All posts by Mike Haubrich

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, With Bill Schutt

Bill Schutt
Bill Schutt

Human cultures carry taboos against certain forms of behavior, and one of the strongest is the proscription against cannibalism. Our literature and arts treat cannibalism as lurid and abhorrent, and yet we return to the subject in attempts to understand what would lead people to eat other people.

Our Least Likely Meal?


Anthropologists study cannibalism in order to understand the antecedents, such as population pressure or shortage of food, or even as an act of desperation and survival. Are there cultural reasons for colonialists to accuse those savages, whose homelands they are taking, to accuse them of cannibalism?
Biologists study cannibalism as well, to understand if there is an evolutionary advantage in some situations to cannibalism. What species use cannibalism to enhance their selfish genes? What are sand shark fetuses doing when they eat their half-siblings in the womb?

Bill Schutt, a biologist, has published a new book on the matter; “Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History,” exploring the topic from several angles in all sorts of species. You are invited to purchase a copy to help support your favorite podcast. Greg Laden, an anthropologist and a host of this show, explored cannibalism as a potential avenue of study as he was developing his career in science. Greg and Bill provide an enlightening discussion on Cannibalism here on Ikonokast.

Be sure to check out Bill’s other books on Amazon, as well:

Dark Banquet:  Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures

Hell’s Gate, A Thriller

Skepticism and Science, Hand in Hand – with Donald Prothero

There are productive scientists.  There are  skeptics, busy debunking cryptozoologists and ufologists. There are prolific authors of textbooks, popular science books and scientific reviews.  There are professors with heavy class schedules.  All of these are classes of professional true and stout of heart, no doubt.  Paleontologist Donald Prothero, PhD. combines all of those careers and hobbies into one person.  We suspected that he must have cloned himself and delegates at least a portion of his work to his doppelganger, but he denies this is so.

Science and Skepticism Work Together to Examine Bold Claims of Weird Phenomena


Donald Prothero
Donald Prothero

Don Prothero began his science career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He is a paleontologist and geologist who has taught at Occidental College, CalTech, Columbia and other colleges throughout Southern California. He has written, and is in the process of writing, textbooks, articles and reviews. He has blogged and given many talks about skeptical topics and co-authored popular books on evolution, cryptozoology, UFO’sand other subjects. It was a great honor for us as podcasters to have to the opportunity to chat with Don for an hour or so.

The podcast covers quite a bit of ground (that’s a geology joke, sorry,) in which Prothero provides updates on books he is finishing, about to finish and a proposal for a new book in the works; his upcoming tour of England and Scotland where a group will visit landmarks as well as sites of geological and historical interest; the concept of periodicity of mass extinctions in earth’s geological history and the reasons that as an explanation for past mass extinctions on Earth it is no longer taken seriously.

The most interesting and fun part of this interview was the discussion of cryptozoology. The idea that there are undiscovered large mammals roaming the remote areas of the world doesn’t really pan out in an era with the ability to see such things from satellites in orbit and they just aren’t there. There really is so much left on Earth to discover, life that has never been cataloged scientifically. The problem is that the mysteries which remain are small, tiny, miscroscopic or deep underwater and perhaps not “sexy” enough for the ersatz deep woods Bigfoot hunters.

We hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed producing it!

Donald Prothero’s Home Page

Help support Ikonokast by purchasing Don’t books through these links!

Giants of the Lost World: Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Monsters of South America
Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters

There Was a Bang – Ethan Siegel convinces us that dark matter is real

“It turns out that sometimes the measurements and observations are problematic. Sometimes the theory has reached the end of its limits of its range of validity. But in all cases the scientific method is the same.”

From Neptune to Dark Matter

Something about Uranus did not make sense. Planet Mercury’s orbit was off kilter. Spiral blobs were spinning too fast. Most of the matter in the universe had not been detected.

To the rescue: science!

In this eposode of Ikonokast, Ethan Siegel brings us on a journy of scientific discovery through the Universe, from the inner solar system to the farthest reaches of space, and through time, from the very beginning (of time) to the invention of the Tardis.

Put on your headphones, start up the treadmill, and let Ethan convince you that Dark Matter is real, and discusses the narure of science.

Dr. Ethan Siegel is a theoretical physicist and a popular science writer and presenter. His blog “Starts With a Bang” has expanded to be a regular column at Forbes Magazine, along with a presence on and a page on Facebook. He makes regular television appearances in Portland Oregon and produces a podcast, which you will find at Soundcloud.

Ethan Siegel
Ethan Siegel

Ethan has a great deal of fun with presenting science and costumes as a wrestler or as X-Men’s Wolverine, or any of a number of characters sure to please and get your attention.


