Thursday, September 23, 2021

Draw A Scientist

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Children, Nature of Science, Early Childhooe

Ed Hessler

Draw a picture of a scientist is a common assignment given young children. It has been the subject of a considerable amount of research although that is not the subject of this post. Here is a fine article about the research by The Atlantic's Ed Yong who describes what we have learned. It also reveals children's thinking about the nature of science.

The stick-figure scientists drawn by the child of bioethicist Alison Bateman-House, take a different slant, capturing experiences such as spilling something important and the delight of giving a lecture. The child had six ideas not one. The last was one her Mom finally asked. Be sure to scroll down to see them all including a couple Bateman-House included.

h/t NatureBriefing

The stick-figure scientists drawn by the child of bioethicist Alison Bateman-House brilliantly capture ineffable experiences such as the horror of spilling something important and the fun of giving a nice long lecture.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Most Beautiful Experiment In Biology.

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

Ed Hessler

Scientists Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl were at the beginning of their careers in molecular biology "when they performed what is not recognized as one of the most beautiful experiments in modern biology." 

The experiment was the first, critical test of the Watson-Crick model for DNA and settled it.

In this film (22m 07s), the authors, now long retired, have a wonderful conversation about this experiment, serendipity in science, their careers and about their lives in science. The experiment led to a warm, lifetime friendship which is clearly evident

Below the film there is a link to short biographies and also a good summary of the experiment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Images of Mangrove Forests Around the World

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Environment, Society, Culture, Wildlife, Watersheds, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

This is the 7th year of the Mangrove Photography Awards, a project of the Mangrove Action Project. The aim is "to show the relationships between wildlife, coastal communities and mangrove forests, as well as the fragility of these unique ecosystems, both above and below the waterline." They didn't mention beauty but the images show their aesthetic appeal.

You can think of mangroves as ecosystem engineers for they clean water--both fresh and saline, stabilize coastlines, protect land from wind and wave damage, provide resources such as food, wood, medicine and fuel for humans, and conserve biological diversity.

There is a large gallery of photographs at the BBC, naming the winners, countries of the photographers, locations, and categories. It provides a glimpse into their wonderful diversity and of course, beauty.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Children's Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines

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

Ed Hessler

Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN (1m 57s) answers questions from 5th grade students in Atlanta about COVID-19 vaccines.

You will notice the children are wearing masks while outside and at a distance from Dr. Gupta. This is a school policy. 

A good conversation in Q & A format.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Father, Baby Boy & The Natural World

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Early Childhood, Nature, Culture

Ed Hessler

In this New Yorker documentary, "Walking Before Walking," filmmaker Adam Amir introduces his son to the natural world. It is also a  reflection of what Amir learned about himself. 

The documentary is 23m 28s long and I hope its length doesn't dissuade you from watching it. It is beautifully filmed and the comments throughout allowed us to listen to a person thinking outloud.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Cashew Agriculture

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Agriculture, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler

Cashew farmers in Guinea-Bissau have struggled with the coronavirus pandemic's interruption of the supply chain and on top of this a new tax which was later rescinded for farmers and the lowering of taxes on intermediaries and exporters.

Another important product is cashew wine. It is made by "squeezing the juice from cashew apples then fermenting it - it is popular within Guinea-Bissau." In addition, non-alcoholic cashew juice, is made and sold to local restaurants.

BBC photojournalist Ricci Shryock reports on cashew agriculture and products. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

It is September 17, 2021. 
Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University. This is day number 260 of 2021 (6240 hours with 71.23% of the year tucked away). There will be 12h 24m 54s of daylight between sunrise at 6:54 am and sunset at 7:19 pm.

It is National Apple Dumpling Day - delicious with ice cream - and Foodimentary includes five facts about them and some events in food history. I've never tried it but Apple Cider Ice Cream with Cinnamon sounds like a perfect match . Saving Room For Dessert has some lovely photographs as well as a recipe.

Quote.  “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is yourer than you.” Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss. If you don't have the book, you can take a peek inside at the link.
Today's poem is by Robinson Jeffers, a poem I've long wanted to post but the only copy I knew was in a form I thought inconvenient to read (required turning a page and it was included with a number of other poems in consecutive order).  Jim Culleny, 3 Quarks Daily recently published it all by itself. I was so pleased to find it at last although in fairness I didn't look very hard. hard. In fact it fell into my lap. Thank you Mr. Culleny.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Sacred Forest in Papua, Indonesia

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Culture, Society

Ed Hessler 

The BBC has a short film, 3m 28s, about a sacred forest in Papua, Indonesia. It is a mangrove forest and for women only. Men found there are fined. In this forest women gather clams and also share stories..

Story by an all female team, including the crew who received permission to enter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

What Do You Do All Day? Joel Berger, Musk Oxen, and Polar Bear Research

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Wildlife, Nature, Nature of Science, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution. Behavior, Global Climate Change

Ed Hessler

You might have read or been read to or have read to/with a child, Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?  I can't foget Working: people Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel. These books are timeless. It is always a pleasure to find out just what people do all day and below is one more.

The British journal Nature in a recent Nature Briefing adds to Scarry and Terkel by describing what wildlife-conserevation biologist Joel Berger does all day. He investigated how musk oxen (Ovibus maschatus) and polar bears (Ursus Maritimus) will interact when driven together by climate change. One part of his research included dressing up as a "polar bear, pulling a bear head on and placeing a cape over a range finder, camera and date books. If some oxen charged, I'd throw off my costume and stand up straight," to live another day. "Whew!"

In this short read (3m) you may learn more and see a picture of him standing, bear head off and arms wingspread. A posture that has served him well so far. This story does not have the ending he'd have liked for he has been banned from research in the Russia for three years (Wrangel Island, NE coast of Russia), accused of being a CIA spy (the only "word" he recognized during the hearing)!   All this over a date error on his permits. 

Berger has since gone to another part of the world, Patagonia, to study an entirely different species. More here on this work in search of the huemul, Chile's national mammal. In it, he describes his approach to conservation biology

If you are interested in his research on musk oxen Berger takes us into the minds of musk ox in this video (7m 55s). There you will also learn more about him, how he thinks about and practices science, and the nature of his research on grizzly bear-musk ox interactions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

From NCSE: Climate Models--How Well Did They Do?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Climate Change, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Global Change, Models, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) "has worked to breakdown over the years ...  the idea that climate models can't be trusted. With that in mind, NCSE has collaborated with The King's Centre for Visualization in Science to bring ... a new visualization that eloquently shows the accuracy of climate models over time. We think this applet will be a game-changer for teaching climate science." 

To engage with the applet see here.  I think you will find it quite amazing, powerful, and depending on your teaching duties helpful in understanding models and their use. The applet includes detailed information on how to use these models in the process of "hindcasting." 

And even for those who are not teaching it is useful in understanding the use of models of science and their use, in particular, in understanding climate change.

Monday, September 13, 2021

"Evolution" at 20

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biological Evolution, Society, Culture, History of Science

Ed Hessler

The twentieth anniversary of the groundbreaking PBS/NOVA documentary series Evolution is approaching, and Kenneth R. Miller — who along with National Center for Science Education's Eugenie C. Scott served as a spokesperson for the series — has written a remembrance and appreciation of this occasion.

Miller is Professor of Biology and Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown University; he also serves as president of NCSE's board of directors.

The remembrance includes links to all 7 episodes as well as internal links. It begins with the series introduction, an exchange between Charles Darwin and ship/s captain Robert Fitzroy from the series. Miller describes this scene as "unforgettable."

Miller's essay is a lovely remembrance and I hope you find time to read it.

h/t NCSE about which here.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Those Good Vibrations

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

Ed Hessler

The long and short of it is that everything vibrates as Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder explains in a new video, accompanied with a transcript (7m 58s). 

Hossenfelder starts by calling our attention to the popularity of this idea "among alternative medicine gurus and holistic healers." And she opens with a short video exchange between two women who are talking about their own "vibrational frequency" as a preventitive to COVID-19 and hence not needing "ever" to wear a mask.

Hossenfelder continues by talking about definitions and usages and why it is better to talk about oscillations - "any kind of periodic behavior." Stuff oscillates because it is made of particles which leads her to a short summary of quantum mechanics. Here the explanation gets thicker but hang on. She reminds us that the universe is more than particles. Einstein first introduced the idea of space-time. It wiggles too (gravitational waves).

She closes by saying "Really, everything vibrates, kind of, all the time. It's actually correct. But it doesn't help against COVID."

Please scroll through the comments. There are only 40. What I found interesting were some quite critical of Hossenfelder on her "smugness," that she was talking-down to people. This led to a string of counter-responses and relating of experiences. Hossenfelder deleted some of the comments and in the end turned them off entirely. Too many insults to her and to others..

Saturday, September 11, 2021

August Science Images: Nature's Photo Team

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

This month's gallery (August) includes, baby bears, the world's most notherly island, a microscopic movement, a tire graveyard, dental drills, a depth map, and green cleaning.

Take a walk through the gallery. The captions add to the enjoyment.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler 

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) 253rd day of the 2021 (69.32%). Minutes have passed:364,320 of them.

The sun rises at 6:45 am and sets at 7:32 pm with 14h 46m 33s of sun between whether cloudy or not. It is clear and sunny here.

