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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

From Bdellium to Bdelloid Rotifers: Scrabble and Science Merge

           The search for Scrabble words starting with 'bd' brought me to both bdellium and bdelloid rotors (and, ultimately, back to our tardigrade friends).          

          Bdellium is a semi-transparent oleo-gum resin extracted from Commiphora trees growing in Ethiopia, Erythrea and sub-Saharan Africa. It is also an ingredient in myrrh.

            Bdelloid rotifers or "bdelloids" are asexual minute invertebrates found in freshwater habitats worldwide. There are over 450 described species. 

           Bdelloids share the ability to survive in dry, harsh environments by entering a state of desiccation-induced dormancy (anhydrobiosis) at any life stage (similar to the topic of an earlier post, the tardigrades ). This photo of one bdelloid species brought me right back to those Michelin Man tardigrades. 

       Like tardigrades, bdelloid rotifers are microscopic organisms, typically between 150 and 700 µm in length. They are slightly too small to be seen with the naked eye.

        Bdelloids reproduce by ingesting the DNA of other organisms like bacteria, fungi, and algae as described here.

       Bedelloid is from the ancient Greek βδέλλα , bdélla, meaning “leech."

       It's my first experience with words starting with 'bd." How about you? Have you seen bdellium in the ingredients list for your myrrh or run into any of the 450 species of bdelloids?

Happy 'bday' bdelloids and bdellium,


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

From Microscopic Kaolinite Booklets to Macroscopic Sequence Stratigraphy in the Book Cliffs of Colorado and Utah

          Kaolinite is a clay mineral with a microscopic structure resembling long booklets as seen in this Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM):

           I recently learned that the name is derived from the Chinese Kao-Ling, a village in Jiangxi province, China, where kaolinite was first named. The name entered English in 1727 from the French version of the word, kaolin. Can you read these kaolinite booklets?

          Kaolinite's chemical formula is Al2Si2O5(OH)4. Rocks that are rich in kaolinite are also known as china clay

           Kaolinite is used in the production of ceramics, 
as a filler for paint, rubber and plastics, in anti-diarrhearal products, and to produce glossy magazine paper (which brings us to books and the Book Cliffs. . .)

        We now segue from the microscopic to the macroscopic  Book Cliffs of western Colorado and eastern Utah:

           I have spent a fair amount of time in the Book Cliffs studying the sequence stratigraphy described there extensively in the 1980's by Exxon geologists.  Stratigraphy in a chronostratigraphic framework emphasizes unconformities and other time disruptions. 

      Sequence stratigraphy is the alternative to a lithostratigraphic approach which emphasizes similarity of the lithology of rock units rather than time significance. Sequence stratigraphy is a revolutionary change (akin to plate tectonics) in looking at the generation of rock layers. A good primer on sequence stratigraphy is linked here (Motto: The data are in the strata).

       Sequence stratigraphy: can you read it like a book?


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Calving: Ice or Cow. . .And Is There A Connection?

          For this week's PEOTS, how about choosing between ice calving

      or cow (or moose or seal or whale) calving?

      Hmmmm. Let's go with ice calving. Check out this largest filmed ice calving event at the Ilulissat Glacier in Greenland. 

      Ice calving, also known as glacier calving or iceberg calving, is the breaking off of chunks of ice at the edge of a glacier, iceberg, ice shelf, or crevasse. The ice that breaks away is classified as an iceberg, but may also be called a growler or bergy bit.

     Growlers are smaller pieces of ice, generally rising less than a meter above water level, that make a growling animal sound as they move in the ocean. Bergy bits are mini icebergs that rise up to 4-5 meters above the water level. 


         Ice calving has gotten lots of attention lately as a result of global warming (See the 2014 documentary Ice Chasing).

        And perhaps watch it with this kind of beer growler:

       Do you suppose there's any connection between the sound of cows birthing and the sound of ice calving (the latter term first originated in Denmark in 1837), growlers and all?

Enjoy that ice calving blue; looking forward to your insights,


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Flower Clocks: Flox, er Phlox?

     An Horologium Florae or flower clock, featured last week in The New York Times, intrigued me. And, of course, flower clocks would also be known as flox, er, phlox:

      As I am having internet connection issues today, I am relying on the Flower Clock Link to tell most of the Horologium Florae story. Essentially, gardeners plant a variety of species that bloom throughout the day and night. One can tell "garden time" from the clock but not close enough to catch the 4:06 bus. When you're gardening, though, who cares about 4:06 -- a.m. or p.m.?

       Enjoy reading and a few timely flower photos:

Any flower clocks in your past, present, or future? With or without Roman Numerals and/or upside-down clock faces?


And speaking of Eire: