Saturday, October 31, 2020

Country Doctor--1948

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Science and Society

Ed Hessler

In 1948 LIFE magazine published the photo-essay, "Country Doctor."

Photojournalist Eugene Smith spent 23 days in Kremmling, CO "chronicling the day-to-day challenges faced by the indefatigable general practitioner Dr. Ernest Ceriani." Ceriani was born on a sheep ranch in Wyoming, attended Loyola School of Medicine (Chicago), and served in the Navy before he made the choice to return to a decidedly rural practice where he was the only "physician for an area of 400 square miles, inhabited by 2000 people." 

The challenges and occasional pleasures are found in Smith's full photo-essay plus photographs that never made it to publication.

See here.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental and Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment, Nature

Ed Hessler

Greetings from St. Paul, October 30, 2020, the 304th day of the year or week 43 and 3 days or 83.06% of the year has passed by. 

Sunrise is at 7:49 am and and sunset at 6:02 pm. There will be 10h 13m 36s of a commodity becoming more precious than gold: sunlight but it is fading from view minute-by-minute. 

Two days until "E" day--exasperation day for some as daylight saving time ends, November 1 at 2:00 am when clocks are turned back an hour. Will this be the last year? The Sunshine Protection Act introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in 2019 would make daylight saving time permanent. This article from Time magazine describes daylight saving time and provides the many reasons it should become permanent.

Today's quote: Alas, but the world had changed, and as he world changes the forms of corruption also gradually become more cunning, more difficult to point out--but they certainly do not become better.--Soren Kirkegaard, Danish philosopher/theologian

Of course candy corn, love it or hate it--in the vegetable family--has an unofficial day of celebration. Today is its day in the sun.

Today's poem (Turkey Vultures) is by Ted Kooser. You get two poems, thanks to the page it is on at the Poetry Foundation.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Transforming Rivers and Streams for the Better

Environmental & Sciuence Education, STEM, Watersheds, Water, Rivers, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

Damming rivers has transformed them from marshy streams good at filtering waste to accumulators of waste and sediment. 

This video (4m 23s) from the AAAS tells the story of reversing this by removing tons of sediment from streams. Of course, not everyone agrees!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

TAG PLayed and Well

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth Science, Solar System, Cosmology

Ed Hessler

What a game of TAG--touch and go was played by the OSIRU-REx spacecraft and the asteroid Bennu on Monday, October 19, 2020. Success in every sense of that word. Amazing the things humans can do in the scientific and engineering study of the natural world(s).

I tuned in to the NASA video channel to watch and listen to the touch down and thought about this achievement--from the beginnings of science to present, the time, patience, frustrations, engineering, science, computer programming, technology, organizational skills, teamwork, technical assistance, making adaptations when Bennu's surface was found to be much rougher than expected and location changes were required--all coming to fruition a long, long way from home base--321 million km (~1,994,601,152 miles), touching Bennu for six seconds within a meter (3.2') of where planned. 


Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has a picture with explanations as well as a sequence of the aftermath as the spacecraft lifted off after this brief kiss.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

SARS-CoV-2: The Road Ahead

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

The reporting linked below from STAT is a long read, a very long read but points are in bold and you can scan the content of the essay quickly.

STAT's Andrew Joseph takes on a formidable assignment, commenting on 30 turning points ahead each of which could change the the pandemic's trajectory. A road map, if you will...what ifs? Remember that this is what those months ahead might look like (my emphasis). Joseph writes, these are "possible turning points that could steer the pandemic onto a different course or barometers for how the virus is reshaping our lives, from rituals like Halloween and the Super Bowl, to what school could look like, to just how long we might be incorporating precautions into our routines."

Joseph continues “'I’m kind of done predicting — none of my predictions worked out for me,' Kelly Wroblewski of the Association of Public Health Laboratories said, with a resigned laugh, about when she thought the testing problems that have dogged us from the earliest days might get resolved. And indeed, some of the events will unfold in different ways and at other times than we’ve charted out.

"Yet for all that’s caught us off guard about Covid-19, some factors — like how a virus spilled from animals and swept around the world — are straight out of pandemic playbooks. We can see the coming crossroads."

The article is based on "interviews with dozens of experts, including public leaders like Anthony Fauci, frontline workers in hospitals and epidemiologists." 

One thing I'm certain of is that this report is the result of informed, thoughtful judgments as well as discussion by STAT writers. These are writers who know the health care field very well. Additionally, it is their regular beat.

So here you are.

