Saturday, April 30, 2022

Two Resources for Creating Wildlife Gardens

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

Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology announced a downloadable guide entitle "Creating a Garden for Birds"--basic design considerations.

The announcement also included tips on keeping a nature friendly yard "wild," planned to keep it from "running wild" or looking that way.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education, Hamline University, Saint. Paul, MN on April 29, 2022, the 119th day of the year, its 17th week. and in one more unit: 24.11% of 2022. Sunrise is at 6.04 am and sunset at 8:15 pm giving us 14h 11m 00s of sunlight.

For Foodimentary it is National Shrimp Scampi Day with a photo, 5 food finds about shrimp scampi and some events in food history.  National Day, calls our attention to National Zipper Day ("Automatic Continuous Clothing Closure") and has a short zip through its history where you can learn why KKK is sometimes found on a zipper pull and the origin of the quote I included.

Quote. Truth in science can be defined as the working hypothesis best suited to open the way to the next better one. -- Konrad Lorenz, shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine award with Karl von Frisch and Nikolaas Tinbergen.

Today's poem is by D. Nurske.


Thursday, April 28, 2022


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

Ed Hessler

Here is an interactive from the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology on the multi-functional "clothing" birds wear.  Their uses are amazing, all of them the products of evolution! 

It is, just as advertised, All About Feathers and you can participate in this lesson from the Bird Academy..

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Spring Warblers

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

Ed Hessler

A small wood filled with spring warblers is shown in this video (6m 39s) from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to "help celebrate the imminent arrival of spring migrants" (upstate New York). We are taken there by two ornithologists, Jessie Barry and Chris Wood who share tips on birding and warbler-watching.

Whether you know any of these birds or all of them I think you will be captivated by their color, diversity and especially by seeing so many of them in such a small place. Barry and Wood call attention to the value of these habitat patches. They are not to be dismissed as they provide resting and "fueling" stations as the birds migrate to their northern summer homes.

There is a link to a map and a full list of what they found (66 species, 430 individuals), including a few notes about some of them. 

Whether "pishing" is a term new or old to you here is an interesting article on "pishing." It raises some interesting ethical questions as well as tells you birds for which it is most useful. 

Happy warbling!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Journal Nature's Science Image Gallery for March

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art and Science.

The journal Nature's Science Image Gallery--the best of March--obviously has been open for a while but not here so now that April is nearly past, it is time time to open. These were taken and selected by Nature's photo team.

Admission is free and it is open all hours. As usual,the museum labels are very helpful., one of the reasons I enjoy this exhibition so much.

Take a look here.

Monday, April 25, 2022

A Dog's-Eye View of Climate Change

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

Ed Hessler

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE)culminated its #ClimateEdNOw campaign on Earth Day 2022. Part of the campaign included short essays by scientists, educators, authors, and science fans "about the critical importance of honest, effective, and immediate climate change education."

Two contributors were from Minnesota: Greg Simons, Science Department Chair at Shattuck-St..Mary's School, Faribault and John Abraham, professor of thermal science at the University of St. Thomas. In addition, U. S. Representative Sean Casten (D - Illinois) contributed a short video (39 s).

The very last but certainly not least commentary is by Buster, the NCSE staff dog and Director of Fun. He provides  "a dog's -eye view of climate change" that remind us of its ever multiplying ripple effects as it reshapes the Earth's landscapes, atmosphere, waters and oceans.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

From the Historical Record About Picture Books.

Environmental & Science Education, Literacy, Children, Early Childhood

Ed Hessler

I'd never seen this proclamation about picture books by authors and illustrators. It includes a list of belief statements and what the writers and illustrators condemn and declare. There are 22 signers (provided I counted accurately). One of them, Carson Ellis, illustrated and hand letter the proclamation.

It was written in 2011. Yikes!

