Monday, July 31, 2023

Knepp Castle: Letting Nature Take Over Most of the Agricultural Land

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

Ed Hessler

Rewilding takes a variety of forms and CBS Correspondent David Pogue visits Knepp Castle, UK where most of the agricultural land has been returned to its more or less natural state (There is no comparison with before intensive farming to the current effort to return the land to nature.). According to the introduction, "in a short span of time, this land has now become one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the United Kingdom."

The history of the castle and the rewilding project is described in the Wiki entry about Knepp Castle above.  It adds considerable information to the reporting by David Pogue about Knepp Wildland which was the first project at this scale in the UK. Here is the Rewilding Britain link and a link on the concept from scientists

The video of the Pogue's reporting is 7 m 20 s.

For another take on rewilding and vision see RewildingEarth. It's mission is much grander; on a different scale. "To develop and promote the ideas and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation in North America, particularly the need for large carnivores and a permeable landscape for their movement, and to offer a bold, scientifically credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization in North America."

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Welcome Back Otis!!!!

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

Ed Hessler

"The happiest day of the year! Never count him out! WELCOME BACK OTIS!” -- Ann Emerson

"Emerson posted" this exclamation, writes Outsider's Jon D. B., after "filming Otis as he appeared live on her screen. ...  Like so many others, her post shot a bolt of joy through me as I wrapped up another day’s work (covering bears, no less). It was the elder brown bear’s first appearance of 2023, confirmation that this living legend is," well, still living, fishing again for salmon on the famed Brooks River of Katmai National Park & Preserve, AK.

Jon D.B.'s essay covers the life and times of Otis, a former Fat Bear contest winner (4 times, most recently 2021).  It is a short article. The link provides an excellent profile of Otis, aka 480.

Here is the link to the renowned Brooks River and Falls famous Bearcam(s) where you can read reader comments about all the bears and to Otis but it takes considerable scrolling. There are several cams including one underwater.

I had been concerned about Otis as well as about this year's fishing--fewer bears fishing, fewer salmon below the falls  and many fewer jumping to head upstream than in previous years. 
I admit to not checking as frequently as I have in the past to look especially for him, read comments from a dedicated and informed readership as well as to watch brown bears fish (several time-honed methods) and the hierarchy present at the favored fishing spots. And of course, there is the sound of the falls, sometimes the wind, the background sounds of visitors watching bears, seeing mothers and cubbies, and listening to the birds, especially the gulls.

Otis appears to me considerably thinner than in past seasons and certainly slimmer than he should be for this time of year. He has a well-earned reputation for being one heck of a fish catcher and for putting on the pounds/kilos over the summer.

It is good news and there is a strong hint of fewer bears devoting time to fishing and fewer fish being the result of climate change. I include the link to an article in the Washington Post about Otis and the bears but don't guarantee its transferrabilty. It was "given" to me, a link from a commenter on the Bearcam site. It made one transfer and I hope it will work for you.

Here is the publication information for the Washington Post article. Beloved grizzly Otis was again late for salmon season. Blame climate change,
and , Washington Post, July 29, 2023. It is not unusual for Washington Post articles to be printed in other newspapers and sometimes these are readily accessible. Worth a try if my link fails.

Good bear watching. Don't forget the Fat Bear contest this fall. Selections are made by viewers where you can also learn more about the each contestant.

Jon D. B. (Bumpus) is a senior writer for Outsider.
Gimmee and O, a T, an I, an S. Whattaya' got? Otis! Otis! Otis!
What good news!!!!!!

Saturday, July 29, 2023

A Ripple Effect

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

Ed Hessler

I've never seen frozen ripples but Kate Farrell, Grand Junction, Colorado did. She captured this unusual phenomenon -- two fluids at work, wind and water, under perfect conditions. 

The image is the subject of an Earth Science Picture of the Day entry. I was amazed. It was also a first for her, too.

Poet Mary Oliver captured this moment. "Instructions for Life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." 

I'm glad she has told about it.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Ingenuity & Innovation: 10th Century Iraq

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Maths, Mathematics Education, Nature of Science, History of Science, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler

Number 2 in Ingenuity & Reality by Lee Lawrence was published in Aramco World, March / April 2023) 

Lawrence begins with a story about Dr. Burcin Mutlu-Pakdil (Dartmouth College). I will not resist the urge to mention that Mutlu-Pakdil did her PhD at the University of Minnesota. She does research on "extreme galaxies" which are the smallest, the faintest and the most distant and observed the first (catalogued as PGC1000714 aka the Burcin galaxy. "These so-called dwarf galaxies are also the most common galaxy in the universe." 

The introduction leads seamlessly to the subject of her story: Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, " who is often known in the West as Alhazen, born 865 CE, Iraq...a polymath who...studied physics through the lens of mathematics. Nader El-Birzi, University of Sharjah recipient of the 2014 Kuwait Prize for Arabic and Islamic Scientific Heritage explains that the Greeks regarded physics and mathematics as distinct ways of studying reality." There were two aspects of Ibn al-Haytham's work "particularly stand out, says El-Bizri...: the experimental method and the 'geometrizing' of the study of natural phenomena."

Alhazen was one of "some before him...believed that light traveled in straight lines (although) al-Haytham (was the) first applied mathematics to explain how light rays actually behaved (and was the first to devise) experiments to find out whether rays really did travel in straight lines and to observe how light behaved under varying conditions." He published this work in the 7-volume "Kitab al-manazir (Book of Optics, ca 1040."

Alhazen's experiments were designed to systematically test what today are known as hypotheses. Several are described in detail in Lawrence's essay and must be read to appreciate the beauty of the design, one of which is illustrated.  This one is  "now heralded as the world's first systematically recorded camera obscura (literally 'dark room'), this innovative experiment led ultimately to the photographic camera." Alhazen made many other contributions to the field that today is mathematical physics as well as to other disciplines, e.g., optics. His experiments also challenged a "dominant theory...that we see because our eyes shoot out a beam that widens into a cone of light....* al-Haytham argued it was the other way around. Light, he postulated, travels into our eye through the pupil, just as it does through the pinhole in the wall (becoming ... the first to understand that vision is also cognitive."

Alhazen's experiments have also led to a deeper understanding of the history of science, particularly the experimental method. El-Bizri, notes that "the milestone...has been moved by two centuries ... indicative of western historians of science "not being aware of earlier approaches to experimentation."

This essay's title, Ibn al-Haytham: Testing is Believing is a first-rate declaration of how science works.
*Fifth grade explanations to explain light and sight as well as results of research findings are found here. There is a link to the research paper, a classic in the science education literature.


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Marks On The Planet Made By Humans

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Global Change, Pollution

Ed Hessler

Each of us impacts the natural environment--the non-living and living parts. We seldom see some of these in a scale large enough to understand their extent.

Some of them are shown in photographs from NPR's Goats & Soda from The Anthropocene Project. Walt Kelly, best known for the comic strip Pogo gave a precise, 9 word definition for our activities on the planet, coined for an anti-pollution Earth Day poster  in 1970": We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us.

The photographs implicate all of us -- in how we view the environment and the result. What huge marks we have made and leave on the face of the planet.

Haunting and breathtaking.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Sean Carroll Talks About His New Book, The biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion

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

Ed Hessler

Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll who holds a joint appointment between physics and philosophy at the University of Maryland, has a new book: The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion (Dutton). He talks about the book in a long conversation (1h 12m 57s) with Robert Lawrence Kuhn, Closer to Truth. This series refers to these conversations/interviews as "Chats."

Kuhn's background is worth checking out and I think it is this background as well as his curiosity which makes him a good interviewer.

If you'd like to know more about the book - the discussion proceeds chapter by chapter - without reading it, this is a fitting overview. In addition, Carroll other topics, e.g., the importance of equations in popular science writing, the nature of time, gravity, and black holes.