According to Foodimentary, it is National Hot Dog Day. The average tells us that each of us eat. 60 a year but averages hide way too much. The real debate about "steak in a tube" is not mentioned: Chicago and New York City variants for which see here.

Quote: Democracy is inherently an institution based upon a mathematical operation---that of counting votes. Charles Seife, Proofiness.

I just recently was introduced to today's poet through the following poem. Here is Kamilah Aisha Moon's powerful poem about voting for the first time. And here a little more about her.

I'd not heard of Agnes Scott College and spent some time exploring the website, finding it more than worth the time.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

News From Mars: Success! Perseverance Has Collected a Rock Sample

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Solar System, Earth & Space Sciences, Geology

Ed Hessler 

Mars Rover, Perseverance, has drilled and stored  a core of Martian rock after not being successful in August.

Alexandra Witze explains in this short article from the British journal Nature. It includes a photograph of the sample in the boring tool before it was sealed, the Rover drilling into the rock, and the borehole in the rock after drilling. The goal is to collect some 35 samples. This will be followed by a long period of waiting "until future spacecraft retrieve it,"at least no earlier than 2031. 

The samples are being taken from Jesero Crater and this link includes history and many photographs of the crater.

And if you were wondering about the crater's name, here it is.

3 Cheers and a Hip Hip Hoorah!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Dominance In The Wild: An Interaction Analyzed

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

Ed Hessler

A dramatic interaction between two mother brown bears, one with two young yearlings and the other with a cub, at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park and Preserve is analyzed by Mike Fitz, a former National Park Service Ranger who once worked at Katmai.

At issue is a preferred fishing spot on the very lip of the falls.

The bears are known as Grazer (#128) and 909.

There is a lot going on, to see and to think about.

The video is 12m 22s long.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A Sense of Place and Birds

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Young Children, Nature, Wildlife, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler 

A book and a letter to Garrison Keillor served as prods to think about the idea of a sense of place. The book is not explicit; the letter is.

"Do you know about storks?"  Smack, dab "In the middle of an arithmetic lesson, Lina (the only girl in this class of six in the village of Shora, Holland) raised her hand and asked, "Teacher,may I read a little story about storks?" This is how Meindert DeJong opens his heartfelt book "The Wheel on the School" (Harper Trophy 1954) with picture perfect illustrations by Maurice Sendak

And what did the teacher do? He "was so pleased that Lina had written a little piece on her own, he stopped the arithmetic lesson right there and Lina read the story to the class. It turned out that she knew quite a bit about storks without having a lot of experience with them. She ends her story saying "I do not know much about storks, because storks never come to Shora. They go to the villages all around, but they never come to Shora. This is the most I know about storks, but if they came to Shora, I would know more about storks.'"

After a brief discussion with the class, the teacher who is a great "nudger" throughout the book, gives them an assignment (and also lets them out early to get a start". He asks them to wonder since they don't know much--ask some questions that might help them answer the question Lina raised. The author writes "when we wonder, we can make things begin to happen." So out they go to do just that although all are not as committed as Lina.

The next day the teacher asks where their wonder had led them. Some asked others who said storks never lived in Shora. Maybe it was because they had no trees. Lina was told by an old villager that Shora once did and the two of them talked about trees and other features of the habitat back then. Lina thought that while they nest in trees she also knew that they also nest on roofs but she thought they didn't in Shora because their house roofs "are too sharp." While she was talking with the villager she'd seen a candy tin "with the picture of a whole village on its lid and stork nest on every roof---because there was a wheel on every roof," something for the storks to build nests and live on.

The class knew that it would take too long to grow trees, there was a great search for old wagon wheels and after many twists and turns, including help and advice from a legless and wheel-chair bound old man who is fierce and determined, one is recovered from a boat long stranded and now overturned in a canal. The wheel is mounted, two near-drowned storks, a pair, are placed on it, and remain to nest.

This is a wonderful story by a writer deeply familiar with the minds and actions of kids, their desire to "get on with it." I thought of bluebird box projects when I read it.  Bluebirds prefer cavities for nesting sites so why not build them. The story is a forerunner of this kind of ecological restoration, of behavioral studies, of developing alternative hypotheses, of using scientific evidence to reach a tentative conclusion. It is also a story about one young girl's sense of place. In Shora, something was missing which when returned would make it complete.

On August 22, a Minnesota author was the last to respond to Garrison Keillor's "disparaging comments on birdwatchers" in a earlier post.  She, a life-long bird watcher, tried to resist this impulse but was unable to deny it's force. Sue Leaf's response is of gem-quality. Three of her reasons for having binoculars and birdbook at hand. whether on a porch, peering through a window, or hiking to take up this hobby are found below. There is more than one parallel here with Meindert Dejong's book (John Newberry Medal, 1955).

