Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Friday Poem And Annoucement

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

First, I will be away from the blog for a few days starting today (June 20) perhaps returning Saturday, the reason for this very early Friday poem.

Duckweed by Richard Luftig. 

Information about Luftig is found below the poem.

Hidden Right Under Our Noses: Champagne Physics

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

Ed Hessler

--Champagne should be considered a ‘mini’ laboratory for the physics of fluids.”--Physicist Robert Georges (New Scientist; quoted in NatureBriefing June 6 2022)

Both the original research report on shock waves produced when champagne bottles are uncorked, published in Physics of Fluids and a popular account in New Scientist, are behind paywalls but the press release from the American Institute of Physics (AIP) is available. It includes a "time sequence of photographs showing details of a cork expelled from a champagne bottleneck stored at 20 degrees Celsius" (68 Degrees Fahrenheit) in the first millisecond.

In science as knowledge grows and measuring tools have progressed this phrase captures the change that has occurred: "there is much more that comes out of the pop than meets the senses." Further research is planned on the effects of temperature, volume, bottleneck diameter, the physicochemical processes, e.g., "how supersonic flow is affected by ice particle formations caused by the drastic temperature drop as the fizz ejects from the bottle."

Co-author Gerard Liger-Belair (Universite de Reims Champagne-Ardenne) made this remark, "'Who could have imagined he complex and aesthetic phenomenon hidden behind such a common situation experienced by any one of us?'"

The champagne bottle IS a mini-laboratory. There are likely still many scientific problems that appear common. They can be explored scientifically when you have the know how, training and education, understanding of a field, the equipment that allows you to get beyond the constraints of your sense, AND the curiosity to  notice and then to investigate them.

Here is the AIP press release with more details and insights this research may provide..




Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A Unique Hunting Strategy By A Small Population of Polar Bears

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

Ed Hessler

It was good to find a short report about the finding of an isolated polar bear population which has developed a hunting strategy that allows them to survive in an area free of sea ice for part of the year. I'd heard about it and was interested.

The scientific report is a bit of bitter and sweet. The bitter is a reminder of what we have done to  the earth's atmosphere; the sweet, at least for the time being, is a solution found by these magnificent bears, so appropriately bearing the scientific name of Ursus maritimus. The sea bear.

The original paper is behind a subscription paywall in the journal Science.

The story reported by Bianca Nogrady notes that "researcher identified the genetically distinct sub-population in the fjords of southeast Greenland" where "sea-ice coverage last for only around 100day each year." Polar bears require sea ice to hunt. The population of females is small, "consisting of 27 adult females." They hunt "on the ice that has calved off glaciers--called glacial melange."  The "populations has been isolated from other polar bears populations...for at least 200 years."

Here is a short video (53s) of the physics of a glacial ice melange.

Kristin Laidre at the University of Washington in Seattle led the research. She told Nogrady that sometimes, when "the ice platforms got caught in the rapid current that travels down the east coast of Geenlan...'they would actually jump off', swim ashore and walk back home."

For more details see the Nature report where there is also a magnificent picture of a bear from this population.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers

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

Ed Hessler

Sometimes species are referred to as generalists while others as specialists--a shorthand description of their abilities to survive under different environmental conditions and feeding behavior. However, the overall truth of the matter is that there is a continuum from one to the other although some species fit in one or the other very clearly. This Wiki entry has details on generalist and specialist species.

Jim Williams (The Star Tribune, June 8, 2022) focused on one, red-bellied woodpeckers, birds that have "been pushing northward for the past 70 years." They are generalists as you shall see.

As is well known, two locally common woodpeckers are quite hard to identify, the downy and the hairy woodpecker. And they don't give you many easy or clear glimpses. Red-bellied woodpeckers are easy, thanks to "an arresting black and white-barred back" which leads some to use a more descriptive name: zebra-backed woodpecker. Their bellies appear lightly rouged. Red-bellied woodpeckers are vocal and the descriptions of all three from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes their respective appearance and calls. Williams notes that red bellies "churr."

