Friday, November 29, 2019

Thursday, November 28, 2019

"I'm thankful for ..."

Image result for children thanksgiving

Environmental & Science Education
Early Childhood
Edward Hessler

Dictionary definitions for the word thankful show little variation., for example defines thankful as feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press published a column "I'm thankful for ...: First-graders share their gratitude attitudes for Thanksgiving" by Liv Martin on November 17, 2019. Martin shared a sample of the hundreds of submissions , noting that among them were statements that showed a "whole lot of love for nature."  Here are a few on nature. Following this I include a few on science, school and one because...well because. And I hope I've preserved them as written.

Natural World

--"I am thankful for Minnesota because we have loons."--Kelsey

--"I am thankful for trees because they help us breathe."--Will

--"I am thankful for the earth."--Charlotte

--"I'm thankful for wind because I can breathe."--Leighton

--"I am thankful for my frog that died. I love my frog and her name is Crystal. I found her in my backyard."--Crystal

--"I am thankful for flowers and bees. It is fun in it."--Dawson  

--"I am thankful for Nature because I love flowers and lady bugs and rabbits."--Ikhra 

--"I am thankful for my dog because when I am sad she licks me."--Frank

--"I am thankful for the animals because they are sweet."--Rowan

--"I am thankful for playing in snow. It is fun I also like cats and dogs."--AnNista

Science and School

--"I'm thankful for scientists because they help us discover things."--Oliver

--"I am thacfol for trees because they giv us ocsein and papre and they bret wut we brethe."--Mateo

--"I'm thankful for my five senses because they help me do things like help me explore the world."-- Audrey

--"I am thankful for my teacher because he always helps us learn."--Maralyn

--"I am Thankful for doctors and school! I am thankful for hard work."--Easton

--"I am thanful for scool because they teach you math."--Julian 

--"I am thankful for teachers because they help me learn. My mom is a teacher too."--Giana 

--"I am thankful that ther is a school cus I can lrn."--Cora


--"I'm thankful for macaroni and cheese."--Gavin 

And here are the selections published in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press by Liv Martin 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

What a Magazine Cover!

Image result for dandelionEnvironmental & Science Education
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Orion Magazine, a journal devoted to "people and nature," features a common dandelion (Taraxacum spp.) as its summer cover illustration. The ordinary made extraordinary.

The illustration glows. What is it?  An x-ray perhaps? Or a photographic negative? An old photographic technique or one modified? Or...? It is, it turns out, a painting done in 14-karat gold on black background by artist Margot Glass.

Orion's Nicholas Triolo interviews her and we learn more about what is behind the cover which is included at the top of the interview. Glass talks about going slow, finding "accidental beauty," accessibility and inclusion for all to the natural world, and on finding the preciousness in something others might miss. I loved this quote: "The dandelion drawings are painstaking and slow, and I sometimes find myself holding my breath when putting lines down almost as if I'm not trying to blow the seeds off the flower head!"

Triolo includes a link to Glass's website which I reproduce here where you can see more of her work.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Climate Models: Interview with a Climate Modeler

Image result for climate model
Environmental & Science Education
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

On a recent trip to England, theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder stopped by to talk with Professor Timothy Palmer, a climate modeler, about an article she had read in the New York Times titled "How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong." She went to check on her own understanding as well as to learn more about models and their divergence.

Dr. Hossenfelder published the interview on her blog, BackReaction. It is about 35 minutes long. Last I checked there were 56 responses.  She titled her post "Did Scientists Get Climate Change Wrong?"  The first comment out of the chute reads "If a video has a question mark in the title, then the answer is always 'no'". Hossenfelder responded with "My previous video was titled 'How can we test a Theory of Everything?' and the answer was not 'no'".

For me this was an informative interview about modeling, modeling needs/difficulties, especially the need for regional models (and how difficult this will be) when it comes to policy.  Palmer notes that the climate models have been remarkably accurate in predicting the rise in global temperature. I was also struck by the size of this problem and its very long reach into the future, due to lag times. These models are based on what physicists call first principles or which we sometimes refer to the laws of nature, another way of saying this is how nature works. 

What a massive problem we've created and now must "solve."

In talking about models and modeling difficulties, Palmer uses the term parameterization several times. He places it in enough context that while it is not fully understandable unless you are a modeler you can attain a gut sense of its meanings. Consider cloud processes. They are too complex to understand perfectly or too small scale, so simplified or imperfect formulas must be used to represent them. He notes that there is not a physics textbook/handbook to which you can refer and find the relevant formulas.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

An Historical Publishing Event

Image result for on the origin of species

Environmental & Science Education
Biological Evolution
History of Science
Edward Hessler

On This Day in History was published a book that changed many things, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (John Murray, London).

