Chapter 4: Natural Change-- click on this link to download.
TED Talk: Kenneth Lacovara: Hunting for dinosaurs showed me our place in the universe
What happens when you discover a dinosaur? Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara details his unearthing of Dreadnoughtus —
a 77-million-year-old sauropod that was as tall as a two-story house and as heavy as a jumbo jet — and considers
how amazingly improbable it is that a tiny mammal living in the cracks of the dinosaur world could evolve into a
sentient being capable of understanding these magnificent creatures. Join him in a celebration of the Earth's
geological history and contemplate our place in deep time.
Note Card Assignment
Prepare a single, personally-prepared, 3-inch x 5-inch note card.
Your note card may be used during the exam. Submit it for credit when turning in exam form. (one point).
Recommendation (NOT an assignment): Print these study questions. Then as you move through the reading or video, jot down short answers. Keep your answers VERY short, a few key words or phrases to prompt your memory. Remember, this activity is a study aid to help you prepare for the exam. Do what you need to do, but don't overdo it. You are NOT submitting your answers for points.
Reading assignment study questions
- What is periodic change?
- Give three examples of natural periodic change. Be prepared to write original examples on the exam.
- In relation to the sun’s daily movement across the sky, when is the air temperature coldest? Hottest?
- In relation to the sun’s daily movement across the sky, when is sunlight intensity highest? When is infrared most intense?
- What causes the four seasons?
- In terms of planetary motion, what is rotation? Axis? Revolution?
- What is axial tilt? In angular degrees, what is the axial tilt of the Earth?
- What star does the planet’s North Pole always point towards?
- In terms of planetary motion, what is one year?
- In terms of planetary motion and position, when is it summer in the northern hemisphere? Winter?
- When it is summer in the northern hemisphere, what season is it in the southern hemisphere?
- On Earth, what two phenomena are the main causes for seasonal weather conditions?
- In terms of these two phenomena, what are their properties in summer? Winter?
- For a person in the northern temperate latitudes, describe the movement of the sun across their sky in summer. Winter.
- Do the same for a polar bear in Arctic latitudes.
- Define "climate."
- You may ignore the images of the planet's main ecosystems on pages 5-6. No exam questions on these.
- In terms of Milankovitch properties, what is obliquity, orbital eccentricity, apsidial precession, and axial precession?
- What was the region of the Mojave Desert like 20,000 years ago?
- What is episodic change?
- Give three examples of natural episodic change. Be prepared to write original examples on the exam.
- What is drought?
- What parts of the USA have recently experienced drought?
- During the time of drought in some parts of the USA, what was the weather like in Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska?
- Regarding the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, compare normal conditions and El Nino conditions in terms of wind patterns, ocean currents, drought and rainfall, western Pacific basin, eastern Pacific basin.
- What is an acute event?
- Give three examples of natural acute events. Be prepared to write original examples on the exam.
- What is the main factor that determines death and survival during an acute event?
- What is continuous short-term change?
- Give three examples of natural, continuous short-term change. Be prepared to write original examples on the exam.
- How do the continuous actions of the salt cedar plant result in changes in desert ponds?
- How does the concept of continuous short-term change apply when considering the management of internal reserves in living things?
- To us, it may seem like the life of a little salamander should be very simple and easy. Why is it not?
- To the extent that the salamander replenishes reserves…
- To the extent that the salamander’s operations are not interfered with by injuries, predators, or infections, disease…
- What is continuous long-term change?
- Give three examples of natural, continuous long-term change.
- Based on interpretations of evidence in the rocks, geologists estimate that the Earth is about _________ years old.
- What is the phenomenon of plate tectonics?
- What kinds of continuous long-term change can be accounted for by the theory of plate tectonics?
- According to the standard solar model, what happens to stars as they get older?
- What is the faint young sun paradox?
- What is one popular solution to the faint young sun paradox?
- What evidence is there that a great deal of CO2 has been removed from the atmosphere over millions of years?
- What is the geochemical process of rock weathering?
- Starting with CO2-based rock weathering, list the steps that lead to the formation of limestone rocks?
- How does the deposit of calcium carbonate influence the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? O2?
- Starting with photosynthesis, list the steps that lead to the formation of fixed carbon deposits in the Earth’s crust.
- What is the depositional environment that leads to the formation of coal deposits?
- What are the main photosynthesizers that make the fixed carbon contained in coal?
- What is the depositional environment that leads to the formation of petroleum deposits?
- What are the main photosynthesizers that make the fixed carbon contained in petroleum?
- How does the deposit of fixed carbon influence the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? O2?
- What is spatial change? Why is it possible? How does it occur?
- What is a system?
- What is the difference between system configuration, system operation, and system action?
- What is operational change for a system?
- What are the five properties of operational change listed for "operational change?"
- What is physiological operational change? Give an example.
- What are some examples of physiological operational changes that living things use to counteract cold or high temperatures?
- What is torpor? What is it in response to?
- What is hibernation? What is it in response to?
- What is aestivation? What is it in response to?
- What is behavioral operational change? Give an example. Be prepared to write original examples on the exam.
- In terms of organismal behavior, what is nocturnal?
- What four main activities are nocturnal organisms involved with?
- In terms of organismal behavior, what is diurnal?
- Seasonal cycles. What are two main reasons animals migrate?
- Reduced activity in animals. For animals that don’t migrate to avoid harsh environmental conditions, how do they cope?
- What does deciduous mean?
- What is the difference between winter deciduous and drought deciduous?
- What is configurational change for a system?
- What are the five properties of configurational change listed for "configurational change?"
- In terms of "Operational change" and "configurational change," which can the individual actually change?
- What is the definition of "function" presented in the chapter?
- In terms of evolutionary biology, what is the appropriate use of the word, "function," as it applies to living systems?
- What is the difference between the way that innovation is done in human business, and life?
- Compare and contrast the "design" paradigm, and the "random error-and-trial" paradigm.
- Although costly and wasteful, what are the advantages of the "random error-and-trial" paradigm?
- In the story about the car event, what essential item did each car carry?
- In the story about the car event, what happened at the end of each leg?
- In the story about the car event, what was the only thing that mattered?
- In the story about the car event, why couldn’t a car just race to the end of the leg without making pit stops?
- In the story about the car event, what proportion of cars finished their leg?
- In the story about the car event, were the car’s Manual for Assembly and Operation always copied without error?
- In the story about the car event, what if errors were present? Could the team modify the instructions?
- In the story about the car event, what were the possible outcomes of data errors in the copied manuals?
- In the story about the car event, it was not the “function” of the inverted trunk lid to produce down force, and yet it did. Why was this outcome NOT a function?
- In the story about the car event, new configurations appeared not by _________ but by ___________.
- In the story about the car event, what constrained the configurations in the event?
- In the story about the car event, the event eventually ended. Why?
- In the story about the car event, what were the eight lessons learned?
- Review the table at the end of the car event story. Compare the elements in the car event and their biological counterparts.
- What is the difference betweenthe "phenomenon" of evolution and the "theory" of evolution?
- What are genes?
- In terms of genes, what is a trait?
- In terms of traits, what do different configurations of genes result in?
- How do individual living things acquire their genes?
- Can individuals modify their genes if they don’t like them?
- Once instantiated, can individuals instantly pass copies of their genes to offspring?
- Given their genetic inheritance, how do an individual’s traits compare with those of its parents?
- What are mutations?
- Where must mutations occur if they are to be later expressed in offspring?
- Considering the "spheres of influence" diagram, what role does the individual play in the development and expression of configurational changes?
- How did evolution occur in the rock pocket mouse in the deserts of New Mexico?
- What about rock pocket mice in Arizona? Were the mutations that produced dark fur the same in all poulations?
- What are the five main topics, listed in the chapter, that modern evolution theory helps investigate?
- How do insects and microbes develop resistance to pesticides and antibiotics?
- What common genetic history do all extinct species share?
- Jared Diamond studied human societies that failed in the past. What general characteristics did each failed society have in common?
