Friday, December 31, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Welcome and good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on New Year's Eve day, the last day of 2021. First, some numbers that make up 100% of the year.

--31,536,000 seconds

--525,600 minutes

--8760 hours

--365 days

--52 weeks and 1 day

Sunrise is at 7:50 am and sunset is at 4:40 pm with 8h 50m 06s of sunlight. 45 seconds of daylight have been added since the winter solstice.

It is National Vinegar Day for which see Foodimentary and National Champagne Day for which see National Day.


Quote: I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.--Neil Gaimon

Today's poem is by Alfred Lord Tennyson

And because it is a poem you have probably read before or parts,  here is another by Adrienne Su.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Stay Warm!

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife, Biological Evolution

Edward Hessler

A familiar expression when leaving the company of someone is "Stay/Keep Warm!," a winter substitute for "take care." You may have wondered how our winter birds do it. The basics are Feathers + Food = Warmth. Birds have added some other energy-saving tricks.

A note from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology included this link to their 5-step survival guide birds use in winter.  The short essay was written by Charles  Eldermire who leads the Bird Cams project at the Lab. It includes several links and some pictures.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Pandemic Lessons from a Biomedical Reporter

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

Ed Hessler

Helen Branswell, a senior writer for STAT shares a list of things she has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

I follow my usual practice and list them since a summary seems inadequate although I have added a few, short comments from Branswell in three of them.

1. You gotta act fast.

2. Simplicity rules.

3, The calculus for kids is just different.

4. Even in the face of a deadly pandemic, politics override public health.

5. Most people have no clue how science works. And that's a problem. (The nature of science is iterative.)

6. Downplaying what lies ahead helps no one.

7. Winning the vaccine race really does matter. So does experience.

8. In a pandemic, it's pretty much every country for itself. ("I hate that this is true. But I fear that it is.")

9. Conducting clinical trials during a pandemic is doable, but it takes coordination.

10. American are willing to put up with a lot of death. ("This insistence on returning to life as normal came at an unfathomable cost....")


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Blind Mechanic + Blind Scientist

Environmental & Science Education
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

"I'm blind," says Emeka Abugu (Nigeria),"and the most reliable mechanic in my community." The cause was untreated measles when he was a kid.

In a short video (2 m 42 s), the BBC talks with him about how he became a mechanic. Mr. Abugu also is a vocal advocate for vaccination. A remarkable person. 

P. S. Mona Minkara is a computational chemist who happens to be blind. She did a post-doc at the University of Minnesota and now has an appointment at Northeastern University. She has a wonderful blog with biographies of blind scientists in a a variety of disciplines.  There is a comic strip on this blog (under about) that describes her childhood and her education. Of course it includes a large red "M." 

She is also remarkable.

Monday, December 27, 2021

James Webb Space Telescope!

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

I was really pleased when I heard the news on Christmas Day that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) --the mirror is more than 5 times larger than Hubble's--launch was a success. Check-off step one. Relief.

A day later, December 26, Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) posted a picture of JWST over Earth. It dazzles like a jewel and in the next month will be pushed to its gravitational necklace which dangles around the sun and us, Earth.  The explainer explains and concludes with an"If all goes well..." sentence reminding us that there are other things that must go well. 

How I hope for the success of these events and as I sit here, I think of the variety of talents that made this possible...the human propensity toward exploration and understanding. Humans can do mind-boggling feats and "if all goes well," we will learn much more about our deep origins and this will add to the pleasure of being human...of being able to know with a considerable degree of confidence.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Cloud Watching

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) has a cloud photograph that would lead many to exclaim, "I'd give anything to see this."

The image and explanation is found here.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

A Christmas Comet

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

Ed Hessler

From Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), an image of Comet Leonard which has become known as the Christmas Comet of 2021.

Explainer included--a tale of the tail--with this stunner of an image

Leonard is very handsome, indeed.

Glacial Blues

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Geology, Earth & Space Sciences, Earth Systems, Art & Environment, Nature

Ed Hessler

At first glance this crevasse is easily mistaken for a painting. 

The photograph was taken "while guiding hiker's on a rainy summer's day on Godwin Glacier in Chugach National Forest, Alaska.

This Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) was first published May 18, 2013 and then republished on December 18, 2021. 

Information about the crevasse and its blues is found here and includes links on the reflection and absorption of light related links and retreat of Alaska's Columbia Glacier.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Science

Ed Hessler

Greetings from the Center for Global Environmental Education, Hamline University, St. Paul, MN. It is December 24, 2021; the 358th day about to close with 98.16% of it gone or 51 weeks and a day. 

Sunrise is at 7:49 am and sunset is at 4:35 pm giving us 8h 46m 23s of sunlight. Winter Solstice, the astronomical marker of winter's beginning occurred on December 21 which means the s-l-o-w return of light--+12 seconds since so far.

It is National Eggnog Day according to Foodimentary and National Day. Foodimentary list 5 facts and has its usual food history. Today is the anniversary of the "Eggnog" riot at the U. S. military academy and the Chicago broccoli caper! National Day fills in many of the details about eggnog and includes a list of "celebrated (and not so celebrated" birth days.

