A Woodchipper, a Giant Squid and Flesh-Eating Beatles: Day 4 in London

Our streak of sunny warm days was interrupted by some clouds and rain today. We began with a class meeting in Russell Square.

Although it wasn't raining (yet), we gathered in the Russell Square Cafe for some breakfast. Despite some threatening looking clouds, we decided to move outdoors for our morning class discussion.

However, as you might imagine, having class this close to a working wood chipper is not really productive (even if you manage to ignore the chainsaws and falling tree limbs).


So, we reluctantly moved into one of the student flats. (Thanks Jesse, Olenka, Justin and Jack!) We began our discussion by relating our study of human nature to the Shakespeare play we saw last night (Much Ado About Nothing). We had a great discussion about the many examples of mate selection, sexual jealousy and kin seletion we observed in the play. After that, a few students began to discuss their theses ideas. The entire class participated in the collaborative process of helping to focus and refine the ideas. Students will write a paper explaining, exploring and arguing their theses, drawing from their reading and experiences in London.


Dr. Saraceno is knocked over by the great thesis ideas being proposed by the students.


After class, we headed into the tube for a trip to The British Museum of Natural History, arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in London.The museum, built in 1873, is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 70 million items.

As part of our visit, the students enjoyed a private tour of the newly opened "Darwin Center" which holds tens of millions of preserved specimens and working scientific laboratories. The students were even able to see some flesh-eating beetles at work cleaning a fish skeleton, and, in the tank room, Archie the giant (28 foot)squid. We were also able to see several speciment collected and labeled by Charles Darwin.

 We were not allowed to take pictures on the tour.  If you are feeling left out, you can check out the live “beetle-cam” from the museum at: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/kids-only/naturecams/beetlecam/.

The students pose on the stairs at the museum entrance.


Ready to enter the museum.


A view of the main hall of the Natural History Museum.


The students pose with Charles Darwin at the museum.


The students left Charles and headed out to explore the museum.

There are no class-related activities scheduled for this evening.  The students have plans to visit a restaurant, see a show or just enjoy some time in London.
Tomorrow, we plan to have class in the morning and then meet our guide, David Tucker, for a London walk called “Charles Dickens’s London. 
In preparation for the walk and to help the students prepare to delve deeper into the Darwinian themes woven through “Great Expectations”, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno recreated a key scene from the novel. Although everyone appreciates their commitment to the course content, I can understand why none of the students invited the instructors to join them for their free evening in London.

~ by Dr. Musa on May 27, 2011.

3 Responses to “A Woodchipper, a Giant Squid and Flesh-Eating Beatles: Day 4 in London”

  1. I really want to see the Darwin wing!

  2. I don’t know what scares me more Justin with another “You talkin’ to me!” look or Dr. Saraceno in the wife-beater T-shirt (previous post). I see that Dr. Firenze has turned things around here. Before, the agile Feline Firenze simply tried to outrun the menacing Scurrilous Saraceno, while Saraceno constantly hurled objects at his innocent roommate. Clearly, Firenze now instates his “Excellence” academic post, and forces Subservient Saraceno to kiss Fine Firenze’s ring finger.

  3. Why it’s the “Dancing Queen” with the “Duke of Earl.” The entire world is hoping that Ernst Mayr is correct about reproductive isolation mechanisms.

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