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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ATLASGAL: Celebrating Holding Up New Images AND "Cool" ACRONYMS

         Researchers associated with ATLASGAL, the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL) have just released this image of the Milky Way:

      "The APEX telescope has mapped the full area of the galactic plane visible from the southern hemisphere for the first time at sub-millimeter wavelengths and in finer detail than space-based surveys. The APEX telescope allows the study of the cold universe, a few tens of degrees above absolute zero" according to an article released today.

       "APEX, the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope, is located at 5100 meters above sea level on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile's Atacama region. The ATLASGAL survey took advantage of the unique characteristics of the telescope to provide a detailed view of the distribution of cold dense gas along the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. The new image includes most of the regions of star formation in the southern Milky Way."

       "At the heart of APEX are its sensitive instruments. One of these, LABOCA (the LArge BOlometer Camera) was used for the ATLASGAL survey. LABOCA measures incoming radiation by registering the tiny rise in temperature it causes on its detectors and can detect emission from the cold dark dust bands obscuring the stellar light." LABOCA, "the mouth" in Spanish, for measuring tiny rises in temperature? {That works, according to my endodontist ;-).}

      [La Boca is also a colorful neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The universe is a cold, colorful place :-).]

     And Atlas, of course, was charged with holding up the universe (not the earth as often depicted):

       Wonder what ATLASGAL will hold for the universe?

STARRILY (Have a go at it ;-),

P.S. And, speaking of acronyms, also noted today >>> "Acronyms kill, ma'am!"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Asterids in Amber: "Electric" and Possibly Poisonous Fossil Flowers of the Dominican Republic

      The publication of an article in Nature Plants on 2/15/16, has resulted in some amusing autocorrect texts about this clade of flowering plants of Asteridae, (or asterids) which also includes coffee, potatoes, strychnine, and curareTwo newly discovered and very well-preserved fossil flowers (just less than 20 mm long) are believed to part of a new genus and species, Strychnos electri sp nov, which are of Tertiary age, possibly quite toxic, and exceptionally well-preserved in amber.

         The discovery of the fossils in the Dominican Republic 

by the lead author, George O. Poinar, Jr., in 1986, and subsequent study by Strychnos expert, Lena Struwe, has resulted in numerous articles citing the "asteroid" family or the genus and species name "Strychnos electricity." 

            The latter autocorrection is perhaps more forgiveable since the researchers named the new species after the Greek word for amber ("elektron"), the fossilized resin of trees. In around 600 B.C. Thales of Miletus writes about amber becoming charged by rubbing, describing static electricity.

        "The researchers had to date the flower by proxy by examining other life forms found in the amber cache, including the common single-celled organisms known as foraminifera and coccoliths. There are distinct evolutionary and population changes in foraminifera and coccoliths over time, and paleontologists often use these tiny animals to place fossils during specific geological periods."      

            The quote above from this article describes using microscopic foraminifera 

      and coccoliths (here in Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) view

to help date the Dominican Republic amber. However, those two marine fauna are less likely to be found near flowering land plants. It is more likely, though, on a small island nation to see microscopic marine fossils together with land fossils in one amber suite.

     Amber suite, sweet amber! (ever the sap). . .

Where do your thoughts resin-ate?


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Vindaloo? No, Vedauwoo: Please Take it for Granite in Wyoming

     A friend returned from climbing in the cracks at Vedauwoo in the Medicine Bow area of southeast Wyoming last fall. (Oops, you ought not say "fall" to a rock climber, I suppose.)

      These silicic rocks, the 1.4 billion year old Sherman Granite, hold spiritual meaning for the local Arapaho Indians who call them "bito'o'wu" meaning "earth-born".

      I've heard folks talk about visiting the hoodoos of "Vindaloo" in southeast Wyoming for many years. 


       In fact, DuckDuckGoing (or Googling) Vindaloo and Wyoming does bring one straight to Vedauwoo, affectionately also called "The Voo."

      Interestingly, the Sherman Granite is relatively young, compared to the 2.4 billion year old granite (and marine deposits) of the Great Tetons Mountains to the northwest. {Old rocks in a relatively young uplift (about 9 million years)--a great combo for striking mountain peaks}.

        Any ideas about why I chose Vedauwoo this week?

           And not the Vishnu Schist?! 

More to be revealed,

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Zebrafish Will Develop Its Nervous System in The Time You Are Awake Today (!)

      This week's post was inspired by the Zebrafish Research Center at Smith College.

       Well, that discovery, and this Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image of a zebrafish embryo:

      These remarkable fish are the topic of many research projects throughout the world, including at Smith College in Northampton, MA, USA. They are used in researching cancer, spinal cord development, sleep-related disorders, and the autism spectrum.

      "Smith Professor Mary Harrington has used the Zebrafish Research Center for her teaching and research on circadian rhythms, or sleep-wake cycles. She uses a group of specially designed zebrafish with a firefly protein attached to their circadian gene."

     "The gene causes the fish to bioluminesce each time their circadian clock turns on. Harrington and her students can add drugs to the water, then observe changes in the fish’s circadian rhythms to explore sleep-related disorders like depression."

      Zebrafish are ideal for this type of research, she explains. “They’re transparent, so light just comes right out of them.”

       The rapidity of zebrafish development makes them ideal research subjects. During the past 17 hours of this day (extremely busy for me and maybe for you, too), a zebrafish nervous system has developed!

       . . .Which could lead to this:

       Or even this. . .

Ah, the Denver Bronco-North Carolina Panther (Hello, Kitty?) hype has even gotten to Partial Ellipsis of the Sun.

{Here's some tutu fun from today at school. . .}

Any experience in Zebrafish research?