Thursday, September 30, 2021

Making Sense of Number Claims

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

Ed Hessler

--"Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write.H. G. Wells

BBC Ideas asks "When can you trust statistics?"

In this video (4m 49s), writer and broadcaster Tim Harford notes that we are surrounded by numbers and statistical data. He then points out that "Statistics can show us things about the world that we can't perceive in any other way." In this video, Harford provides three tips for making sense of those numbers and claims. 

Harford is the widely acclaimed "numbers guy" (y characterization) and author of the recently published "The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics." Take a look inside the book at this link and read what others say about it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Fat Bear Weel

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

Ed Hessler

I've been checking the Brooks Falls Brown Bear cam at Katmai National Park this summer, now watching the fishing and the fish wind down but there are still some piscadors.

Each year you can vote on the fattest of the fat during Fat Bear Week. Voting opens today September 29.

Here is the link to Fat Bear Week which has information about the contest, the bears, the junior bears, news, links and press information.

The polling place is open.

Vote and may the fattest of the fat win..

Preserving and Maintaining Pieces of the Planet's Natural History

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

Ed Hessler

Here is a very short article on a museum collection that is one we don't always think about when we visit natural history museums: birds eggs and nests. This collection is so important that it has its own senior curator.

The essay by Richa Malhotra of the journal Nature, us about a collection at the Natural History Museum at Tring, UK. The nest collection is "just over 4000 and requires 67 museum cabinets to house and protect them. The egg collection is upwards of "300000 sets of eggs."

There is a photograph of Douglas Russell who catalogues and maintains the specimens. Shown is a "1928 mud nest from Argentina that was made by the rufous horanero (Furnarius rufus)" and Russell is holding "four dunlin (Calidris alpina) eggshells collected in 1952 in Ireland." Russell has spent a great deal of time with a particular collection: the 129 extinct and endangered species, 40 of which are extinct. 

Perhaps you were as surprised as me by the size of the bird and in contrast to the pictured nest.

The essay also includes information on how Russell decided to become an ornithologist.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Drought 2021: Canada's Prairie Provinces

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

Ed Hessler

This short BBC News video (3m 33s) focuses on Canada's prairie ranchers during this long drought. It also includes a discussion of experiments undertaken by ranchers to work not only with natural systems but also with nature in its extremes.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Footprints In The Mud

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Paleontology, Earth & Space Science, Archaeology, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

The journal Science recently reported on evidence of humans in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). The full report is behind a membership paywall but a general summary, the abstract, and authors and their affiliations may be read at the link.

The report is on well preserved and detailed footprints "from excavated surfaces in White Sands National Park, New Mexico"...yielding "radiocarbon ages between ~23 and 21 thousand years ago. One of the features of such footprints is that they are "stratigraphically constrained (immobile through time) and bracketed by seed layers."

The BBC's Paul Rincon provides a great story and stunning images (likely left by teenagers, children and occasional adults)). Rincon writes about the uncertainty over "whether stone tools found at an ancient site, are in fact what they appear to be, or are simply rocks broken through some natural process - such as falling from a cliff."

First author Matthew Bennet, Bournemouth University told Rincom ""One of the reasons there is so much debate is that there is a real lack of very firm, unequivocal data points. That's what we think we probably have."

Rincon's reporting includes a discussion of radiocarbon dating in aqueous environments known as the "reservoir effect." The authors think they have accounted for the effect of old carbon recycling which can make sites seem older than they are. The authors also used other supporting evidence. And he has a lovely summary of the historical development of American archaeology in North America which, if this area of science interests you, is worth reading.

Andrea Manica, a geneticists from the University of Cambridge notes that the earliest genetic data is at odds with the new dating (15-16,000 ya) but this suggests "that the initial colonists of the Americas were replaced when the ice corridor formed and another wave of colonists came in."

Of course the scientists wondered what the children were doing there and speculate on a possibility informed by the environment and way of life. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Camel Sculpture

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Anthropology, Archeology, Culture, Society

Ed Hessler

More than 7000 years before present (ybp) reliefs of camels were carved in a rock formation in Saudi Arabia. At that time the climate of the Arabian Peninsula was notably cooler and wetter than it is today.

It is thought that the camel's are probably the world's oldest surviving large-scale animal reliefs. The reliefs appeared to have been restored time and time again as the animal features eroded. The study on which this is based is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science and assessed erosion patterns, analysed tool marks, and dated animal bones at the site. Their age (~7000 yo) made these camel emains older than such ancient landmarks as Stonehenge (5000 yo) or the Pyramids at Giza (4500 yo) and even predate the domestication of camels which led to the economic development in the region.n 7000-8000 years old.

The story is behind a paywall at the journal but BBC news provides many photographs and comments.

What a lovely discovery telling us more about camels and humans.

h/t NatureBriefing

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Model Boats Float On An Upside-Down Sea

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

Ed Hessler

Gravity rules, well most of the time.

In this 4m video from the journal Nature, gravity is defied. A toy boat is made to float upside down under the constraints of experimental conditions. Turns out constant vibrations can change the forces on a floating object. 

Here is the video with a short explanation and a link to the related technical paper.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

On the 247th day of 2021, greetings from the Center for Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN. We are a couple of days into astronomical fall which began on September 22 at 2:20 pm. September 24 is 35 weeks and 2 days (I want to say remainder 2) from the beginning of the year and 67.67% of the year has now been recorded.

On the 22nd, the line between night and day became vertical with night and day nearly equal, connecting the north and south poles. That line is known as the terminator. Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) follows that line from one September equinox to the next--an entire year around the earth in 12 s.  You can see the terminator deviate from the vertical and it may be worth a couple of views to take it all in. There is an accompanying explanation.

There will be 12h 03m 08s of daylight between sunrise at 7:02am and sunset at 7:05 pm.

Quote:Think!/ Think and wonder./ Wonder and think/. ... There are so many THINKS/ that a thinker can think! -- Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Thinks You Can Think (3m 10 s read aloud)

It is National Cherries Jubilee Day says Foodimentary, a celebration of a dessert I've never had. Hard to argue against cherries! For some facts, food history, and a mouthwatering image see here.

Today's poem, "To Autumn," is by John Keats.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Draw A Scientist

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Children, Nature of Science, Early Childhooe

Ed Hessler

Draw a picture of a scientist is a common assignment given young children. It has been the subject of a considerable amount of research although that is not the subject of this post. Here is a fine article about the research by The Atlantic's Ed Yong who describes what we have learned. It also reveals children's thinking about the nature of science.

The stick-figure scientists drawn by the child of bioethicist Alison Bateman-House, take a different slant, capturing experiences such as spilling something important and the delight of giving a lecture. The child had six ideas not one. The last was one her Mom finally asked. Be sure to scroll down to see them all including a couple Bateman-House included.

h/t NatureBriefing

The stick-figure scientists drawn by the child of bioethicist Alison Bateman-House brilliantly capture ineffable experiences such as the horror of spilling something important and the fun of giving a nice long lecture.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Most Beautiful Experiment In Biology.

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

Ed Hessler

Scientists Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl were at the beginning of their careers in molecular biology "when they performed what is not recognized as one of the most beautiful experiments in modern biology." 

The experiment was the first, critical test of the Watson-Crick model for DNA and settled it.

In this film (22m 07s), the authors, now long retired, have a wonderful conversation about this experiment, serendipity in science, their careers and about their lives in science. The experiment led to a warm, lifetime friendship which is clearly evident

Below the film there is a link to short biographies and also a good summary of the experiment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Images of Mangrove Forests Around the World

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Environment, Society, Culture, Wildlife, Watersheds, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

This is the 7th year of the Mangrove Photography Awards, a project of the Mangrove Action Project. The aim is "to show the relationships between wildlife, coastal communities and mangrove forests, as well as the fragility of these unique ecosystems, both above and below the waterline." They didn't mention beauty but the images show their aesthetic appeal.

