Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Life Stages

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

In Garrison Keillor's Post to the Host Comments (week of 08.08.21), a reader reported being told by his doctor when he greeted his doctor with "You're looking good." The doctor respnded, “There’s four stages of life: youth, middle age, old age, and you’re looking good.”

The following week (08.15.21) a reader noted that this was "A good line but … in 1960, a neighbor told me there were five stages: youth, middle age, old age, dotage, and anecdotage."

Scientists have added another way of thinking about human stages of life, one based on our metabolism. The research was reported in the journal Science (13 August 2021) by Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Herman Pontzer et. al.  (There are more than 80 co-authors.) The stages are:

Stage One: Infancy to ~ age1. During this stage we burn calories at a tremendous rate, i.e., "pound-for-pound, a one-year-old burns calories 50% faster than an adult."

Stage Two: Age 1 to ~ age 20. Metabolism slows some 3% a year.

Stage Three. Age 20 to ~  age 60, metabolism is steady.

Stage Four. After age 60. Perhaps I should add that, for some, this is the "dreaded" stage four when metabolism declines by 0.7% a year." During this period it is easier to add pounds than shed them.

The findings were the same for men and women. Obviously, individuals vary. It is a story of cells slowing down as we age.

There is a story about the findings by Robin A. Smith in Duke Research with a link to the paper in Science (behind a pay wall). Smith writes “There are lots of physiological changes that come with growing up and getting older,” said study co-author Herman Pontzer, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. “Think puberty, menopause, other phases of life. What's weird is that the timing of our ‘metabolic life stages’ doesn't seem to match those typical milestones.”

"Pontzer and an international team of scientists analyzed the average calories burned by more than 6,600 people ranging from one week old to age 95 as they went about their daily lives in 29 countries worldwide."

The Duke Research link to the original study will only allow you to read the abstract and to learn more about the authors and their affiliations, unless you are a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Pontzer is the author of a popular book, Burn, on how we burn calories, lose weight and stay healthy. Smith wrote a story about this book for Duke Research which includes and interview with Pontzer and on his research counting calories with the Hadza in Tanzania.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Our Ultimate Fate

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

Ed Hessler

There is an especially interesting entry on Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for July 12, 2021.

It is about some big questions: What is going to happen to the sun (and to us) and, of course, when?

It reminds me of a favorite "Grook."


I'd like to know 
what this whole show 
is about 
before it's out.
--Piet Hein 
Scientists who study this matter are learning more and more about the final curtain as you will read in the accompanying entry. 

The 27th object on Charles Messier's list, M27 or the Dumbbell Nebula, a planetary nebula. That name is misleading and has nothing to do with planets. There is a short explanation of what this M27 reveals about our future. Not to worry, though. The recipe for this even includes time, about 6 billion years from now, but this is our fate.  

In addition, the image is beautiful.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Solar System Ball Drop

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

Ed Hessler

On which body in the solar system would a ball drop faster -- Jupiter, Earth, Uranus?

This animation shows a ball dropping from one kilometer high to the surface of 12 of them, side-by-side comparisons. The animation assumes no atmospheric resistance.

The explanation provides the details.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

DIY Classroom Air Purifier And How One Can Be Bullt Inexpensively

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Schooling, Health

Ed Hessler 

Indoor air quality in schools is not a new concern and way too many classrooms have windows that do not open even though they may have several windows. The return of students to classrooms with the delta variant variant surge is making many people very nervous about ari quality, with reason.

The traditional fix of improving air quality is expensive and many schools/school districts cannot afford the cost. And it takes time, the action of school boards, may involve referendums, contracting and installation.To the rescue during the COVID-19 pandemic, one classroom at a time, is the Corsi-Rosenthal box It can be made at home.

That box is the subject of an NPR report by Gabrielle Emanuel on how to make this air purifier. The box according to citizen scientist Don Blair, "looks like a junky box that has four sides made out of these standard air filters. And the top of the box is a 20-inch box fan." Blair, continues Emanuel "has been pulling together resources on a website and making step-by-step instructions to help parents and teachers build this box.

