Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University on this 120th day of the year, April 30, 2021. Seventeen weeks and one day or 32.88% of the year are gone. The sunrises at 6:03 am and sets at 8:17 pm giving us 14h 14m 24s of sunshine. And today  is the last day of National Poetry Month.

It is National Raisin Day and Foodimentary has raisin-related facts, a photo of raisins and some general food history.

Today's Quotes. Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. – Carl Sandburg 

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.--Rita Dove


Today's poem is by Jonathan Greene.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Orange Day Overhead

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

Ed Hessler

In September 2020 occurred the largest wildfires the state of California has seen in recorded history.

In this New Yorker video (5m 25s) are recorded the reactions of Bay Area residents to the convergence of wildfire smoke and fog.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Latest Guidance on Masks from the CDC

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just released the following recommendations which apply to non-healthcare settings.

Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Participate in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States.
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if asymptomatic and feasible

For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Take precautions in indoor public settings like wearing a well-fitted mask
  • Wear masks that fit snuggly when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear well-fitted masks when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid indoor large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

The latest guidance may be read here

This update is dated April 27, 2021.

For the purposes of this guidance, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 ≥2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or ≥2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen).




Tuesday, April 27, 2021


Environmental & Science Education
Art and Environment 
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

The universe is made of stories, not atoms.--Muriel Rukeyser

In the beginning of their abstract to an astounding paper published (full paper behind a firewall) in Nature (11 December 2019), Maxime Aubert (Griffith University) and 13 other authors of various professional affiliations write, "Humans seem to have an adaptive predisposition for inventing, telling and consuming stories. Prehistoric cave art provides the most direct insight that we have into the earliest storytelling, in the form of narrative compositions or ‘scenes that feature clear figurative depictions of sets of figures in spatial proximity to each other, and from which one can infer actions taking place among the figures."

The authors close the abstract by telling us that in this research they "describe an elaborate rock art panel from the limestone cave of Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 (Sulawesi, Indonesia) that portrays several figures that appear to represent therianthropes hunting wild pigs and dwarf bovids.... This hunting scene is—to our knowledge—currently the oldest (~44000 years old) pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world."

Ewen Calloway wrote an accompanying essay about the significance of this paper and historical antecedents in Europe for the same issue of Nature. Under references, you can link to the complete abstract, learn more about the authors and make use of the Sections panel to the right to view more of the paper. It is where I found the link to the hunting scene above.

The New Yorker has a lovely, please-don't-miss-it-essay, on this remarkable painting--it is about storytelling--by their versatile staff writer Adam Gopnik in the January 6, 2020 issue ("Good Old Days" in the print issue). A few excerpts. 

--"The first storytelling picture!" is "a tale of the hunter and the hunted, of small and easily mocked pursuers trying to bring down a scary...beast."

--There are eight hunters and they are "the earliest known examples of mythical depiction, which runs forward to Egyptian wall paintings and, for that matter to modern animation. Theriantropes reflect the practice of giving to humans, the powers of animals, a shamanistic rite that seems tied to the origins of religion...."

--There are good reasons to believe that the paintings were made by women and Gopnik discusses the evidence. "Early man may have thrown spears, but early women made the pictures telling how."

--And I love this comment on the nature of science. "Significant scientific discoveries do two things at once: advance the narrow field of fact and extend the imaginative field of wonder."

--Gopnik references a debate between Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and their contemporaries at Marvel Cinematic Universe. Scorcese/Coppola argued that the people at Marvel degrade "cinema by pulling it away from the real world of ambiguity and the 'complexity' of people." They encapsulate their displeasure by referring to the Marvel work as "despicable." Gopnik calls attention to the old pictures and that they "seem to belong, whether we want it or not, more to the Marvel universe. ... A human with the strength of a bull! Another with the cunning of a crocodile!"

--Gopnik closes with this idea, "People, then and now, tell tales about the brave things they are about to do, or just did, or are thinking of doing, or thought they might do...if they were not the people they are but had the superpowers we all wish we had."

