Thursday, March 31, 2022

Elizabeth Kolbert at Westminister, Minneapolis

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

Ed Hessler

The Westminster Town Hall Forum's featured noon speaker for April 6, 2022 is Elizabeth Kolbert, an in-person as well as a webpage broadcast event.  In addition, the spring 2022 season will be broadcast as a special week of programs on Minnesota Public Radio (91.1 FM or at MPRNewsOrg, April 25-29 at noon.

The title of Kolbert's talk is "The Nature of the Future."

For full details see here.

There is information about Elizabeth Kolbert at the link above and there is more in this Wiki entry.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Most Dangerous Star (Known)

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

When Eta Car explodes, becoming a supernova "in only a few million may bathe the earth in dangerous gamma rays" (my bold). This means that it is a close neighbor - a mere ten million light years away. 

This Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) shows a new visualization, based on data from three different views and explains what has gone on in the past as well as what is ahead for this binary star. While this end is nigh, I hope may, in bold above provides some comfort.

On the other hand it's use is characteristic of scientists who do not practice certainty; they deal instead with evidence, probability, models, research,data, etc., when making statements which is fully warranted here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Whole Shebang

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

Ed Hessler

Another pleasure from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) which I use as my segmented, ultra-informal course to what is out there. In one diagram is shown the observable universe, in compact scale.

The question asked is " How far can you see?" is followed by this answer "everything you can see, and everything you could possibly see, right now, assuming your eyes could detect all types of radiations around you...." (my emphasis)

No doubt this must have become a poster of some kind. If not it will with Tee shirt to follow. It looks almost like a mandala. Regardless, it is compelling and invites one to  wander about it. What a place, our observable universe is. 

Time again to acknowledge the scientists and engineers who make it possible for us to "see," providing us other tools to inform our view when we look up and out even at the invisible.

Monday, March 28, 2022

World Food Supply and the Ukraine War

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

Ed Hessler

So far I haven't run across any reporting on the importance of Ukraine to the global wheat supply, not that I've looked very carefully.*  It must be included in the list of humanitarian crises, currently and to follow in the Ukraine and world-wide.

The British journal Nature has a short article which shows the fragility of the world food supply. Alison Bentley reports on "short-, medium- and long-term disruptions to the global food supply. ... Ukraine and Russia contribute nearly one-third of all wheat exports (as well as almost one-third of the world’s barley and one-fifth of its corn, providing an estimated 11% of the world’s calories).

What is going to happen to wheat already planted? They require "management and inputs" if a harvest is to be productive. And will wheat reach markets in the Ukraine and the world? Bentley notes that more likely "with rising input chain disruptions (not only fertilizer and fuel)" will reduce productivity." Furthermore, "there could not have been a worse time for heavy rains to have dented China’s winter wheat crop. Many countries require subsidized bread programs that will be severely tested.  In addition "overall government spending and provision of public services will reach far beyond wheat. The last time wheat prices increased sharply, in 2008, it precipitated food riots from Burkina Faso to Bangladesh."

Bentley calls attention to what the war has revealed, namely "the folly of having 2.5 billion people depend so heavily on three main regions of wheat production and export in a changing climate." She suggests three important steps are needed.

First, what production must be expanded including "high-productivity areas (North America and Europe) and in regions with suitable conditions (Sudan and Nigeria are promising), and by increasing productivity in places where it is low (such as Ethiopia and Turkey)." This seems obvious and simple but comes with its own demands: "skilled workers, fertilizer and seed, particularly to low-income nations." While "Improved wheat germplasm provides predictable, reliable and resilient plants — but only if farmers have access to best growing practices" and the development of new blends of flour which include other flour sources.

Second, we should take advantage of the real-time monitoring capabilities of satellites and remote sensory imagery real-time monitoring. Such data can be used by farm managers to make quick decisions about interventions during the growing season. Genomics comes into play as well, "used to track plant pathogens and pests."

Third, food policies have an important role,  tailored especially to women who farm in rural areas.Bentley calls our attention to a decade old "Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO" which "estimated that if women had the same access to resources (land, technology, credit, education and so on) as men did, they could increase yields by 20–30%, reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12%, perhaps more." The issue is that men take over when "crops gain economic and social value. They then "become goods for trade rather than for household consumption." 

