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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Oranges, Crustaceans, and the Moon

     Wow! The lunar eclipse last night was amazing. The moon was the color of a blood orange for quite awhile after the eclipse:

     It was worth awakening for, except I am pretty tired today. I hope you were able to look up from your phone, computer, or tablet to see it:

     So, this segue to a 520-million-year-old crustacean with preserved cardiovascular, nervous, and digestive systems found in China may not be the smoothest, but it will be color-coordinated ;-). 

      [One of my favorite memories is of shopping with my four-year-old son. He noticed that everything in our grocery cart was orange when we started shopping.  He suggested we only buy orange things that day. Totally impractical but totally fun! We came home with orange popsicles, pumpkins, carrots, yams, oranges, and other assorted orange things. It was worth needing to go back the next day to get other essentials ;-)].

     In what researchers from the University of Arizona, UK, and China are calling an "invertebrate version of Pompeii," evidence of an especially well-developed cardiovascular system in a three-inch crustacean named Fuxianhuia was discovered in Yunnan Province, China. The system is outlined in carbon and surrounded by mineralized deposits.

         The computer generated model above shows the heart and blood vessels in red, brain and nervous system in dark blue, and digestive system in teal. (Image credit: Nicholas Strausfeld). Eyes and antennae were also preserved.

           The depositional environment is a bit unclear in these half-billion-year-old deposits. The fine dust-like particles are referred to as mudstone with a possible connection to a tsunami (so the volcanic Pompeii analogy doesn't quite work for me.)

             The article was published on April 7, 2014 in Nature Communications:

             And, yes, one more orange-red thing, for geologic-times sake (This is a crawdad, not a lobstah. . .)

      Looking forward to your lunar eclipse, crusty crustacean, and other comments this April Tuesday.


Word Woman (Scientific Steph)

Updated P.S.: Natural dyes for eggs made with turmeric, beets, and red cabbage. Kindergarteners and I had a colorful day.

     Look what I found this morning at our grocery store, prominently featured in a large display at the front of the store! They do have a wonderful blend of sweet and tart, jan. Someone had placed a shinier, less wrinkled, similar-shaped orange variety on top of the Sumos. I was not swayed. Thanks for the recommendation.


  1. My microbiology prof emphasized the need for care when pronouncing the name of the Coxsackie virus, but that's nothing compared to Fuxianhuia.

    Missed the eclipse, but I think I TiVo'd it. Anyway, there are a few more coming later this year.

    Blood oranges look cool, but I recently discovered Sumo oranges, or Dekopon. Thick, pebbly skin that peels very easily, no seeds, incredibly sweet and tart. Best tasting fruit ever invented. Only drawbacks: expensive, too short a season (gotta wait till next year).

  2. Yes, careful pronunciation of Fuxianhuia is a good idea.

    I will look for Sumo oranges next season and wrestle them away from fellow fans. Have you had Saturn peaches? They are also known as flat peaches or donut peaches. Look for them in July. Same problem-- a two or three week season. Oh so good. O'Henry peaches are awesome too.

  3. I was going to say if you eat too many Dekopon(s?) you will turn into a Chevyweight wrester, but SS stole my Sumo thunderwear.

    Blood Moon Eclipse. Heart Bleed Computer Virus.
    Coincidence? I think not!
    Blainesvilleans may have too much time on their hands, but lately ET and IT types have had too much blood on their hands.


    Watching the eclipse was like witnessing a time lapse slide show of the lunar phases while lying on one’s side. Like a month of moondays in a couple o’ clock hours.

    After watching the heavenly show last night, I dreamt (how many non-compound words have an MT in them? Could be a puzzle.) that I was sail-boating on the South Pacific, just off the coast of Fiji. As the sun set over the isle I could have sworn (Damn!) I saw a Partial Ellipsis Of The Sun hovering overhead (or overing hoverhead). I suppose they might have been clouds.


  4. Thanks for the video, Lego. Yes, it was a mesmerizing moon event! Great accompanying music.

    I think the only other "mt" ending words are variations of dreamt. Anyone else know another one?

    Glad you were able to see that Partial Ellipsis of the Sun hovering overhead. Clouds are good! :-)

    Speaking of turning your head sideways to look at the moon, this article looking for signs of early emoticons is worth a look (even though I always give mine a nose :-)). Apparently sometimes punctuation was just thrown in for the heck of it (or was it?): : :

    1. SS,

      You’re correct about _____mt words. Scrabble finder site lists only dreamt and four variations. For a second, before I went to that site, I thought I found another with “unkemt”… until I wrote it out. MT is just too unpronounceable. You need a P between them as a bridge. In fact MWCD-Tenth Edition’s pronunciation for “dreamt” is drem(p)t!

