Saturday, November 17, 2018

Dueling Books

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

In March 2017, The Heartland Institute, a conservative think take well known for climate change denial, mailed a booklet (accompanied by a DVD) to teachers entitled Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming.  A new booklet is planned although there are few details.

The National Center for Science Education's Glenn Branch has published a piece about this which includes other resources for teaching global climate change.

I also recommend two additional resources. The first is the section in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC 2012) on Global Climate Change (pp. 196-198). This may be read on-line and dowloaded (fully or sections) free.

The second is the NSTA Position Paper entitled The Teaching of Climate Science. It is a  resource I value. If you haven't examined, please don't miss the chance.  

You will note in the Frontline quote the phrase on teaching global climate change,  "'explain' to their students...." "Explain" is not found in the NSTA position paper.The NSTA position paper suggests a much more active approach on the part of the student than the "stand and deliver" stance, explains suggests.




Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by the late Jim Harrison.

I like this "biography" because it tells us so much about him and writing. And the analogy in the essay's title is perfect. He was indeed "the Mozart of the prairie."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Novel Approach to the Study of Climate Change

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler


What can 36 years of bike racing footage tell us about climate change? A report in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by Ghent University researchers using this source of data caught the eye of Katie Langin.

Langin, a writer for Science, describes a new source of climate change data. It was old television footage of the Tour de Flanders, "a professional cycling race that's taken place in Belgium nearly every April since 1913."  Much of the race is on heavily cobbled roads.  The University of Ghent researchers  picked out 20 trees that were visible from 1981 to 2016.  The data they collected were simple: presence/absence of leaves and their size.

Langin's short summary is that "the old footage reveals that spring has sprung earlier along the race course in the past decade. In the 1980s, hardly any trees had leaves during the race. But from 2006 to 2016, 45% of trees had at least started growing leaves."

Langin's short essay may be found here. Langin links to the original paper but I copy it here. The abstract is worth reading and provides information about the study, e.g., After viewing >200 hr of film, we compiled 523 individual × year observations of leaf‐out and flowering of 46 individual trees and shrubs visible in four decades (1981–2016) of video footage.
Langin also provides a link to leaf-growth record studies which provide evidence for earlier leafing out times.

h/t Katie Langin, Science

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Arriving Just In Time For Snow

Environmental & Science Education
Children
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

You probably remember the first snowfall of childhood winters and rushing out to be in it.

What a glorious feeling.

This short video shows Eritrean children dancing and exclaiming about the first snow they have ever seen or felt or smelled or tasted.  A Canadian welcome.

This is magic.

One of my favorite books is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. There is an animated video with narration here.

This is also magic.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fifty Years Ago On the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biological Evolution
History of Science
Edward Hessler


The fiftieth anniversary of 
Epperson v. Arkansas was yesterday, November 12, 1968. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (9-0) that an Arkansas law barring the teaching of evolution in public schools violated the First Amendment's establishment clause . Amendment I reads:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Susan Epperson challenged a 1928 Arkansas statute.
It shall be unlawful for any [public school] teacher … to teach the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals”, the law stated. “[A]nd also it shall be unlawful for any teacher … to adopt or use in any such institution a textbook that teaches the doctrine or theory that mankind descended or ascended from a lower order of animals.

There is an article celebrating her, the decision and what followed in the November issue of Church and State, a monthly magazine published by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Once Epperson v. Arkansas had been settled, new challenges from anti-evolutionists followed which are discussed in the article, e.g., scientific creationism, intelligent design and teach the controversy under the guise of academic freedom. Three states have enacted laws on teaching the controversy: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

The theory of evolution is supported by multiple lines of evidence: observational, experimental, DNA, paleontology, developmental, behavioral, population biology, physiology. Anti-evolutionists use arguments that don't explain the data, the hallmark of science.  

Glenn Branch of the Center for Science Education summarizes the importance of the Epperson decision in these words. The Epperson decision reshaped the legal landscape and has had a continuing impact not only on jurisprudence but also in what is being taught in evolution. Biology teachers, whether they know it or not, have benefitted from Susan Epperson standing up for teaching it.

Epperson later taught chemistry and biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where she is now Instructor Emerita.

Thanks Ms. Epperson.

Here is the Wiki entry on Epperson v. Arkansas. 