The title of her reporting could not have a more appropriate and evocative title: Broken Bread

* Related, I think, is a provocative essay for the Steady State Herald by Brian Czech, the executive director of CASSE (Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy) on Putin's "practical motives" for invading Ukraine that has not gained any traction or attracted any reporting. "Surely," Czech writes, these "include the rich soils...and grain-belt climate of the steppes comprising  Russia's western doorstep. With the breadbasket landscape of Ukraine and capitalist mode of production, Russia would become a bona fide superpower on the order of the Soviet Union; Putin's dream come true."

The reasoning is based on the notion of agricultural lebensraum and the historical writings of Lizzie'" Collingham (The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food)." Russia is no longer "a wide-open country with plenty of space for economic growth." Czech writes that Collingham "details the nexus between food and strategy in domestic policy and in military operations. For the Nazis, starving hundreds of thousands of “'useless eaters'” in Europe—not just in concentration camps but out on the lebensraum—was a conscious decision pursuant to a detailed strategy, the ominously named “Huntgerplan.” The Hunger Plan, overseen by Herbert Backe. the Nazi’s Minister of Food, was designed especially to starve enemy forces while feeding their own along the front."

When asked possible parallels, Cunningham told Czech, "'People of the West are amazingly unaware of the importance of Ukraine to Russia, not only as a strategic location on the map of Europe but as the main competitor and potential contributor to Russian grain production.'” As a steady-state economist, Czech notes that "agricultural surplus allows for the other sectors to develop and “'authorizes'” the exchanging of money. In that very real sense, agricultural surplus generates all the money in the world."

This is a steady-state economic term known as the trophic theory of money.

Czech describes a war policy of Nazi Germany of which I'd not heard. Whether it applies to Ukraine or not, I don't know but if Russia's oil economy is severely curtailed it makes some sense. Putin has spoken in the past on his concerns about food production, according to Czech. He paraphrases a comment attributed to Lenin that "'Grain is the currency of currencies.'"

Czech's thoughts on this linkage may be read here. The essay includes links to people, policy, etc. which I've not included here.


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Telescope Alignment Evaluation Image

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Cosmology

Ed Hessler

The image on Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is of 2MASSJ17554042+6551277, a designation, as APOD notes that "doesn't exactly roll off the tongue but that's the name, a coordinate-based catalog designation, of the star, centered in this sharp field of view."

However it is sharp and spiky as we imagine stars when we look up or draw one.

This image was "created by the 18 hexagonal mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in the alignment of the mirrors. APOD includes an explanation, including the galaxies in the background. And some of them are in the far background.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Glaucomflecken General Hospital

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

Ed Hessler 

Perhaps you've scrolled past or attended a session at Glaucomflecken General Hospital (GGH), even know some of the attending physicians.

The hospital and the staff are populated by eye surgeon, Dr. Will Flanagan. And by the numbers, he is a running away success -- 2.5 million subscribers across the platforms TikTok, YouTube and Twitter. His humor is barbed as STAT reports "notable because his jokes, delivered in short skits, plumb the inane depths of American health care." 

The skits provides "peers something to relate to and a growing audience of outsiders something to laugh at. GGH people are "pretty dysfunctional. But it's funny," says Dr. Flanagan. Clearly viewers agree.

You can learn more about Flanagan who writes, directs, edits, and stars, (playing all characters) in videos that deliver its punches and jabs " in about 90 seconds." This shortness is one of its great appeals.

Thanks to STAT for bringing this to my attention as well as to a wider audience.

Here is the YouTube link.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on the 84th day of the year, March 25, 2022. This adds up to twelve weeks and 23.01% of the year.  Sunrise is at 7:06 am and sunset is at 7:31 pm giving us 12h 25m 12s of sunlight.

It is International Waffle Day according to Foodimentary with its typical mouth-watering pictures, facts and food history. For National Day it is National Lobster Newberg Day with its usual fare of history, a recipe and a video about lobsters.

Quote. By reducing the data streams that power (the) dashboards that track COVID-19, governments are shutting their eyes to the danger. If this trend continues, the new normal is going to look a lot like the false comfort of ignorance.--Nature Editorial, 22 March

Today's poem is by Adrienne Rich. The poem link includes comments by by Meghan O'Rourke on her first discovery of the poem and what it meant to her..

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Some Big Battles in Science

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

Ed Hessler

In a book on teaching elementary science, the late Mary Budd Rowe, called attention to two characteristics of science: it is a social enterprise but not always a sociable one.