Monday, April 26, 2021


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

Ed Hessler

Here is a new ZeFrank video, one quite different from his regular productions. This one is about a biologist and conservationist, Dr. Merlin Tuttle.

ZeFrank introduces the film with these words: Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation (MTBC) is the most recent contribution by Merlin Tuttle to the world of bats. He has over 60 years of experience as a renowned bat expert, educator and wildlife photographer. Merlin founded MTBC to teach the world understanding and appreciation of the contributions bats make to human beings and the world we share

ZeFrank also includes many links to bats (scroll below the film), including a photogallery. 

I hope ZeFrank will continue with an occasional production on a scientist.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Antibiotic and Antimicrobial Resistance: Artwork by Students in Grades 3-5

Environmental & Science Education
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Back in November, Shraddha Chakradhar who writes Morning Rounds for STAT announced the New York State Department of Health’s “Superbug Superheroes Art Contest,” which was to help children across the state better understand antibiotic resistance. The winners — nine kids in grades 3-5 — were just announced, chosen based on how best their artwork featured “Andy Biotic,” an antibiotic superhero who needs to maintain his strength against the threat of superbugs. 

You may see the winning entries here. I was impressed with the student entries.

In addition to the drawings there is information about antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance, why this is happening, why we should care, how bad is the problem, can non-human animals spread it, what you can do about it, what the NYS Health Department is doing about it AND a video  (3m 13s) in which the NYS Commissioner of Health, Dr. Howard Zucker announces the winners.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Bird Flight As You've Never Seen It Before

Environmental & Science Education
Art and Environment

Winnie Lee writes that "Catalan photographer Xavi Bou's" fascination with bird flight "and the challenge of making their flight patterns visible" led him to combine "his passions for nature, art, and technology to create...images which he calls 'orntography,' from the Greek ornitho- ('bird') and graphe ('drawing'').

The images let us see the trails birds make in flight. The work--how he does it--must be painstaking and is described in Lee's story which includes many images he has created.The results are indeed a glory. 
To think, all this going on overhead and now we can see it.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler 

Good morning from CGEE, Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on April 23, the 113th day of the year (30.96% already or 9,763, 200 seconds).

There will be 13h 34m 43s of sunlight between sunrise at 6:13am and sunset at 8:08pm.

Foodimentary tells us about picnics on the occasion of National Picnic Day with some facts and food history. I like this quote from the Bard himself:“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.” (‘Romeo and Juliet’)."

Just Quoting. “The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” -Lady Bird Johnson

The Friday poem is by Kimberly Blaesar.


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day 2021

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

Google has a doodle for Earth Day 2021.

Here it is including an interview with the doodler.

Muon g - 2 Wobble

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

Ed Hessler 

Recent news includes headlines, not front and center but of sensational claims such as "'Strong' evidence for a new force of nature," "Tiny particle could upend the laws of physics." 

The electron's cousin, the muon is creating all the excitement and pronouncements of a new physics. Muon's are massive compared to the electron and unlike the electron unstable.

An experiment, the Muon g - 2 experiment, supports a finding first announced in 2001 that showed one of its properties is slightly larger than theory had predicted, making it wobble as it speeds around a magnetized ring. The work was conducted at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago..

However, unless you are a theoretician understanding this and what was found is not armchair reading. So when in doubt turn to a comic. Jorge Cham, aka PHD Comics illustrates and explains the excitement about this anomaly. He made this comic for the American Physical Society's journal Physics. The British journal Nature has an article about this finding which is a bit more demanding but delves deeper into the reported finding, too. If the data withstands scrutiny is will be important for it will change the so-called standard models of physics which to date "has passed all tests and has survived almost unchanged." 

And Natalie Wolchover, who writes with insight about the often strange goings on in the world of theoretical physics for Quanta has an even longer, deeper article with illustrations and charts that further enlighten readers. The title includes important words: "finds evidence for unknown particles." These resonate with me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Coronavirus Variants Explained

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

Ed Hessler

The global COVID-19 pandemic has spawned variants.