Sunday, November 11, 2018

100 Years Ago An Armistice

Environmental & Science Education
Society
Edward Hessler

World War I came to an end at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of this costly war.  The death toll of WWI is in the millions with some 9 million combat deaths, 21 million soldiers wounded and civilian deaths in the millions.*

Once known as Armistice Day--Remembrance Day in many countries. the United States rededicated November 11 as Veterans Day.

Adam Hochschild, a New Yorker writer, calls attention to how badly the First World War ended.  He writes that "few Germans considered themselves defeated" leading to a festering resentment that contributed to a later war.  "The war," Hochschild writes, "ended as senselessly as it had begun." Commanders knew that firing was to end at 11 am but "thousands of men were killed or maimed during the last six hours of the war for no political or military reason whatever."

The National WWI Museum and Memorial installed Reflections of Hope: Armistice 1918, a grouping of poppies, by artist Ada Koch.

On Receiving the First News of the War by Isaac Rosenberg who was to become known as one of England's finest "trench poets" was one of the victims of WWI. His remains were never found. The poem includes biographical information about him.

Here is another poem, And There Was A Great Calm, by Thomas Hardy on the signing of the armistice. You may link to his biography by placing your cursor on his name.

*In addition to humans, millions of horses, donkeys, and mules were killed. (Note added),


Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

There are many good poems about cats, among them this poem by Marge Piercy--poet, novelist, memorist--who is an observant aleurophile. It shows in this lovely poem.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Young Birders Event

Environmental & Science Educaton
STEM
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler

The Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology has hosted a Young Birders Event for 10 years. These young ornithologists come from all over the world.

This video highlights Lorena Silva (Brazil) who wrote and illustrated a birder's guide for her community and students in her school.

Zeiss has made this annual event possible.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Historic Kids' Climate Lawsuit Goes Forward

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Society
Edward Hessler

Is there a right to a healthy, human-friendly climate that is not destabilized by carbon pollution of the atmosphere? This seems inherent in the unalienable rights stated in the United States Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The question above is the substance of Juliana v. United States, a case first filed in 2015.


In an article about the lawsuit Nature reported that, The plaintiffs*, who include 21 people ranging in age from 11 to 22, allege that the government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by failing to prevent dangerous climate change. They are asking the district court to order the federal government to prepare a plan that will ensure the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere falls below 350 parts per million by 2100, down from an average of 405 parts per million in 2017. 
By contrast, the US Department of Justice argues that “there is no right to ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life’” — as the Juliana plaintiffs assert.
The Supreme Court ruled  on November 2, 2018 that the lawsuit can proceed although the path ahead is long, tortuous with the outcome uncertain. The Wiki entry provides a comprehensive overview of this case, closing somewhat ominously by noting that some experts... expect that any decision in favor of the plaintiffs would be reversed by the Supreme Court, which is reluctant to declare new rights. In the Nature essay, Andrea Rodgers, a co-counsel for the plaintiffs said that '"we have to show that the United States Government is liable, but also that there is a remedy that the judge can order.'" In addition, I'd expect government lawyers to advance arguments that the United States alone cannot solve the problem.
*There are two other plaintiffs: the organization Earth Guardians and climate scientist James Hansen representing future generations.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Mississippi Flyway Cam

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Nature
Edward Hessler

In mid-September, a new bird camera was established on an island in the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge on Lake Onalaska.

The Mississippi River Flyway Cam lets us take a peek at migrating birds and river wildlife. Some examples are bald eagles, sandhill cranes, cormorants, pelicans and many species of ducks, gulls, and other waterfowl.

One of the rewards of checking it out from time-to-time is to listen in on the conversation.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Malus 'MN#1711'


Image result for honeycrisp

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Genetics
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

I can't let this Botany Picture of the Day (BPOD) pass without posting it.

The feature is the Minnesota Honeycrisp apple, the apple that is described as "explosively crisp."

Note its scientific name Malus 'MN#1711'. Malus is a genus composed of about 35 species. The alphanumeric "species" substitute represents its cultivar designation.

The photograph and a description made me smile as well as appreciate the work of plant breeders at the University of Minnesota.

Okay, I'm a Minnesota homebody although a transplant.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Fall Back (or Suffer the Consequences)


Image result for clock

Environmental & Science Eduction
STEM
History of Science
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

Why do we do it, all this falling backward and springing forward?

Tonight, well early tomorrow morning, we move the hands or digits of our clocks (and often way too many other devices) back.

The BBC takes aim in this short film (8 minutes) narrated by Frankie McComley who looks at historical, political and social reasons behind changing the clocks and the varying time zones around the world.

Still, the question lingers.


.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday Poem


Image result for quark

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

I owe today's poem to Jim Culleny, who curates poetry for 3 Quarks Daily

Here is the poem. You will find some information about the author, Maggie Smith, at the same page.

This poem was published in Issue IX, Summer 2016 of the Waxwing Literary Journal.

Mr. Culleny posted the poem 10.24.2018.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Explanation at 5 Levels of Difficulty


Image result for quantum computer

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Computing
Engineering
Edward Hessler

A press release from the Yale Quantum Institute notes that Wired Magazine is producing a video series in which an expert explains a subject to 5 different persons with various degrees of knowledge on the topic.

The persons include a child, a teen, an undergrad student, a grad student, and a professional.

This video features explainer Dr. Talia Gershon, Senior Manager at IBM Quantum Research who talks with her guests about quantum computing. She has an ability to meet people where they are and to feel comfortable.

Take a gander.

Here is an interview with Dr. Gershon at Educon 2018.

h/t: 3QuarksDaily



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween


Image result for jack o lantern

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Culture
Society
Edward Hessler

BBC News posed a question: "How did (Brits) fall in love with pumpkins?" Their answer is found in a short video. You probably know that our tradition started across the pond with the carving of...turnips! Not by any means my favorite when I was a kid. 

Pumpkins crossed the pond and this BBC video has a few stats on Halloween in the UK.The announcer notes that Halloween is the "third most valuable" holiday of the year there. What a lovely description on the flow of money.

So just what is a punkin--vegetable or fruit? It all depends who you ask. If you ask a plant biologist, the answer is a fruit. If you ask a cook or your green grocer, it is a vegetable.

The law became engaged in this question in 1893 when a United States Supreme Court case, Nix v. Hedden ruled on whether the tomato was a fruit or vegetable. It had to do with how imported tomatoes were taxed. As a fruit, the tax was less. As a vegetable, the tax was more. In a unanimous decision, the court while acknowledging that tomatoes were fruits, decided that for purposes of tariffs, the tomato was a vegetable.

Halloween all began with the ancient Celtic festival of Samheim.

And here is a poem by Carl Sandburg about the yellow and orange balls of autumn that are turned into wonderful, sometimes scary and most often fanciful carvings.

Happy Halloween!


Monday, October 29, 2018

National Cat Day


Image result for cat

Environmental & Science Eduction
STEM
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

Well I've missed most of this day of honor and celebration for our owners, true for many of us.

Today is National Cat Day.

Twitter, too, of course but I don't tweet.

And finally, a compilation of cats and kittens. I don't much like the so-called music but I do like the moggies.

I hope you did better.

Communication in Bees

Environmental & Science Education
Image result for bee hiveSTEM
Behavior
Edward Hessler


A signal, a vibrational pulse, produced by honeybees is a signal known since the 1950s according to an article by Sam Wong in the New Scientist (2/14/2017). It has been long thought a way that bees tell other bees to cease and desist--a warning to their "colleagues against foraging in a location where there might be problems, such as a predator or a researcher bothering the bees for an experiment." 

These sounds cannot be heard directly by us.

Research led by Dr. Martin Bencsik of Nottingham Trent University (UK) resulted in a new interpretation, that the bees are expressing surprise. The Bencsik team installed accelerometers in beehives to "record vibrations inside hives over the course of a year. Then they used software to scan the recordings and identify the signal." 

The researchers found that the signal is surprisingly common, occurs mostly at night and "what's more, the signal is easy to elicit from hundreds of bees en masse just by knocking gently on the wooden wall of the hive."

The research group has proposed "that instead of the 'stop' signal, it should be called the 'whooping' signal."

For more details see Mr. Wong's original essay which includes the sounds, a short video, and a potential application, namely judging the health of the colony.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Measuring Day Length of the Gas Giants


Image result for gas giants
Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Solar System
Astronomy
Edward Hessler

I'd never thought about the problems of measuring the day length of the "gas giants," four planets found in the outer solar system. They are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

These planets can be thought of as wearing veils of gases that are in turbulent motion. These shield fixed interiors rendering the use of surface objects on which to base measurements. To see through these veils, astronomers have made use of radio waves created by the planetary magnetic fields.

