Month: March 2018

Ep 150: Fossils in fossil fuel

Ep 150: Fossils in fossil fuel

Fossils in fossil fuel

Around the same time that the ancestors of humans branched from the apes, organic sediments were being laid down that would eventually turn into oil. Some of this oil worked its way along fault lines, and began seeping out of the ground at the surface. Located in L.A. these tar pits would capture animals, preserving their bones for the descendants of those early apes to puzzle over.

Here’s a link to an article about the down side to building a city over an oil deposit that is seeping out of the earth.

The Fiery Underground Oil Pit Eating L.A.

Here’s a 13-minute video about the 1989 explosion, caused by methane gas from the oil deposits under the city.


Ep149: Shadows in the stone

Ep149: Shadows in the stone

Shadows in the stone

The Burgess Shale is a deposited of shale that was formed from large underwater avalanches that berried organisms around a half-billion years ago, preserving the soft parts of the bodies. However, the fossils have been squeezed down to a thin layer of carbon, leaving shadows of what the creatures once were.

Here are a couple of links to more information about the Burgess Shale.

Smithsonian Institution Burgess Shale Home Page

The Burgess Shale – Royal Ontario Museum

Here’s a link to an episode about the Cambrian explosion.

Ep 77: The Cambrian explosion

Ep 148: Learning the most from the least

Ep 148: Learning the most from the least

Learning the most from the least

Not all fossils are large bones of things like dinosaurs or mammoths. Some of them are small enough to require a microscope in order to identify them. Called microfossils, these tiny fragments, and even remains of single-celled organisms, can tell us a good deal about things like the climate, the vegetation, the temperature, and chemical composition of the water and air when a given layer or strata of rock was laid down.

Here’s a link to an article about using microfossils to solve the mystery of what killed the last of the mammoths.

The last woolly mammoths in North America didn’t starve – they died of thirst

Here’s an article that talks about the use of microfossils for finding oil deposits.


And here are some articles about a few different types of microfossils.



Calcareous Nannofossils


Ep 147: Digging up the past

Ep 147: Digging up the past

Digging up the past

When I was a child, my family visit a dig site. They were excavating fossils of mammoths. Before we get back to examining natural history, we’ll spend a few episodes finding out where the evidence for the story comes from.

Here is a link to the hot springs mammoth site.

Mammoth Site & Museum

Here are some other sites that were discovered accidentally.

A 130,000-Year-Old Mastodon Threatens to Upend Human History

Mammoth Discovery Could Revise Earliest Date of Humans in the Americas

Ep 146: Trees eyes and antlers

Ep 146: Trees eyes and antlers

Trees eyes and antlers

Sometimes, very different organisms can end up having traits in common, even though they didn’t share those traits with an ancestor. Instead, different systems, solving similar problems, can come up with similar answers.

Here’s a link to the episode on eyes.

Ep 78: Eyes

Here’s a link to an article about the similarities between human and squid eyes.

How Humans And Squid Evolved To Have The Same Eyes

Here’s a link to an episode about a large single-celled creature that came up with leaf like structures.

Ep 141: The largest of the small

Here are the best links I could find about the antlered fly. There was surprisingly little information about them on the internet.

The amazing flies of the genus Richardia

Archives – Feisty Fruit Flies

Debugging death

Debugging death

In episode 144, I oh so casually mentioned that I was getting some runtime errors. They don’t happen in every run, but the fact that they happen at all is a problem. My artificial life system will eventually be running for days at a time as I do different experiments, and I can’t have these errors causing my system to halt.

What does one do when one sees output like the following?

Read More Read More

Ep 145: Does a long life really inhibit evolution?

Ep 145: Does a long life really inhibit evolution?

Does a long life really inhibit evolution?

In episode 139 and 142, I talked about some results I’ve been getting with my experiment with artificial life and digital organisms. I had to rework the death object to make sure that one of the little critters would die and make room for others. But does an unusually long-lived creature really inhibit evolution? I found a counter example—Pando, an 80,000-year old quaking aspen clonal colony. Though it was established during the last ice age, the plant and animal life around it has definitely changed and evolved since then, suggesting that in nature, long lived creatures do not keep evolution from happening.

Here’s a link to a 4-minute and 42-second long video about Pando.

Pando, One of the Oldest and Largest Organisms

Here are links to a couple of articles about this venerable organism.

Pando, the Trembling Giant – Richfield, Utah – Atlas Obscura

The Trembling Giant

And here are some links to information about the last ice age, called the “Pleistocene.”

Ice Age Animals of Utah

Pleistocene Epoch: Facts About the Last Ice Age

Ep 144: Emergent self-replicating software from my experiments

Ep 144: Emergent self-replicating software from my experiments

Emergent self-replicating software from my experiments

In the previous episode, I provided a description of “Amoeba.” In this episode I use “Figures,” which is my own experiment with digital organisms and artificial life, to repeat the results of Andy Pargellis’s Amoeba experiment, with a few differences. I also give the most detailed explanation of my subleq based system to date, as I compare and contrast it with Tierra and Amoeba.

Here are links to episodes relevant to today’s episode

Ep 143: Emergent self-replication with Amoeba

Ep 103: Tierra, bits bytes and life

Here’s a blog post that describes what subleq is and how it works.

The prime, and only, directive.

Here’s a video that provides a decent introduction to artificial life and digital organisms.

Artificial Life