Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Real Buzzzz!

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

Ed Hessler

Reporting from Grand Forks for MPR News (February 7, 2023), Dan Gunderson announced "Minnesota has a very diverse native bee population" based on results of the compilation of "the first comprehensive list of more than 500 species of bees native to Minnesota."

I hadn't known about the previous 1919 survey of bees, in fact it was the only Minnesota bee survey. The list included 66 different kinds of bees although this survey was never intended to be comprehensive. So Gunderson's welcome news has been a long time coming and has taken a considerable amount of field and laboratory work (where identification occurs). 

And because some bees are specialists you have to be in the field when the plants you have been wondering about are in bloom to find which bees visit them, e.g., trout lily, spring beauty, pickerel weed.

Identification is simply the basic background for biologists who study organisms. Who is it - the thing you are looking at, your subject of research and interest in the first place? Knowing this then makes it possible after a lot of hard, often time consuming work over years as surveys are conducted on the status of a population--stable, growing, declining.

Gunderson's report includes a short video (38 s) with DNR bee specialist Nicole Gejerts, comments by Gejerts, comments by Zach Portman at the Cariveau Native Bee Lab (linked in article) at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 
Portman mentions that he has "identified about 200,000 bee specimens in the last 13 years",there is a gallery tour of bee photographs, even a short discussion of bee taxonomy, and what happens to the bees that are identified and collected and why that is important to research scientists. 
h/t and thanks to Craig S. for calling Gunderson's reporting to my attention.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Importance of Cancer Screening and the Potential Impact of Missed Screeings During Covid

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

Ed Hessler

In this STAT interview, cancer reporter Angus Chen talks with Ahmedin Jemal and Jessica Star of the American Cancer Society (ACS) about the just published paper, "Cancer Screening in the United States During the Second Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic," Journal of Clinical Oncology

Even though Chen provides a link to the scientific  paper I link to for emphasis for it is worth taking a look. It includes an interestingly presented abstract, one divided into short sections: purpose, methods, results and conclusion as well as a section on the relevance of the study - key objective, knowledge generated, and relevance. You might also find interesting, the information about author affiliations (authors listed under the paper's title) and their respective contributions to the study (this at the end). 

Chen begins by noting that "When the Covid-19 pandemic brought ordinary life to a halt in 2020, routine cancer screenings fell off many people’s list of priorities. Screenings for cervical, breast, and prostate cancer all dropped in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis from the American Cancer Society

"Over the course of 2021, screening levels recovered---but...there's still reason to be concerned about the impact of missed cancer screenings down the line." Routine screenings are important.

Chen asked these questions.

--What was the most important finding of this analysis?

-- The big fear was that we would see more cancer diagnoses at later stages after the pandemic. Has that happened?

-- Why do you think screening dropped off during the pandemic?

-- What are some of the key strategies that public health can use to increase screening rates quickly and get people to make up missed screening?

Another reason for taking a look at the scientific paper is that it is not long.



Sunday, February 26, 2023

Pest Control: Novel Approach In A South African Vineyard

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Agriculture, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

Here is a novel, locally-grown solution to pest control, by vintners from a South African vineyard.  It includes a short video, half-a-dozen stills and a short explanatory text.

The Reuters story is about "pest munching ducks" - Indian runner ducks. Their motto could easily be "Run don't walk." They are referred to as "soldiers of the vineyards," and they are indeed very soldiery - long-legged and upright in posture - as they march to the vineyards with their duck keepers (drill sargeants?) for the day's work. They are not waddlers. At night they return home for "pellets of nutritious bird food." 
The link to Indian runner ducks is loaded with information, including an illustration of their markings.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Hydra Galaxy Cluster

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmos

Ed Hessler

The Hydra Cluster of Galaxies is the focus of the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for February 16. It is by astrophotographer Marco Lorenzi who has had a lifelong fascination with the night sky. There is a link to his web page where you can learn more about him, his equipment, and page through his galleries.

The explanation with its links takes a different format this time. The text was generated by ChatGPT, another reason I have for the post. He also includes the appropriate apologies for the inspiration. 

The image is smashing.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Health

Ed Hessler 

Hermit is by Gail Mazur.

You may listen to her read it at the poem title link  as well as read it.

It is from "Figures in a Landscape", 2011, The University of Chicago Press

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Deliciousness of Chocolate: A Scientific Study

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Nature of Science, History of Science, Sustainability, Global Change, Climate Change, Models, Culture

Ed Hessler

One way to make a chocolate bar last a long time is to research its structure and properties. Three researchers at the University of Leeds, UK did just that. Their research is found in a recently published jawbreaker of a paper - title and content, in the ACS publication, Applied Materials and Interfaces journal. The research has applications such as more satisfying chocolate eats that are healthier and a greener planet.

The research is about the "mouth-feel" of chocolate, using materials such as real chocolate candy and artificially made materials such as a "tongue" and saliva in order to control variables.

I've chosen a few items to highlight from the technical paper which is fully accessible as well as a media report.
--The author list includes information about the researchers and affiliations.

--The chocolates - all dark and all off the store shelf. 

--Figure 1 shows a schematic of their tribological performance. (Tribology is the study of wear, friction, and lubrication.). Three stages of mouth-chocolate interactions were measured   (A) licking stage: initial perception of the chocolate by tongue where chocolate is a countersurface, (B) molten chocolate/initial mastication: chocolate has undergone a phase transition to molten state, and (C) bolus before swallowing: chocolates mixed with the saliva.

--Figure 7 shows what the licking stage, molten state and boli look like and other detailed information.

--The conclusions, one of which notes that this is "the first systematic investigation of an edible PCM - phase change materials - containing solid particles (i.e., chocolate)...by far...the closest approximations to the real tongue-palate contact. (T)he fat content of dark chocolates appeared to be the most influential  factor on the lubrication behavior (in the mouth). ...Altogether, we hope that the knowledge is ... attractive (enough) to facilitate engineering of PCM and other metamaterials (I found this link useful.) that are often subjected to tribological stresses."

The Star Tribune published an article from the Washington Post by Maria Luisa Paul of the about the study. "Why chocolate is so very delicious, scientifically speaking" February 19, 2023. It requires a subscription to access. Here are a few things she reported.

--Fat content matters a lot.
--When chocolate first comes into contact with the tongue - the  'licking phase'" -" a phase many of us know well as the time "when the smooth 'chocolate sensation' is set into motion. During the melting phase "and saliva enters the mix, solid cocoa particles in the chocolate are released, along with a rush of happiness-boosting endorphins." The "silky sensation is  a product of its fat droplets making cocoa's otherwise gritty particles go down smoothly in the mouth."
--Does this mean that for enjoyment chocolate has to be high in fat? In an interview with one of the authors Paul was told "if the chocolate is coated in fat, it doesn't necessarily matter whether the chocolate itself contains much fat.," i.e., not too much fat is needed after the initial coating. This made me think of the  real estate trade; the value of a house depends on location, location, location. This is also true for the location of the fat in chocolate candies.
--Research team member Anwesha Sarkar noted that "the biggest bottleneck in designing food is the test and texture. If we understand the mechanics of why something is delicious it is easier to re-create more healthy and sustainable versions".

While I said this near the beginning, this paper also shows the importance of controlling as many variables as possible in designing research including a metamaterial -- the artificial tongue -- to yield the most credible evidence possible.

And to round out the taste of chocolate, the trailer for the film Chocalat (all 1 m 58 s of it) which I've not seen. And Joanne Harris's book about Vianne Rocher who runs head on into a stiff, no-nonsense parish priest in a small French town for whom Easter and chocolate should not co-exist. The book, which I have read, provides a glimpse into a chocolatier's life. Furthermore, it tastes of chocolate candies some of which I'd never heard of but would like very much to chew.

Finally, Paul's reporting closes with a perfect sentence. "That's the magic of chocolate--according to science." Science, especially as tools become available, e.g., 3-D printing can reveal that magic without destroying it, making it even more magical.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Seeing Colors

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

Ed Hessler

BBC's Being Human series has a new addition in Reel  - Science. There we are asked take a look at a rainbow. When we do we see a full spectrum of visible light (Count the colors and name them, if you'd like.). But there is an exception: magenta.

It doesn't exist because there is no wavelength for the color. This means that the brain makes up the difference but how?  This is the subject of the 4 m 09 s video, shall we say, colorful report.

Emory University's Arts on the Brain not only has an explanation - the approach the two explanations take are different - but also a gallery of all the imaginary colors "that you can see, and the colors needed to see them." It also draws attention to criticism about the possibility in the first place. The argument is that "these are just intermediary colors between two eye structures -  color cones"(explained in the text).


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

A Gnomic-Sized Forest Chair

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Evolutionary Biology, Biodiversity, Nature, Earth Systems

Ed Hessler

Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) features a mushroom that if one were given paper and drawing materials and asked to draw a mushroom about 3 inches (~7.5 cm) tall seems quite likely would escape the imagination. 

As a life form - shape and structure - it is nothing short of spectacular and is another example of what nature makes through the process of biological evolution. It was found and photographed in a wood near Eischen, Luxembourg.

About life's diversity Charles Darwin wrote "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

Monday, February 20, 2023

Sounds Made by the Natural World and Human Culture.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Nature of Science, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Geology, Society, Culture, Art & Environment.

Ed Hessler

The sounds of the natural world and the world of human culture are being recorded, one sound at a time at "Remixing The World, One Sound At A Time." 

During my visit to the website, the featured recordings are recordings from eastern Europe, parts of North Africa, the Middle East and what I'll collectively call the -'stan nations,' e.g.,Kazakistan, Pakistan, a featured sound (England Yazor Church) and an exploration of the polar sounds project. 

Below the introduction is a tab for obsolete sounds, those disappearing sounds that have become extinct, e.g., Apple iBook uo, typewriters, winding up a watch, coffee grinder, calculating machine, melting glacier ice, old elevator and the listing continues. Some of these some of us have not only never heard or know (Stone Age Drill) so the site invites listening for this and old time sake.

"Cities and Memory is one of the world's biggest sound projects, a global collaborative sound art and field recording programme with the sim of 'remixing the world, one sound at a time'. its projects, large, covering more than 100 countries and territories with 5000 sounds and more than 1000 contributing artists."

There is much more, too much to list, and there is an ever changing feature on the latest sounds. One that I found lovely "L;immacolata - church bells in the forest" is in northern Italy where "church bells ring in the forest just outside the entrance to a long pedestrian tunnel."

Doing this is a great idea. I signed up for the monthly newsletter, hoping if not to stay on top of the latest and newest but to stay in touch with them.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Largest Rock In The Solar System

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

Ed Hessler

All about the Pale Blue Dot from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

The featured image was taken from Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched September 5, 1977, in 1990.

The accompanying text links provide information about Voyager 1 and some interesting facts about this rock.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Full Moons: An Arrangement

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Solar System, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

A composite image made by Meiying Lee (Taiwan) of full moons captured on film "over the past 6+ years from home," caught my eye and I think you will find it appealing as well.

Each image makes use of a feature of the moon to arrange the images "to where the moon was in the sky on the night it was photographed."  And using a marker makes the arrangement more comprehensible. This is explained as well as the sometimes noticeable changes in moon size "from one shot to another."

I still have some marbles I've saved and put in a small bowl. I would be very pleased to add any or all of these designs and colors to that bowl. I couldn't help but wonder whether this was even possible.

See Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD).