Quote. The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.” — Gary Zukav

Today's poems, one for young children is by Christina Rossetti and the other is by Meng Jiao. You will have to scroll down a tad for the latter.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Academy of American Poets Announces Finalists of the National Poetry Contest for Students

Environmental & Science Education, Students, Art & Environment, Education

Ed Hessler

The Academy of American Poets has announced the thirteen finalists of the 2022 National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students.

There were 170 students who responded to the open call for submissions, and thirteen students from seven different states were named finalists. One of the finalists is from Minnesota. Congratulations!

The winning student will be announced in January 2022 and will receive $1,000 in cash and prizes. The runner-up will receive $250. The winning students will be selected by poet Nikki Grimes and illustrator Rafael Lopez

The announcement may be read here and includes the artwork. One of the things I most enjoyed in viewing them was the unique response by each student to the challenge set by the Academy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Four Powerful Graphics about COVID-19 in the United States

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

Ed Hesser

On December 13,  the US recorded 50 million COVID-19 cases. The US has exceeded more than 800,000 deaths from the pandemic. These astounding numbers were reported on the BBC on December 14. 

The report notes that "the last 100,000 deaths came in just the past 11 weeks, a quicker pace than (at any) other point aside from last winter's surge. ... It has been more than 650 days since the first American patient dying from COVID-19 was reported in Seattle, Washington (public health officials have since attributed earlier deaths to the virus). ... the U.S. currently ranks 20th in the world."

The article's feature is found in four powerful graphs: how this number of deaths was reached; reported deaths in selected countries; the main waves of COVID-19 deaths; and the weekly rates of deaths by vaccine status. There are discussions of the graphs, links and a video of the COVID culture war in Tennessee.

Dr. Keri Althoff, Johns Hopkins University spoke to the BBC about the barriers faced in the U. S. "'Trust in science has waned, trust in government has waned, vaccine hesitancy is a powerful force, misinformation is rampant."

"'We have to do more than just trying to educate; we have to try and understand. That takes conversation and trust-building.'"

And then there is the spectre of Omnicron. Who knows what its ultimate effect(s) will be?

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

"Moments With Nature"

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

Ed Hessler

As you know "Sunday Morning" (CBS) closes these segments with "moments of nature."

In 2019, actor Conor Knighton talked with some of the videographers "who bring the beauty and sounds of nature...each week." The video is 4m 41s long. Take a look if you want to see how the films are made.


Monday, December 20, 2021

Two Out of Three Rule: Dr. Wen Has an Update + How to Do Coronavirus Self-Tests

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

Leana S. Wen, M.D. a Washington Post opinion columnist provides an update on earlier comments on her " two out of three rule" (before vaccines were widely available). Two of these conditions must be met: outdoors, masking, or distancing. If outdoors and there is no distancing requires masking. If indoors, both masking and distancing are necessary.

Here are her new two out of three rules: indoor interactions--vaccination, masking and testing. For "holiday parties or a work conference with dozens of should opt for two out of three. If there's no food being served, require vaccination and masks, If you plan to have food and drink, or do not wish to have masks, replace masks with same-day rapid-testing."

Dr. Wen's position is "that vaccinations our path out of the pandemic. ... Workplaces that are not requiring vaccination should mandate testing and masking. If employees don't want to wear masks, there's a path out of it for them: get vaccinated, with regular testing as an additional level of reassurance so that people can freely associate as they did before the pandemic."

There is more but the column is accessible only to subscribers (free). Here is how to do that.

This is a very informative and useful report from CNN on coronavirus self-tests-- commonly known as home tests and over the counter tests. It includes information on purchasing, preparing and taking self-tests, next steps, an FDA "list of more than 40 FDA-authorized home tests, some of which have age limitations" (bold added) and a video with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


Sunday, December 19, 2021

Nano Art

Environmental & Science Education, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

The NanoArtography 2021 winners have been announced. 

They were chosen from 195 entries from 21 countries. Each of them is explained. To give you an idea of size. one mentions the image width: 5.3 mm (~ 0.2"). Several are two, three and four way ties so the competition was keen and this was acknowledged. A People's Choice is included, too.

I hope you will click on the images to see them in full size. 

They amazed and delighted me.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Case of A Large Hole in the Ground

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth Science, Earth Systems, Geology, Solar System, Nature of Science, History of Science.

Ed Hessler

Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) focuses on the "Belt Meteor Crater," Montana. This landform turned out to be something else and there is a nice explanation. 

In Blackfoot it is known as Pushkin which means "deep blood kettle." The use of this landform by Indians tells why. 

Check out the author's hiking blog, Big Sky Walker.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler 

Friday, December 17, 2021. 

Greetings from the Center for Global Environmental Education, Hamline University on day 351 of the year. Not much of this year remaining--96.16% is gone (8424 hours). Sunrise is at 7:45 am and sunset is at 4:32 pm. Between these bookends there are 8h 46m 37s of daylight.

Foodimentary calls our attention that this is National Maple Syrup day and provides facts, pictures and food history. National Day Calendar agrees and gives much more information on maple syrup from tree to table.

Quote. "“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. -- Aldo Leopold. Foreword, A Sand County Almanac. In a Draft Foreword, Leopold wrote "I do not imply that this philosophy of land was always clear to me. It is rather the end result of a life journey.” -- Companion to a Sand County Almanac.