And if you've not heard Carroll, he communicates complex scientific ideas very well. The discussion assumes interest and a willingness to tangle with some complex ideas. One of the things I liked about the interview is that the concepts were of personal interest to Carroll on his way to becoming a physicist.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Promoting Paleontology in the Sudan

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

Ed Hessler

I enjoy reading about careers in science, technology and maths. The journal Nature (March 8) fed that enjoyment with a feature about Sudanese vertebrate paleontologist Khalafallah Salih
Salih is now a professor at Al Neelain University, Sudan, where he did his undergraduate work. The article's author, Shihab Jamal asked Salih for some comments on the following.  There is a tab for translation from Arabic to English, both official languages of the Sudan.

--How did you break into vertebrate paleontology?

--What motivated you to return to Sudan?

--Which species do you focus on?

--Tell us about the core group of junior paleontologists you are building.

--Why would the Sudanese public be skeptical about your work?

--How do you work amid such turmoil?

He began his answer on public skepticism of his work by saying "The conservative mainstream population often collides with and rejects the value of certain scientific fields. I also face underestimation by some other academics, who say that I’m wasting my time on meaningless bones. Also, many citizens have never heard about palaeontological digs before."

I'd not heard of him and it was good to know something about this promising, young scientist who also has a interest in talking with the public about his work--what it is (and isn't) and why it is important. The two photographs show what I imagine to be is the fairly common posture of a paleontologist doing field work.


Sunday, July 23, 2023

Simulated Formation of a Disk Galaxy

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology, Nature of Science, Models, Computers

Ed Hessler

APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) asks a question that is of great interest to humans from the time we began to wonder, resulting in myths, origin stories and then the Enlightment opened the door to investigating origins and planting their study on a firm base or reason, hypothesis testing, explanatory theory and empiricism. 

The question is  "How did we get here?" And the focus is on galaxy formation like ours.

You can see a simulation (2 m 20 s) and learn why simulations have to be used to answer this question. The sequence is nicely and succinctly described. including what is ahead. No need to purchase collision insurance unless you don't want to collect, i.e., for your descendants to collect.  That collision is a few billion years way ahead.

Piet Hein wrote two Grooks (Danish Gruk) that describe some features of the process of developing secure knowledge, not proof - science doesn't use that currency - but in explanatory theory that predicts and is also internally coherent.


Problems worthy
  of attack
prove their worth
  by hitting back.


The road to wisdom? -- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
           and err
           and err again
           but less
           and less
           and less.


Saturday, July 22, 2023

Rings and Bar of Spiral Galaxy NGC 1398

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

Ed Hessler

This Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is of a striking image of galaxy NGC 1398, one that has both a ring and a bar. 

The explanation notes that the image shown is light that left the galaxy when dinosaurs were disappearing from our planet.

The image is accompanied with a helpful explanation.NGC refers to the New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars which is discussed in the Wiki entry.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Literature, Maths

Ed Hessler

A Word on Statistics is by Wislawa Szymborska.

A favorite song of summer by Linda and Robin Williams when there was normal rain.

Our continuing drought is spooky and I'd welcome a succession of rainy days nicely spread.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

New Field Guide for Minnesota

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

Ed Hessler

I can't remember when the expansion of field guides to the natural world occurred but I'm glad it did. And increasingly some of them focus on regions and states. How we tyros love learning about new ones.

The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (MCV), July - August 2023 about a new one devoted to lycophytes and ferns by DNR botanist Welby Smith, titled Ferns and Lycophytes of Minnesota (University of Minnesota Press).

The book, writes MCV editor in chief Chris Clayton  writes that "Welby Smith's new book...inspired our 'Small Wonders'. The essay is  beautifully illustrated but here is a stripped down version from the MCV website which includes the photographs but on the side of the article.

The book is lavishly illustrated by photographer Richard Haug"who frequently" accompanied Welby Smith in the field.  You'll recognize some of these plants for they include clubmosses--"neither a moss nor a tree but a lycophyte."

Welby Smith is a staff member of the Minnesota Biological Survey.  Richard Haug can be found on Instagram.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

A Marker For The Anthropocene

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Geology, Paleontology, Nature of Science, History of Science.

