Sunday, June 30, 2024

Albireo AB

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Sciences, Cosmology, Astrophysics, History of Science, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler 

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has an image of a star which turns out to be a double star, seen only with telescopic aid.  It includes the visible spectrum of both stars which shows how different the two stars are.

The image is lovely and the explanation adds to the pleasure of seeing it as well as in not misunderstanding what you are seeing.

For stargazers, planet watchers, the constellation savvy, the scientific term "asterism" is well known. I'd never heard of it --not included in the explanation which gave me an idea of what a common term it is --  and Wiki explains the term.  The explanation also includes a comment on how astronomers/astrophysicists reason.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Lava Study: Lab and Field

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Geology, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

This video (11m 45s) from #ScienceInsider is about how scientists study lava. Of course they collect samples but how and where? There is more to the study of volcanology than doing field work. There is the laboratory, too and I very much like how the video bring field and lab work together.

The Syracuse University Lava Project is included and represents the laboratory side of the study-of-lava equation, science practices in action. An interesting aspect of the Lava Project is that it is a result of a collaboration between sculptor Bob Wysocki (SU Department of Art) and geologist Jeff Karson (SU Department of Earth Sciences). The page is well worth taking a look at.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

The Little Tavern is by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

In addition to the biographical material included with the poem, here is a link to the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society with many links.

It was published in Poetry, August, 1917.


Thursday, June 27, 2024


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

Ed Hessler

This is a follow-up on the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve fishers (Pekania pennati) from the College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota.

The researcher is Michael Joyce, wildlife ecologist at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI). The video included is 3m 02s long.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Animals and Earth Quake Predictions

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Behavior, Biodiversity, Geology

Ed Hessler

The second of two presentations by Sabine Hossenfelder on earthquake prediction, she discusses short-term forecasts, "from months to seconds. In this one she again calls attention to their human toll. "[E]arthquakes are the most fatal natural disasters. In the two decades from 1998 to 2017, they killed more than 700 thousand people." Then she asks,

"So what are seismologists doing to warn people of earthquakes? Can animals sense if an earthquake is coming? And what are earthquake lights? That’s what we will talk about today. ... 
Short-term predictions don’t help with infrastructure investments, but they give people time to evacuate."

The non-seismic precursors may attract your attention because those involving animals are commonly reported. First, Hossenfelder includes a discussion of several short-term physical precursors "that are fairly well established though not all are well understood before she turns her attention to animals. 

She ends by talking about the "heavy burden" that comes with predictions, i.e., when they are wrong. She makes a suggestion that seem a worthy and important component of any prediction.

The video can be watched on YouTube but I like being able to read the text along with listening.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Brain

Ed Hessler

In this video (13m 16s) Harvard Cognitive Psychologist Steven Pinker provides some evolutionary insights into a question: Why Do We Feel Fear?

Monday, June 24, 2024

Finale to the 48th Season of Quirks & Quarks

Environmental & Science Education, STEM

Ed Hessler

CBC's Bob McDonald ties the bow around the 48th season of Quirks & Quarks (June 21, 2024) with what has become an annual favorite: Listener's questions and expert answers. The answers are short, each is accompanied by a photograph, and there is a link to the expert.

I will not include the questions but they are related to the moon's orbit, animal sizes, gray hair, tectonic plates, fear, hydropower, effects of planting wild plants in cities on animal populations, matter, hibernation, and planetary effects on the sun.

Full Q&A revealed as you scroll.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Black Hole Destroys Star

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Earth & Space Science, Models

Ed Hessler

An animation with an explanation of a black hole destroying a star from Astronomy Picture of the Day (53 s).

It includes music which I thought appropriate to this event.
When those gobblers of material take their first bite, it's over!

Saturday, June 22, 2024

6000 Years of Forest Landscapes and Sounds, United Kingdom Interactive

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

Ed Hessler

The story of the world's woodlands is one of overwhelming decline, " writes Sophie Yeo for Inkcap Journal in the introduction to Six Thousand Years of Forests, an amazing visual and aural interactive featuring the declines in United Kingdom (UK).

Yen's short introduction concludes with this observation. "The primeval forests have given way to an intensively farmed and settled landscape. Today, just 13% of the UK is covered by woodland, of which only 2.5% is more than 400 years old. If this was ever a woodland nation, it is not anymore."

By scrolling you can "see how land use has changed across the last eight millennia." "Anthromes" short for  Anthropogenic Biomes, or Human Biomes, are the globally significant ecological patterns created by sustained interactions between humans and human patterns created by sustained interactions between humans and ecosystems, iincluding urban, village, cropland, rangeland and seminatural anthromes." (see here).

Viewers comments include words and phrases such as "Fabulous,:"a creative re-telling," and"Amazing." Oh yes, these and more accolades. One comment critical of the work must have run, not walked through the forest depictions," with Yeo responding "the second paragraph makes that very point, with a link to the very study that you have included in your comment." 

The Inkcap Journal is longform journalism about nature and conservation in Britain. Members can receive a free weekly digest every Friday on nature news in Britain. Yeah, I know that all this information about the journal is in the masthead of today's feature but if, like me, you wanted to start hiking, it is easily missed.  I lumbered right by it the first time.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler 

Things is by Lisel Mueller.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Comments on Anthony Fauci's "On Call"

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

Ed Hessler

In his forty year career as an infectious disease specialist, Dr.Anthony Fauci advised seven presidents on infectious diseases.  
In a forthcoming memoir, On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service, STAT's General Assignment Reporter, Jason Mast notes that "he strove to speak with complete candor and stay out of politics, while remaining strategic in pushing for policies he considered vital to public health."

Mast discusses his top takeaways from his reading of the 455 page book. They are:

-- Of course, he would do things differently on Covid-19 if given another shot.

-- The U.S. response to the pandemic succeeded on science, and failed on public health.

-- Local health officials tried to warn Fauci, who tried to warn the White House, that contact tracing was failing.

-- Fauci grew increasingly concerned about the politicization of science during the 2015-2016 Zika outbreak.

-- But Covid was unlike anything else.

-- An HIV vaccine may be far, far off, if it’s possible at all.

-- He advocated for efforts on TB, HIV, and malaria that didn’t see the light of day.

-- Fauci turned down an offer, in 1989, to become NIH chief.

-- He tried to squeeze greater and greater funding for HIV out of administrations with a deft hand.

Mast's essay, "Inside Anthony Fauci’s ‘On Call’: 9 health and science takeaways from the memoir of America’s most famous doctor", may be read here.

And here for your information is the Amazon entry. The book was released on June 18. It should quickly accumulate reader reviews.

I've seen two interviews with Dr. Fauci about the book. This one by CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta really stood out. It is 11m 28s long. Be patient, it begins with some introductory comments.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

A New Kind of Glass

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

Ed Hessler

A short video (4 m) from the journal Nature on self-healing glass - it also can construct itself. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Viking Age Hunters and Blue Whales

Environmental & Science Education, Science & Society, Wildlife, Nature, Society, Culture, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

This is based on an essay in Hakai: Coastal Science and Societies in which writer Andrew Chapman discusses "new research (that) suggests that medieval Icelanders were scavenging and likely even hunting blue whales before industrial whaling technology."

Chapman begins by relating the story of a 17th century Icelandic fisherman who thrust his spear into a blue whale. The spear "would have been marked with the (fisherman's) emblem  and if all went well (the whale would have been mortally wounded and) "would wash  up dead on a nearby shore" where he would collect his bounty.

The whale didn't but ended up on the shores of Greenland some 1700 km (~1056 miles) to the west on a Greenland beach where it was eaten by a party, "staving off starvation." They found the marked spear tip but knew that the whale could not be delivered to the Icelandic fisherman.

Chapman tells us about the work of environmental historian Dr. Vicki Szabo, Western Carolina University who has been studying Norse texts for some three decades. Since 2015 she has been leading a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, historians, folklorists, and geneticists to try to answer...whether medieval Icelanders (were) really hunting blue whales centuries before the invention of exploding harpoons and faster steam-powered ships? If so, how were they doing it, and how often?" Grant information, an abstract and publications produced as a result of the research is linked in Chapman's essay (multidisciplinary team).

This research is another dramatic example of the use of DNA analytic technologies. Oh the changes they have wrought in leading researchers to new knowledge, understanding and corroborating evidence for hypotheses, one way or the other. DNA it was found that over half of 124 whale bones analyzed were those of blue whales. Chapman notes that the results "staggered" Szabo.

The story becomes even more exciting with Szabo learning about a new site which is a whalebone paradise. Weather conditions at the site are miserable (powerful winds and rains) but each year the ocean is removing more and more whale bones to the deep. And the end of her her grant is projected to be mid-November, 2024.

Chapman includes many details of the use of whales for food by these Icelanders, the shift to modern whale hunting techniques, meat storage techniques, societal changes including complicated laws, and the variety of uses of whale bones.

Chapman ends with a story of the Icelandic fisherman who speared the whale at the beginning. He had a later experience that led him to quit spearing which is deeply moving. 

This is a wonderful story, beautifully illustrated with images of old texts, maps, and drawings as well as photographs. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Ed Stone and the Saturn Moon Io

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Solar System, Cosmology, Nature of Science, History of Science. Astrophysics

Ed Hessler

Caltech celebrates the life of discovery led by Ed Stone, the David Morrisroe Professor of Physics and Project Scientist for Voyager missions.
This Caltech Press release includes a video (4m 25s) shot in 2017 in which Dr. Stone describes his career at Caltech and JPL, and the moment Voyager discovered active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon, Io.

You see scientists at work as they attempt to understand hot spots found on Io. It is a great story about a career in science and how scientists work interpreting data to find convincing evidence. Professsor Stone came to Caltech with a research agenda and it is fascinating to hear him weigh the invitation to join the NASA effort so early in his career.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Recording Bird Sounds in the Canadian Arctic

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Wildlife, Nature, Biological Evolution, Global Change, Climate Change, Nature of Science, History of Science, Art & Environment

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Threat of Forever Chemicals

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Pollution, Sustainability, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

PFAS. "per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals...are long-lasting-compounds that ...have been linked to cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, and other ailments." Now that is a worrisome list and the issue is they show up in nearly everywhere, e.g., soil, ground water, drinking water sources, even rainfall." In other words, you can't hide from them. "By some estimates, this toxic family of chemical can be found in the blood of nearly every person on the planet.

Their uses include firefighting foams, waterproof clothes and nonstick cookware.

They are commonly called "forever chemicals," with reason.

CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Lee Cowan provides a tour of how they became so ubiquitous, "and talks with families, farmers, and health advocates fighting for clean, save water."

The video is 11m 21s long.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Earth & Space Science, Solar System, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Maths

Ed Hessler

Thursday, June 13, 2024

"Robbery" In Nature

Environmental & Science Education, Nature, Wildlife, Biological Evolution, Biodiversity, History of Science

Ed Hessler

I refer you to another post in WEIT's  Readers' Wildlife Photos. It is about "nectar robbers" and is by Athayde Tonhasca Junior. I'm always tempted to call him a photojournalist because of the approach he takes to his frequent posts. I don't want you to miss it. It is an informed and lavishly illustrated story whose purpose is to expand your understanding the natural world.

This entry is the second that begins with observations made by Christian Konrad Spengel. The first one I posted is titled "Deceptive Flowers."

Ahayde Tonhasca Junior closes with an observation  made by Sprengel who "labelled nectar robbing an 'outrage against a flower' and Darwin considered it 'a felony', but there's more to it than meets the eye." 

This is a perfect introduction to what his post is about. There is much more than meets the eye.

h/t WEIT (Emeritus Professor Jerry A. Coyne) and Thayde Tonasca Junior. Thanks once again.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A Remembrance: Astronaut William Anders Photographer of Earthrise

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Frizzies: Some Chemistry

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

Ed Hessler

In this Morning Cup of Joe (4m 12s), Joe Schwarz, Office for Science and Society, University of Montreal, discusses Olaplex, a hair treatment that "claims to repair damaged hair and  get rid of the frizzies."

There is an accompanying transcript.

The company site and this ForbesAdvisory with a 2024 update on a "lawsuit that was filed in 2023 (that) alleges that Olaplex caused users to experience hair breakage, hair loss and scalp irritation. It is also alleged that Olaplex engaged in a cover-up of this fact while reassuring its users that its products were safe. The plaintiffs say that if Olaplex had been honest about the complaints it was receiving, that may have prevented some of the people who were injured by the product from using it in the first place."

Monday, June 10, 2024

Science In The CBC News

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

Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald, CBC Podcast for June 8. Below the segments are briefly described, each accompanied by an illustration and with the listening times.

--The sun's ramping up its activity and now we have a better idea of what's driving it 9m28s

This spring, we've seen some spectacular displays of northern lights and we're expecting to see more as we approach the peak of the sun's natural cycle, the solar maximum. Every 11 years, the sun cycles from having few sunspots on its surface to having many. Now, according to a new study in the journal Nature, scientists have figured out what may be driving this process. Geoff Vasil, an associate professor of computational and applied mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, said instabilities in swirling magnetic systems near the sun's surface gives rise to sunspots on its surface that can erupt and send solar storms our way.

--Female otters use tools more than males – to crack open tasty treats and save their teeth 7m28s

Otters are cute and clever – clever enough to be one of the few animals who use tools such as rocks, glass bottles, or even boat hulls to smash shells and access the tasty flesh inside. But researchers studying otters off the coast of California found that certain otters were using these tools more than others, and wanted to understand why. In a new study, published in the journal Science, research biologist Chris Law found that it was females that were using the tools more than the males, in order to access hard-shelled meals like clams and mussels without damaging their teeth.

--The longest-lasting human species (not us) were expert elephant hunters 7m55s

Our cousins, Homo Erectus, inhabited Earth for nearly two million years, and they were capable hunters. An analysis of stone tool manufacturing sites, published in the journal Archaeologies, gives new insight into the high levels of organization and planning by these early humans. Tel Aviv University archeologist Meir Finkel studied the ancient stone quarries in the Hula Valley, and discovered that they were often located on elephant migration routes near water sources – so the humans didn't have far to go to get weapons for slaying and butchering their meals. This triad of elephants, water and stone quarries is present across many Old Stone Age sites where the early humans lived, including South America, Africa and Europe.

--A plastic that carries the seeds of its own destruction 7m48s 

Researchers have been able to integrate spores of a plastic-eating bacteria into plastic to create a material that, over time, eats itself. In a controlled study, scientists found that the bacteria can break down 90 per cent of the soft plastic in the material in about 90 days. Mohammed Arif Rahman, a senior polymer scientist and R&D director of BASF, said they're still working on the material with hopes that the bacteria embedded within it will be able to keep on consuming the remaining plastic so as not to generate any microplastics. The proof-of-concept study was published in the journal Nature Communications. 

--A new book about gravity celebrates failing and falling 18m19s

When theoretical physicist Claudia de Rham didn't quite make the cut as an astronaut candidate, she doubled down on her fascination with the phenomenon of gravity. This puts her on the path of great thinkers like Newton and Einstein who helped us to start to understand what holds the universe together. In a new book, The Beauty of Falling: A life in pursuit of gravity, she ties her personal adventures with her theoretical explorations of gravitational rainbows and the origins of dark matter, and details all the mysteries that still remain about this fundamental feature of reality.

For the Amazon entry about the book see here.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Atmospheric Shadow

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

Now here is an atmospheric phenomenon that may cause a double take. It did me. 
Perhaps you've seen this. I hadn't.

The photograph is from Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD). There is an explanation of the entire experience and some related links.