matter is kept interesting through his obvious passion for what he does.

The call-in period of the show is not just interesting but also quite fun. The only moment for fun and surprising was when Mr. Krasny asked how humans survived the extinction event that ended the reign of dinosaurs.

English: Neil Shubin at the University of Tulsa.

This program was of particular interest to me right now as I’m taking part in a Task Force at the natural history museum I volunteer at. We’re tasked with creating some training materials for other volunteers around the themes of adaptation, migration, and survival of species which – of course – leads almost always to discussions of evolution and the mechanisms for it. My part, in particular, is to create some material on lungfish which Dr. Shubin mentions when discussing the way species change, finding “missing links”, and specifically the evolution of fish to tetrapods (includes mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and their early first four-limbed vertebrate ancestors).

Ironically, I later today received an email that Dr. Shubin is speaking in San Francisco tonight as part of the Science In The City lecture series. I only wish the notice hadn’t been so short or I’d have been sure to be there.

What is certain is that I’ve already put both of Dr. Shubin’s books into my Amazon cart.

Check out the recording of the NPR Forum interview here. (Don’t miss the caller at about 35 mins.)

Copyright 2013 by T. E. Wilson

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