Ed Hessler

You may recall that it is expected soon that " a working group (of scientists) will submit three ideas to the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy. First, Crawford Lake should serve as the golden spike for the Anthropocene’s start, with the year to be determined. Second, the Anthropocene should become a geological epoch ending the Holocene; the name of its first age could be the Crawfordian age. And finally, some of the eight sites that didn’t win the golden-spike designation could serve as supplementary sites to help define the Anthropocene across geological environments."

Nature News's Alexandra Witze writes about this important site and the search for a marker, "the golden spike" of the Anthropocene. It is a small Canadian lake known as Crawford Lake, which is the basis for this recommendation after 14 years of debate. 

The choice is contentious with Witze writing that "Sihailongwan Lake, China is relatively undisturbed by local influences and thus contains a broader record of change," says Yongmin Han, a geochemist at the Institute of Earth Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi'an." He continued saying, “I cannot understand the outcome, when a more globally representative candidate for defining the Anthropocene was rejected.” 

The difference in the proposed beginning date for the Anthropocene epoch "could be either 1950 when several environmental changes accelerated — or 1952, when plutonium levels rose sharply a distance of only two millimeters on the core sample rose sharply." It will add another epoch to the smaller parts of the Cenozoic (66 mya) which are described very nicely here, providing an idea of what the planet and its life was like.
If the decision is made, it is not likely to be this ending of the Cenozoic era we expected or wanted. There is a photograph in Witze's article on how years are marked in a core sediment. For your review here are the four eras of the geological time scale. Geologists divide the history of the earth into eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages. The Anthropocene Epoch would follow the Holocene Epoch which started ~ 11,700 ya with the ending of the ice age.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Animal Soundscapes: Monitoring Amazon Forests After Fire and Logging

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

Ed Hessler

From space, previously logged and/or burned sections of the Amazon rainforest look as lush and as green as the rest of the forest., i.e., normal, booming and buzzing with activity. However, on the ground, inside, animal life reveals a different story: the soundscape is quieter than its surrounding untouched rainforest.

Research reported by D. I. Rappoport and others in the Proceedings of the National  Academy of Sciences (PNAS 119:18, 2022) demonstrates the importance of biomonitoring, i.e., collecting data over time as well as collecting data over 24h periods. 
The focus of the research is on the bioacoustic environment following such interventions as logging and fire. "The emergent 24-h patterns of acoustic activity differed between logged and burned forests, and we observed large and sustained shifts in acoustic community assembly after multiple fires. Soundscape differences among degraded forests were clearest during insect-dominated hours rarely sampled in field studies of biodiversity."

Rappaport and her team made "multiday acoustic recordings (214 24-h surveys) during September and October 2016 in 39 forests with different times since logging (4 to 23 y) and histories of fire activity (1 to 5 fires) entered once to place and leave sound collecting recorders in degraded forests for extended periods of time."  The result was data rich: a "data record of 30,816 1-min recordings" was made. This was combined with previously existing airborne lidar data.

"The authors report that their findings demonstrate that soundscapes encode digital markers of the history of degradation from human activity, revealing distinct patterns of community change following logging and fire. This study paves the way for more widespread use of ecoacoustics to benchmark and monitor changes in acoustic community composition in human-altered tropical forest landscapes, especially in remote regions with many unknown species."

One finding by the team of the difference between logging and burned forests was that "overall, fire resulted in more empty acoustic niches across the 24-h soundscape than logging, and recurrent burns led to a major restructuring of the acoustic community."  

In the introduction to the research report, the authors note that "addressing the tropical biodiversity extinction crisis...requires an efficient, distributed, long-term monitoring system to assess ecosystem structure. Traditional, ground-based biodiversity inventories are logistically prohibitive to conduct at scale, and limited taxonomic expertise perpetuates large data discrepancies for lesser known taxa (see text below for use of term pseudotaxa which means not known), such as insects, which constitute the bulk of tropical biodiversity. Advances in the emerging discipline of acoustic remote sensing, or ecoacoustics, may permit large-scale biodiversity monitoring for multiple taxa, including unidentifiable  species, based on the aggregate sound signature of the animal community, or soundscape (see below for use of term pseudotaxa for them, i.e., not known)

In a report on the research in The Earth Observer (September - October 2022, 34(5), pp 38 and 39), Rappoport called attention to one of the difficulties of on the ground biomonitoring: "the forest undergrowth was thick and difficult to navigate and she was "surrounded by insects." There is a photo of her face and head covered by sweat bees. In this kind of research the recording equipment can be placed, left and then collected later for analysis in the laboratory. This reduces the period of discomfort considerably although probably not enough for many of us.