Path of Covid-19 in U. S

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

Upon reaching 200,000 deaths from Covid-19, Covid Act Now released a 22 s long map showing "how the pandemic spread across the U.S. from state to state," providing "a quick, vivid idea of the scale and speed of infection.

This map was shown on many outlets; this is from Forbes, September 23, 2020. Senior correspondent Alex Ledsom discusses what it means: Covid incidence increases with more movement, masks are important in controlling its spread, masks reduce interstate as well as intrastate spread, relax mask wearing and flare-ups occur, large gatherings, outdoors "don't lead to spikes if critical safety measures are taken.

One message is clear: mask-up, mask-up, mask-up. It is a good practice for you and for others.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Science Journal Editorials On Politics

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science and Society

Ed Hessler

I've called attention to science journals taking very pro-active editorial positions on candidates for president of the United States. This year the most and the strongest I can recall.

Should science journal editorials make such comments? Will this only worsen matters, leading to a further politicizing of science?

Genevieve P. Kanter is an assistant professor of medicine and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine weighs in with an essay written for STAT.

In short she thinks it is a "grave error," to use a medical term that as patients, family and friends of patients we don't like to hear the word "grave" from a physician.

Among her reasons: 

--They are not similar to newspaper endorsements for there is no wall between the editorial page and the news pages. 

--It hearkens to the time when "wealthy newspaper owners used their editorial pages to extol the merits of their political chums."

-- Perception, e.g., that the editors are politically biased which might also trickle down to authors who "might believe that critical analyses of certain policies, theories, or scientific events would be rejected or muzzled.'

So on what should editorial allegiance of science journals be grounded? "Not person or party,' Kanter argues but to science methods and processes. ...[I]t is more sensible for science editors to focus on policies, not politics."

In other words, no planting yard signs in front of organizational offices.

It is a good read for which see here.






Sunday, October 25, 2020

Birdsong, Freeways and the Pandemic.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Biological Diversity, Behavior

Ed Hessler

I look forward to Jim Williams's weekly columns in the StarTribune on the world of birds. I'd known for a long time that birds are negatively affected by traffic noise,especially the steady buzz, whine, hum and thunder of "freeways." 

High sound levels from traffic degrade bird habitat leading to population declines. Owls hunt by sound and birds establish territories and home range through their voices. These behaviors are overwhelmed by traffic noise. The area is known as "a road-effect zone," which in one study "was approximately 360 yards wide." The counterparts of birds living in rural areas don't contend with this and can sing more softly as well as sing more complexly.

This week, Williams reports on research published in Science (AAAS) led by "Elizabeth Derryberry, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Tennessee...(that birds) seemed to react to the drop in human noise (during the pandemic). ... After decades of sacrificing song quality for higher volume, (white-crowned) sparrows have switched to songs that closely resemble those of rural cousins. Those are the songs all white-crowns sang in our previous world." 

The research was conducted in San Francisco, the site of previous studies. You may read Williams's column in the Star Tribune here. I always add a please do--you will miss details that are important. And it is short without depriving you of some of the riches of such studies. It also includes a lovely image of a white-crowned sparrow, a handsome bird if ever there was one.

Williams ends ominously. "In the continental U.S, more than 80% of our land is less than a mile from a road In the next 30 years 15 million miles of new road are expected worldwide."

Thanks again, Mr. Williams.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

2020 MacArthur Fellows

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Environment, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler

The MacArthur Foundation has announced its 2020 MacArthur Fellows, the awards that are commonly called the "genius awards."  Each awardee receives a "no strings attached" fellowship in support of people not projects with a $625,000 stipend paid in quarterly installments over five years."

The announcement notes that “In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration. They are asking critical questions, developing innovative technologies and public policies, enriching our understanding of the human condition, and producing works of art that provoke and inspire us.”

There is information about the awards plus information on each awardee here which includes a short video (~1m). This year's group of 21 awardees represent a range of human activities and interests A to Z or to put it another way, from art to zebras (evolutionary genetics). Minneapolis is among the cities represented (Masonic Institute of the Developing Brain and the UMN Medical School).

In addition you may read about the six finalists chosen in competition for the $100 million grant in the MacArthur 100&Change program as well as learn more about the selection process.. One will be chosen from these candidates in 2021

Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Edward Hessler 

Good morning from St. Paul on day number 297 of 2020 (205th workday), October 23 with 81.15% of the year gone (7128 hours).

Sunlight today: 10h 33m 44s with the sun rising at 7:39 am and setting at 6:11 pm. Here it is typical overcast bright with very light snow.

