Darwin blogs the Beagle voyage

By Phil Plait | October 1, 2009 3:00 pm

This is the International Year of Astronomy, but we must give squishy science its due: it’s also the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species, a work that forever influenced biological science. His observations aboard the HMS Beagle led to this seminal work, as Darwin voyaged across the planet observing plants and animals in various environs.

In honor of that, why not read Darwin’s Beagle diaries… as a blog? This is a very clever idea. The entries are posted in blog form, with geocaching and images to help you see what’s what. It’s actually very engaging and wonderful.

I have long said that science is a process as well as a compendium of information. Here is your chance to see it not only as a process, but a very human one, and to see how the observations of science changed the human who made them, and the rest of us as well.

Tip o’ the allele to Laurie Tarr.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science

Comments (30)

  1. I’m waiting for the movie personally.

  2. Dawn

    It looks very cool, and I bookmarked the site to read this weekend when I have more time. It may yet drive me to reading Origin of Species. I’ve had it for a while just haven’t gotten the urge to read it.

  3. Mike

    This is a great accompaniment to Dawkins’ latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, which I happen to be reading. =) Thanks for the link Phil!


    Phil Plait:

    [It’s] the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species, a work that forever influenced biological science.

    You forgot to add: and pissed off a lot of creationists!

  5. Jess Tauber

    Don’ t forget Darwin’s musings on the Yahgans- though I don’t remember whether he discussed them in Origins or later works- his attitudes towards other human cultures lagged considerably behind his views of nonhuman species, but this was par for the course in the 19th century. Louis Agassiz, who pioneered the notion of ice ages, was a notorious racist.

    Jess Tauber

  6. Sticks

    For fans of Charles Darwin, This website has All of Charles Darwin’s papers online.

    I heard about it at a special showing of the film Creation where we had a discussion about Charles Darwin afterwards. Pity you lot across the pond don’t get to see it thanks to the religious right machine gunning itself in the foot again.

  7. Monkey

    I heard that the Beagle Voyage was faked; you can see the ships flag not waving during a storm in one of the photos.


  8. Paul

    Why is the Darwin blog in scrambled date order?

  9. timmy

    Check out NOVA , Oct.6, 7:00 CST Darwin

  10. Brad

    Squishy science? What the hell is that supposed to mean? If you’re insinuating that biology is somehow less quantitative than astronomy, I suggest you open a modern genetics or population ecology book. Science is science.

  11. Jens Rydholm

    Thank you for this post, I’ll add it to my reading list. The idea of reposting old diaries and chronicles in blog form is very interesting. It might be worth noting that George Orwell’s diaries are also available in this form (at http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com with a 70 year delay, starting with July 1938). He writes about both personal (eggs, mostly) and political (the start of WWII) matters.

  12. So far so awesome but it only looks like a selection diary/blog entries at the moment?

  13. Yes, it seems that it is only beginning. I think more will be in future.

  14. Diederick

    A Dutch clipper ship is making the same voyage as the Beagle did, 150 years ago, in 8 months. Lots of scientists from all of the world are joining her on the way for short periods to do all kinds of awesome scientific experiments. One of them is Sarah Dawkins, geneticist and great-great-granddaughter of Charles. All this is made into a fantastic weekly tv show with 35 episodes, four of which have already run. You can find out more on http://beagle.vpro.nl/#/page/item/12/english/

  15. Lars

    @Paul #8: He chose to blog in geographical order instead of chronological. As he visited many places while going both to and fro, he combined the accounts of each place into a single blog entry, in order to avoid geographical confusion and boring the readers with needless repetitions.

  16. #10 Brad, it’s a sort of running “feud” he has with P.Z. Meyers. 😛 It’s all very good natured and friendly really.

  17. Diederick

    …and with Sarah Dawkins I meant Sarah Darwin. I wonder how I got those names confused.

  18. 10. Brad Says:
    October 1st, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Squishy science? What the hell is that supposed to mean? If you’re insinuating that biology is somehow less quantitative than astronomy, I suggest you open a modern genetics or population ecology book. Science is science.

    I think it’s more of a reference to the fact that things in biology are, in fact, squishable. Plants, animals, bacteria, that sort of thing.

    Though for that matter, the plasma in a star might also feel squishy if you were to hold a lump of it in your hand. You wouldn’t have said hand for very long, but for a few milliseconds it’d be very squishy indeed.

    And particle physics also deals with the squishy, if you consider slamming together two clumps of hadrons traveling at 99.999% of the speed of light a “squish”

  19. Lois

    Speaking of literary adaptations featuring scientists (or at least, Bill Dembski)…

  20. Ryan The Biologist

    Yesss…. come join us on the squishy side. We have cookies….

  21. Monkey

    Cookies?!?!?!?!? That will win over any undergraduate!

  22. This has already been done (being done) since 2006: http://darwinbeagle.blogspot.com/

  23. darwin sets sail in 1836, i come to notice after deciding that I need some proof to numerology of particle masses: there are 1836 electron masses to a proton rest mass.

    but numerology of this sort needs computerized searching of events. I just don’t believe that statistics bear out ESP. ESP must be a nonstatistical area of study. I do not think you can say that we are up against an intelligence like ours. I mean, we have one and computers have one, but the one behind the paranormal could be unamenable to statistical analysis. We don’t have a clue as to whether it doesn’t exist, it is a little brighter than a gnat, or some kind of infinitely smarter thing making us and computers equally dumb as rocks. But, if they have other universes, it could at least be having a space where no matter which way you hold it a message still reads. You have to have this right side up.