- According to Diamond, what characteristics tend to increase chances that stressed societies will persist?
- What is "brute force" problem solving and how is it related to the use of logic?
- What is an algorithm?
- Give examples of the application of genetic algorithms.
- Why do engineers use genetic algorithms instead of standard mathematical formulas?
- Persistence is a combination of genetic inheritance and luck. Given your genetic interitance, how can you maximize your chances for good luck and minimize your chances for bad luck?
Video assignment study questions
- The annals of Earth history are written in rocks. Where are the oldest pages; where are the youngest?
- Why are pages of Earth's history so disorderly?
- In what age of rock and in what kind of rock would you look for dinosaur fossils?
- Paleontologists often go dinosaur hunting in deserts. Why? Is that because dinosaurs lived mostly in deserts?
- Sixty-six million years ago, the dinosaurs had a very, very bad day. Why?
- How is it that extremely improbable events can eventually happen?
- What does the presenter mean by the phrase, "There are an infinite number of histories that we could've had."
- What is different about the dinosaurs' extinction and our present ongoing global environmental crisis?
There is something odd about the situations described below. See if you can identify the problem(s).
- After an earthquake centered in Fullerton, CA, local geologist, Rocky Sediment remarked, “It’s nothing unusual. We get earthquakes periodically.”
- Michael installs solar panels on roof tops. Every day, he takes a siesta at 12:00 Noon, the hottest part of the day.
- Sandy has heard that when it is summer in Los Angeles, CA, it is winter in Australia. She muses, “Obviously LA is closer to the sun this time of year.”
- Gazing up at the star, Polaris, in the night sky, Trevor feels calm and reassured that Earth’s north pole will always point at that familiar star foever and ever...
- What combination of Milankovitch properties would produce the hottest summers and the coldest winters in the northern hemisphere?
- Paleontologist, Antiguo Vidal, puzzled over an ancient rich layer of clam shells and fish skeletons preserved in the rocks of the Mojave Desert.
- Noting reports of a strong El Nino, Malaysian farmers prepared for severe flooding in December.
- Fox News reporter, Odio Crudelis, on location in Norman, Oklahoma after being hit by a category 5 tornado remarked, “Hundreds of people dead. Obviously they failed to take personal responsibility.”
- Life is simple. As long as you have access to food, there’s nothing to worry about.
- Those whacky scientists are at it again, claiming that the continents have drifted around the globe. Can you feel your continent moving? I can’t. Sheesh!
- Here’s another one. Scientists say the sun has gotten 30% hotter since life appeared on Earth. Well it’s nice and pleasant now. Why wasn’t the Earth a frozen ball of ice back then?
- Or how about this one. If the planet was warm enough for liquid water when life first appeared, why isn’t it boiling hot all over right now?
- What do you think would happen to the Earth’s atmosphere if humans discovered, dug up and burned every last bit of coal and petroleum in the Earth’s crust?
- All systems must be designed, obviously.
- A bear hibernated one winter. So did a hummingbird.
- During summer and fall, bears build up 20-30 pounds of fat as reserves for the winter. So do squirrels.
- Richard Bola is a good ball handler and a good shooter in basketball. He just wishes he was taller than 5 ft. 2.
- An optical engineer designs elegant and powerful binoculars. Ironically, she needs eyeglasses in order to properly use them.
- Design is only limited by one’s imagination.
- Innovative features in living things are accompanied by a mountain of failure.
- Your eye has no “function.”
- Rita Thornberry in on a worldwide quest to discover the most perfectly designed animal.
- Fred likes to joke that he shares no physical or behavioral resemblance to his siblings or his parents.
- Bernice was concerned that the dental x-rays she received this year would cause mutations in her children aged 5 and 7.
Links for Enrichment and Further Learning
Video: The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation. (10 minutes)
Video: The Making of the Fittest: Evolving Switches, Evolving Bodies. (15 minutes)
Video: The Making of the Fittest: The Birth and Death of Genes. (13 minutes)
Video: The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection in Humans. (14 minutes)