Today's quote: "You don't see many situations comedies about a group of fun-loving virologists and epidemiologists. For a reason."--Vaccinologist Paul Offit, advisory panelist for the US Food and Drug Administration.

Today's poem is by Miles Ranter (about whom I could find nothing).

PS Added--How could I forget that today is National Mole Day, the annual commemoration of Avogadro's number, one of the basic measuring units in chemistry?  It begins at 6:02 am and ends 6:02 pm, i.e., 6.92 x 10^23. The National Mole Day Foundation has information and ideas on how to celebrate it as well as its importance in science.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Science Journal Editorials on Poltics and Science

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science, Nature of Science, Science and Society

Ed Hessler

Recently I've noticed that science journals, on their editorial pages, have been both critical of president Trump and the administration as well as publishing endorsements for Joe Biden's candidacy for that highest U. S. office. These have been in both domestic and international journals--Science (AAAS), Nature (Great Britain), and the New England Journal of Medicine. They all have very large readerships.

I could be mistaken and this may be a more common practice than I've paid any attention in the past. It seems new to me.

Recently the British journal Nature published an editorial in which they defended this practice and promised more of it in future. The attacks on science practice and practitioners is not something they choose anymore to only observe and not comment.

So it was not a surprise to find an endorsement--Why Nature Supports Joe Biden for US President.  

Make of it what you will. It may provide some light on Biden's concerns and issues he plans to face that have a deep basis in science, many some of the most consequential policy issues today.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Holiday Days/Daze: To Travel or Not

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

--Over the bridge and through the woods/ to grandmother's house we shall not go....--Lydia Maria Child (modified bold)

University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm was one of the guests on Meet the Press, October 18. He is one of the foremost among the world's experts on pandemics and what should be done.

Earlier this year Osterholm warned of a fall surge of COVID-19 this fall, one in which he now says we are going to "blow right by" previous cases and deaths  We are heading, he warns, into a "dark fall"--"The next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic." Dr. Osterholm emphasized that our best hope is to learn to live with the idea that this is our COVID-19 year and what this means. The discussion was a masterful update of many aspects of the U.S. pandemic and included herd immunity, vaccines and vaccination, masks and social distancing at all times.

Todd asked the inevitable question about whether we should travel (and how) to visit loved ones and family during the holidays. "If you really love your family," Dr. Osterholm responded, "don't go home...." This is to be saved for next year. The segment with Osterholm starts at about 22m 46s.

In an article for STAT on health experts advice on Thanksgiving gatherings and travel by Helen Branswell, Osterholm is the most direct  among all of them: "People should not be gathering for Thanksgiving with people outside their immediate family."

These are some of the major questions/issues to consider carefully before, well before, planning a Thanksgiving trip and to reach agreement on: group size, common agreement on precautions to take with no exceptions (all the experts agree on masks, a point Osterholm emphasized in this interview with NBS's Chuck Todd), planning one holiday at a time, and safest way to get there. 

Branswell's essay includes valuable links, including one on interpreting state targets. Branswell mentions but did not link the U. S. Public Interest Group's campaign, Home Safe for the Holidays. It is possible I missed it. Below are considerations/practices Home Safe for the Holidays be addressed before leaving home for a family gathering.

  • Quarantine for 14 days before you gather. 
  • Get tested before you go and limit your contact with others until you reach your destination. 
  • Evaluate travel distance, including how many stops, overnight stays and potential contact with non-household contacts it would take to reach your destination, and see if driving versus taking a flight is better given those factors. It’s best not to travel too far, and you should avoid coming from or going to areas with high community transmission. 
  • Limit the number of people at gatherings. There’s no magic number--more people pose more risk. The size of the gathering depends on the host's ability to safely keep attendees apart, not crowded into a confined space, and outdoors is better than indoors. 
  • Socially distance and wear masks, even if you’ve all been tested. Being tested with a negative result isn’t necessarily a free pass to mingle without preventative measures. If you’ve quarantined for 14 days already, you can merge your social bubbles and interact freely but cautiously. 
  • When eating your meal together, open your windows to increase ventilation and keep at least 6 feet apart, or keep family units together, while spacing out non-household members.
  • Minimize the number of people handling the food and washing the dishes. 
  • If you or a family member are at higher risk for severe infection, you should reconsider gathering together and instead celebrate virtually.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Bird Smarts

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Behavior, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Bird brains continue to surprise. Two recent studies published in the journal Science, reported on in Scientific American find that "birds actually have a brain that is much more similar to our complex primate (brain) than previously thought." Bret Stetka and experienced writer on neurology walks us through both papers. 