Sabine Hossenfelder talks "about some epic fights among scientists that show very much that scientists...are only human." She tells us "who dissed whom and why"as well she writes what we can "learn from that." These are classic disputes and quite well known, at least within the disciplines represented.

You know my druthers in watching and listening to this great video series. While it may be watched on YouTube, the original posting (15m 43s) includes the transcript and the two, listening and reading, are, I find, a powerful combination although I acknowledge reading the transcript is faster.

I recall talking with an elementary science teacher once about the level of dispute, rancorous at times, that scientists sometimes engage in, e.g., refusing to be in the same room with the scientist with whom he disagreed. I loved her response which came close to saying they deserved a trip to the woodshed, although she would be one of the very last people I know who would do that. herself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

The ups (mostly ups) and downs of pump prices (with prices of other goods following) was considered on CBS Sunday Morning.

We all have our favored ideas on why and where the blame lies.

Correspondent David Pogue's short video (4m 04s) includes a Columbia University professor, an economist with GasBuddy, and a delightful gas station manager with a wonderful sense of humor about the business he is in.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Science & Society

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

Ed Hessler

Former epidemiologist turned vice-president of a nation turned back to science again in a ministerial capacity, shares some reflections on what he learned. 

In a short column he wrote for the British journal Nature, scientist Chen Chien-jen who became vice-president (2015) of Taiwan, returning as minister of the National Science Council in May 2020, shares the lessons. By the way, I was reminded while reading this that Taiwan "has a lower COVID-19 case rate than the 38 member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The first lesson: "Scientific training teaches us to seek out all the variables that might affect a system. My work as a minister taught me to expand that list of variables far beyond what is typical. Budgets, laws, staffing levels and more enter the picture. So do values and priorities."

The second lesson: "Science is never enough to bring about a thriving society. That takes trust, robust institutions and social cohesion. Solidarity is essential to inspire the public to comply with epidemic-prevention guidelines. Without solidarity, there cannot be effective border control, quarantine, contact tracing and isolation. The government must do its part to encourage compliance, such as paying for low-income people to get to vaccination centres and sending them free face masks and hand sanitizer."

The third lesson"Infectious and toxic agents have impacts that last for decades, so long-range investments in scientific infrastructure pay off. But action must be quick. When SARS happened so long ago, neither the public-health nor the hospital system in Taiwan was prepared. Ineffective quarantine and shut-down procedures led to infections and deaths. The ministry trained staff at major medical centres, then dispatched them to hundreds of regional hospitals, which launched training at local hospitals — establishing an island-wide protocol in just two weeks. Steps to track down sources of infection with a standard set of questions were important, as was a computerized system to find out who had travelled to hotspots. This existing infrastructure has served Taiwan well through subsequent epidemics."

The author ends with a story of what he learned about the "limitations of science and technology" as a young professor who worked on the "multiple health hazards of arsentic in drinking water, closing with "I expected it would all be straightforward." (My emphasis) One of the factors he and his colleagues hadn't counted on was the impact of economics.

This is a great read (about 5 minutes), one that explores the borerland between science and society, especially from a person whose feet have been firmly planted in both government and science.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Conservation Work On The Ground

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

Ed Hessler

On the ground conservation science is hard work. Important work since it includes monitoring, keeping an eye on nature's dials and meters. In this Narwhal essay--a long read but lavishly illustrated--is a report on  the work of Indigenous nations along the western coast of Canada on monitoring their large environment.. 

The essay features guardians from First Nations talking about the leadership they have taken in their extensive work. It includes "nearly 3,000 square kilometers of the coast (300,000 square hectares or ~741,316 acres of the coast. The approach is spreading across Canada. It includes a useful map, videos with the Guradian Watchmen, and links to other monitoring projects.

Humber College is acknowledged for their consultation.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Are We Alone?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology

Ed Hessler

This video from The Royal Institution (RI) features Paul Davies, an English physicist now at Arizona State Univesity.

The question is one of interest to many people: "Are We Alone in the Universe?" It is surprisingly short for such a profound question, especially when most of RI videos are longer.

So here it is, all 5m 08s of it.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Making a Clean City Cleaner

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Recycle-Reuse-Refuse, Solid Waste

Ed Hessler

A short video (5:29) from the International Science Council (ISC) features researchers at Nanyang Technical University (Singapore) about their research on "ways to build innovation from what many consider garbage."