    Actually, I believe that the scientific method leads to propositions of mechanism, and an all-knowing and all-powerful thing, we are not going to be able to guess the mecanism, so we have to look here for its effects.

    actually, I wonder if anybody knows whether the SETI project found intelligent life elsewhere in the universe but we were never told.

    in that case, perhaps you would like to speculate as to that being a solid word, or flying saucer plans, or just what would be broadcast.

    1836 came only once, but I think we can set up for Phobos. you got fifty million years.

  24. @ #10 Brad,

    you said science is science. well said.

    No, I think they give the nobel prize for economics, as that is full of numbers, but the fact of economic crashes even after they said there couldn’t be another 1929-style crash, means that formulas for economics are in doubt, and in that case, sayong that they just need to get it right

    has the other possibility that maybe it can be shown to never be a science

    science doesn’t work on it

    you can’t do the math

    some of the above

  25. #16
    Good screen name. We are not worlds apart in philosophy; I’m your kindred soul.

    However, the notion of holding a plasma and blowing off my hand I recognize and I applaud you for that. I love anything bloody. Guillotines a personal fave.

    But don’t ever threaten me, mister.

    If you shoot a gun at someone, you better be prepared to use it.

    No. seriously, this was extremely difficult for me to accomplish, and I could do it becauseI I save my tabs (Firefox). The Internet is getting better. Scary Good. Mad skillz.

    you get to what you want on “ergodic hypothesis (wiki)”:

    However, complex disordered systems such as a spin glass show an even more complicated form of ergodicity breaking where the properties of the thermodynamic equilibrium state seen in practice are much more difficult to predict purely by symmetry arguments. Also conventional glasses (e.g. window glasses) violate ergodicity in a complicated manner. In praxis this means that on sufficiently short time scales (e.g. those of parts of seconds, minutes, or a few hours) the systems may behave as solids, i.e. with a positive shear modulus, but on extremely long scales, e.g. in decades or centuries, as liquids, or with two or more time scales and plateaux in between..[1]

    you know, where we are looking into squishiness, and sufficiently theoretical we will hit squishy not just the phase transformation in solids. squishy the inexact philosophy.

    I recall ERGODIC itself as one of a bunch in nonlinear dynamics, and these are some more: soliton, attractor, granulation

    So, I mean, (relate, steve). Well, the particle physics is now going on at CERN. that is 2,000 employees and I am at the level of janitor. But, i can now say, “If it is not in different levels, it could be a difference of scope, …”, (pure smartness). Say, “Okay, Steve, I don’t know if all that’s true that level and scope diverge.”

    #23 of 24:
    Levels of biological organisation
    #2 of 16:
    Scope (programming), the range in which a variable can be referenced

    [improper; I did it in encycopedia]
    #17 of 37 LEVEL (noun)
    Linguistics. a major subdivision of linguistic structure, as phonology, morphology, or syntax, often viewed as hierarchically ordered. Compare component (def. 6a), stratum (def. 8).
    #6 of 9
    Linguistics, Logic. the range of words or elements of an expression over which a modifier or operator has control: In “old men and women,” “old” may either take “men and women” or just “men” in its scope.

    [dictionary and just plain wrong. It wasn’t linguistics]

    Working too hard. Is this about Darwin? That dirty bastard. I detect interference.

    SCOPE noun
    1.extent or range of view, outlook, application, operation, effectiveness, etc.: an investigation of wide scope.
    LEVEL noun
    an extent, measure, or degree of intensity, achievement, etc.: a high level of sound; an average level of writing skill.

    (No, it was parallel universes. You can’t hurry through the levels of parallel universes to answer “squishy”. Come on, Steve.)
    SCALE noun
    #10 of 24
    a certain relative or proportionate size or extent: They built a residence on a yet more magnificent scale.

    Just everyone please use these words properly, now that I killed myself to put them down. Stop making circular statements like ‘it is what it is’, if you are doing that. Now tackle multiverses. They did it in Discover this year.

    ERGODIC links from MULTIVERSES. It doesn’t link from EMERGENCE. Why it does that and other questions yes, think, but notice, in Wiki, at the bottom, there are so many that you can not branch and tree your way too far out or you will not be able to retrace.

    At least I am hitting glass, its liquid/solid duality, its symmetry breaking, and time relations of symmetry breaking,

    Right (reads)?

    Right. Now imagine you arguing that a thing is what it is, when you happen to live on the order of years alone. Here we settle the squishy argument sui generis (the thing in itself). If it is squishy, I want to see it deform while I am watching or in some demonstrble fashion. QED

    Smile and be hippy.

  26. 23. steve billinghurst Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    actually, I wonder if anybody knows whether the SETI project found intelligent life elsewhere in the universe but we were never told.

    That makes total sense.

    I mean, why wouldn’t an organization whose sole purpose is to find intelligent life in the universe keep that information secret once they found it?

  27. @26: I do not think that coherency and sanity is required values in crackpot worldview.


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