After describing some of their behavior, coloration, spread, his backyard experiences, nesting habits, Williams writes "So, hats off to a misnamed but highly successful tree-clinging bird, who's not fussy about what it eats and where it lives, and is managing to capitalize on our changing natural world." I think you will agree that they are handsome, striking birds. They appear inquistive, at least in my view.

Woodpeckers. One more good reason to do everything we can to slow the change from climate and insults to habitats. 

Another column from one of the best around. Thank you.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A President and Forest Elephants

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Global Change, Wildlife, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

This short video (2m 33s) from the BBC tells the story of how the country of Gabon (now the Gabomese Republic) saved its forest elephants while likely conserving and preserving other biodiversity.

At a meeting, President Omar Bongo turned to minster and asked "Why did nobody ever tell me that we had these wildlife treasures in Gabon." Not many heads of state refer to wildlife as treasures, certainly at the time. President Bongo set a course to change that. 

Bongo was the second president of Gabon, administering the country for 42 years and died while in office. (December 1935 to June 8 2009)-- a long period of peace and stability. He was a short man but one of towering stature. The Wiki entry has the details.

Two remarkable individuals made a difference as shown in this film: President Bongo and wildlife biologist, the Brit, Lee White.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Lake Baikal Seals Under the Ice

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

Ed Hessler

Photographer Dmitry Kokh made a video of Baikal seals (Pusa sibirica) under the ice of Lake Baikal.

Two minutes and 09 seconds of wonder and all you have to do is watch.

This seal faces a serious threat in the not-so-distant future, just like the rest of us: global climate change.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Amazon's Ancient Cities

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Society, Culture, Archeology, Global Change

Ed Hessler

I wish that the article in Nature on recent finds, based on powerful evidence of ancient settlements in the Amazon, had more photographs but two images are all that is there. They are still worth taking a look at.

I think you will be surprised by the engineering involved in creating these large island cities. Well-elevated mounds, roads, wells, etc. The societies were highly organized and differentiated.

The finds are based in technology reports Freda Kreier, one known as "lidar--a remote-sensing technology that uses lasers to generate a 3D image of the ground below." she notes that "in 2013, a lidar survey of a valley in Honduras helped lead to the rediscovery of an ancient pre-Columbian city rumoured to exist in the area. The jungle had completely overtaken the settlement since it was abandoned in the fifteenth century, making it all but impossible to see from the air without lidar."

Such finds lead, of course, to more questions and needed research, e.g., perhaps especially the reasons why they "were abandoned after 900 years." Their life span was from around 500 A.D. to 1400 A.D.

"These discoveries," says Kreier, "also counter the narrative that Indigenous peoples were passive inhabitant of the Amazon Basin before the arrival of Europeans" and quotes the observation of archeologist Eduard Neves: "The people who lived there changed the landscape forever.'"

Tuesday, June 21, 2022


Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Agriculture, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

I don't think I've ever eaten collards which is not the point of this post. There are many foods I would like to try and collards are among them. I know I'd like them since I'm a fan of kale, another variety of leafy greens and with cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli all expressions of the wild species Brassica oleracea, products of natural variation and selective breeding. 

It would be a shame to lose a single variety of  collards and there is hope many of them will be saved. And there is hope in The Heirloom Collard Project, a collaboration between Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Seed Savers Exchange, Working Food, and The Utopian Seed Project.

The website will tell you about the project, the collards, articles and recipes and, if you want, how to get involved. The first image to greet you on the home page is of heirloom collard leaves which have mostly subtle differences, in addition to being lovely all by themselves. Each is named but I can't read them. You will also find presentations given during collard week to celebrate collards!

Monday, June 20, 2022


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

Ed Hessler

Things have been tumbling off boats into the ocean for as long as humans have been a seafaring species, which is to say, at least ten thousand and possibly more than a hundred thousand years.--Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, June 6 2022

Today things tumble-off in large shipping containers (or sink with the ship),and these are the focus of Shulz 's reporting for The New Yorker, June 6, 2022. As she so elegantly puts it, "The shipping container is a lesson in the uncontainable nature of modern life."  I hope the bits that follow motivate you to read her full column.

--"6000 container ships are...on the ocean at any given moment." The scale stretches the imagination. Some ships carry "more than 20000" and given a variety of factors such as human failure, heavy seas, and storms," some are likely to go overboard " That number is increasing because storms and high winds are increasing due to climate-inducing volatility of the atmosphere.

--There is a field guide to containers--"The Container Guide," by Craig Cannon and Tim Hwang; "the John Audubons of shipping containers."

--Containers were developed by trucking company owner, Malcom McLean and marked the end of employment for longshoremen and stevedores (two quite different jobs). "These days, a computer does the work of figuring out how to pack a ship, and a trolley-an-crane systems removes an inbound container and replaces it with an outbound one roughly every ninety seconds, unloading and reloading the ship almost simultaneously."

--At the small end of the scale of container vessels are the 400-footers; at the highest end are the 1300-footers. "The stacks begin down in the hold, and above-board they can run as wide as twenty three abreast and loom as tall as a ten-story building. While there is a UN plan to report losses, it has not been put into action yet.
--Crews are at a different scale. The largest container ships - Ultra large Container Vessel - "can travel from Hong Kong to California carrying twenty-thousand containers and just twenty-five people."

--The economics makes this side of the business of transporting inexpensive and details are provided. I didn't know that when one goes overboard "an arcane bit of maritime law - general average adjustment - according to which everyone with cargo aboard (that ship) must help pay for all related expenses." It was codified in 533 ACE and makes sense.

--So what's in 'em? Think darn near everything and Schulz's list is staggering in its diversity. What "they have in common is that, collectively, they make plain the scale of our excess consumption." And because there are so many, inspection "is essentially impossible...a boon to drug cartels, human traffickers, and terrorists, a nightmare for the rest of us." *

--Scientists have used the well-known Nike shoe loss incident that led to the development of a research field  known as "flotsametrics--the study of ocean currents based on the drift patterns of objects that go overboard." The shoes are long-distance floaters and "will float pretty much until they run out of ocean--although, since the two shoes in a pair orient differently in the wind, one beach might be strewn with right sneakers while another is covered in left ones."
--Schulz closes with the discovery of plastic bags by beachcombers and walkers that were lost in a container failure: "a million plastic bags, headed for a supermarket chain in Ireland, bearing the words 'Help protect the environment.'"

* The only account I've ever read of this side of dock life is the first chapter in Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano (Picador 2006) whose description of that underbelly is graphic and eye-opening. It is the stuff of nightmares. A world unimaginable and certainly unknown to most of us.. The setting is the Port of Naples, Italy. No romance.


Sunday, June 19, 2022

Margherita Hack: Astrophysicist

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Cosmology, Earth & Space Science

Ed Hessler

I'd never heard of astronomer Margherita Hack, "Italy's first female professor in astronomy, and a fixture on television."  (12 June 1922 - 29 June 2013).

Her bio on Wiki describes her activities, research, political activism, commitment to atheism and other details about a fully packed life.

And just recently she has been immortalized in a statue, an honor I wish she had lived to see (unveiled on June 13). It is lovely a couple of details call attention to her career as a scientist as you will learn in this short article by Davide Castevecchi for the British journal Nature. He writes,  "The statue shows Hack emerging from a vortex, representing the spiral shape of a galaxy. She is pretending to hold and look through a telescope, an inspirational pose she had taken during a photo shoot."

In addition, Castevecchi reports that she has also been honored by the Italian Post office with a commemorative stamp for which see here.

The statue is the work of Elisabetta Cipriana.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Not One But Two: The Story of a "Tree"

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

Ed Hessler

The British journal Nature has a nice story about a tree that is really two trees--two separate species long thought to be a single species. 

This is based on two pieces of evidence. The Iban and Dusan on the island of Borneo have long called the tree by two names and now a genetic study shows the same difference and the standard scientific taxonomy will change. Two lines of evidence finally converge. 

The scientific paper on the molecular biology evidence was published in Current Biology and may be read online. The following is from the main text of the scientific paper.

"The Iban people of Sarawak recognize two species. Lumok is the cultivated tree, with large leaves, thick twigs, large sweet fruits with thick pulp, and short hairs on the buds and young twigs. Pingan is a wild tree with smaller leaves, slender twigs, smaller, less-sweet fruits with thinner pulp, and often, but not always, long hairs on vegetative parts (Figure S1...). An ethnobotanical study recorded names reflecting their close affinity: lumok amat (‘true lumok’) and lumok pingan. The Dusun of Sabah also recognize two entities: timadang, equivalent to lumok; and tonggom-onggom, equivalent to pingan. (Figure S1 shows the fruits as well as other details.) ...

"Considering both the Iban and Linnaean systems, we sequenced DNA microsatellites and used targeted capture sequencing to test these hypotheses: first, Iban pingan is genetically distinct from lumok; second, the long-haired ‘barbatus form’ is genetically distinct from the typical short-haired form; third, pingan and lumok correspond to the barbatus and odoratissimus forms, respectively; and finally, pingan is the wild progenitor of cultivated lumok. (My emphasis)
"Tissue was collected in Malaysian Borneo and sampled from herbarium specimens covering the entire species range, including Beccari’s types from the 1860s. Field identification was provided by Iban authors JT and SN in Sarawak and by Dusun authors PM and JJ in Sabah." The full names of the authors may be found at the Current Biology link above.
Freda Kiefer, writing for Nature News is probably more accessible to the general and interested readers  which  recommend  reading it, including at the top two photographs of the fruits. I include some of Freda Kiefer's  comments from that essay, quotes mostly that further inform this lovely study.
--In conversation with Eliot Gardner, international Center for Tropical Botany, noted that he said "This reclassification exemplifies how Indigenous knowledge can change and strengthen our understanding of biodiversity."
--"Gardner says the team thought to investigate whether these were separate species only because the local botanists had used different names. He adds that science has a long history of benefiting from Indigenous knowledge — for instance, scientists often rely on local guides to help make sense of the world around them." Gardner also noted “'It’s not surprising at all that people who are around these plants all day long know them in a more intimate way than scientists who just come into the field from time to time.'”
--"Interacting with Indigenous knowledge on an equal footing could help scientists to learn more about the natural world and how to protect it, says Gardner. 'We can’t conserve what doesn’t have a name.'” 

The quote by Gardner is important I think since it emphasizes the importance of names.  I also wondered how many scientists had  studied these trees in the field, and how they wondered, if they did, about the different names. And it is another example of how current science works, one of which is paying attention to local lore and natural wisdom. 

Of course there is more in both the essay and full paper. I hope you take a look at one or the other or both.


Friday, June 17, 2022

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Sparking Young Neurons in Pakistan

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science Literacy, Children, Learning, Maths

Ed Hessler

Lalah Rukh founded Science Fuse , "a non-governmental organization in Lahore, Pakistan, that is working to promote access to high-quality education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in 2016.

Abdullahi Tsanni for the British science journal Nature recently interviewed her about the joys and the challenges of her work. Here is what was discussed but see the interview for the details.

--On her first interests in science and science engagement

--Where the idea of Science Fuse came from.

--On the importance of boosting STEM education in Pakistan

--Barriers that hinder girls who want to study STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers

--What she finds most interesting when teaching children about science

And here is a link to Science Fuse--an interactive science & maths program.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Where I Work

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

Ed Hessler

Forest ecologist Paolo Cherubini is a dendrochronologist - tree-ring dating - who uses this skill and training to date stringed instruments, particularly when litigation is involved. This concerns questions of authenticity on when the instrument was made.

Writing about him for Nature Notes' series  Where I Work, Nic Fleming notes that "Dendrochronology cannot precisely date when an instrument was made, but it can identify the most recent year that the wood it was made from was part of a growing tree. Tree rings give probabilities and levels of confidence in a date according to the availability of appropriate reference series."

Cherubini uses " understand how trees grow, as well as to investigate historical environmental conditions. Th widths of tree rings vary according to meteorological conditions, so samples can be dated by cross-reference against databases of ring-width series." 

Cherubini is a senior scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Zurich, Switzerland.

What a great headline for the article: Timbre in the timber...




Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Fishing Tips

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

Ed Hessler

"Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman's job is simple: Pick out the best parts." – Charles Waterman

Dennis Anderson (StarTribune May 29, 2022) offered some simple and sound advice on picking out "the best parts." When you drive "keep an eye peeled for really big fish. And cast a line near them."

The fish are most often "made of fiberglass." Anderson calls attention to what he thinks is likely true about our state. There are "probably...more highway shrines to all things finned than any other state." They mean, he says, "that good fishing is close at hand."

He continues, noting that "the monuments' primary intents are to advertise businesses and/or stoke community spirit. But they are just as readily guides to some of Minnesota's best fishing waters." By the way this practice has resulted in a variety of fishing "Capitols of the World." Anderson discusses one example: the walleye. It has led to these capitols: Garrrison, Baudette, Garrison (North Dakota), Port Clinton (Ohio), Isle, Rush City, Kabetogama Township "...and on and on."

Anderson notes that this is the most recent manifestation of highlighting "people's relationship with nature, and to honor the subject beasts." "Nearly since the beginning of time, sculptors and other artists have molded, painted and otherwise recreated animal likenesses. In particular he draws attention to the red ochre rock paintings in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

And so you might wonder "where are all of these big fish spawned. At a fiberglass animal farm in Sparta, Wisconsin," the home of FAST Corp--Fiberglass Animals Shapes and Trademarks. It usually takes "eight to 16 weeks." The longer time is likely when the mold has to be created rather than when available off-the-shelf.

Anderson closes this great story with a tip. "When you see a giant fake walleye, bass, muskie, trout or bluegill, the real thing is almost certainly nearby, in spades. Pull over the and start fishing." 

He takes the occasion to also set a record straight. Minnesota has "14,380 lakes." (my bold)

There is also a bonus feature: A map of the state with locations of 10 Big Fish Statues, each with a story about the replica and comments on fishing. One isn't a fish or even located in Minnesota but does have a fin tail. It is the Rainy Lake Mermaid on the Ontario side of Rainy Lake.

Here is a link and it wasn't behind a subscription paywall with additional information on camping.

Once again, a great story by Mr. Anderson on fishing, biodiversity as the spice of life, as a way of enjoying and getting to know the natural world, as well as consider the links between nature and our economy. And one more reason to work on conservation issues of your choice such as global warming and habitat restoration/preservation.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Listening to Elephants

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

Ed Hessler

The vision of the Forest Elephant Listening Project is "To conserve the tropical forests of Africa through acoustic monitoring, sound science, and education focusing on forest elephants." (my emphasis)

The goal is "to help conserve the second largest block of rainforest on earth and the biodiversity that it harbors, by focusing on forest elephant as key architects of these forests, and using innovative acoustic tools at the scale of landscapes."

The project website has sections on forest elephants including their ecology and evolution, research and conservation.

While included in the link "About Us," I pulled it out because I think it is important to know about Katy Payne, its founder and her "insightful idea - studying...hidden behaviors by eavesdropping on their conversations." The forest is thick and moms and daughters are separated by large distances, and the elephants are elusive. Yet they are in contact.

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology just published a letter from Daniela Hedwig, Team Leader, Elephant Listening Project, with additional information and a link to Lih Ngolio, a cultural, musical, and theatrical bring together the local cultures through music that focuses on the beauty of the Congo Basin Forest."

The Elephant Listening Project is part of the TheCornelLab K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics. Their mission is to "collect and interpret sounds in nature by eveloping and applying innovative conservation technologies across ecologically relevant scales to inspire an inform the conservation of wildlife and habitats.

It is an example of why the concept of scale, proportion, and quantity were included as a crosscutting concept in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). for which see here). At this page is a chart describing what is relevant and appropriate for teaching and learning the concept for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, and additional links about NGSS, the standards, curriculum planning, classroom resources, professional learning and the NGSS blog. 

States have used the NGSS variously with some fully adopting them and others using them as a major resource for revising their own. Minnesota is in the latter category where they were an influential document.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Expo 2020 Dubai Review

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

Ed Hessler

I paid no attention to EXPO 2020 held in Dubai, UAE and was reminded of that when I read an essay by Alan Mammoser in Aramco World about it and what has followed. The intention of EXPO 2020 was to "create the nucleus of a new permanent district designed to set a new course for the sprawling desert metropolis."

Mammoser notes that such world's fairs "have stimulated progressive building ideas" and the introduction of inventions "from the 1851 Crystal Palace in London (Charles Darwin was a visitor) to the 1889 Exposition  in Paris and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago."

World's fairs are ambitious undertakings, e.g. "design and construction (of the 2020Expo) took seven years," which included "the construction of more than 120 permanent buildings."

Here are a few items about which Mammoser wrote about the achievement of some of the goals but strongly recommend Mammoser's essay for more complete descriptions  as well as this site: Dubai 2020. (the essay and site links are beautifully illustrated).

--Some data from the Dubai site. 24.1 million visitors, 30.3% overseas visitors, 1 million school visits, 107,000 people of determination visits, and 5.8 million people affected by ExpoLive grants.

--80% of the 120 permanent buildings "earned Gold status from the US 
Green Building Council (LEED). Two received Platinum certification, the highest LEED award. 

--Photovoltaic solar panels were installed on all roofs of the permanent buildings "but full self-sufficiency in energy and water remained elusive."

--"Terra--The Sustainability Pavilion" served as the anchor and the courtyard below "is naturally cooler than outside by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius (1 degree Celsius = 1.8 degree Fahrenheit).  This is quite an achievement in a climate of harsh, unforgiving heat, one of the hottest places on the planet. The pavilion design includes a "natural thermal chimney that expels heat." 

--The perimeter of Terra includes a "carbon-fiber and solar-panel 'forest' of 18 energy trees.' Up to 20 meters tall and varying from 15 to 18 meters in diameter (1 meter = 3.2 feet), their orientation rotates during the day to track the sun. ...Together the great canopy and the energy trees generate 4 gigawatt hours of electricity a year." (One gigawatt will power about 750,000 homes.)

--John Bull, Terra's director, in a 4m 27s video is quoted in the article. "The sunlight also powers water production" and "works on two principles: 'Grab as much water as you can, then don't let it leave.'" Native vegetation further reduces water use "and receives 'gray water' and wastewater. Both are treated on site but quite different. Terra is also a smart structure, a "learner," making adjustments based on "data from sensors."

--Several other Pavilion buildings, complements to Terra, describe how other nations approached the challenge (Slovenia, Czechoslovkia, the Netherlands).

--The challenge facing cities, however, goes much further and these are discussed in a section on how  "Dina Story (links to a 4m 26s interview) and her team of nine approached this challenge from that perspective." Included is a short discussion on what some critics called a "missed opportunity" and whether it was feasible and sustainable or not. The following quote hints at the difficulty of making such decisions. Among the requirements is "as full an understanding of energy flow, water and waste" as possible. In closing, Ms. Story thought that the end result for the long term "'is our commitment to comprehensive planning that may be our most important legacy.'"

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Nature's Gallery for May

Environmental & Science Education, Art & Environment, Nature, Wildlife, Earth & Space Science, Solar System

Ed Hessler

The gallery of science images for May chosen by photographers for the British journal Nature is open again. 

It features the Milky Way's supermassive Black Hole, a giant freshwater stingray (Mekong River), a rock feature on Mars that looks like an alien door (don't we wish), plants growing in lunar soil, and cells that swell when a flat sheet of them is bent into a curve.

The exhibit includes clear and short explanations.

The cost? Time and interest.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Arts & Environment

Ed Hessler

David Bottoms wrote today's poem, "Cubs on Allatoona."

There is information about the poem's source and a long interview with him following the poem. In it he is asked on what the idea of southern poetry/being regarded as a southern poem means.

For some reason the title caused me to take a guess on what the poem might be about. Made two, started reading. Wrong.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

World Ocean Day

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

Ed Hessler

June 8 marks the occasion of World Oceans Day. Sorry to be a day late.

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly made a decision that starting with 2009, June 9 would be designated by the United Nations as "World Oceans Day."

In this CBS Sunday Morning animated video essay by writer and narrator Robert Krulwich produced a video on the profound role of oceans in global climate change.  It is based on the work of Aatish Bhatia and animated by Nate Milton with music by Buck St. Thomas

The video may be seen here  (7m ).

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Elephant Joy

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

Ed Hessler

Firstpost has two short videos of elephants taking mud baths, adults and babies. Firstpost notes reasons for this behavior, one that may strike us as odd.

"For the unversed, elephants are known to have very sensitive skin. So, to protect their body from sunburn and other infections, a mud bath is essential for them. With such baths, a layer is formed on the elephant's skin that shields them from harsh rays of the sun as well as insect bites." (What a great word choice in the introduction.).

I was glad that Firstpost included the original caption for the adult segment which read "'Pool party - elephant style.'" Perfect.

The video showing the adults is 10s long and the video showing the youngsters is 15s long and were filmed in India.

Since The Sheldrake Trust is mentioned several times here is the link which describes their important animal conservation work.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Sagittarius A*: Our Galaxy's Center

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

Ed Hessler 

The citation for work on the massive black hole at the center of our galaxy for which the Nobel Prize committee awarded the 2020 physics award to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez used an interesting phrase - it was called "a supermassive compact object" not a black hole. It is an example of the conservative nature of science, given the evidence. By now it is well known hat the object is a monstrous black hole at the center of our galaxy. 

It's appearance- only the second direct  image of a black hole, finally yielded to scientific, engineering, and computing technology and ingenuity. the data collection involved a global network of telescopes.A report on the first direct image of a black hole is reported here.

I'd been waiting for the BBC to report for the usual reasons -- clear explanations, images, illustrations, and maps. Jonathan Amos  reports who notes that the "picture is a technical tour de force. It has to be.

"At a distance of 26,000 light-years from Earth, Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is a tiny pinprick on the sky. To discern such a target requires incredible resolution." The pinprick is not small - 40 million miles (~60 million km) across. Nor is it a lightweight - some four million times the mass of the solar system's sun.

Monday, June 6, 2022

NCSE Evolution, Climate Change, Nature of Science Lessons Avaliable

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

Ed Hessler

I very was pleased with the announcement from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) that their evolution lesson sets have arrived.  This completes the series.

The lessons on evolution and also lessons on climate change and the nature of science can be viewed here. They are described as NGSS aligned as well and that is one of many reasons you may want to take a look. Additionally and importantly all of them. focus on the use of scientific evidence to support claims. Because learning always involves misconceptions these materials address the major ones..

