Monday, October 30, 2017

Hitchhikers


Image result for japanese ocean animals

Biodiversity
Pollution
STEM
Environmental and Science Education
Edward Hessler

The 2011 earthquake off the coast of eastern Japan has resulted in the transport of several hundred species of animals to the west coasts of the United States and Canada. They moved this distance at 2-4 km an hour, a relatively slow movement east to west. 

This short film shows the process and the short article from Science describes some of the events.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Midwifery: An Undercelebrated Profession


Image result for midwife

Society
STEM
Environmental and Science Education
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

Long ago (it seems and it was) I got to know a midwife researcher who focused his research on midwifes in the Netherlands. We never talked deeply about this but knowing him and his work raised, I think, for the first time a sensitivity to the profound work of midwives. I gained an awareness for those who choose to serve women while birthing. DeVries is the author of The Pleasing Birth. Now that is a wonderful title!

I also have a friend whose wife was once a practicing doula. The short conversations we had about her practice (in those corridors and corners of meetings) further deepened my appreciation. It is still a a very shallow one at best.

As far as I'm concerned birthing is a STEM career, one with a powerful social side.  I've called attention to the work of obstetric nurses before. Both midwives and obstetrical nurses practice an applied art and science with a large measure of of love.

Pictures, gorgeous pictures of midwives at work, are from Catherine Pearson's HuffPost article celebrating the quiet work of midwives--moments of great beauty, of pain and of joy as a baby is welcomed to an uncertain world.

More than three deserving and belated cheers for their glorious work.

I didn't know until I read the article of  the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, the organization that provided the photographs in Pearson's celebratory essay.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Autumn Leaves


Image result for redbud hazel

Biodiversity
Aesthetics
Edward Hessler

Redbud hazel or scientifically, Disanthus cercidifolius is one of the glories of fall.  Alas, it is limited in range to China, Japan and a few botanic gardens.

Redbud hazel has been featured twice on Botany Photo of the Day (BPOD), October 22, 2005 and  October 25, 2017. There are few colors that the leaves of this plant miss in fall.

It may be seen here where you will find a link to BPOD's image posted 12 years ago. Be sure to scroll down to see two other photographs, one by Dominic Janus who took the picture (it is linked in his response, the second) and the other is included in a viewer response.

One of the responses mentions Sassafrass albidum as a contender in the color sweepstakes. So, I had to check it out. Wouldn't you love to be among them, looking up, looking down, and looking long?

But if I had to choose between just these two, I'd pick redbud hazel.

Whattaya' think?

P.S.  Redbud hazel is a member of the  witch hazel (Hamamelidaceae) family.  Members of the family are known in the U.S. as witch hazels (the name comes from their use in "witching" for water, finding water through the use of a forked branch of this small tree/shrub).  When it dips toward ground there is supposed to be water below.  I thought you might be interested in seeing some fall images of the leaves of witch hazel. They, too, will dazzle your eyes.  Eastern witch hazels bloom close to year around in some locations. I like the leaf venation and you will find a few examples in this article from Arnoldia. Hey, this has become more than you want to know!


Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Poem


Image result for pie

Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

"Pi," not pie, is this friday's poem but every bit as tasty.

It was written by Wislawa Szynborska.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fats Domino


Image result for hurricane katrina

Society
Miscellaneous
Deaths
Edward Hessler

When I hear a Fats Domino song, I almost always think of his gorgeous smile. It was everything most carpet smile are not, a real smile, one that said I love life, one that was giddy with life.

He could be called the inventor of rock and roll but if you won't give him that and I'm sure that others who know much more about music than I do would not agree. He surely was one of its founders and influencers.

During the large destructive hurricane, Katrina, that inundated New Orleans he remained in his home in the 9th Ward where he was ultimately rescued from the third floor. From there he was taken to the Superdome.  He lost almost everything including his grand piano, a white Steinway which is now restored but not playable. It is is now an installation in the Louisiana State Museum. He also lost a number of his gold records. Following he restored his home.

Here is one of many tributes to him by Gwen Thompkins and Anastasia Tsioulcas. I chose it because it has a link to his first hit, The Fat Man. Scroll down to find it.  The first version was recorded December 10, 1949.

Amanda Petrusich wrote this about the song in her New Yorker column for October 25.

Domino does something startling with Hall’s melody. Now that rock and roll has become such a familiar and comfortable idiom in America, it’s hard to quantify “The Fat Man” ’s singularity, or its wildness—to truly lock eyes with its newness would require unhearing all the various ways in which Domino’s work has since been synthesized and perverted and mimicked and reborn. (Such is the plight of the true innovator.) But I’d still challenge anyone to make it through the bit after the second verse—in which Domino begins to scat in falsetto, approximating the wah-wah-wah sound of a muted Dixieland trumpet—and not be left at least slightly agog. It’s a nonverbal, nonsensical chorus that’s not exactly a chorus, yet is somehow a flawless chorus—effervescent, unexpected, profuse.

All of us, well many of us, some of us know Blueberry Hill Mr. Domino sang this song on the Ed Sullivan show, likely a reach back in time for some of us (not me).

Petrusich says that she has watched the clip from that program many times. She puts into words what I suspect many of us have thought but were not able to find words for, "I still can't figure out the way his hands move so freely and so gently over the keys, as if he's not even pressing down," closing with this lovely line, "As if he merely charms the song into being."

He charmed all the songs he wrote and played and us.

Here is the link to Ms. Petrusich column.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Death in the Family


Image result for gorilla

Biodiversity
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

An aged (59 yo) gorilla whose name is Mama is approaching the end of her life.  She lies curled in the fetal position where she tries to take food and drink but is too weak. Mama was born in the wild but soon became a member of the famous Arnhem Zoo Chimpanzee Colony.

About a week before she died she was visited by an old friend.That reunion is deeply moving.

Is she like us?  Are we like her? You bet and it has been only recently that science has been persuaded by the evidence. Animals have emotions. They also have intelligence. But as primatologist Frans de Waal asks in the title of his most recent book, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?  The short answer is that there is hope for us. deWaal writes about some of the research and leads it provides into animal consciousness, their emotions and intelligence.

Barbara J. King (NPR) wrote a story about Mama and her visitor in which the film is embedded. I don't think--like to think--that Mama would mind that this reunion between two loving friends was filmed. It seems to me to honor a life so well-lived. My only wish is that Mama could have died in the wild and that the wild that was her first home is still there.

King notes that Mama was an incredible negotiator an important skill among chimpanzees. Male chimpanzees are very political often violently so. King includes a paragraph from Frans de Waal's book, Chimpanzee Politics describing Mama's methods.

There is a circle here. deWaal was a student of Mama's visitor, Jan van Hoff, his first Ph.D. student

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Puerto Rico: Clean Water


Image result for puerto rico

Water and Watersheds
Sustainability
Society
Edward Hessler

Diane Ravitch who writes a favorite blog on education, a progressive blog, noted that The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has joined those who are working to restore access to clean water to the those who live in of Puerto Rico.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, wrote to members that "responding to the water crisis unfolding in Puerto Rico, AFT, Operation Blessing, AFSCME, and the Hispanic Foundation launced Operation Agua...to crowdsource contributions and provide a reliable source of safe drinking water to families across Puerto Rico."

The goal, as noted by Weingarten, is to "purchase and distribute 100,000 individual water filtration systems for households and classrooms and 50 large capacity clean water devices to a network of non-profit organizations, union offices, schools and other community based groups to provide stable and reliable sources of safe water."

Here is more information about Operation Agua. There is also find information on how organizations and individuals can become sponsors.

The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) had planned to hold its annual conference in Puerto Rico but canceled it and then, in the spirit of an organization devoted to sustainability education, established a fund to provide help and assistance to the residents of Puerto Rico, the Together for Puerto Rico Fund. NAAEE Executive Director Judy Braus, wrote a letter about this decision and action to friends of NAAEE.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Plantón Móvil in Saint Paul

CGEE Student Voice
by Jenni Abere


This weekend, Plantón Móvil, the plant parade and re-vegetation project on Pierce Butler, was completed. It was a rainy morning, so we had to re-locate the plant/human gathering spot to indoors. Luckily, the rain let up in time for the walk and planting.