These are complicated, comprised of a collection of mutations and have the potential to change the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

 What then are variants and what could this mean for the future of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this video (5m 49s) from the scientific journal Nature variants are explained and their implications are discussed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth and Space Sciences, Solar system

Ed Hessler 

The Ingenuity helicopter flight was successful yesterday, adding yet another notch to this skein of achievements. What a marvelous bit of engineering, technology, computing and human ingenuity this flight into space and landing elsewhere has been from its beginning.

Here are two clips from the BBC World News. The first is of the flight itself (1m 41s); the second is the reaction on the ground to its successful flight (1m 13s).

And for the details with diagrams, still photographs, and videos is BBC Science Reporter Jonathan Amos's report which is not to be missed to fill in the gaps. Amos writes "Getting airborne on the Red Planet is not easy. The atmosphere is very thin, just 1% of the density here at Earth. This gives the blades on a rotorcraft very little to bite into to gain lift.

"There's help from the lower gravity at Mars, but still - it takes a lot of work to get up off the ground."

Monday, April 19, 2021

Tik Tok Vaccine Science Explainer

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Medicine, Physics

Ed Hessler

Here is a Tik Tok explainer on vaccine science. Vick Krishna takes on how the task of telling us how Pfzer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines work. It was featured on Goats and Soda and author Joe Palca writes that it is  "So simple. So straightforward. So well done." And in addition, Palca observes, "fun to watch."

NPR editor Suzetter Lohmeyer asked Krishna, a 32-year-old tech during the day and a videographer by night, about how he came up with the idea, how he made it, whether he is working on other COVID-19 ideas, and his future career plans.

Finally, to the video and interview.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Boat Wakes: Their Shape

Environmental & Science Education, STEM

Ed Hessler

Physics can tell us the reason boat wakes, no matter the speed of the boat or the surface of the seas, have the shape that they do.

Minute Physics (extended to 4m 15s) explains. 

It is complicated

Thanks Minute Physics!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

7th Inning Stretch

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler 

Professor emeritus Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago) has a feature on his site--Why Evolution is True or WEIT--titled "Readers' Wildlife Photos." The photos are splendid, the topics diverse--birds, mammals, travel, people, insects, spiders--and more than occasionally include black & white images. The shooters usually include comments about the images.

The feature for April 11 is simply wonderful and I don't want to let the opportunity for you to see these images pass by (Professor Coyne is prolific).  The images are devoted to avian stretching. Ah, the variety of poses--all in the interest of comfort.

With thanks to Professor Coyne and the photographer.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Hello and good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University April 16, the 106th day of the year, 29.04% of the year (2544 hours).

Sunrise is at 6:25 am and sunset is at 7:59 pm providing us with 13h 34m 08s of sunlight..

And Foodimentary notes that it is National Eggs Benedict Day with five food facts about different recipes, three yummy images and some food history.

Quote. It was devastatng. One of the most difficult moments of my life. (Arecibo ) was a place of unity for everyone who loves science on this island, and all of us who truly love Puerto Rico.--WAPA TV-Puerto Rico Meteorologist Ada Monzon on hearing Arecibo's Radio Telescope had just collapsed. She was just about to go on air. (The New Yorker, April 5, 2021) 

Today's poem is by Gregory Djanikian.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Palliative Care

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

Ed Hessler

There can be confusion about two medical approaches to caring for seriously ill patients with care for those who are dying. Physicians and patients/families of patients often don't quite have the details straight.

Palliative care according to R. Sean Morrison and Mireille Jacobson in a recent STAT First Opinion, is "a team of specially trained doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains who focus on improving quality of live and reducing the disease burden for seriously ill individuals and their families." Hospice, on the other hand, is "care for those who are dying, which focuses on comfort." The link describes hospice care in detail and you can see why there might be some confusion between it and palliative care.

Palliative care works, i.e., it has been found in several studies to have beneficial results, notably in cancer but also other studies. And it the authors note is an endorsed plan of action from the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. So why is it not used more frequently? The writers ask that we simply "follow the money." 

Morrison and Jacobson note two reasons which are greatly shorthanded below.  As usual take a look at the essay for details.

--To provide palliative care requires "an upfront investment by hospitals and health systems."

--Palliative care reduces "unnecessary hospital admissions or emergency department visits due to better symptom management, along with reduced spending due to better care coordination."

The result is clear. Physicians and health care systems are unlikely "to act against their own financial interests."

So what can be done?

--Medicare "needs to incentivize physicians and financially reward health care institutions for providing high-quality palliative care." In addition, reporting methods to Medicare must provide data to "capture reductions in symptom burden" to ensure that hospitals that meet these standards are paid for their services.

--Changes in the curriculum of  medical education need to be made, e.g., "adding questions about palliative care into medical student and physician board exams," and of course continuing education on palliative care for both the licensing of physicians "and hospital credentialing."

The authors note that in 2034, the United States will have more of its residents age 65 and over, a "group at highest risk for cancer and other illness--than under the age of 18." This age group will "develop one or more serious illnesses they will live with for many years." Palliative care is a proven treatment option "that can increase quality of life and longevity." Everyone must have access to it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Finalists: Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 Contest


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

Ed Hessler

Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY) is the world's leading bird photography competition. The Overall Winner of this annual competition takes home a cash award of 5000 pounds (~$6,900) and the title, Bird Photographer of the Year.

The photographers are from73 countries and the number of submissions was 22,000. The finalists were just announced and may be seen here. The overall and category winners will be announced in September 2021on the Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY) website. The finalists--and other images from the 2021 competition--will be included in a fine art book available on the BPOTY website

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

First Man in Space: 60 Years

Environmental & Science Education, STEM 

Ed Hessler

Sixty years ago CosmonautYuri Gagarin completed a single orbit of the Earth (April 12, 1961) becoming the first man in space. It was both "a huge achievement and propaganda coup"

A little girl and her Grandmother were planting potatoes in the field where he landed. The Soviet plan did not include a landing in the Vostok 1 capsule so at 20000 feet (6096 meters) he ejected and glided to the ground. Vostok means east.

The BBC recently interviewed the little girl who witnessed the event  may be seen here (2m 57s). Both she and her Grandmother were frightened at first. The film was made at the site which now includes an impressive monument marking the achievement.

The woman recalls that his "First words upon returning to Earth near where his capsule landed  The woman asked:  'Can it be that you have come from outer space?' to which Gagarin replied: 'As a matter of fact, I have!'"

Monday, April 12, 2021

Food Waste


Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Pollution, Children, Students

Ed Hessler 

There are increasing reminders reported on the problem of food waste and local solutions.

Project 17, a BBC World service series produced with the Open University, provide a perspective on the achievement of the United Nations's 17 Sustainable Development goals through the eyes of 17-year- old youngsters.

In this video (4m 02s), Shan finds out about possible solutions to the problem of Singapore's food waste (740,000 tonnes-~820,120 tons US--was wasted in 2019).

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Bald Eagle Numbers in the Lower 48: Great News

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Biodiversity 

Ed Hessler

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) numbers are up across the contiguous United States according to a new estimate reported by Gustave Axelson in All About Birds (March 24, 2021; updated March 26). 

The new number from the USFWS Bald Eagle Population Update report is 316,708, writes Axelson, "is more than quadruple the eagle population reported in the 2009 report. The rising number of Bald Eagles undoubtedly reflects the continuing conservation success story that stretches back to the banning of DDT in 1972."

And it also in some measure represents better survey data, "a major advance by the USFWS in using citizen-science powered supercomputing to generate better estimates for the eagle population."  However, Brian Milsap, the raptor coordinator for the USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Management noted in the press conference that "'the vast majority of this increase really is attributed to Bald Eagle population growth." (my emphasis). Axeslon's report has a great graphic illustrating where the eagles are found across large regions of the United States and a bar graph showing the number of nests with breeding pairs from the low in 1963 to the number in 2020.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has developed animations of relative species abundance to show movements throughout the year. Here you may watch how this changes throughout the year for the Bald Eagle.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Leo Trio

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

Ed Hessler

Around Spring, northern hemisphere spring that is, can be seen a famous trio of galaxies known as the Leo Triplet. They are all spiral galaxies but appear dissimilar because of the tilt of their galactic disks.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has a beautiful image of the "crowd pleasers" and some comments about them.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

From the Center for Global Environmental Education, Hamline University good morning on this 9th day of April, the 99th day of the year, 27.12% of which is now gone. Where did those 8,553,600 s go?

Today the sun rises at 6:38 am and sets at 7:50 pm, providing us 13 h 12 m 55 s of sunlight.

April 9 notes Chinese Almond Cookie Day which one Chinese declared "as Chinese as blueberry pie." Foodimentary has the facts, things to know and some food history for the 9th of April. 

Quote. States make war and wars make states, the sociologist Charles Tilly once argued. (Linda) Colley offers this corollary: wars make states make constitutions.--Jill LePore (The New Yorker, March 29, 2021)

Today's poems are from the Park Bugle, the community newspaper of St. Anthony Park / Falcon Heights / Lauderdale / Como Park. The poems--three of them--are found on p. 13 so prepare to scroll down.

The poems mark the Bugle's 11th annual contest. They were judged this year by Michael Kleber-Diggs who provides some thoughtful comments on each of the  poems. Kleber-Diggs is a poet and literary critic from Como Park.

Thursday, April 8, 2021


Environmental & Science Education, Health, STEM

Ed Hessler

National Public Radio's Terry Gross spoke with Daniel Lieberman, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology (Harvard) about exercise. You may listen (36-minutes) or read a summary here.

Lieberman "says says that the notion of 'getting exercise' — movement just for movement's sake — is a relatively new phenomenon in human history.

'Until recently, when energy was limited and people were physically active, doing physical activity that wasn't necessarily rewarding, just didn't happen.When I go to these [remote African tribal] villages, I'm the only person who gets up in the morning and goes for a run. And often they laugh at me. They think I'm just absolutely bizarre. ... Why would anybody do something like that?"

"Lieberman has spent a lot of time with indigenous hunter-gatherers in Africa and Latin America, cataloging how much time they spend walking, running, lifting, carrying and sitting. He writes about his findings, as well as the importance of exercise and the myths surrounding it in his new book, Exercised. The subtitle adds some information: "Why something we never evolved to do is healthy and rewarding". I almost always choose the Amazon site because it allows a peek inside. 

The interview includes highlights: on the demonizing of sitting as "the new smoking," on the importance of "interrupted sitting," on how chairs with backs have contributed to our back pain, on the idea that running is bad for your knees, on becoming frail with age, and on the stress around getting eight hours of sleep each night.

This interview was the work of many people, all of whom are acknowledged.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"The Science"

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

Ed Hessler

We'd all like certainty on whether it is safe for governments to "reopen" what has been closed--schools, restaurants, gymns, sporting events, government name it. However there is no certainty. And it has led to considerable tension and shouting and certainty depending which side people are on, adding more fuel to partisan politics.

One of the fallbacks used in thinking about this and in making such decisions is science, "the science"  is the phrase of choice.Another, of course, is to dismiss what science is known.

It is even more complicated now that more and more Americans have been vaccinated and will be as age limits are lowered semeingly almost weekly and eligibility for vaccine injections becomes wider. Some people who have been vaccinated appear to think that they are fully protected and that they are no longer able to get COVID-19 or transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others. I've heard a few of them appear to say either after the full round of two vaccinations +14 or the single round of one + 14 days: I'm off to the airport or driving to my relatives right now to see my grandkids.

Bloomberg's science writer Faye Flam, in another widely reprinted and perceptive column, titled "Policy choices about reopening? Wouldn't call 'em science" has something to say about this.

Almost at the outset, Flam quotes Peter Sandman, a risk consultant, on what "the science" tells us. He said to her "'I am simply not interested in an epidemiologist's opinion on whether schools should be reopened. I'm interested in an epicemiologist's opinion on how much more the virus will spread if schools are reopened. Whether schools should be reopened--that's not their field.'" 

Sandman's website is a treasure trove and leads with this box: Risk = Hazard + Outrage.

Ms. Flam writes, "It's fine to warn people that the crisis isn't over; we don't know whether the new, more transmissible variants will cause a new wave. But we're seeing a more dysfunctional relationship in which scientists suggest untenable rules and people get called selfish for failing to follow them. It could be driving people toward indifference, fatigue, distrust and suspicion that rules are being imposed with ulterior motives."

Flam doesn't deny at all that science can tell us a lot about the science of the virus, indeed more and more is learned it seems almost daily AND that it is important citizens are informed on risks following vaccination or as new variants appear but she writes "it's time (for public health officials) to stop  disguising their preferred goals and trade-offs as 'the science.'"

Government officials have to make the final call under decisions of uncertainly.

I read Flam's complete column on the opinion page of the March 22, 2021 Star Tribune but it has appeared other places, e.g., the  Richmond Times Dispatch.  

Please read it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Project 17: Another Look on Meeting the UN Sustainability Goals

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Literacy, Education, Society, Children

Ed Hessler

The following BBC video is part of Project 17, a BBC World Service series produced in partnership with the Open University, in which 17-year-olds look at progress on the UN's 17  goals.

Yolanda who is 17 attends school in a "rural area of East London, South Africa. Note that the Wiki entry is in need of citations). She's been campaigning for better standards of education in her country, starting with her own school. She says it lacks basic resources, such as electricity in classrooms and clean toilets."

So she "visited the Department of Education to ask what could be done about the toilets. The answer was short and terse: students should clean them (my bold).

"'Quality education'" is goal four of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, a set of targets announced in 2015 to transform lives around the world by 2030. The UN wants access to quality education for all by 2030.

This video is part of Project 17, a BBC World Service series produced in partnership with the Open University, in which 17-year-olds look at progress on the UN's 17 goals.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Alfred Russel Wallace: An Animated Film

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

Ed Hessler

It is well known that Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin arrived at the same theory of evolution independently. The question of priority was resolved when Thomas Hooker and Charles Lyell read the following before the Linnean Society of London, the world's oldest active society for natural history.

These gentleman, having, independently and unknown to one another, conceived the same very ingenious theory to account for the appearance and perpetuation and perpetuation of varieties and of specific forms on our planet, may both fairly claim the merit of being original thinkers in this important line of inquiry. This was followed by reading two brief papers by Darwin (1844 and 1857) and then Wallace's paper of 1858. Therefore, these two were co-proposers of  evolution by natural selection. 

So what happened to Wallace and why don't we refer to it as the Darwin-Wallace theory? In his book, Why Evolution is True, University of Chicago evolutionary biologist wrote "Essentially it was because of the impact of The Origin of Species," Darwin's now famous book published in 1859.*

To give you an idea of the regard in which Wallace was held at the time, this quote by Thomas Huxley who was known as Darwin's bulldog for both his vigorous defense and offense of Darwin's evidence-based theory, is powerful.**

Once in a generation, a Wallace may be found physically, mentally, and morally qualified to wander unscathed through the topical form magnificent collections as he wanders; and withal to think out sagaciously the conclusions suggested by his collections. (Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature, D. Appleton, New York)

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson, includes a chapter on Wallace and it reminded me of a short animated film about Wallace. In that theft, Edwin Rist, took several birds of paradise that Wallace had collected more than a century ago. Unfortunately, I could think of only one of the producers and then just her first name. I knew she had worked on NPR's Science Friday and that the production company was in Brooklyn. All my searches led nowhere because of the search terms but finally I found it. It is on both You Tube and also is a biological interactive (7m 45s) on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute website

The film is beautifully animated with paper puppets. It is narrated by two experts on the life of Wallace.