"1. Birding sharpens the eye to detail. Most people see in only a coarse-grained way. Birders by necessity are fine-grained lookers. What color legs? Yellow or pink? Do the wings extend beyond the tail? Does the beak curve downward? How sad to move through this beautiful world and not clearly see it. Furthermore, this looking not only takes in separate details, but also the entirely at once, behavior and movement. Birders see the whole picture.

"2. But I rely far more on my ears than my eyes for bird identification. Having learned the songs of most Minnesota birds long ago, I now am continuously and unconsciously aware of what is around me at any moment outside. I hear the chimney swifts zipping across Minneapolis skies and the unending songs of red-eyed vireos. I know exactly when the predatory Cooper’s Hawk is in our yard, eying my songbirds.

"3. Because birds are extremely local in their choice of nest site, watching them is one way to develop a sense of place (my emphasis). This is an excellent skill for a writer to have, but it seems to me to be essential for anyone to be fully in this world, to know exactly where you are on the face of the planet. The oak savannah. The maple/ basswood forest."  

Keillor responded to this "excellent letter" with " You wouldn’t have written this for a fellow birdwatcher, you wrote it for me, an ignoramus. Case closed." And the rest of us received a gift on the having of a sense of place.

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Comedy Wildlfe Photography Awards

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

The finalists for the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards photography awards, have been released. 

The website describes it and its purpose. "Born from a passion for wildlife, and decades of experience living & working in East Africa, The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards began its life modestly in 2015 as a photographic competition. Since then, steered by its founders, Paul Joynson-Hicks MBE and Tom Sullam, it has grown into a globally renowned competition seen by millions of people, and always with wildlife conservation at its heart.

"The free competition, open to wildlife experts and novices celebrates the hilarity of our natural world and highlights what we need to do to protect it. From a surprised otter to a swearing turtle, Comedy Wildlife's photographs transcend cultures and ages to bring a smile to everyone's face."

The Comedy Wildlife website has more information about the group, a link to the photographs, and announces the opening to the public of the Affinity Photo People's Choice Award, "giving you a chance to vote for your favourite image with an incentive: you might win an iPad. The closing date is 12 October, 2021.




Sunday, September 5, 2021

Moving Water With Leaky Pipes

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

Naturebriefing (August 13, 2021) notes that inspired "by trees’ ability to transport water from their roots and exhale it from their leaves, researchers have developed a system for moving water that depends on capillary action and surface tension. A structure built from tiny 3D-printed open-faced cells  can draw liquid from a reservoir. The open sides of the cells maximize the surface area of liquid that can absorb and desorb gas molecules — a process that mimics transpiration in real trees. The ability to transport liquid and gas at will could be useful for everything from cooling systems to carbon dioxide capture."

Here is a Nature video (3m 50s) about the research. An accompanying News and Views article by Tammi L. van Neel & Ashleigh B. Theberge may be more detailed than you want but you may find various sections useful, e.g., on what microfludics is, an illustration of the architecture of the unit cells, a tree-like structure built from them, and how the unit cells were constructed.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Birds: Glorious Birds

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Environment, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

The BBC has a gallery of images from this year's Bird Photographer of the Year competition to which there were more than 22,000 entries with awards across several categories. 

The gallery includes the award entry for the Young Bird Photographer of the Year. There is a link to the Bird Photographer of the Year website. There is not one that will disappoint and most will astound. The images are accompanied by short explanations which include, variously, photographic details, aims, description of the locale, and general comments by the photographers.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment 

Ed Hessler

Good morning from Hamline University's Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) on September 3, 2021. Thirty-five weeks and one day have passed or 67.40% of the year.

Today sunrise is at 6:00 am and sunset is at 8:36 pm giving us 14 h 35m 36s of sunlight.

Just three days ago, September 1 meteorological fall began and September 22--18 days from now--it will be the Autumnal Equinox, the astronomical beginning of fall. For information about these two kinds of seasonal markers, astronomical and meteorological, see the entry from NOAA. Here are two lovely ways to celebrate this change from summer to fall: Vivaldi's Autumn from The Four Seasons and Autumn in New York.

According to Foodimentary it is National Baby Back Ribs Day, complete with a photo, facts and some food history.

Quote. Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. -- John Adams

Today's poem is by Yehuda Amichai.


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Unvaccinated, Unmasked, Indoors, A Vulnerable Population, Spread Of The Delta Variant

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

Ed Hessler

Shortly after the SARS-CoV-2 virus broke out in China, I saw a restaurant seating diagram from a  restaurant, I think, in Wuhan, China and how it had led to a number of infections following exposure to one infected customer. At the time there was no vaccine and it was also when standard restaurant seating (round tables) was still practiced. The image was striking and the importance of customer location was clear.

That image popped into mind when I saw the following report about a similar outbreak in a different setting, a school in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a paper on an outbreak in an elementary school in Marin County, California. An  unvaccinated teacher at an elementary school in Marin County, Calif., became infected with Covid-19 but continued to teach for two days after developing symptoms but before testing positive. The teacher read aloud, while unmasked, to students despite a mask policy in the school. (my emphases)

There were 26 cases in the school traced to the teacher via whole genome sequencing, including 12 of 24 children in the teacher’s classroom, all of whom were too young to be vaccinated. As a seating chart shows, more students in the two rows seated closest to the teacher’s desk were infected compared to those in the back two rows. The other cases — three in fully vaccinated people — were in parents and siblings of students.

The paper includes a diagram of the classroom and shows the spread in the classroom and includes a list of the standard procedure schools should follow to help stop the spread of such outbreaks. Everyone should 1) wear masks correctly, 2) get vaccinated (when eligible), 3) stays home if symptoms occur, and 4) tests routinely.

The authors write "Ineligibility because of age and lack of vaccination contribute to persistent elevated risk for outbreaks in schools, especially as new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge. However, implementation of multiple prevention strategies within schools can mitigate this risk. The rapid transmission and vaccine breakthrough infections in this outbreak might have resulted from the schoolchildren’s vulnerability because of ineligibility for vaccination, coupled with the high transmissibility of the Delta variant. New evidence of the Delta variant’s high transmissibility, even among fully vaccinated persons, supports recommendations for universal masking in schools." (my emphasis)

The full paper which includes these sections:  a summary (with an abstract), investigation and findings, public health response, and a discussion. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Coffee With Birds In Mind

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Sustainability, Nature, Society

Ed Hessler

I was delighted to read Gustave Axelson's essay in the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's "All About Birds." It is about coffee labels and wintering warblers in Mexico, Central and South America where warblers "spend five months of the year in and around shade coffee plantations...but only if they can find them." The premium plantations from a bird's point-of-view are those that are grown under a "natural forest canopy."

This is something most labels don't tell us but from which many of us jump to this conclusion when we see the various icons on the bags we purchase, thinking that all of them are equal. Axelson lists common labels and discusses their benefits and shortcomings for winter bird habitat. The most trustworthy label has a Bird Friendly icon which means that they have been "certified by...the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center." The label "shade grown" doesn't tell us much, if anything.

It also turns out that there are more bird friendly coffees than we know.  The problem is in the packaging.  "The need to make room on  packaging for a separate label that appeals to a relatively small--and silent--minority birders" has not been persuasive. 

So birders need to step up to the counters ask retailers to "stock  Bird Friendly coffee, and by buying it. ... More than 46 million Americans say they watch birds, and half of all Americans drink coffee." What is needed is a commitment "to drinking Bird Friendly coffee. There would be a response from retailers and producers.

Axelson's essay reports on a study done of one warbler, the wood thrush. They now have more breeding habitat in the north than they did previously but it was found that "Wood Thrush declines matched deforestation trends in Nicaragua, where forest cover has dropped 30 percent in just the past two decades."

Read all about the labels with links to relevant information in Axelson's essay which includes a Bird Friendly locator...for the U.S., Canada, U.K., Czech Republic and Japan.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Life Stages

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

In Garrison Keillor's Post to the Host Comments (week of 08.08.21), a reader reported being told by his doctor when he greeted his doctor with "You're looking good." The doctor respnded, “There’s four stages of life: youth, middle age, old age, and you’re looking good.”

The following week (08.15.21) a reader noted that this was "A good line but … in 1960, a neighbor told me there were five stages: youth, middle age, old age, dotage, and anecdotage."

Scientists have added another way of thinking about human stages of life, one based on our metabolism. The research was reported in the journal Science (13 August 2021) by Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Herman Pontzer et. al.  (There are more than 80 co-authors.) The stages are:

Stage One: Infancy to ~ age1. During this stage we burn calories at a tremendous rate, i.e., "pound-for-pound, a one-year-old burns calories 50% faster than an adult."

Stage Two: Age 1 to ~ age 20. Metabolism slows some 3% a year.

Stage Three. Age 20 to ~  age 60, metabolism is steady.

Stage Four. After age 60. Perhaps I should add that, for some, this is the "dreaded" stage four when metabolism declines by 0.7% a year." During this period it is easier to add pounds than shed them.

The findings were the same for men and women. Obviously, individuals vary. It is a story of cells slowing down as we age.

