Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sense of Direction in Humans

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Science & Society, Culture, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

It is no secret that people have different navigational abilities but the reasons why have not been studied as much as showing that they do.
In an article by Bob Holmes in "Knowable Magazine" (4/10/2024) he discusses recent research that "suggests that to some extent, navigation skills are shaped by upbringing."

The use of new technology, the evidence of nurturing v. innate ability, association with cultural factors, whether there is a  gender gap, cognitive factors, how we use mental maps, pros and cons of GPS, limitations of current research and directions for further research are discussed in enough detail to give you a good sense of the research field. 
In addition, the widely used navigation research instrument, the Santa Barbara Sense of Direction Scale is shown.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

An Internist Comments on GLP-1 Drugs In The Treatment of Obesity

Friday, April 19, 2024

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Fig Agriculture In A Changing World

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Quirks & Quarks for April 13, 2024

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald for April 13 offers the following topics: canned salmon parasites, Mars & ocean currents, Medieval pennies, bonobo aggression, Covid 19's "long tail" and answers a listener's question about eclipse temperatures.

The segments are listed with beginning times and described - these overviews are really good - so you can pick and choose based on your interest. The length of the segments may also help you decide whether you want to listen now or later. The length of the full program is 54:00 minutes.

See here for the description and a link to the radio program.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How One University Career in Research Science Ended

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

Ed Hessler
I've referred you to videos by physicist Sabine Hossenfelder many times so she isn't new to you. This is a much different entry from her and covers many issues of interest on a career in research science at the university level.

In this 13m 40s video titled "I Failed," theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, tells us how her academic career ended. She no longer has a research position at university (see below). During her time in academia she relied on her ability to support her research and herself.

As you know, she is not without work. She has a very successful YouTube channel from which this video comes.    

At the end of her comments she states "I'm not sure if I'm going to post this video. It is a bit over the top isn't it.." 
I'm glad she did; I think her experience is worth knowing about. 
And as you would expect she makes clear that this is her experience and that she is not speaking for others as she discusses her discontents -personal, with the state of theoretical physics, its funding and life in academia.  
As usual, I recommend you read the responses. 
ADDITION: Over at Dr. Peter Woit's blog, Not Even Wrong, April 5, 2024, Dr. Hossenfelder responded to Woit's entry titled, "How I fell out of love with academia," for April 5, 2024. She wrote,

"Hi Peter, thanks for the link. Yes, that was the first of those projects, lots of buzzwords about AdS/CFT and quantum simulations and strange metals and so on. Worked like a charm!

"Just one correction. I haven’t left academia, I am affiliated with the University of Munich (the Center for Mathematical Philosophy), it’s just that I’m not employed by them (partly because I don’t live in Munich and have no intention of moving there). I haven’t entirely abandoned the idea to apply for another grant again in the future — mostly because I’d like to have a team to work with — but at the moment I’m rather sick of it."


Monday, April 15, 2024

Recognizing Medical Misinformation

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Nest Watching

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

Ed Hessler

It is a special occasion when you discover a bird's nest, especially one that is being used. 

Even finding a used bird's nest in trees stripped of their leaves in fall or in the winter can be a pleasant surprise. Such nests offer opportunities for further observation (are there nests in nearby trees or bushes, elevation above ground, nest placement) personal research and developing evidence based hypotheses of your own.

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology offers a program that may be of interest to you. It is called Nest Watch. The web page describes the who, what and why of nest watching. There you can sign up to become an official nest watcher by following the directions.

The short introductory homepage is found here.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Journal Nature Podcast for April 10, 2024

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

Here is the Nature Podcast for April 10, 2024. Below is a guide to the features.

00:46 Mapping ‘ghost roads’ in tropical forests

Across the world, huge numbers of illegal roads have been cut into forests. However, due to their illicit nature, the exact numbers of these roads and their impacts on ecosystems is poorly understood. To address this, researchers have undertaken a huge mapping exercise across the tropical Asia-Pacific region. Their findings reveal over a million kilometres of roads that don’t appear on official maps, and that their construction is a key driver for deforestation.

