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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Trilobite Eyes, Pixels, Surgery, and your Smart Phone

      Trilobite compound eyes have always intrigued me. The calcium carbonate of the eyes of these Paleozoic-aged marine arthropods (similar to those of horseshoe crabs and insects) are often well-preserved:

     These extinct creatures have a three-lobed body:

     Their eyes contain many individual lenses (akin to each one creating a pixel) 

unlike those of humans, which is a useful adaptation used in laparoscopy and which may be used in Smart Phones, if/when the technology gets small enough:

Surgery, Smart Phones, and Compound Eyes

     Compound eyes are especially useful in low light situations and in order to be able to see 360 ° to be aware of predators:

     Experience seeing like an insect (it's NOT what you think)

      A recent paper describes discovery of the not-usually-fossilized soft parts of the trilobite eyes as flower like:

          Discovery of trilobite eye soft parts

     I think it might make me see a little buggy though.

     To end today: Tri a lo' bite of this quote: 

     "I cannot stress often enough that what science is all about is not proving things to be true but proving them to be false." -Lawrence M. Krauss, theoretical physicist (b. 1954) 

What do you think?


(aka Word Woman)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

E-femur-al Find: Largest Dinosaur Bone Discovered in Argentina

    The discovery of the largest dinosaur bone in Argentina is the source of an e-femur-al delight today. It is nearly 8 feet long! The dinosaur, as yet unnamed, belongs to the class of dinosaurs called titanosaurs, due to their large size:

      The bones were discovered 160 km from Trelew, Patagonia, Argentina:

     Here are a couple of links to the announcement from earlier this week:

Titanosaur Femur Found--7.9 feet long

Patagonian Dinosaur Bones Found

     These vegetarian dinosaurs weighed as much as 14 full grown elephants. That's a lot of plants consumed. They lived during the Cretaceous Period, about 95 m. y. ago, represented below:

     What would you name the new species of dinosaur? Here's a link to the names of other Patagonian dinosaurs for inspiration:

             Patagonian Dinosaurs

Can you top Piatnitzkysaurus Floresi?


Word Woman (Scientific Steph)

Bonus random-dot stereogram or autostereogram: What animal do you see?

Bonus opalized wood:

Bonus Australian Opal

        Hmmmm, maybe a week on opals may be in our future, o pals ;-).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

H2O, H2O, Everywhere: "Unstoppable" Glaciers and "Produced" Water

    Water, water everywhere...

                      Photo credit: M. Ruegels

     Too much, not enough, contaminated with salt and hydrocarbon extraction/fracking chemicals: water and the words associated with H2O have been spun this week, especially in two articles.
      The "unstoppable" movement of glaciers into the sea in western Antarctica was documented in a NASA press release yesterday:

      This NASA/JPL photo shows the Amundsen Sea on the western side of Antarctica:

        The principal researcher, Eric Rignot, spoke of unstoppable, inevitable, and irreversible processes associated with the glaciers noting that a sea level rise of 1.2 meters is eventually inevitable, yet unstoppable is the term being used in most of the day's publicity. Unstoppable is a more active adjective than irreversible or inevitable--it exudes movement.

          "Produced water" is another science spin term used locally by Colorado Public Radio (CPR) to describe water produced together with hydrocarbons:

            "PRODUCED WATER"

     This positively spun term denotes what's leftover after extracting hydrocarbons--water with benzene, toluene, salt, etc. which, according to the article, is responsible for tuberculosis in cattle. "Unstoppable glaciers" is a reasonable term; produced water is not. Even "connate water" is not, since, by definition, it is the water originally deposited with the rock.

       The CPR article refers to the original salt deposited with the rocks as part of the produced water or flowback and downplays the chemicals added in hydrocarbon extraction/fracking. Produced water--really?

        Just hiked past some (quite cold) springs here in the Colorado hills. Now, those are "produced," unstoppably crystal clear waters!

Turn, turn, turn, turn,
Spin, spin, spin, spin,

Looking forward to your liquid thoughts,

Word Woman (aka Scientific Steph)

P.S. More Water. . .

        Great morning with Al (Aluminum) and the kindergarteners today. We made boats from Aluminum foil and determined the best structure for piling on pennies til the boats sank. 

        They know H2O, CO2, NaCl, O2 and now Al. Big leap today as I asked them the chemical formula for ice. After a few guesses of I, they came round to H2O. 

        "Ok, how about steam?" 


          It was quite a moment ;-).



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fast and Slow Rates of Tectonic Change: New Zealand and Arizona

     I received an alert from The New York Times today with this "breaking news" about climate change. Temperatures rising slightly less than 2 ° F are certainly cause for concern but, for most scientists it is hardly breaking news. The data are important, though, especially the possible projected rise in mean temperatures by up to 10 °F by the end of this century:


    As a focus today, I'd like to compare the relatively quickly-changing tectonic geomorphology of New Zealand to the much slower-changing tectonic geomorphology of Arizona.
Tectonic geomorphology involves the interplay of surface features with underlying tectonics.

     In this geologic map of New Zealand, rates of up to 5 mm uplift per year are noted in red:

      Areas of rapid uplift are marked by active faults, seismic activity, waterfalls, and newly developing stream systems:

     New Zealand sits at the junction of the Australian and New Zealand tectonic plates and displays the features of a rapid convergent plate tectonic zone.

      In contrast, Arizona sits within the North American plate, rather than at the convergence of two plates. The fluvial (river) geomorphology is well developed and integrated. The landscape has had long periods of time to adjust to ancient fault scarps creating well-developed alluvial fans:

     One of the most interesting parts of tectonic geomorphology to me is that features like alluvial fans may also mark places of more rapid uplift, where the alluvium is adjusting to more active uplift as in here in Iran:

     But, back to climate change (you knew I'd get back there, right?), the increased overall temperatures, torrential downpours, and periods of drought are all intimately connected to this skin of our earth. The climate we are changing will inevitably affect the tectonic geomorohology as landscapes adjust to the wide swings in temperature and rainfall.

      Looking forward to your thoughts on this interplay of climate and tectonic geomorphology, all you alluvial fans!


Word Woman (aka Scientific Steph)


Mid May in the Colorado Mountains: