July 22, 2008
April 19, 2008
The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini today was proof of the atoll's resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances if the reef was left undisturbed and there were healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.'' But Ms Richards said the research also revealed a disturbingly high level of loss of coral species from the atoll. "Compared with a famous study made before the atomic tests were carried out, the team established that 42 species were missing compared to the early 1950s. "At least 28 of these species losses appear to be genuine local extinctions probably due to the 23 bombs that were exploded there from 1946-58, or the resulting radioactivity, increased nutrient levels and smothering from fine sediments.''
I'm not surprised. I've maintained for years that mankind's biggest contribution to the universe was our ego. If we all disappeared today, nobody would even know we'd existed in a few tens of thousands of years. Mother Earth would simply continue on, and gradually absorb our minor cosmetic modifications. We may even manage to alter her evolution slightly, but to think that we're more than a self-important experiment in a global-sized petri dish is pure hubris.
We do need to be aware of and take care of our environment, but it's more because of the "all our eggs are in one basket" situation the human race is still in. Mankind isn't a visitor here, we are part of Earth. As much as the atmosphere and the oceans and the various ecosystems, we are an integral part of her.
Thanks to Wizbang for the pointer.
March 21, 2008
February 26, 2008
Here's the description:
All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.
You can download the paper in .pdf format. If you do, feel free to come back and explain it here in the comments.
I'm betting on 42.
February 19, 2008
September 28, 2007
Spiders freak me out, as long time readers know. Today while googling around semi-randomly, I learned the following:
Jumping spiders, the largest spider family, with some 5,000 species described so far, have six to eight eyes and unusually good vision. They don't hunt with webs but sneak to within a few centimeters of their quarry and then pounce. It's "very catlike," says Nelson. The strike takes less than 0.04 second. Some of the jumpers specialize in hunting ants or even the dangerous challenge of bagging other spiders.
Notice the word in bold above: Some.
The jumping spider of East Africa doesn't have the mouthparts to get vertebrate blood directly, says Ximena J. Nelson of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. But it often catches female mosquitoes bloated with a recent blood meal.
Now, laboratory tests show that this spider (Evarcha culicivora) actually prefers the engorged mosquitoes to other prey such as midges.
Here's a clue: You and I are vertebrates. These eagle-eyed, cat-quick, eight legged paooki from hell prefer blood!!!!! Our blood!!!!! And as for that "doesn't have the mouthparts..." bit. Does it creep anyone else out that they didn't say "mouth" or "lips" or "teeth"? Spiders have "mouthparts". *shudder* And you know damn well that evolution is working to correct that little deficiency, because with mouthparts that can open our veins directly, they can eliminate the middleman and we'll have even more mosquitoes buzzing around contributing to mankind's collective anemia.
Spiders eat midges. Spiders eat midgets. It's not that far a climb up the ol' evolutionary ladder. Nature is a Mother.
August 11, 2007
As a bonus, the planet Mars will be visible as a bright red dot in the sky to the northeast.
Unlike most astronomical events, meteor watching is done best without telescope or binoculars. Get comfortable, pick out a patch of black sky away from light pollution, and watch patiently. The closer towards dawn, the more meteors you might see. The peak number should be Sunday night into Monday morning, but they'll be visible for several nights afterwards too.
Every August at this time the Perseid shower occurs. Named for the constellation Perseus - because that's where the meteors appear to come from - their real origin is the comet Swift-Tuttle. When Earth crosses the path of the comet, debris from the comet's passing enters our atmosphere and gives us a light show.
This was cross-posted at The Dangerous and Daring Blog for Boys and Girls.
July 31, 2007
The Spaceward Foundation opened registration today for the 2007 Great Light Racer Championship.
The Light Racers Championship, a space technology competition, challenges kids, young adults and grown ups to design, build, and race beam-powered lunar rovers that could help NASA get to the ice deposits located in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar poles.
Total prize purse this year is $10,000.
For the Light Racers, teams build and remotely control vehicles that capture a beam of light (from a spotlight) and convert that energy into power to navigate a course. There are both hard-surface road courses, for speed, and an off-road course with obstacles. There are no batteries or fuel carried, all power is supplied by the lightbeam. More details are here.