Friday, February 17, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment

Silo Solo is by Minnesotan, Joyce Sutphen.

I'm not sure why her father sang when he was working in the silo but I like to think some of it is because of the sound inside an enclosed space. I had a good friend who taught kindergarten. As you know kindergartens have bathrooms. Many of her kids often sang inside that space, loving the sound. I loved the story. She often had to call to them and/or knock to come back to class..

I also have another reason for the choice because I know a barn in Minnesota, one now restored that has a silo inside it. This suggests the barn was built around it as it is completely invisible from the outside. No singing in it yet, at least that I've heard about.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Insects: In the Land of Nod

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

Ed Hessler

In the event that you do not check Jerry Coyne's website, Why Evolution Is True (WEIT), frequently enough to review its sometimes overwhelming richness, the feature "Readers' Wildlife Photos for February 6" is another of his "photo-and-text biology" stories by a masterful story teller by Athayde Tonhasca Junior. It is about "insect sleep and nocturnal behavior."

He begins with two images of sleeping, a painting by Albert Anker (1895), "Two Girls on the Stove Bench" and a photo of a bee in a flower which Tonhasca Junior captions in his text, "Night, night, sleep tight." 

Another extraordinary entry for which all of us who are "regulars" are thankful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Courtship Displays in Birds

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

Ed Hessler

The article, "How Do Birds 'Fall In Love'? A Look At Courtship Displays" from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology magazine's Living Bird, Spring 2020 by Marc Devokaitis has several videos of courtship displays. It also includes a few stills of some common backyard species showing a behavior with the suggestion that bird enthusiasts "Try looking for them...."

The phrase beginning the first line - "when birds hook up...." amped me up to a low grouchiness. Good grief! how we want to interpret nature in contemporary cultural terms. The disclaimer tries (tried in my case) to soften it, noting that this is a "Valentine-themed piece (and references) are in fun, and (to) take them with a grain of salt (or chocolate which I'd take, grouchy or not.).

Devokaitis's article is short yet comprehensive. It ends with a short note about using "breeding codes...a simple system of categories that indicate any confirmed or suspected breeding activity you notice" while watching birds in your backyard from a window or while on a bird walk. You learn how this information can be useful to ornithologists and "if you use eBird, the worldwide database of over 750 million bird sightings (at the time of writing), you can add breeding codes right into your checklists. 

If you find you want more information on using breeding codes, there is a link

Happy, late Valentine's Day 2023.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) Habitat Conservation Organizations Meeting in Minneapolis

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

Ed Hessler

Star Tribune outdoor writer Dennis Anderson wrote about a congregation of members on the 40th anniversary of two organizations dedicated to conserving, protecting and preserving habitat. They will gather for the 2023 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic to be held from February 17 to February 19 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The two organizations refer to themselves as "'the Habitat Organizations,'" and the work they have done and remain engaged in deserves thanks. The benefits of their work extend to many species of plants and animals.
Both organizations just completed the Call of the Uplands Campaign, "a six-year fundraising and habitat protection effort. It was a success and Anderson quotes Jared Wiklund the media director for PF and QF "the goals were exceeded" including important support to introduce the North American Grasslands Conservation Act."

Anderson introduces us to the new CEO of PF, Marilyn Vetter of New Richland, WI, reports on he hit membership took from COVID-19, the founding of PF to which is owed the "establishment in 1983 of the Minnesota Pheasant Stamp and rallying congressional support for the initial federal Conservation Reserve Program, and attracting new and more diversified members, referred to as "'adult onset hunters'." 

This is a large convention -- ~ 30,000, 400 vendors with very reasonable admission fees. Two evening events are already sold out.  Anderson highlights some of the offerings and also directs our attention to a Star Tribune story February 17, featuring "one entry" in the Upland Film Festival...Hmong hunter Keng Yang of St. Paul."

A press release from Pheasants Forever includes many more details about the conference and what is on offer. 

