Courtesy Eduard Solà via WikipediaIf you missed last week's PBS broadcast of Your Inner Fish, the documentary based on paleontologist-anatomist Neil Shubin's book by the same name, you have another chance to catch up on the first of three segments on the web. It's an excellent opening segment of the 3-part series, but is only available (for free!) right here through April 23, 2014.
The series deals with Shubin's search for the connections we all have with our fishy and reptilian ancestors. His discovery of the remarkable transitional fossil named Tiktaalik roseae on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic has added great evidence of our ties with our distant piscean relatives. The flat-headed, 375 million year-old Tiktaalik possessed the exact features - such as both lungs and gills, a wrist and neck - that you'd hope to find in a transitional form between swimming fish and land-walking tetrapods.
The next episode, titled Your Inner Reptile airs Wednesday, April 16th on your local PBS station. It's on here in the Twin Cities at 9pm but check your local listing for times in your area.
Courtesy Mark RyanAccording to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of "ice-out" is: the disappearance of ice from the surface of a body of water as a result of thawing. After the long winter we've been through it's a welcomed event, and a pretty spectacular example took place earlier today at Gooseberry Falls on the North Shore of Lake Superior. You can watch it on this video provided by the Duluth News-Tribune.
Contributed by Haley Harada
We see headlines, newspaper articles, and television specials almost everyday—“Oil Spill in South America”, “Bird Species Endangered”, and “Temperatures At All Time High Due to Global Warming”. Environmental catastrophes and problems are undoubtedly a major world issue. While we are likely aware of some of the various environmental challenges global citizens face, preserving and restoring Earth’s delicate environment often leaves us with more questions than answers. Mahatma Gandhi once advised, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. But progress is impossible if we do not understand or realize what those changes should be.
After participating in an environmental outreach program between ‘Iolani School and Ala Wai Elementary, I’ve begun to see the importance of environmental education. Awareness is the first step towards action. Children especially, should be taught about their surroundings in order to become educated voters, innovative scientists, and productive members of an environmentally conscious society. Teaching children about anything, from the trees in their backyards to the earth’s atmosphere, can broaden their perspectives of organisms and the systems in which they operate. Although the saying is cliché, it is undoubtably true: children are the future. Ultimately, they are the ones who will propagate change and answer our questions.
When we first started introducing ourselves to the students at Ala Wai Elementary, they seemed nervous and a bit confused about the purpose of the outreach project. One concept that we really wanted the students to understand was the connectivity of all living and non-living things, from animals and plants to water and weather. Although in the allotted time period it was impossible to go in depth about each subject, it was most important for the students to see the connection between the concepts. We also brought up ideas that the students were already familiar with and tried to get them to think about each in a new way. As the project continued, the students became more comfortable and seemed to gain at least some environmental insight. It filled me with joy to watch them playing with fish and looking through microscopes at things that they had never seen or paid attention to before.
The most rewarding part of the project was bringing the Ala Wai surroundings, often taken for granted, to life. Showing students that experiments can be interesting and fun might encourage them to seek environmental learning opportunities in the future. My hope is that students realized that there is an endless amount of things to see and learn about in their world. In the process of trying to teach younger students, I myself became more aware of the importance of bringing the outside world into the classroom. Children need to put down their iPads and cell phones once in a while to understand and appreciate the world around them. In the future, they'll be thankful they did.
Haley Harada is a high school senior at 'Iolani School. She wrote this blog post as part of a final project for AP Biology.
I'm certain this must mean winter is finally over but I'm not optimistic.
Courtesy anth2589The new Major League Baseball season is underway with lots of hoopla about the expanded use by umpires of using instant replay to reconsider close or controversial calls during the course of a game. It’s all overshadowed some amazing archaeological findings in Central America, where stele art and cave paintings have confirmed that the Maya ball game was governed by its own set of replay rulings.
Independent teams of archaeologists from the University of Michigan and Stanford have found evidence that disputes in games were resolved by an elaborate replay system. First working independently, they’ve now combined their research into this extensive report, co-published in Science and Sports Illustrated this month.