Today's poem is by James Silas Rogers. It made me smile because when I was a kid, the root vegetable which it celebrates was not a welcome sight along with parsnips and turnips. Most often served mashed with potatoes. I like all of them now and I'm so glad Rogers chose to write about one of them. Here is the scoop on these three root vegetables.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Post Card From Mars

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

Ed Hessler

My CGEE colleague and friend Craig Smith called my attention to this image from "Mars Curiosity Rover, Mars Science Laboratory, NASA Science Mission Directorate."

It is an evocative picture post card from Mars and might have been inscribed, "Hi. Thinking of you. This is of one of the places where I work.  In Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne wrote "When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” He was right. Lots to do here so back to work. Love ya' ...  more later. P.S. A thanks to the artist who interpreted the photos.

"Just being, Curiosity."

h/t to Craig who said when I asked for permission and telling him that I'd acknowledge his find, "All the thanks should go to Curiosity," and I add to the team that has made it possible. Zounds!

Squaring The Circle

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astrophysics, Cosmology

Ed Hessler

The shape of this nebula published in Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) may surprise you. It did me. 

The accompanying explanation on how a circle became a square notes that no one is quite sure what produced this geometric shape. One hypothesis is explored as well as a possible future event.

In any event it is a glory of the great beyond and makes me pause to say thanks for the scientists, engineers and technologists who allow us to see such features of the cosmos.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

A Bird Song Interactive Quiz from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

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

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's Bird Academy has a bird song learning game for one and all, from young to the geezer crowd.

The video is 7m 09s--5 featured songs and the aim is to match the song with the correct sound visualization. In addition there is a link to the Bird Song Hero ultimate round which is more challenging.

It is fun and sometimes challenging to match the song to the squiggles of a sonogram/sound spectograph about which Donald Kroodsma writes that "in essence, (is)  a musical score made especially for birdsong." The birds are the composers; the technology does the recording.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Nature's Exit Interview of NIH's Dr. Francis Collins

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

Ed Hessler

Francis Collins in stepping down from leading the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after 12 years. Several of his achievements have been of the big and bold variety, e.g., leading the Human Genome Project, and the All of Us Project "which aims to study health data from one million people." Collins served three presidents and will remain at NIH as a researcher. The British science journal Nature spoke with him about his NIH careers.

In it he is asked about the achievement he most cherishes, projects in which he was disappointed, an ARPA-H initiative to accelerate science and how he would gauge its success in two years time, his ability to gain bipartisan support for the NIH, what is required of the next NIH director to succeed at this job, fetal-tissue research, the CRISPR-edited embryos, concerns about espionage, "gain of function research (some in Congress harp on this during testimony, especially with Dr. Fauci, claiming that he and others have been engaged in enhancing pandemic potential), the growing politization of science, the role of NIH in pushing back on misinformation against science. 

There are many quotes worth reproducing but two, both related, struck me. "We’re in a really bad place. If science happens to produce a result that a political perspective doesn’t like, then science has to be attacked." 

"Somewhere along the way, our political hyperpolarization began having a lot of really dangerous consequences, where in many instances we seem to have lost a sense of how to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion — or some Facebook post that’s, frankly, a lie. That’s truly dangerous. That’s another epidemic that is not going to go away even if we triumph over COVID-19. We need to figure out what happened here, and how to bring ourselves back to a place where our nation has a more stable future."

The Nature-Collins interview may be read here--please do. It contains links to relevant links. It is an important interview and as you read it keep in mind that Dr. Collins served three U. S. preisidents.. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

How the Pandemic May End: Interview Wih the Director of the CDC

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

Ed Hessler

ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, interviews the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the CDC's Emergency Operations Center about how the pandemic may end.

Dr. Walensky noted that "We've gotten pretty cavalier about 1,100 deaths per day. ... That's an extraordinary amount of deaths in a single day from this disease. We can't - I can't - be in a position where that is OK." 

In her reporting on this story, free lance journalist, Sony Salzman writes, "The more scientists have learned about the virus, the more they have moved away from (the) concept of herd immunity - the idea that the virus will one day be stopped in its tracks when enough people are immune.

"Instead, scientists agree that some mild breakthrough cases are still likely to happen, even among the vaccinated. In a world where almost everyone was vaccinated, COVID-19 cases would still happen."

So cases would still occur but it would be more like the seasonal flu. This means there would be hospitalizations and deaths, "but dramatically fewer than 1,100 deaths per day."

On November 30, the StarTribune's editorial was titled "Health care leaders must step up now."  This invited to vigorous counterpoints, one from Dr. Granrico Farrugia, president of the Mayo Clinic and one from the president of the Minnesota Medical Association, Dr. Randy Rice.

Farrugia noted that "everyone is on the front lines now and can help bring this to an end if we all step up in three key ways." By now you know those ways:  "mask and practice social distancing in appropriate settings, if we have symptoms, we must be considerate about the risk and get appropriate testing. "Crucially we all need to get vaccinated, including boosters, if eligible."

Rice called attention to a "difficult and uncomfortable truth...that health care--from nurses, doctors, therapists, custodial staff, to executives--have been giving all that we've got since this pandemic began."

He continues by saying "It is long past time for others to step up as well--every Minnesotan and every political, business and community leader. ... Our enemy is the virus, not each other. We have the tools (vaccines, boosters, masking, testing, etc) to emerge from this pandemic. If we use them." (emphasis mine)

I expect viral surprises ahead. There is much to be learned about the biology of COVID-19.  