Anderson's article in the Star Tribune included a stirring photograph by Steve Oelenschlager of a rooster pheasant in full flight over fields bathed in the soft glowing light that speaks the language of autumn.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Smart Slimes

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

Another well researched and documented story about one of nature's organisms-- slime molds -- by the one and only Ze Frank. He is that! And the series is appropriately titled  "True Facts,"because it is.

Slime molds are organisms with which most of us are not very familiar and one few people have ever seen. One reason is that it requires considerable time "looking down, noticing" while carefully scouting out an area.

Ze Frank is a humorist, among his other talents and vocations, who works in today's tradition, so his jokes, sprinkle throughout, may make you laugh, groan, or wince. His videos are not humor, though.

These videos are unique and as portraits of what science has learned about fellow passengers on planet Earth, they are at the top.

Here is  the video (11 m 57 s)

You will find the references at the link and I suggest you scan the comments.


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Exceptional Optical Nebulosity

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

Ed Hessler

This remnant of a supernova explosion, a mere newborn for those who study them - it is only 850 years old, is shown and discussed in reporting in  Nature News, January 26, 2023 by Shannon Hall. 

It looks like something you'd see in a fireworks display. It is also one with distinction, with Hall noting it is "the most unusual remnant that researchers have ever found." The article describing it has been posted in a preprint on Arxiv > astro-ph  (not yet peer-previewed) * that is completely accessible including as a PDF. The image there is in black - and - white. The title uses the language of science, referring to it as an "exceptional optical nebulosity," a good description of this unusual object.

Below are a few tantalizing nuggets from Hall's reporting.

--In 2013, it was discovered by an amateur astronomer who was studying archived images from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. 

--Always an object of intrigue, Pa 30 (technical name) was again the subject of intrigue in 2021, when Andreas Ritter, an astronomer at the University of Hong Kong, and his colleagues proposed that the remnant is the aftermath of a supernova that lit up the sky nearly 850 years ago, in 1181.

--How astronomers took advantage of an element in the spectrum for further study is explained.

--The possible cause of such a remnant is described by Hall. There are several possible mechanisms. One scientist said it "definitely broadens, in my mind, what could have led to a type-Iax supernova.”

--And because it is closer to us than most rare explosions --2.3 kiloparsecs away, observations will be much clearer as it is further studied which may lead to a more evidence-based conclusion on what it really is and how it formed.

For now, we amateurs can be impressed by its beauty and also that it can be studied using tools of scientists.

It is a remarkable report combining new and much older observations first made by observers quite close in time to us. How fascinated and excited they must have been upon first noticing it.
* The astro-ph library is an exceptional site at Cornell University where recent scientific results, close to publication can be shared with other scientists --I often think of it as part of the sharpening process, for interested scientists will no doubt contact the authors with questions, comments and suggestions as it heads to a peer-reviewed scientific publication. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023


Environmental &Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Solar System, Earth Systems, Nature of Science, Models

Ed Hessler

A short paper in the journal Nature News for February 2, 2023 describes the creation of a new kind of ice that "perhaps (opens) a door to studying water's mysterious properties." It is called "medium-density amorphous ice" and was made by shaking regular ice "in a small container with...stainless-steel balls at temperatures of - 200 degrees centigrade, which to put it in our winter terms is - 328 degrees below freezing. It does answer the eternal question: "Cold enough for ya'?"

Amorphous ice is ice "without (crystal) order." The reporting by Jonathan O'Callaghan notes that there are also "two dozen other regular arrangements," depending on conditions at the time of freezing (pressure, rate of freezing are two). The essay describes "two types of amorphous ice." neither common on earth but are "plentiful in space," e.g., comets.