10:44 Research Highlights

How climate change fuelled a record-breaking hailstorm in Spain, and an unusual technique helps researchers detect a tiny starquake.

Research Highlight: Baseball-sized hail in Spain began with a heatwave at sea.

Research Highlight: Smallest known starquakes are detected with a subtle shift of color. 

13:02 Briefing Chat

A clinical trial to test whether ‘mini livers’ can grow in a person’s lymph node, and the proteins that might determine left-handedness.

Nature News: 'Mini liver' will grow in person's own lymph node in bold new trial.

Nature News: Right- or left-handed? Protein in embryo cells might help decide

Nature Video: How would a starfish wear trousers? Science has an answer.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Friday Poems

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

April is National Poetry Month and the local community newspaper, the Park Bugle, conducts a poetry contest. So there are four poems this week.

Here are the first, second, third place winners poems and the poem that received an honorable mention in the Park Bugle's 14th annual poetry contest, April 2024.

Here are the comments of this year's judge on judging the poems.

And here are the rules for this year's contest.
A batch of good poems.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Space Weather

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Solar System, Earth & Space Science, Astrophysics, Science & Society, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Job/Organizational Title: Space Weather Forecaster

What do they do?  How is that different from what their earth-oriented colleagues do in their weather forecasts.? Why do organizations hire them?

These are among the questions that Kathryn Schulz discusses in an 8-page essay (one of those pages is an illustration) in the March 4, 2024 The New Yorker.

The job title is real and "is shared by not more than a few dozen Americans." Schulz makes great use of the career of two of them, Ken Tegnell, as an organizer for the essay and a)," Ken Tegnell and Bill Murtagh. If you belong to LinkedEd you can read his full profile.

I hope I'm not alone in never thinking that there is weather in space. Planetary weather I know a little bit about. The space weather Schulz focuses on is one "that had no appreciable effect whatsoever on human activity," until "certain technologies --electricity, telecommunications are two --became "central  to our lives." 

There are significant "potential consequences." "The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) concluded, writes Schulz: there are "only two natural hazards that "have the capacity to simultaneously affect the entire nation. One is a pandemic. The other is a severe, solar storm, the subject of her reporting.

I was interested to learn that in 1859, the date of the publication of Charles Darwin's monumental On The Origin of Species and the coincidence with the first troublesome solar storm to strike the planet planet. British astronomer, "Richard Carrington happened to be outside, another coincidence, sketching a group of sunspots when he saw a burst of light, on the surface of the sun: the first known observation of a solar flare." It became known as the Carrington Event.

Schulz then describes two such events following: and their effects which eventually led to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to assess "the nation's capacity to endure the terrestrial effects." Later, the "White House came knocking to ask if it should be concerned about the N.A.S. report." Because he was familiar with the ideas of space weather and earth weather, FEMA director "Craig Fugate was in a position to offer an emphatic yes."

Schulz reviews differences between interstellar weather and planetary weather. There are two concepts we need to know about interstellar weather: solar flares and coronal mass ejections. She reminds us of the importance of the Earth's magnetic field and life. The sun has a magnetic field which is not as "tidy" because the sun's results from its composition. It is known as the fourth state of matter.

It results in a messy rotation of the sun. The solar-magnetic field lines "twist and criss-cross" leading to sunspots. These are what Ken Tegnell watches. A storm may come. Coronal mass ejections are enormous and can "mark the beginning of a major solar storm."

Schulz describes her visit to the forecasting room of Space Weather Prediction Center where Tegnell interprets, looks for the unusual and reports watches and warnings twice daily. She also discusses prediction. You may recall that the sunspot cycle is eleven-years from solar-minimum to solar maximum. We are nearing the peak (2025) but powerful solar storms do not necessarily follow.

Tegnell's colleague Bill Murtagh's job is on minimizing effects. Many organizations and individuals are interested and Schulz tells us why.

Schulz describes solar storms, their two phases, the special case of astronauts who may be in their path, the peril to the 8000 satellites in space on which we depend and take for granted. Many processes on Earth require "ultra-sharp positioning data"and "temporal information." These are what make possible for all the parts of an advanced technological system to operate. Murtagh thinks none of them are ready for a major space weather event.

Coronal flares are like cannonballs, "slower but more destructive" than solar flares - taking from 15 hours to several days to reach the planet. They can result in a geomagnetic storm. One of the most feared effects is on the power grid, what we know as a blackout. Earth's geological structure can offer some protection but it is not even around the planet." The electricity from an ejection and that found in the grid and when the two collide the damage is cascading. Schulz discusses some of the economic concerns.

We have no experience with storms before the power grid and space weather experts are troubled about what will happen the next time a Carrington Events strikes. Schulz quotes Daniel Baker who said --I should let you read this for your self - but hope this is an incentive to read Schulz's standard high level of reporting. '"On our power system.  I do not want to be unduly alarmist. But I do want to be duly alarmist'."

Schulz closes with some of the problems we face in updating the grid, the likelihood of cascading malfunctions, the possibility that one  malfunction could bring the whole thing down, the study of "attribution---"determining whether a given anomaly was caused by bad weather in space rather than by a technical malfunction or deliberate interference." Currently, both the Army and Navy have returned to teaching some ol practices. Some of this has been figured out and might include a return to old practices.

Solar storms are sometimes called "low frequency, high-consequence events. Murtagh, Schulz reports looks at people who tell him "I've never seen a problem''  and says "'I don't know what to say to you. The Carrington Event happened one second ago. And it will happen again."'   

There is a lot of science yet to be learned about the sun and effects here on Earth. The question, as always, is about the infrastructure to reckon with them.  

"What a Major Storm Could Do to our Planet" is the source of these notes and clumsy extractions. It is the one you should read for the full story. If you have not exceeded your free site use - two times and out -- you can read it. It is well worth looking for and reading. It can be found on the web in various places, all of which so far require a subscription - one was a temporary use which required signing in. Worth searching for, including your local library for a print copy.   

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Ideas For A COVID Commission

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Noticing Nature

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Global Change

Ed Hessler

So is it spring yet? Where is it spring? How is spring advancing in its journey to our part of the world?

The National Phenology Network has a marvelous web site on the Status of Spring in the United States. "Billings, MT is 6 days early, Kalamazoo, MI is 15 days early, and Providence, RI is 4 days early compared to a long-term average of 1991-2020."

Users can locate where "the green wave" is and when it arrives how it compares to some two decades of data.

About phenology from the NPN which is a thorough discussion.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR) has a web page on phenology which reports "some recent spring phenology for a site in Maplewood just north of St. Paul". It includes lists of events of 1st Redwing Blackbird heard, frost out of the ground, first Western Chorus Frogs heard, first Dandelions, Crabapples blooming, and Lilacs Blooming.
Minnesota has a phenology network and if you use a search engine using say Minnesota Phenology Network you can learn about their activities. And they have already been active, including a conference in March.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Chelsea: The Chemist


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Battle of the Moon(s)

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth and Space Science, Astronomy

Ed Hessler

Two great images from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) show "the angular size difference between a supermoon and a "micro" moon." 

With explanations.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

A Medieval Manuscript Page on Astronomy

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Solar System, History of Science

Ed Hessler

A lovely manuscript page  may be found in Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for March 30, 2024. It is "from lecture notes on astronomy compiled by the monk Magister Wolfgang de Styria before the year 1490." A work of art and masterful illustration.

It may be seen here.

An exhibition of Melk Abbey where Styria "was a student of the liberal arts" includes a reference to him. It may be found under the heading "Connections to the First Viennese School of Astronomy...." I learned  that this page was published "as an APOD" in 2009. 2009 was also the International Year of Astronomy (IYA).

The exhibition entry includes photographs, including one of Melk Abbey.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler 

The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska is by Billy Collins.

Unfortunately there is a column of categories on the right hand side of the picture although it doesn't detract too much. There are two photographs of cranes following the poem as well as some comments by Rosemary who included another entry showing some of the lovely Yoshino cherry trees on University of Washington campus.

Here is Billy Collins reading this poem.

The poem is from Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, Random House, 2013.

About Billy Collins from Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Do People, The World Over, Care About Climate Change And The Need For Action?


Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Change, Climate Change, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

Our World in Data's Hannah Ritchie begins an essay with  "People across the world, and the political spectrum, underestimate levels of support for climate action" and launches into some comments about the powerful role of perception gaps.

Ritchie has to use surveys and notes that they "can produce" unreliable data and she tried to counteract this by reviewing "several reputable reports." The data are reported on countries worldwide.

Ritchie includes data on and discussion of the following:

--belief in climate change and doing something about it

--government should do more

--the underestimate of such support

--the underestimate of the willingness of others to take action

--why "perception gaps" exist and that this gap has been reported before on another topic

--on what the current debate is about--the best solutions and not on whether we should take action

--what these findings mean for communicating about climate change which is summarized by a need to engage with (people's) legitimate concerns about the effectiveness and possible negative impacts of these changes."

It may be read here.


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Plague Doctor

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

Ed Hessler

It is another Show and Tell time with Dr. Joe Schwarz, director of the Office for Science & Society at McGill University.

In the "show" part, Schwarz uses a small figurine of the doctor. In the "tell" part we learn about him and the reason he wore a mask with a beak.

The video is 3m 13s in length and there is a transcript if you prefer both listening and reading.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Animals And A Total Eclipse

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

Ed Hessler
Total Eclipse And Animals

As you know, on April 8, 2024 there will be a total solar eclipse over North America. The path extends from Mexico, the United States, and Canada. NASA provides a considerable stash of reference material about the "when" and the "where", including great maps.

One place where a closer look at how non-human animals respond will take place at the Fort Worth Zoo. There, scientists will closely observe the behavior of the animals in the zoo.  This is reported in a photoessay from the science and health department of the Associated Press (AP). Lots of photos and a discussion by the scientists involved and a reference to observations made during the 2017 total solar eclipse.

Below is a link you to a scientific paper about behavior of animals during the 2027 total solar eclipse at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, South Carolina by Adam Hartstone-Rose and six collaborating authors. The paper was published in Animals (Basel), 2020 Apr; 10(4): 587. This link is included in the AP report but you may miss it.

The scientific paper begins with a simple summary, an abstract, which is followed by full access to the study. And if you have interest, the paper is worth a scan on the methodology, which was quite carefully planned. The authors note one failing. They did not do any studies on inter-rater reliability

Some items discussed in the paper include reports on all animals observed during the study, a table showing the possible behaviors looked for, a table on the focal taxa (genus and species), the discussion includes reports of zookeepers from three non-focal taxa the results (extensively discussed), comments on comparisons made by counterparts in the wild (similar to those observed in the zoo setting), important caveats and limitations of the study, future research designs, and the all important findings briefly summarized. Seventy-six percent were "observed to exhibit a behavioral response to the eclipse (which)  suggests a strong potential impact of this meteorological phenomenon on modifying animal activity."
Safety Information On Watching A Total Eclipse
NASA provides information on how to watch a solar eclipse safely.
The Eclipse Path: Total and Partial
And  AP News has a large illustration of the path of totality and paths of the partial totalities: 80%, 60%, 40%, and 20%.
Cloudiness Forecast

Right now it appears that the majority of the totality path - the centerline - across the U.S. favors cloudy skies with the best chance for clear skies in the northeast U.S. 
In the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis our partial eclipse will cover about 74% of the sun. It peaks at 2:02 p.m. on April 8 -- a slight dimming but 74% is not enough to see major darkness during a solar eclipse. 
Information from Paul Huttner, MPR Updraft Blog, April 1, 2024 at 5:20 p.m.