Here is the video (5m 03s).


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Are Viruses Alive?

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

Ed Hessler

In my opinion, Carl Zimmer is in the top tier of science reporters and you've likely read a column (New York Times) or book by him. 

In this longer-than-usual video, Zimmer considers an interesting question: Are Viruses Alive?, one that may not be at the top of your list of things you'd like to know about. Introductory biology courses in school/college often spend some time on the question of what is life and one is left thinking the question is not so hard. Of course, everybody knows that viruses are.... Hold on a minute, maybe they are alive.

The video is 53m 19s long but Zimmer is interesting, knowledgeable, and the question can easily hook you. The lecture is also illustrated. 

This is an Ri video, i.e., The Royal Institution which makes "videos to make you think more deeply about science." Some of their videos are short and some are full length talks with the purpose "to challenge the way you look at the world."

The Royal Institution is well known for its annual series, the Christmas Lectures. The first one was given by Michael Faraday in 1825, and are now broadcast on the United Kingdom's "telly" channel every year.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Blue-Band Blood Moon

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Astronomy, Solar System, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler 

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) shows a feature of the moon during a lunar eclipse that I'd never heard of: a blue belly band. It is a real phenomenon, "but usually quite hard to see."

To make it visible requires some technology and, of course, the know-how of scientists. This process is explained. 

This belt, waistband, cummerbund makes this event even classier.  I wish it were visible to the naked eye. Ah, to see the moon red, white and blue.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning, it's Friday, December 10, 2021. 

Greetings from the Center for Global Environmental Education, Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN where sunrise is at 7:40 am and sunset is at 4:30 pm. There will be 8h 50m 45s of sunlight as winter begins to tighten its grip.

To put this another way, 92.15% of the year has passed on this 340th day of the year (48 weeks 4 days).

It is National Lager Day (Cheers!) and Foodimentary has some pictures, facts and food history, again stretching this segment of the report. More importantly, it is Human Rights Day and National Day has a good description and also includes National Lager Day with more details, plus a couple of other unofficial occasions to note.

Quote. "Now winter nights enlarge/ The number of their houres."--Thomas Campion, The Third Booke of Ayres. 

Today's poem is by Martin Espada.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Darwin's Childhood Garden

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

Ed Hessler

There is a new (November 2021) book about Darwin titled The Ghost in the Garden which explores his "relationship with his childhood garden...under the tutelage of his green-fingered mother and sisters."

In this short BBC video (1m 56s), the BBC's Midlands correspondent Sian Lloyd and the author of the new book, Jude Piesse, explore what remains of the garden.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Necklace Removal

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

Ed Hessler

An elk, aka wapiti, (Cervus canadensis) on the Colorado Front Range who wore a tire necklace for two years has finally been freed of it.

The removal presented many challenges. Locating him and keeping track of his whereabouts. Getting close enough to tranquilize him. Cutting the tire from his neck was not possible (steel belted) so this left removing the large antlers.

This BBC video (3m) is of a conversation between BBC's Maryam Moshiri and Scott Murdoch of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

A wonderful ending and now he is completely unencumbered.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Dillon's Furrow

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Society

Ed Hessler

The year/ the first land office in the territory opened, when there were still no roads/ other than wagon tracks, one Lyman Dillon,/ starting at Dubuque,/ drove a plow southwestward/ a hundred miles--the longest furrow/ ever, straight into the belly of the future, -- Amy Clampitt, excerpt from "The Quarry" in "The Kingfisher" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985)

In her first book of poetry, Amy Clampitt includes references, not at all common in books of poems. I recently read the poem The Quarry and upon reading these lines turned to the references where there was an entry for the poem. I'd never heard of this famous furrow.

Iowa's Tri-County Historical Society has an entry about it. The road was a result of legislation in 1839 for the construction of a federal military road. One requirement was that "the road (was) to travel through as many county seats as possible."

The route was surveyed and Dillon of Cascade, Iowa was hired "to plow a furrow along the surveyed routed between Dubuque and Iowa City which would guide the pioneer settlers until the road could be completed and eventually guide the contractors in the road construction."

Dillon began plowing in 1839. This required "a team of 10 oxen" to pull the sod-breaking plow. He was "paid $3 a mile to plow the 86 mile furrow" with provisions being hauled "in a covered wagon drawn by two horses."

I found the essay fascinating, having never thought about the need for roads and how this was fulfilled. The essay includes a map, more about Dillon's life and a photograph of his burial marker and its location in Cascade's cemetery.

Another entry on Dillon's Furrow includes an article about Douglas Monk who did a walkabout along the trail which provides more details. Monk eventually wrote a book about Dillon and the trail.

Monday, December 6, 2021

An Illustrated History of Vaccines in Schools

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

Ed Hessler 

NPR's Goats and Soda gives us a comic written by Anya Kamenetz and art/illustrations by LA Johnson on a historical timeline of vaccines in schools. "The first time kids had to get a vaccine to go to school was more than 200 years ago" and I bet you know the disease. Smallpx. "The reason for vaccination" requirements are straightforward. "High rates of vaccination dramatically cut deaths and have all but eliminated some diseases."

