Indonesia celebrates its 65th year of independence today, so it’s a good time to point out a section of this site dedicated to where we live!
Aside from its colourful history, Indonesia is a science hotspot, rich in marine and rainforest biodiversity, geological resources and events, pioneering conservation efforts, fossils and really awesome people. It has been of interest to the outside world since (probably before) the days of the spice islands, and around 150 years ago, Alfred Russell Wallace was out here studying the amazing diversity of life here.
Wallace’s famous work, The Malay Archipelago, was dedicated to Charles Darwin. Wallace also hit upon ideas of natural selection and descent with modification while travelling around these islands, parts of which were to become Indonesia.
Wallace noted that although neighbouring islands shared many characteristics and species, there was a marked division between those of Bali and the west and those of Lombok and the east, even though the divide between Bali and Lombok was small. This division was to become known as the Wallace Line: western islands are characteristic of south-east Asia, whereas eastern islands are biogeographically more closely related to Australasia. With two distinct geological origins, species had separate genetic lines and paths of evolution. Through natural selection, Wallace wrote that barriers to interbreeding would evolve, leading to reproductive isolation and speciation – the Wallace Effect.
That’s cool, and that’s where we live.
You can read the whole book online, via Google: The Malay Archipelago.
Here is a clip of Sir David Attenborough reading from Wallace’s book as he follows in his footsteps for a BBC documentary:
And here is giving a full lecture on Wallace at Bristol University:
If you’re a Bio undergrad or graduate and have time and money to spare, you could do a lot worse than checking out Operation Wallacea, where you can boldly go where Wallace went before and take part in biodiversity and conservation research.
I heard about this series on BBC 4 when listening to the Guardian Science Weekly podcast recently. They had the presenter and physicist, Jim Al-Khalili, on the show talking about some of the great discoveries and advances made in the Islamic world between the 8th and 14th Centuries.
Think about it this way – if it has an ‘al’ at the beginning, there’s a fair bet that it was discovered, invented or pushed forward in the Islamic world: algebra, algorithms, alkali, alcohol…
Alhazen (Ibn al-Haythem) is considered one of the founders of the scientific method which we still use today – a good scientist formulates a hypothesis and devises a method to prove it wrong. In this way, we know if a scientific idea stands up to testing. If not, we need to revise the hypothesis and test again.
You can see the official BBC page for the programme here, but the video may no longer be available to download. Alternatively, pick up the episodes (broken into parts), from YouTube:
1: The Language of Science
2: The Empire of Reason
3: The Power of Doubt
To find out more about Science and the Islamic world, try some of these resources: