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Conversations about Science Communication and Communicating Science


S11:E01, “How to Tame a Fox” edition, with Lee Alan Dugatkin (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 14 January 2018

Streamed live on 11 January 2018.

Perhaps the longest running scientific experiment of the 20th, and now 21st centuries, has been taking place in a remote “City of Science” (“Akademgodok”) in Siberia, involving raising generations of foxes selected from a larger population (bred for their fur) based on an individual’s demeanor toward humans. The goal of the project, begun in the late 1950s first by Dmitri Belyaev, soon joined by Lyudmila Trut, was to try to discover some clues to how dogs first became domesticated over 20,000 years ago. Trut was recruited by Belyaev to head the daily operation of the experiment when she was 23, and she’s still involved over 60 years later.

The results from the ongoing experiment are startling and telling. We had a lively discussion with Lee Alan Dugatkin, co-author with Lyudmila Trut, of How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution, discussing this fascinating and engaging book, details and outcomes of the experiment, the experiment’s emergence into the Western scientific awareness, Lysenkoism, and Belyaev and Trut and other personal stories of the people involved in this long-running story.

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