There were several times that we planted at the site in the week before, so I was nervous that we wouldn't have enough plants, especially the large and green plants. (We had plenty of small, dried up plugs). But it turned out that we had plenty of plants, and we could have accommodated a larger crowd.

Lucia Monge (second from left) is the artist behind Plantón Móvil. She spoke about the project before our walk.
The crowd before we embarked on our parade. We decorated the shopping cart with tree trimmings (scavenged from
the Hamline facilities organics dumpster). 

Everyone had the chance to learn a little about the plants they were carrying, and introduce their plants to each other. Then we started on the parade. Since it had been a rainy morning, there weren't a lot of people out along our route. We looped through the neighborhood, and then made our way to the site.

Once there, we planted the plants, and had some snacks and tea. It worked well because we had pre dug a lot of the holes, making the planting much easier. I wasn't able to take many photos during the event because my hands were full carrying plants, and then my hands were full of dirt later on -- so I'm glad that several members of my class were dedicated to photography and video.

Planting on the site. 

There are aspects of Plantón Móvil that could be applied to any re-vegetation or planting project. Introducing ourselves and our plants to each other provided a chance to learn the names of plants, and have a relationship with them. Carrying the plants to the site instead of driving them, even just a few blocks as we did, is a great way to raise visibility and have fun as a group.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Dancers


Image result for star collision

Nature of Science
History of Science
Astronomy
STEM
Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

"What's happening at the center of 3C 75?," is the question posed by the October 22, 2017 Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

Dancing, that's what. Well more or less.The APOD entry describes this dance as two "co-orbiting supermassive black holes powering the giant radio source 3C 75."  When they merge, gravitational waves will be released. This is not close-dancing yet although given the size of the universe it is.  The two dancers are separated by a mere 25,000 light years. The Pin Wheel galaxy is roughly this distance from us. It is found in the constellation Ursa Major, no doubt a familiar friend.

Theoretician Sean Carroll of CalTech has a nice but somewhat technical entry (at least for your's truly) on what the recent collision of two neutron stars means to cosmologists. an event known by professionals as GW170817.  Astronomers and cosmologists would like to know how far away such events are from us.

This collision opened the era of "multi-messenger astronomy," which provides a way for astrophysicists to detect both gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation emanating from a single source. What this means is distance measurements from here to there are now possible. 

Previously the amount of redshift which is essential to measuring such distances, didn't allow this. As Carroll explains, gravitational waves don't provide sufficient spectral structure to measure the redshift. Additionally, the energy of the gravitational waves varies.

In traditional measurements stars known as standard candles are used to construct step-by-step, a "cosmic distance ladder."  This is explained by Carroll but I include another link, a Wiki entry.

I include this reference to Sean Carroll because this event has some personal relevance to Carroll. Additionally it is a lovely story in the history and nature of science.  It turns out that when two of Carroll's colleagues were writing one of the early papers on such measurements, Carroll said to the authors "Well you have to call these things 'standard sirens.'" And so they are.

It turned out that this name had also been proposed by Sterl Phinney. Hughes and Holz acknowledged their work: We thank Sean Carroll and Sterl Phinney for independently suggesting that the gravitational-wave analogue of the standard candle be named the “standard siren”. 

Professor Carroll's blog entry includes links to LIGO explainer, a table of the various spectra, waveforms and the chirp where you can hear it, as well as the link to the acknowledgements section of the Hughes and Holz paper. 

Note: APOD entries are time-stamped so if you look for the October 22 entry after today it can be found in the archive.

h/t, several of them to Sean Carroll who writes the well-named blog, The Preposterous Universe. 







Friday, October 20, 2017

Lead Detecting Device


Image result for lead

Pollution
STEM
Edward Hessler

Meet Gitanjali Rao, 11 yo winner of the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in this NPR report by Laurel Wamsley.

The embedded video amazed me.

What a talented young person (and fast talker, too).

And what an important and promising and necessary and clever and smart invention.