However, there have "anti-vaccinations" and in this country there have always been  with "the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the constituionality of school mandates nearly a century ago, and that has pretty much been upheld to this day." At the same time "there's also a strong tradition of granting exemptions to vaccine requirements based on religious and philosophical beliefs" times of "lax enforcement and an unwillingness to punish students by keeping them out of school."

The comic provides a great history.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Identifying Blinks In The Sky

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

Ed Hessler

Astronomy Picture of the Day (AWAD) has posted a chart, done with a touch of humor here and there, on identifying lights in the sky. 

AWAD notes that it is a "mostly-accurate assessment" and invite "polite corrections. Don't miss clicking on the "Still unsure?" link as well as the source for the AWAD post: The League of Lost Causes.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

BirdSpotter Photo Contest

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

Ed Hessler

Wild Birds Unlimited and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology are sponsoring a BirdSpotter Photo Contest.

Ten photos will be chosen and posted on the BirdSpotter Voting page, where you can vote for your favorite entries. Voting ends February 7, 2022.

The prizes include gift certificates for the top 3 based on voting results and each of the ten selected photographers will be able to choose one free Bird Academy online course.

Here are the details.

K-12 Fish Art Contest

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

Ed Hessler

"The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine, in partnership with Wildlife Forever, will host the 2022 Minnesota Fish Art Contest. Open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, this free art competition aims to introduce Minnesota youth to the wonders of fish, the joy of fishing, and the importance of aquatic conservation."

The submission date is March 31, 2022 and must include an entry form, an original illustration of a fish of their choice, and a one-page informational essay (for grades 4-12).   

Full details here.



Friday, December 3, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on December 3, 2021.

After 337 days, 485,280 minutes, 92.33% of 2021 has passed. Today the sun rises at 7:33 am and it slips below the western horizon at 4:31 pm, giving us 8h 58m 35s of sunlight. 

Quote. "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." -- Henry Miller 

This is the month of the start of two winter seasons, December 1 or meteorological winter and the winter solstice which occurs this year on December 21. It marks the 24-hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year. And here the difference between the two is explained. The website 538 conducted a "very unscientific poll when each season starts" and you may want to take a look to see where people stood. The sample was of readers who decided to answer (2,742). Nature of course pays no attention and mark the seasons in many ways.

I celebrate both these winter beginnings with Vivaldi's Four Seasons:Winter and Scala's lovely interpretation of The Mama and the Poppa's California Dreaming.

For Foodimentary, it is National Peppermint Latte Day with a mouthwatering image, 5 facts and some food history.

Today's poem is by Kenneth Rexroth.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Microbes Within

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

In this thegatesnotes video (2m 30s), Bill Gates (he of Microsoft fame)  and Ed Yong (Atlantic writer) talk about microbes. Below the video is access to an Atlantic article by Yong on those pesky "germs," with a link Gates' impession of the book.

Yong is the author of  I Contain Multitudes, about the microbes within and on us.

Both the book and video are "old" by today's standards--the book was a best seller in 2016, but these strike me as worth a look, listen and read.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

SARS-CoV-2 in Whie Tailed Deer

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Wildlife, Nature

Ed Hessler

You've seen or heard the news that SARS-CoV-2 is widespread in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the United States. This is a throat-grabber that could again change the COVID-19 game profoundly because it is not known what it means in the long-term. 

Are deer incubators, a safe haven for the virus to learn new "tricks," create new variants and will these spill back to humans? The latter effect has already "documented...with minks on farms in the Netherlands and Poland." So far, there have been no reports of the virus making deer sick. And, of course, the Wuhan, China wet market origin of the pandemic still seems the most likely hypothesis.

NPR's Goats and Soda reporter Michaeleen Doucleff reports on what is known  and not known (including how deer were infected), concerns and what needs to happen.

Veterinary virologist Suresh Kuchipudi told Doucleff that"'If we want to continue to be proactive about emerging variants--and not be surprised by one that suddenly pops up -- there's and urgent need to continue to monitor SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife especially in animals that could serve as a reservoir, like the deer."

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

College Entrance Examinations: South Korea

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Children, Students, Education, Culture

Ed Hessler

College entrance exams in South Korea, known as the Suneung (College Scholastic Ability Test, CSAT) are serious matters. The standardized exams are grueling (also difficult) and long: 8 hours of back-to-back examinations divided into 5 sections. As you will see students do not just walk in and take them. They prepare for them which is an intense and grueling process.

The reason is that "The stakes are really high, with students feeling the pressure to perform well to secure university placements, jobs and even future relationships."  

Examination day is December 18 and "brings the whole country to a stop each year. Shops and banks delay their openings, construction sites take breaks and planes are grounded. Police area on standby for test-takers in need of help, transporting students to exam centers on patrol vehicles and motorcycles," as reported in The Korean Herald (November 16, 2021). This piece is thorough and includes criticism of the exams.

In this BBC video (4m 54s), Hosu Lee documents the journey of three Korean students to examination day.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Deer Management

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

--Writing about nature protection, environmental lawyer Holly Doremus once wrote. "(We assume) that nature can be allowed to function without reserves, while humans can be allowed to function ithout concern for nature outside them."--from Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, November 15, 2021 

Staten Island, New York is home to a large and very "happy," resident population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). The deer are thriving--food aplenty, no predators, no hunting. In the Wiki entry on this New York City borough, the white-tailed deer population "increased from a population of 24 in 2008 to 2,000 in 2017." 

Staten Island has become contested territory, now one of the many "'deer wars,' vitriolic disagreements among hunters, environmentalists, animal-rights activists, and suburbanites over how to manage deer populations."

A project aims to sterilize 98% if the male deer on the island and it is the subject of an article in The New Yorker by Brooke Jarvis.  (est. 20-minute plus read)

This article digs into the issue and includes some history of humans and those animals that do well with us (called synanthropes), Staten Island's past, the deer's history in the United States, attitudes toward deer, the question of numbers, e.g., how many is the right number which is the wrong question, deer behavioral patterns on the island, the fluidity of boundaries (imagined) between "our"and "their" world, the utter complexity of the conflicts, what we mean by 'nature', and the sterilization campaign.

Animals that thrive with us "sometimes lead us to odd and inconsistent places" and  to often contradictory personal and social decisions. So the question is what to do with them when they do too well.

Brooke Jarvis talked with Allen Rutberg of Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who is a veteran of a similar deer management issue/problem. What he said seems to be a maxim among wildlife managers.  who observed what seems a maxim among wildlife managers. which has been written and said many times. It had to do with the role of biology in the decisions managers face and try to resolve. The biology and ecology of the situation is a mighty small part. "'The  rest is sorting out why people believe what they do."

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Where Do Viral Variants Come From?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

COVID-19 consists of many variants--alpha, beta, gamma and delta are quite familiar terms to most of us.  We've just learned of a new one "variant of concern," dubbed Omicron after the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet.  It is the 7th variant of concern.

Little is known about it. The most concerning is the presence of 38 mutations, all strategically located on the spikes which are used by the virus to attach itself to cells. Some of these mutations are quite well known for their ability to slip right through the first line of defense.

 Omnicron is a quick spreader in unvaccinated populations. So the big question is just how effective current vaccines are against it. Virus expert, Dr. Peter Hotez, provided much more informed information about Omnicron than I could.  Reporting from  KHOU 11, Houston by Stephanie Whitfield includes a short embedded video featuring Dr. Hotez. Stay tuned. Things are bound to change but that there will be a surge in COVID-19 cases this winter seems a safe bet.

The purpose of this post is to answer a question on where these variants come from in the first place. In a mere 1m 56s video, the BBC's health correspondent Laura Foster and virologist, Dr. Cindy Duke explain why and what we can do to stop it happening. 

Many of you may know quite a bit about the origin of viral variants so you can skip it. On the other hand because it is short you can take a look and judge the content of this primer.

So wear masks where and when you should and get fully vaccinated, if you haven't taken this vital first step.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A New Indigo Dye

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Sustainable Development, Water, Pollution, Health

Ed Hessler 

One of the most common dyes, Indigo, "is usually make from petroleum-derived aniline in a high temperature process that involves formaldehyde and cyanide. Globally, around 20% of industrial water pollution comes from fabric dyeing,"writes James Mitchell Crow in a short essay in the British journal Nature series "Where I Work," about Tammy Hsu who intends to produce fabric dyes with much lower environmental (and human health) impacts (added) . The process makes use of microbial fermentation.

Hsu holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (indigo synthesis through bioengineering  Escherichia coli bacteria to do what happens indigo plants do). Dr. Hsu is now the chief scientific officer and co-founder with Michelle Zhu, of Huee in Berkeley, CA.

The profile includes a picture of Hsu in front of Huee's fermentation station and a brief description of this work. "We (Hsu and Zhu) have demonstrated," Crow notes, "that we can make a high-quality product, and are now working with dye mills to see what quality of we can obtain. Depending on the launch schedule of the denim brands, we hope to see products dyed with our indigo on the market within a year."

Why indigo? Hsu had a short answer: "because it is iconic."

Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler 

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on the 330th day of November 26, 2021. We have now spent 475,200 minutes or 90.41% of the year.

Sunrise is at 7:25 am and sunset is at 4:34 pm giving us 9h 09m 42s of sunlight.

Foodimentary celebrates National Cake Day with pictures, cake facts and historic food events.

Quote. Regarding the signing of the COP 26 declaration in Glasgow. "Signing the declaration is the easy part."--U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guzterres (in Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, November 15, 2021.

Today's poem is by Denusha Lamaris.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Wildflowers on Mount Ranier

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

--I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. —John Burroughs

--There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. --- Rachel Carson

CBS Sunday Morning takes us on a tour of wildflowers on Mount Rainier (Washington). The only sounds are what was there when the video (2m 48s) was shot.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

NASA's Dart Launch A Success

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Solar System, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Grrreaat news! NASA's Dart mission left the planet yesterday, November 23, in roaring style heading for a crash landing to a space object named Dimorphos. The purpose, a nudge, is"to see how much its speed and path can be altered."

This 35s BBC video shows the launch.

Measuring Masking's Protection

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

The journal Nature in a daily news update refers readers to a medRxiv preprint (Medical Archives) which has not yet been peer reviewed. It asks where/when to face masks as a COVID-19 preventative matter most.

 "Rxivs" have proliferated in the last few years. They provide results to others and also used for feedback on the studies. It is a great practice, one I appreciate. 