There is a story about the findings by Robin A. Smith in Duke Research with a link to the paper in Science (behind a pay wall). Smith writes “There are lots of physiological changes that come with growing up and getting older,” said study co-author Herman Pontzer, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. “Think puberty, menopause, other phases of life. What's weird is that the timing of our ‘metabolic life stages’ doesn't seem to match those typical milestones.”

"Pontzer and an international team of scientists analyzed the average calories burned by more than 6,600 people ranging from one week old to age 95 as they went about their daily lives in 29 countries worldwide."

The Duke Research link to the original study will only allow you to read the abstract and to learn more about the authors and their affiliations, unless you are a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Pontzer is the author of a popular book, Burn, on how we burn calories, lose weight and stay healthy. Smith wrote a story about this book for Duke Research which includes and interview with Pontzer and on his research counting calories with the Hadza in Tanzania.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Our Ultimate Fate

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astrophysics, Earth & Space Sciences, Cosmology, Solar System

Ed Hessler

There is an especially interesting entry on Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for July 12, 2021.

It is about some big questions: What is going to happen to the sun (and to us) and, of course, when?

It reminds me of a favorite "Grook."


I'd like to know 
what this whole show 
is about 
before it's out.
--Piet Hein 
Scientists who study this matter are learning more and more about the final curtain as you will read in the accompanying entry. 

The 27th object on Charles Messier's list, M27 or the Dumbbell Nebula, a planetary nebula. That name is misleading and has nothing to do with planets. There is a short explanation of what this M27 reveals about our future. Not to worry, though. The recipe for this even includes time, about 6 billion years from now, but this is our fate.  

In addition, the image is beautiful.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Solar System Ball Drop

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Solar System, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems

Ed Hessler

On which body in the solar system would a ball drop faster -- Jupiter, Earth, Uranus?

This animation shows a ball dropping from one kilometer high to the surface of 12 of them, side-by-side comparisons. The animation assumes no atmospheric resistance.

The explanation provides the details.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

DIY Classroom Air Purifier And How One Can Be Bullt Inexpensively

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Schooling, Health

Ed Hessler 

Indoor air quality in schools is not a new concern and way too many classrooms have windows that do not open even though they may have several windows. The return of students to classrooms with the delta variant variant surge is making many people very nervous about ari quality, with reason.

The traditional fix of improving air quality is expensive and many schools/school districts cannot afford the cost. And it takes time, the action of school boards, may involve referendums, contracting and installation.To the rescue during the COVID-19 pandemic, one classroom at a time, is the Corsi-Rosenthal box It can be made at home.

That box is the subject of an NPR report by Gabrielle Emanuel on how to make this air purifier. The box according to citizen scientist Don Blair, "looks like a junky box that has four sides made out of these standard air filters. And the top of the box is a 20-inch box fan." Blair, continues Emanuel "has been pulling together resources on a website and making step-by-step instructions to help parents and teachers build this box.

"The idea is simple: The fan sucks air through the filters, effectively cleaning o of particles the virus that might be floating along on. Experts say filters with a so-called MERV 13 rating or better are ideal."

The project, once materials have been gathered, take 10 - 20 minutes. Blair noted that "if you do goof up then, no problems, it'll take you 30 minutes."

Richard Corsi, UCal, Davis put the idea on Twitter, reports Emanuel, and "Jim Rosenthal, the owner of Tex-Air Filters, built the first box. Corsi and Rosenthal agreed to share credit and hyphenated the box's name."

Emanuel's essay includes a 3-minute listen plus the step-by-step instructions and relevant links. I may have missed it but here is information about MERV ratings, including a chart showing applications by the number of the rating.

In addition here is a video which shows a fist-time builder constructing the Corsi-Rosenthal Box.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

It is August 27, 2021, the 229th day of the year (65.48% consisting of 5736 hours. Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, Saint Paul.

Today's sunlight adds up to 13h 29m 00s with sunrise at 6:29am and sunset at 7:58pm.

Quote. Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is National Burger day and Foodimentary includes some details about burgers and food history. Foodimentary takes an expansionary view of food history as you will see. Here is another way to celebrate this day.

Today's poem is by Cynthia Huntington. Worth reading are her comments on the disease she writes about and knows personally.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A Peatland Study of Carbon

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Warming, Global Climate Change, Nature 

Ed Hessler

The US Forest Service has a short research report on a peatland study done in northern Minnesota.

From the report:

--The research was done on a 20-acre (8.09 ha) bog in the Marcell Experimental Forest

--Stephen Sebestyen, a research hydrologist and one of the collaborator's on the study said that "what this (study) turns out to be is, the world's largest climate change experiment."

There are five key management considerations.

