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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Nothing to See Here:" From Agates to Ashes >>> All Fall Down: The Fascinating Fossils of Nebraska

       Surely there must be "Something to See Here" in western Nebraska. . .



         And in eastern Nebraska, about 400 miles to the east along John McPhee's famed I-80 (more or less--both parks are actually closer to state route 20):





        The "USA Map According to Geologists" at the tail end of last week's blog is the inspiration for this look at fossils in far western and far eastern Nebraska (part of the area labelled "NOTHING TO SEE HERE.")






     Western Nebraska is home to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, a fossil-rich area of Miocene age (23-5 million years ago).

       
  


       Three particular mammals are found in the main bone beds near Harrison, NB:




      (1) Menoceras, a small rhinoceros; (2) the large Moropus, an extinct horse relative ; and the (3) Dinohyus, an extinct giant, pig-like mammal.




        Another quarry site to the east (see map above) of the main bone beds is comprised almost entirely of the small gazelle-camel, the Stenomylus, and the burrowing dry-land beaver, the Palaeocastor. The final, rarer animal is the predator Daphoenodon from the extinct beardog family. The bear dog is neither (shades of honey bear-ness?). 








       In Eastern Nebraska the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park preserves an in situ fossil site with well preserved mammals, especially horses and rhinoceroses, reptiles, and birds.











     The well-preserved nature of the site is due to an ashfall plume (below) from Yellowstone National Park around 12 million years ago. The animals died more or less simultaneously near a water hole in eastern Nebraska. It is an active dig.




       Having driven both I-80 and State Highway 20, I highly recommend the latter for "SOMETHING TO SEE HERE."

Have you visited either site? I am most curious about those bear dogs. How about you?

Curiouser and curiouser,

Steph

This week's post is for my daughter, Zoë, who turns 22 tomorrow (in Ethiopia where she has already reached her Catch-22 birthday).









75 comments:

  1. "Nothing to see here" printed on a geological map? Putting that phrase in the vicinity of Scientific Steph, challenge-craver, is like throwing red meat in front of a pack of bear dogs! (see photo above)

    And, Gerald Ford, a native of Omaha, always seemed kind of stone-faced to me... though not as stone-faced, of course, as George, Abe, Thomas and Teddy!

    "Rhinoceroses." That is the word that I wish I could have sent in as my entry in this week's NPR puzzle.

    LegoHuskingCornFromANebraskaFieldOfDreamsHopingToSeeTyCobbEmerge

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    1. Ha! Lego, I found a bear dog image I liked better and then read your comment. . .so imagine that bear dog in your scenario!

      I'd gone in to change rhinoceruses to rhinoceroses. . .and saw you found that, also. Although, I just learned the plural may also be rhinoceros!

      My main comment about Nebraska geology is that the open expanses do provide fossil-rich looks in time. You just need to know where to look!

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    2. Rhinoceri is "humorous." Well, I must agree!

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  2. Nota bene: The USPS abbr. for Nebraska is NE, not NB.

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    1. Yes. Do you think I could start a movement to change it to NB? Consonants help define a word much better. I know, I know, they have rules. . .meant to be broken?

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    2. How about NB as an abbreviation for Nota Bene? ;-)

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    3. I knew that! Too much time in the sun this morning and early afternoon with the kids. . .

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    4. I was checking in with my Silver Plume friend via text. She wrote back "I am visiting my sisters in NE. . ."

      "What are you all doing in NEBRASKA?!"

      See how this blog has affected my life? Before, I would have seen NE as New England, like it's supposed to be!

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    5. I am curious as to the rubric the USPS used to come up with the current two letter state abbreviations. Was the rule first letter, last letter unless another state had that same pattern? That works for VT, GA, HI and several others. [ Two word states get those initial letters of course. ] Why do all the A_______A of Alaska, Alabama, and Arizona avoid this rule? Is the second letter the second choice? Then, why is Florida FL instead of FA? Why not WN instead of WA?

      I did find this explanation of why Nebraska became NE in 1969, six years after its NB reign. But, why not NA?

      I find consonants a much better definition of a word than vowels so how about IW for Iowa?

      And apparently, the Coast Guard still uses NB for Nebraska. [Why does the Coast Guard ever mention NB, you ask?]

      And why do 34 states end in vowels (including the Ys in KY and NJ)? State nomenclature seems disproportionately laden with vowels at the end. . .OK, enough stated questions for today.

      Yes, there are bigger concerns today, especially air quality. My eyes are smarting from all the particulates in the air from the NW and MT fires.

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    6. Sorry your eyes are red, but orange you glad your rivers are no longer yellow?

      I'm surprised to learn that the Associated Press Stylebook and the legal citation manual Bluebook still prefer the "traditional" state abbreviations. (Do the Bluebook's rubrics result in purple prose?)

      And why does the Postal Service still insist on all caps for its Zone Improvement Program codes, while "style sheets for some publications use sentence case or lowercase", and most people know zip about what the acronym stands for (or what "sentence case" is)?

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    7. Doesn't the Coast Guard have jurisdiction over navigable waterways in Nebraska? And, semper paratus or not, I doubt they were prepared to repaint all those boat registration numbers just because the Post Office decided to change their abbreviations.

      The consideration of the non-coastal Coast Guard reminds me of my son describing the difference between saltwater economics, the more Keynesian school common at places like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, etc, and the more conservative freshwater economics one finds at Chicago and Northwestern, e.g.

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    8. I just learned "sentence case." Ha!

      Yes, there are "rivers" in NB (I like NB better, sorry, USPS) but most of them, like large stretches of the Platte, are not very navigable. There's Lake McConaughey, of course, with her NB boats.

      Interesting about freshwater and saltwater economics. Is economics, like taffy, all that much "better" with NaCl?

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    9. And, yes, I am very glad our Las Animas River is no longer yellow, though I am not sure we have seen the end of yellow in Colorado rivers: the latest.

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  3. When I tell people about seeing black bears while biking in the Great Swamp, they're sometimes surprised to hear that it isn't a frightening experience, that the bears have never acted aggressively. But, I tell them, I have been chased by dogs. I don't think I'd like to meet a non-fossil bear dog.

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    1. Nor I. Wonder if all that aggression killed the beardog off. . .

      I've seen bears in the mountains here and in Yellowstone. They have always been quite amiable, just wandering around, eating berries, and mostly non-plussed by people as long as they don't get too close.

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    2. How did they get him to take a nap right in front of the #BearCam? Or did they find him sleeping, and set the camera up before sending that white bird in to bug him?

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    3. I think the BearCam moves around. Can you ID that white bird ;-)?

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    4. No, but I bet it was a lot less ashen before it noticed that grizzly.

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    5. I've never been to Nebraska (or Iowa, Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and New Mexico), although I have been to Katmai. I have never had a frightening bear encounter,but have been "close" to them on the Olympic Peninsula, at Glacier and in Alaska.

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    6. If you suggest that someone is too "chicken' to bike through the Great Swamp, is that a bog dare?
      Guess not.

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    7. What were your bear experiences like, David?

      And are those your last six states to visit? I need Alaska and Tennessee to complete my 50 states.

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    8. Hmmmm, Chicken Bog. I gave been to Charleston, SC, but did not encounter that on a menu. Is it tasty, Paul?

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    9. Forget swimming with dolphins, I'd like to swim with these bears.

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    10. That's about 15 miles from me. It's the third bear-in-a-tub video I've see this week, after this one from Vancouver, and this one from Vietnam. Nonetheless, that pool water looks a lot, uh, cloudier at the end of the video than at the start. I'll bathe alone, thanks.

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    11. jan, you may actually have met these very bears (or their kin) on your swamp rides then! Very cool. It looks like so much fun.

      I want to swim with all of them, especially the honey bear (sunbear) and the bear in the hot tub. I would like to have the pool/hot tub also.

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    12. The local new station is reporting a bear in my neighborhood last night. Maizie was barking up a storm in the wee hours and I wonder if that's why. . .

      Bears are quite unusual here in the city. Deer are a bit more expected, though still rare. But, bear!

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    13. In John McPhee's essay, "A Textbook Place for Bears," in his Table of Contents (about bears in NJ), he says bears really like donuts. Not that I'd recommend bear-baiting or anything like that...

      My ambulance squad radio scans my town's police frequency, too. I have to restrain myself whenever I hear them reporting on the location of bears in my area, (Who calls 911 to report a bear just hanging out?)

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    14. I am thinking of erecting a pool as bear bait in lieu of doughnuts.

      Huh, maybe Jellystone Park was a sly reference to those Jelly doughnuts. . .

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    15. Plenty of bears in lower Manhattan today. No bull.