This media report from the University of Maryland's College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences includes photographs taken in the field of Dr. Rappaport and of the sensors used which show the difficult walking conditions. In addition there is a short movie on listening to what Dr. Rappaport calls a "sound orchestra".  
About such orchestras she said in The Earth Observer article linked above she said  “You can think of the animal soundscape as an orchestra. The flutes occupy a different time of day and a different frequency band than the oboes.”  The report notes that she and "her team developed a new way to quantify forest health by analyzing soundscapes with a network theory approach. This means that by using the digital soundscape as a whole—i.e., hearing the music from the whole orchestra—Rappaport’s team could understand the relationship between the level of impacts and the community of species—i.e., the character and quality of the individual instruments playing—without requiring all the species to be identified."

And here is information about Dr. Danielle Rappoport.

If you would like to know more about soundscape ecology an article in the journal Bioscience (2011) about the then emerging discipline provides an introduction.

Monday, July 17, 2023

True Facts: Animal Awards

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

Ed Hessler

--True Facts is not appropriate for children nor for adults who don't act like children."--Dislaimer, True Facts

Here is the True Facts Animal Awards: Best Worst Jumping and More video (11m 07s).

The disclaimer above is, as responder "Yeahsure" wrote, the "Best disclaimer ever." It's accurate. I'm don't always find Ze Frank funny but I'm a great fan and admirer of his videos. Each requires a considerable investment of time and work. Accurate (true is perfect, true based on what is known), painstakingly researched, acknowledgements made to experts and with a literature cited list.

Ze Frank's stand up comedy is also at work. And let's face it as so many children's books have stated and explained, everyone poops, e.g., see this outstanding book by Taro Gomi. Amazon allows a peek inside. And as you know poop is of interest to some scientists in sciences as diverse as paleontology, ecology, biochemistry,m physiology and behavioral ecology..

You might want to take some time to scan the responses. There are more than 2100 at the time I write this--a while ago.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Six of the Earliest Galaxies: Images and Explanations

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

Ed Hessler

NatureBriefing (Nature, 7.2.2023) calls attention to one of today's Nature Briefing stories about the unveiling of results "from one of the deepest astronomical surveys of the night sky carried out by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  The effort has identified some of the earliest galaxies ever seen -- from within the first 650 million years after the Universe was born in the Big Bang."  Six of the favorite images chosen by astronomers are shown and explained, including what makes them so special."

Here is Alexandra Witte's reporting in Nature Briefing where she whets our palate by describing this accomplishment of JWST, launched in only 2021. 

Before "only a few dozen galaxies had been spotted at redshifts greater than 8. JADES has identified a whopping 717 galaxies that are probably in this range1. Here, astronomers help Nature make sense of the data deluge by choosing some of their favourite galaxies (listed from the most distant to the least) and explaining what the objects can teach us about the early days of the Universe." Llisted below are the names of the images. (bolding mine)

--The Record Holder

--The Glowing Dogbone

--The One With (Maybe) The First Stars

--The Big Clumpy One

--The Inside-Out One

--The Cosmic Rose

There are links to the technical articles which are, well, technical but you may find items in them that interest you, including images.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Cave Ecologist Fernando Calderon Gutierrez

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Climate Change, Global Change, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Amanda Heidt writes in the British Journal Nature's Where I Work,  forJuly 10, 2023 that cave ecologist Fernando Calderon Gutierrez told her that "I was always interested in biology, but it wasn’t until I saw a film about cave diving in secondary school — in which I watched divers glide past massive stalactites — that I realized I wanted to study cave fauna. The video didn’t mention the creatures inhabiting those underwater chambers, but I knew they must be there. More than just naming them, I wanted to understand their ecology, which meant I needed to study them in their natural habitat."