Friday Poem


Image result for poetry

Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Two-time Pulitzer prize winning poet Richard Wilbur died October 4, 2017, age 96. He was one of the great gifts to American poetry and also a renowned translator of poetry.

Wilbur was a graduate of Amherst College and a remembrance of him and his career may be found on MassLive. I include another from The New Yorker, a publication to which he was a frequent contributor. This tribute to him ends with two evocative lines from the last poem he published in that magazine, "For now, the long blue shadows of these trees / Stretch out upon the snow, and are at ease" (Sugar Maples, January).

His poems never fail to please and inform me as well as challenge my sensibilities so it is not easy to choose just one. So what to do?  Choose a favorite, that's what! It is a poem I read it this time of year and perhaps you do or have as well.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wildlife Maps



STEM
Models
Behavior
Earth Science

The book below was reported on in September by retired William and Mary anthropologist, Barbara J. King.  She is one of my very favorite NPR commentators.  King opened her column/radio report with a question. "Have you spent quiet time poring over a set of maps? Maybe halfway around the world that you've always wanted to visit--or even the mountains or coastlines of your home area? Maps transport us. They 'make the landscape fit indoors, make us masters of sights we can't see...in the word of Robert Harbison...."

The book was recently published in the U. S. and makes the "monumental journeys taken by wild animals fit indoors...." The  title is  Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti. I thought of Where the Wild Things Are, a glorious book of a different stripe!  The aim of Cheshire and Uberti is to connect people to the lives and intentional choices of individual animals.  We see individuality in our pets; it's much harder to see in the wild. As a result, to some, elk in Yellowstone or baboons in Kenya may seem like furry robots following a predetermined...loop."

You can all think of exceptions, mostly professionals, who see wild animals as individuals. Several came to my mind: Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), the wife-husband team Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth (baboons), David Mech (wolves, and Doug Peacock (grizzly bears).  An important value of this book is "in terms of geographic needs, the point to stress is that to protect animals, we must protect where they go." This is all too easily forgotten or neglected or.... Consider, for example, monarch butterflies.

Here you can learn more about the book and see a few maps--seals, baboons (early in her career, King studied baboons in Kenya), albatrosses, jaguars, warblers and crocodiles. I wish the map for the elk of Yellowstone was included. One member of the Cody herd is highlighted and it is tantalizing. She is #35342. King devotes a few paragraphs to her and her calf. "We may trace her route with our fingers as well as our eyes...."

And along the way imagine richly, wonder, raise questions....

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ballerina Dances With the Geometry She Creates While Dancing


Image result for ballerina

Miscellaneous
STEM
Edward Hessler

It was a long time ago when I talked with a local physicist about an unconventional mechanics course he offered for students of athletics and dance. The student laboratory was a gymnasium and the tools, primitive these days but innovative then, included the use of small lights that could be attached to participants and an inexpensive photographic technique that allowed students to analyze human motion.

The laboratory was classic "sticky tape and string physics," i.e., it made use of uncostly, common materials and human cleverness, one based on a good understanding of physics.

I was reminded of that conversation when I watched a short video posted on AEON of ballerina Kurimu Urabe. The Japanese design group EUPHRATES found inspiration from a once widely used animation device, the rotoscope. I'd never heard of this device. The rotoscope allowed animators to trace over actions, a frame at a time in the process of making a film. It was once widely used and still finds some use, e.g., the sabre light fights in Star Wars.

However, the EUPHRATES design team goes well beyond the rotoscope, making use of an "innovative computer algorithm...to create dynamic animations that gracefully interact with the dancer." The title of the film captures the nature of the interaction: A ballerina dances with the geometry of her own movements.

Here is the short video which I found captivating.

Now about that rotoscope.  A Google search quickly opens the territory to more than someone like me wants to know. I didn't look at everything but found this short film instructive, interesting and nuanced. There is more out there.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

First planting day

CGEE Student Voice
by Jenni Abere


In preparation for Planton Movil, in class last week, we build plant/human connectors, screenprinted old shirts, and created informational signs about the plants. We worked in one of the art studios at Hamline, and were provided with tons of material from the sculpting studio. This was a rare opportunity in college to actually create something with your hands, so people got into it. I participated mainly in the building, and created several sling-like pouches that allow you to carry a medium-sized plant like a baby.