"The idea is simple: The fan sucks air through the filters, effectively cleaning o of particles the virus that might be floating along on. Experts say filters with a so-called MERV 13 rating or better are ideal."

The project, once materials have been gathered, take 10 - 20 minutes. Blair noted that "if you do goof up then, no problems, it'll take you 30 minutes."

Richard Corsi, UCal, Davis put the idea on Twitter, reports Emanuel, and "Jim Rosenthal, the owner of Tex-Air Filters, built the first box. Corsi and Rosenthal agreed to share credit and hyphenated the box's name."

Emanuel's essay includes a 3-minute listen plus the step-by-step instructions and relevant links. I may have missed it but here is information about MERV ratings, including a chart showing applications by the number of the rating.

In addition here is a video which shows a fist-time builder constructing the Corsi-Rosenthal Box.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

It is August 27, 2021, the 229th day of the year (65.48% consisting of 5736 hours. Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, Saint Paul.

Today's sunlight adds up to 13h 29m 00s with sunrise at 6:29am and sunset at 7:58pm.

Quote. Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is National Burger day and Foodimentary includes some details about burgers and food history. Foodimentary takes an expansionary view of food history as you will see. Here is another way to celebrate this day.

Today's poem is by Cynthia Huntington. Worth reading are her comments on the disease she writes about and knows personally.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A Peatland Study of Carbon

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Warming, Global Climate Change, Nature 

Ed Hessler

The US Forest Service has a short research report on a peatland study done in northern Minnesota.

From the report:

--The research was done on a 20-acre (8.09 ha) bog in the Marcell Experimental Forest

--Stephen Sebestyen, a research hydrologist and one of the collaborator's on the study said that "what this (study) turns out to be is, the world's largest climate change experiment."

There are five key management considerations.

  • Peatlands make up 3 percent of the Earth's landmass yet store a third of global soil carbon because of the cool, wet, and acidic conditions.
  • Research from SPRUCE, the first experiment to use whole ecosystem manipulation to study the effects of climate change on peatlands, reveals that warmed bogs flip from carbon sinks to sources, releasing carbon at 5 to nearly 20 times the rate of historical accumulation. (SPRUCE is the acronynm tor the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments)

  • The warmest bog plots experienced the greatest carbon losses, with peat elevation decreasing by as much as 3.9 inches.
  • Warming caused a dramatic shift in bog plant communities, with a near total loss of Sphagnum moss, a crucial keystone species for peatlands.
  • The results from SPRUCE are being integrated into Earth Systems Models to help scientists better assess future climate scenarios and mitigation and adaptation strategies.

You may read the full Rooted in Research brief here. In addition, you can download a PDF.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Another New Fabric

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

A new kind of material has been developed which includes two properties. The material is adjustable and reversible.  It is one of a growing number of smart fabrics made possible by 3D printing. It will remind you of chain mail.  Apply pressure and the links are jammed together with the fabric becoming stiff and solid. Release pressure and the links become limp.

One possible use is for reusable casts.

Learn more in this 3m 43s Nature video which includes a link to the full paper

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Crossing A Line

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biological Evolution, History of Science, Nature of Science, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler 

Perhaps you've heard of the Wallace Line, "a hypothetical boundary separating the biogeographical regions of Asia and Australia." The co-developer of the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, had noticed striking differences between species found in Australia and Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia. This is readily seen when considering the differences between the two regions. "South and east of the line marsupials and monotremes are found, unlike the placental mammals found north and west of it."  

In a teaching unit for grades 5 - 8, the National Geographic has a good map of the line. For information about the Weber line see the Wiki entry on Max Carl Wilhelm Weber.

The Wallace Line is mentioned in a fascinating essay by Rebecca Mead (The New Yorker July 5, 2021) primarily about Heather Dalton, an art historian who now lives in Melbourne, Australia. When she was a graduate student, while thumbing through an art book, Dalton noticed a feature in a painting that caught her eye. It was in the Renaissance painting, "Madonna della Vittoria," by Andrea Mantegna, completed in 1496. It is a large painting of more than 2.74 m (9')  in length and your eye is directed downward but near the top is "white bird with a black beak...and an impressive greenish-yellow crest." Her time in Australia led her to identify it as a "sulfur - crested cockatoo," which she expresses more colorfully.

Cocakatoos are not migratory and are restricted to the south and east of Wallace line. The Wiki entry includes a photograph of the yellow-crested cockatoo. Dalton wondered "'How did a bird from Australasia end up in a fifteen - century Italian painting?"' This led to a publication in 2014 arguing that "the bird's presence...illuminated the sophistication of ancient trade routes between Australasia and the rest of the world." It turns out that this is not the only painting that "hints of at least indirect contact with Australasia. Around 1561, Flemish painter Joris Hoefnagel "shows a furry gray creature seated on a gilded throne, gnawing on a branch." Dalton thinks it is probably a tree kangaroo.  The painting is titled "A  Sloth."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Aristotle remarked on the ability of parrots (from Indian trade routes) to mimic and they began showing up in European art later. Aristotle, reports Mead, noted that "they were 'even more outrageous after drinking wine.Painters and others did not explore the implications of the cockatoo's "geographical origin," indeed most didn't think much about the bird at all or why it was there.

In 1988, on the occasion of a bicentenary "of the establishment of a British penal colony in Australia, Dalton wrote an article "about the country's vigorous trade in beche-de-mer, or sea cucumber."  It is related to starfish and "was harvested off the northern coast of Australia and then sold in Chinese markets." She returned to the subject later noting that "The fishermen, who had gathered sea cucumbers in shallow waters had formed one end of a significant mercantile link between coastal Australia and Asia, but they had been largely overlook in the narrative of Australia's national founding," on favoring '"the digger, the pastoralist, and the drover.'"

Dalton told Mead that she "'was very interested in the idea that everything is about trade and economics, and the idea that we make discoveries for some national reason is something that you claim later.'"

Dalton has not found the cockatoo in any other of Mantegna's paintings or of contemporaries or can she show that it is only a representation of another image. The painter did own a large birdcage but there is no evidence of the acquisition of a cockatoo. Dalton considers the possibilities of trade and Mead provocatively discusses the prospects.

Mead draws attention to research by Finnish zoologist Pekka Niemela who was given access to a "rare manuscript in the collection of the Vatican Library in which he found the same cockatoo or a close relative.The illustrations not only reveal the "original coloring" but suggest it was a female (reddish flecks in the eye's iris). This attention to detail amazed me.

A collaboration between Dalton and Niemala led to a publication tracking down the provenance of Frederick II's cockatoo sent to him by the "'Sultan of Babylon' -- the ruler of Egypt, Al - Malike al - Kamil. Frederick II was the Holy Roman Emperor, 1241 to 1244. The route ends in Cairo from China via Australasia. The evidence is very strong since it includes a paper trail. By the way the two leaders exchanged many gifts, shows "of poer and prestige.

Mead's essay may be read here. Please give yourself a treat and do just that. It is a wonderful story, a tale of scientific sleuthing, evidence and hypotheses.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Monthly Photo Gallery From The Journal Nature

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Nature's photo team has selected the month's sharpest science shots. 

You are invited to take a leisurely stroll through the gallery which includes the image and an explanation of what is at hand.

We start with "pink pollution" with "peculiar" galaxies tacked up somewhere on the exhibition wall.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Merger Of A Black Hole And A Neutron Star

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology, Astrophysics

Ed Hessler

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for July 14 leads with a question. "What happens when a black hole destroys a neutron star?"

The entry notes that "analyses indicate that just such an event created gravitational wave event GW200115, detected in 2020 January by LIGO and Virgo observatories." APOD features a computer simulation visualization if this unusual event. There is a brief and useful explanation of the terms and of the event.

The video is only 30-seconds long but get this, the video "lasts about 1000 times longer than the real merger event." 


Saturday, August 21, 2021

To Boost or Not

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

Ed Hessler 

You have probably seen Dr. Leana Wen on television (CNN medical analyst) or read her columns for The Washington Post, and especially when she served as Baltimore's Health Commissioner, "the nation's oldest continuously operating health department in the U.S."

Dr. Wen now writes a column for The Washington Post - "The Checkup With Dr. Wen." In the inaugural issue of the column she writes about one of the dominate medical headlines: booster vaccinations. The recommendation has been one of change. At first, booster vaccinations only for the moderately or severely immunocompromised among us but within a week or so, another announcement from federal health officials announced their preparation for booster shots for all of us, "eight months after their initial vaccination."

Wen writes that three recently released CDC studies have found signs of "waning effectiveness ... a third dose could increase antibody levels by at least fivefold." An Israeli study found that a third dose "restores robust immune protection, including against the delta variant."

As Dr. Wen notes - a point that cannot be made strongly enough "there aren't clear-cut, one-size-fits-all answers" (her emphasis). It is her hope that "federal health officials will allow people to make their own decisions - in consultation with their doctors." A nuanced approach is needed, she says and describes three scenarios: "a healthy, fully vaccinated person, "someone with several underlying medical conditions or who lives at home with unvaccinated children," and "an elderly individual  with chronic (diseases who) frequently see...extended family (members), who are not as careful as you in following safety precautions."

The CORONA-19 virus will continue to surprise us as will the medical recommendations based on the best evidence. We are also implicated. Whether we are vaccinated or not and our social practices - masking when in crowded places, attendance at large events, travel. 

Here is her column with details where you may also sign up for the Coronvirus Updates newsletter (3 times weekly) and her newsletter.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

It is August 20, 2021. Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education, St. Paul, MN. This is the 232nd day of the year (63.56%), Years do not have an endless supply of minutes and our supply is dwindling having spent 334,080 of them. Sunrise is at 6:20am and sunset is at 8:10pm which provides 13h 49m 28s of sunlight.

It is National Bacon Lover's Day and Foodimentary may add to your lore about bacon and food history.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which has special relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Quote:"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." - Dr. Seuss (The Lorax) The original animated TV special  from 1972  may be seen here (25m 13s).

Today's poem is by Camille T. Dungy, who is a professor of English at Colorado State University. The title of the poem comes from ecological science. 

In an interview, Dungy defined the term, trophic cascade, that is the title of the poem as "a term from ecology. There is a continuance and connection from the trophy creature, often a large predator at the top of the food chain, for a simplified way of thinking about that term, and all the creatures who come in a cascading manner off of that creature." (reported by Heather Green in Poetry Daily). 

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has a video (19m 28s) on the ecological concept in the event you'd like a refresher or to learn more. Long but worth it. And beautiful, too.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Wherever We Go We Litter

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

Ed Hessler 

CBS Sunday Morning opened with a story (6m 17s) by correspondent David Pogue on "how companies are working to create ways to clean up space before disaster happens. The amount of debris in low-Earth orbit" is on a steady increase, "putting satellites and the International Space Station in danger of colliding" with bits and pieces of stuff that we essentially treat as litter(aka space debris).. Even the tiniest bits pose hazards.

Some photographs of damage are featured in this story.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Young Children & Going Back to School: A New DEY Video

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Early Childhood, Children, Education 

Ed Hessler

There is a new video from Defending the Early Years (DEY), "Young children & COVID: Audrey Duck & Dr. Susan Linn Talk About Going Back to School."

It can be used for conversations with young children and those who care for them about the return to classrooms in the age of the COVID pandemic. 

The video is 7m 30s long. In addition, there are Guidelines for Parents and Teachers with suggestions for continuing the conversation after viewing the video.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


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

Ed Hessler

Spend 1m 43s with bison and their calves in Yellowstone National Park courtesy of CBS's Sunday Morning.

Nature, free of commentary and music except for whispers of wind and the slow and steading chewing of grasses. 

Home on the range.

The videographer is Brad Markel.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Is Mathematics Real?

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

Ed Hessler

The late Grant Wiggins in his book "Assessing Student Performance: Exploring the Purpose and Limits of Testing" (Jossey-Bass) included an example of a challenge he proposed when he was a consultant to the Connecticut performance assessment project in maths and science education. 

However, before you read on you may want a primer on performance assessment. Wiggins's example is below.

"Two mathematicians had a debate," One claimed "that the postulates of geometry are like the rules of games: a system of rules and a mental model for thinking about space, but no 'real.'" The other proposed "that geometry is more like the features of the world and the textbook therefore more like a roadmap... to what space is 'really' like."  One of them claims "that geometry was invented by mathematicians,"  while the other claims that "geometry" was discovered," a real feature of the world. "Who do you think was more correct and why?" The task he presented was to write a magazine article for students, one that provided "examples most supportive of both sides, interviews with audience members on their different reactions, and reason why a reader...should care about the debate."

Wiggins was asking students to explore geometry, including its limits "or" the reasons behind moving away from thinking of geometry as 'real' to think of it as axiomatic" (evident without proof or argument).

In a recent video with an attached transcript (8m 58s), theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder discusses the reality of mathematics, a topic she has explored with imaginary numbers.  She begins by stating, "There’s a lot of mathematics in physics, as you have undoubtedly noticed. But what’s the difference between the math that we use to describe nature and nature itself? Is there any difference? Or could it be that they’re just the same thing, that everything *is math?"

Sweep the comments that follow. This invited a considerable number of responses. Forget the fact you may not be in the same paygrade (I'm not) as some of the responders; scroll on and stop when something catches your eye. Some of them are helpful to the discussion. As usual, Hossenfelder provides us something to chew on.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Pluto's Demise

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

Ed Hessler 

The BBC's Witness History series has a story about Dr. Mike Brown. aka "the man who 'killed' Pluto."

In 2005, Brown and his team found a dwarf planet more distant than Pluto at the edge of our solar system. It was named Eris after the Greek goddess of discord and strife. Because it was larger than Pluto it posed a problem: What exactly is Pluto -- a planet or should it be demoted to a different status?  This link has a lot of information about Eris so take a look.

The story is "told by the people who were there" and may be seen here (4m 10s).

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Formation Of The First Stars

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

Ed Hessler

One of the questions about the early universe is how stars formed. 

Computer simulations of star formation comparing current deep observations into the cosmos will be greatly enhanced when more direct observations of the early universe can be made when the James Webb Space Telescope (NASA) is functional. It is to be launched in November 2021.

This very short clip (43s with a what-time-it-was for each frame in millions of years) packs a lot which is explained in the accompanying text. This appeared in  Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), published June 30, 2021.

It is also a nice story on the nature of science and how it works.

What a deal!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Poetry

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University, St. Paul, MN on August 13, the 225th day of 2021 (39.36% remains).

Sunrise is at 6:12 am and sunset at 8:21 and between those times there will be14h 04m 11s of sunlight. I love the digit reversals in the minutes, 12 and 21.

Today is "king" of the meat cuts day and Foodimentary has details and some food history. A giant career leap is mentioned, from designing Easy Bake Ovens to missile design.

Quote. Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.--Diane Ackerman

Today's poem is by Michael Palmer.

This note about the poem accompanied the poem when I received it from Poetry Daily.

Two images, or perhaps memories, conjoin at the source of this piece: the first from Chris Marker’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece, La jetée (The Jetty), constructed almost entirely of still photographs; the second, my wife, Cathy Simon, scattering her brother’s ashes in the form of a spiral at the site of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake (which is tidal). The poem takes off from there, invoking lovers, invoking Smithson, invoking the fires that have become virtually omnipresent as part of our new reality during climate change (the coming apocalypse?).

Maybe I should add that thirty-two “Midnights,” all written late at night during the COVID-19 lockdown, form the third and final section of my latest book, "Little Elegies for Sister Satan." It seemed a good time to receive “visitors.”

You can visit Robert Smithson's great Earth Work in this video (3m 17s).

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Delta Variant, Masks, and Vaccines

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

I'd been looking for an article about the Delta variant that is comprehensive and based in science (evidence).

I receive updates from Imagine MD's Dr. Alex Lickerman on COVID-19. When he writes about COVID-19 he is guided by the science about the virus and the disease. He also practices medicine which made this report especially relevant.

His most recent post is about the Delta variant, masks and vaccines. He introduces the post by noting that "if you're interested in how we got to our conclusions than you are in the conclusions themselves...skip to the BOTTOM-LINE in each section and the CONCLUSION at the end."

Lickerman calls attention to one of our major limitations in thinking about COVID-19 and has been an immense problem throughout.  It is our heads (brains) which "are wired tons are wired to think anecdotally rather than statistically. This leads us to fear things we shouldn't fear, or to fear them out of proportion to the real risk of danger they pose to us, and to dismiss threats we should fear, or to dismiss them too offhandedly. As a result, we aren't making choices that maximally reduce our risk" (my emphasis).

Dr. Lickerman is a trusted source who knows the science and uses it as a clinician without going beyond it or making unsubstantiated claims.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A Peek Inside Three Big Physics Experiments

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

Ed Hessler

Japan is home to some very big experiments at the forefront of big physics. These experiments are aimed at understanding the physical laws that govern how the universe works.

Here, in three ten-minute videos, you can look inside these experiments.They are "Super Kamiokande, the world’s largest neutrino detector; KAGRA, the world’s most advanced gravitational-wave detector; and Belle II, the experiment that could revolutionize particle physics" (my emphasis).

Watch the video series.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

One Family's Cancer History

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

Ed Hessler

Why would someone note the occasion of being 69 and 30 days old? On that day, July 10, 2021, Writer Lawrence Ingrassia paid particular attention because he "became the longest living member of his family." His mother, a brother and two sisters all died from different types of cancer while his father died from another cause. The average life span of his family was 45.

Of course he and surviving family members wondered about the cause. At first, they thought it might be something toxic his father brought home from work. He was a researcher in the wood products industry. 

During treatment for cancer, his brother had a percipient and knowlegeable oncologist who suggested a genetic test. He thought it might be a rare condition known as Li-Fraumeni syndrome. The report began at top "in capital letters: RESULT POSITIVE -  CLINICALLY SIGNIFICANT MUTATION IDENTIFIED."  It could not have been blunter and clearer.

In an essay in STAT, Ingrassia, who is working on a book about epidemiologists Frederick Li and Joseph Fraumeni, Jr., recounts his experience with this insidious cancer and the difficulties Li and Fraumeni had in convincing scientists and clinicians in accepting their research. Clinical and family history research--does it run in families?--is always fraught with questions of sufficient eficence. In the book Ingrassia intertwines "their journey with the parallel story of my family as we puzzled over the cause of our many cancers." 

So what did Ingrassia do on that day? He "chose to something just a little bit wacky.... For them, and for me. For us. Because they couldn't."

An essay well worth reading. He does tell us what he considered doing and what he finally chose.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Bat Tunnel Restoration

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

Ed Hessler

There was a nice story on MPR by Kirsti Marohn about St. Cloud's plans to restore an old stormwater tunnel for bats. 

You might wonder why but bats as Marohn reports have been facing population declines from a killer fungal disease known as white-nose-syndrome. 

The tunnel is in a ravine that needs stabilization to reduce sediment inflows into the Mississippi. The plan is to construct "a new rerouted storm sewer to replace the existing brick-and-mortar tunnel that was built in the 1920s" (entrance shown and it is a beauty). That ravine is filled often enough with water to flood the tunnel.

Marohn includes links about the disease, related stories and Upper Mississippi River sediment problems. 

The St. Cloud Times has a more extensive story by Becca Most with more details and also includes several pictures and a map of the area.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Great Art Explained: Nighthawks

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Environment, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler 

"Nighthawks," painted in 1942 by Edward Hopper is an iconic painting, capturing as it does features of large cities such as loneliness and alienation.