One of the fruit waste products includes, durian which has a potent stench. In this article about durian by Joseph Stromberg (Smithsonian Magazine),  this point is made in no uncertain terms, quoting food writer Richard Sterling's classic description: "...turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away." The odor led to the banning of durian on the Singapore Mass Transit. 

However, as noted on Healthline, durian is "popular in Southeast Asia, where it's nicknamed 'the king of fruits.' Durian is very high in nutrients containing more than most fruits." The short article lists its uses in food preparation and mentions it's use in traditional medicine.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Arts & Environment

Ed Hessler

Welcome and good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on Friday, March 18, 2022, the 77th day of the year - 1848 hours.  The bite we've taken so far represents 21.10% of 2022. Sunrise is now at 7:19 am and sunset is 7:22 pm giving us 12h 3m 18s of daylight. Daylength is lengthening by what seems leaps each day now.

As you know astronomical spring, the vernal equinox, occurs at 10:33 am, this Sunday, March 20. Many of us think of it as the time when day and night are equal. They aren't. There is more daylight that day. The reason is explained in an article by Bruce McClure in EarthSky. The two reasons are that "the sun is a disk, not a point" and the atmosphere serves as a lens, a phenomenon known as atmospheric refraction. Light doesn't pass through our atmosphere in a straight line--it gets deflected, bent.

Foodimentary notes that it is National Sloppy Joe Day with a photograph, food finds and food history. National Day notes that it is Awkward Moments Day, National Small Business Development Centers Day, National Supreme Sacrifice Day, National Sloppy Joe Day (including 6 recipes), National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day (1 recipe), National Kick Butts Day, and National Biodiesel Day. I had no idea what a lacy oatmeal cookie was. It is a crispier oatmeal cookie. My preference is the softer oatmeal cookie with fat raisins. 

Quote. It might be worthwhile, sometimes, to inquire what Nature is, and how men work to change her, and whether, in the enforced destinations so produced, it is not natural to be so unnatural. -- Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Todays poem is by Clair Dunlap

And here is the painting which prompted the poem by Georgia O'Keefe.
Footnote: Finally, yes finally, the U.S. Senate has passed legislation "that would make daylight saving time permanent across the U.S. beginning int 2023." Hip hip hoorah!

h/t: MPR chief meteorlogist Paul Huttner pointed out the EarthSky article.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Top Predator: Oceans

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

Ed Hessler

Who trusted God was love indeed/ And love Creation's final law/ Tho nature, red in tooth and claw/ With ravine, shriek'd against his creed.--Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850

In the 1800's, the phrase "Tooth and Claw" was once in common usage when describing nature and remains in use today although not so commonly. I thought of it when I first saw the footage of orcas (Orsinus orca) attacking and killing an adult blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

The event was captured on film in 2019 and this record plus two others was published in Marine Mammal Science (January 2022) was just recently published. There the first page--title, information about the author's affiliations, and some text may be read. The remainder is behind a paywall. I was going to share the video and glad I didn't for NPR (see below) just reported on the event with some details. Here are a few:

--John Totterdell, the lead author of the MMS paper referred to above, and his students were "off Australia's western coast," in March 2019. Some "'twenty black and white shapes" were "surrounding something." When they caught the color of blood in the water, they "realized...a pack of killer whales is attacking a blue whales.'" 

--The whale, about 70 feet long, "was fighting back" and the killer whales "were making coordinated attacks and working together to exhaust their prey. They took turns, biting chunks of flesh" from the whale. This "went on for hours and eventually, the blue whale got weaker" to the point when "two killer whales leapt on top of it, forcing the blue whale uner the water," to drown it.

--The tongue was eaten first--"probably while it was still alive." The reason isn't known but Totterdell told NPR that "it appears to be a 'preferred cut.'''

--This is the first documentation of such predation.

--Even Great White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are wary of them.