On Sunday, we planted many of the large plants at the site. There wasn't much a parade; we just sort of carried the plants over and went right into planting. I should have used one of my slings though; I carried one chokecherry plant in each arm, and my arms were sore the next day. The plant-human connectors have a level of practicality beyond just being decorative.

We distributed the plants according to the plan for the site. Trees and taller plants, like the oaks and service berries, had to go farther down the slope so they don't block visibility on the road. We also considered where the path from the road, through the prairie, to the outdoor classroom space would be. The planting was relatively easy, since the damp soil was easy to dig into it. The one challenge was planting on a steep slope. One or two plants went rolling down the hill.

We still have a number of small plugs to plant on the site next weekend. The entire site has been seeded with a prairie mix, so any bare spots will be filled in the spring. I'm starting to envision how this space will look; It will be exciting to follow its growing progress next summer!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Kilonovas: Now the Evidence

Astronomy
Nature of Science 
History of Science
STEM
Image result for kilonova

WaPo's Sarah Kaplan and Ben Guarino report on the collision of two collapsed stars that happened only recently when one thinks of time in terms of the universe. A mere 130 million years ago (mya). Like yesterday.

The result was a "kilonova," a merger of two neutron stars and is the first time this event has ever been observed, the "first cosmic event in history to be observed via both traditional telescopes...and gravitational wave detectors...". Unitl this event, kilonovas have been theoretical (This event demonstrates the power of a robust theoretical framework.). Neutron stars are composed of neutral particles and the collisons are the source of heavy elements such as gold, platinum and silver.

Julie McEnery, a NASA astrophysicist at Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, Md.) involved in this work is noted that this find is "transformational," and now scientists will be "able to combine dramatically different ways of viewing the universe, and I think our level of understanding is going to leap forward as a result." This new science is called "multimessenger astrophysics."

Kaplan and Guarino describe the fascination and excitement of the race to find the source of the signal. Scientists studying such events are constrained by the mechanics of the universe. First, it is a needle in a haystack event. Secondly, the haystack is on the move (as the universe races outward from us) so the signal grows more and more faint. There is a very short open window--about an hour--to observe this event before it disappears from view.

This place, the universe is big and fast.

Kaplan and Guarino  write that the "events... hewed closely to theories about the merger of neutraon stars based in nuclear physics, general relativity and research on the origins of elements." Ryan Foley, one of the scientists involved said that "'as a civilization (we) have been confined to the Earth, and almost all the information we've ever received from the universe has been through light. Yet we were able to predict...things as extreme as two neutron stars colliding when even the idea of neurtron stars was incredible.'"

McEnery put it this way. "While I'm not surprised that Einstein is right, it's always nice to see him pass another test." Here is the WaPo article which includes visualizations of the event.

Here are some of the numbers: 70 laboratories and telescopes around the world and ~ 4500 authors of the paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. They represent 910 institutions.This is not the largest collaboration ever.

There is also another report from NPR with animations that include how "it actually looked to astronomers." I especially liked this view. I think the two reports, WaPo and NPR complement one another and that both deserve a look so please at least scan them if you want to know more.

Nell GreenfieldBoyce, the author of the NPR essay calls attention to one thing most of us might be interested in: the gold, the platinum and the silver produced resulting from this mash-up.

She writes "Now to the scale of the debris.'That debris is strange stuff,' according to theoretician Daniel Kasen.'It's gold and platinum but it's mixed in with what you'd call just regular radioactive waste, and there's this big radioactive wast cloud that just starts mushrooming out from the merger site. It starts out small, about the size of a small city, but it's moving so fast--a few tenths of the speed of light--that after a day it's a cloud the size of the solar system.'"

GreenfieldBoyce writes that "according to (Kasen's) estimates, this neutron star collision produced around 200 Earth masses of pure gold, and maybe 500 Earth masses of platinum." 'It's a ridiculously huge amount on human scale.' Kasen wears a platinum wedding ring and notes that 'it's crazy to think that these things that seem very far out and kind of exotic actually impact the world and us in kind of intimate ways.'"