I've read only two or three other accounts reporting on this but Stetka seems to me to stick close to the science and what it claims, eschewing the sensational. Some highlights.

The assumption of a lack of a neocortex in bird brains--the seat of complex thinking and creativity--limited brain function in birds  "The new findings,"from one of the papers, writes Stetka, " show that birds' do, in fact, have a brain structure that is comparable  to netocortex despite taking a different shape. It turns out at a cellular level, the brain region is laid out much like the mammal cortex, explaining why many birds exhibit advanced behaviors and abilities that have long befuddled scientists.

The other paper, "lends still more insight into the avian brain, suggesting that birds have some ability for sensory consciousness," a feature "long thought to be localized in the cerebral cortex of smart primates--namely chimps, bonobos and us humans. The crows studied--Carrion crows--"appear to have at least a rudimentary form of sensory consciousness."

The researchers trained "two carrion recall a previous experiment to guide their behavior." Here is the sequence.  

Upon completion of the training the carrion crows "went through a testing phase in which a gray square might appear followed by either a red or blue square 2.5 seconds later. In this exercise, the crows were trained to move their head if they saw a gray square and then a red one. And they learned to keep their head still if they saw a gray square and then a blue one. When the birds saw no stimulus followed by the appearance of a colored square, the sequence was reversed: blue signaled them to move their head, and red told them not to. So to correctly respond to the colored squares, the crows had to recall whether or not they had seen a gray one first—equating to a past subjective experience. 

"It was crucial to the experiment to present the gray square in six different intensities, including at the threshold of the birds’ perception. This way," the research team," could confirm that the crows were not simply carrying out conditioned responses to stimuli but instead drawing on a subjective experience. 

The activity was also recorded and monitored through implanted electrodes in the brain.


The researchers make no claim about whether the "crows have the self-conscious existence and self-awareness of apes but simply that the birds can partake in a unique, multipart sensory experience in response to a stimulus." Stetka includes a powerful, on the money quote from the team's lead researcher: “I am generally not a big fan of ascribing complex humanlike cognitive states to animals and prefer to maintain a conservative attitude. Humans easily start to project their own mental states to other living (or even nonliving) beings. But in terms of sensory consciousness in other species, it is probably fair to assume that advanced vertebrates, such as mammals and birds, possess it.” 

Bird brains not as simple as once thought! 

Here is a link to the original papers: the first  (consciousness in crows) and the second (cortex-like circuit in avians). You can learn more about the authors, the institutions and details about the research.




Monday, October 19, 2020

Vaccine Rollout: "Looming Questions" and Good Advice

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society

Ed Hessler

--Expect snafus. Expect confusion. Despite the best of intentions and months of painstaking planning to figure out how to get vaccines to people in an ethical order, doing so is going to be a gargantuan and sometimes messy threats.--Helen Branscomb and Ed Silverman, STAT

Good advice. Keep it tucked away when the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is announced, begins and is ongoing. Pundits will have lots of "raw meat" providing them calories to fuel their "this is what should have..." machines.

Branscomb and Silverman have an essay in STAT on some of the problems ahead and hurdles which "might complicate this very important effort. There are also some that will remain unknown until we are in the thick of it. So it is and ever will be. Here are a few of known questions.

--How do you define high-risk health workers? Essential workers? Settling on the groups of people who should be at the front of the line for vaccines is a challenging enough task. But interpreting the broad directions that distribution guidances  lay out is a tougher one still.

--High-risk medical conditions push you to the front of the vaccine line. How do you prove you have them when you get there? A number of medical conditions put people at higher risk of having severe Covid disease, regardless of their age.

--How do you vaccinate special populations when there are little or no data on how the vaccines work for them?Children and teenagers are pretty much at the back of the line for Covid-19 vaccines. That’s probably a good thing.

--How widely can Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine be used, given its taxing storage requirements? Before any vaccine can start being rolled out, manufacturers have to be able to produce enough doses and get the vaccine where it needs to go.

--How will Pfizer and BioNTech’s ordering system affect the potential rollout of its vaccine?An additional constraint of Pfizer’s vaccine relates to how much you have to order if you’re going to use it.  The smallest possible order is 975 doses.

--With air travel slowed, can vaccines get where they need to go quickly?The pandemic has dramatically slowed down commercial air traffic, which the pharmaceutical industry has long relied on to shuttle their products around the world....

