Island Folk 3- Saint Helena and Anthropogenic Impact

Saint Helena is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, perhaps most famous as the final residence of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1814 and again briefly in 1815. However, there is also plenty of interesting ecology and anthropogenic impact to talk about. Join myself and my co-host on an old episode of Island Folk to find out more!

The episode can be found at the following link:

Hope you enjoy!

69- Punctuated Equilibrium, Phyletic Gradualism and Creationist Philosophy

This episode discusses what it says on the tin- two different models of the pace at which evolution happens. Punctuated equilibrium comes to us courtesy of Niles Eldredge and Steve Gould in the 1970s. We won't do a deep dive on which model is considered correct in this episode. However, punctuated equilibrium was appropriated by creationists in the 1980s as this issue became political- leading us to a convenient tangent on what exactly creationist philosophy is.

Sources TBA.

68- Mammoths and the Pyramids

Woolly mammoths are an iconic feature of the Ice Age in popular imagination. However, on today's episode, we will also see that they are the basis of a fun fact that may change your perception of the past…

Sources for this episode:

  • Ashman, D., Nature (2000), The sky was the limit for the Pyramid builders (online) [Accessed 10/10/2023].
  • Bartlett, C. (2014), The Design of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Nexus Network Journal 16: 299-311.
  • Clayton, P. A. and Price, M. J. (eds.) (2002), The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. London and New York: Routledge.
  • The Editors, Encyclopedia Britannica (2023), Pyramid (online) [Accessed 10/10/2023].
  • Fernie, J. D. (2004), Marginalia: Astronomy and the Great Pyramid. American Scientist 92(5): 406-409.
  • Foster, K. P. (2014), The Hanging Gardens of Nineveh. IRAQ 66: 207-220.
  • Haynes, G. (2002), The catastrophic extinction of North American mammoths and mastodons. World Archaeology 33(3): 391-416.
  • Hofreiter, M. and Lister, A. (2006), Mammoths. Current Biology 16(10): R347-R348.
  • Miller, J. H. and Simpson, C. (2022), When did mammoths go extinct? Nature 612: E1-E3.
  • Spence, K. (2000), Ancient Egyptian chronology and the astronomical orientation of the pyramids. Nature 408: 320-324.
  • Vartanyan, S., Arslanov, K., Karhu, J., Possnert, G., & Sulerzhitsky, L. (2008), Collection of radiocarbon dates on the mammoths (Mammuthus Primigenius) and other genera of Wrangel Island, northeast Siberia, Russia. Quaternary Research, 70(1), 51-59.
  • Wee, Y. K., World Atlas (2019), Did Cleopatra Really Live Closer In Time To The First Lunar Landing Than The Great Pyramids? (online) [Accessed 10/10/2023].
  • Author unknown, Wikipedia (date unknown), Radiocarbon dating (online) [Accessed 10/10/2023].

67- Mythological Hybrids and Chromosome Count

A throwaway comment on Big Bang Theory got me thinking- could hybrid animals such as the griffin and the hippogriff be possible from a biological viewpoint? Using these two examples, we will explore the chromosome number of hybrid animals and see what it means for our mythical friends…

Sources for this episode:

  • Ewart, J. C. (1910), Are Mules Fertile? Nature 2143(85): 106.
  • Geldenhuys, M. E. (1989), Die kariotipering van di lieu (Panthera leo). Journal of the South African Veterinary Association 60(1): 41-49.
  • Johnson, F. (1976), Mythical Beasts Coloring Book. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
  • Mead, D., Ogden, R., Meredith, A., Peniche, G., Smith, M., Corton, C., Oliver, K., Skelton, J., Betteridge, E., Doulcan; J., Holmes, N., Wright, V., Loose, M., Quail, M. A., McCarthy, S. A., Howe, K.,Chow, W., Torrance, J., Collins, J., Challis, R., Durbin, R. and Blatter, M. (2021), The genome sequence of the European golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos chrysaetos Linnaeus 1758 (version 1; peer review: 3 approved). Wellcome Open Research 6: 112.
  • Rodriguez, M., Understanding Genetics, The Tech Interactive (2007), Chimeras, Mosaics, and Other Fun Stuff: Why can't mules breed? I understand that a horse and a donkey make a mule but why can't 2 mules have a baby mule? (online) (Accessed 29/07/2023).
  • Rosen, B. (2009), Mythical Creatures Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Beings. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Ryder, O. A. (1993), Przewalski`s Horse: Prospects for Reintroduction into the Wild. Conservation Biology 7(1): 13-15.
  • Author unknown, Wikipedia (date unknown), Golden eagle (online) (Accessed 20/07/2023).

