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.

Sep
21
2006

Hawk watchers at Hawk Ridge: Photo courtesy Mark Ryan
Hawk watchers at Hawk Ridge: Photo courtesy Mark Ryan
Duluth, Minnesota is one of the best places in the Midwest for watching hawks and other birds of prey as they make their annual migration south for the winter.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight: Photo courtesy National Park Service.
Red-tailed Hawk in flight: Photo courtesy National Park Service.
Since the migrating birds avoid crossing large expanses of water, Lake Superior acts as a funnel, forcing them into Duluth where the lake narrows to its western point, and crossing is easier. This means that thousands of hawks and raptors fly over the region, coming down from Canada and other points north. One of the best sites to see them is at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, which is situated, in eastern Duluth at an overlook along the city’s Skyline Parkway.

The observation site draws not only vast numbers of birds (averaging over 94,000 per year) but also vast numbers of visitors who come each fall to watch the migration and enjoy the stunning panoramic views of Lake Superior and eastern Duluth.

If conditions are right, a lucky visitor may see Broad-wing Hawks, Osprey, Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrels, Northern Goshawks, and Peregrine Falcons. Great Horned and Long-eared Owls can also be seen at times.

The raptors can be seen just about everyday during Autumn, except when it’s raining, Generally, the birds begin migrating over Hawk Ridge in mid-August through November. The best time to spot them is when the wind is blowing in from the west or northwest for a couple of days straight. Official counters scan the skies with binoculars most days and tally the migration. During “The Big Days”, which generally take place between September 10-25, tens of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks can be spotted soaring over the ridge. This past week over 28,000 of them were counted in just two days!

For directions and further information visit the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory website. Then pack up your binoculars and camera, and head north to Duluth.