You can think of mangroves as ecosystem engineers for they clean water--both fresh and saline, stabilize coastlines, protect land from wind and wave damage, provide resources such as food, wood, medicine and fuel for humans, and conserve biological diversity.

There is a large gallery of photographs at the BBC, naming the winners, countries of the photographers, locations, and categories. It provides a glimpse into their wonderful diversity and of course, beauty.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Children's Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines

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

Ed Hessler

Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN (1m 57s) answers questions from 5th grade students in Atlanta about COVID-19 vaccines.

You will notice the children are wearing masks while outside and at a distance from Dr. Gupta. This is a school policy. 

A good conversation in Q & A format.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Father, Baby Boy & The Natural World

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Early Childhood, Nature, Culture

Ed Hessler

In this New Yorker documentary, "Walking Before Walking," filmmaker Adam Amir introduces his son to the natural world. It is also a  reflection of what Amir learned about himself. 

The documentary is 23m 28s long and I hope its length doesn't dissuade you from watching it. It is beautifully filmed and the comments throughout allowed us to listen to a person thinking outloud.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Cashew Agriculture

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

Ed Hessler

Cashew farmers in Guinea-Bissau have struggled with the coronavirus pandemic's interruption of the supply chain and on top of this a new tax which was later rescinded for farmers and the lowering of taxes on intermediaries and exporters.

Another important product is cashew wine. It is made by "squeezing the juice from cashew apples then fermenting it - it is popular within Guinea-Bissau." In addition, non-alcoholic cashew juice, is made and sold to local restaurants.

BBC photojournalist Ricci Shryock reports on cashew agriculture and products. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

It is September 17, 2021. 
Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University. This is day number 260 of 2021 (6240 hours with 71.23% of the year tucked away). There will be 12h 24m 54s of daylight between sunrise at 6:54 am and sunset at 7:19 pm.

It is National Apple Dumpling Day - delicious with ice cream - and Foodimentary includes five facts about them and some events in food history. I've never tried it but Apple Cider Ice Cream with Cinnamon sounds like a perfect match . Saving Room For Dessert has some lovely photographs as well as a recipe.

Quote.  “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is yourer than you.” Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss. If you don't have the book, you can take a peek inside at the link.
Today's poem is by Robinson Jeffers, a poem I've long wanted to post but the only copy I knew was in a form I thought inconvenient to read (required turning a page and it was included with a number of other poems in consecutive order).  Jim Culleny, 3 Quarks Daily recently published it all by itself. I was so pleased to find it at last although in fairness I didn't look very hard. hard. In fact it fell into my lap. Thank you Mr. Culleny.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Sacred Forest in Papua, Indonesia

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

Ed Hessler 

The BBC has a short film, 3m 28s, about a sacred forest in Papua, Indonesia. It is a mangrove forest and for women only. Men found there are fined. In this forest women gather clams and also share stories..

Story by an all female team, including the crew who received permission to enter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

What Do You Do All Day? Joel Berger, Musk Oxen, and Polar Bear Research

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Wildlife, Nature, Nature of Science, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution. Behavior, Global Climate Change

Ed Hessler

You might have read or been read to or have read to/with a child, Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?  I can't foget Working: people Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel. These books are timeless. It is always a pleasure to find out just what people do all day and below is one more.

The British journal Nature in a recent Nature Briefing adds to Scarry and Terkel by describing what wildlife-conserevation biologist Joel Berger does all day. He investigated how musk oxen (Ovibus maschatus) and polar bears (Ursus Maritimus) will interact when driven together by climate change. One part of his research included dressing up as a "polar bear, pulling a bear head on and placeing a cape over a range finder, camera and date books. If some oxen charged, I'd throw off my costume and stand up straight," to live another day. "Whew!"

In this short read (3m) you may learn more and see a picture of him standing, bear head off and arms wingspread. A posture that has served him well so far. This story does not have the ending he'd have liked for he has been banned from research in the Russia for three years (Wrangel Island, NE coast of Russia), accused of being a CIA spy (the only "word" he recognized during the hearing)!   All this over a date error on his permits. 

Berger has since gone to another part of the world, Patagonia, to study an entirely different species. More here on this work in search of the huemul, Chile's national mammal. In it, he describes his approach to conservation biology

If you are interested in his research on musk oxen Berger takes us into the minds of musk ox in this video (7m 55s). There you will also learn more about him, how he thinks about and practices science, and the nature of his research on grizzly bear-musk ox interactions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

From NCSE: Climate Models--How Well Did They Do?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Climate Change, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Global Change, Models, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) "has worked to breakdown over the years ...  the idea that climate models can't be trusted. With that in mind, NCSE has collaborated with The King's Centre for Visualization in Science to bring ... a new visualization that eloquently shows the accuracy of climate models over time. We think this applet will be a game-changer for teaching climate science." 

To engage with the applet see here.  I think you will find it quite amazing, powerful, and depending on your teaching duties helpful in understanding models and their use. The applet includes detailed information on how to use these models in the process of "hindcasting." 

And even for those who are not teaching it is useful in understanding the use of models of science and their use, in particular, in understanding climate change.

Monday, September 13, 2021

"Evolution" at 20

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

Ed Hessler

The twentieth anniversary of the groundbreaking PBS/NOVA documentary series Evolution is approaching, and Kenneth R. Miller — who along with National Center for Science Education's Eugenie C. Scott served as a spokesperson for the series — has written a remembrance and appreciation of this occasion.

Miller is Professor of Biology and Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown University; he also serves as president of NCSE's board of directors.

The remembrance includes links to all 7 episodes as well as internal links. It begins with the series introduction, an exchange between Charles Darwin and ship/s captain Robert Fitzroy from the series. Miller describes this scene as "unforgettable."

Miller's essay is a lovely remembrance and I hope you find time to read it.

h/t NCSE about which here.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Those Good Vibrations

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

Ed Hessler

The long and short of it is that everything vibrates as Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder explains in a new video, accompanied with a transcript (7m 58s). 

Hossenfelder starts by calling our attention to the popularity of this idea "among alternative medicine gurus and holistic healers." And she opens with a short video exchange between two women who are talking about their own "vibrational frequency" as a preventitive to COVID-19 and hence not needing "ever" to wear a mask.

Hossenfelder continues by talking about definitions and usages and why it is better to talk about oscillations - "any kind of periodic behavior." Stuff oscillates because it is made of particles which leads her to a short summary of quantum mechanics. Here the explanation gets thicker but hang on. She reminds us that the universe is more than particles. Einstein first introduced the idea of space-time. It wiggles too (gravitational waves).

She closes by saying "Really, everything vibrates, kind of, all the time. It's actually correct. But it doesn't help against COVID."

Please scroll through the comments. There are only 40. What I found interesting were some quite critical of Hossenfelder on her "smugness," that she was talking-down to people. This led to a string of counter-responses and relating of experiences. Hossenfelder deleted some of the comments and in the end turned them off entirely. Too many insults to her and to others..

Saturday, September 11, 2021

August Science Images: Nature's Photo Team

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

This month's gallery (August) includes, baby bears, the world's most notherly island, a microscopic movement, a tire graveyard, dental drills, a depth map, and green cleaning.

Take a walk through the gallery. The captions add to the enjoyment.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler 

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) 253rd day of the 2021 (69.32%). Minutes have passed:364,320 of them.

The sun rises at 6:45 am and sets at 7:32 pm with 14h 46m 33s of sun between whether cloudy or not. It is clear and sunny here.

According to Foodimentary, it is National Hot Dog Day. The average tells us that each of us eat. 60 a year but averages hide way too much. The real debate about "steak in a tube" is not mentioned: Chicago and New York City variants for which see here.

Quote: Democracy is inherently an institution based upon a mathematical operation---that of counting votes. Charles Seife, Proofiness.

I just recently was introduced to today's poet through the following poem. Here is Kamilah Aisha Moon's powerful poem about voting for the first time. And here a little more about her.

I'd not heard of Agnes Scott College and spent some time exploring the website, finding it more than worth the time.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

News From Mars: Success! Perseverance Has Collected a Rock Sample

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

Ed Hessler 

Mars Rover, Perseverance, has drilled and stored  a core of Martian rock after not being successful in August.

