Entries from blogs tagged with “The Sciences”
This weeks' LJW editorial about the NCAA's deal with CBS caught my attention. The NCAA is taking in huge amounts of cash. Evidently the $6.1B deal with CBS isn't enough and those who want to see a game live will get fleeced even more (read the editorial).Now I don't want to spoil today's game. If the game is close, I'll be holding my breath with everyone else. My disapproval of the huge dollars in college sports will go to the back of my mind, at least for the duration of the game.But for now, I have to think... well...I've said before that I'm an engineer by training, profession, and inclination. That kind of makes me a "what if" kind of person. You know, "what if" we made this widget bigger, or used thinner widgets in such and such a part of our design...But I have to confess that I keep applying that same mentality to other things. Say for instance we took just $1B of that $6.1B CBS deal and used it to buy health insurance for families who go without. How many would that support?So--check my math here-- let's assume health insurance for a family is $1000/month. or $12,000/year.$1,000,000,000 ÷ $12000 = 83,333 familiesYou and I both know that this is a ridiculous idea.But then, even crazier I think what if we used the whole $6.1B to buy a year's worth of health insurance?$6,100,000,000 ÷ $12000=508,333 familiesNow I'm not suggesting anything. I'm just "running some numbers."Because it is totally impractical...impossible.But I can't help thinking....What if?
The picture below is of an open space in town I first noticed many years ago. It is unusual only because of where it is located...at least I have always been surprised that it exists where it does. I'll post one more picture tomorrow. Identify it if you can.Please forgive me if I have just a little bit of an agenda in this post.
I thought it might be guessed quickly. Here is another picture.
One more picture of the empty lot behind Checker's on 23rd St:
While people are running around in a panic over the economy, new innovations are constantly happening. It's beginning to look like robots are the new "Next Big Thing". Of course robots have been used for years in the assembly of automobiles, but what's new are completely independent robots that can coexist with us as part of our daily environment. Most familiar are iRobot's rug and floor cleaning robots. But iRobot also makes a number of robots for the use in dangerous environments. If you watch CSI or similar shows, you may have seen these 'bots.So check out this video from a start up company called Boston Dynamics which has developed an autonomous robot called Big Dog:I am not sure what the loud noise is due to. But since Big Dog doesn't seem to make the noise when tethered to cables, perhaps the noise is due to some sort of power generator. Speaking of iRobot, people I know who use the rug cleaning 'bots all have super neat houses and they probably really don't need the robot. So as an iRobot stockholder, I keep trying to get the company to beta test its housecleaning robots under real battle conditions- namely my house. What are they afraid of? Don't they want to see if they can pass the cleaning 'bot Turing test?Needless to say, these robots do raise a number of ethical issues. As robots become more and more autonomous do we want robots to make life and death decisions in the battlefield? I would argue probably not. But decision making speed is important so this will put pressure on developers such as iRobot to work towards robots that can make independent decisions to kill, at least in certain situations. Can use of these robot weapons be justified in terms of the rules of war? Ethicists have begun wrestling with those sorts of issues. Here for instance is a paper from the Georgia Institute of Technology: Governing Lethal Behavior. It is a large file. The article notes though that we already have semi robotic systems in place that do make decisions whether or not to fire.This paper quotes a government study which says:"Armed UMS [Unmanned Systems] are beginning to be fielded in the current battlespace, and will be extremely common in the Future Force Battlespace: This will lead directly to the need for the systems to be able to operate autonomously for extended periods, and also to be able to collaboratively engage hostile targets within specified rules of engagement: with final decision on target engagement being left to the human operator:. Fully autonomous engagement without human intervention should also beconsidered, under user-defined conditions, as should both lethal and non-lethal engagement and effects delivery means."Note the last sentence. Now warfare often is constrained by various sorts of rules of engagement and conventions, but what's going to happen when these systems begin to fall into the hands of a determined foe who isn't constrained by the same sorts of rules. What about our government finding some justification for a previously taboo use of these systems? And I am not being partisan here. Linguistic shenanigans are not a monopoly of Republicans or Democrats, shocking as that may be. Suppose humans are left in the decision making loop. Is the result going to be any better? As warfare becomes more and more like a video game, will the detachment of humans from the actual battlefront lead to greater abuse of these systems?Geesh! What ever happened to those good old ethical issues-embryonic stem cells for instance. We haven't adjusted to issues raised by those technologies and here is a whole set of new issues. And I just want a 'bot that can clean my floors!
It still surprises me when I find places in town that I haven't come across before. This week's picture is of one such place. Most of the pictures I post have at least some quality that draws my eye to them from among those that I take. Not so this week. It's kind of a drab photo taken on an overcast day.What did draw me this week was that this is a place I didn't know existed.
I don't often make it to the part of town where it is located. No, it's not really anything special. It's just a little different. Some place you wouldn't notice if it wasn't in your neighborhood...and maybe not even then.So this week, I'll give a few hints. It isn't a Lawrence landmark, like Hobbs field, the Castle Tea Room, or the locomotive in the "Train Park" . Nor is it located on a major street.It has a name, but I'd never heard of it before, even though I've spent most of my adult life living here in Lawrence. It is located in a quiet section of town. I suspect it doesn't see many visitors. But today, one of the last few grey days of winter, it was there.
Same rules as always
Somehow the trees remind me of those from The Wizard of Oz , with their arms/limbs reaching upward.
Here is the complete picture. Click to see a larger image:
I still think it would be scary walking among those trees on a dark, stormy night.Patty and Dorothy had the right idea, but Cody is the one who named the park:
Found this wonderful jumping spider in my stairwell yesterday and thought I would share some close ups. These were taken with a Canon Rebel SLR with 100mm macro lens. Not the best shooting conditions since my stairwell is pretty dark. So imagine trying to shoot with manual focus in dim light while your on your tippy toes on the stairs-no tripod.These images are on my flicker stream and clicking on them should take you to the full sized images should you want a closer look.The spider was a bit less than 1/2 inch. It was also a brave little spider, if I may indulge in some anthropomorphism. When I prodded it with my finger to herd it into a better position it often moved toward my finger rather than away. These spiders are quite harmless unlike the infamous brown recluse.A nice shot of the eyes.This shot is really great up close. The last shot is a blow up of the head region showing the mouthparts.These spiders are wonderful animals, very alert and better pets than some of the four legged kind because you don't have to feed them or walk them and last time I checked, there were no city limits on how many you can have.For more about jumping spiders this page provides an update set of useful links.http://salticidae.org/jsotw.htmlWhat winter house guests have you had?
Yesterday I took some of my students to Second Life to visit a wonderful genetics site called Genome island. Second Life is an on line world where users can build pretty much what ever they want. Second Life has begun to attract interest from educators and Genome Island is a good example of its strengths and the weaknesses as an educational tool. http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... are some of my students in first life and in Second Life.A full article about my field trip with pictures is on my general blog.Our Genome Island host, Dr. M. A. Clark, from Texas Wesleyan University has worked on an interesting fusion between music and biology- taking proteins and translating them into musical forms by assigning a different tone to each kind of amino acid in the protein. She claims that hearing protein structure rather than seeing it reveals patterns and themes not apparent visually.You can hear the results at: http://whozoo.org/mac/Music/. Learn more about Dr. Clark and her collaborator John Dunn inthis article in Leonardo On Line produced at MIT.Second Life and other sorts of virtual universes have been in the news a lot lately. Have you been in Second Life or other virtual universe? If so what has been your experience? Of course, comment about Dr. Clark's protein music as well.If you use Second Life, visit Genome Island here. This link will only take you there of course, if you have Second Life installed on your computer.
I get periodic alerts from our local garden store when new succulents arrive and among the recent arrivals was this really cool little plant. The label said Kalanchoe and I almost passed the plant by because I don't have good luck with this genus. I like growing plants but it just seems that some common things just elude me even though people with cast iron thumbs instead of green thumbs can get them to grow in groves. Aloe vera is another such plant.Either I forget to neglect them or the cat knocks the pot over or a sudden tornado flings the pot against the house and the plant gets sucked into a vortex and deposited in Missouri somewhere..stuff like that. Why just yesterday I lost a Cyclamen to our dumb as a post Siamese cat, Carl who decided to knock the pot on the floor, a cyclamen that belongs to my wife's boss and was loaned to me to nurse back to health. It was doing great too. Maybe I can salvage it.Oh back to my new plant. A little search on the web on my cell phone while at the garden store suggested that this plant belongs to a section within the genus Kalanchoe called Bryophyllum from Madagascar that includes one of those nifty plants called mother of thousands that grows new plants asexually along the leaf margins. My plant based on matching pictures-I know dangerous to do this- appears to be K. Bryophyllum porphyrocalyx.According to this site this plant grows about 35cm tall and is a common ornamental and hanging plant. Still I think a handsome looking plant compared to those garish Kalanchoes one sees so often in the stores. Besides even common plants hold surprises if you know where to look or just happen to stumble upon them.Tonight I decided to take a few more quick macros of the plant which is now producing pollen. Take a look at this funky green pollen. I don't think I have seen guacamole colored pollen before, but here it is.Enjoy! By the way fess up. What common plants can't YOU grow?
Watching a Shuttle launch at night is an incredible experience. Below are three amateur videos of last night's launch, shot from across the water near Titusville and Cape Canaveral, each are about 10 miles from the launch pad. You can hear one group listen to a radio broadcast of the launch and feel the excitement as the count reaches zero.The rockets are so bright that they illuminate the low hanging clouds. The shuttle disappears into the low clouds pretty soon after launch, so the spectacle is briefer than usual, but also more stunning. After the video goes dark, you can hear the sound from the launch finally reach the camera. Even though it is 10 miles away, you can hear the crackling sound of the rockets.I hope they give you a taste of the wonder and awe of a Space Shuttle launch:
Here is another youtube video. Note the glowing clouds as the shuttle rises through them.
And one more, this is the best quality video and audio of the 3:
http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... can see these magnificent footprints in Massachusetts. They truly are a sight. It is absolutely amazing to put your feet in these imprints and look at the difference. Fossil Records are amazing.
Where is it? What is it? I'll let you know if you're the first person who correctly identifies the subject of the picture from the small part shown below . Each day I'll add an image that shows more of the entire scene.
It is Clinton park, by Pinckney Elementary. punkrockmom nailed it on the 2nd comment. I knew it was to easy! Here is the full picture, Click on it for a larger image:
Julian Beever does chalk drawings on sidewalks. When you follow the link at the bottom, remember that the drawings are made on flat sidewalks with colored chalk. They must be seen from a specific point, preferably through a camera lens, for the illusion to appear. They are amazing.Let me repeat:They are amazing.Julian Beever's official siteNote that a couple of the pictures show the drawings from the "wrong" perspective to show how it is done.Here is one of my favorites:
Via the New York Times Health Blog, "Well" comes this fascinating video put together by an amazing woman with autism. First, watch this haunting and wonderful video. Next read about autism in this article in Wired Magazine.
When you think World Web Web and encyclopedia you probably think Wikipedia but there is a new entry that is worth watching, the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) http://www.eol.org. I had tried to visit this site last week but there were too many hits so this is my first look at the site.The vision of the EOL according to its website is to
-Create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike.
-Transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating virtually all known data about every living species.
-Engage a wide audience of schoolchildren, educators, citizen scientists, academics and those who are just curious about Earth's species.
-Increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity. Each species will have its own home page curated by a specialist in a particular group of organisms. Right now most species pages are blank, but there are some exemplar pages to show what fleshed out species pages are like. Presumably having each species or group of species be curated by a specialist will enable the EOL to avoid some of the quality control issues that plague Wikipedia. The idea is that the curator would bring together materials from around the web along with traditional print resources. Groups of specialists would collectively verify the quality of the material.The Encyclopedia has its origin in a 2003 essay by Harvard Biologist E. O. Wilson. This essay is republished here.For instance this image is a screen capture from the exemplar page for the American Burying Beetle. This beetle was once very abundant but is now endangered. Why this species has become endangered is not clear according to the Encyclopedia.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... page includes other images and videos. For the burying beetle, one of the videos shows the larvae feeding on a dead mammal of some sort. One interesting feature of the EOL is that the user in theory could set the level of information detail. Eventually specialists and lay people wil be able to access the level of information they desire.Another feature is a special projects link which opens a page with links to other data bases and web pages related to the species, including molecular and genetic data about the species.This is an ambitious project, one that will challenge our ability to organize vast amounts of biological information, and make it accessable to non scientists without sacrificing scientific rigor. Right now, the project is still far from completion. It will be interesting to see how this project evolves and whether or not it can find a a niche among all the other online data sources out there.
Below is a small portion of a picture taken somewhere in the Lawrence city limits. It may be something you've never noticed before.Each day I'll post an image that shows a larger part of the full picture. I'll notify the first person who identifies the location and subject of the picture.
Hint #1:The picture was taken somewhere in the blue rectangle below.
View Larger MapImage #3:
The EleventhStephanie identified the house at 15th (actually 1501) Pennsylvania) first. Here is the entire picture:
(Click on picture to see a larger image)
Since this week's image was guessed on the first comment, here is an extra picture. The entire picture is below, no sequence of gradually expanding images this time.
This one is easy. This week I return to the original rules. The first iamge below is a small part of a much larger picture. A larger image will be posted each day. The first person to correctly identify the place or "thing" will be notified by me. The rest will just have to wait until a picture that they can identify is posted, or the answer given.This week's first image:
So now I know what a finial is.
A view of Watkins Museum from the alley to the west:
I saw this video of a waterfall in Estonia. High winds caused ice to cover nearby objects in a fascinating natural masterpiece.http://youtube.com/watch?v=kAIyVzv1zkM
Well no sooner did I find reasonable camera settings for getting pictures and the clouds rolled in. This shot was the best that I got...http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... was hoping to capture the reddish tint from light being scattered and refracted around the edge of the Earth, but had not figured out how to adjust my settings to get that tint which was apparent to the unaided eye.By the way, there was a very good interview describing the appearance of lunar eclipses this afternoon on NPR. The interviewee was Kelly Beatty from Sky and Telescope and he had a very interesting image. He claimed that an observer on the moon looking back at the Earth during the eclipse would see the Earth rimmed with a brilliant orange ring which represents in a sense contributions of all the sunrises and all the sunsets happening at that time. That struck me as a wonderful image. You can hear the interview here.I assume that from the point of view of Lunarians (or would they be called Seleneans?) the eclipse would be a solar eclipse.
Sky and Telescope has a nice web site devoted to the lunar eclipse including observational projects and photography tips for those of us planning on taking pictures.http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights/15357796.htmlphoto tips:http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/eclipses/3304036.html?page=2&c=yMaybe someone has some other photography tips..if so post them for us neophytes.And tonight take a look assuming we have clear weather. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2008/feb/20/view_lunar_eclipse_could_be_hindered_cloudy_weathe/Oh well, the song says not cloudy all day but that doesn't mean clear skies all the time and certainly not at night.My attempts at night sky photography have been pretty pathetic but if I get any reasonable shots I'll post them tomorrow. So I hope some one else is able to get some nice shots.Happy viewing!
Evolution is routinely tested both in laboratory and field situations. For instance, this New York Times article describes interesting test of the hypothesis that speciation may involve chromosomal rearrangements. To Test Evolution, Press the 'Undo' ButtonQuoting from the article:"Researchers have long known that changes in the DNA sequences of genes can cause a population to evolve into a new and separate species. But decades ago, theorists also proposed that a new species could evolve without any such changes, but instead simply as a result of large DNA strands' moving from one chromosome to another within a genome, a change known as a chromosomal rearrangement.While the theory sounded promising, since such rearrangements can be quite common, it eventually waned in popularity, in part because scientists had no way of testing it.Now in a slick feat of molecular maneuvering, a team of researchers has reorganized huge portions of one yeast species' chromosomes, rendering its chromosomal map identical to that of a closely related species, just as it was once, in the distant past. "By the way chromosomal rearrangements are believed to be important in human evolution as well. For instance, studies of chromosomal banding patterns suggested that human chromosome 2 arose because of the fusion of two ancestral chromosomes. If so then one ought to detect the distinctive DNA sequences normally found at the ends of chromosomes, in the middle of human chromosome 2. Guess what? This is exactly what one finds.Natural selection and other mechanisms of evolution are routinely studied in the lab as well with a wide range of organisms. Indeed, as Darwin was well aware, the sort of unconscious and conscious selection involved in domestication is a good stand in for natural selection.With respect to the fossil record, evolutionary hypotheses are routinely tested as new fossil data are collected and matching that data against hypotheses about evolutionary relationships.See for example:New Fossils Resolve Whale's Origin: Science News OnlineIf you check this article out, you'll see that fossil discoveries over turned the up to then prevailing hypothesis that whales evolved from land predators.Granted we can't recreate the events leading to human evolution in a laboratory but we can certainly test hypotheses related to even human evolution. Besides if your definition of science is so strict that only laboratory tests make the cut then you leave out huge areas of science beyond evolution. For instance you leave out much of modern astronomy.Come to think of it, this is exactly what the Kansas Board of Education tried to do in 1999. All to sacrifice science on the altar of "Faith".