Heard on the Hill: Wired magazine takes on KU mural; Newt Gingrich likes KU’s Natural History Museum; reporter says good-bye

Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• Thanks to a tipster who sent me this link from Wired magazine that sort of takes the KU Natural History Museum to task for a mural of a giant squid and a mosasaur having it out in the ancient seas.

The author (who is listed as a freelance writer and a paleontology volunteer at the University of Utah), points out that there isn’t much evidence that tells us exactly how big that the particular genus of squid ever got, though it’s estimated to be about 25 feet long.

“In this University of Kansas Museum of Natural History mural, the Cretaceous squid Tusoteuthis tussles with a mosasaur,” reads a photo caption in the magazine article. “Only, there’s no evidence that such battles ever took place.”

The author argues that the squid likely wouldn’t have engaged in a battle with prey larger than itself.

Jen Humphrey, a spokeswoman for the museum, told me the mural was quite old, and she told me that very likely the giant squid and mosasaurs once swam together in the inland sea that sits where Kansas is today.

“But the mural is an artistic interpretation of these interactions,” she said.

• One person who’s apparently not deterred by really old murals that may or may not depict squid-mosasaur battles that actually happened is Newt Gingrich.

The former Speaker of the House who fought to gain the Republican party’s presidential nomination earlier this year had kind words for the museum in a story in The Atlantic that went live on Thursday.

“Possibly the finest natural history museum in the country is at the University of Kansas,” he told an audience that included members of the Kansas delegation to the GOP convention, the article wrote.

He also pointed out that the state was apparently home to the northernmost Comanche raid.

This is not the first time he’s said he enjoys the KU museum, which he did in 2009 in the pages of our fair newspaper, too.

• And now it’s time for a good-bye, as this the last Heard on the Hill column I get to write. Today is my last day at the Journal-World, and I’m taking a new position at KU Medical Center.

There’s a lot I’ve learned, and lots I could say, but I really only want to say one thing. It’s something few journalists get to say to their audiences (unless you have a sweet column like me):


Thanks to everyone who picked up the phone when I called. Thanks to everyone who took time out of their day to explain to me and everyone who read these stories about how things get done at KU. Thanks to everyone who read this column and all the rest of the stories I wrote during my four years here. And thanks to the people who commented on them, whether they were nominating me for athletics director (as PugnaciousJayhawk did in this story), or raking me over the coals (as IllTeachYou did — and deservedly so, I might add! — in this story). I always read all the comments on my stuff, and even enjoyed a fair number of them.

And thanks most of all to the many, many tipsters who kept me informed about what was going on. This column is theirs (and yours) as much as it ever was mine.

It’s been a great ride, and I’ve had a blast. But I’m looking forward to a new opportunity, too.

• Even though I’m going away, Heard on the Hill will soldier on. Matt Erickson, a former editor of the University Daily Kansan who is currently working for the World Company’s newspaper in Basehor, will be taking over this beat and this column. He’ll do a great job. We don’t know exactly when that will happen, so the column will be taking a little break for awhile. In the meantime, feel free to send those awesome tips to my boss, Caroline Trowbridge, at ctrowbridge@ljworld.com. She’ll know what to do with them, believe me.