It sold out immediately.

To celebrate it is this poem, entitled Darwin by the late Wisconsin poet, Lorine Niedecker. It includes these lines almost at the end: "The details/ to the working of chance."

And here is the book on-line.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Map of Science Pulbications by Nations

Image result for stack of journals

Environmental & Science Education
History of Science
Edward Hessler

This map is scaled by the number of publications per country. A box at the top allows you to pick the years 1997, 2007, and 2017 for comparisons.

I think you can guess the country that most changed this map from 1997 to 2017.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

An Estimate of Earth's Total Carbon

Image result for carbon cycle
Environmental & Science Education
Earth Science
Earth Systems
Edward Hessler

In the National Research Council's, A Framework for K-12 Science Education, it is recommended that K-12 science education be organized around three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts that unify the study of science and engineering, and core ideas in the four standard disciplinary areas (physical, life and earth sciences; and engineering (applications of science). 

The focus here is on just one part of one of the crosscutting concepts: energy and matter: flows, cycles, and conservation--the carbon cycle which you have seen in textbooks. Such diagrams are used to describe the way a part of the world works. They simplify and organize a complex system. 

The movements of carbon are well understood but until recently the amount of carbon found above the Earth's surface (ocean, land, and atmosphere) and the Earth's subsurface (crust, mantle and core) has not been well understood. 

A large 10-year project, the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), recently released its findings documenting the numbers on the amount of carbon found in the various compartments represented in a diagram of the carbon cycle, just one cycle that humans have been very active in destabilizing. The study included 504 scientists, 39 countries, 102 projects, and resulted in 372 publications.

In the press release from DCO announcing the findings, Marie Edmonds of the University of Cambridge, UK says , “Carbon, the basis of all life and the energy source vital to humanity, moves through this planet from its mantle to the atmosphere.  To secure a sustainable future, it is of utmost importance that we understand Earth’s entire carbon cycle.

“Key to unraveling the planet’s natural carbon cycle is quantifying how much carbon there is and where, how much moves—the flux—and how quickly, from Deep Earth reservoirs to the surface and back again.” 
Image result for carbon pollution

The press release includes six of the main findings, the best current estimates, carbon catastrophes, and some comments. Here are three of the main findings:
  • Just two-one thousandths* of 1% (0.0002) of Earth's total carbon—about 43,500 gigatonnes (Gt)—is above surface in the oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere. The rest is subsurface, including the crust, mantle and core—an estimated 1.85 billion Gt in all. (This means that more than 99 percent is underground.)
  • CO2 out-gassed to the atmosphere and oceans today from volcanoes and other magmatically active regions is estimated at 280 to 360 million tonnes (0.28 to 0.36 Gt) per year, including that released into the oceans from mid-ocean ridges
  • Humanity’s annual carbon emissions through the burning of fossil fuels and forests, etc., are 40 to 100 times greater than all volcanic emissions
These numbers are staggeringly large. The press release includes this assist to coming to grips with them. A single gigaton (Gt) equal 1 billion metric tonnes, greater than the weight of water in 400,000 Olympic-sized pools--enough pools to cover 85 percent of Chicago (234 square miles or ~606 square kilometers).

This comment by Sami Mikhail, University of St. Andrews, UK provides a perspective on the significance of this study but please read the other comments.

"Earth is unique among the planets in our solar system in that it has liquid water at its surface, fosters life, and has active plate tectonics. Identifying all linkages between these phenomena serve as important steps in humanities enduring quest to understand the origins of Earth-like habitability. One absolute certainly, however, is that carbon plays a governing role. For example, Earth's clement environment is related to atmospheric chemistry, which is warm enough to stabilize liquid water at its surface but cold enough to permit plate tectonics, and it is an incontrovertible fact that the carbon content of our atmosphere and oceans are directly linked with Earth’s climate.”

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Lost and Found

Image result for silver back chevrotain

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

In a news report for Nature, Bianca Nogrady writes about the first scientific evidence in nearly 30 years that Vietnam's silver-back chevrotain is not yet extinct. "The animal was first described in 1910 from four specimens, but since then only one verifiable record exists, from the early 1990s.

The discovery was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on 11 November by "Andrw Tilker (lead author) at Global Wildlife Conservation, a non-governmental organization in Austin, Texas" who reported "that they obtained a total of 280 photographs of the creature during two separate periods between late 2017 and mid-2018."

While looking like deer, chevrotains are not in the deer family. They are rabbit-sized ungulates (hoofed animals) and have fangs and four toes.

Here is a short film (4m 26s) which shows one captured on a camera trap. The film includes information on other "missing" animals which are included in Global Wildlife Conservation's Lost Animal Initiative.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Humpback Whales Bubble Net Feeding

Image result for whale bubble net

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

An amazing film (~3 m) of humpback whales bubble net feeding. In the video, Lars Bejdar director of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Mammal Research Program (MMRP), notes that it shows how whales "are manipulating their prey and preparing the prey for capture."

The video includes clips from aerial drone images and clips taken from the point-of-view of the whale (camera attached).

A minute by minute description if found below the access to the video..

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Species Named After Greta Thunberg

Image result for thunberg beetleEnvironmental & Science Education
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has had a beetle species named to honor her. Nelloptodes gretae is a widely distributed member of the Ptillidae family (commonly known as featherwing beetles), a family that contains the smallest of all beetles.

In the press release Josh Davis writes:

Nelloptodes gretae is pale yellow and gold, and measures just 0.79 millimetres. With no eyes or wings, it is distinguishable by a small pit found between where the eyes should go.
'These beetles are so very small that my wife has described them as being like animated full stops,' says Michael. 'But actually many are a whole lot smaller than a full stop.
'I'd also like to stress that I've not named this species after Greta because it is small - it's just that this is the group that I work on.'
In fact, Michael has named several species of Ptiliidae after prominent people, including one for Sir David Attenborough, meaning that N. gretae is certainly in prestigious company.
As Greta herself famously said, 'Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do.
'But I've learned you are never too small to make a difference.'

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Covers of the Journal Nature: Then to Now

Image result for nature journal

Environmental & Science Education
History of Science
Edward Hessler

It has been 150 years since the first issue of the British science journal, Nature, was published.

In this video (ca 6-minutes), Kelly Krause, Creative Director of Nature takes us on a guided tour of the archives to see some of the front covers from Nature and learn how the design of the magazine reflected the era in which it was made. One of the covers is incredibly awkward--Krause refers to it as "photoshop malfeasance."

Type faces, glue, tape, figures, black & white, color, cut-outs, color gradients, Desk Top, Digital era  are some of the techniques used in developing the covers.  The150th year has been made into an interactive video which shows the network and relationships of all published papers. A few of the most significant papers have an interactive feature.There is a link if you are interested.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Poem

Image result for journalistEnvironmental & Science Education
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

I'd never read today's poem until a few days ago. Why has it taken me so long?

Neil Steinberg who writes for the Chicago Sun-Times had a column about the staff of the Northwestern student newspaper apology for reporting, of all things, the news. Steinberg (Class of '82) concluded his column by writing,

As Abe Peck, my revered magazine writing professor at NU once taught me long ago, quoting the last line of a great Marge Piercy poem, “You have to like it better than being loved.”
That doesn’t change. Thanks for listening. Go Cats!
 About Marge Piercy.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cancer Resarch

Image result for cancer cellsEnvironmental & Science Education
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

Physician-scientist Azra Raza is the director of the MDS Center at Columbia University. MDS or myelodeplastic syndromes, consists of a group of cancers that result from bone marrow failures. Her speciality is acute myeloid leukemia (AML),

Dr. Raza has a new book, "The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last," in which she argues for a paradigm shift in cancer research which she describes as "chasing after the last cancer cells in end-stage patients whose prognoses are the worst. We need instead to commit to anticipating, finding and destroying the first cancer cells."

Raza posted an essay adapted from the book on ThreeQuarksDaily (3QD), a blog she co-founded and moderates. It was originally published in The Wall Street Journal
Raza uses her specialty as an example of why we need to change our focus. "AML accounts for a third of all leukemia cases, Currently, the average age of diagnosis is 68; roughly 11,000 individuals die annually from the disease. The five-year survival rate for diagnosed adults is 24%, and a bone-marrow transplant increases the odds to 50% at best. These figures have hardly budged since the 1970s."

Of course, she notes, there have been improvements in cancer outcomes but these are mainly due to reduction in smoking and screening. Some of these have led in "the hunt for single mutations in other cancers, which has evolved into a hugely popular medical effort known as 'precision oncology'."

Raza writes that "all of us in the biomedical  sciences need to descend from our high horse and humbly admit where we have been wrong. We have sought to model cancer in petri dishes and mice, seeking out single drugs for simple genetic mutations. But cancer  is far too complex a problem to be solved with such reductionism. We have not made much progress in the past 50 years and won't advance much more in another 50 if we insist on the same-old same-old."

Raza describes some promising leads in detecting "'biomarkers' of cancerous cells, blood tests ("liquid biopsy") and imaging and wearable devices (e.g., "smart toilets" and a "smart bra").

"Cancer research," concludes Dr. Raza," has been promising hope and delivering disappointments for a half-century. Instead of letting cancer grow into its end-stage monstrosity, let us assemble our resources to pre-empt that battle and strike instead at cancer's root: the first cells."

Dr. Raza interviewed 26 leading cancer investigators and is posting them each Monday on ThreeQuarksDaily. This series is known as the Cancer Questions Project (CQP) where previous interviews may be browsed.. Raza asked the same 5 questions of each researcher:

1. We were treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with 7+3 (7 days of the drug cytosine arabinoside and 3 days of daunomycin) in 1977. We are still doing the same in 2019. What is the best way forward to change it by 2028?
2. There are 3.5 million papers on cancer, 135,000 in 2017 alone. There is a staggering disconnect between great scientific insights and translation to improved therapy. What are we doing wrong?
3. The fact that children respond to the same treatment better than adults seems to suggest that the cancer biology is different and also that the host is different. Since most cancers increase with age, even having good therapy may not matter as the host is decrepit. Solution?
Image result for cancer treatment
4. You have great knowledge and experience in the field. If you were given limitless resources to plan a cure for cancer, what will you do?
5. Offering patients with advanced stage non-curable cancer, palliative but toxic treatments is a service or disservice in the current therapeutic landscape?

Here is the first interview in the series.  I've listened to many of them and recommend them. They are short (~ 12 minutes =/- although a few are longer), endlessly interesting and the responses thoughtful. All agree that cancer is a complex disease and that its basic biology is elusive.

As I've listened I've been interested without being at all systematic about it, on differences between scientists and clinicians in how they think about cancer and research, what early means, cancer as a myriad of diseases, their thoughts on palliative care, their willingness to mention that they don't know or are puzzled by some aspect of their work, their agreement/disagreement with Raza, and whether this is a promising lead forward.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cooling Pattern Trend in the Upper Midwest

Image result for polar vortexEnvironmental & Science Education
Earth Science
Earth Systems
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

For the past few years the upper midwest, including Minnesota, has been colder than average. In a recent Updraft entry, MPR's chief meteorologist notes that "Minnesota rides the eastern edge of the coldest place on earth relative to the 1981-2010 average. It shows up as a big blue blob across North America."

All of us know that the past five years have been record setting in terms of heat and yet here we are in 2019 shivering so early in the season. So why...what are some of the possible reasons for what is beginning to look like a persistently cool pattern?  Huttner says that he is "not sure we have a clear answer...yet."

However, Huttner observes that there is a strong hint "in ocean temperatures in the North Pacific. The so-called 'blob' is a huge area of unusually warm ocean water in the North Pacific. It emerged in 2014 and has resurfaced again this year."

In addition, there are profound effects of this pattern in other places. Huttner cites Ian Livingston of the Capital Weather Gang who provides some examples: the persistent and intense California drought, blocked weather systems across western North America, hottest year in Seattle (2015), and as the blob sags south, the polar vortex weather of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

One of the takeaways is the V word--variation. Huttner closes by writing that "the big picture with climate change is that even as the globe as a whole gets measurably warmer, there are still regional variations. The last few years seem to suggest that one of those colder regions has set up across the middle of North America."

Huttner's essay is lavishly illustrated with helpful graphs, maps, statewide temperature trends for 2019, the blob in 2014 and so far in 2019, and a typical La Nina weather pattern. So why the latter? The blob mimics this pattern.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Mississippi River Preview

Image may contain: textEnvironmental & Science Education
Water & Watersheds
Mississippi River
Edward Hessler

You are invited to a showing of The Mighty Mississippi TPT Broadcast Preview Collection on December 12 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. 

This event also marks the occasion of the 30th year of the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE).  In addition to the preview there will be presentations by the program's stellar on-camera hosts, an optional studio tour, plus great appetizers and a cash bar. The event is free.

You can find the full details here as well as the link to RSVP.