O'Callaghan reports on how this new ice was produced and then how it was analyzed with the use of X-rays. "The results matched models..." but whether "it truly matches the properties of liquid water," requires more research. And there is more to learn.A scientist not involved in the actual work is quoted. "'Liquid water is a strange material. We still don't know as much about it as we'd like."' And if this new kind of ice has a real connection to liquid water," another scientist commented "it could imply that this model is incorrect. It could open up a new chapter in ice research."

And in the "so what" category and whether it has any use. It could "for understanding other worlds," including the "potential habitability of liquid - water oceans and places on moons scattered around the solar system, "is where life could emerge." The report was published in Science to which there is a link. It will be membership restricted but there will be an abstract and information about the authors which you can browse.

Scientists make great use of models, once they have some data, to test whether a research finding is supported or not. If not, it can be revised, thus getting them closer to truth in the construction of the next model.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

Today's poem is by Dr. Glenn Colquhoun, a general practitioner and writer (poet and children's books) who lives in New Zealand.

The poem links to a blog by Helen Lowe, where there is information about him and comments about the poem. I was reminded of two sides of medical practice: listening to and talking with the patient to gain shared understandings.

More on his webpage.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Where's The White?

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

Ed Hessler

A tip from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology on how to improve your waterfowl identification skills. Included is a short quiz. 

The essay is from The Living Bird (October 7 2015) by Marc Devokaitis. It is based on paying attention to the pattern. The Lab's Kevin McGowan asks this simple question, "Where's the White?" and provides three examples to help you see the power of question. This is likely to require some discipline because one's eyes tend to dart everywhere when seeing waterfowl which are seldom seen in the depictions in field guides. Bad weather, distance, in flight, in mixed groups are great and often inviting distractors. The idea is to focus on and individual

There is a sample quiz, which is from a course offered by the Lab on duck and goose identification.

Maybe this is a tip you  know and use but then it may be relatively new and is another feature, in addition to these McGowan mentions: shape, color pattern, behavior, habitat, range, and call. Use them all - they are multiple lines of evidence.

McGowan notes that "all male dabbling ducks can be distinguished by the arrangement of their white patches alone."
Okay, it is barely mid-winter here although we are 2/3 through meteorological winter - solstice winter is our reality - and the opportunities for practice in the field are limited. This gives you time to let this practice soak and sink in if it is new...to think about adding it to what you already know about waterfowl ID.


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Making Behavioral Science Better: Gamification

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Simulations, Brain, Science & Society, Citizen Science, Nature of Science

In  Nature Comment (17 January 2023) there is a multiple authored essay on how games can make behavioral science better. It is assigned a 13 m reading time, which is long but it includes the history of gamification, future steps, critique, i.e., ups and downs, how to get into it, and comments on game theory.

From the article I include a few samples.

First Paragraph

"When US cognitive scientist Joshua Hartshorne was investigating how people around the world learn English, he needed to get tens of thousands of people to take a language test. He designed 'Which English', a grammar game that presented a series of tough word problems and then guessed where in the world the player learnt the language. Participants shared their results — whether accurate or not — on social media, creating a snowball effect for recruitment. The findings, based on data from almost 670,000 people, revealed that there is a ‘critical period’ for second-language learning that extends into adolescence."

Ups and Downs

"Gamified experiments have clear weaknesses. Many scientists are used to having total control over their lab environments: they can observe participants’ behavior directly during experiments and check that people are who they say. Critics might be wary of losing this control, or might worry that people will not engage fully with the tests or will warp results by faking their identities, completing games multiple times or participating maliciously using Internet bots.

"These criticisms can be partly assuaged."

Last Paragraph

"In 1986, the sociologist Lee Sproull suggested that researchers consider 'a new tool for data collection — electronic mail'. Decades after her work on what might be the earliest web-based study, collecting data on the Internet is powerful and routine. Gamified science has not yet reached such widespread acceptance, but we think it can, should and will.

Check the article before taking on one or more of the games to try out. You can learn about their purpose before you play. 

The games are also linked in the article and each is briefly described: Which English? ---  Are You a Super Listener? --- Glyph --- Moral Machine --- Visual Vocab.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Additional Ingredients for Recipe for Mummification Found

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

Ed Hessler

The recipe for the embalming chemicals used by the ancient Egyptians in preparing a mummy has some ingredients new-to-science. Ewen Callaway, writing for the journal Nature - News reports on the resins.

"Labelled pots found in a 2,500-year-old embalming workshop have revealed the plant and animal extracts used to prepare ancient Egyptian mummies — including ingredients originating hundreds and even thousands of kilometres away." 

"Chemical analysis of the pots' contents has identified complex mixtures of botanical resins and other substances, some of them from plants that grow as far away as southeast Asia."

The full technical research report, Nature, February 1, 2023, is available on-line (see the Callaway article for access). The research paper includes a labelled description of the embalming chamber, an illustration showing instructions for using the substances, a discussion of two confusing substance terms, a discussion of the economics of trade, and a map showing the origin of the ingredients. 
Callaway's article includes a lovely display of the various types of pots - large, small, variously colored, shapes - used for the storage of the ingredients. There is also an artist's impression of the embalmers at work in the embalming chamber.

Callaway notes the sophistication of the Egyptian embalmers who knew much about the properties of the raw materials, their use of heat or distillation techniques in extracting them, and that some had anti-microbial properties.

There are questions remaining including "how ancient Egyptians developed specific embalming procedures and recipes...why they selected certain ingredients over others." Study co-author Mahmoud Bahgat, a biochemist at Egypt's National Research Center in Cairo told reporters at a press briefing.  "'We need to be as clever as them to discover the intentions." This quote encapsulates the practice of science, then as a proto-science and now as a full-blown international science with the tools to do the research.

This research depended on the revolution known as molecular biology, techniques that have been put to all kinds of research uses.


Monday, February 6, 2023

An Account of A Neurosurgeon's Rendevous With Advanced Cancer

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler
----Doctor: You should have come before. Patient: How they do like to rap you over the knuckles, these people. If you turn a blind eye to a problem there's always a good chance it'll lose its nerve" she said cheerfully. --Penelope Lively, Perfect Happiness, Penguin

Henry Thomas Marsh is a much-celebrated British neurosurgeon who has written several books, only one of which I've read, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery. I liked it. He tells us how he came to be a doctor, about his choice of neurosurgery, his work with aspiring practioners and what he demands of them, about cases, how neurosurgery proceeds, even how he gets to work by bicycle, his dislike of Britain's health system, etc. I imagine it to still be a wonderful book to read so I recommend it. You certainly leave with some idea of this exacting surgical practice. 
Marsh excelled - a superstar - in neurosurgery and also led the way to many improvements. One of the developments he introduced was the use of local anesthesia which allowed him to communicate with the patient during very long surgeries, an advance that has led to significant improvements in outcomes. 

Marsh also volunteered in the Ukraine. There he pioneered many advances in neurosurgery in collaboration with their growing neurosurgery program. In the U. K. he was also an acknowledged master of robotic surgery. Marsh is very well known internationally and many American neurosurgeons trained with him as residents.

More recently he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer at the age of 70. His recently published memoir,  And Finally...Matters of Life and Death is about the experience.

Fresh Air's Terri Gross talked with him about his new book for the January 30, 2023 program which in the NPR written edition includes what it is like being a patient, some reflections on his own professional practice this experience has elicited, reasons why doctors tend to present with their cancers, as he did, late, and his life now.

The program is completely available as a 43 minute listen. In this NPR print preview, several questions and answers are highlighted. The headers are below below.

--On seeing his own brain scan, and being shocked at its signs of age.

--On continuing to work in the hospital after being diagnosed with cancer.

--On getting diagnosed at age 70, and feeling his life was complete.

--On not fearing death, but fearing the suffering before death.

--On why he supports medically assisted death.

--On knowing when it was time to stop doing surgery.