Oct
15
2013

Artifact Cleaning: kayscElias cleaning artifacts on Level 4 in the Collections Gallery
Artifact Cleaning: kayscElias cleaning artifacts on Level 4 in the Collections GalleryCourtesy Amanda
Did you know that artifacts must be cleaned once they are taken from an archeological site? Every category of artifact must be cleaned in a different way, as to prevent damage. Lithics (stoneworks) can be scrubbed vigorously and can be soaked with water unless it has a worked edge which may have residue that can be identified. Pottery should be scrubbed less vigorously and cannot be submerged, as the pottery would absorb the water and disintegrate. If pottery is larger than a quarter, it should not be scrubbed on the interior, as it may have some residue that would be helpful. Faunal (bone) artifacts must be cleaned very carefully, like pottery, or it will become soft and brittle. Charcoal contains certain carbon isotopes, like carbon-14, that we can use to date when the item was burned, allowing us to learn a lot from small artifacts. Charcoal also preserves anything living, like seeds or wood. Artifacts are scrubbed with a wet toothbrush and put on a newspaper to dry. Once the artifacts are dried they are cataloged and put in the collection for research.

Oct
15
2013

Carbo loading: The conventional wisdom in sports nutrition has been to "carbo load" on foods high in carbohydrates before a contest. But now some are saying avoiding gluten carbs can actually enhance athletic performance.
Carbo loading: The conventional wisdom in sports nutrition has been to "carbo load" on foods high in carbohydrates before a contest. But now some are saying avoiding gluten carbs can actually enhance athletic performance.Courtesy cyclonebill
The arrival of fall each year brings leaves changing colors, apples ready for the picking and a host of long-distance races contested in more temperate conditions. And with those marathons and other distance tests come the pre-race rituals of "carbo loading," the practice of eating a high carbohydrate meal of pasta to fill a body up with extra energy.

But several elite athletes are now shaking up that conventional wisdom. They're saying that they're feeling better and performing more efficiently by focusing their pre-performance meals on the right kind of carbohydrates: gluten-free carbs.

Tennis champion Novak Djokovic, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the entire Garmin cycling team are now crediting gluten-free diets as helping them feel and perform better. Djokovic went gluten free in 2010 and has now climbed to become the No. 1-ranked player in men's pro tennis and he credits his new diet with giving him better focus, more endurance and avoiding injury.

However, all these benefits so far are anecdotal. There have been no research studies done on the impact of a gluten-free diet on athletic performance. But some nutritionists point out that gluten, evolutionary speaking, is a pretty new entry into the human diet, having only been around 10,000 years. Our digestive systems don't know how to deal with it, so we get no nutritional benefit from it. For most of us, our immune system handles the gluten in our digestive track, just like stray microbes, and works it into our waste. About six percent of the population is gluten sensitive and has to avoid these types of foods entirely.

Does this new information change your thoughts about "carbo loading?" Do you avoid gluten foods even if you're not sensitive to them? Share your thoughts with other Science Buzz readers.

This could be the coolest moment of your Monday. The video above shows the test firing of the Grasshopper rocket on Oct. 7. The 10-story tall rocket is designed to lift off and return to Earth intact. In this test, the rocket reached a height of 744 meters (about 2,230 feet). It was filmed using a drone-like hexacopter. Here's a link to the youtube site set up by the rocket-testing agency.

Oct
14
2013

Typical Paleozoic fossils from Minnesota: This year's National Fossil Day theme is Paleozoic fossils. Minnesota Paleozoic rocks hold an abundance of such fossils dating from the Late Cambrian though the Late Ordovician Periods.
Typical Paleozoic fossils from Minnesota: This year's National Fossil Day theme is Paleozoic fossils. Minnesota Paleozoic rocks hold an abundance of such fossils dating from the Late Cambrian though the Late Ordovician Periods.Courtesy Mark Ryan
It's Earth Science Week and this year's celebration centers around maps and mapping and their importance in geology and other earth sciences. Then on Saturday, October 19th from 1-4pm, the Science Museum of Minnesota is celebrating National Fossil Day with some special fossil-related exhibits throughout the museum. This year's theme is Paleozoic life, which is exactly the types of fossils commonly found in the southern half of Minnesota. Unfortunately, the official National Fossil Day website is closed due to the US government shutdown that continues, but that shouldn't stop anyone from celebrating fossils. Join us Saturday for some fossil fun.

LINKS
OneGeology mapping webite
Minnesota Geological Survey maps
Fossil hunting in Lilydale (closed indefinitely due to a spring 2013 tragedy)
Collecting fossils in Minnesota

Oct
10
2013

Inspiration for the Science Museum of Minnesota's spiral logo comes from the Fibonacci sequence of numbers:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377...

The sequence begins with zero (implied) and the number one. Each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two numbers.

0 + 1 = 1
1 + 1 = 2
1 + 2 = 3
2 + 3 = 5
3 + 5 = 8
5 + 8 = 13
8 + 13 = 21
13 + 21 = 34
21 + 34 = 55
34 + 55 = 89
55 + 89 = 144
89 + 144 = 233
144 + 233 = 377
And so on...

The Fibonacci sequence often appears when measuring patterns in nature, including the spiral shape of many shells. The sequence is named after an accomplished Italian mathematician known as Leonardo Fibonacci (c. 1170 – c. 1250).