Publisher's Weekly has a story about its development.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A Day In The Life Of A Wolf

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

Ed Hessler

Many of us would like to know how critters spend their time day-by-day, hour -by-hour, even minute-by-minute.  With the advent of smaller and smaller recording devices, sometimes on animals, sometimes on permanent cameras in their habitats we can, including night-watching (infra-red). All of these are relatively non-intrusive data collection methods.

MPR posted a story and video (25m 34s) about one day-in-the life of a wolf (photos taken every 5 minutes). By the way it was 91 degrees that day. The accompanying story provides some details about the day, what the wolf did, including travel long distances, and eat. Additionally, it includes a brief history of the technology that allows us to do this.

The wolf is named O2L.

And if you want to dig a little deeper, this report from the Minnesota DNR on wolf populations in the state is a start.
Even with these limited data, one day, one wolf, one season, one sex you could, if you wanted, develop a time-activity budget, the time the wolf spent during the day on different activities, e.g., grooming, feeding, moving, inactivity, etc. This would require considerable viewing of the tape and deciding on categories; checking and re-checking. The resulting pattern is what is known as an ethogram

But to develop an ethogram for the general category of wolf is a much different matter and would require an inordinate amount of observational and analytical work. You would want males, females, juveniles, seasonal information, and time. I turn our attention to an ethogram developed for a closely related species, Indian stray or free-ranging dogs which provides an idea of what is involved.

The research is briefly reported on by animal behaviorist Raghavendra Gadagkar in his column, More Fun than Fun which he writes for The Wire (October 13, 2021). It is titled What Do Dogs (and Other Animals) Do All Day and All Night?
"The ethogram," Gadagkar reported" came from the combined observations of all the members of (the) ‘Dog Lab’ for 12 years. ... the latest count for the total number of unique dog behaviours is 177 – and counting. But the time-activity budgets were (developed using) the method of instantaneous scanning (described earlier in the column and developed by Gdagkar). Her data constitutes 5,669 sightings over one year.

To make these sightings, Arunita (a graduate student) walked day and night, in predetermined routes and at randomly chosen spots, in several suburban regions of West Benga..... Whenever she saw a dog, she noted, initially in her pocket notebook and later on her phone, the age, sex and behaviour of the dog as well as the date, time and location of the sighting. The observational design included great attention to sampling methods to avoid bias.

The time budget (ethogram) was developed using the sightings and (I love this) "clever statistical techniques," which I translate as gritty work. Gadagkar spares us those details.

You may be interested in the most common activity category: inactivity. It was commonly thought that the dogs were nocturnal, creatures of the night. Turns out they are equal opporunity users of a day, dividing their activity time about equally between day and night.

In closing, Raghavendra Gadagkar comments on how this research might be used as well as inform us on what science is, i.e., its nature. He writes, " Clearly, a scientific understanding of dogs will tell us much – not only about dogs and how we should adapt to them but also about evolution in general and domestication in particular. Being found everywhere and easy to observe and experiment with, dogs are well-suited for both basic research in ethology and behavioural ecology and to produce knowledge relevant to society, especially in the context of human-animal conflict. And yet, so few scientists in India study dogs. Part of the reason seems to be that we have a very narrow definition of what is respectable science and even of science itself."

Some of these comments find parallels in the study above reported on the day in the life of a wolf. The column closes with a lovely statement "about the passionate young researchers being trained in the dog lab" and I add ditto for the wolf researchers here in Minnesota. "May their tribe flourish!" 

The first part of the essay must be read if you find yourself taken with this kind of research, The author describes his own careful PhD. research on insects in the "wild" of a garden and what what was involved and how he did it, including his effort to keep his own biases from intruding. 

Wiki has an entry about the author in which he and his work is described. He is a scientist of some accomplishment.



Friday, April 22, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change, Global Change

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE), Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN on April 22, 2022 - Earth Day - the 12th day and 16th week of the year (30.68%). Sunrise occurs at 6:15 am with sunset at 8:07 pm which means we will have 13h 51m 07s of sunlight.

