Saturday, December 31, 2022

Science Journal Nature Editors Choose Their Picks for Moments That Defined Science in 2022

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science, Science & Society, Health, Medicine, Astronomy, Cosmology, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler 

Below are listed the entry titles. Each report included is short but includes considerable information.

--Russia Invades the Ukraine.

--JWST Delights Astronomers.

--AI (artificial intelligence) Predicts Protein Structures.

--Monkeypox Goes Global.

--The Moon Has A Revival.

--Climate-Change Funding.

--Omnicron's Offspring Drive The Pandemic.

--Pig Organs Transplanted Into People

--Elections And Science.

--(Global) Environmental Push Begins.

Here is the article from Nature.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Science, Nature, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

Today's poem is by Jane Hirshfield.

About organisms included in the title.



Witches Hair

Map Lichen 

Beard Lichen

Shield Lichen 

Ground lichens are a common name because of their association with the ground and they include a variety of lichen species. This is a general description of lichens.

The British children's author Beatrix Potter did some early paintings of fungi and this article from the Australian National Herbarium shows a few, describes her research on lichens, first publication with important comments by scholars, including from environmental historian, Linda Lear to provide some perspective as well as clarification on this work. Lear wrote a well-regarded biography of Ms. Potter's life. Lichens and fungi were often included in her book illustrations. She was very observant and the paintings add considerably to the pleasure of her books.



Thursday, December 29, 2022

New Minnesota Birding Book

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

Ed Hessler

On November 30, 2022, The Star Tribune published a special to the "On the Wing" column by frequent contributor Jim Williams. He wrote about the renewal of an influential birding book. I think it is an important book.

This edition (#5) of "A Birder's Guide to Minnesota"by Kim Eckert is on December bookstore shelves (unless there was a glitch). Williams writes that the "early guide (1974) detailed 150 places to find birds here. The total grew with each edition, reaching over 1,400 well-vetted birding sites in the new book." Williams calls our attention to why "Minnesota is an excellent state for birding." Think habitat diversity and Eckert discusses this diversity "in the introduction to his book."

So, the book continues like its predecessor to help us go beyond identification, no small part of birding, to making associations between habitat and what birds use  habitats. This allows your birding to serve a double purpose: getting to know birds and getting to know some things about their preferred habitat, i.e., some basics of ecology.

Eckert quotes "Robert Janssen, our senior birder" who said that the book is "'a master guide for finding birds in Minnesota. The link is to one of three books Janssen has written.

I hadn't known about Eckert's Minnesota Birding Weekends, which "have taken birders to every corner of the state in every season." They remain, writes Williamson "the lowest-priced and most popular birding tours you can find ($20 to $70 depending on trip length and duration not counting motels and meals). Participants caravan in cars."

Mr. Williamson provided the web address for Minnesota Birding Weekends which I have also included here. It and the site are worth a look.

The article provides more information about Mr. Eckert's career and achievements. If you are a subscriber to The Star Tribune you can read it online.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The Journal Science (AAAS) Selects The 2022 Science Breakthrough Of The Year

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

Ed Hessler

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has chosen the JWST for this honor. A few items that caught my eye from the story:

--Two "mosts": most complex science mission ever put into space and most expensive at $10 billion.

--Construction took 20 years and faced multiple setbacks. Among the challenges was designing and constructing a fold up mirror (fully extended it is 6.5 meters across ~ 22'), keeping the telescope cold, to prevent its warmth from spoiling the infrared observations, developing an unfolding multilayered sunshield (size of a tennis court) to keep the JWST at minus 233 degrees C or -387 F and a mechanical cryocooler to chill one instrument to - 266 degrees C or ~ -447 F.

--Launch: December 25, 2021 with data collection beginning on June 21, 2022

--Engineers determined that there were 344 critical steps, anyone of which could have doomed the mission had it gone wrong.

--Some results include being able to see the universe anew, more than 22,000 scientific papers and counting, that the universe is now roughly estimated to be 50 million years older than previously thought (possibly older when analysis of another galaxy is completed), the galactic nursery is more crowded than previously thought, the capture of the spectrum of starlight that filters through an exoplanet's atmosphere, detection of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide around an exoplanet (never previously detected).

--This is, the announcement notes "a time of wonders."

The announcement of AAAS's 2022 science breakthrough may be viewed here and some of those wonders can be experience both through the text and through the images included. 

And if you are interested about the AAAS, see their homepage which is worth a gander or two. AAAS is the largest scientific membership organization in the world.


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Aim: The Perfect Photograph Of A Bird

Environmental & Science Education
Art and Environment
Ed Hessler

The annual photographic entries to the National Audubon Society simply get better and better. This year's entries push the proverbial envelope yet again.

I suppose the only thing missing is the thing that can't be captured: the perseverance and patience of the photographers, although one is mentioned.

This short video of some of the entries features Sabine Meyer, the photographic editor of the National Audubon Society who describes the search for the perfect and also the ethics of bird photography.

And here is a very short video of that tug-of war: rabbit (food) in the middle and eagle and fox - diners at the Cafe Wild - at opposite ends. The fox is not fully grown, a kit, which explains how the eagle managed to pull this off although the bird was likely at its lifting capacity (perhaps 5 to 6 pounds or 2.26 to 2.72 kg). Roaring Earth breaks the sequence down.  The fox hit the ground hard enough to raise some dust.

The behavior of the eagle has a technical term: kleptoparasitism. Stealing. Eagles are very good at this.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Ten Who Helped Shape Science in 2022

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science, Nature of Science, Climate Change, Astronomy, Earth & Space Science, Science & Society, Health, Medicine, Cosmology, Miscellaneous 

Ed Hessler

The scientific journal Nature has selected "Nature's Ten," scientists selected who made "key developments in science this year and some of the people who played important parts in these milestones." It includes a list of those the journal thinks are ones to watch in 2023.

Photos are included and Alexandra Witze, a science writer for Nature provides the profiles.

I find such listings important largely because they inform and enlarge my view of the nature and history of the scientific enterprise, the introductions to working scientists and they make me wish I was going to be around when at least some of them will have biographies written about them and their full contributions.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Thor's Helmet

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

Ed Hessler

The famous Norse god Thor has a day named after him and also a helmet in the sky way far away.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) provides details and a striking image of this "hat-shaped cosmic cloud" and some comments on its future.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Where I Work

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Agriculture, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Ana Saez Garcia is a co-founder of Ekonoke, in Madrid and is the featured "Where I Work" in the journal Nature (September 16). Ekonoke is growing hops hydroponically. Why hops?

"Hops, the flower of the plant Humulus lupulus, are what gives beer its distinctive flavour. Growing them hydroponically means using a minimal amount of substrate for the roots. We also use a recirculating irrigation system that recycles most of the water we use to grow the plants."

Their firm achieves "four yields a year instead of one -- and without using pesticides."

Ekonoke has had its first commercial success with hop hydroponics. Garcia writes that "'Respect!', a limited edition of a beer produced entirely with our hydroponically grown Humulus -- came out in July. It's the world's first beer to be made exclusively with indoor hops."

Of course there is more in this short article. 

Another STEM-related career!

Cheers seem to me appropriate for this achievement.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler 

Used Book is by Julie Kane.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Going In A Circle For A Good Cause

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Pollution, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Global Climate Change, Science & Society

--Humans are in this together. The problems we face are "transnational, transgenerational and transideological. So are all conceivable solutions. To escape these traps requires a perspective that embraces the peoples of the planet and all the generations yet to come."--Carl Sagan, Astronomer

Ed Hessler

A Nature editorial calls attention to our profligate use of  natural resources with some useful everyday examples. "Producing a laptop computer that weighs a few kilograms takes around one tonne* of raw metal, plastic and silicon. Between 2000 and 2015, global clothing production doubled, but the number of times the average garment was worn before being discarded decreased by 36%. The body of a modern car contains more than a dozen steel and aluminium alloys, putting up huge barriers to recycling it."

If we are to stop this, at least lower its impact on resources and the environment, the editors suggest a solution: change from a linear economy to a circular economy. In such an economy, "waste" is treated as a resource because materials are recycled which reduces waste - there will always be waste - as much as possible.

As the editors put it, though, to create such an economy means that we most do "a lot." They provide some examples of national and sector initiatives that "are ahead of the game."

"China has been adopting circular-economy policies since the late 2000s. Its latest iteration of a circular-economy action plan, valid until 2025, sets ambitious targets for using scrap steel and construction waste, among other refuse. Its ban on importing plastic and other waste, implemented in 2018, has forced countries to rethink their own waste strategies.

"The European Union announced a circular-economy action plan in 2020, and is looking towards implementing policies around substantiating sustainability claims by business, controlling packaging and incentivizing the use of recycled materials in manufacturing. Chile’s road map for a circular economy by 2040 involves targets for waste reduction and the creation of more than 100,000 jobs.

"And there are smaller-scale, sector-specific initiatives. Since 2009, Japan has required manufacturers to collect and recycle the large home appliances that they make, although the costs are mostly borne by consumers. In Kawasaki, reusing industrial and municipal waste to make cement has caused greenhouse-gas emissions to fall by about 15% since 2009, saving 272,000 tonnes** of material each year."

The key will be a rethink and redo of how we think about resources and how "we build (and/or modify) our economic systems around them." (added)

One of the advantages of editorials is that they are short reads and give us much to chew on. In addition they tend to point us to large issues. This editorial is definitely worth a read and includes links to previous articles on circular economic business models. Our future depends on it and other like-minded actions which we can adopt if we are to ameliorate the effects of global change.

* 1 tonne = 1000 kg = ~1.1 U.S. ton

** 272,000 tonnes = ~ 299,826 U.S. tons


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Who Dealt Best With Covid? The Data Are In

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

Ed Hessler

"Whose pandemic strategy really saved lives? Which states or countries lost the most people to the virus? Or to the unintended consequences of mitigation."

These questions head the column by Faye Flam (The Star Tribune, December 6, 2022) who writes for Bloomberg Opinion.

According to Flam, "the most telling statistic turns out to be the simplest: all-cause mortality. The calculation is based on what epidemiologists call "excess mortality," i.e., "how many more people died in a given place and time period than would be expected."

Flam draws these conclusions: 1) COVID has been a global tragedy; 2) vaccines have saved countless lives: and 3) the value of any non-pharmaceutical mitigation measures--masking, distancing, closing businesses and schools--was probably not nothing, but vaccination rates mattered far, far more."

Flam discusses several studies, national and comparisons of countries. "The U. S. had the most excess deaths. ...The 10-most vaccinated U.S. states appeared comparable to much of Europe....Some of these differences may have to do with how badly hospitals were overwhelmed and whether countries were able to do anything to protect nursing home residents, as well as bad luck in getting hit early in 2020."

It is of note that the situation could have been better. Flam quotes Alyssa Bilinski of Brown University who said "comparisons can also help focus on successes -- whose actions weakened what would have been a category 5 hurricanes (sic) to hit as a category 3. These lessons could save lives in future waves of COVID, or the next pandemic."

Flam's column may be read here and I strongly urge you do that so you can read details of the various studies. If you subscribe to The Star Tribune you have electronic access.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022


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

Ed Hessler

I posted yesterday about the behavior of tarantulas on the great plains. So I continue today with much more about their basic biology.

Zefrank's True Facts introduces us to Tarantulas with another accurate description and discussion with occasional humor thrown in. I'm not a great fan of his humor but love these videos. They are just first-rate. 

Below it you can find the documentation with citations to You Tube videos, spider experts, and citations. Zefrank's work is impressive. He pays great attention and thoroughness when it comes to true facts about the natural world. As usual, I recommend a quick tour of the comments and recommend you pick and choose from among the 4,181 comments at the time of this post. It probably is even longer.

Zefrank is brilliantly illuminating in the 15 m 48 s video.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Texas Brown Tarantula's: On Making a Living

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

Ed Hessler

In Nature's Where I Work, entomologist and PhD candidate in agricultural biology, (Colorado State University),  Jackie Billotte reconstructs the burrows and housekeeping habits of tarantulas as part of her research for her degree. Do they build their burrows in a consistent way? How do the burrows help hem survive this very hot, austere environment?

She "works on the Southern Plains Land Trust, a piece of private conservation land about an hour south of Lamar, Colorado. These tarantulas’ habitats range from Louisiana to this southern part of Colorado. The prairie is a harsh environment — super dry, windy and sometimes very hot or cold. The tarantulas’ burrows become their lifeline; they stay in there for the long haul. Only the males, once mature, leave their burrows to wander aimlessly, looking for love."

Billotte lures them out of their burrows and they are collected in temporary "housing." Quick setting plaster of Paris is poured into the burrow and the dried cast is removed. There is a photograph of her holding one - it is 60 centimeters long. While the old burrow is destroyed, a new starter burrow is left.

Billotte describes differences in spider housekeeping which suggests that they have personalities. She also tells us why the research is important to this ecosystem and has a few tips on "natural" insect control in human dwellings.

You may read Kendall Powell's story at Nature.





Sunday, December 18, 2022


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

Ed Hessler

The BBC in partnership with The Open University has produced a short animated video (5m 03s) on fungi. 

By the end if you are not already impressed with fungi, I think you will be and find them fascinating, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Journal Nature Publishes Its Choices for Nature's Best Science Images 2022

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment, Biodiversity, Nature, Astronomy, Cosmology, Earth & Space Science, Geology

Ed Hessler

The best science images 2022 selected by Nature’s visuals team, text by Emma Stoye and Nisha Gaind. 

I wonder whether they would attract the attention of jumping spiders. There are ways of knowing this - my guess is yes - but my hope is that they attract you.




Friday, December 16, 2022

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Biodiversity, Wildlife, Nature, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

Publication information is not provided. I've tried but gave up, deciding not to wade through the previously published issues.

Additional Notes

If you are interested in historical aspects of the reintroduction of wolves to both Yellowstone National Park and Idaho, this National Park Service link provides a history of this historic event and outcomes.

About 0 - SixSalon interviewed Nate Blakeslee, author of American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West. She did become the most famous wolf in the world.

In "A Letter from Idaho" (The New Yorker, April 4 Issue), Paige Williams writes about the deeply divisive political controversy that followed the reintroduction of wolves to Idaho. This occurred at the same time wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park. It is certain to make you think.


Thursday, December 15, 2022

Hot Meals ~ 70,000 Years Ago

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

Ed Hessler

"In her comments introducing Nature Briefing selections for December 13, 2022, Senior Editor Flora Graham commented on the response to the entry she made about the oldest cooked meal found so far. Here is the full quote.

"Last week, I told you about the oldest cooked meal ever found: a tasty-sounding seed flatbread that might have been cooked by Neanderthals 70,000 years ago.

"Readers, you told me that you had to see that recipe, and palaeoecologist Chris Hunt did not let us down. Here are the edited details, which I’m sharing on the understanding that you will send me your photos and reviews of your own efforts:

"Neanderthal ‘flatbread’
"Based on an analysis by archaeobotanist Ceren Kabukcu, Hunt and their colleagues at Shanidar Cave in the north-west Zagros Mountains. 'Following this recipe, you get something quite earthy tasting from the lentils and quite toasty, too, from the ‘grass’ seeds,” says Hunt.

Two parts grass seeds — Hunt recommends wheat berries or pot barley
One part lentils — try brown or Puy lentils

  1. Soak everything overnight and then drain.
  2. Grind in a pestle and mortar, or use a stick blender if you must.
  3. Keep going until you have a mush with most components “in the 1-2 millimetre or smaller range” — add a little water as you go if needed.
  4. Add more water until you have a thick paste.
  5. Scoop some mixture onto a flat griddle or frying pan.
  6. Cook gently, browning on each side. “Better for 15–20 minutes on a low heat rather than getting things really smoking!” advises Hunt, who sounds like he speaks from experience here.
Fast-forward 30,000 years and there is evidence from Shanidar that food was more diverse, including fruit from the terebinth (related to the pistachio), a wild precursor of the fava bean and mustard seeds, as well as wild grasses and wild lentils. And there is separate evidence that Neanderthals ate almonds. Add modern versions of these to your mix, and you’ll find the taste “significantly more interesting”, says Chris. Combining it with grilled goat or fish would also be “quite legitimate”, he adds. Sorry — strictly no salt.'

"Thanks for reading.'"


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Maggots In Medicine

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

Why maggots are a medical marvel, is the subject of this animated BBC Reel. Curator Erica McAlistor, Natural History Museum (NHM), U. K. is our sure-footed guide. And the introduction provides a compelling start.

I quote the disclaimer from the NHM: All content  within this video is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of healthcare professionals. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis or actions taken by a user based on the content of this site. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health. (my emphasis)

Here it is, 4 m 40 s.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Bighorn Sheep Of The High Plains

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

Ed Hessler

The 3rd Runner-up in the Yale Environment 360 Film contest us about "efforts by wildlife biologists, conservationists, and landowners to reintroduce and sustain...bighorn sheep in Nebraska." At one time bighorn sheep were native residents "on Nebraska's high plains. The re-introductions are in Nebraska's Wild Cat Hills and Pine Ridge regions. And have been on-going for 40 years. 

The film was made by Mariah Lundren.  Grant Nielsen tells the story of bighorn sheep in Nebraska in the 13 m 35 s video.

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Language of Birds: An Introduction

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler 

"The Language of Birds" (9 m 41 s) is from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. It is an animated video exploring "how and why birds communicate using sound." The calls and tweets birds make is a language birds use to communicate a message. This video is a primer on decoding that language.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Arizona's China Wall

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

Ed Hessler 

I didn't know about this striking rock formation in the Tonto National Forest, AZ.  It is referred to as China Wall, "a broken vertical wall nearly a mile long (1.6 km), and about 10 feet high (3 m) and 5 feet wide (1.5 m)."

Earth Science Picture of the Day  (EPOD) includes 4 striking photograph plus a satellite photograph. And an explanation of the geology on its origin. It consists of rhyolite rock.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Leap Second: It's Time is Up

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

Ed Hessler

Keeping two measurements in sync - atomic time and the Earth's rotation - has included adding a second of time to one of them. They are called leap seconds.

A decision has been made that from 2035, adding the second "will be put on hold." Elizabeth Gibney writing for the journal Nature tells us about the decision, the implications of the added second, Russian technical issues with a satellite-navigation system, the possibility of having to remove a second from the "clock," how the plans might be stymied, and possible different solutions.

Getting these two times in sync with one another is complicated because the earth's rotation varies, "although in the long term Earth's rotation shows due to the pull of Moon (and) a speed-up has also made the issue more pressing.

Interesting article on the nature and history of science. Take a look.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Forests Under Contruction

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Change, Global Climate Change, Sustainability, Wildlife, Nature, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Forests as Brandon Keim, writing for the New York Times, notes come into being and growing from "creatures whose labor makes the forest possible -- the multitudes of microorganisms and invertebrates involved in maintaining that soil, and the animals responsible for delivering seeds too heavy to be wind-borne to the places where they will sprout" and thrive.

He continues "If one is interested in the future of a fores -- which  tree species will thrive and which will diminish or whether those threatened by a fast-changing climate will successfully migrate to newly hospitable lands -- one should look to these seed-dispersing animals." He discusses the research of Ivy Yen, "a doctoral student in the lab of Alessio Mortelliti, a wildlife ecologist" at the University of Maine who has a particular interest in which he joins animal personality and seed dispersal.

Animal personality is judged by tests their level of boldness and shyness - a continuum of possibilities. Yen, who does her research at Penobscot Experimental Forest paints acorns with colored bands, indicating oak species, both the newly arrived and those who have been there for centuries. The mice or voles have been tested and injected with a microsensor. As "an acorn-laden tray" is approached, "a sensor reads their microchip, identifying the animal; a motion-activated  camera captures the moment, recording which nut they took." Yen places "more than 1,800 acorns" "over the course of this season." 