--How can officials keep a highly coveted resource safe from theft — and prevent counterfeits?Any Covid-19 vaccine will be extremely valuable — and as such, at high risk of being stolen.

Each of these is explained and discussed in this recent reporting which you can read and think about.




Sunday, October 18, 2020

36th America's Cup: The Technology of the Team Ineos Entry (U. K.)

Environmental & Science Education, STEM

Ed Hessler

Winners of the America's cup sailing contest set the rules for the next race in the series, e.g., number of heats, crew and type of boat, etc.

This means that each team entering must design boats from scratch for each America's cup. In this BBC video (6m 33s) the technology behind the United Kingdom's Ineos Team entry is shown and discussed.

There are many more videos here.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Wildlife Photrapher of the Year: London Museum of Natural History

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Art and Environment, Earth Science, Earth Systems, Geology

Ed Hessler

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is in its 56th year and is sponsored by the London Museum of Natural History. Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge and TV presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin made the announcements during an online event. 

Russian Sergey Gorschkov won him the title of Wildlife Photographer of the year for an image of a Siberian--aka Amur tiger--in the dense forest of Russia's Far East. 

You may find it partricularly interested because of how it was taken.It is a camera trap image set up and then left. As you will learn in reading the link below there is more, much more, to taking this kind of image than merely setting up camera traps waiting for something to happen. Knowledge about behaviour, habitat, and the deep forest are key and were counted by the judging panel.

Images receiving honours in each of the following categories.

Junior Photographer, Earth Environments, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles, Behaviour: Invertebrates, Behaviour: Mammals and Under Water.

The images, brief information about each photographer, and locations may be seen here in reporting by BBC Science Reporter Jonathan Amos. 

Entries for next year's were open for submission almost immediately following the presentation!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday Poem

Environment & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning/Good day from St. Paul, Friday October 16--41 weeks and 3 days from the beginning of 2020 (79.23% of those days and nights now used). Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset at 6:25 pm. Between those times there are 10h 54 m 34s of sunlight.

It is another moggie day, this one is Global Cat Day, to celebrate non-lethal feline programs across the US.

Today's quote. We look at the world once, in childhood./ The rest is memory.--Louise Gluck (from First Born, 1968, New American Library)

Louise Gluck is the 2020 Nobel Prize Recipient for Literature. See also the official press release.

Here is a poem.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Neanderthal Genes and Covid-19

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, Nature of Science

Edward Hessler 

The Guardian has an interesting article on a genetic endowment claiming "that (it) triples the risk of developing severe Covid-19 was passed on from Neanderthals to modern humans...a legacy from more than 50,000 years ago, has left about 16% of Europeans and half of south Asians today carrying those genes."

The paper on which the story is based was published in the British journal Nature.

The science editor of The Guardian, Ian Sample, includes important comments about what the science may show and what it may not.  This perspective is important

Mark Maslin, a Geography professor at University College, London, when asked about the research, "cautioned that the work risked oversimplifying the causes and impact of the pandemic. “Covid-19 is a complex disease, the severity of which has been linked to age, gender, ethnicity, obesity, health, virus load among other things."

Maslin continued, noting that the "paper links genes inherited from Neanderthals with a higher risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation and severe complications. But as Covid-19 spreads around the world it is clear that lots of different populations are being severely affected, many of which do not have any Neanderthal genes.

“We must avoid simplifying the causes and impact of Covid-19, as ultimately a person’s response to the disease is about contact and then the body’s immunity response, which is influenced by many environmental, health and genetic factors.



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Who Dunnit?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Archeology, Nature of Science, Nature, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improabable, must be the truth.--Sherlock Holmes

"Psssst, I didn't do it. I might as well have said, Hsssst, I didn't do it." You say, "Well, that is what they all say."

In an essay in I Witness History in Aramco World, ancient history professor at the University of Houston, Frank L. Holt, speaks and argues for an accused who cannot speak. "It's low time I set the record crooked," the accused says.

"You see, I, the Egyptian asp, Naja naje (Egyptian cobra), am the victim of overwrought imaginations. I did not kill Cleopatra. Not in Shakespeare's way or any other."

So what is the evidence for and against and how good is it one way or the other in reaching a verdict on the cause of Cleopatra's death? This essay were it a book, at least for me is a real "page turner." O.K. a "paragraph turner." I couldn't resist it. It is also beautifully written with verve, gusto and a historian's knowledge. In addition the essay is beautifully and lavishly illustrated by Norman MacDonald.