Foodimentary celebrates National Jelly Bean Day about which you can see photographs, read some facts and food history. I once worked with a wonderful and talented laboratory technician at Cornell University fond of saying to everyone, "Whaddya' mean, jelly bean?!" One historical item has some local significance, the birth of Cadwallader C. Washburn in Livermore, Maine. It was in 1866 that he built a flour mill at St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota. The Washburn-Crosby Co. (forerunner of General Mills) would market Gold Medal flour.  National Day features Earth Day with its usual story full of information.
Google Doodle. Today's Doodle "addresses one of the most pressing topics" for all members of Earth: climate change. The Doodle uses "real-time imagery from Google Earth Timelapse and other sources," to show "the impact of climate change across four different locales around our planet:" Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Sermersooq (Greenland), Great Barrier Reef (Australia), and Harz Forests (Elend, Germany). Each of the scenes will remain on the homepage for several hours at a time so tune in throughout the day to view them.
Photograph. I couldn't resist Snowosaurus, taken in Chicago following a recent heavy snowfall. It reminded me of installations of sculptor Andy Goldsworthy many of which use ephemeral materials, including snow/ice.

Quote. Nature is relentless and unchangeable, and it is indifferent as to whether its hidden reasons and actions are understandable to man or not. - Galileo Galilei 

Today's poem is by Ted Kooser.
h/t WEIT for the photograph of Snowosaurus.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

"It Is Our Duty To Keep Our Environment Clea"n

Environmental & Science Education, Sustainability, Pollution

Ed Hessler

"Spider-Man...Spider-Man, does whatever a...street cleaner can. 

A BBC video (2m 52s) features Nigerian environmentalist Jonathan Olakunle dressed as "Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man to help clean up some of his city's Osogbo streets and enlist others to keep them clean and also to spread the message and action.

And here is a newspaper feature about him published in The Cable.

What a superhero!-- informed, passionate, doing what he can to be a good citizen and neighbor. He packs a powerful message, too.

Mufti = traditional clothing seen while he is cleaning at his home.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Our Early Years

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Anthropology, Nature of Science, History of Science, Biological Evolution, Climate Change, Global Change

Ed Hessler

There is now evidence that climate change played a role in the evolution of humans according to a post  in NatureBriefing for April 13, 2022. It is based on "a record-breaking simulation (see below) that temperature and other planetary conditions influenced early human migration -- and possibly contributed to the emergence of the modern-day human species around 300,000 years ago."

Freda Kreier wrote a short story about it in Nature with a more modest subtitle, one I prefer. "model suggests that a shift in weather patterns in southern Africa might have contributed to the rise of Homo sapiens" (that's us). The article has a link to the research paper in Nature, available to read, including a PDF. It is technical but you may be interested in parts of this paper.

Among the items included in Kreier's reporting are the following. The idea is not new. You may recall the debate about "walking on two feet, to adapt to life on the savanna." However, the evidence is not strong at all.

The computer climate model - took a supercomputer six months for the reconstruction of the influence of "temperature and rainfall might have shaped" available resources "to humans over the past few million years." The model's focus is on the earth's orbit during this time." Earth is subject to "the push and pull of other planets "changing both the planet's tilt, and the shape of its orbit. These occur in well known cycles of 40,000 and 100,000 years and the planet's orbit changes from "having a more circular orbit -- which brings more sunlight and longer summers -- to having a more elliptical orbit, which reduces sunlight and can lead to periods of glacial formation."

You can imagine the amount of data generated in a "simulation that incorporated these astronomical changes, and combined their results with thousands of fossils ... to work out where and when six species of humans...could have lived." Kreier quotes the lead researcher, Axel Timmerman on what they found. "'The global collection of skulls and stools is not randomly distributed in time. It follows a pattern."

You'd be also right in thinking that not everyone agrees. Kreier notes that Tyler Faith's response to the research was "'To make the case that a particular climate event led to a speciation event is really hard.'" Kreier continues that this is due "in part because of gaps in the fossil and genetic record."

Kreier closes this fascinating bit of reporting by writing "Most researchers that spoke to Nature say that more evidence will be needed to prove that astronomical cycles influenced the trajectory of human ancestry. 'If solving the mystery of climate change and human evolution could be dealt with in one paper, it would have been done 40 years ago,' Faith says.

"Which is why Timmermann and his colleagues are planning to run even larger models, including ones that integrate genetic data."

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Is Nuclear Power Green?

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

Ed Hessler 

I'd been hoping that theoretical physicist and freelance popular science writer, Sabine Hossenfelder would comment on nuclear power. 

She has and covers considerable energy territory, especially renewables. Her real question is whether nuclear power is green. I appreciate how she initiates her remarks especially on how she has organized her comments.

"A lot of people have asked me to do a video about nuclear power. But that turned out to be really difficult. You won’t be surprised to hear that opinions about nuclear power are extremely polarized and every source seems to have an agenda to push. Will nuclear power help us save the environment and ourselves, or is it too dangerous and too expensive? Do thorium reactors or the small modular ones change the outlook? Is nuclear power green? That’s what we’ll talk about today.

"I want to do this video a little differently so you know where I’m coming from. I’ll first tell you what I thought about nuclear power before I began working on this video. Then we’ll look at the numbers, and in the end, I’ll tell you if I’ve changed my mind." (emphasis mine)

As usual it may be viewed and read on her blog, BackReaction and also on YouTube (22m 46s). This is long, I know but hey the territory deserves and requires it. I always find the transcripts illuminating although I can read them more quickly than listening to them  but I find the transcripts are immensely useful.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Two For Earth Week 2022

Earth & Space Science, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

1) For Earth Day, 2020, Ze Frank of True Facts presented a short video (5m 38s) for PBS (!) entitled If The Earth Gave Earth Day awards. It has some saucy bits but this is ZeFrank. You are on your own.

Of course, scan the comments for some viewer reactions (1217 of 526,082 views).

I don't know whether Ze Frank and PBS have other events planned. I certainly keep hoping.

2) I recently discovered HERE: Poems for the Planet (Copper Canyon Press), edited by Elizabeth Coleman. This diverse collection is by poets from many nations and cultural traditions is divided into 5 sections.

--Where You'd Want to Come From: Poems for the Planet (about the beauty of earth)

--The Gentle Light That Vanishes: Our Endangered World (the first of two sections are about the "mutilated world," a phrase from the title of a poem by Adam Zagjewski)

--As If They'd Never Been: Poems for the Animals

-- The Ocean Within Them: Voices of Young People (written when the poets were between 6 and 18 years old)

--Like You Are New to the World: From Inspiration to Action (poems to energize)

At the end of the collection is an activist's guide written by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Here is a poem from the section The Ocean Within Them by Mary Anne Clarke. Composer Sarah Rimkus scored it and here her composition is presented by the Nazareth College Chamber Choir (the organization which commissioned it).  Cornell has ornithological information about the poem's subject, the Arctic Tern.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Star Formation

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology

Ed Hessler 

If you would like to know where stars form, Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) discusses the process in the Eagle Nebula, a spectacular body of interstellar clouds. It is 7,000 light years out. Here is the Wiki entry on nebulas.

The Hubble Space Telescope made visible an area known as the Pillars of Creation an area of active star formation, features that might remind you of geologic features known as stalagmites. There is the usual explanation and the links are really worth taking time to visit. This is not the first APOD entry of the Eagle Nebula.

You can see the APOD image here.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Biography of the Star Earendel

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

Ed Hessler (CfA

Edges--habitat, ecosystem, geographic, planetary, solar system are fascinating and complex places where boundaries are not so clear as those drawn with pen and pencil. One of the most puzzling to non-scientists is the so-called edge of the universe. It is still puzzling to scientists but differently.  Everything in our personal experience, well, almost, has edges so the universe must have one so our logic goes. So what is it like there and, of course, what is beyond this edge? Again, personal experience tells us that there is always something beyond an edge. 

Here is a brief answer to this cosmic question from Harvard's Center for  Astrophysics (CfA), Theoretical astro-physicist Ethan Siegel calls attention to an edge but it is different from what we expect. See his post on this question on his blog "Starts With a Bang." And here I'll stop since I'm already way beyond my paygrade, a way of saying my understanding or its possibility.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) in one of its posts provides insight without ever mentioning such a question by focusing on data about the star Earendel which "may be the farthest star yet discovered." The labeled photo and explanation are top-of-the line and what a story it is, one of curiosity. science, technology, engineering, computing, and evidence based on current data.


Friday, April 15, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Environmental Education at Hamline University, Saint, Paul, MN on April 15, day 96 (13 weeks 5 days, 26.30%) of 2022. Sunrise is at 6:27 am and sunset is at 7:58 pm giving this part of the world 13h 30m 25s of daylight. It is chilly, temperature well below average.
We've experience a curious weather pattern, starting usually mid-week which is now four weeks old with a mix of several varieties of precipitation accompanied by cooler temperatures lasting for several days. The difference this week is the weather maker, described by Sven Sundgaard, MPR on April 14 as"an intense spring storm with tornadoes and a blizzard all within the Upper Midwest."

Today National Day notes that it is National Tax Day  while Foodimentary draws our attention to National Glazed Ham Day with a lovely photograph, some facts (e.g., Hormel, Austin, MN sold the first canned ham in 1926) and food history (e.g., New York State was the first state to fund a study of insects harmful to plants in 1854.).

Quote. Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes. --Benjamin Franklin (letter to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, November 1789

Today's poem is by Bin Ramke.


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Kitchen Physics

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology, Astrophysics

Ed Hessler 

Turns out your toaster can teach you some basics about the universe especially if you have a guide..

In this BBC Ideas video (3m 09s) the elements of a toaster glow orange but not blue and what this tells us about our endlessly fascinating universe.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Origin of "Theories" (Hypotheses)


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

Ed Hessler

Many science educators work very hard at trying to get students to restrict the casual everyday use of the term theory - a substitute for a hypothesis to real scientific theories, those that have been tested and for which there is evidence. Scientists are seldom so vexed and violate this all the time.

A case in point is this article in Symmetry by Sarah Charley titled "Where Do Theories Come From?"  Here, e.g., theoretian Dorota Grabowska talking about how she does this. Note she uses the correct term about the early stage of the game when one is coming up with ideas to study, conduct an experiment likely to reveal useful evidence or explain something. It is one I found interesting and one not often thought of outside the sciences: the need to know and read the academic literature.

"If someone is serious about developing a new hypothesis, Grabowska recommends they hit the books. “'There is such a massive base of knowledge that it can be hard for someone who hasn't been soaking in the academic physics world to judge the validity of their idea,” Grabowska says. 'It’s difficult to come up with a new idea if you don’t know what has already been conceived, tested and discarded. It has nothing to do with innate talent.'” 

Theorist Sophie Renner concurs, starting "her workday by going online and checking, a continually updated online repository of research papers. 'I’ll skim the titles and abstracts and see if there’s anything I want to read more deeply.'”  But, as Charley notes Renner’s work is not yet complete. Once she has a solid idea, Renner thinks about the best way to articulate it. 'I can only really understand it once I can put it into words.' She condenses the meandering journey into a clear and concise narrative. This can be miles from where she originally started, as often even the question itself has evolved.'You have to understand what questions have been asked and answered before, and where there are gaps to be filled in.'

"During this part of the process, Renner shifts her focus to other theorists and how they might interpret her work. 'I might understand it like this, but is this the best way to present it to my reader. And if I’m going to make this point, what plots and data do I need to make it as clear as it can be? This is the process—to get to the point where it seems easy.' She collaborates with other theorists to work out the details and draft a scientific paper. Then she submits their work to, where even more theorists (and experimentalists) will come across it, perhaps as they peruse the site while having their morning coffee. And the process will start anew."If you are interested in how these kinds of ideas originate at least among theoretical/experimental physicists, read it in full. 
It's fun, downright fascinating to learn more about the early stages of an idea to one that eventually coalesces into an hypothesis..something useful in research.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Theoretical Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder: Short Interview

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

Ed Hessler

Over at 3 Quarks Daily, S. Abbas Raza posted an interview with theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder. The video is 17m 35s.

Hossenfelder gave a  public lecture at the University of Minnesota in October 2019 which I was unable to attend. She had recently published a book that created a stir among many theoretical physicists, titled Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, released in June 2018 (Basic Books).

Almost at the outset of this interview she again clarifies what she meant but in addition she talks briefly about her current research, philosophy and science about which she knows a great deal but unlike many scientists thinks that philosophy can play an important role (not, of course, as a research guide or the last word but on how science is done, communication with general audiences and makes some fascinating comparisons between blogging and visual presentations - she does both, noting the advantages of each and their limitations and shares her views on so-called theories of everything (TOE).

I'm grateful to S. Abbas Raza for calling attention to this video which I doubt I would have ever found. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Long Reach of Odors

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

Ed Hessler 

Who would have thought that odors would have lingered after 3,400 years "from the tomb of a wealthy ancient Egyptian couple, Kha and Merit, found near Luxor in 1906?"  Kha means "a chief of works,"  i.e., an architect. 
The research and findings on these odors are reported by Colin Baras in the journal Nature (see below for link) where the research was published. The work is possible because of technology and chemists. Interestingly, this is not the first time the technique has been used but the technique of using gases (volatiles), "according to Stephen Buckley, an archaeologist and analytical chemist, 'have been ignored by archeologists because of an assumption they would have disappeared from artefacts.'"

"Unusually for the time," Baras continues, "the archaeologist who discovered the tomb resisted the temptation to unwrap the mummies or peer inside the sealed amphorae, jars and jugs there, even after they were transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy." 
So what was it that prompted the sniffing? "Ilaria Degano of the University of Pisa, Italy said that 'From talking with the curators, we knew that there were some fruity aromas in the display cases." So she "and her colleagues placed various artefacts -- including sealed jars and open cups laden with the rotten remains of ancient food --inside plastic bags for several days to collect...volatile molecules they still release." The team found that "Two-thirds of the objects gave some results." Degano also says. '"It was a very nice surprise.'" The sniffers detected whiffs "indicative of beeswax...dried fish, and (molecules) common in fruits."

These odors might one day be used in exhibits, adding "a dimension to the visitor experience at museums." On the other hand, "Cecilia Bembibre at University College" where she is currently a lecturer, remarked to Baras that, Degradation and decomposition can be a smelly business, so the scents from an artefact today do not necessarily match what Bembibre referred to as the original 'smellscape' of a tomb.

In closing, Baras quotes "Stephen Buckley, who was involved in the 2014 study said that “'if you want to understand the ancient Egyptians, you really want to go into that world of smell'”. Here is an example pointed out by Kathryn Bard of Boston University.  "Sweet-smelling incense derived from aromatic resins was essential for the ancient Egyptians. 'Incense was necessary for temple ceremonies and for some mortuary rituals. ... Because resin-producing trees didn’t grow in Egypt, this necessitated ambitious long-distance expeditions to obtain supplies.'"

Baras's report includes illustrations, a photograph of the instrument with its "nose" as close as it can be placed to where the lid of the amphorae and the jar meet, a copy of a papyrus showing Kha and Merit worshiping the god of the afterlife, more complete descriptions, access to the original paper and some links. It is also quite short. 