The Science Museum of Minnesota began using the spiral logo around 1999. Because Fibonacci numbers can be difficult to explain, and the proportions of the SMM logo do not exactly match the Fibonacci sequence, the museum often describes the SMM logo in the following way:

The Science Museum of Minnesota symbol is based on a spiral. This symbol represents eternity, infinity and the spiral of life. The design can be found in all forms of life from the earth to the sea to the galaxy. The shape suggests movement, and represents the characteristics of science in an ever-changing and expanding universe.

Oct
07
2013

Enrolled trilobite: The trilobite's strategy of rolling itself up into a ball for protection dates back to some of its earliest known ancestors in the fossil record. This fossil trilobite (Isotelus?) was found in Late Ordovician shale in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Enrolled trilobite: The trilobite's strategy of rolling itself up into a ball for protection dates back to some of its earliest known ancestors in the fossil record. This fossil trilobite (Isotelus?) was found in Late Ordovician shale in St. Paul, Minnesota.Courtesy Mark Ryan
A new study appearing in Biology Letters shows that trilobites - everyone's favorite prehistoric water bug - developed an effective survival strategy much earlier than previously thought.

Trilobite fossils from Early Cambrian rock formations in the Canadian Rockies and elsewhere lend evidence that some of the earliest trilobites used enrollment (i.e rolling themselves up into a ball like an armadillo) to protect themselves from predators or the environment. Trilobite fossils found here in Minnesota are several million years younger dating back to the Late Cambrian through Late Ordovician Periods (500 - 430 mya) and are often found enrolled. It was an effective survival strategy.

Trilobites were arthropods, which meant they possessed exoskeletons, segmented bodies and jointed appendages. Their closest extant relative is the horseshoe crab. Trilobite bodies - for the most part - were comprised of a head (cephalon) positioned on a body (thorax) that was divided into three lobes: essentially an axial dividing a left and right pleura, and a tail (pygidium). The mouth (hypostome) was located on the underside. It's thought that most early trilobites were predators and/or scavengers who spent their lives roaming the sea floors looking carcasses, detritus or living prey to feed upon. Most trilobites possessed complex eyes (although some were eyeless). Like other arthropods (e.g. today's lobsters), trilobites would outgrow their exoskeletons, discarding them (molting) as they grew in size or changed shape. Their newly exposed soft skin soon hardened into a new, tough, outer casing. Once hardened, their segmented exoskeletons (composed of calcium carbonate) were ventrally flexible, giving them the ability to roll up into a ball should they need sudden protection from whatever threatened them.

Some early trilobite forms from Middle Cambrian-aged fossils had been viewed as incapable of enrolling but the new research based on much older fossils found in mudstones in the Canadian Rockies in Jasper Park pushes back the origins of the strategy to some of the earliest trilobites to appear in the fossil record (Suborder Olenellus). These appeared 10-20 million years earlier at the very beginnings of the Cambrian Period and show evidence of having already developed the ability to enroll.

Trilobites in some form or another existed across a span of more than 270 million years, a very successful run by any measure. The enrollment strategy certainly contributed to their longevity. Although trilobites were already in decline, the last of their kind were wiped out in the great extinction event that marked the end of the Permian Period and the start of the Triassic. They weren't the only casualty of the extinction: nearly 90 percent of Earth's species were terminated along with them.

Even though trilobites are extinct (they died out in the Permian Mass Extinction along with around 90 percent of Earth's species) they were an extremely successful and adaptable life form. No wonder they remain today a favorite among fossil collectors.

SOURCE and LINKS
Paper at Biology Letters
Major Trilobite features
A Guide to the Orders of Trilobites

Tyrannosaurus rex: remains of the Tyrant Lizard King on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
Tyrannosaurus rex: remains of the Tyrant Lizard King on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.Courtesy Mark Ryan
One hundred and eight years ago, on October 5th, vertebrate paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn bestowed upon a collection of recently discovered fossil bones one of the greatest names in the annals of dinosaur and binomial nomenclature: Tyrannosaurus rex!

Oct
02
2013

Gravity: Do they get the science right in the new action film Gravity?
Gravity: Do they get the science right in the new action film Gravity?Courtesy Wikipedia
Film goers will have the chance to travel through space this weekend with the blockbuster movie "Gravity" hitting the theaters. Its a ficticious story about two American astronauts dealing with disaster during a space shuttle mission.

I've come to expect Hollywood to place loose and easy with actual science when it comes to movies with scientific themes. And then today I stumbled upon this article in Time by Jeffrey Kluger, the co-author, with astronaut Jim Lovell, of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, which was the basis of the Apollo 13 movie released in 1995.

He applies his extensive space knowledge to fact check what's depicted in the new George Clooney/Sandra Bullock film. Here's his analytical summary: "So, that’s a lot that Gravity gets wrong. But you know what? So what? The shuttle, space station and spacesuits are painstakingly recreated; the physics of moving about in space—thrusts requiring counterthrusts, spins requiring counterspins, the hideous reality that if you do go spiraling off into the void your rotation never, never stops—are all simulated beautifully, scarily and accurately."

Click on the link above to get detailed analysis of what's scientifically right and wrong with Gravity.

Have you seen the film? What do you think about its accuracy in portraying the science of living and traveling in space?

This is surprising on a couple levels.

Do you like hot weather? Do you like playing with graphs? Combine those two interests in at this interactive website that charts the fluxuation in global temperature over your own personal lifetime.