Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Tricks AND Treats, Halloween 2023

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Solar System, Cosmos, Earth & Space Science, Culture, Science & Society, Art & Environment,Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler


Tricks and treats with the science about them, except one which includes a lot of science, from the universe and a human.

The ghosts of Gamma Cassiopeiea.

Happy Halloween on this first snowy day of the season!
And Boo again!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Short Video Documentary About A Moggie

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Animals, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

Videographer Tommy Brennan  produced a video documentary about his cat (2m 52s) in which he uses an "AI David Attenborough" to narrate it.

Almost Attenborough's doing a standard BBC Attenborough nature documentary with a twist, the behavior of a cat indoors.

In the first comment, Brennan includes a tutorial on how Brennan created the video. It is also referenced below the video.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

A Gas Ring

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

Ed Hessler

Earth Science Picture of the DAY (EPOD) captures what I can't help but consider an unusual, infrequent volcanic event. There are so many conditions that had to be just right. The natural world is full of pleasant surprises and this is one.

There are three photographs, two of the event and another showing outgassing from a volcanic vent, each with descriptions and explanations.
And if you are interested in learning more about the physics of smoke rings here is a short video (4m 33s) from the UK's Royal Institution. The conditions are much different from the ring produced by the volcano.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Images from the Mangrove Forest 2023 Competition

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

Ed Hessler

Matthew Tucker, BBC News In Pictures (October 22, 2023) tours the 2023 Mangrove Forest Photography winners from seven competition categories, including runners-up.

His commentary describes mangrove forests, the sponsor, the competion and sometimes includes comments about the photographs from the photographers. The photographs could stand alone but do yourself a favor and read the commentary. I was surprised to learn that mangrove forests lose their leaves in winter leaving a spider web of trees when seen from above and showing how thin their trunks and branches are.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Earth Systems, Earth Science

Ed Hessler

Almost Storm is by Richard Schiffman.

Publication and author information is included with the poem.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

A Theoretical Physicist Who Is Also A Social Media Star

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

Ed Hessler

NPR's Scott Neuman has written - I forget that these are broadcast, too, after all it is radio - a profile of theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, emphasis on her social media career. It is titled "She got famous on YouTube. Now it helps fund her research in quantum gravity."

She has provided content for a number of my posts. I'm in no position to judge many of her comments or her credibility, lacking the credentials, but I admire her for her contrary views on how the world works, her relentless focus on scientific evidence and for providing me another slant on issues in theoretical physics. 

Because she is a woman in a field dominated by men she is sometimes viewed as a role model. She "eschews the  'role model' label." This is her self-assessment: "'I'm a sarcastic, annoying, permanently grumpy middle-aged woman, and no one in their right mind should strive to be anything like me'."

Neuman covers her success on social media in one basic observation. Her Patreon channel, "Science Without the Gobbledygook" now has a million subscribers."  Then he continues with a discussion of what that includes.

Th reporting includes comments on her great sense of humor, responses to critics (she has strong critics who don't agree with her physics as well as her view of theoretical physics; quotes from theoretical physicists about the value of her contributions; her "sparring" with Don Lincoln who has made significant scientific contributions as well as educational contributions on Fermilab's YouTube channel (I am a fan of Dr. Lincoln's explanations of physics events and ideas and check it somewhat frequently but not as often as I should), but mostly about their shadow boxing on the scientific wisdom of constructing ever larger and more powerful particle accelerators (Lincoln is an experimentalist; Hossenfelder a theoretician); examples of some of her controversial points-of-view, including climate change; on being both a scientist and an explainer; self-funding research; and more. Oh, i forgot she has done self-produced music videos which I very much like.

She answers such criticisms and her critics in what we expect: "' Basically I don't care. I do my thing.'"

This is great reporting and worth reading. It is linked throughout.

And if Scott Neuman is not a familiar household name here is NPR's biography.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Planet Earth Geology in the Distant Future

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Geology, Earth & Space Science, Earth Science, Earth Systems, Global Change, Climate Change, Models, Computer Science, Solar System

Ed Hessler

Taking a long look down the pike, 250 million years out, the planet's current landmasses will drift and merge into an Afro-Eurasian  continent which will then crash into North and South America - the two main "bumper cars" still remaining. This new super continent is called Pangea Ultima. There is an alternative but I'm not going to discuss it here.

It will drive volcanism, increase carbon dioxide levels leading to a barren, hot desert for most of the continent and, of course, mass extinction of critters which attract most of us: mammals.. In a new scientific paper this and a worst case scenario are described. 

In this fully accessible review article in Nature Geoscience, 2020, vol. 2 through diagrams and images as well as text explanations you can read about it. The paper is written for specialists but quite a bit is accessible so take a look.

My list is the usual, the author's affiliations and contributions, the abstract, the key points, and the description of the three supercontinent cycles (Pangaea. Rodinia and Columbia), a box on the types of evidence used to reconstruct supercontinents, supercontinent dynamics (lithospheric (aka top down) and mantle tectonics (aka bottom-up), models in geodynamics, and some outstanding frontier questions.

In an essay in Scientific American for general readers reprinted from Nature by Jonathan O'Callaghan about this paper, geologist Hannah Davies said the following about the paper “It does seem like life is going to have a bit more of a hard time in the future. It’s a bit depressing.” 

"A bit more of a hard time?" Huh? "It's a bit depressing." Really?

And this on a more hopeful note. “There have been extinction events in the past, and will be extinction events in the future. I think life will make it through this one. It’s just kind of a grim period.” 

I don't think you need to worry about us. Our survival  seems doubtful long before then but what life? Still that is nice to know. New beginnings.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Design Iinspired by Nature: Octopus

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science & Society, Nature of Science, History of Science, Biodiversity, Medicine, Health, Nature.

Ed Hessler

This paper is about an innovation for the specific delivery of drugs that are not easily absorbed. The procedure is based on a nature-inspired solution. The field is known as biomimicry.

Please don't let the title keep you from taking a look. The editor of the journal Science Translational Medicine provides a summary. 

Proteins, peptides, and other macromolecular drugs are generally not well-absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and therefore usually require intravenous administration. Here, Luo and colleagues engineered a suction patch modelled on octopus suckers that stretched the buccal mucosa, allowing for increased absorption. When combined with permeation enhancers, the suction patch could improve the bioavailability of desmopressin over the oral formulation in beagles. The authors also conducted a first-in-human test of the suction patch, finding that short-term use was acceptable to participants. Although further study is needed, these findings suggest that the octopus sucker–inspired buccal mucosa suction patch might be an alternative for some drugs that can currently only be given parenterally. —Melissa Norton

The summary is followed by the author's abstract, always worth reading as are the methods and methods. By reading I mean scanning.

Plow on if you like, especially the introduction but I want to call your attention to the illustrations which explains how such a suction patch works. 

Scroll down to the section Octopus-Inspired Design of the Suction Patch.

Beagles suffering from a disease were used and there are before and after photographs of the use of the suction patch. The differences are noticeable. 

Scroll down to the section headed First-In-Human Study on the Acceptance of the Formulation. 

SCOD, found throughout the paper is the acronym for suction cup orifice design.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Gravitational Lensing

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

Ed Hessler

In a short video (3 m 17 s), Summer Ash of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) explains gravitational lensing. 

Ash is the STEAM Education at the NRAO where she leads education and outreach efforts to K - 12 audiences and the general public. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education.

The link opens the main page and the video: The Baseline #17. Just click. In the event that it has been replaced click on the News tab and scroll to The Baseline #17. It will be very near the top.
The links on the main page provide many opportunities to learn about radio astronomy.


Sunday, October 22, 2023

The "Beautiful" Asteroid Sample

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Earth Science, Solar System, Cosmology, Computer Science

Ed Hessler

What a jog to the memory upon reading that the Osiris-Rex mission has returned after collecting a sample of surface materials on a tiny, moving dot in space, the asteroid Bennu. It is a long way from here, some 330 million km (205 million miles). It is a little longer than the Empire State and Eiffel Tower are tall (NASA graphic). The round trip took 3 years. 

The BBC has the best reporting I've seen. It is by science correspondent Jonathan Amos  Here are a few highlights but look at the full article..

--The Quick Look team found the sample "to be rich in carbon (life on this planet is carbon based) and water-laden minerals." We are the water planet.

--Amos discusses the hypothesis being tested "that carbon-rich (organic), water-rich asteroids similar to Bennu may have been involved in delivering key components to the young Earth system some 4.5 billion years ago. It's potentially how we got the water in our oceans and some of the compounds that were necessary to kick-start life."

--"Osiris-Rex principal investigator Dr Dante Lauretta highlighted the samples' water content held in clay minerals. He said "They have water locked inside their crystal structure. I want to stop and think about what that means. That water - that is how we think water got to the Earth. The reason that Earth is a habitable world - that we have oceans and lakes and rivers and rain - is because clay minerals, like the ones we're seeing from Bennu, landed on Earth 4.5 billion years ago.'"

--Amos included a CT scan generated physical model of particles which allows science to see inside them and the touch and grab landing video taken when the probe landed momentarily to collect a sample. There is also a photograph of the probe after it had landed in a Utah desert with a team of scientists looking at it.

--And looking ahead, Amos also reported that about 70% of the sample will be archived for future investigators who are quite likely to have better tools and ideas to examine and analyze the collected sample.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Death OF A Sun-like Star

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

Ed Hessler

The frequency of knock-out images from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) seems to me to be increasing. This is a result of incredible advances in technology - telescopes, images now taken in clear space without atmospheric interference or distortions, computing science and the skills of scientists and engineers.space Here is another of a nebula - MyCn 18 - this time a planetary nebula in the last throes of a Sun-like star. It is about 8000 light years from us This image is razor sharp.

These images seldom stand alone for me and fortunately APOD provides an interesting explanation and hypothesis. There are many ways, it appears, for stars to die and how they eject what is left of them in the end.
A lot of talent, training, education and wanting to know are involved in the making of this image. These are also why we can see such events, namely scientists always wanting to publish findings.


Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday Poem

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

Ed Hessler

This was published in The New York Times, 9/8/22 and re-published in One Art: A Journal of Poetry. There is a brief biography of her at the link above.
A Life Lived. Upon the death of Louise Gluck (pronounced Glick), the United States lost a terse and unvarnished poet.  Among her many awards and honors was the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature

Here is a favorite. Early December in Croton-on-Hudson (the link includes publication information). About Croton-on-Hudson.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Snowfly Adaptation

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

Ed Hessler

What do you do when you get cold in winter? It is certainly not what snowflies do, which is this subject of a fascinating study available in an accessible paper in Current Biology (26 September 2023), "Snow flies self-amputate freezing limbs to sustain behavior at sub-zero temperatures."  A 12-page PDF is also accessible. This event is very unlikely ever to be seen in the wild so must be studied in the laboratory.

The paper includes a whimsical graphical abstract, highlights and a summary which precede the full body of the paper. 
The paper includes a graphic of a snowfly, photograph showing collection sites, photograph of the mountain site, a schematic of the thermal imaging set-up with important and helpful graphs on temperature related results, a photograph of the leg-snip (auto-amputation), triggers with a comparison of a related species and the snowfly summarized in a chart, and at the end full access to details about the methods. The supplemental information includes acknowlegements and the contributions of the authors.

The paper ends on a disheatening note. a reminder of changes affecting the planet, global warming and habitat destruction. "We may have limited time to study these species before they disappear altogether."

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The 2023 Stat Wunderkinds

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

Ed Hessler

For this nomination and selection, STAT set out to celebrate the unheralded heroes of science and medicine, poring over hundreds of nominations from across North America in search for the next generation of scientific superstars. We were on the hunt for the most impressive doctors and researchers on the cusp of launching their careers, but not yet fully independent.

Meet them and read their bios. They are likely to disappear from the view of most non-scientists but their impressive beginnings suggest that they will become important scientists, doctors and researchers. It has the feel of a yearbook and browsing it worth the time

Best wishes to them.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

On Today's Climate Change: It Is Real No Matter The Denial by Some

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Global Change, Climate Change, Sustainability, Science & Society, Evolutionary Biology, Biodiversity, Models

Ed Hessler

If you are a reader of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, you've likely read a recent opinion piece by climatologist Michael Mann. There it was titled "No the Climate Hasn't  'Always Changed' Like This."  It is behind a Star Tribune paywall (9-28-2023) and was republished from the Los Angeles Times where you can read it again or for the first time if you haven't. 

Mann begins with the common refrain from climate deniers "'The climate is always changing!'" We've survived before and will do it again and apparently again.

His essay calls attention to rates of carbon dioxide change which is different from the deniers reference points: Earth temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

Mann notes that climatologists who study deep time point out a "natural comparison for the rapid greenhouse-trend we are seeing now. It is known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)," and event that happened after the extinction of the dinosaurs. It occurred 56 million years ago. (emphasis mine). The cause was the dumping of  tons of "carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions in Iceland."

In a mere 10,000 years - the atmosphere was already a steamy one at 80 degrees F it rose to  90 degrees F. The hooker is that it occurred about "10 times slower than warming today." (emphasis mine).

Now this turned out to be good for humans or our human ancestors which were small, underfoot and overhead in the trees. We were not present then. Here is an equation: Dinosaur extinction + "stifling events of the PETM warming'" =  humans not ever been here. 

Mann notes other extinctions, the recent warming period only 18,000 years ago. Mann describes the drivers but "the planet warmed by about 10 degrees F " in the following 8,000 years. How did we make it - humans and some of our relatives were present.  It was due to our big brains which allowed us to adapt. Remember, in this short period there were many extinctions, including the charismatic wooly mammoths and mastodons.

What has kept us afloat long enough to construct societies with all their respective services "was built around this period of stability." So I suppose some might use this as evidence (somehow) that we made it then and will now but "the dinosaurs and the mastodons" were caught by rapid climate change to which they were not adapted, just like today , the imminent future.

By the way and this is important, the models used in these two paleoclimate events allow climatologists today to test their models and they pass.

Mann writes "the end result is that we can trust these models to peer into our climate future. They tell us that we can avoid (such a tragedy), IF we reduce carbon emissions substantially over the  next decade."  We live in a fragile moment, one fragile enough to be referred to as a critical juncture. (Caps and underline mine).

This is an important essay backed by considerable lines of good evidence.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Finding the Play Spot

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

Ed Hessler

Advocates of play rightly believe in the importance of play in general. On the science education front much is made of its value and use in learning about STEM. A whole raft of early education materials have been developed to help young students learn STEM principles and to help teachers who are interested in facilitating such learning.

So it is easy to forget that play has other benefits -- social benefits. And in light of the fact that much learning in science education involves small group activities. I also note that many scientists work in groups as they develop hypotheses, test their "truth"(evidence for or against the hypotheses in question) as well as the strength of the evidence.

Sam Jones, writing for the Washington Post (reprinted in the Star Tribune on 9.24. 2023, paywalled). The article is about what studies of rat brains show us about the role of play. Rats play a lot both young and old. The article is titled "Rat Brains Show Crucial Role of Play."  The essay finds its basis in a new study in Neuron with the formidable title, " Play and tickling responses map to the lateral columns of the rat periaqueductal gray," a mouthful. 

The 20 p. paper is available in a PDF. That region of the brain, the "periaqueductal gray" is known as PAG.

At the top of the publication is a diagram, an inbrief on what the article is about, and four highlights. The authors open the paper by stating "Of all classes of mammalian behaviors, play is one of the least understood at the neurobiological level. While we have a rough idea about the neural loci responsible for sexual and aggressive behaviors, fear, reward, sensory processing, and even cognition, we cannot delineate the neural circuits underlying play as of yet. We know from extensive cortical lesion studies that play—much like other mammalian behaviors—can proceed without the cortex. ... In this study, we investigate the role of the periaqueductal gray (PAG) in play behavior by ouch and tickling the rats. 

The illustrations in the paper take some study but I think you can make sense of what is happening to the PAG during  various interventions. In addition, you can learn about the authors and their institutional affiliation as well as their contributions to the paper. 

Jones includes some of the findings while at the same time including other findings, e.g.,

--play is deeply ingrained in the brain

--words that have been used to describe play behavior

--healthy brain development in human childhood and its benefits

--the occurrence of play in other animals (even wasps and social spiders)

--the importance of play "for the development of executive functions such as emotional control, awareness and response inhibition."

--the dire consequences linked (correlated with, I assume) to its lack in growing up. Briefly reviewed is the research of psychiatrist Stuart Brown. He (and others) investigated what led to a 25-year-old man to kill and wound others (many) when he targeted them from the clock tower, in Austin.

- Brown has since studied "certain inmates - murderers - none of whom had engaged  in 'rough-and-tumble play' which helps us 'deal with hostility' and getting along. The work is based on clinical studies rather than scientific research. Brown is the founder of the National Institute for Play (1996).

The lead author of the study Natalie Gloveli intends to "examine the PAG in other animals ...  to begin connecting the still elusive brain circuitry that underlies play." Sergio Pellis and Stuart Brown author of a widely read book on play, call our attention to the importance of free play (note free) - something that's happening less and less in schools" Organized sports "is not the same as free play." Now to some possible benefits; negotiation with friends on deciding what to play, how the play is to be done, rules, what happens "when one of us breaks the rules?"
Timmy Broderick wrote a very good piece about this study for Scientific American, July 28, 2023 which includes a video where you can hear "ultrasonic rat giggles." I used a phrase from that story to title this entry. And here is a YouTube presentation Stuart Brown gave about eight years ago  titled "Play is More Than Fun" (14m 49s).

Play, a benefit to all of us including STEM learning as well as learning about fair play in life as well as STEM behavior - groups in school; groups in science..

Sunday, October 15, 2023

2023 Nikon Small World In Motion Competion Announced

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment

The winners of the 2023 Nikon Small World In Motion Competition (video) have been announced and you may view  them, all in 1 m 24 s. This website tells about the competition, shows the honorable mentions, describes the judges and has a calendar of events.

There is a description about the winning entry from material below the video,

 "A 48-hour time-lapse film of neurons developing in the central nervous system of a chick embryo has won the Nikon Small World in Motion video competition. Taken under a microscope by Alexandre Dumoulin at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, the footage shows the elongation of axons - projections from nerve cells - between the two hemispheres of the central nervous system. In neurological disorders, axons can be impaired. 'By studying these, organisms I aim to enhance our comprehension of how the nervous system functions and identify potential factors contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders,' says Dumoulin. "

Saturday, October 14, 2023

The Death Of A Tree In The U.K.

Environmental & Science Education, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

This is a heartbreaking BBC story with many photographs and a full text about the death of a large "Sycamore" tree, commonly referred to as Hadrian's Wall Tree, Northumberland, U.K.

The  tree, I think you will agree, was a dramatic perfectly situated landmark which was planted sometime in the late 1800's. It was cut down by a man in his sixties who was arrested. This link shows the tree in winter while the BBC story shows it in summer.


Friday, October 13, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment 

Ed Hessler

"On Being Eighty" is by Helen Cruickshank.

Helen B. Cruickshank was born May 15, 1886 and died March 2, 1975

Source: Scottish Poetry Library: Bringing People and Poems Together.


Thursday, October 12, 2023

Aspartame--A Dentist's Report

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

Ed Hessler

Sugar substitutes or non-nutritive sweeteners --some examples include saccharin, sucralose, stevia, aspartame -- were in the news recently because of an evaluation of one of them, aspartame, by IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization. (underline mine) This entity announced that it is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

I've been waiting for a dentist to comment and Melissa Weintraub wrote an essay for STAT on her advice to patients as a professional "I"m a Dentist. I'm Begging People Not to Give Up Aspartame," August 14, 2023.

Weintraub writes, "My professional concern for oral health makes opting for non-nutritive sweeteners over sugar obvious. The aspartame reports have not changed my mind as the link tooks tenuous at best." The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) responded strongly against the claim --"possibly" does not mean causation. Dr. Weintraub discusses the evidence against the IARC claim, noting that IARC is no stranger to issues of credibility.

Weintraub continues calling attention that "dentists hold sugar in a kind of awe-struck horror. Sugar consumption feeds mouth bacteria, which produce as a by-product a form of acid that erodes tooth enamel. If left unchecked, this leads to dental cavities and oral disease...true even of healthier, more natural forms of sugar, such as the fructose found in fruit."

Sugar is not the cause of this tooth decay. A common mouth bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, has the ability to convert sugar to lactic acid which erodes tooth enamel.  

Of course Weintraub discusses and at some length, "sugar-free gum" noting that it has been "long recognized by dentists as a valuable oral health tool." She also reminds us that "oral health affects the rest of the body and mentions some of the broader health problems" that can result.

The issue of sugar-free substitutes is, to use, her phrase "worth chewing over."
So, in addition, brush your teeth and floss. I'm not a dentist and follow the advice of my oral hygienist and dentist, both of whom welcome questions and discussion.


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

And The 2023 Champ Is...

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

Ed Hessler

# 102 Grazer - 108,321 votes

Her opponent in the semi-final round was #32 Chunk - 23,134 votes

See the webpage for the week to see their photographs, the match-ups for each round and for additional information. You may be interested to read Grazer's biography again or for the first time. She is impressive.

The total votes cast during Fat Bear Week Contest 2023 - October 4 - October 10 - was 1,382,783.

May they all rest well and emerge in spring 2024 to begin fishing again and putting on the pounds.

Wildlife CSI Federal Laboratory

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Endangered Species, Biodiversity, Science & Society, Sustainability

Ed Hessler

In this CBS Sunday Morning segment, correspondent Conor Knighton visits the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory . It's the only U.S. federal crime lab devoted to criminal investigations of crimes or crime scene investigations (CSI), committed against wildlife.

Knighton's reporting may be viewed here (5m 38s). 
The laboratory's website will tell you all about the lab and is worth a visit.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

How Hummers Meet their Caloric Needs

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

Ed Hessler

BirdAcademy, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has a long - worth the time - YouTube presentation (1 h 32 s) on how humming birds use energy.

The description announcing the event provides a short description. "Hummingbirds delight with their brilliant colors and dizzying flight. But all that nonstop activity comes at a high energy cost, so how do hummers meet their calorie needs? Join researchers Anusha Shankar from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Erich Eberts from the University of Toronto Scarborough as they share what they’ve learned about how hummingbirds use energy. Discover the demands of migration, the nesting season, and even just getting through the night; plus learn how sleep differs from torpor. We’ll also spend time answering your questions about these flying jewels during live Q&A."

It was a webinar, moderated by Cornell Lab's Chelsea Benson. It includes the questions and answers given at the time of presentation. So one way of shortening viewing time is to not listen to the Q&A. However, the questions shed still more light on the general question.


Monday, October 9, 2023

Using The Far Side Of The Moon for A Bold Scientific Experiment

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Cosmology, Solar System, Earth & Space Science, Cosmology, Astrophysics, Computer Science

Ed Hessler

In news from Berkeley Lab, writer Lauren Biron calls our attention to the fact that "there are unexplored regions of the universe - and there are also unexplored times." There is, she continues, "a nearly 400-million-year gap in our universe's history that we've never seen." The time "before stars known as the Dark Ages." 

Investigating this era in the history of the universe has until this experiment been impossible because the needed "particular radio signal can't be measured from Earth. The first step to listening for it is a pathfinder project known as the Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night, or LuSEE-Night. The experiment is slated to head to the moon in 2025, where it will test technology in the harsh lunar environment."

What the moon offers is "a shield, blocking out radio waves from Earth. And by gathering data only during the two-week lunar night, the experiment can also block out radio waves from the sun." In an understatement if ever there was one, "this isolated spot also brings challenges. LuSEE-Night must operate in temperatures around -280 degrees Fahrenheit, then weather an extreme swing to 250 degree Fahrenheit during lunar day, when it will recharge its batteries. And because the far side of the moon never faces Earth, direct communication with the experiment is impossible. LuSEE-Night will have to send all its data through a relay satellite that passes overhead." I wanted to add several explanation points to each item on this list.

Biron's essay includes a listing of key takeaways, a video showing the experiment's landing site, a description of events that followed the Big Bang, the scientific assumption this experiment is based on, how very small that very tiny dip in radio waves that signals the Dark Ages is, going from the lab to the moon which includes some of scientific and engineering design challenges. This is a formidable experiment.

I'd not heard of this upcoming experiment and found its description compelling reading. I say this frequently, but what times to be alive and learn what science, engineering and the computing sciences tell us about the natural world.

Here is the link to Lauren Biron's essay. 
The far side of the moon is "far out".

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Sprite Lightening

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

Ed Hessler

I've posted at least one other photograph of sprite lightning. This one, from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), is even crisper (I think). The detail captured in this event is really striking. And, of course, the event is lovely.

The entry notes how ephemeral sprite lightning events are. Just one video frame of time or1/25th of a second. Voluntary eye-blinks last, on average, 1/3 of a second. Had we seen this with our own eyes, most of it would have eluded us.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Owls And Humans In Shared Environment: An Online Event

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

Ed Hessler.

Owls are fascinating and elusive birds — masterful hunters and age-old symbols of wisdom and knowledge. While their acute senses and physical adaptations help them survive and succeed in nature, owls have a curious charisma and surprising social skills when closely observed.

Join owl expert Kevin J. McGowan from Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology and ecologist Carl Safina, author of Alfie and Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe, for an in-depth look into the complex lives of owls and how humans might live among them in harmony and with respect.

This is a free Online event, October 10, 2023 which begins at 1pm EDT (12:00 pm CST).  I think they meant ET but no matter the time in the central part of the US is noon, 12::00. Register here as well as for more information.

Lunch and a seminar!

Friday, October 6, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

This poem includes a meditative commentary. The poem was published in Oliver's collection Swan: Poems and Prose Poems (Beacon Press, 2010).

Here you may read about whitebark pine. I also include the Wiki entry which has a distribution map and more information about its ecology and threats.