Sep
28
2006

Cave Exploration: Timpanogos Cave photo by Art Oglesby
Cave Exploration: Timpanogos Cave photo by Art Oglesby

Beautiful cave found in California

Four amateur cave explorers from the nonprofit Cave Research Foundation discovered a "jaw dropping...beautiful" cave in the Sequoia National Park, California. The cave, named Ursa Minor, has been called one of the most significant finds in a generation.
Scott McBride, an explorer from San Andreas (Calaveras County) who has discovered 50 caves since 1994, first spotted an opening about the size of a baseball.

The four explorers have joined Joel Despain (the parks' cave manager) and other geologists in mapping the cave, but they haven't found the end. The cave features five rooms -- the biggest is about 200 feet wide and 50 feet tall -- and at least five leads, or passages, leading farther underground. San Francisco Chronicle

I found their account of entering this new cave particularly interesting because I just toured three caves during my recent road trip to California. My wife, Ann, and I toured Wind Cave in South Dakota, Timpanogos Cave in Utah (where my wife was a tour guide 30 years ago), and Lehman Cave in Nevada.

Caves need to be protected

These caves are national treasures and are now protected. I was shocked to learn that early visitors were allowed to break off pieces of the cave as a souvenir. In the early 1900's groups could even rent out the cave for overnight parties and lit campfires for heat and light.
This newest cave named Ursa Minor for its thousands of star like sparkles and a bear skeleton within may never be opened to the public.

The cave is littered with animal skeletons and teems with spiders, centipedes, millipedes and other invertebrates. Experts believe Ursa Minor will feature unique species found nowhere else, adding to the 27 never-before-seen species discovered during a recent study of invertebrates in the park's 239 other caves.

For now, the top priority is thoroughly mapping the cave and installing a gate at its mouth to keep sightseers and vandals at bay. No more than a few dozen people will ever see Ursa Minor, and those who have said they'll never forget it.

NASA scientists spent a month flying a sensor-packed airplane into storms brewing off the western coast of Africa. Data collected from these missions might someday allow better storm prediction and forecasting, and will definitely contribute to our knowledge of how hurricanes form and sustain themselves.

Sep
27
2006

You're invited to attend the annual Fall Color Blast on Sunday, October 1, from 1-5pm, at the Warner Nature Center. The event is free and features a professional storyteller, live fiddle music, bird banding demonstrations, canoeing, rides on a solar-powered pontoon, hikes, kids' crafts, free apple pie and ice cream, cider and coffee, and more. (Want more information about programs at the Center?)

Sep
27
2006


Aboard the vomit comet: This is the same type of plane that Sanchot was operated aboard.
Courtesy NASA

I don't know about you but I think I would be pretty much last on the list to volunteer for surgery on a plane. Especially if that that plane is flying up and down, up and down, thousands of feet each minute to simulate zero gravity.

But that's just what Philippe Sanchot signed up for. Doctors removed a benign tumor from his arm as part of an experiment to see how surgery in space might work. They flew aboard the specially designed plane, Zero-G, which climbs very high and then dives quickly to simulate weightlessness.

The main surgeon on the team said:

"Now we know that a human being can be operated on in space without too many difficulties."

These techniques might be used in the future to remotely preform surgery abroad the space station or other futuristic space craft.

Several major news outlets (Washington Post and NYTimes) are reporting on new findings released today that show we simply don't know enough about the safety risks associated with many new nanotechnologies. Learn more about this new science.

World leaders in the field of evolution convened upon Venezia, Italy last week to talk about the future of science. Jim Spadaccini has some interesting blog entries from his time at the conference.

Sep
24
2006

How many televisions does your household have? Nielsen Media Research found that the average American home has more televisions than people in the house. Researchers found 2.73 television sets in the typical home and 2.55 people.

Sep
23
2006

Elk buck: After nearly being wiped out of the state's habitat, elk are starting to make a comeback in Minnesota. Today, there are around 150 elk in the northwest corner of the state. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Elk buck: After nearly being wiped out of the state's habitat, elk are starting to make a comeback in Minnesota. Today, there are around 150 elk in the northwest corner of the state. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Several falls ago, I had the great opportunity to go to Yellowstone National Park in late September. What made the trip extra spectacular was that the elk were in rut and were hanging around everywhere. They were sitting in parking lots and building lawns. They had no fear of people and consequently, we were able to get to see these majestic animals much closer than you’d ever expect. (We still kept at a safe distance. You don’t want to mess with those antlers.)

Anyway, the whole experience turned me into an elk junkie. Driving around I was always looking for elk. At restaurants, I was ordering elk burgers or elk steak. Early in the morning and at night me ears were tuned into hear their distinct bugling.

So to my great surprise I read in the Sept. 20 Star-Tribune that elk used to roam over most of Minnesota back in the 1800s. Today, they’re confined to two little pockets in the northwest corner of the state.

But here’s the good news, they’re numbers are starting to rebound. Today, the two herds number about 150 total wild elk. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expects their numbers to keep growing through its management plan.

One herd straddles the U.S./Canada border near Minnesota’s border with North Dakota. That herd is numbers around 100 right now. Southeast of there, near the town of Grygla, another wild herd has established itself. It numbers about 20 or 30.

While I’m crazy about elk, farmers generally aren’t. They see the big creatures as a threat to their crops and that’s considered a main reason while the elk population and range in Minnesota has been cut back over the past 150 or so years. In the past 20 years, farmers in the northwest corner of Minnesota have been paid $60,000 for crop losses caused by elk.

A factor that has reduced that elk/farmer tension is the establishment of food plots on public lands near the herd’s home bases. Those plots keep them closer to their home bases and less likely to seek food in farm fields.

Even though elk numbers are still low, there is a limited hunting season for the animals in Minnesota. This fall’s hunt could harvest up to eight elk in the Grygla area. There is no hunt planned for the border elk until their numbers get up around 200 head.

What to see or hear more about Minnesota elk? Check out this link: www.startribune.com/outdoors

Add one more ring for Saturn! Scientists discovered a faint, new ring circling the planet Saturn. The ring appears to be composed of debris from two of Saturn’s moons when meteoroid impacts occurred. Just in case you are wondering, the exact number of rings around Saturn is not known.