Sunday, December 18, 2016

Eagle Zen Time - Video

Bald Eagle in Douglas Fir Tree, after filling up on coho salmon!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Nobel's Prize Day!

On this day (December 10) in 1901, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded on the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death: for Physiology, Behring (antitoxin for diptheria); for Peace, Dunant (founding the International Red Cross) and jointly Passy; Physics, Röntgen (x-ray), and for Chemistry, Van't Hoff (chemical thermodynamics).

The Nobel committee admitted that one of it's greatest omissions in the history of awarding the Nobel Prize was Gandhi; in 2006 the Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said "The greatest omission in our 106 year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace prize. Whether Nobel Committee can do without Gandhi is the question." Gandhi was nominated twice during two separate awards seasons, the second time the year he died. That year, 1948, the Nobel Committee did not award a peace prize, saying "there was no suitable living candidate".

So... who is YOUR favorite winner of the Nobel Prize?
Or who do you think should've got one, and didn't?
Or should get one next year?!?

Maybe that person is you...

[go look up the histories of the Nobel winners... you could be one of them ;)  ]

. year.. the history of Nobel and the prize...?


Human Rights Day / Week - a celebration we should make last all year...

The U.N. says it so well...

"   Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone's rights! Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack.
We must reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media.

The time for this is now. “We the peoples” can take a stand for rights. And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.   "

U.N Human Rights Day.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Coelenterates, A Scientific Controversy...


To coelenterate or not to coelenterate, that is the question...

Whether 'tis Nobler in the nomenclature to correlate
The Threads and Barbs of nematocysts,
With the colloblasts of the ctenophores,
And by opposing end their correlation: to declassify, to reclassify
No more; and by classify, to say we reorganize
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That gelatinous bodies are heir to? 'Tis a re-classification
Devoutly to be wished. To declassify, to reclassify,
To reclassify, perchance to genetically code; aye, there's the rub,
For in that coding, what truth may come,
Comprehending these evolutionary differences,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes Joy of so long life...

(with deepest apologizes to The Bard)

Science is active, it is about observing, testing, considering, and refining. With Science we learn additional information and refine our perspectives, the case of the cnidarians and the ctenophores is an excellent example; Science utilizes the method of using our best-current-facts to comprehend the world around us. Our ability to *see* the natural world around us changes greatly over time due to advancing technologies (microscopes, telescopes, genetic coding, etc.) and of course the effect of standing-on-the-shoulders-of-those-that-went-before (discovery builds on discovery, comprehension on comprehension... ).

E. Haeckel- Cnidaria
To quote- science is "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment"... Anyone can do it, but Science demands from the *researcher/observer* open-ness not only to new ideas but to being able to follow the evidence where it leads and acknowledge changes/updates in information.

So... what does this have to do with our coelenterate controversy?

...any excuse for a Haeckel! Ctenophora
Cnidarians (anemones, corals, and jellyfish) and ctenophores (comb jellies) *used to* be categorized in the same Phylum, Coelenterata; both are very simply structured, gelatinous-bodied, and lack a backbone (invertebrate). BUT! research over time (which is *how* research happens : ) has shown that the differences between the cnidarians and the ctenophores are substantial enough to place them in separate phyla: Coelenterata (a.k.a Cnidaria) and Ctenophora; because of some similarities and a history of grouping them together the two phyla are sometimes still colloquially (non-scientifically) grouped together for convenience and called coelenterates (so, be gentle, sometimes change takes time! ;)  ).

So, what are some of those differences which led scientists to go to the lengths of creating a whole new PHYLUM?!?
(and how the heck do you pronounce coelenterate, cnidaria (UK), and ctenophore anyway?!?)

Cnidarians (Coelenterates)
Symmetry -body
Digestive tract
Incomplete (single) digestive opening, food enters and leaves the body through the same opening
Complete (one way) digestive tract with 2 openings: oral (mouth) and anal.
Prey capture
*Stinging cells- cnidocytes/ nematocysts
Sticky cells- colloblasts
Larval form
Diploblastic, with true tissue

(by the way, any terms/words you are uncertain of can easily be found online! I’m in a rush today! : )

*Those stinging cells are key by the way!