--Totterdell told NPR that "their work...definitely shows that killer whales...are the top predator in the ocean." You may remember the term refereing to this, apex predator--from a biology course when you learned about food chains

--This story by Lauren Somer and Vanessa Romo ends with some interesting comments on the enculturation of such behavior "within their family group," which is passed on" generation to generation. Killer whale societies consist of "pods...led by a matriarch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

A Near-Threatened Warbler

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

Ed Hessler

Jim Williams had a recent column in the Star Tribune (February 23, 2022) on the golden-winged warbler (subscription paywall). He wrote that "about half of (them) nest in north-central Minnesota. There they find their preferred habitat which is, "early successional woodland, (regrowing) timber harvest or burned land." Of course, you want to see this bird and Cornell has a photogallery.

Williams provides a quick review of the sequence from stable populations to "extinct period." In Minnesota there is "one single extinct species," the passenger pigeon which nested here in such numbers that this ending seemed impossible.The reason for this post is Williams's review of the progression from stable to "extinct period." National Geographic has a chart which summarizes the criteria for the categories. They are,

--Species of least concern, the category includes most Minnesota birds

--Species of near-threatened.

--Vulnerable species.

--Critically endangered.

--Extinct in the wild.

--Extinct period.

Williams points out that the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) adds another, informative wrinkle to the status of the golden-winged warbler. It is a "'species of management concern." The USFWS "allocates money to states for creation and restoration of succession habitat." Birdcalls featured golden-winged warbler restoration in Minnesota and it has many links and some photographs.

In 2011, writes Williams, a request to move the golden-winged warbler to the next level of concern -- vulnerable. A status Assessment is due to be complete in 2024, according to Georgia Parham of the USFWS Great Lakes region offices in Indiana." She described it as 'a rigorous evaluation' to which Williams added this not so tongue-in-cheek comment: "It should be rigorous if it takes 13 years!" (my exclamation point)

What about all birds? Williams provides these data: Of the10,999 species of birds worldwide, "about 9,500 species are not threatened at the moment, while about 1,400 are considered be under the threat of eventual extinction" with a period. 

I doubt that you need any help with the cause. Habitat loss and changes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Comings and Goings

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

Ed Hessler

Most of the reporting about career moves by scientists and engineers are found in biographies about their lives. We seldom are provided both personal and professional insights into such decisions.

Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll (CalTech) had the best post I've ever read on a career change. He is moving from CalTech to the Johns Hopkins University for a new position, one which involves a dual appointment: physics and philosophy. He will teach a course in both disciplines. 

The web site is Preposterous Universe and the epigraph is very appealing to me: In truth, only atoms and the void. A world view I share although one not nearly as informed as is Carroll's. He is an excellent lay guide to both, books and lectures (one example).

Here it is and I hope will read it. It starts with a memory of his first visit to Johns Hopkins, an awards ceremony for the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). He writes this about it. "I scored as 'pretty precocious' but 'not precocious enough to be worth following up.'" He adds this, a wry comment typical of him, "Can't really argue. My award was a slim volume on analytic geometry, which -- well, the thought was nice."

He is married to Jennifer Oulette, a well-known science writer and whose writing I strongly recommend. She is one of the best.

There are links in the essay, too.

If there are academic and research positions that come close to fitting personal and professional interests and abilities, this one strikes me as one "written for" Sean Carroll.

Monday, March 14, 2022

3.14 Day

Environmntal & Science Education, STEM, Maths, Mathematics Education

It is 3.14 day or Pi Day. 

Here is the Pi Day home page which tells us that  "Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159. Pi Day is an annual opportunity for math enthusiasts to recite the infinite digits of Pi, talk to their friends about math, and eat pie."

There you will find a lot of information about this number and the day, including about the official sponsor of Pi day.

There are many "pi deals" on pizza and pies. Here is a sample chosen for one reason only, the writer lives in Minneapolis! The great Google search engine will yield many more, especially those closer to where you live.

 Happy Pi Day! 

Moose, Deer, Bears, Wolves and Us

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Wildlife, Nature, Sustainability, Science and Society.

Ed Hessler 

Deer are rare in northeast Minnesota. Outdoor columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dennis Anderson wrote a primer (January 28, 2022) on that situation and its intersection with moose populations in the area. It was prompted by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources big-game managers on-line chat in which he was a participant.

It was both an important and very well told story. I decided to post it in the event that it might have been missed. It is a wonderful example of the intersection of science and society and factors that are parts of contentious decision making.