Five trays, each about 100 feet apart are set out, around which Yen scatters "a nontoxic fluorescent powder that temporarily adheres to the feet of visitors."  When she returns "before dawn, equipped with an ultraviolet flashlight  under which the powder fluoresced, small constellations of footprints (surround) each tray and (trail) off into the darkness. Yen follows these, one-by-one with some trails petering out as the powder is is worn-away, "others (end) in a cache -- a hollow beneath a root, a decaying stump, a hole dug into the earth and carefully covered back up." Each of these spots is marked with a small orange flag.

The disposition of the acorns is documented and some are found intact while others are consumed (the painted shell fragments allow Yen to identify the species. One finding:  The data from sensors and camera recordings "would later show that much of the gathering was performed by one notably industrious deer mouse known to the researchers ad 982091062973077, a 13-gram male trapped in late September and revealed by tests to be fairly shy, although with a cautiously exploratory streak." Personality appears to influence the likelihood to cache certain kinds of nuts.

Asked to define the practical implications of his research, Mortelliti said, “'Preserve a diversity of personalities.' There’s no one ideal personality; rather, different individuals perform different roles. Depending on circumstance — drought, natural disturbances, fluctuations in predator populations — different personality types may come to the fore. These nuanced dynamics don’t preclude timber-cutting, Alison Brehm, Mortellit's first Ph.D. student, said, but they do argue for taking care. Also see here for Brehm's publications. She is currently a PostDoc, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“If you have to manage a landscape, you don’t want to manage it all the same way,” Brehm said. “You want to manage different parts differently so that you have a heterogeneous landscape.” Techniques can be used that maintain a variety of tree species, ages and sizes, attempting to mimic what would happen naturally.

"Much remains unstudied, Mortelliti noted. Measures of shyness and boldness are not the entirety of animal personality; they’re just relatively well-characterized and easy to measure in the field. Oaks aside, hundreds of other plant species are shifting their ranges, each following their own animal-mediated trajectory.

I close with an observation from Yen. "'I'm only looking at two species at night. It's a very small snapshot of what is happening.' A full picture may not emerge for decades but the outlines are already clear: It takes a lot of personalities to raise a forest." 

Brandon Keim's reporting may be read in full at the Seattle Times and, of course in the New York Times - print and electronic if you are a subscriber. 

And if you are interested in how measures of boldness and shyness are made this scientific paper includes several that were used in determining these personality traits in a field study of free-ranging lizards

This publication on small animal habitat on the Penobscot Experimental Forest includes a short YouTube video (4 m 56 s) - Small Mammals, big Personalities from the University of Maine. It includes a description of the tests, comments from researchers and a discussion of the forest experimental set-up in the field.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Editorial in Support of Curiosity-Driven Research

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

Ed Hessler

I was very pleased to read the editorial "In Praise of Research in Fundamental Biology" (Nature 30 November, 2022). It is about the value of curiosity-driven research in the life sciences. It starts with an example on the evolution of "organisms whose cells contain a membrane-bounded nucleus (eukaryotes) and other (cellular) organelles." This is the domain of life to which humans belong.

It is followed by comments on "microbes that forge a living in the hot waters surrounding undersea vents." These organisms turned out to be immensely useful in the laboratory--yielding enzymes that "are stable at high temperatures and resistant to degradation and have become staples in molecular biology labs and biotechnology companies worldwide." With a reminder that this was not a goal of the original research. (my underline)

Please treat yourself by reading it.

This is the closing paragraph and an important one. "Nature has been publishing curiosity-driven research for more than 150 years, and readers will not need convincing of the work’s value. But we implore colleagues in the wider science ecosystem — the policymakers and those in science-funding agencies who expect to see direct benefits of research investments — to resist the temptation to push for quick returns. We appreciate that pressure to do so will only grow as countries confront economic recession and cost-of-living crises. But, wherever possible, this pressure needs to be resisted. Basic research must be allowed to thrive."

The editorial includes a discussion of the Asgard archaea and you may want more information. The Archaea are a very large group constituting the Earth's microbial diversity. They are the dominant microbes in marine and soil ecosystems. They constitute a superphyllum. Researchers designated "'Asgard,' after the realm of the deities in Norse mythology." 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Siddhartha Mukerjee on NPR's Fresh Air

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

Ed Hessler

Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee - oncologist, cell biologist and hematologist - was on Terry Gross's program to discuss his new book The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human. This is a link to Amazon which allows a peek inside the book.

Shots - Health News from NPR includes the interview in a 43-minute listen with some highlights. Terri Gross provides a great introduction to the program and I think it is worth reading before listening to the interview.

Here are the topic titles:

--On using CAR-T cell therapy to treat Emily, a child with leukemia.

--On how the engineered cells target the cancer cells.

--On how (Mukergee's) experience with depression helped him empathize with his seriously ill patients.

--On the anti-science sentiment during the pandemic in the U.S.

I liked what Mukerjee said about science and quote this comment. "There's a difference between uncertainty and authority. Uncertainty is not knowing something. ... False authority is claiming something, even when you don't know it. And I think that those are two different things. And part of the anti-science sentiment that swept through the United States during the pandemic was because of the confusion between uncertainty and false authority or authority."
In this segment, Mukerjee discusses a common complaint about science, one that is uninformed by how science works.  This is that scientists change their minds. He tells us why this is such a characteristic of the scientific enterprise. 

Credits: Sam Briger and Thea Chaloner produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Deborah Franklin adapted it for the web.


Monday, December 5, 2022

Nature, Nurture and the Brain

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Brain, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

In this video, cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker of Harvard University, discusses nature and nurture which as noted in the introduction below the video have "been at the forefront of psychological debate." Which plays the larger role?

Pinker discusses the factors that shape who we are, including genes, parents, peers, culture, and pure chance, with some surprises about how each one plays a part."

Here is information about Dr. Pinker and also the link to the video (11m 16s).

Sunday, December 4, 2022

British Ecological Society 2022 Photography Competition Winners

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

Ed Hessler

The British Ecological Society hosts "Capturing Ecology" - an annual photography contests which aims to showcase the beauty of ecology.

"This year’s winners tell a powerful story about the intricacies of nature, and our relationship with the natural world. From predator-prey dynamics on the earth, skies, and seas, to connections between people, wildlife, and the environments we share.

The 2022 winners may be seen here. There you will find a full list of winners with descriptions, category winners and the judges who include what they are looking for in making their selections. "Captured by international ecologists and students, this year’s winning images and additional seven highly commended images celebrate the diversity of ecology, capturing flora and fauna from across the globe."

Capturing Ecology 2022 was sponsored by Dryad.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

A Star is Being Born

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

Ed Hessler 

A star is being born in a dark cloud named L1527, some 460 light years distant, a neighbor in the sense that we share the same cosmos. The cloud itself "is a mere 100,000 years old." A mere youngin'. The star is gaining mass...growing. 

There is also a magnificent classic 6-pointed image of a star which is unidentified.

L1527 is the featured Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) and is visually stunning. Image and explanations here.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Thursday, December 1, 2022

It's Been A Long Time: The Lost Has Been Found

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

Ed Hessler 

The black-naped pheasant-pigeon had not been seen since 1882, some 140 years and now it has been "rediscovered," "refound."

Tiffany Turnbull, BBC News, Sydney (Australia) writes that "After a month of searching (Fergusson Island - its only habitat), a team in September captured footage of the species deep in the forest of a tiny island off Papua New Guinea."

"It was a mammoth effort that involved countless interviews with locals, 20 camera traps and a run-in with pirates.

"It felt like 'finding a unicorn', said expedition co-lead John Mittermeier."


The link to the story includes a photograph and more details on how the bird was found. Here are links to information about two other scientists mentioned in Turnbull's essay, Jason Gregg and Jordan Boersma.