It appears that cnidarians are more directly in-line evolutionarily, and that the ctenophores are more of a sibling group to all other animals. Ctenophores have muscle and nervous systems that seem to have evolved independently from other modern animals (google Hox and Homeotic gene contingents!). Where the ctenophores sit in their forms and functions excluded them from being grouped in the Phylum Coelenterata.

So, you see, what some people may think of as a negative, "controversy", Science sees as normal growth and development. We start with basic information, and then, based on observation, testing, and consideration we develop and refine the information. Since our abilities and technologies improve our ability to perceive more of the natural world improves also; consider the path to what we know about genetics ...
Double Helix 1866, the monk, Gregor Mendel published a paper based on his plant experiments (done in the garden of the monastery) that became the basis for the Mendelian laws of inheritance, Meischer published his first paper identifying "nuclein" (now called DNA) in the cell nucleus in 1871 (without the microscope *that* would have been rather impossible), 1900 Mendel's work was rediscovered by several researchers (confirming their work), in 1910 Kossell received the first Physiology/ Medicine Nobel Prize based on the discovery of the 5 nucleotide bases (go google that, it's something you should know!), Hershey and Chase demonstrated that DNA carries our genetic material in 1952, 1953 was the "discovery" of the double helix (yeah, the double helix was always there, but until we could "see" it we couldn't *see* it! ... y'know?), in 1977 Sanger developed a sequencing technique to sequence (read) the first full genome (the complete set of genes in an organism), 1990 saw the launch of The Human Genome Project (yes, that would be the sequencing/reading of ALL of the genes in a human), in 2001 the first draft of the human genome was released with the project completed in 2003 (to 99.99% accuracy and 2 years early), in 2008 due to technological advancements the costs of genetic sequencing drops with the development of next-generation sequencing platforms, the first comprehensive analysis of cancer genomes is published in 2009...

...and one of the RESULTs of all of that scientifically acquired knowledge? Modern medicine that allows targeted treatment of many genetics illnesses.

Science builds on *small* steps...
... ok, sometimes we get lucky and we get a big step, but you know what I mean...

And we *still* have a lot to learn about genetics!

This is how science is supposed to function, always improving on it's self, and how we see our world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Celebrate Coelenterates Week!

Anemone... not anenome! ... apparently i wasn't fully awake this morning as i sketched this up... but i'm not fixing that pic right now!!! i'm just leaving it there to irritate ALL of us! ;)  )

Coming SOON! The Coelenterate CONTROVERSY!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Get Down and Celebrate Dirt! (aka Happy World SOIL Day!)

"Essentially, all life depends upon the soil... 
There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; 
they have evolved together."

-Charles E. Kellogg

Happy Soil Day! credit: M. Barnes

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Evolution Day Meets Thanksgiving Day (or the progress of the turkey ;)

This year Evolution Day (the anniversary of the public of "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin) falls on the same day as the US National Holiday of Thanksgiving, so it *only* seems right to take a nod at the turkey!

This Thanksgiving (and Evolution Day!) brought to you by the letter M (for mineralization)

This year Thanksgiving serendipitously coincides with Evolution Day (the anniversary of the publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" in 1859), so it seems *only* appropriate to express our thankfulness for mineralization (which allows fossils to be created from decaying organisms). This played a key role in Darwin developing and proving the theories of evolution.

*Sorry about the audio quality---this was filmed on the fly so we didn't grab a real mic for this little clip. Might fix the sound up and add a couple more informative diagrams later. In the meantime, enjoy that Thanksgiving dino-descendant turkey with a side of Darwin!

Science Theory Meme and Definition!

Thank you Inigo for putting that so well!

The intent behind the word "theory" is commonly mistaken because it has a different emphasis when it is used in every day conversation versus when it is applied in science.

