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UnDisciplined: The Evolutionary Biologist And The Theoretical Biologist

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Jurgen C. Otto (via ScienceNews.Org)
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The peacock spider's exoskeletons make black look darker than it typically would by manipulating light and the way organisms process color, new research demonstrates.

Today on UnDisciplined, we'll be joined by a scientist who is searching the world for the blackest of black. Next, we'll talk to a researcher who is trying to get a handle on how superstitions spread.

Cody McCoy is a researcher at Harvard University who was part of a team studying the evolution of super-black spots in nature. Their paper was recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Joining us from the University of Pennsylvania to talk about how societies accumulate superstitions is Bryce Morsky. His recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates how groups of individuals, each starting with distinct belief systems, can evolve a coordinated set of behaviors. 

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling Lifespan with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, Superlative, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.