Introducing- Autocrat

Introducing my newest venture- being one half of the Autocrat podcast! Autocrat is a podcast which aims to explore Roman civilisation from beginning to end. Beginning with the mythology and the stories of Aeneas and Romulus, the podcast will trace the journey through the Roman Kingdom, the Republic, the Empire and all the way to 1453 and beyond. Who knows if we'll make it that far, but we hope to have fun with it!

The podcast can be found at or on YouTube at If the show sounds fun, feel free to come and join us!

66- The KT Extinction

It's episode 66, so I thought I'd cover a big event from 66 million years ago- the death of the dinosaurs! But it's not all doom and gloom- we will also take a look at how to prevent asteroid impacts in future.

Sources for this episode: 1) Bottke, W. F., Vokrouhlický, D. and Nesvorný, D. (2007), An asteroid breakup 160 Mya as the probable sources of the K/T impactor. Nature 449: 48-53. 2) Brusatte, S. (2018), The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World. London: Picador. 3) Chapman, C. R. (2004), The hazard of near-Earth asteroid impacts on earth. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 222: 1-15. 4) Chapman, C. R. and Morrison, D. (1994), Impacts on the Earth by asteroids and comets: assessing the hazard. Nature 367: 33-40. 5) Cohen, K. M., Finney, S. C., Gibbard, P. L. and Fan, J.-X. (2013, updated), The ICS International Chronostratigraphy Chart. Episodes 36: 199-204. 6) Dodson, P. (1990), Counting dinosaurs: how many kinds were there? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 87(19): 7608- 7612. 7) The Editors, Encyclopedia Britannica (2023), sublimation
(online) [Accessed 29/07/2023]. 8) Ostrom, J. H. and Padian, K., Encyclopedia Britannica (2023), dinosaur (online) [Accessed 14/07/2023]. 9) Pope, K. O., Baines, K. H., Ocampo, A. C. and Ivanov, B. A. (1994), Impact winter and the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinctions: Results of a Chicxulub asteroid impact model. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 128: 719- 725. 10) Schulte, P., Alegret, L., Arenillas, I., Arz, J. A., Barton, P. J., Brown, P. R., Barlower, T. J., Christeson, G. L., Claeys, P., Cockell, C. S., Collins, G. S., Deutsch, A., Goldin, T. J., Goto, K., Grajales Nishmura, J. M., Grieve, R. A. F., Gulick. S. P. S., Johnson, K. R., Kiessling, W., Koeberl, C., Kring, D. A., MacLeod, K. G., Matsui, T., Melosh, J., Montanari, A., Morgan, J. V., Neal, C. R., Nichols, D. J., Norrison, R. D., Pierazzo, E., Ravizza, G., Rebolledo-Vieyra, M., Reimold, W. U., Robin, E., Salge, T., Speijer, R. P., Sweet, A. R., Urrutia-Fucugauchi, J., Vajida, V., Whalen, M. T. and Willumsen, P. S. (2010), The Chicxulub Asteroid Impact and Mass Extinction at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene Boundary. Science 327(5970): 1214- 1218. 11) Starrfelt, J. and Liow, L. H. (2016), How many dinosaur species were there? Fossil bias and true richness estimated using a Poisson sampling model. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 371(1691): 20150219. 12) Yousuf, I., Encyclopedia Britannica (2023), Empire State Building (online) [Accessed 27/07/2023].

65- The Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter

Enrico Fermi is the man behind today’s episode, as we’re going to talk all about the Fermi paradox. In essence, why do we not see anyone else out there in the universe besides ourselves? Well, a number of solutions have been proposed- and they have to do with the second concept in today’s episode: the Great Filter.
Sources for this episode: 1) Bailey, M. M. (2023), Could AI be the Great Filter? What Astrobiology can Teach the Intelligence Community about Anthropogenic Risks. arXiv preprint arXiv:2305.05653. 2) Borger, J., the Guardian (2022), Cuban missile crisis 60 years on: new papers reveal how close the world came to nuclear disaster (online) [Accessed 08/07/2023]. 3) Buser, R. (2000), The Formation and Early Evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. Science 287(5450): 69-74. 4) The Editors of Scientific American (2015), Exoplanets: Worlds Without End. New York: Scientific American. 5) Laughlin, R. B. and Pines, D. (2000) The Theory of Everything. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97(1): 28-31. 6) Raschky, P. A. and Wang, L. C. (2017), Reproductive behaviour at the end of the world: the effect of the Cuban Missile Crisis on U.S. fertility. Applied Economics 49(56): 5722- 5727. 7) Re, F. (2022), Can the Theory of Everything be the Great Filter? 8) Stern, S. M. (2005), The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. 9) Author unknown, NASA (date unknown), Hubble’s New Shot of Proxima Centauri, our Nearest Neighbour (online) [Accessed 09/07/2023]. 10) Author unknown, NASA Exoplanet Exploration (date unknown), Largest Batch of Earth-size Habitable Zone Planets Found Orbiting TRAPPIST-1 (online) [Accessed 09/07/2023]. 11) Author unknown, Wikipedia (date unknown), Parsec (online) [Accessed 08/07/2023]. 12) Author unknown, Wikipedia (date unknown), Tau Ceti (online) [Accessed 09/07/2023].

64- New Global Heat Records

In July 2023, the world experienced three consecutive days which were the hottest day on record. In fact, an interview with the Washington Post cited that it was the hottest day for 125,000 years. What does that mean? Well, today's episode will put that number into prehistorical and historical context, as well as compare our current global warming to an example of change from the Cretaceous.

1) Blum, M. G. B., and Jakobsson, M. (2010), Deep Divergence of Human Gene Trees and Models of Human Origins. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28(2): 889- 898. 2) Cavalheiro, L., Wagner, T., Steinig, S., Bottini, C., Dummann, W., Esegbue, O., Gambacorta, G., Giraldo-Gómez, V., Farnsworth, A., Flögel, S., Hofmann, P., Lunt, D. J., Rethemeyer, J., Torricelli, S. and Erba, E. (2021), Impact of global cooling on Early Cretaceous high pCO2 world during the Weissert event. Nature Communications 12: 5411. 3) Dee, M., Wengrow, D., Shortland, A., Stevenson, A., Brock, F., Flink, L. G. and Ramsey, C. B. (2013), An absolute chronology for early Egypt using radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistical modelling. Proceedings of the Royal Society A 469: 20130395. 4) Gómez-Robles, A. (2019), Dental evolutionary rates and its implications for the Neanderthal–modern human divergence. Science Advances 5(5): eaaw1268. 5) Haber, M., Jones, A. L., Connell, B. A., Asan, E. A., Yang, H., Thomas, M. G., Xue Y. and Tyler-Smith, C. (2019), A Rare Deep-Rooting D0 African Y-Chromosomal Haplogroup and Its Implications for the Expansion of Modern Humans Out of Africa. Genetics 212(4): 1421-1428. 6) Hublin, J.-J. (2017), The last Neanderthal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114(40): 10520- 10522. 7) Jones, D. (2007), The Neanderthal within. New Scientist 193(2593): 28-32. 8) Osborne, M., Smithsonian Magazine (2023), Earth Faces Hottest Day Ever Recorded- Three Days In A Row (online) [Accessed 07/07/2023]. 9) Pettitt, P. B. (1999) Disappearing from the World: An Archaeological Perspective on Neanderthal Extinction. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 18: 217-240. 10) Plant, V., Exeposé (2019), Things are Heating Up (online) [Accessed 07/07/2023]. 11) Sands, L., Washington Post (2023), This July 4 was hot. Earth’s hottest day on record, in fact (online) [Accessed 07/07/2023]. 12) Stringer, C. (2012), The Status of Homo heidelbergensis (Shoetenstack 1908). Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News and Reviews 21(3): 87- 125. 13) Su, D., The Conversation (2022), How many ice ages has the Earth had, and could humans live through one? (online) [Accessed 07/07/2023]. 14) Zhang, S., truthout (2023), July 3 Was the Hottest Day on Record. Then July 4 Came Along. (online) [Accessed 07/07/2023]. 15) Author unknown, CNN (2023), Global temperatures break heat record (online) [Accessed 07/07/2023]. 16) Author unknown, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (date unknown), Homo neanderthalensis (online) [Accessed 07/07/2023]. 17) Author unknown, Wikipedia (date unknown), Mesozoic (online) [Accessed 09/07/2023]. 18) Author unknown, Wikipedia (date unknown), Palaeogene (online) [Accessed 09/07/2023].

63- Hypothetical Galactic Population Size

On today's episode, we're going to range out into the cosmos for our inaugural episode in the world of astrobiology! We're going to ask the question: how many people could our galaxy support? Using some assumptions and approximations, we're going to see that the number dwarfs our current numbers here on Earth by quite some margin…

1) Asimov, I. (1952, 2016 edition), Foundation and Empire. London: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. 2) Briggs, J. C. (2017), Emergence of a sixth mass extinction? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 122: 243- 248. 3) Chamie, J. (2022), Population Levels, Trends and Differentials: More Important Population Matters. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature Switzerland AG. 4) Chu, J., MIT News (2023), Astronomers snap first ever image of supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 5) Cowie, R. H., Bouchet, P. and Fontaine, B. (2022): The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction or speculation? Biological Reviews 97: 640- 663. 6) de Almeida, G. (2004), The Milky Way. Chapter in: Navigating the Night Sky. Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series. London: Springer. 7) The Editors of Scientific American (2015), Exoplanets: Worlds Without End. New York: Scientific American. 8) Hodge, P. W. (1981), The Andromeda Galaxy. Scientific American 244(1): 92-101. 9) Hodge, P. W., Encyclopedia Britannica (2017), Magellanic Cloud (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 10) Hodge, P. W., Encyclopedia Britannica (2023), Milky Way Galaxy (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 11) Kurzgesagt- In a Nutshell, YouTube (2022), The Last Human- A Glimpse Into The Far Future (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 12) Ramakrishna, S. (2021), Circular economy and sustainability pathways to build a new-modern society. Drying Technology 39(6): 711-712. 13) Ritchie, H., Our World in Data (2023), The UN has made population projections for more than 50 years- how accurate have they been? (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 14) Sender, R., Fuchs, S. and Milo, R. (2016), Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body. PLOS Biology 14(8): e1002533. 15) Stellato, J. (2020), The Milky Way and Lentil Beans. Science Scope 43(6): 44- 49. 16) Stevenson, D. (2015), Milkomeda and the Fate of the Milky Way. Chapter in: The Complex Lives of Star Clusters. Astronomers’ Universe. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 17) University of Göttingen, (2021), Breaking the warp barrier for faster-than-light travel (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 18) van den Heuvel, E. (2016), How Distant Are the Stars? Chapter in: The Amazing Unity of the Universe. Astronomers’ Universe. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 19) Author unknown, NASA Exoplanet Exploration: Planets Beyond Our Solar System (date unknown, updated July 2023), Discovery (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 20) Author unknown, United Nations (2022), Day of Eight Billion, 15 November 2022 (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023]. 21) Author unknown, Wikipedia (date unknown), Names of large numbers (online) [Accessed 02/07/2023].