This is the same foundation that sponsors the Space Elevator Games, which is its own special brand of coolness.
July 06, 2007
What appears to be a half-squid, half-octopus specimen found off Keahole Point on the Big Island remains unidentified today and could possibly be a new species, said local biologists.
The specimen was found caught in a filter in one of Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority's deep-sea water pipelines last week. The pipeline, which runs 3,000 feet deep, sucks up cold, deep-sea water for the tenants of the natural energy lab.
"When we first saw it, I was really delighted because it was new and alive," said Jan War, operations manager at NELHA. "I've never seen anything like that."
3,000 feet! Pitch black at that depth.
War, who termed the specimen "octosquid" for the way it looked, said it was about a foot long, with white suction cups, eight tentacles and an octopus head with a squidlike mantle.
The octosquid was pulled to the surface, along with three rattail fish and half a dozen satellite jellyfish, and stayed alive for three days.
Tough little sucker too, to manage three days after undergoing a pressure change such as that. Follow that link for a picture of the odd little beastie. It's a beautiful bright ruby red.
June 27, 2007
That may be a more apt description than we thought, because suddenly scientists are discovering that the "dump trucks" may be just a small percentage of the entire RNA "fleet".
What is being proposed is the inheritance of characteristics acquired during an individual's lifetime, rather than as the result of chance mutations. This was first suggested by Jean Baptiste Lamarck, before Charles Darwin's idea of natural selection swept the board. However, even Darwin did not reject the idea that Lamarckian inheritance had some part to play, and it did not disappear as a serious idea until 20th-century genetic experiments failed to find evidence for it.
They're seeing hints pointing to that evidence now. This isn't an alternative to evolution, it's the idea that our bodies tweak the DNA that we pass along according to experiences that occur during our lifetime.
Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.
June 17, 2007
The vervet monkey has a vivid blue scrotum which pales when the animal falls in social rank.
But knowing that is mere trivia. The inquisitive mind wants to know why?
Follow that link and be enlightened. Heh.
March 14, 2007
Saliva is a vital component of such everyday processes as tasting, swallowing, speech and digestion, and its absence is what leads to dry mouth. A reduction in salivary flow can occur for a number of reasons, but medication use is a key contributor.
I love that "duh" statement above about [saliva's] absence is what leads to dry mouth. Even so, it makes sense to have developed synthetic saliva.
Of course, in our family we call it "pseudo-drool" or just "fake spit".
(mental note: brownie-flavored saliva for dopers...niche market but has potential)
February 27, 2007
December 21, 2006
And a little
child lizard shall lead them.
As reptiles have been known to do, a female Komodo Dragon who was lacking male companionship has self-fertilized several eggs and will be a mommy soon. This is the second zoo-kept Komodo who has done that recently, but there's an interesting twist this time. The first Komodo self-fertilized and then later managed a regular mating which resulted in offspring when a male was made available. In nature, self-fertilizing females have been unable to produce young the traditional way, it's been kind of an either/or situation.
This is the exact plot device exploited in Jurassic Park, and goes to show that Mother Nature is strange and wonderous, and she's always at her best.
December 15, 2006
Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.
The development of synthetic insulin was a huge breakthrough, but it pales in comparison to this. Test results from human trials are expected in a year.
Too late for Uncle Art and my mom, but incredibly exciting news nonetheless.
Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.
December 01, 2006
Thanks to my co-worker Alan for sending me the link. He says that when he saw it, he immediately thought of me.
October 26, 2006
And if you thought HD in radio meant the same thing as HD in television, think again:
"Quite honestly, it doesn't stand for anything," said Peter Ferrera, president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance. "The concept was somewhat of a steal from HD television, where viewers know it means better quality."
There you have it. "HD" stands for "Hype, Dummy!"
October 24, 2006
So, here's a nifty 3D animation from ESA (European Space Agency) showing the "face" and what it really looks like from various angles.
Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.
September 29, 2006
Looking at a new cell phone? This lady knows her stuff, and gives a thorough review of the LG Chocolate, the hottest thing on the market since the Razor's debut.
She also does a quickie comparison of several recently released cell phone models.
September 21, 2006
...had GRB 060218 happened in our galaxy, life on Earth would have ended Feb. 18.
I feel very very small and very very vulnerable.
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