Theory commonly means speculation or supposition, or simply an idea for explaining something.

The use of the word "theory" in science, or the term "scientific theory" or "science theory", has a much stronger meaning: "A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method (we'll talk later about WHY this part of the definition is sooo important!) and repeatedly tested and confirmed, preferably using a written, pre-defined, protocol of observations and experiments."   ( thank you wiki for the grab of the definition   ; )

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Earth is (was) Flat: A Brief History of GIS, How it Benefits Us Today, and How YOU Can Get Involved!

by B. McL

Everyone knows what a map is. We use and see them every day, from a slick infographic on the news, to the handy smart phone app we trust to get us correctly from A to B. Or, for those outdoor adventurers we caller hikers, a crinkly old paper topo map with hard to read text. But what about the science that comes behind these maps?
Since the Canadian government decided to map all its lands in the 1960s, we have called that science GIS or, for the rest of us, Geographic Information Systems. Modern day GIS is a science that deals, essentially, with representing the physical world in a digital environment. Most basically, we choose to make this digital world flat or round or somewhat egg-like, give it the fancy name “geoid” (JEE-oyd), and then we stretch what we observe in reality to make it fit our 2-dimensional (or more and more often 3-dimensional) model. This is what we call a “projection”. Remember that for your next dinner party! The result is often a pretty map, whose simplicity (or complexity!) says little about the databases, projections, programming, surveying, etc. that it takes to produce it.

But GIS, or map making in general, hasn’t always been so sophisticated. Or, rather, it was sophisticated in other ways. While the maps of today are more often than not produced by satellites orbiting our earth hundreds of miles above us, or by GPS-enabled survey equipment that can pinpoint a location down to a fraction of an inch (at the cost of more than your car!!!), all of which is fed into computers that runs programs with thousands of lines of code, the maps of the past were often the result of barebones surveying equipment that relied on star charts and fairly complex trigonometry, and all taken down on paper that could easily be lost, burned, or both. To see how accurately the cartographers of the past mapped our coastlines, countries, and world, with nothing more than a sextant (or a length of chain!), puts many of us modern day mappers to shame.

GIS Data Layer, Over-Lays

So you may ask, “OK, so maps can tell us where we are, and how far interpret from that map. This is what we now call “spatial analysis”, and it affects us in ways we don’t even see, and in some ways we do.
away another place is, but that’s it, right?” Wrong. Maps can do so much more, and have done for hundreds of years. The way that a map can affect every one of our lives is what we

Here are a few examples, spanning the centuries and sciences.

GIS and Public Health
The godfather (not that kind!) of modern day spatial analysis, and of an often linked science known the method used to find the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations; was a doctor named John Snow. Yes, like from Game of Thrones, although arguably much more heroic (although less immortal). Doctor Snow was an English physician in London during the mid 1800s. In many GIS and epidemiology texts, he is rightly credited for his investigation into the cause of a cholera epidemic in London in 1854. At the time, many doctors and public health officials thought that disease was spread by “miasma”, or bad air. While we know now that some diseases are indeed airborne, many others are spread through media such as water. Dr. Snow wasn’t as fortunate as us to know about germs, but he also didn’t believe that cholera as being spread through the air in a toxic “miasma”. So he took to the streets, and with the help of a local reverend surveyed the residents of the neighborhood in Soho where the outbreak was worst. From his survey, he produced what many consider to be one of the first recorded instances of spatial analysis. It was a map that tallied the number of people who had become ill due to cholera. In the map, the black bars represent individuals, and they are tallied up per household along each street.
as epidemiology (which the US Centers for Disease Control defines as “
While somewhat hard to read, one can see that the bars are thickest at the center of the map, on Broad Street. This was where the most sicknesses occurred, and this trend let Dr. Snow to believe that the cholera was coming from a water pump on Broad Street. We know today that cholera bacteria are transported primarily through water, but at the time, Dr. Snow was met with much resistance from local officials, although he did succeed in shutting down the tainted pump. Consequently, the cholera outbreak was contained, and many people avoided sickness thanks to his efforts. (Source: Gunn, S. William A.; Masellis, Michele (23 October 2007). Concepts and Practice of Humanitarian Medicine. Springer. pp. 87–. ISBN 978-0-387-72264-1.)

Today, GIS is an integral part of public health planning and disaster response. During the ebola epidemic of 2014-16, governments and public health non-profits used GIS to analyze where
outbreaks were worst, and where they might be heading. This allowed them to prioritize resources to the heaviest hit areas, and ultimately contain the epidemic, although at a high cost in lives. Without the visualization provided by GIS, decision makers would have made blind decisions, which could have extended the epidemic. The map below uses “graduated symbols”, or symbols that get bigger or smaller depending on what they represent, to show the number of ebola cases in different districts of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa. By comparing the size and color of the symbols, they could see where ebola cases were decreasing, and where they were increasing.
GIS and the Environment

GIS has also provided a great many benefits to the managers of our world’s natural resources. All over the world, changes are taking place to the environment that will affect life on earth in many different ways. GIS has been used to map and predict sea level rise due to global climate change, identifying areas that will see the most inundation, and giving people in those areas more information they need to prepare and adapt.

Maps have also helped forestry managers right here in the US identify where forests are struggling to survive due to drought, tree-killing beetles, and other threats from a changing climate. The map below shows how often fires occur in different parts of the US, which will help forest managers make decisions about where to apply fuel-suppressing treatments (burning dead wood to reduce the risk of fire) or other strategies to revitalize dying forests. Forest fires can affect millions of Americans with bad air quality, destruction of infrastructure and homes, and also contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

GIS in Local Government
Chinese Holy Field Plan
While not the most glamorous or the most global in perspective, GIS used in local government often has wide ranging effects on where, how, and how well we live day to day. City planners have been literally deciding where we live for centuries, and their decisions are informed and enforced by maps. In ancient China, cities were often laid out as a representation of the Holy Field, which was a philosophical concept related to numbers. In the modern day, new philosophies inform how people and activities are grouped together. For example, it is often desirable to keep heavy industry away from residential areas or environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands or streams. Many cities and counties adopt zoning rules which decide how land is used, although there are many notable exceptions around the world (or better or for worse! I’m looking at you Houston!). 

GIS analysis of traffic patterns and public transit use helps governments plan out road, bus, and rail expansions. As traffic is one of the biggest headaches in the lives of most Americans, imagine how bad it might be if we had no idea where the clogged routes are, and where the alternatives lie. GIS enables informed decision making.

Citizen GIS
We’ve covered a few different ways GIS is used to better our lives. Be sure, there are many more, and probably a few not-so-good ways as well. If you made it through all this, you might think, wow, GIS is very exciting, but too hard for me to understand or contribute to. That is where you are wrong! There a variety of ways that any citizen with a smart phone or a computer can contribute to the field of GIS, for the betterment of all life on earth. Here are just a few:

·         Open Street Map. OSM is “the Free Wiki World Map – An openly licensed map of the world being created by volunteers using local knowledge”. Anyone can quickly and easily learn how to add to the map. Add your house, or different features around your neighborhood such as trails, parks, restaurants, etc.
·         Missing Maps: This program, founded by the Red Cross and others, directs the improvement of Open Street Map by targeting where maps are missing in the world’s most vulnerable places and recruiting citizen mappers to improve them, from the comfort of your own home!
·         Find It Fix It: Find It Fix It is a public service request app by the City of Seattle. Many cities and counties have similar apps downloadable on the Google Play or Apple store. Find out if your city has a similar map app, and start helping to improve the area you live!
·         What’s Invasive: What’s Invasive is an app that turns you into a citizen scientist! You can report where you observe potential invasive species, help managers respond before it is too late!
·         For other crowd-sourced apps and websites, see this article: