Dec
02
2013

Scott Anfinson
Scott AnfinsonCourtesy Scott Anfinson
Hey there! Do you know that we have a State Archaeologist here in Minnesota? Meet Scott Anfinson the 3rd State Archaeologist of Minnesota. Scott came to visit us and while talking to him, we’ve learned some interesting things about the burial mounds in Minnesota. We’ve learned about the Lidars (shots of lasers that are use to scan the ground from above, used to detect mounds) that are used to detect the mounds and the importance of his job of protecting them. We’ve interviewed him with some questions and will like to share some of his answers to you about his job experiences.

What inspired you to become an archaeologist?
When I was 8 years old, I received a book for Christmas, that was all about dinosaurs. It showed mainly these guys who were digging in China in the Gobi Desert… That sparked my interest in digging and archaeology… However, at that time I didn’t know that paleontology and archaeology are different.

What is exactly a State Archaeologist? What is the significance of the job you do?
One of the jobs that I do for the state is, I’m in charge of all ancient burials that were made 100 or 12,000 years ago in Minnesota...
Some people would probably say to me “Why do we need an state archaeologist?.
First of all, I’ll say to them is, “Well who do you want to be in charge of all those 3,000 pioneer cemeteries and 12,000 Indian burial mounds? Who would be in charge if they asked,
“Can I disturb them?”, “Where are they?”
“What are the disturbance?”. I can help them find a solution.
I also help state agencies... It’s against the law to disturb any archaeological site on public property. So they need my help to figure out how to build their road, their trail, or their new visitor center by reducing the harm to the site.

How long have you’ve been the state archaeologist?
Started in 2006. So it’s been 7 years now.

What places you excavated?
I’ve never done archaeology in another country. I do almost all of my archeology right in the Midwest.

Have you ever misidentified anything or changed your mind about something you found?
Happens all the time... When you create a hypothesis, basically it is saying is “I think this what happened”. But you can never prove for sure if that’s what exactly what happened, but you can prove something that didn’t happen... What you do is, you can start eliminating the possibilities until you are left with possibly what probably caused it… Science proves the truth, it is just getting closer to some kind of truth, and that truth can change. For an example, one time when I was working on a site in western Minnesota and I found some burnt bones, which looked very much like hand bones from a human. I thought I had found a cremation burial, but then I noticed that the bone that I found must be a very big guy. I went over to the Bell Museum in the University of Minnesota and took the bones with me to look at them a little more carefully. And they were are actually a paw of a black bear… So I was wrong on my first conclusion.

As you can see the job of the an State Archaeologist is very important to the state. Meeting him, was a great opportunity because just learning what he does, really draws you closer to the importance of archaeology. It’s more than digging, it’s science!

Dec
01
2013

Three shiitake mushrooms: Some fungi create their own breeze to disperse spores.
Three shiitake mushrooms: Some fungi create their own breeze to disperse spores.Courtesy apc33
According to a new study presented at the recent Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamicsin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, many species of mushrooms create their own breezes to help disperse their spores. Most times, mushrooms rely on wind to spread their offspring around the environment. But using indirect measurements, along with high-speed video and scaling analysis of fluid mechanics, researchers from Trinity College and UCLA have shown that before releasing their spores, some fungi create their own air movement through the release of water vapor that produces a convective dynamic to cool the air and get it moving. As slight as the breeze may seem, it's enough to move the spores to an adequate distance away from the mushroom parent.

SOURCE
Scientific American story

Happy Thanksgiving!: Remember, that delicious bird you're consuming today is the descendent of a carnivorous dinosaur!
Happy Thanksgiving!: Remember, that delicious bird you're consuming today is the descendent of a carnivorous dinosaur!Courtesy Mark Ryan

Lighting the Paths Across the U.S.: The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership) satellite acquired two nighttime images early on Oct. 1, 2013, for this natural-light, mosaic view of the continental United States.
Lighting the Paths Across the U.S.: The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership) satellite acquired two nighttime images early on Oct. 1, 2013, for this natural-light, mosaic view of the continental United States.Courtesy NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS and DMSP OLS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center)
From NASA's Image of the Day:

Thanksgiving is a time for family, for feasting, and for gratitude in the United States. It is also a time when the nation’s transportation network is clogged with travelers. According to the American Automobile Association, an estimated 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles (80 kilometers) or more during Thanksgiving week, with the average round trip being 600 miles (1,000 kilometers). More than 90 percent of them will use cars or trucks, while the rest will ride planes or trains.

The United States has more roads—4.1 million miles (6.6 million kilometers)—than any other nation in the world, and roughly 40 percent more than second-ranked India. About 47,000 of those U.S. miles are part of the Interstate Highway System, established by President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. The country also has 127,000 miles (204,000 kilometers) of railroad tracks and about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of navigable rivers and canals (not including the Great Lakes).

The imprint of that transportation web becomes easier to see at night. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership) satellite acquired two nighttime images early on Oct. 1, 2013, for this natural-light, mosaic view of the continental United States. The VIIRS instrument uses a “day-night band” of wavelengths that is sensitive to low light levels and man made light sources. The images were collected just three days before the new moon, so reflected light from space and the atmosphere was relatively low. It was also a rare night when most of the nation was cloud-free.

Nov
26
2013

Wild Turkey: Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey: Wild TurkeyCourtesy Malcolm - Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in Fort Worth Zoo

Some turkey feathers look iridescent due to nano-sized structures within the feathers rather than pigment.

Iridescence due to nano-sized structures can also be easily seen in peacock feathers and Blue Morpho butterfly wings.

More about iridescence in nature:

  • Butterfly Blues video
    Mr. O talks about iridescence and Blue Morpho butterflies in another "O Wow" moment at the Children's Museum of Houston.


  • Zoom into a Blue Morpho Butterfly video
    Zoom into the natural nanostructures that manipulate light on a Blue Morpho Butterfly!

    See video

  • To learn more about nanotechnology, science, and engineering, visit:
    www.whatisnano.org

    To see other nano stories on Science Buzz tagged #nano visit:
    http://www.sciencebuzz.org/buzz_tags/nano

    Nov
    21
    2013

    3D printed dinosaur bone
    3D printed dinosaur boneCourtesy Radiological Society of North America
    Using state-of-the-art medical scanning and printing technology, German paleontologists have been able to scan and reconstruct a dinosaur vertebrae that survived a World War II bombing raid that left hundreds of fossils unidentified. Dug out of a clay pit south of Halberstadt, Germany in the early 20th century, the fossil was jacketed in plaster (for protection during transportation from the field) and stored in the basement of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin along with numerous other fossils from Halberstadt in southern Germany and another dig site in Tanzania. When the Allies made a bombing raid over Berlin during WWII, a portion of the museum was hit and collapsed, leaving the poorly labeled fossils in one big messy pile of plaster jackets and rubble. Museum workers sorted the jacketed fossils from the rubble but which fossil came from which dig? The labeled plaster jackets gave no clue.

    Plateosaurus mount: Early postcard of a Plateosaurus skeleton seen in a museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
    Plateosaurus mount: Early postcard of a Plateosaurus skeleton seen in a museum in Stuttgart, Germany.Courtesy Mark Ryan
    Modern technology came to the rescue from technicians from the Department of Radiology at Charité Campus Mitte in Berlin. One of the jacketed fossils was first scanned with a CT (computed tomography) scanner - similar to those used to scan and diagnose medical patients. Because the radiation absorption (attenuation) of the fossil differs from that of the surrounding matrix - the rocky material in which the fossil is encased - making it easy to outline and create a digital copy of the fossil. The resulting image was compared to field drawings from the two expeditions and identified as a vertebrae of a Triassic Period prosauropod known as a Plateosaurus. The dataset was entered into a computer, cleaned up a bit, and then fed into a 3D printer where - layer by plastic layer - an exact replica of the hidden and unprepared fossil was "printed" in 3-dimensions.

    CT scanning and 3D printing of fossils has been in use for a while now but this is a first time paleontologists have been able to identify and copy a dinosaur bone still encased in a matrix wrapped in a plaster field jacket.

    In the past, this couldn't have been done without first cutting open the field jacket and spending long hours of detailed lab preparation - i.e. removing all the matrix from around the fossil. Making copies of fossils usually entails creating molds using rubber or something similar, then filling the void with plaster or other casting materials. Now with 3D printing technology, exact (or scaled) duplicates of important fossils can be created and shared with scientists or schools for study and comparison. The dataset of the scan can serve the same purpose.

    Both the cost and size of the technology have been reduced in recent years, making it both affordable and portable for many museums. The following videos show the processes in action. Desktop scanning of dinosaur bones and the printing a dinosaur skull with a simple desktop 3D printer.

    SOURCES and LINKS
    Story on Science Daily
    Live Science story

    Nov
    20
    2013

    The glow is gone: A glowing lake in Puerto Rico has mysteriously gone dark in the past week. Scientists are trying to figure out why the lake has changed its night time behavior.
    The glow is gone: A glowing lake in Puerto Rico has mysteriously gone dark in the past week. Scientists are trying to figure out why the lake has changed its night time behavior.Courtesy Ocean Island Travel
    For the past eight days, a glowing lake in Puerto Rico has gone dark, puzzling scientists and tourism officials alike.

    Construction on a new sewage treatment plant nearby has stopped as researchers are trying to figure out why the Fajardo Grand Lagoon at the Nature Reserve of Las Cabezas de San Juan in Puerto Rico has suddenly lost its glow. The lake, informally referred to as a lagoon, has long been a popular tourist stop at night. Kayakers have been able to cruise the waters and see the glow of bioluminescent microorganisms in the water. The creatures give off a glow when disturbed by a passing paddle or waving hand.

    While some worry run off from the treatment plant under construction might be the cause of the darkness, others point to recent rains and high winds creating waves on the lake. In the short term, researchers are hoping to minimize as many factors as possible to be able to zero in on the cause.

    A local group also collects water samples from the lake three times a week to record data including temperature, salinity and precipitation. That data will also be analyzed in this current study.

    The lake also went nearly dark for a short time in 2003, but had since rebounded to it's original levels of glow.

    So what do you think is happening in the lake to make it go dark? Share your ideas with other Science Buzz readers in the comments section.

    Nov
    19
    2013

    Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is: Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is and how it works.
    Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is: Paul Explaning to the Heritage Crew what GPS is and how it works.Courtesy SMM
    On November 15, the Heritage Crew got to talk with Paul from Flat Rock Geographics. Paul spoke about how GPS works, what GIS is, and how people use GIS and GPS. GPS stands for "Global Positioning System." GPS is a network of satellites, used to find a position on the Earth within 5-10 feet. GPS triangulates your location by using 3 or more satellites that it can "see" by sending a message to them and receiving a location. GPS is a big factor in GIS.

    GIS stands for "Geographic Information System." GIS is a combination of GPS and LiDAR, which is an imaging process that takes a laser and scans the ground, timing how long it takes to reach the point where it left the emitter, like sonar does underwater, or radar in the air. Paul and his company used GIS to map the site that we went to this summer. Flat Rock (who is helping us manage our data from Sheffield) can scan the data from the LiDAR and remove things that we don't need, like birds, trees, and even buildings! LiDAR is incredibly accurate, and has even been used to map all the burial mounds in the entire state of Minnesota!

    Nov
    19
    2013

    Nanogrid structures at the nanoparticle level
    Nanogrid structures at the nanoparticle levelCourtesy Perena Gouma, CNSD, SUNY Stony Brook

    Oil spills are notoriously difficult to clean up, but nanotechnology may help make cleanup easier in the future.

    Nanoscientists have developed a "nanogrid," a large net consisting of metal grids made of a copper tungsten oxide, that, when activated by sunlight, can break down oil from a spill, leaving only biodegradable compounds behind.

    The grids resemble non-woven mats of miniaturized ceramic fishing nets are made with a self-assembly process.

    Because they work well both in water and air, the grids may also be used for other types of cleanup as well.

    More about this topic:

  • Nanogrid research
    http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=129566&WT.mc_id=USN...
  • Dr. Perena Gouma's Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development: https://web.stonybrook.edu/cnsd/formservertemplates/pro2.html
  • To learn more about nanotechnology, science, and engineering, visit:
    www.whatisnano.org

    To see other nano stories on Science Buzz tagged #nano visit:
    http://www.sciencebuzz.org/buzz_tags/nano

    Nov
    19
    2013

    New science to old question: New science is helping answer questions on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
    New science to old question: New science is helping answer questions on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.Courtesy Victor Hugo King
    Fifty years after the fateful day in Dallas, Texas, people are still working to find definitive answers to the details of the shooting of President John F. Kennedy.

    What if the current forensic investigation techniques would have been available then? That's a question the Discovery Channel recently posed in producing the show "JFK: Inside the Target Car." Here's a quick summary of things they learned through their experiments. Click here to get more details about how this all was done.

    The Dallas motorcade scene was recreated with modern-day, high tech dummies situated in a car. The dummies were made of materials that have similar properties to human flesh, bone and blood. Sharpshooters then shot the surrogates from the model depository, the grassy knoll, and four other plausible locations that are part of assassination theories.

    Two forensic experts, who had no knowledge that the situation was set up to recreate the shooting in Dallas, examined the evidence. Their finding was that shots came from above and behind the pathway of the car, a finding consistent with the location of the Texas Textbook Depository.

    Up-to-date science was also applied in making a 3-D animated simulation of the assassination scene based on angles of possible bullet paths, information from the Zapruder home movie of the motorcade, and also wind speeds and directions. Based on blood spatters created through those simulations, the origin of the fatal shots had to be from the textbook depository.

    Experts add that while modern science more accurately determine where the shots were fired from, they still cannot determine without doubt if Lee Harvey Oswald was the shooter.

    How do you feel about this new application of science to this dark moment of American history? Does it answer your questions on the assassination? Share your thoughts with other Science Buzz readers.

    Here's a link to the Discovery Channel's website for the show.