Hunt opens with some comments on why snakes are generally despised and then goes on with a quick review of snakes in several cultures (noble roles), asps in high culture and low culture in which much embroidery has been sewn, facts about the geopolitics of Cleopatra's time, facts about asps and poison strength, details about venom suckers (the selection process which one can describe as "hazardous," at best), hearsay and gossip, major players in this drama, other than Cleopatra and the asp-- CaesarOctavian, Arsinoe IV, opportunity, means and motive for two suspects before reaching a reasoned conclusion. .

The conclusion Holt reaches is based on rational separation of speculation and hearsay from certain facts which support but don't or can they "prove" the case. The method is very much in the spirit of Nobel Prize awardee (1946) physicist Percy Bridgman who wrote in his book Reflections of a Physicist (1955). "The scientific method, as far as it is a methodgy, is nothing more than doing one's damnedest with one's mind, no holds barred." It is a definition I still like.

Holt's essay is a nice example of the use of forensics in history as well as reasoning, even though none of us were there.You may disagree with the conclusion, weighting the evidence presented differently. I think the Naje is innocent.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

People and Pandemics: Jingle Dress Dancing

Environmental & Science Education, Health, Medicine, Culture, Art and Environment, Society

Ed Hessler

The description accompanying this video (16m 57s) states that "Ojibwe women created a healing tradition in response to the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which devastated native peoples across the US, Alaska, and Canada. A century later, the tradition is with us as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Jingle Dress Dance Tradition emerged from the Mille Lacs Reservation in central Minnesota and in Whitefish Bay, Ontario. Both communities have similar, strong traditions of Ojibwe song and dance. For the Ojibwe, song and dance have the power to heal, so that art is as necessary as medicine in the worst of times. This documentary explores the origins of the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition with Ojibwe historian Dr. Brenda J. Child, who also describes what the tradition means to dancers and Ojibwe people today, and how it has evolved to include modern protest movements such as Standing Rock and calls for racial justice."

The Jingle Dress Dance has been the subject of a Google Doodle, June 15, 2019. It includes an explanation of the dance, see an early sketch and read a short interview with the artist,  Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley.


Monday, October 12, 2020

The Cherokee Nation Syllabary

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Your invention of the alphabet is worth more to your people than two bags full of gold in the hands of every Cherokee.--Sam Houston

The Cherokee hero Sequoyah, created the first Cherokee syllabary in 1821. Syllabics are written characters that each represent a syllable allowing writing.

PRI reporter Eduardo Avila reports on the interplay of technology and the Cherokee language.  It includes a five-minute animation in which Sequoyah narrates (with English subtitles).

There is a history of Sequoyah and the Cherokee syllabary on the Cherokee Nation website.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Scars of Climate Change

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth Science, Earth Systems, Climate Change

Edward Hessler

Parts of Siberia are melting and leaving vast areas of the land pock-marked with mounds and hollows, referred to as thermokarsts.

BBC's Steve Rosenberg visited and reports in this BBC video (4m 6s).

Saturday, October 10, 2020

National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students grades 9-12

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment, Student

Ed Hessler

The Academy of American Poets invites students living in the United States, U.S. Territories, or Tribal Nations who are in grades 9-12 to enter artwork to be considered for the National Poetry Month poster in 2021 (April), the twenty-fifth anniversary of this literary celebration. The Academy is the originator  and organizer of this annual and beloved event. 

The winner's poster will be distributed for free to teachers, families, schools, libraries, and classrooms nationwide (100,000+ copies are printed), and viewed by millions of people before poetry month.

Please let eligible students know.

Full details here.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from St. Paul on October 9, day 283 of 2020 (77.32% of the year gone). There will be 11h 15 m 55s of daylight.

It is National Moldy Cheese Day--not the kind you pitch out but the kind you gladly eat-- Roquefort, bleu, Brie and World Post Day, the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874 in the Swiss Capital, Bern. It was declared World Post Day by the UPU Congress held in Tokyo, Japan in 1969.

Potent quote: The first thing is doubt. (Symmetry On-Line Magazine about Particle Physics, Originally published by Reuters. That article has more information about the prize and video.) 

This was the response of Nobel awardee for physics (2020) Andrea Ghez when asked about the moment she discovered the supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy which governs the orbit of stars. Dr. Ghez followed it with, "You have to prove to yourself that what you are really seeing is what you think you are seeing. So, both doubt and excitement." The statements beautifully encapsulate how scientists think...of how science works. Look for more evidence, re-examine data, check, recheck and check again always with evidence in mind that supports or doesn't.

Today's poem is by Wendell Berry.