Here is a video (15m 31s) in the series "Great Art Explained" about the painting and about the artist and his career.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Fireflies and Star Trails

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Environment, Nature, Wildlife, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Astronomy

Ed Hessler

Fireflies and star trails go together.

Elena Paschetto created a composite image from "197 long-exposure photos taken ona summer night in Sanfront, Italy and Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) featured it for their August 5, 2021 publication. 

The summary includes details about the photograph, bioluminescence, fireflies, and links, including student links.

Looking up is one way to appreciate and wonder about the cosmos (not so easy in cities); looking around, and looking down are other ways.. When the two shown in this image are joined together we are given a moment of great wonder.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University. It's August 6th, 2021--59.73% of which is gone (313,920 minutes). Sunrise is at 6:04 am and sunset is at 8:32 pm giving us 14h 27m 51s of sunlight.

According to Foodimentary it is National Root Beer Float and they provide that facts, figures and food history for this historic event.

Quote. The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.--Edward O. Wilson

Today's poem is by Robert B. Shaw.


Thursday, August 5, 2021

A Call From Medical Groups: Require COVID-19 Vaccination For All Health Care Workers

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

Ed Hessler

More than 50 major medical organizations released a joint statement July 26, 2021 calling "for all health-care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19

The statement said "Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures. ... As the health care community leads the way in requiring vaccines for our employees, we hope all other employers across the country will follow our lead and implement effective policies to encourage vaccination. The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it."

 The full statement which includes a list of signatories may be read here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Reversing The Decline Of Lion Populations in Africa

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

Ed Hessler

A BBC video (3m 39s) features the work of biologist Dr. Moreangels Mbizah to reverse the decline of lion populations across Africa. She focuses "on community-led conservation."

Mbizah is the founder and executive director of Wildlife Conservation Action.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Runnin' Wild

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

Ed Hessler

Rewilding invokes in many of us, returning the large charismatic species to an area they once inhabited to restore that ecosystem

On a much smaller scale is the import of harvest mice (Micromys minutus) from East Kilbride to Ealing. They are an endangered species and prefer warmer and drier conditions "than they would encounter normally in the wild in Scotland."

The mice are from the Calderglen Zoo in South Lanarkshire.

This work is part of the Ealing Wildlife Group project.

This BBC video (1m 45s) is about rewilding of the harvest mouse.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Remembering Steven Weinberg

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

Ed Hessler

Theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg died July 23, 2021, at the age of 88. He, with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Lee Glashow, received the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics.

Science writer and former particle physicist, Graham Farmelo, who knew Weinberg, wrote a splendid obituary which provides a lovely and full view of Weinberg's life and also about him as a person. It also provides some history of science and insights into the nature of science from the point-of-view of theoretical physics.

I add one of Weinberg's most read short essays written for the journal Nature in 2003. Weinberg described four lessons particularly for young theoretical physicists but also for budding scientists generally. They are here, in brief bullet points.

--No one knows everything and you don't have to.

--Aim for rough water in your choice of projects.

--Forgive yourself for wasting time.

--Learn some history of science.

The essay rounds each of them tells why each of them were important to Weinberg and why he thought they would be useful to those at the beginning of their careers.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Congratulations Climate Generation

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Climate Change, Sustainability 

Ed Hessler

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) just announced its Friend of Darwin and Friend of the Planet Awardees for 2021.

The Friend of the Planet awardees includes Climate Generation, a Minneapolis-based non-profit focused on climate literacy and action. In the announcement, NCSE's executive director Anne Reid said that she "can't praise Climate Generation highly enough for its work on climate literacy and action, especially for its extensive and effective outreach to educators."

The announcement of both awards may be read here, It very briefly describes the achievements of each awardee with comments by Anne Reid.

Congratulations to Climate Generation and thanks. I also add congratulations and thanks to all those honored by NCSE.

Coincidentally, Star Tribune writer Gail Rosenbaum has a Q & A  with Lindsay Kirkland, Education Manager of Climate Generation in the July 31, 2021 edition. It appears that the interview occurred before she knew about the award. The Q & A may be behind a subscription wall.