  • Peatlands make up 3 percent of the Earth's landmass yet store a third of global soil carbon because of the cool, wet, and acidic conditions.
  • Research from SPRUCE, the first experiment to use whole ecosystem manipulation to study the effects of climate change on peatlands, reveals that warmed bogs flip from carbon sinks to sources, releasing carbon at 5 to nearly 20 times the rate of historical accumulation. (SPRUCE is the acronynm tor the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments)

  • The warmest bog plots experienced the greatest carbon losses, with peat elevation decreasing by as much as 3.9 inches.
  • Warming caused a dramatic shift in bog plant communities, with a near total loss of Sphagnum moss, a crucial keystone species for peatlands.
  • The results from SPRUCE are being integrated into Earth Systems Models to help scientists better assess future climate scenarios and mitigation and adaptation strategies.

You may read the full Rooted in Research brief here. In addition, you can download a PDF.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Another New Fabric

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

A new kind of material has been developed which includes two properties. The material is adjustable and reversible.  It is one of a growing number of smart fabrics made possible by 3D printing. It will remind you of chain mail.  Apply pressure and the links are jammed together with the fabric becoming stiff and solid. Release pressure and the links become limp.

One possible use is for reusable casts.

Learn more in this 3m 43s Nature video which includes a link to the full paper

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Crossing A Line

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biological Evolution, History of Science, Nature of Science, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler 

Perhaps you've heard of the Wallace Line, "a hypothetical boundary separating the biogeographical regions of Asia and Australia." The co-developer of the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, had noticed striking differences between species found in Australia and Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia. This is readily seen when considering the differences between the two regions. "South and east of the line marsupials and monotremes are found, unlike the placental mammals found north and west of it."  

In a teaching unit for grades 5 - 8, the National Geographic has a good map of the line. For information about the Weber line see the Wiki entry on Max Carl Wilhelm Weber.

The Wallace Line is mentioned in a fascinating essay by Rebecca Mead (The New Yorker July 5, 2021) primarily about Heather Dalton, an art historian who now lives in Melbourne, Australia. When she was a graduate student, while thumbing through an art book, Dalton noticed a feature in a painting that caught her eye. It was in the Renaissance painting, "Madonna della Vittoria," by Andrea Mantegna, completed in 1496. It is a large painting of more than 2.74 m (9')  in length and your eye is directed downward but near the top is "white bird with a black beak...and an impressive greenish-yellow crest." Her time in Australia led her to identify it as a "sulfur - crested cockatoo," which she expresses more colorfully.

Cocakatoos are not migratory and are restricted to the south and east of Wallace line. The Wiki entry includes a photograph of the yellow-crested cockatoo. Dalton wondered "'How did a bird from Australasia end up in a fifteen - century Italian painting?"' This led to a publication in 2014 arguing that "the bird's presence...illuminated the sophistication of ancient trade routes between Australasia and the rest of the world." It turns out that this is not the only painting that "hints of at least indirect contact with Australasia. Around 1561, Flemish painter Joris Hoefnagel "shows a furry gray creature seated on a gilded throne, gnawing on a branch." Dalton thinks it is probably a tree kangaroo.  The painting is titled "A  Sloth."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Aristotle remarked on the ability of parrots (from Indian trade routes) to mimic and they began showing up in European art later. Aristotle, reports Mead, noted that "they were 'even more outrageous after drinking wine.Painters and others did not explore the implications of the cockatoo's "geographical origin," indeed most didn't think much about the bird at all or why it was there.

In 1988, on the occasion of a bicentenary "of the establishment of a British penal colony in Australia, Dalton wrote an article "about the country's vigorous trade in beche-de-mer, or sea cucumber."  It is related to starfish and "was harvested off the northern coast of Australia and then sold in Chinese markets." She returned to the subject later noting that "The fishermen, who had gathered sea cucumbers in shallow waters had formed one end of a significant mercantile link between coastal Australia and Asia, but they had been largely overlook in the narrative of Australia's national founding," on favoring '"the digger, the pastoralist, and the drover.'"

Dalton told Mead that she "'was very interested in the idea that everything is about trade and economics, and the idea that we make discoveries for some national reason is something that you claim later.'"

Dalton has not found the cockatoo in any other of Mantegna's paintings or of contemporaries or can she show that it is only a representation of another image. The painter did own a large birdcage but there is no evidence of the acquisition of a cockatoo. Dalton considers the possibilities of trade and Mead provocatively discusses the prospects.

Mead draws attention to research by Finnish zoologist Pekka Niemela who was given access to a "rare manuscript in the collection of the Vatican Library in which he found the same cockatoo or a close relative.The illustrations not only reveal the "original coloring" but suggest it was a female (reddish flecks in the eye's iris). This attention to detail amazed me.