      Thanks for the emoticon link. I find it a hoot that anyone would even entertain the notion that Bob Herrick was peppering his poesy with smiley faces. Nicholson Baker is a very imaginative writer, and more fun to read than Herrick!

      When I type a : - ) {that is, a colon, hyphen and closing parenthesis, but without spaces between them} in Microsoft Works document, this happens: J With an opening parenthesis, I get this: L

      (Actually, I don’t get a J and an L at all. What I get is a noseless right-side-up smiley face, or frowny face, respectively, that resemble the buttons people used to pin to their lapels or T-shirts [because W-shortz never sent them NPR lapel pins]. But when I pasted my post in the Blogger box, the faces were supplanted by the J and L.)

      Regarding your non-lobstah picture, one of my favorite magazine names was Crawdaddy!

      I loved the story of your “orange food” shopping spree with your son. If zeke creek were there he would have added a box of Wheaties.


    2. I agree about Nicholas Baker!

      J for Jolly, L for Lost? ;-)

      Your link took me not to Crawdaddy but to a main page for Wikipedia. It had some good stuff, including a photo of a star cluster (PISMIS 24). My first trip to that page was fun!

    3. Natch! Nicholson, not Nicholas. Nicols not Nichols. Need a good five-cent way to get those names right.

    4. I dunno, Nicholson Baker had this weird anti-electronic library database, pro-card catalog thing going a few years back. For me, that was kinkier than his phone sex thing. Put me off him altogether, I think.

    5. Mea culpa. I thought Nicholson Baker was the NPR blog writer. Not only did I get his name wrong but I've not read his work. That'll teach me to do five things at once. Haha! (I am trying to use less emoticons; we'll see if I can use punctuation marks as just punctuation.)

  5. jan,
    I always respect and appreciate your wisdom, knowledge, opinions and wit (seriously!) when you post. (BTW, those floating Beetle ads were memorable, weird and inspired… and easy pickin’s for National Lampoonin’.)

    But Dewey really want to dismiss Mr. Baker just because he demonstates occasional Luddite or kinky tendencies? The guy does not knead my defense but he can flat-out write. I love the twists and turns his mind makes in print.

    L might also stand for Lachrymose (but only if inverted-comma tears are streaming down the frowny face’s chubby cheeks).

    Regarding the Nicholson, Nicholas, Nichols, Nicols minefield, I too am often buffaloed by proper-name orthography. I wooden ever win an uppercase spelling bee…
    Pronouncer: Your word is Geoff.
    Speller: Jeff?
    P: Yes, Geoff.
    S: Can you give me the part of speech?
    P: Noun.
    S: Are there any alternate pronunciations?
    P: All I have is Geoff.
    S: Can you say the word again?
    P: Geoff.
    S: Can you give me the language or origin?
    P: It is a Norman French form of a Germanic root.
    S (spotting an opening): Norman?
    P: Yes.
    S (tentatively): Norman. N-O-R-M…
    P: No, No, No. Norman is just a part of the language of origin. The word is Geoff.
    S: Jeff?
    P: Yes, Geoff.
    S: Can you use it in a sentence?
    P: Mrs. Lloyd Bridges encouraged Geoff, her son, to pursue an acting career.
    S (relieved and smiling): Jeff. J-E-F-F. Jeff.
    Judge who is in charge of the correct-selling dinger and incorrect-spelling buzzer: BUZZ!
    P: I’m sorry. Geoff is spelled G-E-O-F-F.
    S (agitated): Listen you nincompoops! You’re associated with Scripps Howard; you’d think you’d be better at research and fact-checking. Everyone knows Jeff Bridges spells his first name J-E-F-F!
    P (sheepishly, after some animated consultation with judges): The speller is correct. I apologize. I should have not said “Geoff, her son” but “Jefferson,” as in our third president whose mug is on our nickels.
    J: DING!

    Indiana Gov. Thomas Marshall said, “What this country really needs is a good 5-cent cigar,” which, as Sigmund Freud probably didn’t say, “is sometimes just a cigar.”
    And sometimes, unlike horseshows and heavy-hand Grenada policy, you are, alas, close but no cigar.

    Glad you liked the Google link, but I guess I haven’t yet quite Dutch-Mastered the href.


    1. And Hu's on first for Cleveland ;-).

      Guess I ought to check out five-cent Baker. There was something exciting about those hand-written or typed cards in the card catalogues. Wonder what they did with all those card-catalogue holders? Some beautiful wood and craftsmanship. . .

      The electronic databases are, of course, more efficient, if lacking in charm.

    2. A: Repurposing card catalogues:

    3. SATire:

    4. No analogies?

      LIKE : LIKE :: LIKE : ?

  6. Thanks, Lego. I never said that Baker couldn't write, and I appreciate a good twist as much as the next guy, but sometimes it can be a bit much. David Foster Wallace was another widely acclaimed writer whose quirks just got in the way for me, with all the excessive footnotes and literary logorrhea. Plus, I was working on electronic library database systems at the time he was going on about card catalogs.

  7. We were talking about fossils, right?

    Sharks are not "living fossils." Neither is anything else.

  8. Haven't really though about this much, but how about mitochondria as living fossils? Asexual reproduction, almost no recombination, they seem relatively immune to the forces of natural selection, leading them to be highly conserved.

    1. Hmmmm, a cell organelle as a living fossil? I will need to mull that over a bit.

    2. Remember, they probably started out as free-living organisms, before being phagocytized by someone who found them more useful than tasty.

  9. SS,

    Hu was on first? Geological answer…no, Lunalogical answer: Neil Armstrong.

    Had not heard Hu was on first for the Cleveland Major League Baseball franchise. You are up on your sports. I am apparently not.

    So I went to the excellent baseball almanac website and discovered a fellow who played only one major league game (he had the proverbial cup of coffee), with the Washington Senators in 1920. He was second-baseman Albert Bailey “Allie” Watt. “Watt’s the name of the guy on second!”

    I don’t know if there is a guy named “I don’t know” who played third. I doubt it. Nor was there a pitcher named Tomorrow. But Tommy Moore pitched in the majors in the 1970s. Unfortunately, not for the Baltimore franchise… “Now pitching, Tom Moore, O!”

    While web-surfing recently, I caught wind of an inspirational and creative geology professor who was the antithesis of boring. For example, he used to treat his classes to a slide show he put together illustrating uses of barrels in Barrel, Alaska.

    This got me to wondering. Did he also do a slide show on the capital of Arkansas (road pavement, landscape gardening, fish tank ornamentation)? Or on Michael Moore’s birthplace (fire-starting, tool-making, gemstones for jewelry)? Or on the hometown of the University of Colorado (landscaping, retaining wall construction, paperweights for really big pieces of paper)?

    My internet source added that the prof also gave wonderful insights into the existence of coccoliths in chalk. This confused me a bit. I’d always thought cocoa-liths were in chocolate.


    1. Chalk one up to marvelous marshalling!

  10. Lynne Rosetto Kasper, of NPR's The Splendid Table, has a segment where a listener challenges her to make a meal/recipe out of a handful of ingredients. I'll bet she could come up with a nice salad from your hardboiled eggs, turmeric, beets, and red cabbage.

    On another topic altogether, do you know about The Internet Scout Report? Every week, they come up with a select list of websites on Research and Education, General Interest, a couple of Network Tools, and a topic in the news. Thought this might be of interest to one who teaches youngsters. Of particular interest this week might be the University of Colorado's Learn More About Climate Change site.

    Speaking of which, I'm about halfway through Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction. Well written and terrifying.

  11. There's a reason Fridays are my favorite day of the week. Charlie wrote in his science journal today that he "loved going to one table to dye eggs and then another. If you didn't like how it turned out, you could just eat it."

    Thanks for the Internet Scout Report link, jan. It is now bookmarked.

    I am on the DPL waiting list for The Sixth Extinction. My micropaleontology prof at U of AZ (junior year "abroad") talked a lot about the coming extinction. It is scary.

    And finally, NdGT on science, race and gender:

  12. SS,

    Thanks for the bonus photo of bowls o’ natural dyes. After all the dyeing is done, you could toss handfuls of pineapple chunks, chopped walnuts, carrot shreds and miniature marshmallows into the bowls, put them in the fridge over Saturday night, and the next morning have four bowls full o’ luscious, refreshing and colorful Catholic-parish-style salad to bring to Easter dinner!

    Supposedly, or perhaps urban-mythologically, there is a hair salon someplace called “Curl Up and Dye.” That would be an instance of changing hair color via unnatural dyeing.

    But an instance of changing hair color via natural dying occurs when keratinocytes and melanocytes in hair follicles suffer “keratinocide” and “melanocide.” There are two drawbacks to this method however: 1. a limited range of target tints (gray and white), and 2. appointments last awhile, usually a handful of decades.

    Chefs, including those who have an itch to conjure up their own dyes from scratch, get to eat their mistakes, as Charlie did, with egg-gusto! Ergo, Charlie is a Juvenile Child now, but is he a future Julia Child?

    Fifty years from now, Chef Charlie and his fellow former kindergartners will be posting comments on blog sites, or whatever the 2054 equivalent will be… (telephrenic pseudo-plasmatic portals?) They will fondly recall golden spirals, caramel dioxide, the “Mobius Bach Crab Canon” and other scientific adventures and marvels they shared with Ms. Steph.


    I am sure I speak for scores who visit this wonderful PEOTS blog in expressing my appreciation for your seemingly endless reservoir of excellent links, recommendations and comments on a spectrum of subjects. You, sir, are a connoisseur of the significant and intellectually stimulating.

    Next to you (and SS) I often feel like Charlie and other kindergartners (making mistakes, eating them and swallowing my pride in the process), but I am learning. You are too. I just have a farther and steeper path to travel.


  13. Of course, Charlie was a/the most gifted and entertaining writer yesterday, Lego. . .

    No Smith College for Charlie, JC, like Julia Child, JC. He also likes my puns "Beets me!" and "Eggsactly beautiful!" Love that kid.

    And I echo your sediments ;-) about jan, Lego.

    Welcome to the 19 bloggers from Moldova! We'd love to hear from you.

    1. Or, given that tomorrow is Easter Sunday, welcome Moldovan peeps. Hoping that will play in Peoria, er, translate in Moldova.

    2. Speaking of sediments, didn't Nicholson Baker write about paying a soil scientist to talk dirty to him? ;-)

    3. Don't ask me. I am swearing off anyone with Nicol/Nicholson/Nichol/Nicholas/ Nicholson/ Nickleson in his or her name until further notice.


    4. JK. Geology riff on Vox.

    5. I was JK'ing first. Perhaps that was clear as mud.

  14. Thanks, guys. I'm a bit amazed by the convoluted train of thought that brought me to this geological (selenological?) question, but here goes:

    Why are craters round?

    As far as I can tell, most lunar craters are round. Perhaps foolishly, I infer from this that most of the impacts of celestial objects with the moon occur at near-vertical angles, otherwise, the craters would be elongated. But, duh, most angles are not 90 degrees. I.e., if objects in space were flying around randomly, I would expect most impacts with the lunar surface to be at oblique angles, leading to mostly very non-circular craters. Especially since the moon is tidally locked to this big meteoroid shield we live on, which I might, again foolishly, expect to reduce the number of vertical impacts further.

    Where are the holes, round or otherwise, in my thinking about this?

    -- Square Peg

  15. Sitting in your Oval Office thinking up great questions, jan?

    There are some oval craters. Here's one on Mercury:

    The size of the explosion tends to make more circular craters most of the time.

    1. But, square peg, you could fit on some craters on the moon!

    2. Please expand on "the size of the explosion tends to make more circular craters most of the time." I can visualize how, on Earth, where bolides tend to explode in the atmosphere, you might usually get a circular crater at the hypocenter, but on the Moon or Mercury, it seems to me that an oblique impact ought to produce an elongated (parabolic? hyperbolic?) crater. Am i right in my understanding that the geometry says most impacts should be quite oblique?

    3. It's a depth thing...This link from Cornell explains it well:

  16. While waiting for Will Shortz's new Sunday puzzle, here's what got me thinking about craters:

    My Berkeley niece and I are fan's of BBC's Sherlock series. The other day,she commented on Facebook about Sherlock version of 2048, "the addictive tile-matching game". Never heard of it. But, always curious, I Googled it. Turns out to be this incredibly popular solitaire computer game that I was unaware of because I'm old and because it was only invented one weekend last month by a 19-year old Italian programmer.

    When you search "2048" on Wikipedia, before you're given a link to the game, you land on the page for the year 34 years in the future. Turns out that in June of that year, Asteroid 2007 VK184 has a chance of 1 in 3,030 of hitting Earth. Doesn't sound all that scary, but it's much worse that the proverbial one-in-a-million chance.

    From there, it's a short hop to NASA/JPL's Near Earth Object Program page, which includes a handy table that lets you monitor which space rock as the inside track on ending life as we know it.

    That, plus Elizabeth Kolbert's book, was enough to put holes in my head, so to speak. While waiting for The Big One (once I figure out this week's puzzle, which just arrived), I'll be playing 2048....

  17. 2048 does look like it could be trouble.

    I will let you worry about the Near Earth Orbits handy table (wonder if it's oval? ;-) )