NCSE has a large group of Teacher Ambassadors who were involved in the development of the lessons and you may meet them here. You can select any state for information about its ambassador.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Historical Supernova Remnant

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

Ed Hessler

A leftover from a stellar explosion is the result of the first recorded appearance of a star new to Chinese astronomers in 185 AD and is the subject of an Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

It is briefly described in a brief history of the supernova by Vittoria Traverso (AtlasObscura). "The first written evidence of a supernova—at least in retrospect—comes from A.D. 185, when Chinese astronomers described a “new star” resembling a “bamboo mat” that was visible in the night sky for eight months. 'It displayed the five colors, both pleasing and otherwise,' read the Book of the Later Han, a Chinese court document from the fifth century. “It gradually lessened.” 

It had long been suspected to have described a comet, until a 2006 article in the Chinese Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics established that it was probably a supernova. The recorded observation was associated with a constellation called Nan Mun, which has led modern astronomers to believe that the event corresponds to the stellar remnant now known as SN185, between the constellations Circinus and Centaurus."

As to the type of original supernova, APOD has details on how scientists make tentative decisions based on the evidence. The remnant while "larger than a full moon on the sky" it "is too small to be seen by eye." 

An asterism is the term to describe a group of stars smaller than a constellation that often have a common name (here Nanman).

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Eggs and the Universe

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology, Culture, Biological Evolution, Science & Society,

Ed Hessler

The video (4m 20s) linked below delights and is filled with wonder in its offbeat thinking. Shelled eggs brought to us by the processes of biological evolution, are remarkable products of biological engineering. They have been used more than once to prod scientific investigations. 

Of course, in the end, this film is more culture than science--more about interesting similarities without considering the differences

The video is from the BBC IDEAS Universal Wonders which the egg embodies. If you are interested in the notion of the world egg, hinted at in this video, the Wiki entry is worth a visit. I think of it as the cosmic egg.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment 

Today's poem, Lenny's Day" is by Gary Lark.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Trees Rooting for Environmental Awareness

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment, Agriculture, Sustainability, Biodiversity, Global Climate Change, Global Change

Ed Hessler

Sam Van Aken, professor of Visual and  Performing Arts at Syracuse University, has launched a new project on Governors Island in New York, "a living agricultural archive," called The Open Orchard. Each tree is the product of grafting pieces from different trees to become a single plant.

Eventually, this orchard, just opened in April, will produce 200 varieties of heirloom stone fruits. Heirlooms were once common in home gardens, yards and orchards. The trees in this installation once grew in New City region over the past 400 years. There will be 50 hybrid fruit trees.

Here is Professor Sam Van Aken's Open Orchard page (Staten Island orchard), the trees in all their spring splendor, each with flowers of different colors. And here is the description of the project with some different images of Governors Island Webpage.

Professor Aken became well known at Syracuse for a single tree installation, Tree of 40 Fruits and as you will find from the images accessible through the Tree of 40 Fruit from the link above, the idea has spread to other communities in states across the United States. The link includes sections on trees, harvest, blossoms, sited trees, and nursery. 

In this Ted Salon video (11 m 15 s ) Van Aken talks about our loss of fruit tree biodiversity and how one tree grows 40 different kinds of fruits.

In the Spring 2022 of Syracuse University Magazine (article not available on-line), staff writer Sarah H. Griffith noted that the first conception "of the Tree of 40 Fruit, wasn't as a statement about climate change or even agriculture. He was curious about the idea of transubstantiaton--when the outer appears of something stays the same while its essential identify changes--and waned to create a tree evocative of that concept. He chose the number 40 because of its significance in various religious mythologies."

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Safe Water Supply: Solutions in Development in the Chemical Sciences

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

Ed Hessler

Chemistry Shorts has a new film release (9m 53s) on "the critical challenges and chemistry-inspired innovations in water supply, re-use, and purification."

Water, with global climate change, is another of the challenges we and the planet face, one that is looming with some immediacy. 

This series also includes lesson plans which may be viewed here.