First to the question of deer rarity. Anderson noted that deer hunters "killed fewer that 0.3 of an animal per square mile" in 2021, down significantly from a still meager 0.9 as recently as 2011." Moose numbers in the NE arrow of the state are currently "less than half what they were 15 years ago." Factors include warmer shorter warmer winters, Tick infestations. Wolves. Bears. Liver flukes. Bacterial infections."

And deer add a parasite to the mix, benign to them but not to moose: brainworm (24% of all deaths). Wolves add another: moose calf mortality (80% of all calf mortalities). And bears, 22%. If you are a deer hunter the answer is obvious: habitat management for deer which wouldn't benefit moose. Moose are a favorite among the general public but their numbers can only be increased by keeping deer numbers low with wolf management, another way of saying hunting. Politics enters this equation as well. Both the governor and lieutenant governor are against wolf hunting.

Much of Anderson's reporting is based on research by Dr. Seth Moore, director of biology and environment for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who is highly respected. I close with some of his comments. First with respect to wolf management we are faced, he said, with "some difficult decisions. If you want to restore moose in the core moose range, some level of wolf management will be necessary." 

In research conducted during a period of regulated wolf hunts (2012 - 2014), the Lake Superior Band didn't allow wolf hunting. Moore was studying radio-collared moose during that period and reduced moose mortality followed..And when the Lake Superior Band authorized both spring and bear hunting, the rate of moose calf mortality declined. 

Commenting on the deer population goal-setting process, Anderson wrote, "Ostensibly," the webinar was about establishing northeast Minnesota deer-population goals. 

"But" it was "more emphatically about moose and how continued low deer numbers in the northeast can contribute to the big animal's possible resurgence, or at least stability, and how deer hunters, frustrated (though) they might be should get used to it."

This is a complicated story and the territory highly contested,  tinged with politics and multiple competing interests, what is left unsaid, etc. A reminder that you can't just do one thing without a string of events following, some consequences predictable, some not.

The MnDNR is scheduled to release a new wolf management plan this spring. MnDNR invited public comments on deer populations and goals. While the comment period has ended, you might be interested in the web page.

I add a link to a Minnesota Zoo game called "Moose Mission," which was designed for elementary school. The question is "Can you create a healthy habitat where moose thrive?" Note thrive; not just survive, two concepts worth discussing and teasing out what they mean and imply. There are links, too: "All About Moose" and "Moose Research."

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Macaulay Library Picks Their Best Bird Photos 2022

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

Ed Hessler

The Macaulay Library (originally the Library of Natural Sounds) at Cornell University has some 32 million bird photos (10,356 bird species). That large number didn't discourage Living Bird and Macaulay Library staff to choose some of the best. What a plum assignment!

These are published in the Winter 2022 issue of the Living Bird (Macaulay Library's Best Bird Photos 2022). The photos feature more than 50 contributors.

The essay includes some information about the collection and information about birds. The categories are birds of many colors, birdscapes, in flight, rare moments, on the water, bird-a-tude, pair bonds, and next generation.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Happy Birthday

Environmental & Science Education, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

The League of Lost Causes blog celebrated its 9th birthday yesterday, March 8 and I this is how the author marked the occasion and celebrated it.

It is a favorite blog and I've posted on it before. The subtitle gives you a hint of its playfulness: Dispatches various from a membership of one.

So Happy Happy Birthday, League and I'm looking forward to #10.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler 

It is Friday March 11, 2022 (a "cold enough for you morning"). Greetings and welcome to the Center for Global Environmental Educaiton at Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN.

This is the 79th day of the year and now 10 weeks into 2022, 19.18% of the year has past. Sunrise is at 6:32 am and sunset it at 6:13 pm. There will be 11h 41m 12s of sunlight. Daylight Savings Time begins on March 13, just a couple of days from now at 2:00am. We are stuck with DST it seems in spite of clamor and supporting legislation to do away with this annual ritual. So this time of year we "Spring Forward," which may mean resetting some of the digital clocks in our life.

Foodimentary marks Eat Your Noodles Day while National Day marks Johnny Appleseed Day with photos, facts, food history, recipes, etc. I didn't know that dry noodles were considered a form of unleavened bread. Here is a German recipe which combines both and uses only a skillet. Full disclosure: I'm not a cook and have never tried this or eaten it but the ingredients caught my eye, especially an absent one: cinnamon.

Quote: “The message to take from Anne’s (Frank) story is to stop prejudice and discrimination right at its beginning. Prejudice starts when we speak about THE Jews, THE Arabs, THE Asians, THE Mexicans, THE Blacks, THE Whites. This leads to the feeling that all members of each such group think and act the same.” (my emphasis) -  Miep Gies 

Today's poem is by Phillis Levin.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Omnicron and Delta Speedway in Three Charts

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

Ed Hessler

For the journal Nature, Smriti Mallapaty has written an essay on how Omnicron overtook Delta in three charts. The paper on which it is based has not been peer reviewed but is available in a medRxiv preprint.

 The original paper is based on a careful analysis of data from the UK Health Security Agency. It shows how the Omnicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 spreads so quickly compared with the Delta variant. People carrying the Omnicron virus are more likely to spread it indoors and outdoors. In addition the variant is much better at infecting the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The charts compare variants, the vaccine effect, blocking transmission.

 Mallapaty closes with comments by a leading virologist. "Although this study suggests that existing SARS-CoV-2 vaccines offer limited protection against infection with Omicron, other research has shown that they are effective at preventing severe disease caused by both variants, says Leo Poon, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong. But he points out that the work was done at a time when the BA.1 subvariant of Omicron was circulating, and that now that another subvariant, BA.2, is rapidly gaining steam, this variant will need to be investigated, too. Nevertheless, vaccination is still one of the most effective measures to “'protect ourselves'” against severe disease, hospitalization and death."

There is a link to the preprint which may be read in full.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Reverse Engineering Challenge

Environmental & Science Education, STEM

Ed Hessler

New for 2022 is the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence Reverse Engineering Challenge, a one day event for teams of 3 - 5 students to explore engineering and 21st Century Skills while identifying a solution to a proposed challenge. Teams participating in the Reverse Engineering Challenge will

  1. Be given a challenge scenario and a product or device.
  2. Disassemble and examine in detail the product or device.
  3. Identify technology from the product/device that can be used to solve the given challenge.
  4. Create a proposed solution using that technology.
  5. Present their solution to others. 

The Reverse Engineering Challenge will be held twice in 2022:

 Mankato, MN, April 22, 2022 (Organized in conjunction with the 2022 Engineering Machine Design Championship)

St. Cloud, MN, August 8, 2022 (Organized in conjunction with the 2022 Minnesota 4-H Engineering Design Challenge)

There are three divisions: Junior (5th - 8th grade), Senior (9th - 12th grade), Experiential (non-competitive, open to 5th - 12th grade)

Full information can be found here, including about the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence and registration costs. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

24/7 Connectivity and Lab Life: A Perspective

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

Ed Hessler

One of the items common to scientists is the cell phone, in hand or lab bench or in the field. 

Adam Weiss is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago who is doing research that involved polymer chemistry and immunology. The aim is to use synthetic "strategies to design safer, more effective materials for vaccine and gene delivery." He wrote this CareerColumn for the British journal Nature.

He noticed that his productivity had been decreasing to the point that his "long hours and hard work were no longer translating into success in the laboratory." So he began to search for possible reasons. He noticed that his '"quiet time' at the lab bench...was anything but. (He) "was watching television or interacting with social media on (his) smartphone." Eventually he learned that he had an addiction to his phone and he mentions counseling.

In this recollection published in the journal Nature he calls attention to a design feataure of cell phones. They are designed to be. He chose to "reduce...connectivity by using a basic movile phone with an Internet connection during work hours, and removing unneccessary apps from (his) smartphone. He knew that messages would be waiting on his computer and  that he could use another device for listening to music when he chose.

Withdrawal was not easy but Weiss found that he could read science papers related to his work during down time and long experiments, is now writing a review paper for journal submission, and he has "also felt more engaged in seminars and meetings -- coming better prepared, asking questions and taking hand-written notes. (my emphasis). 

This lifestyle change in smartphone habits has its own challenges: not all his "peers have been supportive...(he) has missed messages on communication services and spending less time on academic feeds "could affect (his) career prospects."  He thinks the price of these is small compared to "increased clarity and productivity."

A good read by a person who reflects on his practice with an aim to understand it, improve it and change it, if necessary.