There is a short article in Science (October 4 2018) by Paul Voosen that includes an animated video on how such measurements are made and interpreted. The focus is Saturn which is not as straightforward a calculation as the others. Studies have revealed a deeper challenge in making the  measurements and then in interpreting them. The studies also raise the question of why Saturn has a magnetic field in the first place.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

When Bees Go Bump In The Night

Image result for bee hiveEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Behavior
Edward Hessler


A signal, a vibrational pulse, produced by honeybees is a signal known since the 1950s according to an article by Sam Wong in the New Scientist (2/14/2017). It has been long thought a way that bees tell other bees to cease and desist--a warning to their "colleagues against foraging in a location where there might be problems, such as a predator or a researcher bothering the bees for an experiment." 

These sounds cannot be heard directly by us.

Research led by Dr. Martin Bencsik of Nottingham Trent University (UK) resulted in a new interpretation, that the bees are expressing surprise. The Bencsik team installed accelerometers in beehives to "record vibrations inside hives over the course of a year. Then they used software to scan the recordings and identify the signal." 

The researchers found that the signal is surprisingly common, occurs mostly at night and "what's more, the signal is easy to elicit from hundreds of bees en masse just by knocking gently on the wooden wall of the hive."

The research group has proposed "that instead of the 'stop' signal, it should be called the 'whooping' signal."

For more details see Mr. Wong's original essay which includes the sounds, a short video, and a potential application, namely judging the health of the colony.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday Poem


Image result for wading

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Tracy K. Smith is the current United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry which is commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate.

I'm embarrassed not to have included a poem or two by her this year. Time to make a correction.

Today's poem is from Ms. Smith's fourth book of verse, "Wade in the Water" (Graywolf). Graywolf is a local publishing house (Minneapolis).

Hilton Als who writes for the New Yorker reminded of my forgetfulness in his October1, 2018 essay about some of her poetry. It is titled "The Muses" (print) or in the electronic edition, "Tracy K. Smith's Poetry of Desire."


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Bletting


Image result for rotten fruit

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Culture
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler

I am not a Scrabble player but "bletting" seems a potential candidate for the game, at least from the point-of-view of the uninitiated. Maybe it is well-known or a lousy choice or.....

I'd never heard the term before but was introduced to it today. Bletting is a process in the break down of the astringent and firm tissues of a fruit into an edible sugary mush. Mespilus germanica is a new entry on Botany Picture of the Day (BPOD). Its fruits blet. This may be a better Scrabble word.

M. germanica is a member of the rose family and you will notice a family resemblance at BPOD.

I find the leaves and fruit beautiful. Redolent of fall. The description includes a link to Wikipedia where the process of bletting is described and side-by-side photos of semi-ripe fruit and bletted fruit are found.




Monday, October 22, 2018

Borrowing Time


Image result for books

Environmental & Science Education
Literacy
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

My memory of reading when I was a kid is that it was more important to me than school. If not more important, it was more interesting. I think most of my teachers would agree that my interests were elsewhere, mostly outside the school windows.

My parents encouraged my reading in many ways even though our home was not filled with books. However, I could always depend on books as gifts. Trips to the local library were special events since we lived in the country and trips to town were purposeful. When I got older a bicycle solved that problem.

The local library, once a gracious home--the Guernsey Memorial Library--was a lovely wooden building with shelves filled with books that seemed not to end, a hushed place. There were tables where you could browse a find and make a decision on whether to check it out or seek another. It was a place where browsers were welcomed...encouraged. The librarian(s), whose names I've long forgotten were friendly and helpful, common characteristics of the profession.

What a big deal it was when I was issued my own library card. It said I was responsible or trusted to be--a proxy indicating that I'd take care of the books I was loaned and that I promised to return them on time otherwise I'd be fined. I never had much loose change when I was a kid so pennies paid as a fine represented an opportunity cost. Those pennies, when accumulated, might represent a soda, especially a Fawn soda and most especially what I regarded as their premier beverage: a cream soda. I know that memory is evanescent but I have never found an equal.