The technological nose knows and this reporting tells us how and why it is of importance and of interest.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin: 1964 Nobel Prize for Chemistry

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

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin is the only British woman scientist to have received Nobel recognition in 1964, the award for chemistry.

She was had a remarkable research career and in this Hidden History video (5m 46s) from BBC Ideas you can learn more about her "exceptional life".

Friday, April 8, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Arts & Environment
Ed Hessler

Good morning from the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, April 8, 2022, the 98th day of the year -  2352 hours or  26.85% to date. Sunrise is at 6:40 am and sunset is at 7:49 pm giving us 13h 09m 03s of sunlight during which we are likely to see the sun. This week has marked our third mid-week rain, fog, mist, snow which is to end today with blue, cottony white and what snow there is on roofs and the ground to melt. The moisture though has been needed and is welcome. And yet another storm is shaping up for mid-week! Too early for those details.

Foodimentary marks National Empanada Day with a tempting photograph, some facts about them  (more tempting photographs) and food history among which we find the birthday of "Catfish" Hunter. 
For National Day it is National All Is Ours Day which is not quite as self-centered as it  might first appear. It is, instead, "a day devoted to appreciating all the things of beauty and nature around us."  There is the usual full description -  history, things to do, etc.

Quote. "Eric told me he wanted to share his America because he feared how little we have come to understand each other. The divide between city and country, once just a crack in the dirt was now a chasm into which objects, people, grace, and love all fell and disappeared.” -- Marie Mutsuki Mockett, American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland

Today's poem is by Bruce Bennett.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Banding Owls in the Wild

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

Ed Hessler

Thanks to my good friend and colleague Molly for sending this story on banding Great-Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) in the wild. 

The story is well-told and also lavishly illustrated by two photographers. The first image shows birders in a classic position--looking up, this time through the lens of cameras. One of the photos shows one of the banding duo trying to line up the three owlets for a group portrait. It reminded of effort required in taking photos of children.
What talons and what intimidating eyes!  These birds are a palette of subdued colors, so many tones of tan, brown, black and white with highlights of burnished orange and rust.

The information in the article is as complelling as the photographs, including how banding birds contributes to our knowledge of birds. 
Picture perfect. Word perfect.

h/t to Molly, one more time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Cold Water Invertebrates

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

Ed Hessler

When most of us think about nature and wildlife, invertebrates seldom top the list, especially those from the cold water environments.

Marine biologist Alexander Semenov is on the staff of the White Sea Biological Station in Primorskiy, Russia. He started filming cold water invertebrates as a hobby and fell in love with what he was filming. He's now a professional photographer and leads the scientific diving team at the station. 

The journal Nature has an illustrated feature of these strangely beautiful critters. In addition, tips are included for taking photos for research.

I seldom look at such images without thinking of the last paragraph found in later editions of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species."

"It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

You may be interested in how the title of Darwin's Origin evolved and this publication from the Royal Society describes the history. "Fascinating," as Spock might say.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Phenology: An Introduction

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature

Ed Hessler

In a short video, the late Nina Leopold Bradley (1917 - 2011), she of the famed Leopold family, introduces us to phenology, which she described as "a way of seeing the earth. through collecting data on the timing of life cycles of plants and animals..."

She was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 2013, two years after her death.

Here is the film (2m 49s).

Monday, April 4, 2022

Bambi: Review Of A New Translation

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

Ed Hessler

I never knew that Disney's classic movie Bambi (1942) was not a work of imagination from the Disney studio or that it was not based on a fairy tale. It was, as Kathryn Schulz reports in The New Yorker (January 24, 2022) an adaptation of "a 1922 novel by the Austro-Hungarian writer and critic Felix Salten, titled "Bambi: A Life in the Woods." Or did I know that Stephen King, who knows a few things about horror stories, once said that it was "the first horror movie he ever saw." Or that its translator was Whittaker Chambers, an American Quaker who became a communist,a spy for the Soviets. who later defected and testified in the trial of Alger Hiss.
In this essay, Schulz reviews a new translation - "The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest" Princeton) -  by Jack Zipes, "professor emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota." She describes the illustrations by Alenka Sottler as "wonderful." Given Salten's background as a hunter and killer of many deer, the author of a work "of child pornography,"  a novel about a Viennese prostitute "as told by herself," it was even more surprising. The book latter book was published anonymously, but Salten is "regarded as the undisputed author of the book, believed even at the time of publication in1906.