A collaboration between Dalton and Niemala led to a publication tracking down the provenance of Frederick II's cockatoo sent to him by the "'Sultan of Babylon' -- the ruler of Egypt, Al - Malike al - Kamil. Frederick II was the Holy Roman Emperor, 1241 to 1244. The route ends in Cairo from China via Australasia. The evidence is very strong since it includes a paper trail. By the way the two leaders exchanged many gifts, shows "of poer and prestige.

Mead's essay may be read here. Please give yourself a treat and do just that. It is a wonderful story, a tale of scientific sleuthing, evidence and hypotheses.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Monthly Photo Gallery From The Journal Nature

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Nature's photo team has selected the month's sharpest science shots. 

You are invited to take a leisurely stroll through the gallery which includes the image and an explanation of what is at hand.

We start with "pink pollution" with "peculiar" galaxies tacked up somewhere on the exhibition wall.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Merger Of A Black Hole And A Neutron Star

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology, Astrophysics

Ed Hessler

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for July 14 leads with a question. "What happens when a black hole destroys a neutron star?"

The entry notes that "analyses indicate that just such an event created gravitational wave event GW200115, detected in 2020 January by LIGO and Virgo observatories." APOD features a computer simulation visualization if this unusual event. There is a brief and useful explanation of the terms and of the event.

The video is only 30-seconds long but get this, the video "lasts about 1000 times longer than the real merger event." 


Saturday, August 21, 2021

To Boost or Not

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

Ed Hessler 

You have probably seen Dr. Leana Wen on television (CNN medical analyst) or read her columns for The Washington Post, and especially when she served as Baltimore's Health Commissioner, "the nation's oldest continuously operating health department in the U.S."

Dr. Wen now writes a column for The Washington Post - "The Checkup With Dr. Wen." In the inaugural issue of the column she writes about one of the dominate medical headlines: booster vaccinations. The recommendation has been one of change. At first, booster vaccinations only for the moderately or severely immunocompromised among us but within a week or so, another announcement from federal health officials announced their preparation for booster shots for all of us, "eight months after their initial vaccination."

Wen writes that three recently released CDC studies have found signs of "waning effectiveness ... a third dose could increase antibody levels by at least fivefold." An Israeli study found that a third dose "restores robust immune protection, including against the delta variant."

As Dr. Wen notes - a point that cannot be made strongly enough "there aren't clear-cut, one-size-fits-all answers" (her emphasis). It is her hope that "federal health officials will allow people to make their own decisions - in consultation with their doctors." A nuanced approach is needed, she says and describes three scenarios: "a healthy, fully vaccinated person, "someone with several underlying medical conditions or who lives at home with unvaccinated children," and "an elderly individual  with chronic (diseases who) frequently see...extended family (members), who are not as careful as you in following safety precautions."

The CORONA-19 virus will continue to surprise us as will the medical recommendations based on the best evidence. We are also implicated. Whether we are vaccinated or not and our social practices - masking when in crowded places, attendance at large events, travel. 

Here is her column with details where you may also sign up for the Coronvirus Updates newsletter (3 times weekly) and her newsletter.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

It is August 20, 2021. Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education, St. Paul, MN. This is the 232nd day of the year (63.56%), Years do not have an endless supply of minutes and our supply is dwindling having spent 334,080 of them. Sunrise is at 6:20am and sunset is at 8:10pm which provides 13h 49m 28s of sunlight.

It is National Bacon Lover's Day and Foodimentary may add to your lore about bacon and food history.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which has special relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Quote:"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." - Dr. Seuss (The Lorax) The original animated TV special  from 1972  may be seen here (25m 13s).

Today's poem is by Camille T. Dungy, who is a professor of English at Colorado State University. The title of the poem comes from ecological science. 

In an interview, Dungy defined the term, trophic cascade, that is the title of the poem as "a term from ecology. There is a continuance and connection from the trophy creature, often a large predator at the top of the food chain, for a simplified way of thinking about that term, and all the creatures who come in a cascading manner off of that creature." (reported by Heather Green in Poetry Daily). 

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has a video (19m 28s) on the ecological concept in the event you'd like a refresher or to learn more. Long but worth it. And beautiful, too.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Wherever We Go We Litter

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Solar System, Earth & Space Science, Pollution

Ed Hessler 

CBS Sunday Morning opened with a story (6m 17s) by correspondent David Pogue on "how companies are working to create ways to clean up space before disaster happens. The amount of debris in low-Earth orbit" is on a steady increase, "putting satellites and the International Space Station in danger of colliding" with bits and pieces of stuff that we essentially treat as litter(aka space debris).. Even the tiniest bits pose hazards.

Some photographs of damage are featured in this story.