Alexandra Witze explains in this short article from the British journal Nature. It includes a photograph of the sample in the boring tool before it was sealed, the Rover drilling into the rock, and the borehole in the rock after drilling. The goal is to collect some 35 samples. This will be followed by a long period of waiting "until future spacecraft retrieve it,"at least no earlier than 2031. 

The samples are being taken from Jesero Crater and this link includes history and many photographs of the crater.

And if you were wondering about the crater's name, here it is.

3 Cheers and a Hip Hip Hoorah!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Dominance In The Wild: An Interaction Analyzed

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

Ed Hessler

A dramatic interaction between two mother brown bears, one with two young yearlings and the other with a cub, at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park and Preserve is analyzed by Mike Fitz, a former National Park Service Ranger who once worked at Katmai.

At issue is a preferred fishing spot on the very lip of the falls.

The bears are known as Grazer (#128) and 909.

There is a lot going on, to see and to think about.

The video is 12m 22s long.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A Sense of Place and Birds

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Young Children, Nature, Wildlife, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler 

A book and a letter to Garrison Keillor served as prods to think about the idea of a sense of place. The book is not explicit; the letter is.

"Do you know about storks?"  Smack, dab "In the middle of an arithmetic lesson, Lina (the only girl in this class of six in the village of Shora, Holland) raised her hand and asked, "Teacher,may I read a little story about storks?" This is how Meindert DeJong opens his heartfelt book "The Wheel on the School" (Harper Trophy 1954) with picture perfect illustrations by Maurice Sendak

And what did the teacher do? He "was so pleased that Lina had written a little piece on her own, he stopped the arithmetic lesson right there and Lina read the story to the class. It turned out that she knew quite a bit about storks without having a lot of experience with them. She ends her story saying "I do not know much about storks, because storks never come to Shora. They go to the villages all around, but they never come to Shora. This is the most I know about storks, but if they came to Shora, I would know more about storks.'"

After a brief discussion with the class, the teacher who is a great "nudger" throughout the book, gives them an assignment (and also lets them out early to get a start". He asks them to wonder since they don't know much--ask some questions that might help them answer the question Lina raised. The author writes "when we wonder, we can make things begin to happen." So out they go to do just that although all are not as committed as Lina.

The next day the teacher asks where their wonder had led them. Some asked others who said storks never lived in Shora. Maybe it was because they had no trees. Lina was told by an old villager that Shora once did and the two of them talked about trees and other features of the habitat back then. Lina thought that while they nest in trees she also knew that they also nest on roofs but she thought they didn't in Shora because their house roofs "are too sharp." While she was talking with the villager she'd seen a candy tin "with the picture of a whole village on its lid and stork nest on every roof---because there was a wheel on every roof," something for the storks to build nests and live on.

The class knew that it would take too long to grow trees, there was a great search for old wagon wheels and after many twists and turns, including help and advice from a legless and wheel-chair bound old man who is fierce and determined, one is recovered from a boat long stranded and now overturned in a canal. The wheel is mounted, two near-drowned storks, a pair, are placed on it, and remain to nest.

This is a wonderful story by a writer deeply familiar with the minds and actions of kids, their desire to "get on with it." I thought of bluebird box projects when I read it.  Bluebirds prefer cavities for nesting sites so why not build them. The story is a forerunner of this kind of ecological restoration, of behavioral studies, of developing alternative hypotheses, of using scientific evidence to reach a tentative conclusion. It is also a story about one young girl's sense of place. In Shora, something was missing which when returned would make it complete.

On August 22, a Minnesota author was the last to respond to Garrison Keillor's "disparaging comments on birdwatchers" in a earlier post.  She, a life-long bird watcher, tried to resist this impulse but was unable to deny it's force. Sue Leaf's response is of gem-quality. Three of her reasons for having binoculars and birdbook at hand. whether on a porch, peering through a window, or hiking to take up this hobby are found below. There is more than one parallel here with Meindert Dejong's book (John Newberry Medal, 1955).

"1. Birding sharpens the eye to detail. Most people see in only a coarse-grained way. Birders by necessity are fine-grained lookers. What color legs? Yellow or pink? Do the wings extend beyond the tail? Does the beak curve downward? How sad to move through this beautiful world and not clearly see it. Furthermore, this looking not only takes in separate details, but also the entirely at once, behavior and movement. Birders see the whole picture.

"2. But I rely far more on my ears than my eyes for bird identification. Having learned the songs of most Minnesota birds long ago, I now am continuously and unconsciously aware of what is around me at any moment outside. I hear the chimney swifts zipping across Minneapolis skies and the unending songs of red-eyed vireos. I know exactly when the predatory Cooper’s Hawk is in our yard, eying my songbirds.

"3. Because birds are extremely local in their choice of nest site, watching them is one way to develop a sense of place (my emphasis). This is an excellent skill for a writer to have, but it seems to me to be essential for anyone to be fully in this world, to know exactly where you are on the face of the planet. The oak savannah. The maple/ basswood forest."  

Keillor responded to this "excellent letter" with " You wouldn’t have written this for a fellow birdwatcher, you wrote it for me, an ignoramus. Case closed." And the rest of us received a gift on the having of a sense of place.

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Comedy Wildlfe Photography Awards

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

Ed Hessler

The finalists for the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards photography awards, have been released. 

The website describes it and its purpose. "Born from a passion for wildlife, and decades of experience living & working in East Africa, The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards began its life modestly in 2015 as a photographic competition. Since then, steered by its founders, Paul Joynson-Hicks MBE and Tom Sullam, it has grown into a globally renowned competition seen by millions of people, and always with wildlife conservation at its heart.

"The free competition, open to wildlife experts and novices celebrates the hilarity of our natural world and highlights what we need to do to protect it. From a surprised otter to a swearing turtle, Comedy Wildlife's photographs transcend cultures and ages to bring a smile to everyone's face."

The Comedy Wildlife website has more information about the group, a link to the photographs, and announces the opening to the public of the Affinity Photo People's Choice Award, "giving you a chance to vote for your favourite image with an incentive: you might win an iPad. The closing date is 12 October, 2021.




Sunday, September 5, 2021

Moving Water With Leaky Pipes

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

Naturebriefing (August 13, 2021) notes that inspired "by trees’ ability to transport water from their roots and exhale it from their leaves, researchers have developed a system for moving water that depends on capillary action and surface tension. A structure built from tiny 3D-printed open-faced cells  can draw liquid from a reservoir. The open sides of the cells maximize the surface area of liquid that can absorb and desorb gas molecules — a process that mimics transpiration in real trees. The ability to transport liquid and gas at will could be useful for everything from cooling systems to carbon dioxide capture."

Here is a Nature video (3m 50s) about the research. An accompanying News and Views article by Tammi L. van Neel & Ashleigh B. Theberge may be more detailed than you want but you may find various sections useful, e.g., on what microfludics is, an illustration of the architecture of the unit cells, a tree-like structure built from them, and how the unit cells were constructed.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Birds: Glorious Birds

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

Ed Hessler

The BBC has a gallery of images from this year's Bird Photographer of the Year competition to which there were more than 22,000 entries with awards across several categories. 

The gallery includes the award entry for the Young Bird Photographer of the Year. There is a link to the Bird Photographer of the Year website. There is not one that will disappoint and most will astound. The images are accompanied by short explanations which include, variously, photographic details, aims, description of the locale, and general comments by the photographers.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment 

Ed Hessler

Good morning from Hamline University's Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) on September 3, 2021. Thirty-five weeks and one day have passed or 67.40% of the year.

Today sunrise is at 6:00 am and sunset is at 8:36 pm giving us 14 h 35m 36s of sunlight.

Just three days ago, September 1 meteorological fall began and September 22--18 days from now--it will be the Autumnal Equinox, the astronomical beginning of fall. For information about these two kinds of seasonal markers, astronomical and meteorological, see the entry from NOAA. Here are two lovely ways to celebrate this change from summer to fall: Vivaldi's Autumn from The Four Seasons and Autumn in New York.

According to Foodimentary it is National Baby Back Ribs Day, complete with a photo, facts and some food history.

Quote. Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. -- John Adams

Today's poem is by Yehuda Amichai.


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Unvaccinated, Unmasked, Indoors, A Vulnerable Population, Spread Of The Delta Variant

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

Ed Hessler

Shortly after the SARS-CoV-2 virus broke out in China, I saw a restaurant seating diagram from a  restaurant, I think, in Wuhan, China and how it had led to a number of infections following exposure to one infected customer. At the time there was no vaccine and it was also when standard restaurant seating (round tables) was still practiced. The image was striking and the importance of customer location was clear.

That image popped into mind when I saw the following report about a similar outbreak in a different setting, a school in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a paper on an outbreak in an elementary school in Marin County, California. An  unvaccinated teacher at an elementary school in Marin County, Calif., became infected with Covid-19 but continued to teach for two days after developing symptoms but before testing positive. The teacher read aloud, while unmasked, to students despite a mask policy in the school. (my emphases)

There were 26 cases in the school traced to the teacher via whole genome sequencing, including 12 of 24 children in the teacher’s classroom, all of whom were too young to be vaccinated. As a seating chart shows, more students in the two rows seated closest to the teacher’s desk were infected compared to those in the back two rows. The other cases — three in fully vaccinated people — were in parents and siblings of students.

The paper includes a diagram of the classroom and shows the spread in the classroom and includes a list of the standard procedure schools should follow to help stop the spread of such outbreaks. Everyone should 1) wear masks correctly, 2) get vaccinated (when eligible), 3) stays home if symptoms occur, and 4) tests routinely.

The authors write "Ineligibility because of age and lack of vaccination contribute to persistent elevated risk for outbreaks in schools, especially as new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge. However, implementation of multiple prevention strategies within schools can mitigate this risk. The rapid transmission and vaccine breakthrough infections in this outbreak might have resulted from the schoolchildren’s vulnerability because of ineligibility for vaccination, coupled with the high transmissibility of the Delta variant. New evidence of the Delta variant’s high transmissibility, even among fully vaccinated persons, supports recommendations for universal masking in schools." (my emphasis)

The full paper which includes these sections:  a summary (with an abstract), investigation and findings, public health response, and a discussion. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Coffee With Birds In Mind

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

Ed Hessler

I was delighted to read Gustave Axelson's essay in the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's "All About Birds." It is about coffee labels and wintering warblers in Mexico, Central and South America where warblers "spend five months of the year in and around shade coffee plantations...but only if they can find them." The premium plantations from a bird's point-of-view are those that are grown under a "natural forest canopy."

This is something most labels don't tell us but from which many of us jump to this conclusion when we see the various icons on the bags we purchase, thinking that all of them are equal. Axelson lists common labels and discusses their benefits and shortcomings for winter bird habitat. The most trustworthy label has a Bird Friendly icon which means that they have been "certified by...the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center." The label "shade grown" doesn't tell us much, if anything.

It also turns out that there are more bird friendly coffees than we know.  The problem is in the packaging.  "The need to make room on  packaging for a separate label that appeals to a relatively small--and silent--minority birders" has not been persuasive. 

So birders need to step up to the counters ask retailers to "stock  Bird Friendly coffee, and by buying it. ... More than 46 million Americans say they watch birds, and half of all Americans drink coffee." What is needed is a commitment "to drinking Bird Friendly coffee. There would be a response from retailers and producers.

Axelson's essay reports on a study done of one warbler, the wood thrush. They now have more breeding habitat in the north than they did previously but it was found that "Wood Thrush declines matched deforestation trends in Nicaragua, where forest cover has dropped 30 percent in just the past two decades."

Read all about the labels with links to relevant information in Axelson's essay which includes a Bird Friendly locator...for the U.S., Canada, U.K., Czech Republic and Japan.