The researchers analyzed hundreds of COVID-19 cases and found, not surprisingly, but how good it is to have evidence, masks matter most during long encounters and indoors. It is not a small study--more than a thousand people who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. And the circumstances are quite specific. Each infected participant was matched with at least one control person with matching factors, e.g., age and sex, but who tested negative during the same time period. Indoors matters as do encounters that lasted for more than three hours.

"Participants exposed to someone with COVID-19 had lower odds of infection if masks were worn at the encounter than if they weren't." (emphasis mine)

The news item is brief but has more details, including criticisms, e.g., size of benefits, "precise figures on masking's benefits, and the challenge of matching infected people with controls. However, one of the critics, biostatistcian Grant Brown, notes that "even so, (the study is) a reasonable approach to a hard problem."

h/t Nature Briefing November 4, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Test of Asteroid Defence

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Solar System, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Biodiversity, Global Climate Change, Global Warming.

Ed Hessler

On November 23, 2021 is scheduled the launch of the spacecraft known as Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). It is headed to two asteroids, Dimrophos and Didymus, one of which Dimorphus orbits Didymos. The former is 160 meters wide; the other is about 800 meters wide.

The intention is for the spacecraft to hit Dimorphos to see whether it can change its trajectory. It may be a technology that one day earthlings will have to employ to deflect a much larger asteroid from smashing into Earth and creating ecological and socioeconomic havoc.

An essay by Alexandra Witze in the scientific journal Nature tells the story and has a great diagram of this planned encounter and a photograph of the Dart spacecraft with a small group of the research team sitting nearby making close observations while it was being tested. An interesting feature is that "a tiny probe funded by the Italian Space Agency will fly by to photograph the aftermath . Named LICIACube, it will travel aboard DART.  If all goes as planned, "its cameras should spot the dust cloud, if the impact kicks one up, and possibly the resulting crater."

Should we be worried? Witze reports that “The odds of something large enough to be a problem, that we would have to deflect, are pretty slim in our lifetimes,” says Andy Rivkin, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU-APL) in Laurel, Maryland, which built the spacecraft for NASA. “But sometimes your number comes up when you don’t expect it, and it’s good to have an insurance policy.”

The title of the essay includes the phrase "in first planetary-defence test."  It hit me between the eyes, as is said. I don't want to be picky--well, maybe I do--but one test we have been taking and showing little success at coming close to receiving a minimal passing grade is the protection of the planet, its people and all the other living species that are aboard, has been global climate change.  I think it is fair to say global climate crisis. The most recent effort is the just concluded COP26 and it will be a while before we can measure any success from it.

The space launch is the easy test; saving our home is here is the really hard one. COP26 was the 26th time world leaders have attended a conference of the parties to deal with this threat, almost three decades of earth time.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Hedgehog Highway

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

Ed Hessler

In the BBC video (2m 13s) below is shown a project to encourage "neighbours to drill holes in their garden fences to create a "hedgehog highway" it is hoped will save the creatures from extinction.

"Jennifer Manning-Ohren, from Keyworth in Nottinghamshire, believes the concrete-based fencing used on new housing estates acts as a barrier to" hedgehogs.

Manning-Ohren said "We need everyone to do something. I've responded to the call to action to do it locally.'"


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Cats as Hunters

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

Ed Hessler 

I was sure that I'd written Zefrank's name down. If I did I have never found it and I couldn't remember his name so I was unable to take a look at his latest releases. He is a careful fact checker so when he does a video on the natural world you can be quite sure it is accurate. He also credits his sources.

This one is not the most recent but these are not time-stamped. It is "Cats' Killer Senses." I hope to post more of ZeFrank now that I have finally found the link and this time did write it down.

And in the event you forgot who he is or never knew, here is the Wiki entry.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Wildlife Images That Will Surpise and Delight

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Nature 

Ed Hessler

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards for 2021 have been announced. There you will find a gallery of winners and finalists, both stills and video.

For each winner the photographer is listed, the title the portrait was given and a comment by the photographer. There is also a group is of "highly commended winners."

These are all remarkable images--stills and videos.

Friday, November 19, 2021

World Toilet Day

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

Ed Hessler

A while back I announced that Marc Silver (NPR Goats and Soda) was seeking photographs of quirky toilet signs. 

November 19, today, is World Toilet Day, and as Marc Silver promised, after again calling our attention to the seriousness of the event and reminding us of the world's need for improved sanitation - consider this number:"By 2020, the rate" of "access to safely managed sanitation was 54%.) - has some great, sometimes quirky and funny toilet signs from around the world. 

So called children's literature includes several titles on the "poo taboo" resulting from our physiology. Here is one popular title.

And here, "without further loo ado, here are signs sent in by our loo-yal, er...loyal readers." 

By the way, it is tempting to look only at the signs but the essay is very good and informs us of the great need (and why) for improved sanitation facilities for all. There are links, too.

Thanks, Mr. Silver.

Friday Poem

From the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN, good morning. It is the 323rd day of the year (88.49%) or 46 weeks and 1 day after the start of 2021.

Today there will be 9h 23m 36s of sunlight and the sunrises at 7:16 am and sets at 4:39 pm. The dark hours are enclosing our lives.

It is National Macchiato Day and Foodimentary shows us the art of a caffe latte, has five facts about them and some food history.  One is quite grisly! On the other hand, National Today informs us that November 19 is National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day

Aliyah Armstrong, reporter for the San Antonio Current, tells us why we have so many national food holidays. Foodimentary "lists approximately 500 food days" while National Today includes "314 food celebrations." Aha, some clarity. Foodimentary listed 19 November as National Peanut Butter Day in 2012 and 2019. So P&J to go with the latte to go, please.

Quote: Saving the planet isn't a partisan issue.--Barack Obama, COP 26.

Today's poem is by Lisel Mueller.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Transporter Problem

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

Ed Hessler

One of the technlogies used by the crew of Star Trek that contributed to the success of the series, was the "transporter" (teleporter).  You may remember the catchphrase "Beam me up Scotty."  Here is a dramatic fragment (1m 16s) in the nick of time. Dr. McCoy expresses his usual doubts and fears about the entire technology. He served as the chief transporter-phobe in the series.

So are such devices possible and if so how might they work? Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder considers the transporter problem in this video (10m 49s). One of the questions is whether Captain Kirk dies when he, or anyone, goes through the process?

Hossenfelder points out that "philosophers by the way are evenly divided between the possible answers to the question. In a survey, about a third voted for “death” another third for “survival” and yet another third for “other”. What do you think? And did this video change your mind?


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Fahrenheit v. Celsius and the US Citizen

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Climate Change, Sustainability, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems

Ed Hessler

I like and welcome the following advice, a plea in the name of more effective communication by Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a past president (2013) of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

Shepherd thinks we speak a "'temperature language' that the American public does not understand. It is not a term that is a part of our everyday thinking for most Americans." Indeed, he notes that the metric system is one that "'Americans generally loathe."

Dr. Shepherd is a scientist "who publishes in the scientific literature where the standard expectation is to use the metric system and the Celsius or even Kelvin scales. Guess what? The American public is not reading the scientific literature or attending our conferences. The purpose of effective science communication is to translate the scholarly information in a manner that the public can consume" (my emphasis).

Dr. Shepherd's essay is found in Forbes which includes one photograph that dramatically shows the power as well as illustrates the confusion the two temperature systems pose for general U. S. readers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


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

Ed Hessler

The BBC has a short clip (1m 28s), the culmination of Welsh photographer Gareth Mon Jones's five-year wait to capture "pictures of waves glowing with bioluminescence." The video was taken at Penmon Point beach North Wales.

Jones said he was "left 'euphoric.'" 

Who wouldn't be?

Monday, November 15, 2021

On Vaccination Mandates.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

Dr. Scott Gottlieb served as the 23rd commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He discussed the following question with Dr. Leana Wen of the Washington Post. "Is the short-term benefit from the mandate worth the potential for long-term harm to public health?" Dr. Wen put it this way: "Is the juice worth the squeeze?"

There isn't a clear answer and Wen noted that workplace mandates work, citing the 96 percent vaccination achievements of Tyson Foods, the 97 percent by United Airlines, and the fact that "some businesses appreciate the federal government's action because it gives them cover to implement vaccine requirements."

However, there is always the other hand. In this case it is the sense of government overreach which could "jeopardize childhood immunizations." Here is the teeter-totter. On one side is "the potential for opposition"; on the other side "the added value of increasing vaccinations." There is no clear answer.

There is a simple fact. The train has already left the station and "backing down now is not going to stop the controversy which has been with us from the beginning--masking, social distancing, community events, etc. Of course, Wen wishes "that Americans would have decided to get vaccines on their own and that mandates weren't necessary. ... But that's not our reality." 

But we should continue to push vaccinations in softer ways and Wen strongly agrees "with Gottlieb that we need to focus on preventing further erosion of  trust in public health."

Dr. Wen publishes a free public health newsletter on the Washington Post. The article referred to above may be found here (November 10, 2021), likely behind a paywall.  You can at least read about her background and credentials! To subscribe see here.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Cloud Appreciation

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

Ed Hessler

Perhaps you know about The Cloud Appreciation Society (CAS). Maybe you are already a member.

The CAS has chock-full-of-clouds website with a gallery, a link to the Facebook page Monday broadcast of Cloud-a-Day, news, clouds in video, art, music, poetry, forums/cloudspotter groups, a shop where among the products is an app to help you identify the main cloud types. and membership information.

In addition there is a Society manifesto which includes CAS beliefs which closes,  "And so we say to all who'll listen: Look up, marvel at their ephemeral beauty, and always remember to live life with your heads in the clouds."

But also mind the gaps, curbs and other hazards associated with walking! (my addition)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Leaving the Office for Lunch

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

Ed Hessler 

Here is another answer to the question: "What you doin' for lunch?"

Dave Newman is a amateur wildlife photograph who captures many of his stunning images during his lunch break.

After a short trip "from his office in the centre of Steaford, Lincolnshire to the local river," Newman captures its wildlife on camera."His obsession with photography started when he found himself at a loose end during his breaks, and wanted to do something more than just walking around town." He admits that sometimes he wishes "that things would just sit still and they don't." Here is Cogglesford Mill, "on the 'crystal-clear River Stea," one of his shooting venues.

Newman has been shooting photographs for only three years and makes some suggestions on how to start." This is a great piece of advice: "The more you do the more you learn." The last image in this remarkable gallery shows one of the upgrades to his photography kit." For a moment I thought I was looking a ceramic he had found on one of his River Stea rambles!

Newman has fans worldwide and these images show why.