Earth masses represent a lot of tons, way more than I'm prepared to calculate. Atlas would struggle. One Earth mass equals 5.972x10^24 kg. The ^ represents to the power of 24.

Calculate away at heart's content!








Sunday, October 15, 2017

Finish Lessons...Singapore Lessons


Image result for school

Education
Society
October 15, 2017

A few weeks ago Diane Ravitch posted a very short piece on Pasi Sahlberg, a well-known Finnish educator. He is the author of "Finnish Lessons."

Here is the link to Ravatch's post where you will find a link to seminar he participated in at Columbia University. Ravitch extracted four big ideas from this long seminar--more than an hour which is a lot of time for most of us. Here are the four ideas.

--All children should have ample time for unstructured play.

--Small Data, the kind that teacher collect daily through their observations has more value to teaching/learning than Big Data captured by yearly standardized tests.

--Equitable funding, i.e., sending money/resources where it is most needed.

--There are many urban legends about Finland, one is that they recruit the very best and brightest into teaching.  Instead, teacher candidacy is about a strong commitment to being a teacher in addition to being bright. "There is no Teach for Finland."

To give you an idea of Sahlberg's thinking, here is a link to a shorter talk Sahlberg made several years ago on the germ/virus affecting school systems. It is followed by a provocative talk by a Finish student who also spent some of her time in Hong Kong as a student which she described as the best of two educational worlds.

She asks what the Finish education system can learn from Hong Kong/Asia and she makes some strong recommendations. You may skip ahead to the talk by Hannankina Tanninnen.

The presentation is very thoughtful, one that makes me think about schools and schools systems in general, as well as the contrasts between Finland and Hong Kong and, of course the U. S.


Friday Poem (on a Sunday)

Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Events have a way of changing plans. I was out of the office unexpectedly Friday. I'll tell you what it was all about in one word used for all kinds of reasons in Minnesota and designed for this occasion.

It was INTERESTING. It was--it led to several new learnings, ideas and insights. I'll leave it there.


The idea of October continues in this poem.

Take care.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Puerto Rico: A Graphic

Disaster
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

Hurricane Maria's aftermath can be seen in a startling Washington Post graphic.

You will also find information about the Puerto Rico Electric Authority (PREPA). I can't imagine ~3988 km (2478 miles) of downed powerline and replacing it if access was clear. It isn't. There are landslides, downed trees and brush covered roads.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Correlation...Causation

Statistics
STEM
Mathematics Education
Edward Hessler

We all know or have heard the rule that a correlation doesn't imply causation. By the way, not all people like this comic xkcd.  Here is a take-down on this particular panel.

Hmmm?  A correlation implies something and the trick is to separate promising leads from dead-ends. I like the way statistician Douglas Whitaker so beautifully and suggestively puts it in his short post about the xkcd panel. (Whitaker is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, just a hop, skip and a jump east of here.)

Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing look over here.

You will have to scroll down quite a bit to find the quote. It is under "Association."  The entry includes links to quite a few comics/cartoons about stats which Whitaker thoughtfully comments on throughout.

Minute Physics doesn't miss much and here is a quick primer on correlation and causation (causal networks) and how one can winnow down possibilities.  If you don't get it all the first time, it is short enough (4 minutes) that it can be reviewed easily. These videos challenge notetaking, perhaps even discourage it, but I find there is time to scratch down questions if you decide to take another look.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Waking Up at Night with Worries About the Fate of the Planet

Society
Pollution
Sustainability
Sustainable Energy & Transportation
Technology
Water & Watersheds
Edward Hessler

What global problem is at the top of your mind when you awake at night and can't go back to sleep?

There were 151 responses and for each question they selected one submission from a listener.


The results are reported by Malaka Gharib. Before you take a look at the results of this informal and unscientific poll, what is the problem of most concern to you? If, like me, I don't lie awake thinking about global problems most of the time. If you have this experience think of the question as a hypothetical.

I agreed with the first choice on the list which was my choice before I looked. I wish now I had chosen the top three.. I was surprised by the position of some of the other answers.