Beyond the Galaxy: How Humanity Looked Beyond Our Milky Way and Discovered the Entire Universe

Starts With a Bang on Medium

Starts With a Bang at Forbes

Starts With a Bang at ScienceBlogs

Starts With a Bang on SoundCloud

The Vaccine Needs Help: Carina Storrs on Rotavirus Prevention in Developing Countries

Vaccines are effective at prompting our immune systems to produce antibodies to viral infections. When a virus for which we have been inoculated enters our bodies, the antibodies recognize their old enemy, their adversary from bygone days and attack and destroy the virus before it can do much harm to us. For the most part, vaccines are very effective at preventing viral disease. (See this recent book for pertinent information on vaccines.)

So Why Doesn’t the Vaccine Always Work?

Causes of Diarrhea
Leading Causes of Diarrhea

Imagine the stress, then, for a parent who has done as the doctors and clinicians recommend. Following a vaccination, the child becomes very ill from the rotavirus and suffers from diarrhea. So, they go back to the doctor for treatment and another dose of vaccine.

So, why is this happening in the case of the rotavirus? The vaccine for rotavirus is an oral application. The virus is attenuated, or weakened, and is intended to create a minor infection in the gut of the recipient. In fighting that minor infection, the antibodies form to fight off the infection. In the future, if the wild rotavirus makes its way into the child’s body the immune system will recognize it and fight it off.

In developed countries the vaccine is effective 98% of the time, but in India and Pakistan and Bangladesh the efficacy rate is as low as 43% and children take multiple doses. The question of what the factors are that make antibody production more difficult is a puzzle that researchers and doctors are working on.

Carina Storrs, PhD
Carina Storrs, PhD

There may be some clues leading them to the answers in the history of the oral polio vaccines in India. In a similar vein, three decades ago the oral vaccine for polio was less effective and a doctor in Vellore worked on finding solutions to prevent polio paralysis. Are there more than one answer, if so it is leading to a complex set of changes in India in order to give the vaccine some help.

Carina Storrs, PhD. is our guest for the fourth episode of Ikonokast. She has been working on this story and traveled to India on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to speak with doctors, scientists and parents of patients.

What Will Make Vaccines Work Better in Developing Countries?

Vaccines in Low-Income Countries: Reasons and Remedies for their Stunted Performance

Carina Storrs’ Published Articles

Rotavirus Information From the Mayo Clinic

The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance


What About Water? Peter Gleick on the California Drought

The status of the California drought, and other matters

What is the current status of the California Drought? How does the California Drought compare to the drought in Syria? How does the drought affect agriculture and the economy in California, and how does climate change affect the food supply globally?

A Conversation with Peter Gleick of California’s Pacific Institute

The water in Arizona runs through canals in the desert to get to Phoenix. It travels in the summer through heat and sun, with temperatures often higher than 100 ° Fahrenheit. A large portion of that water must evaporate. This brings home the value of water to Arizonans.

The California drought is in its fourth year. Agriculture is having to adapt. Gardeners see the need to adapt to the new reality. The current El Niño event is not likely to make up for the deficit and reservoirs are running dry as the snow in the mountains is not going to make up for the shortage of rainfall.

Dr. Peter GleickDr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute is our guest for this show. We talked about how our society needs to reshape our policies and practices in order to meet the increasing demands for water. Dr. Gleick is a leading scientist, innovator and communicator on global water and climate issues. Elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006, he is the author and editor of many published papers as well as ten books on the subject of water.

Among the topics covered in this episode are the role of drought in numerous conflicts around the world, the concept of virtual water, using local and state policy to fight climate change and whether or not saving water in Seattle is as important as it is in Sacramento.

Please take the opportunity to look through Peter’s books as listed on Amazon. Purchases that you make through these links help to support Ikonokast and, of course, Peter’s work at the Pacific Institute.

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water

Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources

Significant Figures on ScienceBlogs


Ikonokast, a New Podcast

Greg Laden Photo
Greg Laden
Mike Haubrich
Mike Haubrich

An iconoclast destroys cherished beliefs.  Science is iconoclastic at its best, or at its worst, depending on your point of view. Science is a method to answer questions with results often surprising or inconvenient.

Science attacks common sense.  Science reveals tricks of nature in ways that economics and politics don’t find convenient.Nature has a habit of not conforming to our desires or recognizing our cherished beliefs. In order to survive in our world humans often need to adapt our ways to the realities of nature.

Ikonokast Podcast explores the discoveries of nature science provides . We will discuss the implications of science on our politics, society, and economy.

Tune in.  There are always new ikons to kast aside.

The Ikonokast Blog is hosted on a Digital Ocean Droplet. See this for a discussion of how we set this up, in case you are interested in doing something like this yourself.