This is fascinating. “A virgin birth is expected this Christmas, though this particular nativity scene will be set in a zoo instead of a stable. That’s because the virgin in question is Flora the Komodo dragon, a giant lizard at Chester Zoo in England that has laid fertile eggs despite never having had a mate. DNA tests confirmed Flora was the sole parent, says Chester Zoo curator of lower vertebrates Kevin Buley. [. . .] Flora, along with another female Komodo dragon from the London Zoo, represent the first known cases of virgin birth in the world’s largest lizard, according to researchers. The two reptiles are examples of a process called parthenogenesis, in which offspring are produced without fertilization by a male, according to a report in the current issue of the journal Nature.” See the article for more information on both cases. Also note the implications of this on the premise of Mary’s virgin birth as described in the Bible. Unless one of these Komodo dragons is giving birth to the second coming of Jesus, it would appear the idea of fatherless procreation by non-asexual organisms has never been the sole jurisdiction of mythical gods.
The 50th Skeptics’ Circle is available and pays homage to Carl Sagan.
Before reading the caption beneath it, look at this photo and see if you can determine what happened. Then read the explanation. Regardless of the cause, the pattern in the snow is unbelievably cool. [via PZ]
Demotivational Posters. I’ve always loved those, and there are several I hadn’t seen before.
There’s another large collection of remembrances about Carl Sagan at Celebrating Sagan. From videos to photos to comics to stories, it’s full of great tributes and memories.
George Will lets his ginormous ego get ahead of his intellect. And he talks about others being narcissistic? He goes on a tirade about Time choosing the general web population as its Person(s) of the Year. He blathers ad nauseam about there not being a single interesting blogger out there, that not one of them shows a sign of genius, that none of the videos or photos or articles written by web users has anything to offer the world at large, that in general the web lacks taste, and that no one on the intertubes can compare to the likes of Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine. Yawn. This is one instance where George’s oversized, self-aggrandizing, mediocre arrogance has overwhelmed his ability to think. He says there’s nothing admirable about people wanting to express themselves. He says there is no inherent value in the desire of millions of people to document everyday occurrences and share them with the world, or to voice their opinions on global and local events in a way that can be shared with Earth’s entire population. And he continues in that manner through the entire article. What comes across most clearly in his rant is jealousy, pure and unadulterated anger at not being on the cover of the magazine. He calls all web users amateurs and likens them to a chaotic horde of mindless idiots who quite accidentally stumble upon “occasional intellectual seriousness and civic engagement,” and he declares that “what 99.9 percent of the Web’s content lacks [is] seriousness.” This, I’m afraid, is a self-appointed graven image bent on insulting that which robbed him of his self-proclaimed importance on the world stage: the voices of the people. What a sad, sad, sad little man.