In September NPR's Malaka Gharib asked Amina J. Mohamed, Deputy Secretary-General of the U. N. (# 2 position) at the Global Global Goals Award ceremony.  She wove her response into remarks she made at the ceremony. You may read her response and those of a few others on #Curious Goat.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bunny's Goodnight

Literacy
Society
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

I didn't know that astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was a fan of Goodnight Moon, so much so that he "occasionally long(s)" for someone to read it aloud to him. 

His wish comes true with LaVar Burton reading this story to him and to us.

So many things happening on the occasion of a rabbit going to bed.

Goodnight moon. Goodnight Dr. Tyson. Goodnight Mr. Burton. Goodnight bunny.

"Goodnight house, goodnight little mouse."

Goodnight to one and all.

What a lovely project.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rain gardens along the Green Line

CGEE Student Voice
Water & Watersheds
by Jenni Abere


On a rainy Friday afternoon, my Environmental Studies class went on a tour of some of the stormwater features along University Ave in Saint Paul. When the Green Line was constructed here five years ago, Capital Region Watershed District took the opportunity to integrate some rainwater best practices. This was possible due to CRWD's regulatory authority; the Green Line route in Minneapolis does not have the same features.


The first feature we learned about is the tree trench system. The Green Line project led to a much greener University Avenue: there are trees on both sides of the street. The bricks around the trees are pervious, allowing rainwater to soak through the cracks instead of running off into the street. The picture above also shows the informative signs that are on display. The sign, titled "Rooting Out Pollution," explains the many benefits of permeable land and plants; less water runoff, cleaner water, and cleaner air.


In this rain garden, water from a nearby parking lot is piped in, and water from the street runs through the decorative grate. The plants here, mostly grasses, are selected specifically for their ability to withstand high levels of pollution. In the time that we stood there, I watched the rain carry some oil from the road along the curb, and into the rain garden. Despite these tough conditions, the plants looked healthy. All things considered, it's better for pollution to end up in a rain garden than directly in the river. CRWD performs regular maintenance on rain gardens.


The above rain garden is located next to a McDonald's. Because of this, there is a fair amount of litter. But the plants and trees are doing very well. It's great to be more aware of rain gardens, because once you notice them, you see them in a lot of places. But after this field trip, every time I see a regular patch of grass I just want to plant a rain garden there.

The good news is, a large rain garden will be planted near Hamline this month! Seeing the nearby rainwater infrastructure made me very excited to participate in this project.

Stardust and Us

STEM
Environmental and Science Education
Edward Hessler


"We are stardust," Joni Mitchell famously sang.

Everything is.

The general theme of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics was stellar evolution and two awards were made, one for theoretical studies of physical processes leading to structure and evolution of stars and one for theoretical and experimental studies of the nuclear reactions in the formation of the chemical elements in the universe.

How this happened is nicely explained in a short video (4 minutes) by NASA astronomer, Michelle Thraller.

Reminds me of a Grook--aphoristic verse by Piet Hein.

I'D LIKE --
 
I'd like to know 
what this whole show 
is about 
before it's out.
 
But none of us will be here to see that. 
 





Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Poem

Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

It's October!

Octember, if you are of the Stan Laurel school of meteorological fall.

Robert Frost notes this event.

And here is a short biography although I may regret sending it or you may. There is an ad at the beginning before the speaking starts which is accompanied by pictures worth waiting for. There is text, too.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Humor
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler


I once joined LinkedIn (for no reason) then tried to de-link. I've given up on that. I still receive mailings telling me about jobs, people and more. I don't respond.

If I ever decide to respond I think I might choose to this way.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Snowy Day

Art and Environment
Literacy
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

The Snowy Day (1962) by Ezra Jack Keats is one of my all-time favorite books.

This lovely book is about the pleasure snow brings to Peter, a young boy which is delightfully and beautifully expressed in the illustrations. These take me back to childhood and the wonder of a snow.

Today, October 4 2017 the U. S. Postal Service is releasing four stamps featuring illustrations from the book. They are, Peter forming a snowball, Peter sliding down a mountain of snow, Peter making a snow angel, and Peter leaving footprints in the snow.