Schultz draws our attention to "a through line to Salten's scattershot career...his interest in writing about animals, which was evident from his first published work of fiction." Salten wrote many books in which non-human protagonists were featured, not always with happy endings, most "not particularly suitable for children.  One of them was made into a Disney film, "The Shaggy Dog,"  Disney also transformed Salten's novel about Bambi, "the whole point...Salten insisted (was to) educate naive readers about nature as it really is: a place where life is always contingent on death, where starvation, competition, and predation are the norm."
If you saw this film long ago or have never seen it, Schulz provides "a quick refresher" of Disney's "Bambi." It is a film with some wider influence than entertainment, again more than I knew, e.g., "environmental historian Ralph Lutts," once commented that 'It is difficult to identify a film, story, or animal character that has had a greater influence on our vision of wildlife."'  Of course, I've heard the phrase "the Bambi Complex," used in management circles. Basically, the film is a Garden of Eden and then humans enter a place in which "nature (is) benign and wild animals - interspecies amity is the rule - are adorable and tame, coupled with a corresponding resistance to crucial forest-management tools such as culling and controlled burns."

We impress both on books and films our particular meanings and to devil with the evidence, e.g., it was  considered in Nazi Germany as "a parable about Jewish persecution."  Schulz describes the book as "at heart," (as) a coming of age story...a novel of education and training." The professor is the stag known as old Prince and Bambi is his student. Schulz argues that two sentences from the book - "Can't you stay by yourself? Shame on you!" - i.e.,  "anything short of extreme self-reliance is shameful; interdependence is unseemly, restrictive, and dangerous." In other words "you must live alone." Consider the story this way, Schulz says: "This is not 'The Lorax' or 'Maus.' This is 'The Fountainhead,' with fawns." However, the book also includes scenes that are not  "a paean to individualism: (but) a belated (and) tender recognition of how much we mean to one another."

Schulz thinks that the Whitaker translation is the better of the two. Zipes is knowledgeable, but "he is not a lucid thinker or a gifted writer." The example she provides of this illustrates her point. 
One novel by Salten was about a zoo, the zookeeper enlightened and humane."The animals within it, Salten writes, 'are all sentenced to life imprisonment and are all innocents."  Schulz  notes that this line is "lovely...and one that seems to apply, in his moral universe , to all of us. In the forest--that is, in a state of nature--we are in constant danger; in society tended and cared but fundamentally compromised, we are still not out of the woods.'"

I urge you to read this essay.  I've merely scratched the surface and hope I haven't marred it. You certainly don't want to miss learning about a surprising scene Disney included in the studio version of  Bambi and then cut after it was shown to test audiences. Schulz's credentials -  2016 Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award (see category feature writing 2016)- are on full display. And you may want to take a look at the Wiki entry about her.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Sizzling Surfaces and Skittering Water

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science

Ed Hessler

We've all seen water droplets hopping and bouncing when they encounter a very hot surface. The phenomenon has a name: the Leidenfrost effect. It  was first described by a German doctor and theologian Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost (1715 - 1794).

A newly designed surface has been designed to prevent it? You may wonder why this has long attracted the attention of engineers who have been trying to design surfaces that avoid it. Many systems that use water-based-cooling systems are much less efficient than they otherwise might be.

This Nature video (4m 20s) describes the phenomenon and the development of a new surface which prevents it.  There is a link to the scientific paper where you can read the abstract and learn more about the authors of the scientists and engineers involved--12 investigators. The full paper is behind a subscription wall.