Heidt's essay about Gutierrez includes comments on the requirements of cave diving, cave life, relationships to surface environments, and comments on climate change. It also includes a lovely photograph

The link above to Gutierrez adds more information to Heidt's splendid reporting and provides a closer look at the equipment he wears and carries.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Thursday, July 13, 2023

An Image of a Star Nursey from JWST Used to Mark the Annimversay of the First JWST Image + Update

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

A "stunning picture of the star-forming region closest to Earth is the latest to be released by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST"

"The image" marks one year since the release of the first photograph. one year since the landmark telescope released its first photograph" (linked but protected by subscription paywall). 
The area shown "contains roughly 50 young stars ---  It shows an area in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, 120 parsecs (390 light years) away, that contains roughly 50 young stars — most of which have masses similar to, or less than, that of the Sun."

The image and a short explanation are from the journal Nature, 12 July 2023.
The JWST, another tool - an incredible achievement involving a great variety of scientists, engineers, computer scientist - for use to learn more about the universe, especially in the beginning. 

Late Breaking News. The same image of the Rho Ophiuchi molecular cloud complex shown above from APOD with more explanation. The scale of the complex is "ginormous," to use the technical word. The chaos of giving birth to stars shows. I apologize for not waiting until after I posted the original.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Spruce Budworm: Concerns in Cook County

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

Ed Hessler

Joe Friedrichs, WTIP: North Shore Community Radio interviewed MnDNR's Eric Otto on concerns about growing spruce budworm defoliation in Cook County on July 5.

In the written introduction to the interview, Friedrichs writes "Stands of white spruce and balsam fir in  Cook County are being devastated by spruce budworm throughout the region....

"Officials from the U. S. Forest Service and DNR described a 'tinderbox' in the BWCA and surrounding area during recent wildfires, a direct result of forests being impacted by spruce budworm. These include the Greenwood Fire near Isabella that scorched nearly 27,000 acres in 2021. More recently, local officials referenced spruce budworm as a reason the Spice Lake Fire had the potential to spread rapidly, a notion that resulted in a partial closure of the BWCA in June."

The conversation between Joe Friedrichs and Eric Otto is 13 m 01s long.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Studying Insect Pollinators

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature of Science, Biodiversity, Agriculture, Science & Society, Behavior, Climate Change, History of Science

Ed Hessler

This Nature Briefing's Where I Work by Jack Leeming features Shannon Olsson, a chemical ecologist at the Tata Institute of  Fundamental Research, located in Bengaluru, India (once known as Bangalore).

It's a short introduction to an impressive research project and provides a glimpse into how scientists work. I also think the overall research design provides some light on the history and nature of science.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Bumblebee Flight

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Nature, Wildlife, Science & Society, Nature of Science, History of Science.

"Another photo-and-text story from Athayde Tonhasca Junior" is found on Why Evolution is True (WEIT)" for May 20, 2023."

It is about an urban myth, including its birth, "that scientists have proved that bumblebees can't fly. But ... bumblebees carry on stubbornly contradicting science by doing what they are supposedly unable to do."

Athayde Tonhasca Junior tells us how they fly, noting "the flight of a bee is not mysterious or miraculous, but it is a complex and demanding activity. Bees resort to it judiciously for their survival." He also includes some comments on the management of pollinators' habitat along with some incredible observations that have been made on their behavior.

It is another of the author's carefully researched stories about science. First-rate science reporting from the web site of evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, Emeritus Professor, University of Chicago.

You may read it here.

h/t WEIT Website

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Ansel Adams: In Our Time*

Environmental & Science Education, Nature, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

The video segment linked below is from CBS Sunday Morning (July 2).

"Photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) created unparalleled images of the American West at a time when photography was not universally appreciated as a fine art. Today Adams is the most recognizable name in nature photography, and his landscapes have been acclaimed for their soulfulness. Correspondent Conor Knighton visits an exhibition on the artist's work, "Ansel Adams: In Our Time," currently on view at the de Young Museum in San Francisco; and visits Adams' home in Carmel, Calif., where his dark room has been preserved by his son, Michael Adams."

In the museum link above you can find information about the exhibit and Adams - a short read.

Correspondent Conor Knighton's reporting may be viewed here (5m 03s)
*Title from exhibition on Ansel Adams at the deYoung Museum


Saturday, July 8, 2023

June's Sharpest Science Shots

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment, Science & Society

Ed Hessler 

The sharp shooters of Nature's photographic team have selected their favorite images for June 2023, each with an explanation/comments.

The gallery is now open, free, and may be visited repeatedly and at any time.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment, Agriculture

Ed Hessler

The following poem was 3QD's Friday poem for May 26.

 O, Scallion is by Sofia Koyama, Poet-of-the-Week, February 20 - 26. You can learn more about her, read it and listen to her reading it at the link to the poem.

h/t Jim Culleny, Friday Poem, 3QD.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

On Majors in College

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Education

Ed Hessler

I encouraging you to read "Sociobiology: So You want to be a Biology Professor," an occasional blog by Joan E. Strassmann, Washington University, St. Louis.

No, you may not want to be a biology professor or a biology major, her essay is about advising undergraduates in which she "encourages them to get to know themselves." Of course, she checks in whether they are meeting distribution requirements, requirements for graduation, and what they plan to take. She does what her entries always do: make you think. 

After this - I suspect most students think they are about to be dismissed - she starts "with the famous Terry Gross questions, the open-ended 'Tell me about yourself.." Students are surprised but the question has a way of opening a conversation which also shows that the student is being listened to by a professor interested in her/him.

You may have noticed that today undergraduate students wear their multiple majors as achievements, e.g.,  "two majors and a minor if possible," which leaves them "no freedom to choose" (what's left). She favors some exploration while students are undergraduates. She includes comments on how she talks with students she advises.

She closes with "So I don’t have much of an opinion as to whether you should take physics or organic chemistry this year, but I do know you have a lot of work to do understanding the person behind your eyes."

We all do.

Her website includes access to her laboratory website where her research is described as well as what her current students have chosen to investigate, the sociobiology blog (home of the most recent entry, described above) and to the department of biology you may also learn more about her and her graduate student group.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Hawking's Final Theory

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

Ed Hessler

Two of the most popular scientists, by this I mean well known to the public are Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. The reasons include their personal appeal as well as their research on fundamental questions about the universe. 
We all want to know "what's it's all about" -- how our cosmos came into being, evolves, ages, dies, what there was before, whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the observable universe. The kind of questions where common sense fails and about which reality tells other stories that are based on observable and theoretical evidence. The gap between reality and common sense is laden with heavy-duty mathematics.

Hawking's last collaborator, Thomas Hertog, in his book On the Origin of Time, is about Hawking's final theory. Hertog's PhD supervisor was Stephen Hawking so he ought to know something about Hawking and his ideas.  It is reviewed by philosopher and historian of science, Robert Crease, chair of the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, Long Island, New York who has the credentials to review the book.  In the opening, Crease writes "I can't resist saying that it's about time" and I also can't resist quoting it here.

The review is short, critical and informed. Crease tells us that "It's a long and winding road to the "final theory" of the book's title. The closer we get, the more mathematical things become... The waymarkers are now similar to the unfathomable koans used in Zen teaching, such as the idea that "'once upon a time there was no time.'"  Crease includes a section on physics versus philosophy  Both Hertog and Hawking are harshly dismissive of philosophy.

This is Crease's final paragraph.

"By the end of the book, I couldn’t help but recall a remark by the Soviet physicist Lev Landau — which Hertog quotes rather dismissively and without attribution — that cosmologists are “often in error but never in doubt”. The remark seems spot on. Still, disciplinary arrogance aside, On the Origin of Time lets you enjoy the cosmologists, understand their theories and realize their flaws, yet sympathize with those whose confidence will soon be demolished. The book even makes you look forward to their next ‘final’ theory."

Here is the review from the British journal Nature.