The book was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1963 for "most distinguished American picture book for children."

You may see the stamps here.




Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology 2017

Nature of Science
STEM
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

The names Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash of Brandeis University and Michael Young of Rockefeller University apparently were not on anyone's list to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 2017. The so-called "smart money" was on others. But Hall, Rosbash and Young did just that. The award made October 2 acknowledges "their discovery of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm."

The earth rotates and life is adapted to this daily turning. Life has an internal "clock" that allows it to anticipate this regular cycle and to adapt to it through well-know processes of evolution.The press release (cited above) announcing the award notes that Hall, Rosbash and Young showed that "(a) gene that controls the normal biological rhythm encodes a protein that accumulates in cells during the night, and is then degraded during the day leads to remarkable regulatory functions."  The gene was given the name "timeless."

Jerome Groopman who writes about medicine and biology for The New Yorker wondered why these particular candidates were given the prize. After all their work was with fruitflies and one could ask (as many have about this kind of work) who cares how fruitflies make sense of this turning planet. Of what use is it?  Groopman recalled a conversation he once had with a member of a Nobel selection committee who told him that among the considerations is message, the message that is sent by making the award.

Groopman asked himself about the meaning of the award. This "announcement, and last year's, is that both are about the divide between basic research--the pursuit of scientific knowledge for its own sake--and applied research, which focusses on work with obvious, immediate effects." As Groopman  notes in the short essay linked above the award "is a kind of rebuke" to those who rail against the waste of this kind of investigation into nature. However, "the Nobel Committee made clear this morning, the science that informs and occasionally upends our understanding of human health and disease often comes from unexpected places."






An Ending I Wish Were Otherwise

Miscellaneous
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

You all know that Tom Petty died, age 66.

The end of an era.

In addition to his career in rock with his band The Heartbreakers--one of its great writers--he was also a member of the mega-group, the Traveling Wilbury's. Its members were Tom Petty, George Harrison, Ray Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne. The original group is now down to four following the deaths of George Harrison, Ray Orbison and Tom Petty.

Here is a favorite by them, aptly titled End of the Line.

See Urbanization Happen

Sustainability
Archaeology
Behavior

Visualizations are very helpful in thinking about things that occur over time.  The History of Urbanization: 3700 BC - 2000 AD from Metrocosm, does just that.

Creator Max Galka notes that By 2030, 75 percent of the world's population is expected to be living in cities. Today about 54 percent of us do. In 1960, only 34 percent of the world lived in cities.

Galka tells us how the data before then were obtained.  In addition, Galka plots these data in Mapbox which allows further exploration. 
 Neat!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Man Who Chose to Wait

STEM
Technology
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

On May 19, 2017 a former Soviet Union officer died whom I'd never heard one word about. Nothing.

His name was Sanislaw Petrov and he was 77 years old. He had been a lieutenant colonel in the Air Defense System.

It seems fair to say that he was the man who saved the world. 

From what?

As Greg Myre reported for NPR, Petrov was on routine duty monitoring the USSR satellite system. He was rudely interrupted by a what must have been a frightening siren alarm. The screen told him that the U. S. had launched "five nuclear-armed international ballistic missiles." The red screen had a single word on it, LAUNCH.

Petrov chose to wait. He was faced with a number problem. Five missiles, not the many he had been trained to expect in an all-out nuclear attack. Petrov once reported to the BBC, "I couldn't move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan." The window of time from launch to strike was about 20 minutes.

Petrov was working without a rule. There wasn't a rule that said after such and such a time you will report this to the commanders who would launch a counter attack. He checked on whether it was a computer malfunction and continued waiting. "Twenty-three minutes later I realized that nothing had happened," he said in 2013.

This is one way to express relief!

Myre's essay is a thriller and includes a link to a promotional trailer for a Kevin Costner, Robert DeNiro film titled The Man Who Saved the World. It was released in 2015. Rotten Tomatoes has information about the film and has assigned it 3 stars based on 14 reviews.

Movies are one thing; life quite another.