And the producers are Flora Lichtman and Sharon Shattuck; the multimedia production company is Sweet Fern Productions. 

I probably posted a reference to this video long ago but like re-reading a good book, it is worth a second viewing and posting.

* Also see this short article published in Nature (2008) for why "Alfred Russel Wallace's achievements" were "overshadowed by those of Charles Darwin" as well as what can be done to restore a proper balance.

**Kirk Wallace Johnson included this quote in his book, The Feather Thief.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Red Filaments in the Sky

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

Ed Hessler

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has a dazzling image of an atmospheric event few of us have ever seen or will. 

Red sprites are rare and even when they occur are rarely seen depending on where and when.

The image includes the usual accurate explanation about them.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

What Happens When a Bird Population Does Not Know Its Song?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Endangered Species, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

The Regent Honeyeaters (Anthochaera phyrgia) are critically endangered birds in Australia. One reason appears to be that they are not learning their songs which are used to announce territory and in their courting behavior. These birds learn their songs from others but populations of these birds are now so small that they are imitating the songs of songs of other species.

And confusion reigns. Who is no longer who.

The Guardian has a story by Graham Readfern, a video and a link to the study about this bird "once seen in flocks of hundreds across south-eastern Australia" but "now thought to be only a few hundreds of the songbirds left in the wild." Ecologist Ross Crates says that this is one of the first examples of the "loss of vocal culture." 

According to Readfern's reporting, honeyeaters are "known to imitate the songs of other birds, but" the reason for this was not known. It was once thought "that this mimicry might" be be a "male's show of skill that would be attractive to a female." Now researchers are not so sure of this. In the study recordings of birds in the wild and in captivity were analyzed. "The complexity of the songs appeared to be diminishing."

In a captive breeding program "juveniles have been played recordings of regent honeyeater calls from speakers inside their aviaries." Now "two wild-caught adults in neighbouring aviaries" have been added "to see if this can also help the young males to learn the right song before they're released into the wild."

Friday, April 2, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

From Hamline University's CGEE good morning on this first friday of April 2021, April 2nd. Time is starting to fly and now 25.21 percent of the year has passed or 2208 hours. Sunrise is at 6:50 am and sunset is at 7:42 pm. Day length is 12h 51m 15s. 

Today's quote. I would see people, but this is literally a trail that nobody else was thru-hiking. Soe comng back was tough. The world out here is lot more complicated. -- Emily Ford (Minneapolis Star Tribune March 28). Ford is both the 2nd person and first women to complete the 1200 mile Ice Age Trail in winter. The numbers tell part of her story: 69 days on trail, 15-20 miles per day on average, 3 "zero days" (rest days) and 1 sled dog on loan (Diggins). She loves to walk; always has.

It is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. Foodimentary has the usual details. Made me think about my favorite combo: simple, plain, classic nutty peanut butter; harder is the jelly but marmalade is high on my list.

And April is National Poetry Month.

Today's poem is by Hayden Caruth.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Cherry Blossom Time: 2021 Marks Japan's Earliest Date

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Climate Change

Ed Hessler

It's cherry blossom time in Japan and this year a record was set--the earliest peak since 812 CE (March 26). It is one day earlier than the previous peak on March 27 in 1409 CE.

In a report the BBC notes that  "Yasuyuki Aono, a researcher at Osaka Prefecture University, has tracked the data back to 812."


He wrote that "'I have searched and collected the phenological data for full flowering date of cherry tree (Prunus jamasakura) from many diaries and chronicles written by emperors, aristocrats, governors and monks at Kyoto in historical time.'"

Such studies are known as "Phenology, the study of seasons and recurring biological events."


The reporting concludes with a note on Hiroshima's season which "began on 11 March, eight days earlier than the previous record, which was set in 2004." 


The link includes photos and links to more information. a graph of peak blooms from 812 before present to the present.I learned that in the species name above, "sakura" means blossom.