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Question of the Origin of the COVID-19 Virus

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

Ed Hessler

New evidence reported by Amy Maxem in the British journal Nature provides more confirmation on where and how the Covid 19 virus started. It appears to have been in the famous Huanan Seafood Wet Market, Wuhan, China. So far the type of animal that carried the virus before the virus made its jump to humans is not known. Below are found a few quotes from her reporting.
"Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and an author on two of the reports... speculates that the culprits could be raccoon dogs, squat dog-like mammals used for food and their fur in China. One of the studies he co-authored suggests that raccoon dogs were sold in a section of the market where several positive samples were collected. And reports show that the animals can harbour other types of coronavirus.

This does not rule out a competing alternative hypothesis that it originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology where a human was infected who served as an incubator in which the amplification of the virus occurred, then a transmitter ending up at the famous wet market. which was followed by a rapid increase Covid 19 infections radiating out from the market. Of course it may have been released accidentally or intentionally (makes me shiver to think of it) must remain part of this mix of alternative hypotheses which must be considered..

Are the reports as "good as they get?" Maxem writes "Over the past year, Michael Worobey, a virologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson and a co-author on the papers with Andersen says that his thinking on the origins of COVID-19 has shifted. In May 2021, he led a letter published in Science6 in which he and others pressed the scientific community to keep an open mind about whether the pandemic stemmed from a laboratory,  a controversial hypothesis suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 was either created in a lab or was accidentally or intentionally released by researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. “You want to take this kind of thing seriously,” he explains.

​"​Nonetheless, (Vincent) Munster says he is not completely convinced of two spillover events because the virus might have evolved from one lineage into the other in a person who was immunocompromised. He adds that more data collected from people and animals is needed to answer this question, and to show that the first spillover occurred at the Huanan market. David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University in California, agrees that the preprints are not definitive, and that they exclude the possibility that people were infected prior to the outbreak at the market, but went undiagnosed.But since then, other evidence has come to light that supports a zoonotic origin story similar to that of HIV, Zika virus, Ebola virus and multiple influenza viruses, he says. ​'​When you look at all of the evidence, it is clear that this started at the market.​' Separate lines of analysis point to it, he says, and it’s extremely improbable that two distinct lineages of SARS-CoV-2 could have been derived from a laboratory and then coincidentally ended up at the market.​"​ (My emphasis).

​If you remain intrigued about the question of the pandemic epicenter, the story is not long and covers the ongoing argument, including those who remain doubtful and those who think the evidence is very good. You will leave with a fuller understanding of what a chain of evidence requires and is. It, of course, never leads to proof but in the falls into categories of strong, weak, need/would like more evidence and how difficult this research path is.​

Maxem cites several research papers with links. You can read them in full. They are technical but you may find some of the graphs, illustrations and tables helpful in understanding the research. 

Hurrah for open access for reports of such importance. They are in the public interest.


Sunday, March 6, 2022

Going Upstairs...Home at Last

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Geology, Earth Systems, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler 

Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) shows a "remarkably steep collection...of handholds and footholds (Moki steps)" in a slot canyon in Utah. 

The stone colors are breathtaking. And the word "steep" applies.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Belt of Venus

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

Ed Hessler

When this image was posted in early February, I was captivated by it--the setting, the sky, the faint colors, the fog, and a cloud new to me.

It includes an explanation, details about the photo, related and student links.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on March 4th, 2022, the 63rd day of the year and its 9th week. This means that 17.26% of our annual trip around the sun is completed. Sunrise is at 6:45 am and sunset is at 6:04 pm giving us 11h 19m 13s of sunlight.

Foodimentary celebrates National Pound Cake Day with some lovely pound cakes, facts and today's food history. National day celebrates another: National Grammar Day. A delightful book about spoken grammar is A Child's Garden of Grammar written in playful verse and cartoons.

Just a few days ago, March 1, marked the beginning of meteorological spring. On March 20 is the Vernal Equinox, an astronomical event.That Spring begins at 3:30pm. NOAA explains the difference between the two seasonal markers.  Earlier I noted yet another to mark the spring season known as solar spring. The Boston Globe's Dave Epstein tells us about it. 
So to celebrate these occasions some music. Antonio Vivaldi''s Spring, Ella Fitzgerald singing Spring is Here, and Greg Brown's perfection, I Wish I Was a Painter. On a Prairie Home Companion show, Brown noted that it was written by his grandmother, Ella Mae and is from her journal.

Quote. What a planet. --Kim Robinson (The New Yorker, January 31, 2022)

Today's poem is by Maurice Manning.