I still have the habit of browsing library shelves somewhat randomly but not whiling away as much time now as I did then. I miss library cards, with their histories of signatures and stamps noting due dates. I still recall one of the pleasures of graduate school: finding a book's date card signed by well known scientists. In one case, I found a card signed by George Beadle, who had been awarded a Nobel prize. In those days, the olden times, university libraries retained books in their collections seemingly forever. I don't know when that became much less common but it has and I find it a loss.

If you have fond memories of libraries, New Yorker writer Susan Orleans wrote an evocative essay titled Growing Up in the Library.  Here is a sample.

Our visits were never long enough for me—the library was so bountiful. I loved wandering around the shelves, scanning the spines of the books until something happened to catch my eye. Those trips were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn’t like going to a store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I desired and what she was willing to buy me; in the library, I could have anything I wanted. On the way home, I loved having the books stacked on my lap, pressing me under their solid, warm weight, their Mylar covers sticking to my thighs. It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for; such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read. We talked about the order in which we were going to read them, a solemn conversation in which we planned how we would pace ourselves through this charmed, evanescent period of grace until the books were due. We both thought that all the librarians at the Bertram Woods branch were beautiful. For a few minutes, we discussed their beauty. My mother then always mentioned that, if she could have chosen any profession, she would have chosen to be a librarian, and the car would grow silent for a moment as we both considered what an amazing thing that would have been.

Orleans's personal history opens another element to reading: the tension between borrowing and owning. I've become a borrower rather than an owner and make much use of those Little Free Libraries that have popped-up on lawns.
Image result for little free library

I've become a browser again although the shelves are farther apart.

Sempe's New Yorker cover for October 15, 2018 is a tribute to the joy of books.

Little Free Libraries were the idea of Todd Bol (Hudson, Wisconsin). He built the first one in 2009. An essay by Jenna Ross that turned out to be a tribute to his life and his contribution was published October 18, 2018 in the Star Tribune. Mr. Bol died that day of pancreatic cancer. This local action has become a global movement.

Ms. Ross writes that "Bol set a goal of 2,150 — to beat the number of Carnegie Libraries * in the country. Less than a decade later, more than 75,000 dollhouse-size libraries have sprouted on front lawns in 88 countries.
“'I want to see a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand,' Bol said."
*Dr. Kevin Clemens, a former Center for Global Eenvironmental Education (CGEE) Fellow, wrote a book on the surviving Carnegie Libraries of Minnesota (66 were constructed; 48 buildings remain, of which 25 still house libraries. ).  He photographed and provided a description for each library.  Wiki has an entry with photographs of all of the original Minnesota Carnegie Libraries, including one at Hamline that is no longer used as a library but the magnificent entrance was saved.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Kibale Snare Removal Program, Kibale National Park, Uganda


Image result for chimpanzee

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Sustainability
Biodiversity
Behavior
Society
Edward Hessler

The Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Kibale National Park, Uganda was established in 1987 by Dr. Richard Wrangham.

The Kibale Snare Removal Program is one of the conservation initiatives of the project. Chimpanzees are not the target of Ugandans who snare small ungulates but they are caught nevertheless and serious injury, maiming, amputations and even death can follow.

In this film a team of four local rangers are shown doing their work which also includes the education of Ugandan children about chimpanzees.

A senior ranger shows how snares work in this short film.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018

24 August 79 CE


Image result for pompeii

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Geology
Culture
Society
Edward Hessler

A Day in Pompeii, a Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition, was held at Melbourne Museum from 26 June to 25 October 2009. Zero One Studio created an animation for the exhibition. It starts the morning of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and ends the following night, when Pompeii, a city of some 10,000 to 20,000, was deeply buried in fragments of volcanic ash, pumice and debris (~ 9 m). The city of Pompeii was quickly forgotten, almost as though it never existed. Its excavation is well known (on-going) and provides remarkable insights into Greco-Roman life.

Pliny the Younger (61 CE - 112 CE), was seventeen years old and witnessed the event. He was asked by Cornelius Tacitus to report on his uncle. Pliny responded with two extraordinary letters. In the first, his account of the eruption was so scientifically accurate that these types of volcanic eruptions have since been name 'Plinian' eruptions.

The second letter includes many details about the eruption, e.g., ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood. ‘Let us leave the road while we can still see’ I said, … ‘We had scarcely sat down to rest when darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room...“you could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, other their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices… there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.

Pliny the Elder moved quickly to the scene to witness the eruption as well as to help. He died while attempting a rescue.