Of course, video technology was many centuries away in the future. But Maya ingenuity figured out a way to get around that hurdle in a creative fashion. Former Maya ball game players would position themselves around the field observing the actions of their contemporaries. If a controversial play occurred and a coach threw out his challenge marker, the former players would rely on their keen observation and game skills to reenact the play at a slower motion for officials to take a second or third look. According to limited data collected in the findings, officials’ calls were overturned about 36 percent of the time.
Courtesy Loryn LeonardHeiroglyphs explaining the process were careful to note how critical it was to get the calls correct in games, especially those at the highest level where the losing teams would be sacrificed. After three consecutive years of bad calls in championship games leading to the deaths of what should have been victorious players, the replay system was implemented.
Further causing the move to replay rulings was the large amount of wagers gamblers placed on the games each year at Chichen Itza, the Las Vegas of Maya cities. After that run of poor officiating, gambling leaders who had taken huge financial losses on the altered outcomes threatened ball game leaders with execution if they didn’t come up with a more just system of deciding calls.
Courtesy WikipediaAnd looking at the infamous Maya calendar, the new replay system was put into effect on the Gregorian Calendar equivalent of April 1, 1414 BCE, exactly 1600 years ago today, April Fool’s Day 2014.!
Fifty years ago, on March 27, 1964 at 5:36pm local time, a huge, magnitude 9.2 earthquake rattled the state of Alaska. The quake's epicenter was located about 75 miles east of Anchorage, at a depth of 15 miles. Violent shaking lasted about 4 minutes and triggered several avalanches and landslides, and caused damage to many of Alaska's major cities including Anchorage. Quake-generated tsunamis caused additional damage. A 30-ft wave destroyed Kodiak, Alaska's ocean-front industries and much of the city's fishing fleet.
Despite it being the 2nd largest earthquake ever recorded (a 1960 Chinese quake measured magnitude 9.5), Alaska's Good Friday quake and resulting tsunami caused only 131 deaths (115 in Alaska; 16 in Oregon and California!).
As noted in the video at the top of the page, the Alaska earthquake took place just as plate tectonics was gaining acceptance in the scientific community. The idea of moving and colliding crustal plates had been around since the early 1920s but didn't gain any serious foothold until the 1960s. The developing theory helped explain the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake, which was the result of subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the North American plate.
The video below show some of the quake's effects in Anchorage and elsewhere.
Courtesy Public domain via WikipediaThe deadly mudslide that occurred last Saturday in Washington state should not have surprised people living in the area, at least according to a 1999 report. Fifteen years ago, in a study commissioned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, geomorphologist Daniel Miller warned that a "large catastrophic failure" was likely in the area, 55 miles northeast of Seattle. Recent heavy rains have saturated the bluff above the floodplain of the Stillaguamish river, near the towns of Oso and Darrington, and a square mile of the slope suddenly collapsed Saturday morning wiping out several houses and covering a mile of State Route 530 with mud and debris, some to depths of 15 feet.
Local officials claim it was entirely unforeseen (a minor earthquake has been suggested) but history shows the area suffered a flood in 1933 and two previous mudslides, one in 1967, and another as recently as 2006. Despite that, development continued in the river's floodplain.
The death toll from this tragedy continues to rise, and, as of today, some 175 people are still missing.
Ever wonder how different light bulbs work? Watch this.
Here is footage from a helmet cam of a base jumper who leaped off 1 World Trade Center in lower Manhattan last fall. This is an illegal activity and three of the four people involved in this jump were arrested yesterday. But the footage is so cool.
NanoDays is a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering and its potential impact on the future.
Most events will be taking place between March 29 - April 6, 2014.
Courtesy NISE Network
NanoDays events are organized by participants in the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Network) and take place at more than 250 science and children's museums, research centers and universities across the country from Puerto Rico to Hawaii. NanoDays engages people of all ages in learning about this emerging field of science, which holds the promise of developing revolutionary materials and technologies.
To read more about NanoDays visit:
To see a full list of organizations hosting 2014 events visit:
2014 Events in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, MN: http://www.smm.org/nanodays
To learn more about nanotechnology, science, and engineering, visit:
To see other nano stories on Science Buzz tagged #nano visit: