Entries from blogs tagged with “The Sciences”

So Much to See #10 (3/2/2008)

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Next:SMTS #11

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.

Image #2:

Hint #1:The picture was taken somewhere in the blue rectangle below.

View Larger MapImage #3:

Image #4:

The EleventhStephanie identified the house at 15th (actually 1501) Pennsylvania) first. Here is the entire picture:
(Click on picture to see a larger image)


So Much to See #9 1/2 (2/27/2008)

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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.


So Much to See #9 (2/24/2008)

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Next:SMTS #9 1/2

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.

Image #3:

A view of Watkins Museum from the alley to the west:


Frozen Waterfall in Estonia

I saw this video of a waterfall in Estonia. High winds caused ice to cover nearby objects in a fascinating natural masterpiece.


More on the eclipse

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... 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.


Total Lunar 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. tips: someone has some other photography tips..if so post them for us neophytes.And tonight take a look assuming we have clear weather. 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!


Can Evolution Be Tested?

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".


So Much to See #8 (2/17/2008)

Previous:SMTS #7
Next:SMTS #9

This week, for reasons known only to me, the sequence of images will be different. Instead of an image which gradually expands, I'll be post small sections from different parts of the picture. I normally add one new image each day, but this time I will post additional snippets of the picture more often, probably twice a day.If you are the first person who correctly identifies the place or object, I'll send you a message to let you know you're correct. Everyone else will just have to keep looking.Cody is currently the undisputed master of this game. Take him down!This week's first image:

Here is a different part of the picture:

I said I would add images more frequently, here is another:

And another piece: another:

The blue baloon marks the location of this week's location:

View Larger MapHere is the picture of the train at Buford M. Watson Park:

Click on the picture to see a larger image:


Gecko protection racket?

One of the cool things about the biological world is the endless variety of subtle relationships that have evolved between very different kinds of organisms. For instance, this link from the BBC documents an interesting relationship between certain geckos and honeydew producing insects called tree hoppers. The hoppers vibrate that abdomen as a signal to the gecko that a drop of honeydew is available and the lizard laps up the drop. Some geckos also appear to actively beg for the sweet drop. The gecko gets extra calories but how the insect benefits is really not clear. Could this be a gecko protection racket? Maybe the meek looking Geico gecko has a darker side.I was also surprised to learn that some geckos lap nectar from flowers, so maybe it is a short leap from that to lapping honeydew from treehoppers. Be that as it may, these sorts of coevolutionary relationships show an important aspect of the biodiversity crisis-the modern mass extinction event we face as a civilization. For not only are irreplaceable species being lost, but the rich web of evolutionary relationships that characterize life is being destroyed.By the way, this and other interesting stories about "cold blooded" animals are featured in a BBC documentary Life in Cold Blood. Presumably this program will eventually make its way here.


Space Station and Shuttle Visible Tonight

The Space Station, with the Space Shuttle still be docked, will pass overhead this evening. Look to the northwest about 6:48 PM (the article says 6:28, but that is incorrect). Although it should be even brighter than usual, it will be visible for only 3-4 minutes as it passes over and goes below the eastern horizon. Even if there are a few clouds, it should not be hard to locate.


Google Street View: Cool? Scary? Both?

Yesterday I noticed that Google Maps, a tool I use frequently, had a new button at the top of the map. The button "Street View" was something I'd heard about a few months ago.Clicking the button, I saw most of the roads in Lawrence become highlighted in blue. As I zoomed in closer, a little virtual man appeared on the map. Clicking on him caused a picture to appear above his head. The picture was a view of the city street where he was "standing". With my mouse, I was able to pan the picture around and get a 360 degree view from that location.Then I used my mouse to drag him to near where I live. From within the picture, you can not only pan, but, by clicking on the arrows superimposed on the picture, move up and down the street.Soon I had navigated to my street and then to where my house is. I panned around to the right and there was my car sitting in the driveway!Before I go farther I should say that these picture were clearly taken in summer, probably last summer. THEY ARE NOT REAL TIME IMAGES. Google has sent a vehicle around to take these pictures. It has a camera with a 360 degree view on top. Some of you have seen it, as I'll describe later. It may have been a van, or a car with a spherical camera mounted above the roof.Speaking of people who have seen it, I noticed that the blue lines (which shows those streets which have been mapped with images) extended up north of Lawrence in to Jefferson county, where my Aunt lives.I found their road and as I "approached" (virtually that is) their house I first saw my one of my cousins driving his ATV down the road, past the camera vehicle. As I approached the house, my other cousin was clearly visible on a riding lawnmower, mowing his mother's grass.Cool? Absolutely. A little scary? Maybe. One thing I'm sure of, this is only the beginning. It will only get better... or maybe worse, depending upon your perspective.The Journal World's Christine Metz also had an article on Street View" which has more information.For those of you who follow my So Much to See blog postings, here is another hint for the lastest image. It uses Google Street View to let you search the area where this week's landmark is located. Navigate around a bit and you will see the subject of this weeks picture.BTW. I've been working with the LHS Robotics Club and hope to soon have some pictures and information as they prepare for this year's US First robot competition.


Science Debate 2008: Now will they come…

It is official! Science Debate 2008 has just invited the presidential candidates to a debate on science policy. The debate is scheduled for April 18 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Of course just because the candidates are invited to the debate doesn't mean they are going to show up. See the Science Debate 2008 website for more updates.From the Science Debate Press Release:"Most of the major policy challenges the next president will face, from climate chance to jobs and economic competitiveness to healthcare to the health of the oceans, center on science and technology. Where is the next transistor economy going to come from? Is there going to be action to address climate change? Do we need a Marshall plan for science in America? What about peak oil? Why are our school children falling behind other countries in math and science, and what should be done about it?"Stay tuned...


So Much to See #7 (2/10/2008)

Previous:SMTS #6
Next:SMTS #8

Where is it? What is it?Here is this week's image, and I'm even including a hint. The small patches of white? That is snow.Does that help? <grin>

2nd image:

Image #3:

Image #4:

The final image of the gazebo at Centennial Park:

Here is a map, the Centennial gazebo is marked by the blue baloon:

View Larger Map



THE REAL MIKE HUCKABEE: House Bill 1525 by Rep. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, was approved by the House but eventually failed in the Senate. Huckabee reiterated Wednesday that he believes every child, regardless of their parent's immigration status, should have an opportunity to receive an education in the U.S.MORE ABOUT MR. HUCKABEE: media has successfully fragmented the Republican vote and pumped their favorite (NOT OURS) RINO (Republican In Name Only) McCain. It's a win win for the Liberal Socialists who are in the process of hijacking the Republican Party AND the country.JOHN MCCAIN, THE DEMOCTRATS FAVORITE CHOICEHere are links to articles that really expose John McCain for who he is: It's a killer for McCain.There is still time to give Romney enough of a push to keep the race competitive. The power of the internet is incredible. Please make use of it! Email ANY and EVERYONE you know who will be voting on Tuesday and let them know just how disastrous it would be to vote for McCain. Educate them as to why and turn them on to Mitt Romney.I've met him on several occasions and was at the MA Rep. convention when we nominated him for Governor there. Tell them to get on the Romney bandwagon and help the guy out at: emails, you can make phone calls AND write/submit letters to editors online and at major metropolitan newspapers around the country.HELP STOP RINO JOHN MCCAIN AND HIS SECRET PARTNER, HUCKABEE!!A vote for RINO (Republican In Name Only) John McCain is a vote for the following:ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: he wrote the bill granting amnesty to illegal immigrants (co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy).SOCIAL SECURITY: he voted to give your social security money to illegal immigrants.TAXES: he voted against the Bush tax cuts multiple times (he has since flip-flopped and has campaigned as a lifelong tax-cutter).RHETORIC: he routinely engages in Democratic class warfare against big companies in America, particularly the "evil" drug companies who research cures to debilitating diseases for a profit.ECONOMY: as recently as December 2007 he admitted "he does not know the economy very well" and needed to get better at it.1ST AMENDMENT: he wrote the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that was declared to be an unconstitutional infringement of the 1st Amendment (co-sponsored by ultra-liberal Democrat Russ Feingold).2ND AMENDMENT: he was called the "worst 2nd amendment candidate" by the president of the NRA.ENERGY TAX: wrote a bill (co-sponsored by his buddy Lieberman) imposing a massive tax on energy which, according to the Department of Energy, would drastically raise the price of gasoline and put 300,000 Americans out of work.GLOBAL WARMING: supports radical global warming legislation which involved him voting with every Democrat; think only America is responsible to take action, not other superpowers.JUDGES: he joined forces with Democrats (Gang of 14) to block the Senate Republican's attempt to confirm conservative, strict constructionist judges; also said Alito was too conservative for his liking.WAR ON TERROR: fought with Hillary Clinton to demand that terrorists be given a full AMERICAN trial.


Shuttle Launch Today

Launch today is scheduled for 1:45PM CST today. You can watch it in HD on channel 220, or on NASA TV.Launches now are just a small note in the news now, but if you've had a chance to see a shuttle launch, it is not something you will forget. NASA has not done a good job relating how amazing a task it is. Unfortunately, few will get to stand outside Launch Control, hear the final count over the loudspeaker, hear the loud whir of the main engines when they start and watch it rise from the billowing clouds of smoke.I can tell you for a fact that it is cool. Even these days few things can match it. From 3 1/2 miles away (as close as anyone is allowed) it is loud. Sometimes you'll hear car alarms go off from the low frequency vibrations. 10 miles is as close as most of the public can get, but even at that distance it is impressive.So if you have a few minutes today around 1:45, you might take the time to watch. Seven people are going to do something pretty amazing.And here is one more NASA site of interest, it is a real-time 3-D display of the satellites orbiting the earth. Unfortunately, it doesn't include the Shuttle and Space station, but it does show a new, fascinating perspective of our planet.


Is prevention worth it?

A study in PLOS Medicine challenges the notion that preventing obesity and smoking reduces over all health costs. The authors modeled life time health care costs under a number of scenarios and their results suggest that preventing obesity and smoking actually increases life time health care costs. The two factors contributing to this counter intuitive result are increased life span resulting from prevention and the shift from acute diseases associated with smoking and obesity to chronic diseases that are more expensive over the person's life time.Don't reach for that cigarette or stop that exercising though. The authors note that their study does not address other sorts of economic and social costs. For instance the indirect costs associated with smoking and obesity could easily exceed the direct medical costs.Also they assume that treatment costs are constant for medical problems regardless of whether or not a person is obese or smokes. For example, the authors observe that treating back problems might be more expensive if a person is obese. You can read the study for yourself at


Second Thoughts About Fluoride, reports Scientific American

"Some recent studies suggest that over-consumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland," reports Scientific American editors (January 2008). "Scientific attitudes toward fluoridation may be starting to shift," writes author Dan Fagin. "Fluoride, the most consumed drug in the USA, is deliberately added to 2/3 of public water supplies theoretically to reduce tooth decay, but with no scientifically-valid evidence proving safety or effectiveness," says lawyer Paul Beeber, President, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation. Fagin, award-wining environmental reporter and Director of New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program, writes, "There is no universally accepted optimal level for daily intake of fluoride." Some researchers even wonder whether the 1 mg/L added into drinking water is too much, reports Fagin. After 3 years of scrutinizing hundreds of studies, a National Research Council (NRC) committee "concluded that fluoride can subtly alter endocrine function, especially in the thyroid the gland that produces hormones regulating growth and metabolism," reports Fagin. Fagin quotes John Doull, professor emeritus of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who chaired the NRC committee thusly, "The thyroid changes do worry me." Fluoride in foods, beverages, medicines and dental products can result in fluoride over-consumption, visible in young children as dental fluorosis white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth. We can't normally see fluoride's effects to the rest of the body. Reports Fagin, "a series of epidemiological studies in China have associated high fluoride exposures with lower IQ." "(E)pidemiological studies and tests on lab animals suggest that high fluoride exposure increases the risk of bone fracture, especially in vulnerable populations such as the elderly and diabetics," writes Fagin. Fagin interviewed Steven Levy, director of the Iowa Fluoride Study which tracked about 700 Iowa children for sixteen years. Nine-year-old "Iowa children who lived in communities where the water was fluoridated were 50 percent more likely to have mild fluorosis: than [nine-year-old] children living in nonfluoridated areas of the state," writes Fagin. Levy will study fluoride's effects on their bones. Over 1200 professionals urge Congress to cease water fluoridation and conduct Congressional hearings because scientific evidence indicates fluoridation is ineffective and has serious health risks. Support them; write your representative here: (or http://www.FluorideAction.Net/Congress ) "(G)enetic, environmental and even cultural factors appear to leave some people much more susceptible to the effects of fluoride," writes Fagin "What the [NRC] committee found is that we've gone with the status quo regarding fluoride : for too long: and now we need to take a fresh look," Doull says, " In the scientific community, people tend to think that its settled: But when we looked at the studies that have been done, we found that many of these questions are unsettled and we have much less information than we should, considering how long this [fluoridation] has been going on. I think that's why fluoridation is still being challenged so many years after it began, In the face of ignorance, controversy is rampant."


So Much to See #6 (2/3/2008)


Fossils and Faith

"Resurrected Life" is a quite interesting article but there are just some things about it that really bother me as a scientist and as a religious person. For instance, Mr. Detrich thinks that non believers have nothing to live for. Personally I don't believe it is in my ken to say whether or not someone else has anything to live for based on their beliefs. Granted I don't know what is going on in the depths of atheist Richard Dawkins' psyche, but he certainly seems to think his life has a point.Second of all I am bothered by this statement about nonbelievers:"They might just accidentally come to the conclusion that life would be better if they believed in a super being, in a creator, rather than life would be better if your actions didn't matter."This is a kinder gentler version of Pascal's wager which basically says you should believe because the reward is eternal bliss and the penalty eternal damnation. I have never been impressed by this wager in it's original form and I am even less impressed with Mr. Detrich's kinder gentler version. Also, does Mr. Detrich's kinder gentler version extend to devotees of, say, Krishna or for that matter any sort of belief in a supreme being?Next, I wonder why is the notion of God "creating" incompatible with scientific explanations of how life came to be and evolved? Mr. Detrich seems to at least accept the geological time scale. Well, if that scale is valid then why could not God's actions to bring change be seen from our end as being-well - evolution? Finally what am I to make of the concluding statement in the article where he says it is "better to be on the side of good than on the side of bad." Well what about that? Is some one automatically good because they believe in a higher power and some one automatically bad because they don't? Or is some one automatically bad because they believe that evolution happens? Does Mr. Detrich still think we are "evilutionists" as he writes in his "musings"?


Evolution Weekend!

Tonight I was doing some searching about transitional fossils and got side tracked by an interesting site called the Clergy Letter Project founded by Michael Zimmerman from Butler University. This project's purpose, according to its web site , is " to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible and to elevate the quality of the debate of this issue."The Clergy Letter Project has organized a nationwide effort related to this called "Evolution Weekend" which is next weekend February 8-10, Charles Darwin's birthday of course being February 12th. The project's site has a list of participating congregations, and resources including scientists and resources including sermon pod casts related to religion and science. One Lawrence Congregation, Plymouth Congregational is listed as participating, but I hope that other congregations are having discussions about science and religion. What about yours? If yes, what are the discussions about? Can such discussion really be fruitful or are science and religion contradictory?


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