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    16. Anyway, while it's clear that a bear would enjoy your pool if she stumbled into it, that would be a matter of luck. They're not very visual; it's all about smell with them. My wife complains if I open a jar of kimchi while she's anywhere in the house; I have a feeling they'd really go for something fetid like that. Hmm.... maybe that blooming corpse flower is what brought the bear to your neighborhood?

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    17. Yeah, too bad about those NY bears, certainly.

      Hmmmm, it could be that stinky flower. . .although that's five miles or so north of me. I did leave my somewhat pungent sneakers on the back porch last evening after gardening. Will bring them in tonight!

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    18. While we're on the subject, let me plug a very fun read, Jake MacDonald's Grizzlyville. (Sorry if I've mentioned this previously. I just searched this blog, and Blaine's, and didn't find it.)

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    19. It's now on my Denver Public Library list. Thanks!

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    20. I have a funny story about that Blue Bear.

      When Zoe was 15 she was taking some classes downtown so we took light rail together the first day so she could learn the ropes. I pointed out the Blue Bear as her stop.

      "I'm not a child any more, Mom! Why can't you understand that?!" etc.

      Having arrived 45 minutes early we walked to a coffee shop. I was lugging a large plastic tub of rocks for a geology talk. It was an extremely hot day in June. When the barista asked how she could help us a rattled "Coffee!" came out of my mouth.

      "That was really cool, Mom."

      We then walked to the door of the school, said our good-byes, and I sat down on the tub of rocks to compose myself.

      The coffee cup was still in my hand. . .and a passerby dropped a quarter in it!

      "No, no you don't understand, my teenager. . ."

      Ha! So that very Blue Bear has more meaning to me than you knew!

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  4. When I took my EMT course, many years ago, we were taught to protect the spinal cord of cervical trauma victims from further injury by applying a stiff collar. Although you can now find adjustable C-collars, at that time Laerdal made them in just 4 adult sizes: Tall, Medium, Short, and No-Neck. We were taught to measure, using finger-widths, the distance from the ear to the angle of the jaw, and select a collar where the distance between two landmarks matched that. The joke was that after you carefully measured the distance from the ear to the angle of the jaw, you selected a No-Neck collar, 'cause that's what everybody was in real life.

    Not your lovely Zoë. If she ever decides to become an EMT, she will be the envy of her class.

    Happy birthday, Zoë!

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    1. I was wondering where that was going!

      Thanks, jan, for the birthday wishes for Zoë.

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    2. Oops.... That ear-to-angle-of-jaw measurent is for nasopharyngeal airways. For C-collars, you measure from the jaw line to the bottom of the neck.

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    3. Thanks for the clarification, jan, but I think we all knew that.

      I second jan's twenty-second birthday wishes for Zoe (who is, alas, unlautless in my post).

      Serious climate/meteorological question:
      On the news today I heard that we broke some record for high temperatures worldwide for the month of July (or some recent time frame like that). This is the result not of global warming (climate change) but of El Nino, they added.
      My question: Is El Nino the result of climate change (global warming)?

      LegoDon'tKnowMuchMeteorology,ButDoKnowMyNasopharyngealAirways&C-collars!

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    4. Just read your signature line there. Are you an EMT, Lego?

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    5. Thanks for the birthday wishes for Zoe, Lego.
      This should shed some light on El Niño.

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    6. jan, No. I am no EMT. Indeed, most medical stuff baffles me. I Do Not know my nasopharyngeal airways & C-collars! It was my feeble attempt at humor. I was just funnin’ ya. But your revised comment -- “That ear-to-angle-of-jaw measurement is for nasopharyngeal airways. For C-collars…” – read to me like ancient Etruscan, rocket science and brain salad surgery… all rolled into one big ball of enigmativity!

      So, as is my wont, I posted nonsense posing as substance.

      LegoOnSecondThoughMaybeIAmAnEMT…EquivocatingMisleadingTale-teller!

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    1. I think that link needs work....

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    2. Try this:

      https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2019/

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    3. * "64th consecutive generation to save Texas Instruments from bankruptcy:" kernals of truth here. . .

      And, sad but true about crippling debt for 2nd, 3rd, 4th generations in college.

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  6. OK, here's why I hate biking: I'm out in the swamp this morning, 9 miles from home, when the back tire (of course) goes flat. Pull over, get out the tools, take off the wheel, tire, and tube, can't find anything obvious in the tire or tube, get out the spare tube, pump it up a little.... and nothing. Won't hold air. OK, find the leak in the first tube, no good, right at the base of the valve. Find the leak in the spare. Why is there a worn spot in a brand new tube? Patch it, put a little air in, OK, it holds, put the tube in the tire, mount it on the wheel, apply my CO2 inflator, and, pfffft, the patch won't hold. Start walking home. (My wife meets me halfway when she's done at the eye doctor.)

    Get home, mount a new tube, put everything back together. (Many steps omitted for brevity.) Figure I might as well mount a replacement headlamp I bought a while back. Head out for a ride to make sure everything is working, and .... the speedometer reads zero. OK, must've knocked the magnet or sensor while stuffing the bike in the trunk. Get everything aligned, still zero. Ride home turn off the light, check the battery on the wireless sensor, seems OK. Hey, the speedometer is working! Helmet back on, lights on, take off again... speedometer is zero again. It takes a few more experiments to figure out: RF emissions from the LED headlamp are interfering with the wireless cyclocomputer. The light has 4 modes: off, low, high, and flash. The speedometer works when the light is off or high, but not on low (which I'm sure is actually a square wave at a rate higher than the flicker fusion frequency) or flash.

    This kind of silliness never happens with my car!

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    1. Sorry to hear of your tales from the swamp, jan. (Aside: is it indeed a swamp and not a bog?). Guess your light will be on high or off mostly to avoid f3 troubles?

      That's why I like swimming and hiking. Less gear and stuff to go wrong.

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  7. You say tomato, I say sfumato.

    Not sure " solving " is the right word. . .but interesting, nevertheless (Do we ever say "neverthemore?")

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    1. Those must be those famous Tampa Bay Rays I've heard of...

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    2. With their pitcher who has a fever pitch?!

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  9. Hello for the first time on THIS blog. Does this one belong to Word Woman? I find it confusing to have so many blogs, now, in which to make posts, not that I have anything relevant to really say on this one (not being in to geology.) but now I see where the postal abbreviations discussion came from.

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    1. ViolinTeddy,
      Welcome to PEOTS. Yes, Word Woman (or Scientific Steph, as many of us call her over here) runs this fun and informative blog. You don't have to know scads of science to enjoy this site, but you will pick some up as you go along. It is an attractive site.

      And, speaking of attraction...
      I don't know how you feed a magnetic worm, jan, but I do know you can use them as bait to catch smelt...ted metals!

      LegoOrToCatchNickerelOrPickeledFerring

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    2. Yes, welcome to Partial Ellipsis of the Sun, ViolinTeddy!

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    3. Thanks, you guys.

      Love that dead corpse flower picture above!

      Do you do any physics-type discussions here? Just curious....

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    4. We discuss pretty much anything to do with science, writing, science writing, bears, dogs, etc.

      "Dead corpse flower" sounds not merely nearly dead, but really most sincerely dead...

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    5. Yes, ViolinTeddy, anything remotely connected to science and/or writing is on the PEOTS table. So, just about everything!

      We've done some physics discussions. . .and certainly will do another, by special request.

      Re: "really most sincerely dead"--I don't recall seeing any dead or blooming corpse flowers in the colorful munchkin scene. .

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    6. VT, any particular topic in physics that might interest you? Do you have a background in physics as well as in music?

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    7. Well, not officially (just in math), but in years past, when I lived in a different town, I took part in a monthly Cosmology Club, which had grown out of the local Astronomy Club, where we read Hawking's Time book and then one by Michio Kaku, and discussed them. Plus many years prior to that, I'd been around Caltech, and had a number of friends who got PhDs in physics there,; one of them actually went to do a year's post-doc with Stephen Hawking himself!

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    8. Working with Stephen Hawking -- coleslaw!

      I will keep some physics topics in mind, VT. Other suggested topics: famous geologists, stromatolites. Any others folks would like to see?

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  10. The Denver Corpse flower post-bloom (above).

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  11. I'm excited as I just posted the ONE HUNDREDTH Partial Ellipsis of the Sun:

    "Partial Ellipsis of the Sun's 100th Post: Lichen it to a Litmus Test."

    Thanks for all your pHun and pHunny comments over the past almost two years. It's much more interesting and pHun with your great, thought-provoking comments!

    StepH ;-)

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